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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Television: Why Doordarshan Is Always On Peoples Radar!

When private channels break a news that has no factual basis and withdraws it after sometime or make some obvious mistakes people just laugh it off or make a mention about it to friends. The matter ends there. When Doordarshan, run by India’s Public Service Broadcaster Prasar Bharati and the electronic media of the Government of India, does so the matter begins there. If Doordarshan (DD) makes a mistake or shows something or does not show something, big or small, there is a nationwide outrage with people from all age groups decrying mocking and what not. The universal dictum of ‘to err is human’ gets entirely forgotten in such outburst of genuine feelings or derisive pleasure against the national broadcaster. It is also a curious fact that newspapers always highlight high ad revenue generating glitzy and glamorous shows of private channels, but criticize DD without end if the latter missed to show an event or a news of the people. Why?

People from all possible communities of all possible cultural or social or religious or linguistic lines expect DD to represent them and showcase events or news related to them most positively and without fail. This expectation is irrespective of what DD could be trying to do at that particular time—maybe it is planning an excellent coverage of a very big national or regional event or trying to launch a serial of huge national or regional dimensions. Nope! Their news must go. Else face a national outrage again. Why?

People get easily impressed by the all techno innovations and gimmicky shows done by the private channels and go gaga over it helping the channels to earn huge ad revenues. And they expect the same from DD failing to understand the responsibilities of a Public Service Broadcaster and the consequent constraints of resources or generating revenues. Not getting it, people indulge in deriding decrying demeaning DD. Why?

Because, Doordarshan that celebrated its 50th Anniversary on 15th September, 2009 still runs in the bloodstream of every Indian—old, middle aged, young or child. Irrespective of what they tend to utter about it. They just cannot ignore this huge reserve of quintessential Indianness—the cultural or social or religious or linguistic bond of unity that is India. It is because of this bond that they expect the world from DD at any eventuality, at any cost. If DD does very well about something they take it granted and do not bother about appreciating, but if DD happens to make an error they cannot take it or tolerate it. On DD News they take every news as word of God once it is shown and at the same time castigates it for being slow failing to understand the pains it takes to confirm every possible news first. Similarly, if one particular community does not find a news that it considers to be of paramount importance they go berserk.

Basically, it all plus for the Public Service Broadcaster and it is something only to be proud of. The pains or efforts that go into the process of setting things right are just part and parcel of being Doordarshan. In short Doordarshan is of the people, for the people and by the people.

Doordarshan Zindabad!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

India Vs Pakistan: Warring Neighbors Share Peace Nobel!

If you feel angry, disgusted, exasperated, and indulge in a spirit of jingoism at the repeated and persistent ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the Line of Control (LOC) in the state of Jammu and Kashmir you rightfully have a bewildered look of amusement and hope at the unique happening on Friday, the 10th of October, 2014. While you relish and celebrate the news that took you unawares you still wonder how. You know little about one and less about the other. The only conclusion you finally arrive at is the perfect timing of this wonderful news.

Child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi from India and child rights plus women’s education campaigner Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan have been jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on that historic day. The 60-year-old Indian has been fighting relentlessly for freeing children from the slavery of child labor, trafficking and other traps for the last three decades and the 17-year-old Pakistani school-girl has been campaigning for right to education and women empowerment since she was just eleven. The Indian has been a silent crusader and is little known in the country till yesterday afternoon. The Pakistani had hit the headlines worldwide when she got a bullet in the head from the dreaded Taliban in October, 2012 and survived. The Nobel committee has been forthright in selecting an Indian and a Pakistani for the Peace Prize saying that they are recognizing the dedicated struggle of both for a noble cause. The Committee finds it a significant point that a Hindu and a Muslim from two conflicting neighboring countries dedicate themselves for a common struggle. The perfect timing could just be coincidental at this juncture when Pakistan continues its unprovoked firing across the LOC. Even after the unique achievement yesterday the neighboring country kept up with its ceasefire violations today.

Kailash Satyarthi thanked the Nobel committee for recognizing the need for freeing millions of children from modern slavery and dedicated the award for the cause. He also hoped to join Malala Yousafzai to carry the movement forward. Malala while expressing her gratitude to the Nobel committee said that India and Pakistan should focus on peace and development and has invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief to be present when both of them formally receive the award.

India has produced a Nobel laureate for Peace for the second time. Pakistan has also proved that it is capable of having a Nobel laureate for Peace too. Then Pakistan must understand that it is inherently capable of achieving peace with its neighbor who has consistently showed generosity  and tolerance after every outrage over the years.

Why not give Peace a second chance? At this wonderfully poignant and fulfilling moment!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Maharashtra Assembly Elections-2014: Anybody’s Game!

Even the end of Pitru Paksha fortnight which is considered inauspicious on 24th September could not inspire the great politicians of Maharashtra to come together and be sincere to voters. They fought between themselves with greed for power being the driving force and things came to such a head that the raging anti-incumbency wave became a joke giving the earnest voters the biggest dilemma in their so-far-so-good democratic existence. Now, whoever they vote for would hardly decide who would finally form the government. In every constituency the voters will have at least five main candidates contesting (Congress, Nationalist Congress Party or NCP, Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena or MNS and any of them could win in view of the split vote syndrome. There are still more political parties who could be big factors on specific areas. 

As the fortnight of the Goddess Durga began things happened in a great hurry putting this poor writer in a hyperactive flurry and making him unable to carry on with his wordy curry. Still, he hardly has the time to ponder, wonder and render. So then, only a quick look-through on the main events for some of the loyal readers of these pages. 

September 25, The Maha Break-Up: Maha of the Maharashtra also means big and it was big indeed on this eventful day.  Mahayuti (Yuti means pair, when it became more than two it is mahayuti) has been riding on the anti-incumbency wave for the last about one year and more political parties joined in to be on the winning side. The alliance had swept Lok Sabha polls in Maharashtra and when it was almost certain to be voted in overwhelmingly in the Assembly Elections they broke up reportedly fighting over sharing just 4 or 5 seats either way. Anybody could see the basic reason though. Since they were sure to win the question of who gets the supreme seat of power, Chief Ministership, became overpowering and finally they could not decide. So the BJP and the Shiv Sena ended their 25-year-old alliance making their small allies scurry around for shelter.
On the same eventful day one more much perplexing break-up occurred. Here you cannot put the finger on the right spot. The ruling alliance had apparently no chance of coming back to power and yet they fought over seat sharing. More ridiculously one ally offered to share the post of the Chief Minister equally for two and half years each after coming back to power. Maybe the powerful local leaders just thought of retaining at least that much power of continuing to be the elected representative. So the Congress and the NCP ended their 15-year-old alliance. Not only that, the NCP withdrew support making the Congress a minority in the Maharashtra Assembly. 

September 25-27: Almost no major political party had their list of candidates out and the last date of filing nominations was 27th September. So followed the most chaotic and ludicrous process of filing nominations. Candidates filed once, twice or even thrice as they did not know finally which side they would end up. Political party bosses did not know about which member of theirs filed where. Someone of some political party filed nomination and did not finally manage a ticket, and so s/he filed again from a different party hoping to get a ticket this time. This unprecedented chaos and mockery of democracy is likely to regain some sense only after 1st October—the last date for withdrawal nominations. In the process the exodus from the NCP to either BJP or Shiv Sean has been the biggest.  

September 26: Chief Minister of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan resigned as his government was reduced to a minority after the NCP withdrew support post break-up. The BJP raised the demand for imposing President’s Rule in the state with just about 20 days left for polling. 

September 27: Governor of Maharashtra accepted the resignation of Prithviraj Chavan and sends his report to the Centre for President’s rule in the state. Union Cabinet recommends clamping President’s rule. 

September 28: Pranab Mukherjee, the President of India, signs the proclamation for imposition of President’s Rule in the poll-bound state of Maharashtra. Congress objects to the decision. 

Of course, you must vote, this is your most precious democratic right and you must inspire others to do so. In all, this Maharashtra Assembly Elections-2014 is going to be the most remembered state assembly election of the century. All for the wrong reasons. Much more yet to come.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Politics of Seat Sharing: Irony of Ironies!

Normally in a democracy, India in particular, the numbers become all important after the results of elections are out. This in terms of one particular political party or alliance falling short of the majority number or in the extreme case of a hung verdict that requires desperate number measures. But for Maharashtra Assembly Elections-2014 the numbers have become all important even before a candidate of the major political parties happened to file a nomination. The numbers being rolled out, negotiated, debated and bargained are just not proving to be right for anyone. 

While almost everybody has given the BJP-Shiv Sena (Mahayuti) alliance a green signal for its best ever chance to coming to power in Maharashtra the two parties have failed so far to arrive at the right seat sharing formula. The Shiv Sena has decided to fight not less than 150 seats of the 288-seat house and the BJP after its overwhelming success in the General Elections wants much more than the 119 seats it had in 2009 assembly elections. If the Shiv Sena had realized that it got a new lease of life after the Modi wave in Lok Sabha elections and perhaps might have prepared for adjustments the losses suffered by the BJP in the recent by polls  gave the party a new platform to bargain with a somewhat embarrassed BJP. While maintaininfg that by poll results are insignificant the BJP never wants to let go of the Lok Sabha advantage. Apart from the basic Chief Ministerial issue between the two it has been a battle of superegos of the top leaders as all of them see their best chance this time. But ironically, they are depriving prospective voters who could have wanted an alternative after 15 years. Now even the minor partners of Mahayuti are threatening to leave the alliance. 

Congress and Nationalist Congress Party
Despite suffering heavy losses and charting out their worst ever performance in the General Elections-2014 the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance in Maharashtra instead of learning from the experience and trying to regroup is fighting as hard for equitable seat sharing. The Congress wants to stick to the formula tried in last elections, but the NCP wants equal share—144 seats each out of 288. As if both parties have sensed some divine signal that they are poised for a resounding victory this time too despite the palpable anti-incumbency mood. Well, anything is possible in a democracy or in India! However, it is ironical no doubt. 

The voters could find themselves at a disadvantage with the elections possibly becoming an at least four cornered contest in the eventuality of all four major political parties fighting it alone. The vote split implied by such a situation could make anybody come to power. While single party majority is considered impossible in the present circumstances the most feared post-poll coalitions with the usual bargaining and horse trading could make the confusion confounding. 

Pitru Paksha is going to end on 24th September. Maybe still a chance for alliances and the right numbers for seat sharing after that? You never know with politics as the last date of filing of nominations is looming large on 27th of September.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Politics: Election Commission Announces Maharashtra Assembly Election Schedule!

Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath

The Election Commission of India (EC) on Friday, the 12th of September 13, 2014, has announced the poll schedule for Maharashtra Assembly Elections. It is a single-phase polling on Wednesday, the 15th October covering whole of Maharashtra including the Naxal affected Gadchiroli region. This means more than 80 million voters will exercise their democratic right in more than 90,000 polling booths spread across 288 constituencies of the state on a single day which reminds us of the single day polling done in the long past when the whole nation voted. With a gap of just 3 days the counting will be taken up on Sunday, the 19th of October which is set to reveal if the opposition alliance of Mahayuti (BJP+Shiv Sena+others)  could finally end the 15-year-old rule of the Democratic Front (Congress+NCP). This will be the first major election for the new Modi Government formed on 26th May, 2014 after BJP thundered to victory in the Lok Sabha General Elections-2014 reducing Congress to its worst ever performance in history. In Maharashtra too the Mahayuti made a clear sweep and it is eagerly awaited if the General Election anti-incumbency trend and the Modi wave would continue to impact the Maharashtra Assembly Elections. The EC also announced a single phase polling and counting for the state of Haryana on the same dates.

The EC notification will be on 20th September and the last date of filing nominations for candidates is 27th while the last date for withdrawal of candidature is 1st of October. This effectively means that the number of days for registration of new voters is greatly reduced. The electoral rolls close 10 days before the last date of filing nominations and therefore in Maharashtra new registration will be over on 17th September. Potential voters thus have just 5 more days to register themselves. The NOTA option will be available on all EVMs and a new experiment called VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail) system is to be tried this time in some selected constituencies where the voters can confirm if their votes have been cast correctly. This system thus could also detect and eliminate possible election fraud or malfunction.

This Maharashtra Election has been the much awaited one both in terms of ultimate winners and announcement of dates. The ruling alliance here has a scam infested background of 15 years like their counterpart UPA alliance at the centre which was finally thrown out of power after its rule for 10 years. Analysts rate this election as a golden chance for the Mahayuti to come into power. On the flip side both alliances irrespective of their chances are still fighting for an elusive seat sharing formula. The Congress-NCP fight over seats has led to a few of their leaders and former ministers shifting loyalty by joining the opposition alliance. The ruling alliance rates their chances high sticking to the development agenda and also has several Chief Ministerial aspirants.  

The BJP-Shiv Sena bickering over seats has several basic reasons: Shiv Sena has been the main regional party in Maharashtra and so it wants to be treated like the major partner; however the results in General Elections-2014 and Maharashtra Assembly Elections-2009 show that the surging BJP had won more seats than the Sena by contesting less number of seats; Shiv Sena was considerably weakened by the formation of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) by Raj Thackeray prior to 2009 and was almost marginalized before sort of being rescued by the BJP in 2014 riding on the Modi wave with the MNS now getting marginalized due to confused stands; so BJP wants more or at least equal number of seats; both parties have Chief Ministerial aspirants and therefore  have to have more seats than the other so that their respective aspirants could eventually   become the Chief Minister.

The EC announcements had been expected since the last week of August. Maybe due to the festive season with the biggest event of the state—the 11-day Ganesh Festival—concluding only on 8th September or maybe due to more festivals coming up in the near future or maybe due to the political indecisiveness regarding declaration of candidates the EC perhaps had a tough time scheduling the most important event. At the moment there are still no official lists of candidates declared by any of the major political parties. Interestingly it is also speculated widely that the on-going fortnight of Pitru Paksha  when funeral rites are performed for the souls of ancestors and which is considered inauspicious for any new initiative is playing its part in confounding the indecisiveness of the political parties.

Finally, the winners would emerge before Diwali festival and if there is a clear majority the new government could even be formed before the big festival of lights. In all eventuality this Diwali is all set to illuminate a whole lot of people.
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