OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.

Well it is now official. 16 years after having shot into fame as the economist turned reluctant politician who architected India’s first generation of economic reforms Manmhoan Singh’s transformation is now complete. Manmohan Singh is now unarguably a Communal Socialist. So when exactly did this critical transformation come about one may argue  but clearly 2 events stand out. The first his constituting the Rajinder Sachar committee on socio-economic and educational status of Muslims in India. The second was his address to the National Development Council where in a freudian slip he called for Muslim’s first claim to development funds.

Much has been written about the Rajinder Sachar report in the media and in the blogs. Offstumped takes a tangential look at this report to highlight aspects of it which have been overlooked by most in the media and even in the blogs. These aspects go further to confirm how the Rajinder Sachar exercise went to great lengths to appease the Muslim vote bank brokers.

Let us first begin with the question of how objective was the Sachar Exercise ?While examining the socio-economic condition of the Muslim community one would have expected the Sachar Report to have gone into how effective current Government programs targetting Minorities have been. More specifically how effective have some of the flagship showpieces like those involving Haj that government after government have used to establish their secular credentials.

Well you would be surprised to learn that the word “Haj” occurs only twice in the entire 425 page report in 2 adjacent sentences. A crude but very revealing measure of the objectivity of this exercise.

One would have also expected the exercise to look into what extent anachronistic religious practices have contributed to arrested social and economic development. But what is astounding is the deafening silence from the Sachar Report on this.

For example the word “fatwa” occur in the entire report – ZERO times

the word “jihad” occurs in the entire report – ZERO times

the word “ulema” occurs in the entire report – Once

One would also have expected an objective exercise as this to have also looked into the role of institutional entities that seem to speak on behalf of the entire Muslim community whenever any issue concerning the community seems to crop up in the public domain. It is also these entities that seem to be the main interlocutors from the community that the government seems to engage with time and again.

So how many references to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIPLMB) or to Muslim Personal Law (the one defining issue that seems to be influence everything about the community) – ZERO

So what exactly was the Sachar fishing expedition all about. The primary objective of the HLC was to help the Government in compiling authentic information to base policy planning on. But this fishing expedition went well beyond its brief to make all kinds of recommendations. In fact it dedicates many chapters to policy prescriptions that were never sought in the first place. The Government in its brief asked the HLC to find answers to 7 questions and all of these questions had to do with compiling data on the current state of affairs with Muslims. The Government however misses asking the HLC the critical question of conducting the right Root Cause Analysis on this data to establish the reasons for the current state of affairs. Instead you have the Government jumping directly to identifying areas for policy intervention.

Why is this important – This is important becoz the Sachar Report as Offstumped had earlier pointed out was not an entirely objective exercise. It was not about establishing the truth about what ails the community but it was about something else.

Let us examine the question of what that something else was.

Right from the word go the political debate on Sachar committee was about reservations or affirmative actions. Offstumped many months back had shown that Affirmative Actions are all about past exclusion preventing current participation. So unless the root causes for low current participation were established how can the Government make the case firstly for the need for state intervention through reservations/affirmative-actions and secondly that such state interventions will actually have any positive impact on current participation.

Then you had the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s “Muslims must have the first claim on resources” remark. With four state elections, including the crucial one in Uttar Pardesh, round the corner, the release of the Sachar Report and the Prime Minister’s remarks fit the pattern. . The PM’s media advisor Sanjay Baru attempted a late attempt at John Kerry like spin that the Prime Minister botched his written remarks. Unfortunately for the PM that excuse refused stick especially given the swiftness with which some of his colleagues went out of their way to defend his remarks.  Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha LK Advani rejected clarifications from the PMO over Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remarks calling the remarks unconstitutional.

So what we have now is a Communal Socialist in the Prime Minister. Whether this communal socialism will deliver electoral dividends in Uttar Pradesh is anybody’s guess but it definitely will contribute to a latent hindu backlash in reaction to what started with last year’s communal rallies in support of Iran on the nuclear issue, followed by the protests over the danish cartoons over prophet mohammad and then the blasts in Varnasi finally culminating with 7/11, Malegaon and the Government’s equivocation on the Afzal death sentence. Come UP elections this will become very much evident with the way Manmohan Singh continues to persist with his Communal Socialism.

Offstumped Bottomline: The political silly season of 2006 is coming to an end with the mainstream media harping on cliched themes and manufacturing news. This was evident in the way the Sonia interview by Sanghvi and Advani interview by CNN-IBN were hyped up with sensational soundbites and vanishing from the public gaze no sooner they were screened. The mainstream media’s defence of Manmohan Singh’s Communal Socialism and equivocation on the Afzal issue will go to further render them irrelevant come 2007. Offstumped is predicting 2007 to be the year of the blogs. Watch these columns as the fight for public opinion intensifies.

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