Archive for November, 2007

‘Don’t blame us. We’re just the beedi lighters’

30 November 2007

The resident poets of the BJP  in Karnataka are slipping into their creative best as the party mounts a shrill campaign to alert voters of the “worst betrayal ever” by the JDS, as if it had no role to play in bringing upon this disgrace.

Variations of the “Appa kalla, maga sulla” slogan are doing the rounds, of course, but party president D.V. Sadananda Gowda has upped the ante comparing H.D. Deve Gowda & Sons to a beedi company at public meetings:

“A beedi company put up advertisements which screamed, ‘If you smoke beedis manufactured by us, thieves will seldom enter your houses, stray dogs will never bite you, and you will stay young all through your life.’ Gullible people fell for the claims and started smoking the beedis.

“However, after a few days, the company’s claims actually started coming true. Smokers started coughing incessantly through the night keeping thieves at bay. Indisposed smokers, unable to stand on their legs, started using walking sticks. Seeing those missiles in their hands, stray dogs ran helter-skelter. Having smoked continuously, people started dying as early as 30 years and never got to know what old-age was!

“Like that beedi company, Deve Gowda and his family members have continuously cheated the electorate and have injured democracy to the core. Political ethics and values have been completely shattered by them. No one will trust them now. A day is not far off when Deve Gowda has to restart the beedi company and spend the rest of his life.”

Why we don’t know who Jagennath Lachmon is

30 November 2007

Every media house magically finds the resources to send correspondents to the Cannes, IFA or Frankfurt festivals. Indra Nooyi‘s climb up the global power ladder has our media charting her step. Every Mira Nair film has film correspondents flitting half way across the world for her bon mot. And of course each new car or cellphone release has our auto and tech correspondents doing a “dummy run” before the ad hawks swoop in.

Yet, why has no Indian media house still sent a correspondent to Malaysia to cover the plight and persecution of Tamils, and why do we have to depend on the International Herald Tribune and international news agencies to tell us of razed temples, asks Dasu Krishnamoorty on The Hoot:

“For our media, Indians reside only in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Neither our media have space nor has our foreign office the time… Our newspapers are as loathe to posting correspondents in these countries as our journalists are loathe going there except in the company of the prime minister.

“Our media and foreign office make us believe that there are minorities only in India and not elsewhere. Our secularism is so pristine that Indian minorities in Muslim countries are not its concern. Are they children of a lesser God? Our embassies and consulates come to life only when a minister from India is visiting. People of Indian origin are not their concern.”

Read the full story here: Children of a lesser god

MUST READ: Overseas and unhappy

Crossposted on sans serif

The amazing portability of our unportable netas

30 November 2007

Indian cell phone operators grudgingly took a small step towards “number portability“—which allows subscribers to keep their old cell phone number even if they change their service provider—recently.

CHANDRAMOHAN BRAMHASANDRA forwards a fine cartoon by Sudhir Tailang in The Asian Age which captures the phenomenon in political terms—with special resonance for voters in Karnataka.

Rule 60: Don’t drink and drive your father nuts

30 November 2007

Ananthakrishna, a widower who stabbed his son, Avinash, to death, unable to withstand his vices, and then hanged himself in Bangalore on Wednesday, has left a suicide note:

“God is great; Vajpayee is great; Abdul Kalam is good; Dharmasthala Manjunatha is good; please make Yediyurappa chief minister. Construct my grave next to my first wife’s. I have killed my son and I am responsible for my death. God, never give sons who choose a sinful path.”

CHURUMURI POLL: Who will win next election?

29 November 2007

The abrupt end to Karnataka’s latest coalition experiment, the reimposition of President’s Rule, the ratification of it by Parliament, and the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly pave the way for fresh elections in the State. Originally due only in May 2009, the mid-term polls, in all likelihood, will be held about a year in advance. The simple question is: which party will most likely win the next Assembly elections in Karnataka? Or, if a single party fails to win a majority on its own, which combination of parties will occupy the gaddi at the Vidhana Soudha next?

Will the JDS be wiped out of existence because of its “worst-ever betrayal”? Or will the public’s short memory come to its help? Will the BJP, which has not been tested, be able to sustain the sympathy wave for another six months so as to encash it at the hustings? Or will a fresh round of internecine warfare between its leading lights curtail its performance? Does the Congress stand any chance of benefitting from the fracas? Will either the Congress or BJP join hands with the “untouchable” JDS given its behaviour and record?

What are the factors that will influence the elections? And what is most likely to be the seat share in the 224-member House for the three parties? In 2004, it was BJP 79, Congress, 64, JDS 58.

Fortunately, every third stat is said to be a lie

28 November 2007

The Human Development Report for 2007-08 has been released by the UNDP and there are few surprises.

# India’s human development index (HDI) of 0.619 puts it just below Equatorial Guinea (0.642) and Solomon Islands (0.602).

# India’s life expectancy of 63.7 years is sandwiched between Comoros (64.1) and Mauritania (63.2), while Malawi and Rwanda have higher adult literacy than India.

# India’s GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) is $3,452, far below China’s $6,757.

India was ranked 126 by the HDR 2006, a rung higher than the previous year’s 127. This year, it continues to be dubbed a country at medium level of human development.

Infographic courtesy: The Telegraph, Calcutta

How Hassan’s farmers took their first plane ride

28 November 2007

The mystery of very rich businessmen getting elected to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka—think Vijay Mallya, think M.A.M. Ramaswamy, think Rajeev Chandrashekhar—has been plainly obvious to anybody who can add two and two. But for the politically naive and incredulous, it is getting slowly unravelled.

P.M. Raghunandan has a fine story in today’s Deccan Herald on the last named, the erstwhile scion of the BPL empire, who rode to the House of Elders trouncing U.R. Anantha Murthy. A story that shows that when politics becomes a family business, it becomes very easy to transfer the state’s silver to a business family.

Turns out that Chandrashekhar’s nascent firm, Jupiter Aviation and Logistics Limited, won a 30-year lease to develop the 900-acre Hassan aerodrome project for a piddling price of Rs 1,100 per acre per year.

The going price for a similar project in Shimoga: Rs 20,232 per acre.

The going price for a similar project in Gulbarga: Rs 15,111 per acre.

Id est, the land was acquired by the humble farmers of Hassan from the humble farmers of Hassan, and leased out to the business baron from Bangalore for a song because ______ (fill in the blank).

Let the record state that the nodal agency to develop the airport is the Public Works Department, whose head at the time of the transaction was H.D. Revanna.

Obviously it is not for the humble farmer of Hassan to ask what Rajeev Chandrashekhar’s expertise, experience or record in building airports is. But surely, at 10-15 times lower than what his brother-farmer elsewhere was paid, he can understand that the promoters and sponsors have taken them for a ride before the first plane can fly.

Or can he?

Also read: Why Narayana Murthy will make a poor President

Should our MPs be batting for dropped cricketers?

By bureaucrats. Of bureaucrats. For bureaucrats.

28 November 2007

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: With the imposition of President’s Rule in the States becoming more of a rule rather than an exception, the time has come to ponder the possibility of a system that ensures people’s say in the decisions taken during the regime.

President’s Rule, by any stretch of imagination, is a substitute for rule by the people’s representatives. It is essentially, a stop-gap arrangement arising out of some aberration, till normality is restored. But if it tends to continue for an extended period of time, as is now likely the case in Karnataka, comes the rub.

The people would lose their right to be heard by the powers-that-be and are even denied the simple opportunity of pouring out their woes before their representatives, and remonstrate if need be for any case of inaction. Certainly, the people in general cannot be penalised for the waywardness of and the political avarice of their elected representatives, because of their fault in trusting them to run the show.

President’s Rule under the prevailing circumstances is essentially, rule by bureaucracy, of bureaucracy and for bureaucracy—and the people figure nowhere in the picture in the absence of any institutional arrangement providing for the same.

One Governor and couple of advisors sitting in Bangalore cannot be accessible to the people at large on the whole. And experience shows that problems facing the people at the grassroots level hardly reaches the top in the such a hierarchical system of government.

It is against this backdrop that the suggestion made by the Chairman of the Karnataka Legislative Council, Prof. B K Chandrasekhar, to restore the powers and privileges of the upper chamber of the legislature deserves consideration. The Council comprising of indirectly elected members can hold the fort till the regular assembly resumes its functioning.

Other alternatives could also be thought of, like involving the MPs from the State in the matter of governance.

Or the Karnataka Panchayat Council, a forum comprising of the nominees of the panchayat raj institution, could be activated, as provided for the Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, to serve as a clearing house on matters pertaining to rural development, if need be. But there has been little or no thought in this direction so far.

What is currently happening in Karnataka should be an eyeopener to every body. Two spells of President’s Rule in just two months.

In the first instance, the bureaucrats had started calling the shots much earlier due to the political flux arising out of the dilemma on the part of the H.D. Kumaraswamy government in handing over (or not handing over) power to B.S. Yediyurappa of the BJP.

With those in government busy in politicking, it was the bureaucracy which virtually ran the government then. The imposition of President’s Rule merely turned a de facto situation into a de jure situation. And the Seven Day Wonder that was Yediyurappa’s government hardly made any difference.

It did not take time for the impact of the change of government to percolate down the line. Those who immediately felt the pinch were those who had been affected and dislocated by the widespread rains and floods in the Northern Karnataka districts. They were eagerly waiting for the promise of assistance made by Kumaraswamy and Yediyurappa to materialise to get some relief. But they were shocked to find the official machinery turning its face the other way, the moment Kumaraswamy went out of office.

The temporary arrangements made for providing shelter, food and other basic amenities got botched up too. And the promise of compensation for the loss of houses, cattle and crop, got sucked in the bureaucratic juggernaut to become a mirage of sort. The official machinery feigned ignorance about the suffering of the people and trotted out the usual explanation of absence of proper instructions from the top as a veneer of their inaction.

Result: while the entire State was gleefully celebrating the festival of lights, these unfortunate people had to go hungry in the absence of food grains’ supply and had to spend their time huddled in temporary shelters in the dark, for want of kerosene, and put up with other inconveniences like the absence of drinking water.

The fact of the matter was that their plight hardly attracted any attention of the people’s representatives, who were otherwise busy or had no time for listen to the tale of woe. The plight of the people hardly provided any meat for the media which was more obsessed with political news than the human suffering.

In another case, the workers of a cooperative sugar factory in Haveri who had not been paid wages had launched an indefinite hunger for days demanding the same. But it hardly evoked any response from the powers. The Governor’s regime woke up only when one of workers committed suicide and fellow workers took the dead body to the office of the deputy commissioner to lodge their protest. The reports are that several other cooperative sugar factories are facing similar problems, which are yet to be heard by the powers-that-be.

At the macro level, too, President’s Rule comes with its own set of limitations.

The proposal of the Cabinet acceding to the request of the Lok Aayukta for suo motu powers to deal with incidence of corruption in the government is pending with the office of the Governor. It was there when the Kumaraswamy government was in power and continues to be so, without any action being taken.

Knowing the zealousness with which the higher echelons of the bureaucracy had resisted the proposal, it is doubtful whether something will happen in a Governor’s regime dominated by bureaucrats.

“We, the People”, it seems, have no option but to grin and bear it.

Mosaic from the Middles Ages in Manhattan

27 November 2007

A photograph is said to convey a thousand words. This picture, by J. Adam Huggins, in the New York Times conveys a million. Shot at a Bengal factory which makes manhole covers for New York City, it captures “shirtless, whip-thin men rippled with muscle forging prosaic pieces” with their bare feet.

“Seemingly impervious to the heat from the metal, the workers at one of West Bengal’s many foundries relied on strength and bare hands rather than machinery. Safety precautions were barely in evidence; just a few pairs of eye goggles were seen in use on a recent visit…

“The scene was as spectacular as it was anachronistic: flames, sweat and liquid iron mixing in the smoke like something from the Middle Ages.”

Read the full story here: NY manhole covers, forged barefoot in India

How the Vidhana Soudha should be remodelled

27 November 2007

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Through my unusually reliable sources, I heard that Governor Rameshwar Thakur was planning to get the Vidhana and Vikasa Soudha remodelled before the formation of the next government. The Governor’s adviser, who was handling the project, took me around to explain the new plans.

“The Vikasa Soudha is spanking new. Why are you already going in for a renovation so soon?” I asked.

“I will explain when we get there. Let’s start with the Vidhana Soudha.”

As we walked around I saw workers dismantling the cubicles of the ministers and secretaries.

“Why are you converting office rooms to conference rooms?” I asked.

“Nobody works here as they keep discussing the whole day over tea when the next Government will get formed. The conference rooms are of different sizes. During a BJP MLAs’ meeting if, say, 40 of them turn dissidents, at the press of this button, this screen will divide the room into two sections. Nobody outside will ever know the MLAs bashed up each other and had a separate meeting. Both the groups can come out smiling as one group. Ditto for JDS; we have similar partitions for them. Congress MLAs can see the whole thing through this one-way mirror.”

“That’s very clever of the Governor to have thought of that.”

The advisor continued, “You don’t know how much Guv Thakur is concerned about our MLAs. Some rooms have secret trap-doors with a password for each MLA. If a JDS MLA wants to have a secret meeting with the leader of the BJP, or vice versa, he can access the room without anybody’s knowledge, seal a deal or secure a loan of five crores without anybody getting a whiff of that. Nobody will ever know, unless they fight and spill it into the open. Or if their legal advisor gives television interviews.”

“Amazing! What are these hollow 2×2 square blocks doing here?”

“They are a kind of mobile homa kits for Anytime-Anywhere-Homas. Here, try this. It comes off and you can take it to next room put it on the sofa and do it all over again. It is fire-proof and ghee-proof.”

“What is this small closet?”

“It is meant for small families. It has a three-way secret door. Appa-maga, maga-appa or anna-thamma can play games without the third person getting a clue. It is like ‘I-spy’. But when played within a family, it is a thriller.”

“You have miniature temples all over this floor. You have made replicas of Tirupati, Mookambike, Srirangam and even Chamundi temples!” I exclaimed.

“They are scaled-down versions of the real thing complete with astrologers. During the discussions for the formation of a ‘popular’ government, if say, Yediyurappa feels like visiting Chamundi, he can press this button and the escalator will take him to the mini-Chamundi temple with purohits in position to do mangalarathi and have a quick calculation done by his pet astrologer. If somebody else wants to do black, white or grey magic, or magic in any other colour, we have kept lemons, some look-alike dolls and lots of pins. They can keep piercing the dolls as much as they want.”

My head was reeling. Surely, you can’t get a kinder, more understanding governor than Thakur.

As we were coming out, I remembered about Vikas Soudha.

“What are your plans for Vikas Soudha?”

“Same as in the Vidhana Soudha. We are constructing resorts inside. We have a mini-golf course, where the MLAs can sit on the lawns and crunch numbers while munching sippe kadalekai. Some places have a 24×7 bar with a tap. They can drink and take bath simultaneously. All the famous resorts have opened their stalls here and each can hold 223 people.”

“What is the long stage with steps on either side? It looks like a ramp for a fashion parade to me,” I asked as we came out.

“It is a ramp. It is for parading the MLAs. The President or governor can sit here to watch it, no doubt cursing themselves what their jobs have come to,” said the advisor.

In the name of Bhagwan, Allah, Christ…

27 November 2007

Ritu Menon in The Indian Express:

“These days, one could be forgiven for thinking that the only people whose freedom of expression the State is willing to protect are those who resort to violence in the name of religion—Hindu, Muslim or Christian. (Let’s not forget what happened in progressive Kerala when Mary Roy tried to stage ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ at her school. Or when cinema halls screened The Da Vinci Code.)

“Indeed, not only does it protect their freedom of expression, it looks like it also protects their freedom to criminally assault and violate. Not a single perpetrator of such violence has been apprehended and punished in the last decade or more that has seen an alarming rise in such street or mob censorship.

“Not in the case of Deepa Mehta’s film; not in the attack on Ajeet Cour’s academy of fine arts in Delhi; not in M.F. Husain’s case; not in the violation of the Bhandarkar Institute; not at MS University in Baroda; not in the assault on Taslima Nasreen in Hyderabad this August….

“Rather than safeguarding and upholding the fundamental right to freedom of expression, all of us who try to exercise that freedom are told to mind our language. In much the same way that women who are vulnerable to rape are told to behave themselves, or stay at home.”

Read the full article here: Is this a mobocracy?

One or the other, but not all at the same time

27 November 2007

ASHWINI A. writes from Bangalore: Development is fast becoming a strange dichotomous disease in India. The three most reform-minded States in the country—Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka—also top the list of States where farmers have committed most suicides in the past ten years, according to a pathbreaking study.

And, as if to underline the point, a new survey finds that the best cities to earn a living are not the best cities to live in. According to data compiled by the economics research firm Indicus Analytics, none of the ten cities in the ‘reside-in’ list figure in the ‘earn-in’ list of places with most employment opportunities.

Surprise 1: Only one City in the entire South is in the best city to earn list: Bangalore. The others: Gurgaon, Silvassa, Noida, Faridabad, Rupnagar, Chandigarh, Surat, Gandhinagar, Pune.

Surprise 2: Only one City in the entire South is in the best city to invest list: Coimbatore. The others: Silvassa, Ludhiana, Shimla, Noida, Gurgaon, Gandhinagar, Surat, Itanagar, Chandigarh.

Surprise 3: Only one City in the entire North is in the best city to live list: Shimla. Of the the others—Cochin, Calicut, Trivandrum, Mysore, Goa, Trichur, Pondicherry, Cannanore, Thiruvalur—five are in Kerala.

So, the North and West are nice to invest and earn, the South is nice to live in, and the East is a gone case. No surprises there. But the real surprise is that none of the metros, Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta or Madras figure in any of the lists.

A cynical question to ask if such findings are genuine or nicely dressed up to satisfy organisations such as CII and FICCI. But even after factoring the synthetic nature of such surveys, the point to ponder is the kind of cities we are developing.

Nice to make some money. Or nice to invest your money to make some more money. Or nice to have a nice time. But never all the three at the same time!

In the modern India, are we as individuals destined to enjoy one or the other without the other two?

Is it really so difficult to build cities that satisfy the heart, mind, body and wallet? If Chandigarh, one of the few fully planned cities in the country, fails to find a place in the best city to live in list, what does it say of planning? If Kerala, with almost no industries, is so nice to live in, is development a problem?

More importantly, should cities like Mysore rejoice or be wary of this recognition? If such rankings propel the Bangalore “crowd” towards Mysore, will Mysore remain the same?

Long years ago, economists spoke of the North-South divide. In its own way, does it persist in India that is Bharat?

Are Kannadigas getting insecure of Tamilians?

27 November 2007

The upsurge in the demand for classical language status for Kannada—immediately after Tamil was “granted” the honour by a UPA government dependent on the DMK for support—has been one of the more perplexing preoccupations of Kannada fans, followers and fanatics in recent times.

M.S. Prabhakara, the long-time Guwahati and Johannesburg correspondent of The Hindu and a fully paid-up Kannadiga, has counted 46 news times in the Kannada print media apart from photographs related to the subject in the last six months alone.

These report meetings, demonstrations and protests over the ‘step-motherly’ attitude of the Union Government towards Kannada and Karnataka, memoranda, journeys of delegations to Delhi. At least, one Kannada worthie, the former Mysore Unviersity vice-chancellor D. Javare Gowda, has found his USP in the evening of his life.

Why, asks Prabhakara.

“Why this desire to secure such a status for one’s language since ‘classical languages’ are, or at least were, assumed to be virtually dead languages unlike Tamil or Kannada which are alive and vibrant?

“In what way will the language and its speakers benefit by this tag? Neither the several memoranda on the subject nor the subsequent literature following the September 2004 decision provides a satisfactory answer—except to claim that the recognition accorded to Tamil, the first living Indian language to be so recognised (a point that is sure to be endlessly bruited), acknowledges the antiquity of the language, its unbroken literary tradition and the uniqueness of its literary sensibility and other equally ponderous points of self-congratulation and self-gratification, and massaging of one’s egos.

The Kannada nationalistic urge to emulate Tamil in each and every respect also bespeaks insecurities that have affected Kannada sensibility

“Failure to successfully emulate the Tamil may make for more serious dislocations that are sure to be exploited by forces always predisposed to demonise the other. Above all, such obsessions about the diminishment of Kannada by malevolent anti-Kannada forces deflect attention from the far more serious problems affecting the consolidation of the Kannada sensibility, historically beset with caste and religious divides, and of late the incipient sub-regional divides, apart from more general divides brought about by unequal economic development.”

Read the full article here: Between the dragon and his wrath

Why Son Parivar can’t let go of some portfolios

26 November 2007

Former speaker S. Ramesh Kumar, a former JDS man now in the Congress, on TV9:

H.D. Deve Gowda always wants H.D. Revanna to be in charge of the public works department because he (Revanna) studied engineering with Sir M. Visvesvaraya. And he always wants the energy department because Revanna has a doctorate in nuclear physics.”

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt CM?

26 November 2007

In a surcharged atmosphere, nothing exceeds like excess. As if to underline the aphorism, the former State Congress chief Janardhan Poojary has dubbed H.D. Kumaraswamy as “the most corrupt chief minister seen by history”. Whether Poojary has Karnataka’s history or India’s history in mind isn’t clear, but in describing Kumaraswamy thus—and B.S. Yediyurappa as the “biggest fool seen by the world”—the chief priest of the loan mela scheme is making sure that little will be left to the imagination of the people in the coming elections.

Agreed, Kumaraswamy’s regime—with the Rs 150 crore bribery allegations, the buying of obscene amounts of property by various members of the Deve Gowda family, etc—wasn’t quite the epitome of cleanliness with the ghost of illegal mining hanging over its every action. But was it the most corrupt in history? More corrupt than S.M. Krishna‘s or S. Bangarappa‘s? More corrupt than Jayalalitha‘s or Mayawati‘s? Is corruption any longer an electoral issue? Or do the voters don’t just care? And who is India’s most corrupt CM ever?

Absolute power corrupts the mind absolutely

26 November 2007

Politics in Karnataka has gone to the mutts with such vengeance that even mutt heads, with their hands deep in the political till, are beginning to talk and make sense.

Sri Shivarathri Deshikendra Swamiji of the Suttur Mutt in Andolana:

“Man has invented a cure for everything including mental retardation. Any madness can now be cured by humans. But how can we cure people who go mad just for the sake of power?”

Also read: ‘90% of us are dishonest; 75% are status quoists’

As Schumi said, see you in my rear-view mirror

26 November 2007

On D. Devaraj Urs Road in Mysore, on a leisurely Sunday, a feathered one clambers up a scooter and ponders all those lines under her his eyes.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Gandhiji was right about Congress, BJP and JDS

25 November 2007

Sudheendra Kulkarni in The Indian Express:

“The lesson to be learnt from the political skulduggery in Karnataka is this: It is easy to eulogise the Mahatma, as Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh have done on numerous occasions in recent years in their unconcealed bid to project the Congress party as the sole inheritor of his legacy. But are they heeding what he preached as principled political conduct?

“As one enters Raj Ghat, an attentive visitor will not fail to notice a red-stone plaque that bears Gandhiji’s message about ‘Seven Deadly Sins’. These are: Wealth without Work; Pleasure without Conscience; Science without Humanity; Knowledge without Character; Politics without Principle; Commerce without Morality; Worship without Sacrifice.

“The exhortation about the fifth deadly sin—Politics without Principle—applies to all political parties, to a greater or lesser extent. But there is an additional lesson the BJP must learn from the happenings in Karnataka. After tasting the first betrayal at H.D. Deve Gowda’s hands, when he refused to hand over power to B.S. Yediyurappa in October, it should not have given him the opportunity to administer the second betrayal. By committing this mistake, it too is seen as a party hankering for power—even at the cost of self-honour.”

Read the full story here: Congress party’s fifth deadly sin

Justice may be blind, but what about the judges?

25 November 2007

ALOK PRASANNA writes from Bangalore: Courtroom No.15 of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi is no bigger than the ones that are shown in most T.N. Seetharam serials.

It was packed with lawyers, their assistants and interns, litigants, court officers, apart from the two Justices themselves, and the two law students on their Supreme Court internships.

To tell the truth, as the Judges’ interns, we occupied the “best seats in the House”.

I could see all the players clearly, and had no stake in anything that was going on. It was only natural that my attention was taken up by the one guy who seemed most out of place there. More so because he was clearly one of the litigants but was sitting, somewhat uneasily, in the section reserved for advocates.

He carried with him a large bundle of paper bound in a cardboard file, like any other litigant, and a couple of law books. It was then that I figured that he was one of those people who had come to argue their own cases before the Supreme Court.

Such persons were rare enough, but one who seemed to be in his late twenties, still rarer. A short, wiry man, with an anxious look, he barely filled out the ample chairs in the advocates’ section as he waited for his case to be called up.

That day was admissions day, when litigants approach the Supreme Court asking it to grant special leave to hear their cases in appeal. This is one area where the Supreme Court is granted virtually untrammelled discretion. How it chooses to exercise it is usually dependent on the skill of the counsel in pointing out how gross injustice had been caused to their client because of that one egregious finding of law, or that one totally ignored piece of evidence that was not taken into account by the lower courts. This of course has to be done in less than a minute because each Bench of two judges has to decide which of the about 70-80 matters placed before them, they have to admit for proper hearing later.

When his number was called up, the litigant walked up to the front, and placed his file on the table in front of the Bar (or behind it depending on which side of the Bar you are seated on). I got a better look at him, and he looked even smaller than he seemed. With nervous hands, he opened his file and picked up one of the books he was carrying, gathered himself up, and began in a faltering tone that gained confidence as he spoke. He spoke in halting but grammatically correct English.

His claim was fairly straightforward. He had been dismissed from his employment with the Delhi office of a major international organisation, and challenged the dismissal before Labour Court. The Labour Court had dismissed his claim on the ground that it could not entertain cases filed by employees of such international organisations.

He had done his research thoroughly, though. He cited cases where the Supreme Court had held contrary to the Labour Court’s finding, and was in the midst of mentioning yet another when the Judge stopped him.

“Your case is barred by limitation….”

A wave of incomprehension washed over the litigant.

“It has been over a year after the time for filing the appeal has expired. What is your explanation for that, and where is the petition for condoning the delay?”

Confusion. Perhaps they had misunderstood what he was saying. He tried to cite the next case in a faltering voice.

“No, no, we don’t want to hear the precedents. Tell us why you have filed this appeal with such delay?”

He had been running around try to get a lawyer, he said, more and more unsure of where this was going. He had been researching to argue his case before the Supreme Court.

“Why didn’t you get a lawyer to argue your case?”

He didn’t have the money, not after he lost his job and spent it all in fighting the case in the Labour Court.

“Look here, your petition is already a year late. We will dismiss it as barred by limitation if you proceed. However, we will give you an option to withdraw the petition, and approach the Delhi High Court which has jurisdiction over the matter. Is that acceptable to you?”

Silence. More confusion. And growing panic.

The junior Judge on the Bench intervened, trying to help matters.

“All we are saying is, why don’t you say that you take back this petition, and file the case before the Delhi High Court? They will probably be able to hear this matter, and help you.”

But he couldn’t. He had spent all his money on filing this petition, and he couldn’t afford going back to the Delhi High Court to pursue his case. He wanted to be allowed to argue this matter.

“Now see here.” The Judge was running out of patience—and time. Five minutes had already been spent on this matter.
“I am telling you for the last time, withdraw your petition now, or I will have to dismiss it as barred by limitation, and I cannot give you any more time for this.”

“All I want is my job back.” He piped up, in a clear voice, hoping that this plea for help would be heard. A half-second of silence. Followed by muffled laughter from the lawyers at the back. It died down quickly enough.

“I am sorry; there is nothing I can do to help you. Petition dismissed as barred by limitation. Next case.”

He stood there stunned as if someone had shot him. He didn’t move. The lawyer appearing in the next case nudged him away from the front bench to take his place. He walked to the back of the courtroom slowly, clutching his file and books. No one took notice of him as he walked out.

[Based on a true life incident to which I was a witness]

All the Page 3 types of history on one page

25 November 2007

V. RAMAPRASAD, in Trichy, forwards an artwork (source unknown) that has all the famous people of the world in one single photo-illustration. How may can you spot and identify? (Sorry about the size.)

These are a few people we would like to thank

24 November 2007

This is Thanksgiving weekend. A time to thank those whom we know or don’t (or shouldn’t) for favours rendered in the year gone by.

***

Thank you, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee: for giving a flying start to Narendra Modi‘s assembly election campaign.

Thank you, Prakash and Brinda Karat: for accomplishing in three 3 short months what the anti-Left forces have been trying to do for the past 30 years.

Thank you, Haradanahalli Doddegowda Deve Gowda: for showing the BJP that the terror threat facing the country can be tackled cost-effectively through ‘mata mantra‘.

Thank you, Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yediyurappa: for all the prayers, it was too much, too late.

Thank you, Muthuvel Kalaignar Karunanidhi: for showing that blood is thicker than a cable television cable tied around the neck of an oversmart grandnephew.

Thank you, Haradanahalli Devegowda. Kumaraswamy: for (legimitately) seeing the sun rise in various different parts of the State from various different beds.

Thank you, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar: for rejecting the Indian captaincy and sparing us the trouble of having to (again) ask why great players don’t always make great captains.

Thank you, Nagavara Ramarao Narayana Murthy: for not threatening to shift Infosys from Bangalore because, of course, the infrastructure has become better in the last 21 months.

Thank you, Mukesh Dhirubhai Ambani: for setting ever higher benchmarks for your brother Anil Dhirubhai Ambani with your choice of gifts for your darling wife, Nitaben.

Thank you, Taslima Nasreen: for exposing the “secular” West Bengal government’s decision to provide refuge to Gujarat victim Qutubuddin Ansari as pure political poppycock.

Thank you, Aishwarya Krishnaraj Rai: for proving that not even all the beauty of a Miss Universe and the good fortune of marrying into Bollywood’s first family can extract a smile out of a plastic face.

Thank you, Madhuri Shankar Dixit: for proving with Aaja Nachle that not all actresses who return to Bollywood after a couple of years of marriage return because the light has gone out of the marriage.

And finally, thank you, Manmohan Singh: Just. For you may not be around next thanksgiving.

***

Who would you like to thank?

Deja Moo: Feeling you’ve heard this bull before

24 November 2007

The cow may be our national animal with “two legs forward, two legs afterward”. But that hasn’t stopped us from using it to explain the marketing philosophies of various companies. Or to decipher the personalities of various individuals.

Undeterred by those efforts, VIKAS P. JOSHI writes from Poona of the attitudes of various States as seen through the eyes of a humble cow:

Andhra Pradesh: You have no cows. You get AP Invest to draw up a power point presentation on cows in AP, the wonders of milk in AP, the roadmap to milk the cow, the blueprint for a hi-tech milking city, a planned world class cow, the Cow Milking Institute of Technology, the potential milking hub in Cowabad-Milkabad. Then you set up a state-of-the-art cow shed in alliance with Microsoft.

Bengal: You have one cow. You talk about the intellectual brilliance of that cow, write about poetry about it, make films on it and talk pompously about “what this cow moos today, the other cows moo tomorrow.” You start smelling conspiracies against the Bengali cow by non-Bengalis. You boast about your cows in other States.

Bihar: Each year two cows are purchased on paper. The opposition sits on a dharna urging the comptroller and auditor general to bring out a white paper.

Chattisgarh: You have two cows. Both get blown up, one by Salwa Judum and the other by Naxalities.

Gujarat: You have one old cow. You paint the slogan “Vibrant Cow” on it in golden colors, and talk of the prowess that Gujarat has achieved in cows.

Haryana/Punjab: You have two cows. You drink as much you can and export the rest. Then you say “we quench the thirst of the nation”. You get people from Bihar to milk the cows and pay them one rupee for it.

Jammu & Kashmir: You have one cow which Maharaja Hari Singh bought. Pakistan promises you a cow. You talk of the rights of the Kashmiri cow, how the government was not respecting the cow, how the sentiments of the Kashmiri cows could not be taken for granted. You threaten that not one drop of milk will leave Kashmir.

Jharkand: You have two cows, left over from Bihar. One only gives milk in Jamshedpur. The other gets killed by Maoists.

Karnataka: You have one cow, both dating back to the Mysore Presidency. It dies and you mourn the loss of your heritage. Then a Tamil brings a cow and starts providing milk. He gets beaten up for depriving a Kannadiga cow the chance to give milk.

Kerala: You have one cow which was bought by E.M.S. Namboodiripad. The cow refuses to give milk. You call it the Kerala Cow Federation (KCF) and debate whether it should give milk or not. In the meantime, you import milk from Tamil Nadu.

Maharashtra: You have one cow. It gives milk on certain days, at certain times and at a certain location only. There are no branches. Then someone brings a cow from another State and starts bringing milk to your doorstep. You beat him up for taking away the opportunities of the Maharashtrian cows and start a Cow-Sena for protecting the rights of the local cows.

Orissa: You have one cow. It starves to death.

Rajasthan: You have an old, sickly cow. No one knows whether it gives milk or not.

Tamil Nadu: You have two cows. You first find out which caste they are from. Then you give one cow to your son and the other to your nephew, and charge whatever price you want.

Uttarakhand: You declare that cows are tax free. Then you get two cows.

Uttar Pradesh: You have two cows. Whenever Mulayam takes over, he takes one out, charges as much he wants and calls it a “Secular cow.” When Mayawati comes to power, she asks for a full investigation into the cow. Then she takes the other one out and calls it the “Dalit cow.”

Also read: The sheep, the goat, the cow and the bull

Is a mutt head more qualified than a scientist?

Because: “Government Work is Dog’s Work”

24 November 2007

With seven-night stands becoming the order of the day, with politicians squabbling amongst each other and marking their turf with canine zeal, strays in front of the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore have all the time in the world to examine each other’s dark underbellies, to pick and remove ticks without security men brusquely shooing them away, and to generally ponder the future of humankind.

Photograph: Gangadhar Poojar/ Karnataka Photo News

INSIDE STORY OF THE BJP-JDS NEGOTIATIONS

23 November 2007

If there has been anything more intellectually inadequate than the recent politics in Karnataka, then it has been the media coverage of it. Especially in the mainstream English media. Rarely rising above “he-said, she-said”, mind-reading, or plain speculation, a blow-by-blow first-person inside account of the jostling and backroom manoueuvring has been missing. The king makers, the powerbrokers, the middlemen have all been absent from the narrative.

Result: one side has been painted like angels betrayed, the other as devils personified.

One of the few exceptions is an interview by the television journalist B.S. SATYA with former state public prosecutor S. DORE RAJU, which aired on Udaya TV on Thursday. Dore Raju, a lawyer close to the sangh parivar who, by his own admission, has filed more than 10,000 affidavits for virtually every BJP leader of note, played a key role in the negotiations with the JDS, which resulted first in the formation of the H.D. Kumaraswamy government and then in the shortlived B.S. Yediyurappa formulation.

The interview, more than anything else, reveals how completely ideology has vanished from a grandstanding party like the BJP; how politics has become only about intrigue, position and money at the hands of the the backroom boys of the JDS; how, despite all its public posturings and protestations, the RSS plays a active role in the political decision-making process of the BJP; and how the State has been brought to its knees by “suitcase politics” in the name of the people.

***

HOW THE JDS-BJP STRUCK UP A FRIENDSHIP

“In the May 2004 elections, the BJP got 79 seats, the Congress got 64 and the JDS 58. As a longstanding BJP member who had been close to the sangh parivar since 1988, having been associated with the Jan Sangh, RSS and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, I privately wondered if in this situation there was a chance for the BJP to form a government.

T. Venkatesh, the editor and proprietor of the evening daily Ee Sanje was a professional friend of mine. I had handled many of his cases. Probably because he also used to run a film magazine called Aragini, H.D. Kumaraswamy, who was also a film producer, used to come to Venkatesh’s office every day. It was there I struck up an acquaintance with Kumaraswamy.

“The BJP leader Ananth Kumar was aware of my interactions with Kumaraswamy. Arun Jaitely was the BJP secretary in charge of Karnataka. One day, Ananth Kumar called me and asked me to talk to Kumaraswamy and see if there was any possibility of the BJP and the JDS striking up a relationship.

“This happened even before Dharam Singh had formed a government in alliance with the JDS.

“I talked to Venkatesh. The meeting took place at Venkatesh’s house one day: Ananth Kumar, Kumaraswamy, Venkatesh and I were present. Because Venkatesh’s family members were around, we held the meeting on the first or second floor. I don’t know if H.D. Deve Gowda knew about what was happening. But it was clear that with so many seniors in the Congress, Dharam Singh, Mallikarjun Kharge, et al, Kumaraswamy, who was just an MLA, realised that it was too early to realise his chief ministerial ambitions. Thus Dharam Singh came to power, with the JDS in coalition, but Kumaraswamy was already talking to us.”

HOW SHOBHA KARANDLAJE CALLS THE SHOTS

“After the Congress-JDS government had been in power for several months, I received a call from Kumaraswamy. He was in Tirupati. He asked if a meeting with the BJP could be arranged again.

“I spoke to Ananth Kumar. He said, ‘See if you can.’ There was a reason for this visible disinterest on his part. Because, by this time, there had been a clear division of duties in the BJP. Ananth Kumar had been put in charge of national affairs, and B.S. Yediyurappa was in charge of the State.

“But I didn’t know Yediyurappa personally and didn’t have access. As a state secretary of the BJP, I had been in charge of Basavangudi assembly constituency during the May 2004 elections and had met Shobha Karandlaje, an MLC known to be close to Yediyurappa. I asked her if a meeting could be arranged between Yediyurappa and Kumaraswamy. She said she would get back to me.”

WHERE THE DECISIVE MEETING TOOK PLACE

“The meeting took place early one morning, at around 7.30, at Chickpet MLA Zameer Ahmed‘s guest house in Sadashivanagar. There were four from the JDS: Kumaraswamy, Nagamangala MLA N. Cheluvaraya Swamy, Magadi MLA H.C. Balakrishna and graduates constituency MLC Puttanna. On the BJP side, there were Ananth Kumar, Yediyurappa, Jagadish Shettar, and myself.

“Because the Congress-JDS coalition was still on, we did not want word to leak out of the meeting. So we entered the guest house through the back door. It was at this meeting that it was decided to form a BJP-JDS government. There was even talk at this meeting of how the chairmanship of the boards and corporation should be split. The BJP with more MLAs obviously wanted a large share of the boards and corporations.

“Yediyurappa even told Kumaraswamy after this meeting that since all the meetings between the two sides so far had taken place in houses belonging to the JDS camp followers, he should come to his house next!

“But by this time, the intelligence department seemed to have gathered that something was on. An assistant commissioner of police called K.N.K. Reddy asked me as did a lady officer. But I was cagey and did not reveal much.”

HOW KUMARASWAMY MADE SURE HE BECAME CM FIRST

“We next met at Venkatesh’s house. Kumaraswamy came after the BJP side had already assembled. He clearly said at this meeting that he wanted to be chief minister first and that Yediyurappa should be CM after him. Yediyurappa disagreed. After all, the BJP had more seats than the JDS. But Kumaraswamy stuck to his guns.

“In fact, Cheluvaraya Swamy and Balakrishna, who were present, mildly threatened me—‘dhamki haakudru‘—to make sure that Kumaraswamy got the first shot! Eventually Ananth Kumar, Yediyurappa and Shettar agreed. It now boiled down to the portfolios.

“The JDS was to get 16 portfolios and the BJP 18. The JDS wanted to take up the portfolios held by the Congress in the Dharam Singh regime, but Kumaraswamy was insistent that the power, irrigation and public works departments be with the JDS.

“These portfolios had been held by H.D. Revanna in the Congress-JDS coalition. I don’t know if Kumaraswamy was already sure if Revanna would join the JDS-BJP coalition, but he was sure that the portfolios should stay with the JDS in the new coalition. By now some 10-15 meetings had taken place between the two sides. I don’t know if Deve Gowda was in the loop, but Kumaraswamy was very confident of pulling it off and we were talking to him.

“Eventually, somebody, I don’t know who, pulled out a small spiral bound notebook from his shirt pocket and noted down which party would get which ministry as per the negotiations. One copy was given to the BJP, another copy to the JDS. There was no formal agreement beyond this.”

HOW KUMARASWAMY LONGED FOR AN EXTENSION

“Once the JDS-BJP coalition government was formed and the two sides started tasting power, mutual distrust and suspicion crept in. Kumaraswamy and Yediyurappa barely spoke to each other. They stopped meeting each other. There was a communication gap after the two sides had spoken of a 20-year coalition.

“As the 20-month period veered to a close, Kumaraswamy called me at least two or three times asking me to convey to Yediyurappa that he would like a 3-month extension beyond the original 20 months. He so desperately wanted it to last just a bit longer that he even asked if he could stay for one extra month. But the BJP national leadership was very clear that there would be no going back on the previously agreed arrangement in any form.”

HOW STATE BJP WAS READY TO MEET THE JDS CONDITIONS

“When the BJP pulled out of the government resulting in the imposition of President’s rule, Kumaraswamy called again. Backroom negotiations had been going on even when the BJP had kicked off his yatra to drive home the JDS betrayal. This time we met at a forest guest house around 11.30 at night. Yediyurappa was there. Kumaraswamy said he was once again ready to give support. Later we met at Cheluvaraya Swamy’s residence.

“By now the “conditions” had become the contentious issue. There were so many of them, 12 sometimes, 10 sometimes, 8 some other time, it is difficult to remember. But there were conditions, which I helped give a legal framework, and surely the issue about the mines and geology, and housing and urban development ministries staying with JDS was one of them.

“The state BJP leaders agreed to the conditions, but the BJP national leadership again put its foot down and said nothing doing. Eventually, the renegotiations broke up. Was there an exchange of suitcases? I do not know, I did not see it. Did Ananth Kumar want the renegotiations to fail? No. He never said no; he was involved in many things at various stages.”

HOW RSS PLAYS AN ACTIVE ROLE IN BJP’S POLITICS

“Both during the first phase of negotiations and the second, a senior member of the Rashtriya Swamyamsevak Sangh, a man whose name or face does not appear in the media, was in the know of things.

“We would directly report to him at each stage of the negotiations, and often there were things that the RSS man knew about what was happening that Yediyurappa himself did not know.”

BJP’s political intelligence lies horribly exposed

23 November 2007

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: There have been some strange sights on the political landscape of Karnataka over the last couple of months, but nothing is stranger than the spectacle that the BJP is trying to create over being done in so brutally by H.D. Deve Gowda and H.D. Kumaraswamy.

The wailing of the seven-day wonder, B.S. Yediyurappa, on live television; the rage and outrage of MLA C.T. Ravi; and the accumulated finger-pointing, chest-thumping and breast-beating by everybody, Rajnath Singh downwards, paints a not very wholesome picture of a national party comprising fully grown adults.

It is true that the JDS reneged on its promise of handing over power and, later, in backing Yediyurappa in the confidence vote moved by him on the floor of the House. But the BJP’s inclination to blame the JDS for the humiliation it has suffered, and to absolve itself of any role in bringing upon this ignominy, rings hollow.

The BJP’s handling of its ties with JDS has been very amateurish from the very beginning, to say the least. What prompted it to woo a party whose national president has been a known BJP baiter for decades is not very clear. By dealing with Kumaraswamy without keeping Deve Gowda in the loop may have been a safe strategy on paper, but in reality?

Who did the BJP think it was kidding by pretending it could deal independently of Gowda?

Politics is the art of the possible, but to commit the same mistake twice in a barely concealed quest for power requires a particular naviette, but none in the BJP seem to be willing to own upto it. Instead, by getting hysterical, the BJP is only underscoring what is plainly obvious to the people: that it, too, will do anything to sate its thirst for power.

Why the BJP has been so desperate has always been clear—because Yediyurappa wanted to realise his life’s ambition to somehow occupy the chief minister’s chair. Kumaraswamy’s charge that Yediyurappa demanded Rs 5 crore not too long ago to dump the BJP and join the JDS with his men underlines that desperation.

While ambition may be natural, and trust is important, the BJP has much to explain.

First, it parted with the Chief Ministership, which should have come to it legitimately by virtue of its numbers. Then, for months, the party which prides itself on its metal, bent backwards to keep the JDS pleased. It haplessly watched the loot of State power for the satisfaction of a family. And finally, when snubbed, instead of learning its lessons, it harboured fresh hopes.

How is one to feel sympathy for a party like this?

For a national party that likes to think it has the solution to every problem, the BJP totally misread the minds of both father and son, and more importantly overestimated its own political intelligence.

It thought Kumaraswamy was acting alone when he approached it. It mistook Deve Gowda’s show of anger, when Kumaraswamy “defied” him, as genuine. It thought it could do business with Kumaraswamy alone. It thought it could run circles around a former prime minister with 56 years in politics.

After befriending a foe, not once but twice, and burning its hands, not once but twice, BJP is now playing victim and crying hoarse that it has been let down. The BJP may be naive but not the people of the State.

(with PALINI R. SWAMY in Bangalore)


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