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Why I voted for Narendra Modi

Living in Gurgaon, Haryana, I voted for Narendra Modi last week. I am no diehard BJP supporter or Modi fan, ideologue, Hindutva advocate or Pracharak.

But, I do weigh my vote carefully every five years. I usually look at two aspects, one nationalistic, other selfish — whether the party (or person who sets the agenda for the political outfit) I am voting is good for the country overall. And further for me and my family that translates as better livelihood, opportunity, lifestyle, living and security. I studied options available – Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Modi.

I settled for Modi, so voted BJP. When I look back at my past choices, I have backed the winner. I hope my record stays intact. Ironically, in 2004, I voted Congress as I was unhappy with then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s handling of Modi. The India Shining campaign had its merits, but sounded hollow as BJP had lost its moral fiber. Vajpayee should have fired Modi for failure to control, looking the other way, maybe fanning the Gujarat riots.

Vajpayee, however, chose to acquiesce to Hindutva hardliners in the BJP party lead by LK Advani who did not want Modi punished. India’s contemporary history would have been different had Vajpayee listened to his conscience and asked Modi to resign. Probably, Advani would still be calling the shots in BJP and could have been PM candidate again this time.

Not a very exciting proposition given his age, fragile health and record of leading BJP’s aggressive Hindutva campaign in 90s. In 2009, I again voted for Congress, believing Manmohan Singh had it in him to take the country forward, especially after his strong stand on the Indo-US nuclear deal, despite opposition from the Left parties. The issue was not nuclear power, but the fact Manmohan stood by his principles and was willing to resign if the atomic agreement did not happen. Manmohan seemed a much better choice than his nearest competitor, Advani the Modi protector.

Manmohan, however, has belied high expectations in his second tenure by failing to check corruption or push India’s economic growth and reforms forward. If he succeeded in either, I would have voted Congress again. Sanjaya Baru’s account might have been dismissed as “fiction” by some. However, as Manmohan’s former media advisor in the PMO, Baru could not have got it all wrong. Sonia Gandhi had a big hand in tying down Manmohan due to which the government faltered, ministers turned satraps, sycophants and crony capitalists prevailed, corruption became the norm, policy making, fiscal prudence and governance went for a toss.

Tax payer’s money has been poured into wasteful and gargantuan welfare schemes that never reach the poor. Instead, it creates a small sub-section of embezzlers that exploit the system. Manmohan should have resigned rather than let matters drift. This might actually have been a boon for the Congress in the longer term. Sonia might have let Manmohan have some say in his government to buy peace. Given Manmohan’s record and proven expertise policy making might have straightened for the good. Scams in coal, telecom, CWG might never have happened.

The Congress party may have not stared at defeat 2014, propelling Priyanka Gandhi to campaign aggressively as a last ditch attempt to salvage a lost situation.

For my 2014 Vote, I did briefly consider the Aam Admi Party (AAP) led by Kejriwal. I have not ruled out voting for AAP in future. But, Kejriwal needs to hang in a bit more rather than trying to bite more than he can chew. He rightly wants to rid the country of corruption. But, when he did get an opportunity in Delhi, he abandoned ship, betraying the electorate.

Shoot and scoot approach works well as an activist but not when you are chief minister of a state that has believed in your mission to cleanse the system. Perhaps, AAP won Delhi elections at the wrong time, too close to general elections, that has prompted Kejriwal to take a shot at greater glories.

Modi has had his problems. Vajpayee should have fired him. He should be sent to jail if courts find him culpable in the Gujarat riots. On the other hand, every political outfit in this country has skeletons in its cupboard – charges of corruption, heinous crimes, identity and caste politics, minority appeasement, communal polarization, pseudo secularism, authoritarianism, nepotism. Prior to Gujarat riots, Sikhs were massacred in Delhi in the aftermath of the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

The Muzaffarnagar riots happened only recently in Uttar Pradesh. Modi is a product of Indian gutter politics as it exists today. In order to survive in the gutter, some of the shit and sewerage will smear on you. However, I do believe that Modi wants to move on.

He has proved himself in Gujarat, winning three elections. The state has remained peaceful since the 2002 blot, the economic indices are good. Modi’s catchphrases are development, growth, governance, rooting out corruption. There is always the risk that Modi may resort to some of the dirty tricks endemic in Indian politics. But, I believe India’s democracy, its people are resilient.

Freedom is valued, so is social and economic mobility. Institutions such as judiciary, defense forces, election commission and robust media are strong checks and counter balances. If Modi gets a chance and does not deliver on promises to the country, he will be shown the door, like Vajpayee in the past and now most likely Sonia, Rahul and Manmohan. Thus, I Voted Modi.

(Buy my novel, An Offbeat Story here)

Films or Politics, it’s all in the family

Beyond political dynasties, family connections are keys to success in Bollywood too. I have been counting the recent crop of India heroes and heroines being talked about with strong familial links to India’s film industry. The list is quite long – Alia Bhat, Ranbir Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Sonakshi Sinha, Sonam Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, Neil Mukesh and more.

There are many more waiting in the sidelines to make a mark, armed with support of their doting parents, uncles and aunts. In the last couple of weeks itself, I have read interviews of Sonakshi, Alia and Sonam alongside their dads taking immense pride in the success of their daughters. Taking a cue perhaps, there was also an interview of Deepika Padukone with her dad Prakash Padukone who everybody knows was India’s first world class badminton player.

The next filmi son to be launched is Tiger Shroff, with papa Jackie Shroff keeping a close tab. Some Bollywood A-listers, who are obviously Jackie’s friends, have declared junior Shroff has the makings of a star. Some have said he is already a star that the world will find out about soon.

Similar proclamations were made for other star sons and daughters earlier, many of whom have gone on to do well for themselves while others have faded away. Some present day superstars, top film directors have also found their first footholds in Bollywood courtesy their kin. They have made the best of initial breaks and platforms to sustain careers, which is not easy at all.

The names include Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Kareena Kapoor, Emraan Hashmi, Kajol, Rani Mukherjee, Ajay Devgn, Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra among others. Some end up marrying each other like Kajol-Devgn.

More recently Chopra-Rani tied the knot, underling paparazzi and gossip columns are not wrong all the time. Sometimes they do get it right. Rumors about Chopra-Rani link up have been floating for years. Going back further, greats of Hindi cinema such as Shashi Kapoor or Shammi Kapoor too boasted a rich Bollywood lineage.

Like films, multiple generations have found their calling in politics such as Gandhi-Nehru, Gowda, Scindia, Pilot, Pawar, Abdullah, Yadav (Lalu and Mulayam in Bihar and UP), Karunanidhi, Patnaik, Badal and many more.

Unfortunately, unlike in films, many of our political leaders have misused their exalted positions to build personal business or real estate empires by short changing the people of the country, flouting rules and playing around with tax payers money.

Contacts, networks, advise, exposure, training obviously goes some way in creating Bollywood or political success stories. Yet, both films and politics there are those who have made it via perseverance, hard work, talent and luck.

Admittedly, the path is more difficult, crowded and competitive. The success stories include Shahrukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Aishwarya Rai, Vidya Balan, Anushka Sharma, Sushmita Sen and lately “Queen” Kangana Ranaut and even “Baby Doll” Sunny Leone, an ideal candidate for Ekta Kapoor genre of sexed up movies. Earlier stalwart’s who made it due to mix of luck, hard work and talent, include Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Dharamendra etc.

One may or may not be a supporter of Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal, Mayawati, Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram or Mamata Banerjee who occupy top political space in the country.

There is no doubt these leaders have risen from the ranks due to many years of grass root work or professional achievement. Some are born luckier than others just as some are rich or poor. I have no problems with either model of progress, inherited or self made, whether in business, politics, sport or films. Ultimately it is the audience that judges a movie or the people who vote in a democracy to accept or reject a politician, dynast or self made.

However, I do have issues with sycophants, crony capitalists, criminals, practitioners of identity politics and opportunists in our midst. Such individuals, as we know, have proliferated in Indian politics to the detriment of our country. In this context, it is important for the system to offer fair and equitable opportunities to weed out the unwanted.

Good sound education, for example, is one crucial tool for progress. Cricket, though, is a different ball game.

I am unable to spot any member of the cricket team, present or recent past, who made it due to family – not Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Rahul Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar.
But, then the real sharks of Indian cricket are not found amongst the players who have to perform or perish. The big fight is to control cash-rich BCCI.

Industrialists, bureaucrats, politicians, film stars and lately fixers and bookies constantly slug it out to access the money and perks of cash cow BCCI. Here, the game is not played fairly at all.

An Offbeat Story in bestselling list

My novel An Offbeat Story continues to be among bestsellers on SNAPDEAL. Check it out: http://bit.ly/1fq0Nm4. A big thank you to all of you who have bought and hopefully enjoyed reading the book. Buy copy (paperback) here: http://bit.ly/MqORFs

Also available, EBOOK. Other options to buy the book are HERE.

An Offbeat Story has been described by a prominent book critic as one of the most humorous and entertaining reality fiction novel by an Indian writer. Some nice words about the book from Priyanka Bhardwaj: “Siddharth Srivastava is a fantastic writer and his An Offbeat Story is a stunning prequel to the writer he would become. I have liked his writing style which is bold, brave, just not self-pitying, crisp and engaging. I breezed through this book in one day as it is a very quick interesting read. There is never a dull moment in the book and full of hilarious anecdotes. I would recommend it to everyone.” Thank you Priyanka for reading and recommending.

The following from Babjee Mriganka Dutta: “Your book was an interesting read. It took me away from the Sid I knew, or not, to a Sid I need to know or should know. You have been honest and boldsexy! You have actually created a whole new standard of bold Indian writing buddy. Kudos.” Thank you Mri.

Suasha Sinha says: “An Offbeat Story by Siddharth Srivastava is a delightful book. A real depiction of urban India of today, it has an eminently engaging character. The writing is easy, quirky and it becomes humorous owing to the situations created within the book. Though hilarious, one can relate to these episodes! The book is compelling enough and I did read it in one go. On a serious note, it does present the changing attitudes of young India and their grappling with the traditional /pseudo progressiveness of the society. Looking forward to more of Siddharth Srivastava’s books!” Thank you Suasha.

“The book has been in the best seller list for quite sometime and still it is there. I am sure more people will buy it. It could be filmed too. It has potential for that,” DNS Shrivastava.

Read extracts of the book here: EXTRACTS

India’s e-commerce jump

Indian e-commerce portal Flipkart recently announced it has clocked US$1 billion in sales. Others such as Snapdeal and Myntra are expected to follow. These figures maybe little compared when compared to Amazon or Ebay turnovers or Facebook’s valuation of whatsapp, yet they are significant milestones for a country such as India.

For one, they underline genuine Internet users in India, not just fake profiles, trolls, memes, hackers, spammers, Modi followers and those that regularly spoof Arvind Kejriwal or Rahul Gandhi in the run up to general elections in a few weeks time.

There is some serious money to be made in the online space. It is projected in the next decade India’s e-commerce retail market would amount to US$60 billion. I count myself among very active Internet users, the numbers of which in India are expected to cross 250 million this year.

I operate my bank account, pay bills, purchase insurance, invest and plan my travel on the Internet. I buy online clothes that usually fit nicely, books much cheaper than at stores, music and movie CD’s that work fine, even fresh groceries well within expiry date on the Internet.

I am one of many I am sure, evidenced by shutdown of most music, movie and book stores in Gurgaon, where I live. The only DVD’s that continue to do brisk business are pirated. Good value for money, decent quality, only illegal. A popular music outlet close to my home that existed as long as I remember closed down recently to offer laundry services.

I spoke to the owner whom I have known. His answer: “In a progressive fast growing city like Gurgaon, everybody downloads music from iTunes. And we can’t match the prices.’’ However, my friend was not worried. He is sure his new business would do well, given disposable incomes floating around in a city such as Gurgaon replete with high earning professionals.

Change does open doors for newer opportunities. I would like to debunk any theory that my online usage makes me an anti-social person in any way. It saves me a whole lot of time that allows face to face interactions with friends and family, instead of just Facetiming or liking Facebook posts.

Visiting my bank to book a fixed deposit, for example, would otherwise be a nightmare, negotiating traffic, parking and sweet talking insurance agents masquerading as customer relationship managers. Is there any bank manager who has not tried selling an insurance policy when all one wants is a new cheque book or change of address?

I would also like to debunk any theory the Internet makes me lazy, akin to a TV couch potato. Rather, I am able to do more with greater efficiency.

I am, however, still not fully confident about buying electronic, or very high value items on the Internet, though there are many who do. I believe some of the redress-al mechanisms of Indian online retailers are still not world class, like say an Amazon.com.

I have heard some harrowing tales of damaged TV’s, mobile phones, cameras and laptops that are usually not available on Cash on Delivery options. A friend recently narrated it took almost a month to get a refund on a printer she ordered online, that arrived broken.

She was repeatedly told by customer care to send multiple pictures of the item, the courier company assigned to pick up the dysfunctional printer never arrived and finally the refund process itself got lost in a bureaucratic maze.

“It was so difficult to get through on the phone to customer care that I had to call many times. I was always in queue,’’ she told me. We castigate government departments for red tape. Private entities can sometimes be worse.

E-commerce retailers need to trust their customers more, not focus on making money only. It is about putting in place an effective process that assuages an unhappy customer quickly. Maybe, it is a good idea to allow foreign players more leeway in the market to improve standards and customer deliveries.

I believe there is plenty more that can or should be possible via the virtual world. The government can surely make more efficient use of the Internet. Politicians such as Narendra Modi do. The Aam Aadmi Party does. I believe Lok Sabha candidate Gul Panag kept herself relevant via thousands tweets, even as her movie career nosedived.

So far most online state-backed services are mostly limited to downloading forms, which is not saying much. Any government document, whether passport or driving license involves layers of approvals and interactions that can easily be streamlined online, provided antecedents of an applicant are verified.

I believe even voting should be possible via a virtual click, thus saving the exchequer huge expenditures and avoiding deployment of security forces on such a large scale. E-democracy could re-define democracy.

There could be ways to minimize foul play, like it is with online payment gateways that encrypt credit card details. This can only be wishful thinking for now. But who knows. Did anybody imagine the power and reach of the Internet even a decade back?

(Buy my book An Offbeat Story (paperback) here, described by a prominent book critic as one of the most humorous and entertaining reality fiction novel by an Indian writer. Ebook).

No confidence in Indian MPs

India will elect a new government in few weeks. Politics prevails subsuming all else. IPL cricket action has been tossed out of the country to Middle East, South Africa or Bangladesh. Promoters are not too happy as nobody watches cricket with as much zeal as Indians. India’s humungous and illegal satta market is preparing for a busy time ahead with high wagers likely on outcome of elections, new PM, number of seats. The uncertainty, including several dark horses fancying their chance, makes the betting all the more exciting for patrons.

Friends have become enemies or the other way round. Ram Vilas Paswan, who quit the Vajpayee government earlier, is again with BJP, while Misa Bharti, daughter of Lalu Yadav, will take on a “dear’’ uncle in Bihar. Anna Hazare chose to back Mamata Banerjee for PM, only to change his mind shortly thereafter. In Chandigarh, candidates Gul Panag and Kirron Kher, both belonging to the film fraternity have been tweeting potshots at each other by the second. Former cricketer cum comedian Navjot Singh Sidhu is out while the Congress party hopes former India captain Azharuddin will make a difference to its sagging fortunes in Rajasthan.

Given the many political parties including powerful regional outfits, a diverse range of personalities will seek to be India’s new Members of Parliament (MP), a job that today entails little or no work combined with very good perks, salary, apartment or bungalow in New Delhi and other healthy allowances that keep rising at an exponential rate. This is unlike India’s GDP growth or average income levels that have dipped.

Film, sports stars, dynasts, real estate tycoons, journalists, corporate sector executives, retired bureaucrats, Army generals among others are in the fray. Unlike jobs in the country that are scarce, there is no paucity of political space for candidates seeking to contest, given the large number of political outfits in the fray ranging from Congress, BJP, BJD, JD (U), RJD, TMC, DMK, AIADMK, AAP, MNS, Shiv Sena and many more.

I have been reading about individuals with offers to contest from multiple parties. Despite varied backgrounds of MP’s, a few common and unseemly parameters have unfortunately continued to define our elected representatives. The work ethics, for one, is un-inspirational — our feckless MPs scream, shout, assault, fight, break furniture, and walk out a little too often. Parliament is never allowed to conduct normal business. There is hardly any reasonable debate.

In short, our MPs set an example for nobody to follow. Rather, they desperately need to be sent back to classrooms and taught basic decorum. Even the prime time noisy Arnab Goswami news hour is soothing when compared to Parliament proceedings. The MP’s do not have to care about TRP ratings but they behave as if they also do not care for the country.

Too many MP’s also have criminal antecedents and face serious charges such as rape, murder, kidnapping, corruption etc. Studies show most MP’s are much richer than the average Indian and only become wealthier following a stint in Parliament, which means their brains function absolutely fine when pursuing their own progress and selfish ends. They lose it inside the House.

One reason our MPs continue to be uninspiring is due to dominance of few personalities and individuals in India’s political space despite the existence of multiple parties. Unless these leaders change their dictatorial style of functioning, true democracy will not happen.

A handful of politicians Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Mamata, Jayalalithaa, Narendra Modi, Naveen Patnaik, Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Mayawati, Arvind Kejriwal, control their respective parties with an iron hand. The second tier of leaders owes their political survival to allegiance and loyalty to their party head, rather than merit or hard work.

In the current incumbency, for example, AK Antony, Sushil Kumar Shinde or Salman Khurshid, hold their high ministerial positions due to proximity to the Gandhi family. In Kejriwal’s eyes everybody else, from the media to Modi to Sonia Gandhi, is corrupt and compromised. Those belonging to his chosen coterie, on the other hand, are never wrong. Somnath Bharti seems to be a particular favorite for reasons best known to Kejriwal.

The Modi model of rapid economic growth also involves decimating any potential political threats within the party. He did so in Gujarat and is replicating the same at the national level with erstwhile stalwarts such as LK Advani, Jaswant Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi and Sushma Swaraj, sidelined with little say in crucial party decisions such as distribution of tickets.

Tainted former telecom minister A Raja, meanwhile, has been nominated for elections by the DMK. The party obviously values its own coffers than public money that was looted. Our MP’s need to change for sure; for this to happen, a beginning has to happen from the top.

(Buy my book An Offbeat Story (paperback) here, described by a prominent book critic as one of the most humorous and entertaining reality fiction novel by an Indian writer. Ebook).

Not a boy or girl, its a book

It’s a book. Not a boy or girl. I am the father of two daughters. Writing and publishing a book was more like becoming a mother. It stayed with or rather within me for nearly a year, when I keyed in the novel, usually after a long day working, earning my livelihood, again mostly on the laptop.

The book incubated longer than I expected. I sat on it for many months as finding a publisher was tough. Reactions were similar though conveyed in different standard polite answers — “It is tremendous, but.’’ “It is lovely, but.’’ It is exhilarating, but.’’

I easily guessed the unsaid bits: “you are no Rowling, Rushdie, Brown, Seth or Bhagat. Not a cricketer, film star, retired army chief, IB head or spiritual guru zealously followed on TV channels. Not a banned author. No fatwa against you. No sex scandal. Not a gay. Who will buy your book but your mom and dad? And that’s just one copy between the two. Maybe a cousin or two more may pay for it. Maybe you should Twerk naked. That could work.’’

Then, miraculously it did happen. Someone was willing to take the risk. Matters moved quickly here on. It was surely a proud moment when the baby arrived wrapped in white courier plastic sheets. As all new parents know, there isn’t a moment’s respite after the much celebrated arrival of the infant. The nights and days are a blur of burps, vomits, potty and susu. It is the occasional smile and gurgle that makes it all worthwhile, despite the bleary eyes.

I too had a big task in hand. What does one do with a book that nobody buys or reads? I mean readers sensibly pre-order Rowling, Bhagat, Rushdie, Tripathi or Seth. A wait list for the latest iPhone is very understandable. Advance booking for a Salman Khan movie is permissible.

Then multiple other distractions co-exist to amuse, entertain and provoke the dwindling breed of readers. Youtube spoofs on politicians and Arnab Goswami proliferate.  Arvind Kejriwal had a night out outside Parliament about the time my book was born.

Then, Virat Kohli scored another century, increasingly making Sachin Tendulkar’s monumental one day record seem like a mole hill. Along side Virat is also dating Anushka Sharma who got herself a lip job around time that my book was supposed to be picking up sales. Who would be interested, when Anushka’s lips are in focus? Those not into Anushka could be hooked by itsy bitsy Sunny Leone doing her Ragini MMS number.

Wendy Doniger’s book, meanwhile, got banned, catapulting her to top trending status on Facebook, Twitter, alongside usual Kohli, Modi, Bachchan, Gandhi, Leone, Kejriwal, the hot list giants. The world today is divided between those who have downloaded Doniger and those who have not.

Happily, some sensible people have bought my book as well. Who else but my parents, wife’s family, school, college mates, friends and colleagues? I salute them. These are very generous and large-hearted folks. I hope they enjoyed reading the book.

The numbers of course add up to nothing in terms of royalties or below average bestseller figures. But, like all mothers I have full faith in my kid who will one day overtake Rowling, Seth, King and Brown put together. My labor of love will surely be rewarded.

(Buy my book An Offbeat Story (paperback) here, described by a prominent book critic as one of the most humorous and entertaining reality fiction novel by an Indian writer. Ebook). BTW, the book is showing up on some best seller lists and this cannot be just due to friends and relatives, making me a prouder mom.

Link

An Offbeat Story in bestselling list

An Offbeat Story in bestselling list

About six weeks after its launch my novel An Offbeat Story features in Top 20 (among 180,000 books) in bestsellers list (literature & fiction) on Snapdeal. Check it out: http://bit.ly/1fq0Nm4 Buy copy (paperback) here: http://bit.ly/MqORFs

Also available, Ebook. An Offbeat Story has been described by a prominent book critic as one of the most humorous and entertaining reality fiction novel by an Indian writer. Other options to buy the book are here

Some nice words about the book from Priyanka: “Siddharth Srivastava is a fantastic writer and his An Offbeat Story is a stunning prequel to the writer he would become. I have liked his writing style which is bold, brave, just not self-pitying, crisp and engaging. I breezed through this book in one day as it is a very quick interesting read. There is never a dull moment in the book and full of hilarious anecdotes. I would recommend it to everyone.” Thank you Priyanka for reading and recommending.

The following from Babjee Mriganka Dutta: “Your book was an interesting read. It took me away from the Sid I knew, or not, to a Sid I need to know or should know. You have been honest and boldsexy! You have actually created a whole new standard of bold Indian writing buddy. Kudos.” Thank you Mri.

Suasha Sinha says: “An Offbeat Story by Siddharth Srivastava is a delightful book. A real depiction of urban India of today, it has an eminently engaging character. The writing is easy, quirky and it becomes humorous owing to the situations created within the book. Though hilarious, one can relate to these episodes! The book is compelling enough and I did read it in one go. On a serious note, it does present the changing attitudes of young India and their grappling with the traditional /pseudo progressiveness of the society. Looking forward to more of Siddharth Srivastava’s books!” Thank you Suasha.

“The book has been in the best seller list for quite sometime and still it is there. I am sure more people will buy it. It could be filmed too. It has potential for that,” DNS Shrivastava.

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