The Filter

President Arnab and the Anti-National Potato

So Mohandas Pai walks into the Prime Minister’s residence, and finds that Narendra Modi is chilling there with Amit Shah and Santa Claus. As soon as he walks in, all the three men there look at him and start giggling.

Mohandas: Why’re you laughing at me, peeps? I try so hard to get taken seriously, and you guys are laughing at me. This is most upsetting.

Modi: We can’t help it, bro. We read your Twitter feed.

Shah: Ha ha ha!

Modi: Hee hee hee!

Santa: Ho ho ho!

Modi: We read your reaction to Shashi Tharoor’s tweet where he admired a church built by the Portugese. You tore into him for praising the Portugese, who were so brutal to Indians when they had colonised us. Here, this one:

Shah: And when we read that tweet, we remembered what you had at lunch with us the other day. Aloo Gobi.

Modi: And Jeera Aloo.

Shah: And Aloo Mutter.

Modi: And Aloo Manchurian.

Shah: And we realised what a hypocrite you are.

Mohandas: Hypocrite? Me? Because I like aloo? Why?

Modi: Arre, Mohanlal, don’t you understand this much? The Portugese brought Potatoes to India. So if praising a church built by them is wrong, so is eating the aloo brought by them.

Shah: Tomatoes also came from outside.

Modi: Many of our spices.

Shah: Stitched clothing came from outside. These RSS peeps in their shirts and trousers…

Modi: Ha ha ha.

Shah: Hee hee hee.

Santa: Ho ho ho.

Modi: So really, stop ranting on Twitter like that, bro. Too much single malt?

Mohandas: Actually, I like gin.

Shah: Well, guess where that came from.


Yeah, welcome to The Filter. Lutyens Delhi is all abuzz with gossip about who our next president will be. (I live in Mumbai, so this is gossip about Lutyens Delhi that I’m reporting.) Well, I am pleased to announce that we have a shortlist. Rediff reports:

While senior BJP leaders are convinced that for the first time a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh personality will be elected President of India, all Amit Shah would say is that it could be a ‘he’ or a ‘she’.

That narrows the field down considerably. Only men and women need apply.

No one has the numbers to force their candidate through, but I suspect the BJP will find a way to gather the votes necessary. Since Modi shocked us a month ago with his choice of Adityanath as UP CM, I’m hoping he shocks us again by choosing someone mild and moderate for the presidency. (Calm down, Mohandas Pai. You’re Susu Swamy Lite, not the next APJ Abdul Kalam.)

I have a left-field suggestion: Make Arnab Goswami president. That’ll give us a few years of peace and quiet on television.


Elsewhere, AK Bhattacharya talks about the different ways in which Narendra Modi can attack black money in India. I find this to be an anti-national article because it implies that demonetisation failed.

The good Sadanand Dhume, who has got much flak from right-wing social media warriors for his criticisms of Modi (1, 2) has now written an excellent critique of Indian ‘secularism’. I have much admiration for Dhume: he was a Modi supporter until recently, for good reasons, but when it became obvious that Modi had taken his ‘classical liberal’ supporters for a ride, Dhume changed his mind. (Many others didn’t, as I lamented in this speech.) I applaud the intellectual honesty.

As for secularism, here’s one thing I never figured out: The BJP used to criticise the Congress for being ‘pseudo-secular.’ (I consider the criticism correct.) But when you call someone pseudo-secular in a disparaging way, it implies that you think secularism is a good thing, and you’re criticising the other guy for not being true to it. The BJP, as they have since made clear, have nothing but contempt for secularism. Fair enough; but one must then assume that their mockery of the Congress had nothing to do with secularism, but with pretense. So my question is, if the Congress pretended to hate potatoes without actually hating potatoes, would the BJP lambast them for being pseudo-potatophobes?


Ye all must have heard my podcast The Seen and the Unseen by now. (If not, I must ask, do you live in a cave? The whole of India is agog.) Well, here’s a subject I’ll almost certainly have to do a future episode on: adoption.

The Indian government recently announced a change in adoption rules: parents will now not be given the choice of three kids, and will just be offered one. They can say yes or no, that’s it. The intentions behind this are noble, but I can already predict the unintended consequences: If the rule is enforced, adoption rates will go down; if it is not enforced, rent-seeking will go up. Both kids and prospective parents will suffer.

The rule is a bit bizarre because the government actually took a step in the right direction a couple of years ago, when they expanded the pool of prospective parents beyond married couples, and also offered them choice. This was win-win: kids would now have a greater chance of being adopted, and the prospect of choice would change the incentives of potential parents, making them more likely to go for it.

Why this step back now? Are we at a dance?


Hamsini will be back next week with The Filter. I will end this installment with a dog video. Or would you prefer a cooking video? Hell, take both:

About the author

Amit Varma

Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. A journalist for a decade-and-a-half, he won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007 and 2015. He writes the blog India Uncut, and hosts the podcast, The Seen and the Unseen. He is the editor of Pragati.