EXPLOSIVE: Sr Journalist Coomi Kapoor Explains India's Untold Politics - Gandhi To Modi | TRS 323 | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "EXPLOSIVE: Sr Journalist Coomi Kapoor Explains India's Untold Politics - Gandhi To Modi | TRS 323".


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Interview Start

Coomi Kapoor x Ranveer Allahbadia begins (00:00)

take Mrs. Gandhi's reign. A lot of her behaviour patterns would seem somewhat similar to Mr. Modi today. Some of the things that Indira Gandhi was criticised for, as press censorship, you know, self-aggrandisement, the pattern is repeated. And also one party, parties are not democratically run and Indira Gandhi never believed. She was the lone woman who decided. As they used to say, the only man in a cabinet of women. And in the case of Mr. Modi's cabinet, I think when he speaks, nobody interrupts or has anything much to say. I can't say for sure because history has not shown that it's easy for them to get together. And the reason has always been that the difficulty in selecting one leader. And I think that the biggest mistake they will make if Rahul Gandhi is made that one leader, it will be the greatest advantage for Mr. Modi. Today's guest is one of the most respected journalists in India. She's one of the longest serving journalists. She's worked in the Indian Express for over 50 years and 50 years as a journalist, seeing all these truths about modern India's history unfold, researching so much has led to her perspectives that she holds today. Today's conversation was both slightly historical and slightly political. If you're someone who enjoys political commentary, political conversations, you're going to enjoy this episode. And you know what? I used to be a person who didn't enjoy political conversations till not too long ago until I realised that if it's spoken in the right kind of tonality and a friendly language with jokes placed in the middle, political conversations can also be super fun and super endearing, but most importantly, super educative. Please watch this episode till the end, especially if you don't enjoy political conversations, because maybe this particular one will change your mind because we're talking to the endearing Kumi Kapoor. Kumi Kapoor, welcome to the Ranveer show. Thank you for calling me. I hope I fit into this very mod-hep show. I'm a bit of a dinosaur for it, I think, considering my age. No, you fit straight in. Trust me on that. It's all about vibe. It's all about the energy. I'm honestly loving already having spoken to you. Like, I feel like you have a lot to share. I love that you've seen the story of India unfold. Has that been the privilege of your life as a journalist? Story? I don't know. But I've been in journalism for 50 years, which is a pretty long time. So I've seen many regimes come and go. Started with Indira Gandhi when she was at her height. And now I'm with Mr. Modi when he's at his height.

Key Topics In Coomi Kapoor'S Journalism Career

Favorite phase of Journalism (03:17)

What was your personal favorite phase of journalism? Well, you know, for most of us journalists in Delhi who are political animals, the best phases are where you get the most inside information are always those governments which are weak, the stronger the person in power, the Prime Minister is the natural rule, the less information flows, the more people are scared, the more pressures they are on the media and owners. So when the governments were weak, it may not have been good for the country economically, but in terms of freedom of the press, it was a thumbs up. Which was the weakest government that you've ever seen?

Weakest Government According to Coomi Kapoor (04:02)

Well, I think the weakest governments were at that period when we had three in a row. First we had, you know, Mr. who was there, there was the Devagawda, then there was Indira Gujarat, they were looking desperately for a Prime Minister. The Congress basically wanted to throw out anyone and call for an election, they've done that twice, they did it when Mr. Chandrasekhar was there also. And at that time, the press in fact, realizing the governments are so weak and become bullies. I remember when the few days that Mr. Devagawda was Prime Minister, I mean, the press took all these photos of him coming back from some trip abroad and I mean, his kids or his grandkids were carrying a few toys, this was some big, big thing when, you know, we've seen people in politics who've made cross. So that was such a small thing. But that's what I mean that the press also takes advantage of people when they're not very strong. Okay. But how does this lead to a leak of information? It's a chain of all the way down, the people who are in the bureaucracy, they become emboldened because they know who's going to be, they don't know who's going to be boss tomorrow. So they're willing to give information, tell stories. In exchange for money? No, no, no, there's no question of money. I mean, they're willing to talk more. I mean, it's a strong government. We saw Indira Gandhi during the emergency. Mr. Modi's government is another, it may not be a total repeat performance in the sense that there's no formal censorship as such. But yes, things have tightened a lot. You can make that out very clearly in the media. You can see it in television channels also. What do you mean? And the ownership patterns. Okay. You want to expand on that thought? Well, you've seen recent takeover by latest multimillionaire of the NDTV. You're allowed to say it's a podcast. It's new age media. And I knew about the NDTV. So look a little as if the last, one of the last people standing anti-government, I don't know whether they're right or wrong, but freedom of expression and democracy in a country means that they should be across the board, you know, different viewpoints. They are because of social media, you can't block it out any longer. It will always be there. But I mean, the major media, there's a certain amount of pressure on them. You don't find it? I don't find that it's equalized. Is that what you're asking? No, I'm saying you don't find, for example, that newspapers, televisions, they're more circumspect in reporting news. Careful. A lot. I'm going to be very like straightforward to the point where I might even offend you with what I'm saying. But I'm a part of the generation, which has entirely grown up with social media. My access to current affairs has been through social media always. That's a good thing because since you're using social media, you know, no government can really shut up social media. Okay. Now I have to go for a pre-planned question with you. Okay. So you've been with the Indian Express for very, very, very long. Yeah, I have. I've been with the Express for very long, but I've been in a lot of other newspapers as well in between.

The rise of Dhirubhai Ambani (07:22)

Okay. There was a movie called Guru. I don't know if you've seen this movie, but it's loosely based on Dhirubhai Ambani. And there's a character played by Mithun Chakrabarti in that movie. It represents Mr. Goenka I believe. Yeah, it would be because Mr. Goenka was very much involved in the fight with Mr. Dhirubhai Ambani back in Rajiv Gandhi's time as prime minister. Okay. Could you draw a picture of that time when Dhirubhai Ambani was rising up the ranks? I want to know what my country was like in the sixties and seventies, because my only context is movies like Guru. Actually that was in the early eighties. Okay. Dhirubhai Ambani started rising in the seventies with Neera Gandhi helping him, but it came to a head in the early eighties when, no, probably it came to a head because there was this Dhirubhai Ambani was all the other industrialists dealing in the textile business because he started in the textile business. They were keen to saw that all the laws being framed in Delhi were helping him and against them. And one of them, a lot of big textile firms in fact closed down at that time. And this gentleman who was considered an upstart then we saw his rise and rise and rise. One man took him on. That was a scare. It's in my second book in fact, Nafsli Wadia who felt he was being unfairly treated because he had an old family textile firm, but it was Dhirubhai Ambani, whatever he used that was being given the go ahead rather than the yarn that he wanted to use. Then he started cooperating with Mr. Goenka and they brought a whole lot of investigative stories against Mr. Ambani. But it became far more complicated than that because then when Rajiv Gandhi was there, Rajiv Gandhi was convinced by somebody or the other presumably by Mr. Ambani's men that actually they are targeting you. So you better do something to keep them in check. Then there were raids on Indian Express. Mr. Wadia was stopped from coming to the country because they said he was a dual passport. And Indian Express also started investigating corruption cases against then government and they found a very good one in Bofors which came out at that time. So it was all interconnected, too confusing for your young readers to think. No, it's great. I think we're getting context from people like yourself. Recently we had this podcast where we did the history of post-independence India up to the Kargil war.

About Rajiv Gandhi (10:40)

One chapter that I found extremely fascinating was Rajiv Gandhi. And the gentleman we had on the show Gokleso, he basically said that Rajiv Gandhi started his political career in a very brash way, had people who were advising him maybe in some wrong ways, but eventually he started becoming mature and he was trying to take strong decisions. And that's about the time the assassination happened and people were hopeful about what he would do for the country going forward into the 90s. Do you look at it differently? Since I was quite at the forefront of there and observing what happened, it wasn't quite like that. He had his advisors and he listened to them a lot. But I think that he was constrained because he had the right ideas. He did want to bring about liberalization, but he was obviously, Arun Nehru, for example, who was one of his advisors for a long time and tried to hold him back so that Rajiv's tragedy was that he couldn't do what he really wanted. Why was he held back though? That's true. Why was he? Because he was advised not to go too fast, too quickly. But here after him followed a very weak prime minister in the sense that he didn't really have support, Narasimha Rao, but he was able to liberalize. You want to draw a picture of the Rajiv Gandhi story? I'll tell you why. Honestly, Rahul Gandhi today has a lot of bad publicity and people associate Rajiv Gandhi now purely with Rahul Gandhi and by people, I mean the youth. So why don't you draw the picture of Rajiv Gandhi's mind times story right from the start? I was actually a nice guy. And unlike his younger brother Sanjay who was supposed to have become the political one in the family and take over from the mother, he kept to his air as a pilot. He remained as a pilot as long as Sanjay was on the scene. It was only later that he came to the forefront after his mother died and he was immediately made prime minister with the biggest majority ever. But for a man with that kind of a majority, he didn't do what was expected of him. Which was what? Which was liberalization was one of the main things. There were others. He realized, for example, there's a lot of mismanagement. He famously made that statement that I think 60 to 70% of all the money that we give in welfare projects gets eaten up and doesn't pass down to the people it's meant for. So he should have tried to plug that instead of just stating it. He was quite naive in that way and honest. Rich boy syndrome? No, I think he wasn't really connected that much with politics. Though he came from such a political family, he kept his distance in a way. I don't think his wife Sonia at that stage was interested in him joining politics. Okay, so he was a reluctant politician. I think possibly he was the only one who was originally of the Gandhi's who was originally slightly reluctant. The rest were never. Coming back to the story, how do you remember the nineties then? The liberalization of the economy because that's where my biological memory started forming. And those are my earliest memories in life of going to one of the country's first McDonald's, one of the country's first dominoes.

On Liberalization (14:15)

That's how I processed it. It was absolute sea change. If I was to describe to you what when I first came to Delhi to work, I'm a Bombay girl, I came to Delhi to work. When we first came, it was like being in a semi-Soviet country. We couldn't get gas for months because there were rations, we couldn't get cars, you had to wait in a waiting list to get them. You couldn't even get a watch, your HMT watch because there were only a few government regulated manufacturing units. It wasn't given out to the private sector at all. And so that socialism pattern that was there held us back for decades. I mean, people were always, it was so pathetic that anyone going abroad was expected to come back with a suitcase full of stuff to hand out to our relatives and friends because we couldn't get the stuff in India. Like a very soft North Korea, very soft version of North Korea. Fair to say? Not soft. It was like a semi-socialist country. And how do you compare that with times now where countries aggressive about entrepreneurship, capitalism, how do you feel about the current government as well? That's such a very general question. How do I feel?

About the Current Government (15:42)

You can answer generally and then we'll dive straight into the specifics. One would agree with some of their policies and not agree with others. They say that they are for free enterprise, but they have their favorites as is very clear. And they put strictors on some and not on others. Okay. All right. You're talking about the government's attitude towards industry. They have their favorites. There's no doubt about it. Which is the Ambani's and the Adani's? Well, I would say the latter is certainly a favorite. It's grown so fast. So that, I mean, people have been commenting on that fact. Who do you think they don't favor? I would assume that the people who got lost out on contracts to Mr Adani, for example, GMR, which used to handle the airport, I think in Bombay. Mr Adani handling it now. Yeah. And handling many other airports. Others who have considered industrial is considered close to the earlier regime. Not now. It happens in all regimes. Yeah. Yeah. Like whoever you're close to. Yeah. I mean, why do industrialists fund politicians? They fund it in the hope that eventually they'll get some favors when they come to power. Okay. And that happens in all cases? In a lot of cases, yes. But most industrialists hedge their bets and fund the party in power or the one they think is coming to power. Now it's generally believed. I don't know if it's true or not. For example, this reason that they introduced this easing out of the 2000 rupee notes. Why do you think that happened? You tell me. What is your view of that? Two reasons. One, probably the common man doesn't really use 2000 rupee notes. That's a very simplistic explanation. The second reason I have is like, I mean, I would like to believe it's another cleanup of Kala Dhan. But did the first demonetization clean up Kala Dhan? I don't think so. I don't know. I don't have the data. You tell me. No, just looking around you, we got back almost all the money that was to be demonetized. But a lot of us lost money. Even I discovered notes much later which were invalid. So I think what happened was a lot of counterfeit money also got regularized in the process. But I would suspect that in the present case, when the 2000 suddenly they decide to inconvenience everyone by taking it easing out the 2000 rupee note, it would be a step against the opposition since the industrials don't like to fund through bonds, electoral bonds as you probably know about 90% goes to the ruling party. So they would like to fund other parties. But how do you do it? It has to be the good old cash and easiest note is the 2000 rupee note. I mean, that is the general conjecture that the person who was the most penalized by this 2000 rupee note being eased out were the opposition political parties because they had a lot of it. From the industrialists and others for the sake of funding their political campaigns for 2020. You didn't want to do it openly. So it's to make their political campaign. This is my conjecture, maybe wrong. Okay, no, cool. I mean, I'll tell you what you have the right to have this kind of conjecture because of your career spent researching. So if anyone should have a conjecture, it should be. No, I said not spent researching. It's just I mean, my surmise. You have been based on pattern recognition, which I'm sure you've seen in the past. Yeah. Do patterns actually repeat themselves over the course of 50 years? Have you seen too many? Yeah, history as they say repeats itself. The first time it's tragedy, the second time is fast. Okay, what's the logic of cabinet reshuffles? Like I didn't understand this aspect of it.

Logic behind Cabinet Reshuffles (20:05)

Well, this time there was not a big cabinetry shuffle, there was just a very mini the law minister was given a very minor pose. So obviously, he did something that was not liked by the powers that be. I'm generally also asking that why do cabinet reshuffles happen? Why don't they let one person stay in a ministry long enough and do their thing? Is it based totally on performance? Or is it like if one person performs in one of the ministries really well, they're shifted to like another? I've never seen any logic very often in cabinetry shuffles. Sometimes they're in preparation for an election when particular castes have to be given importance and things like that as well. Like what does that mean? That means if a person is from a particular, you know, region or a community or whose votes are required in a forthcoming election, that person may be elevated for that reason as well. Elevated? You mean to say that different ministries are at different levels of importance? It's not that a cabinet, let's put it that I wouldn't say that cabinet formation is based on the person who's best for the job. That's obvious. It's more on political reasons. You don't agree? I didn't feel that when I went to the cabinet. My favorite podcast amongst all of them was with Rajiv Chandrasekhar, who has been the founder of BPL. Yes, he is very well suited for his ministry. I agree. So he's one exception. Do you feel any of them are not good for their particular ministries? Let's not get into names now, but I mean, a lot of them are there for, because they represent powerful political groups and their representation is required in the cabinet. That's how all Indian cabinets are formed. Of all MPs, you certainly don't pick the one who is most suited for a particular post, right? As in? As in say, I mean, there must be so many very qualified people in a particular, but they're not pulled out because they may have no clout at all. Okay. So you're saying that the cabinet is always a representation of different parts of India? Political interests are as important and frankly, the weight of the prime minister and a few of his senior ministers carries down the line so that the actual ministers may not have that much control over their ministries. You're saying there's a bit of favoritism mixed with political agenda? Political agenda? What is political agenda? Political agenda is you want one state to get a certain representation, for example. For past promises that have to come through now. Okay. Like, do you think when Mr.Sindhia left the Congress and that whole thing happened in MP where he wasn't basically allowed to come to power in MP completely, then he went to the BJP and instead of them empowering him in MP, they said, no, no, why don't you come and join the cabinet? Do you think that was, that's a case of like political agenda? No, I don't think Mr.Sindhia was interested in, I think he was happy to be in the center rather than in the state because already there was a chief minister who was long running in the state. So the rumors are that there was a big Game of Thrones situation in MP. I think, no, I don't think that Sindhia was ever really in the running for the chief minister's post and I think temperamentally he was also more suited for a post at the center, which, and I think he likes what he's got also, civil aviation. Why do you think he left the Congress? Because they weren't giving him, empowering him for years. Okay. Sidelining him because there's so many factions of the Congress in Madhya Pradesh that he was, you know, sidelined his people when there was an election to be held, were not given tickets and things like that. So he felt humiliated. Okay. Tell me about the most difficult phase of your whole journalism career. I suppose in some ways the most difficult phase was during the emergency when Indira Gandhi had imposed an emergency and done away with fundamental rights. Anyone could be lifted, put into jail if the government wanted at that time and there was no recourse to the courts to get bail or release. So it affected me also personally because my brother-in-law happened to be in politics was wanted, there was an arrest warrant against him. My husband was put into jail because he got into a fight with a Congress politician because she wanted to arrest some young boys who were shouting slogans, long live democracy. So he was put into jail. My newspaper was under attack in the last days of the emergency. It was almost closed down, the Indian Express. It was a difficult period but it was a challenging period also. One could show one's mettle. What was specifically challenging about it? Whether you could rise to the occasion to do what little you could as a citizen at times of this. For example, when Indira Gandhi announced that she was holding elections in 1977, much before all your audience would remember. But you know, censorship was still there so you shouldn't try. But I'm very proud of the Indian Express newspaper because it went ahead and we all wrote what had happened in those 19 months. But most newspapers didn't. They just kept silent. So that is the challenge of people. When I was researching for this podcast, that's what came up about the Indian Express that during the emergency period, it was the only paper openly. One of the few but it particularly stuck out. You know, for example, it wasn't just about arrest mindlessly of your opponents. It was also like forcible sterilizations, just taking away people's civil rights. Like forced vasectomies. What was this whole forced vasectomy thing? Sanjay Gandhi had a thing in his head that you can, you know, gain growth faster if you bring down the population control. But the question is, can you do it drastically without their consent, which is what was happening? I mean, it was a ridiculous situation where every school teacher, they wanted their grades, salaries to be given.

Forced Vasectomy (26:46)

They had to produce people who would agree to vasectomies. All government servants had to agree to that sort of a thing. At the worst stages, policemen who had to give figures of the number of sterilizations that were being done just went forcibly to homes and rounded up people. Imagine living in an India like that, where one day you wake up on a Saturday morning and you're looking for your weekend and the cop walks in and says, come for vasectomy with us. I just want the villages, then you waking up. Well, maybe the rural version. But basically everyone was fighting with everyone to get figures to show that they, you know, especially those working in government. Intense strange time. Yes, one of the challenging times. Do you look back at the 70s fondly? It's a learning experience. Now I can look back, but it was quite harrowing then, as I said. What was the 70s like outside of politics? 70s was very politicized in Delhi where I was living. The people were either on one side or another side. Sounds a lot like that. That's exactly what I was going to say. And there's a lot of similarity between, I said, between Mrs Gandhi and Mr Modi. You think things are repeating themselves? Well, in some degree, yes, certainly the kind of polarization that I see today, that people have don't see things in perspective. They see either you're on one side or you're on the other. I see it even in journalism. You know that they can be shades. Like take example, recent opening of parliament.

Perspectives of jounalism (28:38)

A person who's opposed to the government will be opposed to not just the opening of a new parliament. At the same time, the people who are for the parliament, they will not see the fact that those wrestlers were being arrested just outside parliament. So I mean, everything is either you're on one side or the other. That's very unfortunate thing that has happened in India. As in you turn a blind eye to anything that's against your argument. Yes. Even a tiny factor. And especially dangerous for journalists, especially because the objectivity has long gone. As in they can't talk about things from us. I'm not saying that you have to say on the one hand and on the other hand, but you must use your judgment. You need to see things over 360 degree perspective. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. And I think podcasters do just that. Good. Do you believe that? You're the way of the future. I'm new to podcasts. I began YouTube and I mean, YouTube videos become famous, earn money, et cetera. The outcome, the unexpected outcome was that because of the data I received through my YouTube channels, I have a bird's eye view of how people are thinking and what people are going to be interested in even six months down the line, just through data. So I'm sure you've accumulated some data and some pattern in your head, which have taught you a lot about life. Yeah. Because if you've observed for so many years, you have a sense of how people are going to react, what they're going to do. Okay. For take, for example, a journalist when covering elections, I think they have a better idea of the way people are likely to vote. Really? They're able to predict things accurately? They obviously get it wrong very often, but I mean, if they're a normal intelligent journalist, if they ask enough people, they are in a position to, you know, more so than a pollster perhaps. Of course pollsters have these huge staffs, et cetera. Would you predict that election where Manmohan Singh became PM? 2004? Yes, I don't want to brag about it, but I think I've almost every election where I've gone on the ground and had enough areas to cover, I can make out the way the wind is. Okay. When you go on the ground, why? You have to have that time and effort to go into the interior and talk to people. Okay. You can't make observations by talking to the experts. It's by talking to the common people. We talked to enough of them. That's exactly what our poll surveys do, but our poll surveys are in using such huge amounts of manpower, but I think journalists have got attuned also to finding out what is happening in a country. Okay. For example, one vote from someone who's never ever left the village in their entire life counts just as much as the guy sitting in the Times Now studio, the Republic studio, NDT studio. Right? Yeah. That's why you need to go out there and see that. You have to go to the grassroots and ask enough people. Okay. How do you look back at that Manmohan Singh government, the whole tenure?

Dr. Manmohan Singh Government (31:48)

Because he did a lot of good things as a decent man, but there were too many scandals and there were scandals because he couldn't really act against his allies in government and they were all making money. Okay. So it wasn't money. Well, I mean, some of his allies, the most famous example we know of course is the 2G scam. I mean, they were literally handing it out to their favorites and Manmohan knew it, but there was nothing he could do. You know, the government to survive, he needed those allies with him. Okay. The D.M.K in this case. He would love to have had a conversation with Manmohan Singh. He is rather ill, so I don't think you're going to get it because even people close to him, he doesn't speak much. Yeah. How does he look back at his old tenure? How do you think? A very human, empathetic side. I suppose he does maybe feeling cheated that the economic growth was there in the early years of his government, which he's not given credit for. His last years were, you know, bogged down by these various scandals which came up and many of them just to keep his government in power, he was perforce had to do it, you know, because his orders are like had to come from the first family of the Congress, you know. Okay. And again, money was the actual villain in this case. Money was the reason. Not money. Each of those political parties supporting the Congress wanted their pound of flesh in terms of benefits. Cash. Well, it boils down to cash or whatever. Okay. So even though he had good aspects in his legacy. Oh, yes. Definitely. It's kind of overlooked. And mind you, he was also the finance minister when liberalisation took place under Natsimara. Yeah. I think that's how my generation now knows him more. People don't even talk much about his. No. He was two terms prime minister and it's unfortunate that in the many good things he did, it's overshadowed by the last few years where people talked about corruption all the time. Okay. How do you look at? But it wasn't his fault. He had to obey the orders. What's your perception of Rahul Gandhi now? I don't know. Somebody made an interesting observation. I think it's the chief minister Hemantash Sharma of Assam. He said that he is, people say, oh, he did that march. Now he's becoming mature. Is it at 55? A time when shouldn't you be mature by then you're becoming mature. His present trip abroad, his statements sound a little off the mark. Do you believe that a fair criticism is that he's not served in any cabinet? I don't think that matters. I don't think he has his proper political instincts of what people in this country want. He clings to issues which are not that relevant if he feels that they personally affect him rather than taking up the issues which will resonate with the people. With the masses. Yes. That is political instinct, understanding how the masses think. Yeah. That you should know. Mr. Modi knows it very well. Brilliant at it. Basically what PR and branding is also. Yeah. To play to the crowd. No, you have to know what is it that people want, not what you want. What you think is the most important issue is not necessarily what people are most concerned. People may be most concerned about prices, something, inflation. And you may be most concerned about playing down Savarkar. So you should know what it is that the voters want. Okay, cool. Does this government have any worthy opposition going forward? If all of them come together, it will be a very worthy opposition. Would you be brash enough to predict a possibility where all of them come together? I can't say for sure because history has not shown that it's easy for them to get together and the reason has always been that the difficulty in selecting one leader. And I think that the biggest mistake they will make if Rahul Gandhi is made that one leader. It will be the greatest advantage for Mr. Modi. Because the masses don't connect with him. No, no, because if you compare Mr. Modi with Rahul, I think the balance will definitely be in favor of Modi. But if you leave it vague, then all the people who are annoyed with some of the policies of the government or its performance, they don't have a definite figure to compare. Then it would probably be helpful. What do you think? When I'm talking to people like you who've been political commentators for so long, I don't feel worthy enough to express my political opinion. In some ways, you're a political observer at least. But me one last kind of question I have for you here is about the future of India because this whole conversation has been about pattern recognition. That's basically what happens over the course of any career. So say you're a cricketer, and you've played for 15 years, you are able to predict the game as is the case with Dhoni or as was the case with Sachin Tendulkar etc. I think it's the same with any industry. If you spend a lot of time you are able to predict what's going to happen. What is the future of our country according to you?

Future of India (37:50)

Well, I'm not going to stick my neck out and say this or that. My apprehension is that it will become more and more authoritarian and less and less democratic. I mean democracy will be that you go and put your vote in and that's it. But democracy, proper democracy is a lot more than that. It's the freedom to express yourself. It's the freedom to interact with the people who are in power, not isolate themselves. So that's one way we can go. And the other is that one thing I have great faith in the people of India. And when any government goes too far in one direction, the voter never underestimate the voter. They know what is happening in the country. You said somewhere are they really aware, but yes, they do usually know. So I think if any government goes too far in the direction of authoritarianism, they will have to face the electorate. Do you think that this truly religious segregation in the government's mind, that's the common criticism you hear at least in cities? Yes, yes. I think it's a very wicked thing to do. Do you think it's for the sake of political agenda? Yes, it is. It's a vote catching device, which is very wrong. You mean if you... You get to the baser instincts of people on their religious, you know, to try and win their support on religious lines. Doesn't fire up people by saying that that religion is better or worse than you? No, I don't think religion should come into place. A politician should try and win votes by offering things like Mr. Modi did in 2014. He said, I want development for this country. That was his theme. You know, this polarization along religious lines is when you have nothing else to offer. And you think that that's a very active ploy of our current government? Because I asked all of them this. It has been quite often, which is unfortunate. When I asked all of them this, I think Rajiv Chandrasekhar gave me the best answer. He said that he denied it. He said that, no, that's not the case. And overall, from the four conversations I had with them, all I got was conversations about development. But when you talk to a Muslim, a Christian, a lot of Sikhs, a lot of Buddhists in the country, there's a different kind of emotion in their heart. They do feel ostracized. And that's exactly what I told these cabinet ministers. And their rebuttal was that they are feeling these things because of false narratives from marketing on the other side, which means that the opposition has probably marketed this idea that they're using religion to divide the country. Well, it's pretty obvious. I mean, it tears us in the face that at election time, they tend to bring in a religious divide if they feel they need to whip up voter sentiment. Quite often they do it. Has it been happening recently? Yes. Okay, I'll tell you why I feel hesitant about having any opinion on this. I feel hesitant because of the same reason that white men in America feel hesitant to talk about issues. Because as a Hindu young entrepreneur born into upper middle class India, I think I'm in a place of privilege to be having an opinion here. And the honest opinion should come from the minorities. I generally sense a feeling of discomfort in their hearts about their own safety, about their own sense of being Indian, etc. My gauge of the government using religion as a tool to divide and therefore create a vote, I mean, make votes. Is when news reaches me in the same way that that whole CAA, CAB thing reached me in such an intense manner where people are writing in and saying that, listen, you know, you need to talk about this, where I actually felt a need to talk about it as a content creator. I haven't felt that much of a need since that phase. And obviously so much has happened since COVID happened since then, etc. The gauge I got from talking to them this time was that they're very aggressive about making money for the country. I did sense that in all honesty. And again, this is not me being pro Modi or anything like that. I'm just relaying what I felt because I'm talking to them for like an hour each at least. So you do gauge where the other person's heart is at. There was a strong sense of doing the right thing in order to make money, in order to make us geopolitically stronger because of the geopolitical climate of our times that we need to basically become richer as a country. And I think that that's their single pointed focus. And within the country, they're focusing on infrastructure. So I said that, you know, if you divide the country for votes, you're not doing this economic game of favour because if we truly want to grow as an economy, everyone needs to be happy and working together and united. And they all agreed. And their angle was we blame like the opposition. This is marketing from the opposition side. Now, as a political journalist, you don't agree? No, I mean, some of the issues I do, I'm not one of those who believes that minority should have special rights. But I at the same time feel that you deliberately, you know, raise certain issues to create a divide at election time. Okay. Do you think something's going to come up soon? Just that in Maharashtra, there's been some trouble and Mr. Pawar has made a statement saying that the BJP has a tendency to do this. Okay. And this starts building up as you go nearer to the elections. Okay so we can expect more. It's not necessarily a pattern all the time. But unfortunately, it is being whipped up. They do see themselves as sort of a Hindu Rashtra, you know, the main mother organization, the RSS does see that. Okay. Okay. How much power does the RSS truly have in terms of how the nation is run?

Interview Closure

Thank you for watching (44:17)

It has power, but I think with a strong prime minister like Modi, actually, he calls the shots eventually. I think at the present position is that it is the Modi who really calls the shot, not the RSS. But of course, he will not like to alienate the RSS because the RSS means workers in the hundreds of thousands at election time, who, you know, helped the party in many ways. But when you have a really strong, as I said, whenever you have a very strong prime minister, then he counts for more. I think the RSS's view becomes secondary to him. Okay. Kumi Kapoor, that's the end of this podcast. I feel awkward calling you Kumi, but you have insisted that I call you Kumi. I feel awkward if you say that. Okay. I feel like a school mistress. No, no, like I feel very comfortable speaking with you. Got to learn a lot today. I was waiting for a conversation like this in my own life because I do believe I need a lot of political education before heading into all these political chats that I've been doing on the show. So forget the podcast, forget these cameras, this mic, all that. I'm just grateful to you as a human being. Thank you for being so easy to speak with. This book of yours and all your other books will be linked down below. I can guarantee you people have fallen in love with you. The ones who stuck to this podcast until this point. So once again, thank you for being on the show. Thank you very much for giving some publicity to my book. No, it's fantastic. All your books will be linked down below and I wish you all the love and joy and peace in the world. Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, that was the episode for today. Who else would you like to see on the show? Please tell me. We often get accused on TRS of being right wing, of only supporting the Modi government and not talking about the other side of stuff. That's not the truth. Honestly, in my eyes, I'm a media professional. I have to be the platform for all of society to express itself. So I know that this podcast may not have sat well with many of our viewers, but it's important for me ethically as a media professional to do a podcast with someone whose views don't match the views of the majority of our nation. And I think that's what podcast culture should be bringing to India. So especially if you're a little upset at the end of this episode, I don't think I'm going to say sorry because I'm not sorry. I'm actually happy that we did this particular episode. And if you felt like we did the right thing, please give me other guest recommendations. I feel like all of India should be heard and all of India should be able to express itself in a well-researched eloquent manner. That was the episode with Kumi Kapoor. When she returns the next time, give me your recommendations. What else would you have me ask her? Lots of love, TRS. We'll be back soon.

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