Election 2019: Of ancestors and fake news vendors – Rajeev Srinivasan

Jack Dorsey & Rahul Gandhi (Nov. 2018)

Rajeev SrinivasanIt is precisely because we know what Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Nehru and Rajiv Nehru did that we don’t want any of their genes anywhere near power. – Rajeev Srinivasan

Now that the 2019 election season is upon us, there is considerable entertainment available to the casual observer. Among other things, there was this white man from Silicon Valley, Jack Dorsey, who founded Twitter. Dorsey was seen schmoozing with the president of the Indian National Congress in a congenial mood; but when he had an audience with the Prime Minister, his body language was telling: he sat back in his chair with his left leg folded, left foot on his right knee, a typical mixture of arrogance and disdain.

Then Dorsey was found with a group of women, some of them known rabble-rousers with a fifth-column agenda and extra-national sympathies and funding sources, but also including unknown new recruits to the leftie, breaking-India cause. He was displaying a large poster with the stirring slogan: “Smash Brahminical Patriarchy!”. That must be another neologism like “constitutional morality”, set to join “secularism” and other euphemisms for “wipe out Hinduism”.

This was a serious faux pas for Dorsey—and it was called out loudly on his own Twitter platform—and makes him vulnerable to being extradited to India to stand trial under the draconian IPC 295a and 153a about hurting the sentiments of a group of people, or disturbing communal harmony. These are non-trivial charges, and clueless Yanks should avoid putting themselves into situations where they could spend extended time in Indian jails.

But there are more sinister implications as well. We have all been treated to gory details about how Facebook and Cambridge Analytica illegally acquired and manipulated private data with the intent of influencing the US elections. Can we now conclude that an alliance of Congress and leftie types have hired Dorsey and Twitter to do the same in the 2019 Indian elections? Twitter’s actions in India ought to be scrutinised quite closely indeed.

There have already been many allegations of prejudice and partiality against Twitter India. For one thing, it has consistently hired radical lefties, as well as at least one separatist. It has made a habit of shadow-banning non-leftie tweeple; for similar sins, it punishes non-lefties far more harshly than it does lefties. Their biases have been evident, so it’s likely that they are willing participants in an underhanded anti-Modi front.

The softness of Information and Broadcasting Ministry in the wake of offenses by Twitter have emboldened them. I see no reason, other than lack of cojones, to not suspend Twitter’s licence temporarily in India until it mellows down and acts responsibly. On the one hand, it would not be hard to use firewalls and instruct all ISPs to exclude Twitter traffic. On the other hand, I’m sure Twitter got a licence in India as a social media site, but in effect they are acting as a news site these days, which is reason enough to haul them over the regulatory coals for change of purpose without notice. Both these will send useful signals to others contemplating mischief. Criminal cases on the worst offenders would be most salutary, too.

By the way, I’m pretty sure that they are vengeful people, and that they will suspend my Twitter account for telling these plain truths. In anticipation, I have already put my Twitter account into suspended animation.

Next, there’s the remarkable story of the startup you’ve never heard of: Bytedance, the most valuable unicorn ($1 billion plus privately owned firm) in the world. An article in Technode tilted “Bytedance adds fuel to India’s religious and ethnic fires”, concludes that a recent investigation by the Hindustan Times revealed that Helo, as well as its Xiaomi-backed India-based competitor ShareChat, are “rife with misinformation and political propaganda”.

Furthermore, it is alleged that creating fake news is the purpose of these applications, and not a fringe side-effect: “… it recognizes the types of headlines that get the most clicks, and applies them to the news stories they publish. This often leads to headlines that are more provocative or divisive than the actual content of the article. This can cause users to be misinformed simply by scanning through the headlines.”

It would not be at all surprising if this is part of Chinese-funded interference in India’s elections. It has come to light that there is an epidemic of Chinese involvement in manipulating sentiment in all sorts of countries—Canada, New Zealand and Australia come to mind in particular—through funding academics and journalists as well as politicians to cheer on China-friendly actions. Thus Helo may well be an attempt to help the China-friendly Congress return to power.

Finally, along came some Nehru dynasty retainers in the Congress who made rather under-handed, sneering references to Prime Minister Modi’s pedigree, implying that he comes from a family of nobodies, whereas the Congress chief has the impressive Nehru dynasty behind him.

Unfortunately, over-zealous retainers have no idea how damaging this is for their bosses. One could argue that it is precisely because we know what Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Nehru and Rajiv Nehru did that we don’t want any of their genes anywhere near power (by the way, that’s how one should properly refer to a dynasty such as the Maurya or Gupta, forgetting the tricky little detour into Ghandy that metamorphosed into Gandhi by sleight-of-hand, but we digress).

Because Jawaharlal, Indira and Rajiv, followed by his wife, ruined India. To take one simple, but damning, fact, the India rupee plummeted from a value of 4 rupees to the US dollar in 1947 to 62 rupees to the US Dollar in 2014. In other words, the rupee lost fully 93.5 per cent of its purchasing power in that time frame. That’s criminal mismanagement. India, which was in the top 10 economies in the world in the 1960s and 1970s, fell out of that list, and is only just now clawing its way back in. Yes, that’s the reputation of the dynasty. Who needs enemies when we have friends like these?

Besides, we can go further, much further. What is the history of the Nehru family? They were, according to the fabulist O.V. Vijayan, and I assume he based this on sufficient research, ferrymen who plied their trade on the River Nehr, whence they got the name Nehru. Nobody knew where they came from: not exactly a ringing lineage.

Then there was an ancestor named Gangadhar, who was a kotwal (police officer) in Delhi. Here’s a startling story: I am told there is just one known, and very interesting, photographic portrait of Gangadhar: he is wearing a full Pathan costume. In the 1850s, it would have been extremely expensive to pose for a portrait. Why on earth would a Kashmiri Pandit police officer spend a fortune on a picture of himself in full Pathan outfit?

The late A. Ghosh had an intriguing explanation: that “Gangadhar” was in fact a Pathan, who ran away to escape British atrocities in Delhi post 1857, and assumed the name “Gangadhar”. A. Ghosh even provided a name for the Pathan: Ghiyasuddin Ghazi. I have no idea if this is all true, but shall we go down that path and enquire, therefore, who the Nehru dynasty’s ancestors really were?

Be that as it may, their family fortune was built up not by Motilal (though he was a successful lawyer), but his brother who managed to get a position as a minister in a princely state in Rajasthan. Motilal then bought a mansion in Prayagraj (earlier Allahabad) from a rich Muslim landlord, with whose family they were very friendly, which set certain tongues wagging.

So the dynasty’s antecedents are not exactly snow-white. In addition, there are all the rumors about Jawaharlal’s womanising, and the particularly interesting story of the beautiful young yogini, who appears to have been spirited off to Bangalore (Bengaluru), where the child she delivered was given away to a Christian orphanage. And who can forget M.O. Mathai’s autobiography wherein he claimed that he had a torrid, long-standing affair with Indira?

Furthermore, on the other side of the family, it is well-known that the Congress president’s grandfather Stefano Maino was a bricklayer (later a builder), according to the banned book by Javier MoroThe Red Sari (excerpts are available on the internet). Furthermore, according to the Congress party mouthpiece Congress Darshan in December 2015, “Stephano Maino was a former fascist soldier”. If the Congress itself says so, it must be true. Thus the Maino back-story is fascinating. Very fine pedigree, indeed.

Perhaps, instead of trying to demean the Horatio Alger-like story of the lower-caste tea-seller, who worked his way up from nothing, it would be better if the retainers introspected about the less-than-sterling and in fact highly dubious pedigree of their precious dynasty.

Of course, all this is in the pursuit of that ultimate goal, denying Modi a second term in 2019. If the Congress comes back to power, they will proceed with the following agenda: 1. Crucify their 100 targeted villains, 2. Toxify all the textbooks, 3. Un-mothball the Communal Violence Bill to make all Hindus criminals by definition, 4. Reverse every economic step forward that has been taken, so that crony capitalism may thrive. Yes, there’s a lot to gain for some people. – Swaraya, 3 December 2018

» Rajeev Srinivasan focuses on strategy and innovation. He has worked at Bell Labs and in Silicon Valley and has taught innovation at several IIMs. He is an IIT Madras and Stanford Business School grad and has been a conservative columnist for twenty years.

Gangadhar Nehru née Ghiyasuddin Ghazi

Feroze Gandhi's tombstone in UP