Archive for May, 2009

Limit on Academic Freedom: A critique of Prof Yogendra K. Alagh

May 17, 2009

Recently, I came across a though provoking article by Prof. Yogendra K. Alagh on Moral policing in India
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/limits-of-freedom-where-do-they-lie/459173/

The article is nicely written where he explains his position on Baroda art faculty incidence. Anyone who is unaware of this issue can look at for example this article

http://www.gujaratglobal.com/nextSub.php?id=2835

Although, I broadly agree with the view of author. I have few important disagreement and further comments on this issue.

First of all, I am not sure whether Prof. Alagh wanted to raise issue of academic freedom or freedom of  speech in this article. At least to me, these are two distinct issues.

On issue of Academic freedom, I agree more with Prof. Stanlay Fish rather than Prof. Alagh.

According to Prof. Alagh

“academic freedom means allowing for  all kind of  unacceptable behaviors
and talk.”

This view is not really proper as they might lead to chaos and divert proper function of universities.  The job of university is to educate people, not propagate  any ideology.

Prof. Alagh Says

“They challenged orthodoxy in a most unacceptable manner when they
were students and yet, in some sense, they set the debate.”

At this point, I would like to take and example from blog of  Prof.  Stanlay Fish (http://fish.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/23/an-authoritative-word-on-academic-freedom/):
Suppose an instructor in English history   seeks to interest students
by suggesting parallels between King George III’s conduct of the
Revolutionary War and Bush’s conduct of the war in Iraq. Is this
behavior allowed under grab of academic freedom?
I completely agree with him when he says
“But we only have to imagine the class discussion generated by this
parallel to see what is in fact wrong with introducing it. Bush,
rather than King George, would immediately become the primary
reference point of the parallel, and the effort to understand the
monarch’s conduct of his war would become subsidiary to the effort to
find fault with Bush’s conduct of his war. Indeed, that would be
immediately seen by the students as the whole point of the exercise.
Why else introduce a contemporary political figure known to be
anathema to most academics if you were not inviting students to pile
it on, especially in the context of the knowledge that this particular
king was out of his mind?

Sure, getting students to be interested in the past is a good thing,
but there are plenty of ways to do that without taking the risk (no
doubt being courted) that intellectual inquiry will give way to
partisan venting.”

Thus, I would say that academic freedom does not mean carte
blanche to do anything one wish.

However, if the issue is freedom of speech, I agree with   Prof. Alagh. I agree that what govt. did in this case was wrong.  On the other hand, I feel sad that why liberals like prof. Alagh never fail to raise

freedom of speech issues when traditional hindus feel hurt and react
badly but  go completely silent when it is about Islam or
Christianity?
Why no liberal ever make any noise about banning of Satanic
versus in  India?   Why no noise about denial of visa to Taslima
Nasreen? Why no noise about bans on Da vinci code by 7 Indian states?

If the freedom of speech is issue, should not it be provided across
the board?

My main complain is that by such partial behaviors liberal press is
alienating lot of young guys like me.  Freedom should be absolute and
all part of society whether it is hindu, muslim…. should learn to
disagree respectfully.

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BJP where from here?

May 17, 2009

As a BJP supporter and hater of undemocratic dynasty politics of Congress, I am not happy that BJP lost. However, I am very happy that Congress won  in such a good manner.  Whatever media says, I feel that it is MMS and not Rahul baba who is responsible for congress win. 

Here are some important mistakes of BJP in my opinion

1> Nuke Deal:   In retrospect, the game changer was  perhaps NUKE-deal.  At that point idiotic attack from Indian left galvanized most of Indian against left and gave an impression that MMS is a strong leader who cares about Indian future.  The main stupidity of BJP at that time was to blindly oppose nuke-deal, started by them only. At that time it was looking like a good strategy, however it was considered petty politics by Indians. Left opposed it based on principle, however bad it is.  Most of the Indian I know do not agree with blind anti-USA rhetoric of  CPM. I guess Prakash Karat thought India is a part of JNU(only place he actually fought an election), where blind abuse of USA is considered to be moral and natural thing to do. However, he forgot that India is perhaps only country where most of people even at the peak of BUSH era supported USA.

Now, what about BJP?     Why did it opposed nuke deal? Congress did bad thing of completely by-passing BJP on nuke deal. However, is it good enough to oppose the whole deal? They could have asked for the compromise or just boycotted  the voting. No, they just voted against it. What for? They are non anti USA , every one knows that. The small segment of Indian population, which is blindly anti USA, will never vote for BJP. So even at the  very opportunistic level, it was not making sense. So, they allowed MMS to define the national ambition at that time. 

   2>  Mutalik :   Most of the older generation in India and still a significant population of India do not approve of Pub culture. However, not approving of something does not mean, you go there and start violence.  They forgot that in Indian culture  hitting an innocent woman is considered much worse than anything else.Ok  I know, that Mutalik was not BJP  but the point is about the image. At some point of time he was moving in hindutav circle and media will be more than willing to associate him with BJP.  None of the BJP leader came strongly against it. They made only feeble protest dissociating Mutalik with BJP. This is not enough in Indian context, where media is more than willing to project BJP as monster.  Also the whole thing happened in a BJP ruled state, so the image projected by media was accepted by the people.

The point is if Mutalik defines what is BJP, even god cannot save BJP.

3> Varun Gandhi: The same mistake again and again. Why did Varun Gandhi need to say unacceptable things? Why  did BJP started to project him as next massiah? He was just a stupid fat kid, who does not know what he was talking about. Can somebody really think in his right mind that Islam can be eliminated  from India? Islam needs to be reformed but it is as much part of Indian heritage as anything else. Supporting Hindutava does not mean that you start talking about eliminating Muslim. It is criminal, mad and idiotic. 

       Mayawati played the muslim card by applying NSA on Varun. He was just blabbering however bad that blabber was. This was not a national threat. So people in UP understood bluff of both BJP and BSP. BSP lost upper caste votes and BJP galvanized muslim against it. The net winner was congress, which projected itself as  party of middle path there.

Again the same thing, if Mutalik and Varun Gandhi defines what BJP is, it is doomed. 

4>  Governance : What is so terribly different about BJP compared to other parties? Many people like me, who was growing up in 90’s attached themselves with BJP  because it was party of issues and development. They were opposing mindless Mandal mantra and  slowly defining India as next superpower. They were for a self confident India. I remember admiring Rajnath Singh as education minister in UP for his stance against cheating rampant at time in UP and BIhar. 

However, when BJP came to power slowly but surely they started diverting from what they stood for.  One simple example is BJP government in Karnataka. They came mainly because of total destruction  of Bangalore by Gowda family and Dharam Singh.  However, what are they doing after coming back? The pace of progress is very slow. When your pace is slow on governance and you keep on taking new fight like Mangalore, all you are doing is defining yourself with just negative agenda. Ok, BJP won this time there as honeymoon is not completely over yet. However, I am afraid that if they do not accelerate development work there, it will be next UP for BJP in 2014. 

  They have good example of  Raman Singh, MP and gujarat and why don’t they learn from it? Why not push their government in different states to show substantial difference from congress and smaller parties ruled states. 

5>   Rajsthan:  I believe Vasundhra was doing good job there but she is just too aristocratic. She let Gujjar and Mina issue boil like anything.  Whenever Mandal dominates BJP is bound to lose.  It would have helped if they had taken help from congress and came up with something which would stop violence and allow for cool heads to prevail. 

Another issue is why that happened at first place itself? BJP was ruling for so long there, why did never thought about improving condition of Gujjars there? We know reservation is messed up issue and in current context only Mayawati can openly say obvious things. However, if you the reality why not you adjust yourself with it? Why not pushing for lot of private jobs in Rajsthan? They had time and opportunity and they failed there.  Congress is doing the same and may be it will pay the price in 2014. If BJP learns from their mistakes then lotus can really bloom else it might perish.

6> Generational fight: The issue of change of generation has dragged for too long. I though in 2004 that MM Joshi and  LK Advani will do what was old tradition of RSS that slowly hand over power to new guys. However, they failed and it was collective failure.  MM Joshi should also learn now that his time and era is gone. He should retire gracefully. Advani learnt it hard way this time. However, I am afraid that people like MM Joshi, Rajnath Singh etc will take over the organization. These are the men of the past (some of they are really good men too). However, you cannot challange youth of Rahul baba with experience.  The main reason is that MMS has better experience as finance minister then LK Advani as home minister.  Indian people understand that and so BJP failed. Where are generation X of BJP?  Please do not show me Varun Gandhi for that. So many of us who are young, successful and hardcore BJP supporter. Was BJP unable to find 10 -15 good men from our generation to counter false youth of  Rahul baba?   

 Middle generation of BJP is good.  Arun Jaitly, Arun Shauri, Susma Swaraj, Narendra Modi all of them were bright. But they fought too much and Rajnath Singh as BJP president was disaster. BJP now need some young blood.  Unfortunately, may be  time of BJP middle generation is over before it could show its potential.  They should take over the party immediately and start projecting some young bright guys as BJP face for 2014.  In this respect I think Sushma Swaraj is right combination of  grace, oratory and  ground support.  Arun Jaitley is good but he failed when refused (or not allowed) to take charge of BJP in Delhi before Delhi election.  He does not have any support base by now. He is too dependent on Modi.   Modi is too risky a choice for BJP. He is completely unacceptable to big portion of Indian population in present context. He might emerge victorious in 2014 but that would be too big a gamble. 

Now coming back to my question: Where is youth in BJP? This is ironic because my impression was always that most of engineers and successful people of our generation are still very soft towards BJP. How hard is to find 10-15 good men? 

7>    Social context: BJP has completely failed in nurturing Obama like personality in India. We need BJP leaders like him coming from SC, ST, OBC which can talk about caste divide in positive way.  Mayawati won last UP election, because she started talking in that way. She was Obama of UP, who failed to deliver. She turned out to be yet another Kalyan Singh. 

When in trouble, start talking about caste discrimination. Modi is there but his identity was never an issue. We badly need a SC/ST leader  in BJP who can talk beyond his caste. At the moment no political party in India has such leader. However, who knows about 2014.  Whoever, will have it might win at that time. I can clearly imagine that  BJP lead by a SC/ST leaders,  who talks about migrating from  mindless reservation to creative affirmative action, will  be  an immediate success  across the voters. 

8> Ground network and growth:  Where is the growth of BJP on ground? Apart from Karnataka what it has to show in last 10 years. They relied on the allies too much.  Now they have chance in Orissa and they should not miss it. Nothing helps more than having an organization. If BJP act properly, in 2014 Orisa might be of BJP. 

    Similarly what happened in UP? How they managed to mess up such a big time there?  If BJP want revival in India, it has to put some network  back in BJP.  

Biggest mistake of BJP in this context was perhaps Delhi and Mumbai region. The demography of Delhi and Mumbai has changed substantially. BJP is not responding to ground realities in  Delhi. Where is any leaders from Purvanchal in Delhi BJP ? When Shiv Shena was down and MNS was blabbering like Varun, where was BJP? Why not an independent BJP slowly in Maharastra? 

In this election Tamilnadu and West Bengal have shown some space for BJP. They should acquire that space by 2014. There is substantial portion of youth in Bengal which hate both CPM and Mamata. BJP should try to catch them by developing some leadership there.

9> Finally, Narendra Modi and 2002 event:  2002 was game changer for BJP.  I agree that Godhra was very very wrong. However, BJP response to that was worst.  Was anybody responsible for Godhra was really punished? No they managed to scot free. This is because the way BJP behaved during the riot.  I agree that hindus were wronged in Godhra, but is riot a solution for that. If I were ruling Gujarat at that time, I would have responded so aggressively that no one would have ever dared to do such a thing ever in Gujarat. But no what BJP did there. They let hindu anger take its own course. If there is an anger, it has to be molded constructively. However, BJP like congress of Bhagalpur riot took the easy path.  I am not saying that  Modi did the riot but he was sleeping like Nero when Rome was burning. This has costed too much for BJP in last 10 years across the India. 

In a way, 10 year out of power, is a good punishment to BJP for that. I hope they learn their lessons and bounce back in 2014. 

India needs a centre-right Party like BJP as main opposition.  I just hope that BJP does not go away like Janta Parivaar.

I wish  BJP all the best for 2014.

Ok mua wrong this time

May 16, 2009

I thought exit polls are under estimating BJP but it turns out they were overestimating it. Broadly, speaking they were right this time in predicting the trends. Some of the good prediction of NDTV were Congress leading, Tamilnadu split verdict, and in Andhra Chidu playing spoiler for TDP.  

    I also went wrong this time in understanding some of the important trends. Here are some of my mistakes

1> Advantage BJP in UP: I thought putting Varun Gandhi in Jail for his idiotic comment will backfire.  I was partially right it did backfired for BSP but this was not a gain for BJP. Congress did smart thing of doing nothing on this issue. 

Lesson learnt: If two sides are doing idiocy (Varun and BSP), smart thing is to talk about something else and don’t let non-issue as main issue. Credit should be given to Congress for this.

2> Varun Gandhi: I thought that fat kid learnt his lessons from Laloo (Bhurabal saaf kero) and  Mayawati (Tilak, taraju and Talwar inko maro jute char) that saying  absurd unacceptable thing, help you in moblizing  public support and gets  media highlight.  About  media highlight, I was right. It seems only two way you can be noticed by Indian media as a newbee: Born with silver spoon (Rahul), or say something unacceptable and absurd (Mutalic, Varun, Raj Thakary). 

However, I was wrong about actual success of such absurdity.  In 90’s it was paying of for Mayawati and Laloo etc. However, Indian public has matured by now.   So may be I should be less cynical about India now.

3>  Not understanding public sentiment: I was shocked when I heard that my sister and her husband staying in Delhi  voted for congress this time. This is something highly unusual for someone from  Bihari middle class growing up in 90’s. When we grew up in time of  Bofors, Mandir etc, we learnt that congress can do nothing right really. So, it was unusual that they changed side this time. Well, I just forgot that people like my sister and her husband define common man. When a common man change his side overnight it means there is a huge undercurrent for something.  Part of the thing they can see, people like me cannot. For a politically aware person like me, things are well defined in terms of good party, bad party etc. However, someone like my sister who does not really  follow news,  chances of getting influenced by friends, tv etc is high.  So, when I heard that they voted congress, I should have got the message of the outcome. 

4> Maharastra: I underestimated power of lunatic Raj Thakray. Ok, I know they he is not really lunatic but similar to Laloo that man can always act lunatic when it benefit him.  It seems he really is partially responsible for Congress rise in Maharastra.  80% of vote which went to him was BJP, SS vote.  I do not know how right is the rumor I often hear that Raj like Bal Thakray is a creation of congress.

Now, where I was right

1> West Bengal Laloo phenomena: I again saw Laloo phenomena there. In 90’s , most of upper middle class and educated people  in Bihar  were highly anti-Laloo.  However, the more they were against him, the more he won.  There was a similar parallel this time in Bengal. I was amazed by amount of hatred in upper class Bengalis about Mamata.  They quickly forgot Nandigram, 32 year of mis-rule of CPM,  and started blaming   Mamata for everything that is wrong in modern Bengal.   Whenever such thing happens, it is almost certain that the guy who is bad guy for upper middle class, will be chosen by others. I was expecting that the hatred for Mamata is a sure winner for her. 

   Turns out I was right on that. A big loss for CPM  means a good gain in stock market and I was baiting on that. Let us see,  how sweet Monday is going to be…

Exit poll

May 16, 2009

Now that election results are a less than 2 hours away, I am thinking about poll outcome and grand  failure of exit polls in India.  It is a bit funny that even after grand failure of exit poll in 2004 and in UP and Karnataka election, most of the guys are back in business without any remorse.  They have predicted UPA clearly ahead this time. I personally feel otherwise and waiting for NDA to return in power. However, I will be happy with return of NDA or UPA with clear majority.  Nightmare situation for me is a government dependent of CPM for its survival.  Only god can save this country from that godless party.

              Let me assume that exit polls are wrong this time too. Although, I have a hunch that Star-Nielson exit poll is going to be more closer to the reality. The question is why exit poll fails in India so often?  Is it because exit polling is an imperfect science? On the other hand, exit polls are very successful in west. Is it that Indian voters are unpredictable? Or can it be that pollster themselves have hidden agendas and problem in attitude. 

      My answer is all of them are partially true reasonings. Yes, exit poll which is just like any data based modeling is imperfect science. The chance that they will go wrong is always there. One aspect was analyzed nicely recently on Swapan Dasgupta blog.  

http://www.swapan55.com/2009/05/technical-critique-of-exit-polls.html

It was argued there that one important technical aspect so called Bradley effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley_effect) is ignored in Indian exit poll. The idea behind this effect is that unpredictability of  polls are increased due to social desirability. For example, in USA a white voter will not often admit that he has voted for white candidate rather than black one. He will fear that by doing so, he will be branded racist.

This effect should be a big player in India. However, none of the exit poll talk about it. So, one aspect is how competent are the pollsters? I guess not too much. I am not sure that Mr. Yogendra Yadav, a self made star of exit polling, in India is technically competent enough. For sure, he has the first mover advantage. This might be true for lot of other guys too.

   Yes! Indian voters are very unpredictable  too.  Part of the reason is India is collection of different competing groups. Who will feel offended and go massively to vote is not clear in advance. We have two examples BJP defeat in 2004 and in recent Rajasthan election. In the first case it was anger for Gujarat riot and in the second case it was angers of Meena and Gujjar in reservation fiasco.  I guess in few years, India will also evolve like USA, where politicians are never against anything but for something. The trick is avoid anger of  specific  group of voters by not being too direct. For example a USA politician will like to be called pro-life rather than anti-abortion.

     Finally, I guess a major part of error is coming because pollsters are too biased. This time on NDTV anger of presenters Pope Barkha Datt etc, was very visible. They really hate BJP. As a pollster your job is to do the unbiased reporting, the moment data get mixed up with your personal feeling, it is going to be a mess. Sometime you will tend to over-estimate the enemy when they are strong (2004), or you will   underestimate them big time (2009). See this funny video about Indian exit polls

Finally, there is a lot of talk about manipulating the exit polls for money. Well, this is supposed to be very powerful in India. All I can say, in long run cheating will not get you very far. The sooner they learn the better.