Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Thuglak's 45th annual meeting

The 45th annual meeting of Thuglak readers was held at the Music Academy, Chennai on 14th January, 2015. Since neither parliamentary election nor the Tamil Nadu Assembly election is scheduled in the near future and scams have become rarer, it was expected that there would be thinner audience this time compared to 2014. But, surprisingly, it was not so. The event was also simultaneously webcast on (Deferred webcast also is available)

Cho initiated the proceedings sharp at 6.30 pm. Suspenseful expectations that gripped the patient audience just before the commencement was reminiscent of the Corporation stadium or Chepauk stadium atmosphere just before the first ball was about to be bowled in a cricket test match. Coincidentally, times were when the test matches would be held in Madras / Chennai during the Pongal season. Just as the cricket matches gave more fun and enjoyment than the accompanying holidays, Cho meetings give more thrill than holidays themselves.

This year Pongal is on 15th January and therefore, 14th was a working day to many. Despite this, the enthusiastic crowd was as thick as ever.

Cho started off facetiously observing that people cared either for physical fitness or for mental alertness and never for both. This was perhaps the only statement of Cho which might not have received the unanimous approval of the listeners. He attributed his present ill-health to absence of physical exercise.

Cho responded to questions posed by some readers of Thuglak. The readers were eager to know his mind on issues like the political future in Tamil Nadu, Modi's leadership, terrorism and secularism. Tamil Nadu's future politics, according to Cho, depended on the final verdict in Jayalalithaa's disproportionate assets case. If she is acquitted, ADMK would continue to dominate. Else, it would depend on who allies with whom. In his concluding remarks, Cho picked many holes in the trial court's judgment. The judge's reliance on a Patna High Court judgment in Lalu Prasad case dealing with the significance and finality of assessment by the tax authorities was criticised because the judgment was subsequently overruled by the Supreme Court. Justice Cunha's estimation of expenses incurred by Jayalalithaa in the marriage of her then adopted son as somewhere between the prosecution's assertion and defence's statement has no basis in law and hence is contestable. However, Cho refused to hazard a guess on what the High Court, and possibly the Supreme Court, will rule in this case.
Regarding the Congress party, Cho mentioned that whatever little support it had in Tamil Nadu is now with G.K.Vasan who has restarted his political party, TMC. Cho complimented Vasan for his straightforwardness and long-term orientation.

He was all praise for Modi's development agenda. In his view, based on world media observations, Modi ranks among the first 3 or 4 leaders in the whole world. Modi's sincerity and self-confidence were applauded. Modi's strong response to terrorism and Pakistan's aggression is in sharp contrast to UPA's pusillanimity. Pakistan's renewed attempt to internationalise the Kashmir issue is a reaction to Modi government's boldness in countering invasion and terrorism.

Cho mocked at attempts to reduce secularism to vote-bank arithmetic. He was equally condemnatory of puerile attempts made by fringe elements to provoke backlash against religious minorities. Cho suspected that these elements are trying to sabotage Modi's developmental efforts from within. He opined that it was unfair to make Modi accountable for this mischief. (This view was strongly countered by Jawahirullah who was one of the guest speakers. The other two were H.Raja of BJP and D.Raja of CPI).

Prof. M. H. Jawahirullah Tamilஎம்.ஹெச். ஜவாஹிருல்லாஹ் (born 1959) is an Indian politician and incumbent member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly from the Ramanathapuram constituency. He represents the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi party.[1]He is also the founding member and present leader of Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazagham.)

(H.Raja is a National Executive Member of BJP)

(D. Raja is a politician and the member of Rajya Sabha from Tamil Nadu. He is from the Communist Party of India(CPI) and he is the National Secretary of the Party since 1994)

Cho was amused by the tendency to fault Modi for all our ills and to attribute any positive development like reduction in inflation rate to extraneous factors.

Cho was predictably critical of Karunanidhi's opportunistic politics, co-habitation with NDA and UPA with equal ease to suit his 'family' constraints. He also appreciated the grand old man's sustained survival in politics despite many challenges, personal and political. He would not write off the DMK as a political force. Its future depends on the verdict in Jayalalithaa's assets case and probable alliances.

All three guest speakers spoke forcefully and with conviction. The first to speak, Jawahirullah found the gap between Modi's pre-election utterances and post-election action dismaying. He ridiculed the 'swachh Bharat' campaign as a marketing ploy. Cho's counter was that symbolic deeds are also necessary to change societal habits. This counter was later supported by H.Raja. Jawahirullah questioned central government's inaction in retrieving the fishing boats seized by Sri Lanka. The central government's move to 'take full credit' for release of Tamil fishermen by Sri Lanka attracted his ire. 

H.Raja spoke about 'convoluted secularism'. He gave some statistics from Kerala to drive home his contention that unequal treatment of different religious institutions would torpedo social equilibrium. Though H.Raja was certainly very eloquent, his job was made much easier since Cho had all praise for Modi and RSS. Cho gave examples of RSS' commitment to national interests.

D.Raja of CPI was expectedly critical of 'capitalistic methods' of the NDA government. He questioned the legitimacy of the NDA to govern since it received only 41% of votes and therefore 59% was against. This fallacious argument attracted a strong rebuttal from Cho who exclaimed that probably 95% are against the Communists. D.Raja referred to the consistent struggle of communist movements against all types of terrorism including the Khalistanis. (He was lucky that no one made an inconvenient reference to Maoists.) He pleaded for more government initiatives to help the poor. He quoted from Thomas Piketty's 'Capitalism in the 21st century' that there is now unprecedented economic inequality.

D.Raja strongly objected to de-prioritisation of MGNREGA by the government. This, he asserted, proved Modi government's 'anti-poor' policy. Cho combatted this argument saying that MGNREGA as it exists is only a cornucopia of corruption and that the government is rightly trying to reform it. D.Raja voiced his concern over the government's pro-FDI policy. In the same breath, he also criticised the government for not enabling the continuance of Nokia factory in Tamil Nadu. Cho responded that the Nokia issue was a creation of earlier UPA government and Modi cannot be blamed. Perhaps he missed an opportunity to point out the paradox of simultaneous anti-FDI and pro-Nokia arguments. Cho batted strongly for more FDI.

Finally, Cho signed off hoping to continue the traditional meeting next January. As usual, every one stood to attention when the national anthem was sung.

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