Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Rise and Importance of Propaganda in Indian Election

The massive win of Narendra Modi even after disastrous handling of the economy has confounded most of the election experts. "It is the economy stupid" is no longer a valid political theory to explain election wins or defeats. Further the scale and breadth of the win despite not fulfilling any of the promises of the first term is even more bewildering. Looks like people have totally forgotten about "1000 smart cities", "2 crore jobs per year", "bringing back black money" etc.

The acute agrarian distress as evident from fall in agricultural prices, the lack of Govt support in procurement or in enhancing the MSP did not dent the prospect of the ruling Govt. The demonetization and GST that broke the back of MSMEs and the trader class did not hamper the ruling Govt in the urban constituencies. In fact it was a complete sweep over entire India barring three states.

What explains the dichotomy between the performance of this Govt and the resounding re-election? A number of theories have been put forward to explain it. Let us go through one by one:

1. Opposition did not offer anything: This is plain lie. Rahul Gandhi in various speeches did point out towards rural distress and alleviating them by much higher MSP, better procurement and on time payment from Govt. On these promises alone, Congress swept Chattisgarh and won two more states in December. They even procured paddy at Rs. 2500/- in Chattisgarh after coming to power and yet won just 2 seats out of 11.

2. There was no alternative: Clearly anyone who is slightly better than a school kid would do better than Modi in dealing with economy and social schemes. Demonetization was the most stupid decision ever taken with no gains to the Govt or the people but massive loss to the economy. The price crash of agricultural commodities due to demonetization has not recovered yet.

2. Govt schemes: Central Govt budget of 24 lakh crores is huge by any standards and every Govt spends money on existing and new schemes and will have beneficiaries. In fact most new social sector spending like "Ayushman Bharat", "Ujjwala Yojana", "Swachh Bharat" have no real budget outlays to be successful. They created hope but were largely unsuccessful. Govt transferred most of its budget to banks to cover the NPA deficit in banks that were anyway due to failed infra and power projects due to Govt actions and economic slowdown.

If you look at the election results, it is quite obvious that it was not an issue or candidate based election. People have voted only to put Modi in the PM seat. That can only be explained by the propaganda that was created in favour of Modi over the last 5 years by the mainstream media (read TV channels)  and the whatsapp BJP propaganda that keep ridiculing opposition leaders and never questioning those in power.

Opposition thinking that it will be able to bypass TV channels and Whatsapp to deliver its message to the voters was simply misplaced. Even Modi rallies were not well attended, but the MSM and WhatsApp were constantly delivering the messages to the voters that Opposition is not offering anything and that there was no real alternative to Modi or that every opposition leader is a muslim appeaser. The propaganda over 5 years has worked and the result is in front of us. Opposition can ignore it at their own peril!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Talvar": Some thoughts on the adaptation of murder mystery

Watched the movie "Talvar", an adaptation of the Aarushi and Hemraj double murder case. Couple of points:
1. Dr Malini that did Narco analysis on the servant is notorious for her unprofessional work. She even had Kaleem confessed to his crime and named all the accomplices in the Mecca Masjid blast. But then courts acquitted them all and Swami Aseemanand confessed to the crime and implicated many other right wing members.

2. Making someone an "Approver" in CrPC is a terrible way that we have imported from the Britishers. Britishers used it to target the freedom fighters. After all "Approver" will be let go only for implicating others. Yakub Memon was also convicted using the "Approver" route.  IMO it is an illegitimate prosecution technique.

3. The "typographical" error on the pillow cover by CBI was a huge mistake. But the movie shows it as the result of office rivalry, a highly contestable claim considering CBI had no other particular reason to let the servants go.

4. I think the film correctly points out the fallacy of the "honour killing" argument advanced by the UP Police earlier as the motivation. But does not still rule out other issues that could have been motivation or purely rage and short tempered action.

5. Movie correctly points out the fallacy of convicting Mr and Mrs Talvar for their action when they saw their dead child. In fact that is one of the primary reason that trial court has used for conviction. Hope at least high court corrects that mistake.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Speech to the incoming MBA class

My speech to the incoming students of Symbiosis School of Media and Communications, Bengaluru on 8th June, 2015.

First of all I am thankful to the Director and the faculty of Symbiosis School
of Media & Communication for inviting me to address the incoming students of
the MBA class. Congratulations to the students and wishing you all success
in the upcoming academic program.

I know many of you may have apprehensions about the academic program
 and what you may be doing after words. All I can say is that an academic program is
pretty useful to become a more rational thinker. It provides you a conceptual
framework to understand the complex realities of the world. It is very rare
that you would encounter a real world challenge that would match what you
 have already learnt earlier.  That is why academics usually chop off unnecessary
details from real world examples and try to identify ideas that work through a
number of examples.  From my own experience in PhD, I can tell you that
identifying principles and ideas that have wide applicability is never that
easy. So it is good that you get them in a boilerplate and you can learn as
much as possible from other people experience. It will enable you to make the
right decisions and stop you from making the  same mistakes that others did.

Many of you would have thought of a  path after graduating from the college. A
rough plan of the kind of work you will take up while going forward and
how you will shape your future. While such a plan is often desirable than no plan at
all, I would like to caution you that you need to keep an open mind on it. Your
perception of issues may change, the opportunities that are available to you
may change. It may also happen that the kind of work that you thought would be
exciting actually turned out to be dull. Sometime your priorities may even
change. Your family, your need of money and sometimes your location
may become an issue of utmost importance.

The vagaries of real life and personal interest may take over the broad
plan that you had. And that is perfectly normal. It is perfectly normal
to change your interests, to change your priorities and even re-assess the
quality of work you do. That is because you never had all the knowledge earlier
 to decide on these issues.

What is more essential is that you vet everything with an open mind and judge
with your own intelligence. Be a boat in the open ocean and catch the winds
that you like. It does not matter which island or port you dock in. What is
important is that you enjoy the sailing and you feel satisfied with the route
you took. Also be cautious of the fact that the sailing may be through
turbulent water and may not be exactly as you thought it would be. But there is
no point in feeling sorry about it. You tried your best and you change the
course if you find it too difficult.

I started my PhD without any idea on what I will be doing. We worked on a
number of ideas related to Internet Security and wrote  papers related to our
findings. But then I built a legal search engine with neither expertise in the
legal domain nor any expertise in the field of information retrieval. What
changed the direction was the fact that it caught up pretty well with the
people and they started using it. That signal was too strong to be ignored.

Another advice I would have far you is to talk about the difficult issues that
you face with as many people you trust as possible. I particularly have
benefitted a lot with these discussions on what are the way forward.  So best
of luck in your endeavor.