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Starving India

if his politics or the politics of the self-styled movement caused the inevitable in Ayodhya. Ayodhya Movement Advani is however absolutely right in giving pride of place to the account of the socalled

BOOK REVIEWJuly 26, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly32if his politics or the politics of the self-styled movement caused the in-evitable in Ayodhya. Ayodhya MovementAdvani is however absolutely right in giv-ing pride of place to the account of the so-called “Ayodhya movement” in his book. Indeed, he is right when he avers “the BJP’s steady rise of power from 1989 on-wards, owed considerably to its spirited espousal of the Ayodhya cause”. That is why discussion of the Ayodhya “move-ment” is central to this autobiography. The Ayodhya mosque is demolished and Advani, the leader of the BJP and the Hindus, is born.Advani has likewise chosen to defend Narendra Modi and violence in Gujarat. Vajpayee had taken a position that Modi has forgotten his ‘rajdharma’ (duties of the rulers). According to Advani’s understand-ing, Narendra Modi is “a victim of (a) vili-fication campaign”. It is not necessary to say anything about Advani’s view. It is a simple matter of presenting the oppressor as the victim. Again the problem is the same. Speaking in the Rajya Sabha about the demand for removal of Modi from the chief minister’s position soon after the carnage in Gujarat, Advani had the following to say:We should look for a real solution to the situ-ation in the state, and removing chief min-ister Modi is not a solution. There has been a sustained campaign against him, which is not correct. It is also not correct or proper to allege….that there is gross communalisation of (the) Gujarat police… The problem with Advani’s position is that they are mere declamations. Perhaps as a response to a position taken by an opposition leader they might have been adequate (although that is more than doubtful); in the autobiography Advani should have been more forthcoming. He thinks or so it would appear that a few declamatory statements from him actually dissolve the problem. It has been very famously said that falsehood, if repeated frequently, is taken to be the truth. Advani’s position seems to be, “What I say is the truth”. It does not need any argu-ment or data. Why should home minister Advani’s statement not be enough? Authority decides the truth. So we have Modi presiding over the fortunes of Gujarat. Advani makes much of the man-date that Modi got in the 2007 elections. How does that prove that what happened in Gujarat in 2002 was not a carnage?And so on and so on. There are any number of snippets in the book in which theRSS way of argument comes across. He even cites Sheikh Abdullah once to say that Nehru was “a great admirer of the past heritage and the Hindu spirit of India”. He says the Sheikh was not “too wide of the mark”. He brings this into his argument that “f (F)or Nehru secularism was an expression of India’s cultural- civilisational personality…” The argument works from end to beginning. Nehru and the Sheikh are appropriated for Advani’s notions of secularism. The book is full of such too clever by half arguments. I think we should stop here. The book is written in such a way that you cannot for-get that it is written by a person who may be the next prime minister. There are plenty of nice words and compliments to Vajpayee or more accurately Atalji. But they are compliments from a soon to be coronated king to a king who could not have done better than quietly retire. There was much hype about the book in the electronic media. We found the book interesting for its candidness, except that some would find it to be candidness of the self-righteous. Email: govind.desh@gmail.comStarving Indiakripa shankar The author begins with Amartya Sen’s contention that no famine has occurred in a democratic country. But the point is that has it prevented the process that generates vast undernourish-ment and destitution at the bottom which results in starvation, and in some critical situations may result in famines. Demo-cracy assures freedom of expression and free press along with equal voting rights to change the government. But does it as-sure guaranteed livelihood to every one? Behind the veil of democracy, there may be a highly inegalitarian structure, where the bulk of the population may be living in an exploitative and dependency relation-ship. If this relationship persists thepeople at the bottom will remainoutside the mainstream. Political democracy by itself cannot impact the ongoing process which may result in affluence at the top com-bined with destitution below.Anti-Poverty MeasuresIn India, this process is working with greater vehemence because of certain his-torical reasons. Britishers have created a class of rentiers and oppressors to per-petuate their rule, and they ultimately bequeathed power to them. Being a pro-duct of colonial order and alienated from their own people, the new rulers have every stake in maintaining the oppressive structure. It was more or less a coalition of rentier and exploitive classes interested only in increasing their share of the pie rather than increasing the size of the cake itself.The history of six decades of post-independence is largely a history of this fight for greater share among the priv-ileged groups in which equitable growth and social justice have become a casuality. Democracy and election process have not changed the equation although compul-sion of electoral politics forces the various political formations representing one or the other privileged group to come for-ward with a plethora of populist measures and anti-poverty programmes just to mis-lead the labouring masses into believing that the government is not hostile to the downtrodden. Such anti-poverty schemes number more than a hundred but the one peculiar feature is that all of them are so designed that a larger part of the benefits percolate Starvation and India’s Democracyby Dan Banik; Routledge, London and New York, 2007; pp xv + 224, $ 150.

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