SAMVAD Jyestha Krishna 5, Vik.Samvat 2074, Yugabda 5119: May 16, 2017


Jyestha Krishna 5, Vik.Samvat 2074, Yugabda 5119: May 16, 2017

1. FESTIVALS: Ganga Dussehra 2.  Rashtrapatiji offers prayers at Badrinath
3. BHARAT'S LOVE FOR NEIGHBOURS: SKY'S THE LIMIT, SAYS GSAT-9 4. Buddhist teaching preaches social justice and world peace: PM Modi
5. Past govts forgot BHARAT's glorious past, says Modi 6. STAY CONNECTED WITH ROOTS FOR PROGRESS
7. ENGAGING THE BHARATIYA DIASPORA 8.  Illinois chapter of VHPA to host Second World Hindu Congress in Chicago
9. JNU HONOURS MARTYRS 10. Sanskrit in the digital era
13. 5th Bharatiya Vigyan Sammelan & Expo in Pune 14. Iconic Hindu temple reopens after RM10mil upgrade
15. Magnificent Rato Machhindra-nath Chariot Procession Kicks Off 16. Three centres for poor kids record 100% IIT success
17. Bharatiya-origin girl in UK gets 162 IQ points, more than Einstein 18. 3 Bharatiya scientists elected fellows of Royal Society
19. Donald Trump picks Bharatiya-American for key post in energy agency 20. NEPALESE WOMAN SCALES EVEREST 8 TIMES-A RECORD
21. 5 judges of 5 faiths on Supreme Court's triple talaq bench 22. RSS ideology will make Bharat a prosperous nation



1. FESTIVALS: Ganga Dussehra falls on Jyeshtha Shukla Dashmi (3rd June this year) It is also known as Gangavataran which means 'the descent of the Ganga'.

Ganga Dussehra is commemorated as the day when Ganga was descended to the Earth to accomplish her mission to purge the cursed souls of Bhagiratha's ancestors. Before coming to the Earth, the Goddess Ganga was residing in Kamandal of Brahma and along with her she brought the purity of heaven to the Earth.

On Ganga Dussehra devotees worship Goddess Ganga and take bath in Ganges. Devotees also flock to Allahabad/Prayag, Garhmukteshwar, Haridwar, Rishikesh and Varanasi to take a holy dip. Ganga Dussehra celebrations are legendary in Varanasi. On Ganga Dussehra day thousands of devotees do Ganga Snan and participate in Ganga Aarti at Dasaswamedh Ghat. -goTop


2.  Rashtrapatiji offers prayers at Badrinath: Rashtrapati Pranab Mukherjee offered prayers at the Badrinath shrine - one of the Chardham - whose portals were reopened for pilgrims on May 6. The temple was opened after a six-month winter break in the morning amid chanting of Vedic mantras. With this all the four dhams, Gangotri, Yamunotri (April 28) and Kedarnath (May 3) are now opened for pilgrims.

Mukherjee spent nearly an hour at the temple and offered prayers to Bhagwan Badri Vishal. Rajyapal KK Paul, Mukhya Mantri TS Rawat and other dignitaries were present at the temple. Rashtrapatiji was presented a shawl, a memento of the temple and 'prasad' in a cane basket by the temples' head priest, Raval Ishwari Prasad Namboodari. Officers said Mukherjee is the fifth President to visit Badrinath. More than 15,000 devotees had reached the Badrinath Dham by the night of May 5.

Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi also paid a visit to Kedarnath temple on 3rd May, the first day of opening of the temple and had darshan and pooja. -goTop


3. BHARAT'S LOVE FOR NEIGHBOURS: SKY’S THE LIMIT, SAYS GSAT-9: Bharat on May 5 successfully launched the Rs 500-crore South Asian Satellite from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The over two-tonne communication satellite built by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was launched onboard GSLV-F09.Termed by Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi as a "gift to the region," the satellite will connect Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka and has 12 Ku-band transponders which Bharat’s neighbours can utilize to increase their communications. Pakistan is not part of the satellite as it opted out of the project from the beginning. Each participating country will get access to at least one transponder, through which they could beam their own programs free of charge. The satellite will facilitate DTH television, VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) links, tele-education, telemedicine and disaster management support. It will provide critical communication links in times of disasters such as earthquakes, cyclones, floods and tsunamis.

Modi said, "The launch of the South Asian Satellite tells us that even the sky's the limit when it comes to regional cooperation." The satellite was part of Modi's commitment made on June 30, 2014, when he had offered to make a satellite for the SAARC countries to meet their socio-economic development and welfare needs through space technology. -goTop


4. Buddhist teaching preaches social justice and world peace: PM Modi: Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi said that the themes of social justice and sustainable world peace resonate deeply with Buddha's teachings and they are both deeply interdependent and interconnected. Speaking at inaugural session of 14-International day of Vesak in Colombo on May 12, PM Modi called on both countries to uphold ideals of Lord Buddha and promote values of peace, inclusiveness, compassion in policies and conduct.

Pradhan Mantri said, though Buddhism started and spread from Bharat, Sri Lanka has preserved some of its most sacred teachings. "You have taken us back to our roots. The path shown by Lord Buddha speaks to us all. It has been a unifying force among nations," he said.-goTop


5. Past govts forgot BHARAT’s glorious past, says Modi: Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi on May 3 criticized governments of the past for "forgetting Bharat's glorious past and not taking pride in our heritage". Modi was speaking at the inauguration of the state-of-the-art Patanjali Research Institute, promoted by Ramdev’s Patanjali Yogapeeth in Hardwar. “India in the ancient days rose to great heights and attained prosperity due to its passion for research and innovation and natural tendency to use these for the welfare of humanity. The country's fall on the other hand may be attributed to growing apathy towards research and innovation," Modi said. The research institute has been built on a sprawling10 acre campus at a cost of Rs 200 crore. Modi while addressing a gathering of over 50,000 followers of Yoga guru Ramdev also targeted the governments that took over after Independence. -goTop


6. STAY CONNECTED WITH ROOTS FOR PROGRESS: "Art and literature are the easiest way to understand any culture. This is a fact that no society can ensure progress disconnecting from its culture," said RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat while addressing a group of artists at a three-day Kala Yatra Mahotsava organized at the Kamani Auditorium, in New Delhi on May 1. "Only those who are closely connected with their roots touch new heights of progress, while those who are disconnected from their roots are washed away," the Sarsanghachalak added.

Noted dancer Sonal Mansingh appealed to the parents to associate their children with the traditional music and dance. Kala Yatra Mahotsava was organized to commemorate 40 years of the Centre for India Classical Dances, an organisation formed by Sonal Mansingh. -goTop  


7. ENGAGING THE BHARATIYA DIASPORA: On 29th April, Sewa International Support Group in Oman organized a meet in association with Sanskriti Yoga volunteers on "Indian Diaspora Participation on Social Upliftment of India". The Chief Guest was Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey and the Guest Speaker was Shyam Parande (Managing Trustee and Secretary of Sewa International). Nearly 225 attendees belonging to various parts of

Bharat were present at the meet. Pravashi Bhartiya award winner Sh. R.M.Parakh also graced the occasion.

Shri Shyam Parande highlighted the role of Bhartiya Diaspora on Social upliftment of Bharat. He said, "Donation is the last thing that comes to our mind. Money should be followed by large pool of volunteers. If time is money, we would love to request you to contribute by giving some time to our various activities."  He highlighted the support of Bharatiya diaspora in various initiatives of Sewa International-Bharat such as Yuva-for-Sewa, Akshar Bharati, Sewa Sahayog. Under these projects many youths of Bharatiya as well as non-Bharatiya origin visit and volunteer for specific Sewa activity in Bharat. The speech was followed by an interactive Question and Answer session. Many attendees expressed their keenness to volunteer for Sewa. -goTop


8.  Illinois chapter of VHPA to host Second World Hindu Congress in Chicago: The International Committee of the World Hindu Congress headed by Dr. Vigyananand Swami has approved that Chicago would be the host city of the Second World Hindu Congress on September 7, 8, and 9, 2018. At the preparatory meeting on April 30, Dr. Shamkant Sheth, president of Illinois chapter of VHPA, said that organizers and volunteers of VHPA, HSS, Hindu temples and Hindu organizations had expressed their excitement to make the Second World Hindu Congress a great success. The congress would be attended by intellectuals, scholars, opinion-makers and several others from all over the world.  Seven forums, which would be holding sessions simultaneously during the three-day congress, would cover the views of experts in economics, politics, media, women empowerment, temple management and the youth and children. The first congress in Delhi was attended by 1,800 delegates from 52 countries, but the second congress in Chicago would attract even bigger number of delegates from 72 countries. -goTop


9. JNU HONOURS MARTYRS: Marking a historic day in the timeline of Jawaharlal Nehru University, that has hit the headlines for wrong reasons, teachers and students of university organized an event, 'Valour and Blood Sacrifice of the Martyr of our Motherland', to commemorate the sacrifice of the brave hearts of our armed forces on evening of May 5.

Students and teachers thronged Sabarmati Dhaba in large numbers, exactly where a group of anti-nationals had shouted slogans hailing the terrorists like Afjal Guru last year; to pay tribute to the martyrs who laid their lives along the border and the killing fields of Maoist affected regions. Challenging the Leftist fundamentalists for an open debate on the topics like nationalism, Marxism and its ideological veracity, Prajna Pravah National Convener J Nandakumar said, "Communism is defective in theory and destructive in practice. Segregating Communism and Naxalism is a leftist strategy. All left fringes and red terror outfits are ideologically rooted in Marxism, they're all same".

Others who spoke at the occasion were noted opinion maker and army veteran Maj. General (Retd) Bakshi, Adv Monica Aurora, the president of Group of Intellectuals and Academicians (GIA), Manoj Tiwari MP and Prakash Singh IPS.

On the occasion, a resolution was mooted demanding a nationwide Remembrance Day to honour our armed forces. -goTop


10. Sanskrit in the digital era: Madras Sanskrit College, in early March, unveiled a digital campus to expand the reach of Sanskrit through online courses, live books and live casts. "Students can register any time for the online courses, but they start only in certain batches, every two weeks. The fourth batch started on April 29, and the fifth will start on May 13," says Ramesh Mahalingam, trustee of the college's parent body, and great grandson of V. Krishnaswami Iyer, college founder. Each batch lasts about four months, offering 30 modules at the beginner's level. Though the physical campus is a Sanskrit-only zone with daily conversations taking place in the language, the digital one has some of the teaching done in English, to ease beginners into the course.

The online course sits atop infrastructure built by the college's online partner, Classle, a digital learning and teaching portal. Students complete simple quizzes at the end of each of the 30 lessons, and need to pass a final exam (online) before they qualify for an official certificate from MSc. -goTop


11. KALA SANSKRITI VIKAS YOJANA: Under a first-of-its-kind Rs 470-crore National Mission on Cultural Mapping and Roadmap, a comprehensive database of Bharat's cultural assets and resources and artists and institutions from the block to the national level will be created. Spanning three years, the aim of the mission, to be launched under Union Culture Ministry's umbrella scheme "Kala Sanskriti Vikas Yojana", is to preserve Bharat's rich cultural heritage and create a strong "cultural vibrancy" throughout the country. The data collection under the mission will be executed by 14,000 volunteers across the States. While doing so, one of the focus areas would be the creation of a repository of all traditional as well as modern and contemporary art forms.ted for 2018-19 and 2019-20. -goTop


12. RSS THIRD YEAR TRAINING CAMP BEGINS AT NAGPUR: "We all are in the process of learning and this journey never ends. Sangh Shiksha Varg - Trutiya Varsh is a great opportunity to learn various aspects of RSS. This varg should become a golden period of your life" said Shri Dattatrey Ji Hosbale, Sah SarKarywah of RSS. He was speaking at the inaugural function of Sangh Shiksha Varg - Trutiya Varsh, concluding part of the 4 tier training module for RSS karyakartas, at Nagpur on 15th May at Dr Hedgewar Smriti Mandir premises at Reshimbag, Nagpur. A total of 914 swaymsevaks from 11 kshetras and 41 prants across Bharat are participating in this Varg.

In his welcome address, Dr. Prithivraj Singh Ji, Sarvadhikari of the Varg, welcomed all the participants and expected that they will make the best of this training.

Others who spoke at the occasion were Shri Anil Ji Oke, the Palak Adhikari of the Varg and Shri Bhagayyaji, Akhil Bhartiya Sah Sarkarywah. Dr Prithviraj Singh Ji (Gorakhpur Prant Sah Sanghchalak) is the Sarvadhikari of this Varg. Shri Ramesh Kacham Ji (Telangana Prant Sah Karyvah and Dakshin Madhya Kshetra Baudhik Pramukh) is the Karywah of this Varg. Shri Ganga Vishnu Ji (Jodhpur Prant Sharirik Pramukh) is the Mukhya Shikshak of the Varg. Shri Ravindra Ji Kirkole (Paschim Kshetra Baudhik Pramukh) is the Baudhik Pramukh of the Varg. Shri Naval Kishore (Purvi Uttar Pradesh Kshetra Seva Pramukh) is the Seva Shikshan Pramukh of the Varg.

The varg will conclude on 8th June 2017. -goTop


13. 5th Bharatiya Vigyan Sammelan & Expo in Pune: Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore inaugurated the 5th Bharatiya Vigyan Sammelan & Expo on May 13, in the presence of Maharashtra Minister of Higher & Technical Education Vinod Tawde, along with National President of Vijnana Bharati (ViBha), Dr. Vijay Bhatkar, and National Organizing Secretary, Jayant Sahasrabuddhe.

Applauding the efforts of Vijnana Bharati in organizing "this massive event" that brought together eminent scientists, experts, under one roof, Rathore said, "the solution to the ever-increasing problems our society faces can be found in the wisdom, knowledge, and science developed in our country. Foreign solutions to local problems cannot resolve the issue, but only those solutions born in the land dealing with those problems can tackle them."

Vinod Tawde said that the holding such an eminent and erudite conference in Maharashtra is a matter of pride for the government. He commented on the fact that "Indian-ness of Science" is being left behind as a result of colonial and western influence.

Bharatiya Vigyan Sammelan, a flagship program of Vijnana Bharati,was held at the Fergusson College, Pune from 11-14 May, featuring various cutting-edge army weapons, and various lectures and sessions of stalwarts of Bharatiya Vigyan. -goTop


14. Iconic Hindu temple reopens after RM10mil upgrade: After eight years of major upgrading works, the iconic Sri Sundararaja Perumal Temple in Malaysia has reopened its doors to the public. The cost of the renovation was about RM10 mil. To mark the special occasion, a grand kumbhabishegam (consecration ceremony) was held there. The temple’s priest led the ceremony. Thousands of devotees and visitors congregated at the site. The temple, which was built in 1890, is said to be the only one in Malaysia made of granite. It is one of the oldest Vaishnavite houses of worship in South-East Asia and also one of the very few temples outside Bharat to have a separate sanctum for Bhagwan Shaniswara. -goTop


15. Magnificent Rato Machhindra-nath Chariot Procession Kicks Off: The centuries-old religious tradition of chariot procession dedicated to Rato Machhindranath commenced in Lalitpur in Nepal  on April 30. The chariot procession that began from Pulchok in Lalitpur will conclude after a month when the chariot crosses the Bungamati River in Lalitpur. Another festival called Bhoto Jatra will be held on the day of its conclusion.

The festival saw hundreds of jovial participants who enthusiastically pulled the chariot made of a large wooden edifice of about 65 ft. in height and 15 ft. in diameter--upholding the culture and tradition. The chariot houses various reincarnations of Rato Machhindranath, also known as Rain God, and other Hindu Deities. -goTop


16. Three centres for poor kids record 100% IIT success: In Kadus, a sleepy village in Maharashtra's Rajgurunagar town, a handpicked batch of 70 students trained for the past one year for the IIT joint entrance examination (JEE) has achieved a 100% success rate with all of them clearing the mains. So have 149 students trained at Bundi in Rajasthan (50) and Kottayam (99).

Drawn from as far as Kargil in Jammu & Kashmir and Kerala, the students have one thing in common - all come from an extremely poor background and were trained, for free, by an organization called Dakshana Foundation, which has been running JEE coaching batches in seven Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) since 2009.

The stories of the students who cleared the exam are heartwarming. Mousumi Das from West Bengal’s Nadia, whose parents are daily wage labourers, is the first to have received an education. "Whenever I am home, I coach village children for the JNV entrance exam," she says. -goTop


17. Bharatiya-origin girl in UK gets 162 IQ points, more than Einstein: A 12-year-old Bharatiya-origin girl in England, who secured two points higher than geniuses Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking in the British Mensa IQ test, has been invited to join the coveted society as a member.

Rajgauri Pawar appeared in the British Mensa IQ Test in Manchester last month, and scored 162 - the highest possible IQ for someone under the age of 18. She has been invited to join the coveted Mensa IQ test with the highest possible score.

Pawar of Cheshire county is among the one per cent of those who sit in the Mensa test and achieve the maximum mark, with the 'genius' benchmark set at 140. She secured 162, two points higher than Einstein and Hawking.

She is one of only 20,000 people to achieve the score worldwide, Mensa said. Her father Dr Surajkumar Pawar said, "This wouldn't have been possible without the efforts of her teachers and the support which my daughter enjoys every day at school". She studies at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, which also expressed pride at her achievement. -goTop


18. 3 Bharatiya scientists elected fellows of Royal Society: They are Krishna Chatterjee (University of Cambridge), Yadvinder Malhi (University of Oxford) and Subhash Khot (New York University). Chatterjee is distinguished for his discoveries of genetic disorders of thyroid gland formation, regulation of hormone synthesis and hormone action, which have advanced fundamental knowledge of the thyroid axis. The Royal Society said Chatterjee has identified dominant negative inhibition by defective nuclear hormone receptors as a common mechanism in Resistance to Thyroid Hormone and PPARg-mediated insulin resistance.

Khot is a theoretical computer scientist whose original contributions, the society said, are providing critical insight into unresolved problems in the field of computational complexity.

Malhi is an ecosystem ecologist who the society said has advanced understanding of the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems and how they are responding to the pressures of global change, including climate change, degradation and loss of large animals. -goTop


19. Donald Trump picks Bharatiya-American for key post in energy agency: The White House said Trump intends to nominate Neil Chatterjee, 40, of Kentucky as a Member of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the term expiring June 30, 2021. Chatterjee, who is energy policy advisor to US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has played an integral role in the passage of major energy, highway and farm legislation, the White House said. A Lexington, Kentucky native, Chatterjeee is a graduate of St Lawrence University and the University Of Cincinnati College Of Law. -goTop


20. NEPALESE WOMAN SCALES EVEREST 8 TIMES-A RECORD: A 44-year old Nepalese mountaineer has broken her own world record for the most Everest summits by a woman after scaling the world’s tallest peak for the eighth time. Lhakpa Sherpa, the mother of three, conquered Mt Everest from the North Col (Tibetan side). Lhakpa had scaled the peak eight months after the birth of her first daughter and while she was two months pregnant with her second child. With no formal training, she first climbed Mt Everest in 2000. -goTop


21. 5 judges of 5 faiths on Supreme Court's triple talaq bench: A unique combination of five Supreme Court judges started hearing final arguments on the constitutional validity of triple talaq from May 12, the first day of the Supreme Court's summer vacation.

For a sensitive issue like this, the lead petition will be heard by five judges from five different communities - CJI J S Khehar (Sikh) and Justices Kurian Joseph (Christian), R F Nariman (Parsi), U U Lalit (Hindu) and Abdul Nazeer (Muslim). -goTop


22. RSS ideology will make Bharat a prosperous nation: "Communism, Socialism and Capitalism have all failed. The only model for socio-economic progress which can show the way is Antyodaya," said Union Minister for Surface Transport and Shipping Nitin Gadkari while releasing a book 'Vishwa Ka Advitiya Sanghatan Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.' The book in four languages has been written by Ramesh Mehta. Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik, Essel Group Chairman Dr Subhash Chandra, RSS Konkan Prant Sanghachalak Satish Modh were also present at the occassion. Spiritual Guru Anirudhha Bapu also blessed the event. Stating that RSS ideology has the capacity to provide socio-economic thought for not only nation-building but for global economy also, Nitin Gadkari added that building the men of character results in a developed society, which can lead to a developed nation. -goTop


23. DHANVANTARI YATRA: Sewa International supports and contributes in the Dhanvantari Seva Yatra which took place from 2 - 9 April this year. Dhanvantari Yatra is a series of medical camps in remote areas of North-eastern states of the country. This year medical camp was also conducted in the district of Majuli, Assam.  Medical facilities, in this region, are non-existent and people from poor background find it even more difficult to approach doctors for their health problems.

Similar problems exist throughout North-East, so to address the lack of medical services, "Dhanvantri Seva Yatra" is initiated every year for a week with the help from NMO (National Medicos Organization) and Seva Bharathi Purbanchal, where doctors from across the country come and serve patients selflessly in the most remote and inaccessible parts of North-East Bharat.

We salute these unsung heroes who are working for the deprived sections of the society in these remote areas. -goTop


24. GURU TEGH BAHADUR INSPIRATION FOR ALL: "If Guru Tegh Bahadur had not sacrificed his life, the entire country would have been converted into Islam and our ancient culture and civilization would have vanished. The supreme sacrifice by the Guru and his family members saved our great culture and dharma", said RSS Sahsarkaryavah Dr Krishna Gopal while releasing a book, 'Hind ji Chadar Shri Tegh Bahadurji' on May 8. The book has been written by Shri Vijay Gupta.

In the beginning, Dr Surjeet Kaur introduced the book. Founder of MDH group Mahashaya Dharmapal described Guru Tegh Bahadur as protector of the entire humanity. The function was jointly organized by Rashtriya Sikh Sangat and South Delhi Ved Prachar Mandal. Shri Sunil Shastri, Swami Aryavesh, Sardar Chiranjeev Singh, Shri Avinash Jaiswal and many other distinguished personalities were also present on the occasion. -goTop


25. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Pravas: Shri Ravikumar, sah samyojak Vishwa Vibhag returned from a tour of Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia, Shri Shyam Parande, Secretary Sewa International was on a tour to Vietnam. Visitors: Umang Rajani - Australia, Amit Tiwary - UK,

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: I came into the world charged with the duty to uphold the right in every place, to destroy sin and evil... the only reason I took birth was to see that righteousness may flourish, that good may live, and tyrants be torn out by their roots. - Guru Gobind Singh -goTop




Modi has transformed the mood from despair to optimism about the future

M J Akbar

Everyone knows, as the old gag puts it, that half the time in government is wasted, but no one knows which half.

Indian voters, turned cynical by experience, are rarely in a hurry to believe that the political class can be a force for the good. But when they find a national government with purpose, pace, direction, not only is it in a hurry but also confident about horizons, it is logical that the initial electoral chemistry has begun to mature into alchemy.

There was enough reason for cynicism in 2014. A decade of sinking growth and exploding corruption had stripped the electorate of hope, and drained out any illusion. The corrosive by-product of frustration is intense anger. But in a charismatic eight-month election campaign, Narendra Modi transformed the mood from despair to optimism about the future.

The problem was that change cannot come at the speed of magic. Stunned opposition parties, demanding instant delivery, fanned a backlash with a ferocity that, in hindsight, only confirms how anxious they were about their immediate relevance. However, Prime Minister Modi's nerves are dipped in steel. In less than three years, trust has returned to the grassroots; self-belief is back in the air.

That was confirmed in UP. Elections are a natural barometer in democracy. But there is also much to learn from corners where elections are neither in process nor even imminent; where the storm has not yet broken, but fresh winds are beginning to whisper.

Quiz question: Which part of British India did not become independent on 15 August 1947? Answer: Maldah, Bengal. A magistrate from what was then East Pakistan was administrator for two days, till 17 August, before the tricolour was unfurled to end confusion (other disputed territories were either European colonies like Goa, or princely states like Hyderabad; not part of British India).

The reason was demographic. Maldah is a Muslim-majority district adjoining Bangladesh, watered by a generous Ganga before it splits at Farakka into Hooghly river while the other tributary decants across the eastern border. Maldah has history; perhaps too much of it. It is mentioned in Puranic texts as Gour, capital of ancient Bengal, and remained as the seat of power through the famed Pala dynasty, and then into the era of Sultanate and Mughal nawabs.

Since the 1950 general elections Maldah has been consistently loyal to Congress. I visited Maldah in mid-April for a political foray into a small township called Gazole, a modest cluster of shops and homes serving a large rural hinterland. It would be immodest to call the gathering at our public meeting a crowd. Between the partisan and the curious, the number could not have been more than 2,000.

Bengali voters are the vociferous centre of a noisy democracy, but they take their time over any decision. A good place from where to observe any shift in thinking is the dais at a public meeting. An audience's mind is visible through eyes, gestures, a silent nod or loud applause. It was clear to me that another churn has begun, although how far it travels depends on both the predictable and the unforeseen. But if Maldah is in play, you can be certain that any stronghold is no longer very strong.

Objectively speaking, voter stability is a bit baffling, given the stagnant rural economy, disparity and rising aspirations. Sectarian loyalties of course play their role. But if a seven-decade status quo is now wobbly, there is one primary reason: corruption.

Corruption switched from background resentment in Bengal to foreground anger thanks to a sting operation, relayed continually on television, which showed Trinamool MPs and state ministers taking bribes and stuffing cash into their pockets. Mamata Banerjee, who has always claimed to live on high moral ground, startled people by publicly justifying this blatant bribery in her usual belligerent manner. This became, for voters, collateral evidence for rumours that her close relatives were on the take in a growing culture of malfeasance. The current talk is that her high-pitched rage against demonetisation was fuelled by loss of stashed currency.

Corruption was a game changer in 2014, but that game now seems to be the semi-final. The finals will be in 2019. Interestingly, opposition leaders with highest profiles are currently stumbling through this swamp. Congress, with its familiar repertoire of in-laws and out-laws, is led by a dynasty that has added financial manipulation and asset transfers in the National Herald to its woes. Lalu Prasad, already convicted, is back under scrutiny while his political heirs are beset with accusations of receiving property through "gifts'" and ghost companies.

Mayawati has to worry about allegations of extortion just made by her trusted aide, Naseemuddin Siddiqui. A senior minister in the Delhi government, Kapil Mishra, is ripping apart the fa├žade of virtue around Arvind Kejriwal.

The voter is witnessing something unusual. The era of cosy back-scratching between elites is over. No one lives above the law. Colourful personalities like Vijay Mallya are discovering that money does not buy immunity. The voter welcomed demonetisation because it was part of the same narrative. Best of all, there are no allegations against the present government, in sharp contrast to the Congress decade before 2014.

This systematic and sustained mission segues easily into the larger story of good governance, with rapid elimination of harsh poverty as its central objective. India’s poor believe that corruption is theft of public money. Massive investment into social welfare is beginning to change their lives. They believe the PM when he says that the first fruits and largest share of growth must go to those who need it most, the impoverished.

And they know that Narendra Modi has no time to waste.

(The author is Minister of State for External Affairs - May 15, 2017, The Times of India) -goTop