Archive for April, 2008

Why has corruption become such a small issue?

30 April 2008

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: We can all quibble over the credibility of the CNN-IBN-Deccan Herald pre-poll survey depending on which electoral barstool we are sitting on till result day. But one of its most striking features is a small but startling insight it gives into the mind of the Karnataka voter.

The CSDS pollsters doing the fieldwork for the survey, read out this passage to respondents:

I am going to read out a few issues which are likely to influence the voting decisions of voters in Karnataka. In deciding who to vote for, which of the following issues is likely to influence your voting decision the most?

Out of every 100 respondents, 38 of them said the lack of basic amenities and infrastructure would influence their voting decision; 21 of them said the condition of farmers; 11 of them said the stability of the government would influence their voting decision.

Just 8 out of every 100 respondents said corruption would influence their voting decision. In other words, 92 out of every 100 people indicated that corruption wouldn’t didn’t indicate that corruption would influence their voting decision.

This, in a State which has been exposed to mind-numbing images of sleaze and graft over the last decade, so much as to be called the “Bihar of the South.”

Chief ministers and their families (and sons-in-law and girlfriends) buying up property worth tens of crores. Ministers counting notes on live television. Ministers treating portfolios like their family fief, legislators building educational and shopping complexes, apartments and hotels. Mine owners hopping around in helicopters. Lok Ayukta unearthing crores worth “disproportionate” assets from officers and clerks.

Etcetera.

Why, in a relatively poor State that has seen such a torrent of corruption, has corruption ceased to be an important issue for the voter when he stands in front of the electronic voting machine? Why is the voter not bothered about the personal aggrandisement, at his cost, of those whom he elects?

Have we become desensitised to corruption with so much of it all around us? Has corruption become a way of life, a part of our lives? Are we not bothered because we are just concerned about “getting our work done”? Have we started accepting corruption as a necessary evil, something which won’t go away come what may?

Have we somehow factored it into our lives for all time to come?

Ravi Krishna Reddy, the NRI techie standing from Jayanagar, has sent out the following promise:

“If elected, I will not buy any property during my tenure. I will also not run any other profit making business. I will meet my and my family’s expenses from my salary as a legislator and my wife’s salary.”

Is such an open declaration of intent of integrity something we, as voters, don’t like or don’t trust? For all our protestations, do we see vicariously power-politics as an short-cut to quick money? Do we want our leaders to make it big, make it rich, and live in style? And if he or she is of our caste, community, religion, language, the better?

Are we very forgiving or very foolish?

Are we caught in a feudal trap, where we want our leaders to be like rulers?

Or, are we all hopelessly corrupt in our own little ways, which is why we are so subliminally sympathetic of those who practice it so openly, so brazenly, so unapologetically?

Is that why the words “sketch” and “deal” have become such an integral part of Kannada popular culture?

Also read: How China changed the politics of Karnataka

Photograph: courtesy Press Trust of India

Mr Mallya will soon be calling them ‘cheers girls’

30 April 2008

It’s official. Women in India binge on alcohol as much as men, according to a report in The Telegraph, Calcutta. Although alcohol use is still lower among women, there are few differences in their drinking patterns, according to a NIMHANS study. Six out of 10 women have five drinks in a typical drinking session, a level addiction specialists describe as “hazardous drinking”.

Infographic: courtesy The Telegraph

Read the full article: Booze binge blurs gender divide

CHURUMURI POLL: Should EC ban pre-poll survey?

30 April 2008

The publication of the first pre-poll survey by CNN-IBN and Deccan Herald has set the cat among the pigeons and stirred the hornets’ net. Those who find the findings to their liking (Congress supporters) are understandably delighted; those who do not (BJP and JDS supporters) are frothing at the mouth and finding fault with the sample size, methodology, and of course the previous record and credibility of the pollsters (CSDS) and the channel. If the findings were the other way round, the reaction would be the exact opposite.

Questions: Should the Election Commission, which has introduced ‘n+1′ number of measures to prevent voters from being swayed, allow such pre-poll surveys or should they be banned? Are such surveys credible exercises in gauging public opinion or they have become a device at the hands of a corporatised media to do their masters’ (and puppeteers’) bidding? Is a pre-poll survey an expression of our freedom of speech? Or have they become “an election before an election”—an attempt “to manipulate public opinion in accordance with the interests of the sponsors“? On the other hand, should a voter be exposed to all manner of views before she makes up her mind? Will such surveys and polls prevent fractured mandates?

In the land of namma Sudha, Rohini & Yasmeen

30 April 2008

Bangalore is said to be the Silicon Halli of India. The “hi-tech city” that is home to Infosys and Wipro, Indian Institute of Science and Indian Institute of Information Technology. You can’t lob a lollipop without injuring a software engineer or a hardware dealer. IT and BT trip off even the most twisted political tongues.

On Wednesday, around 8 am, this is how the official website of the government of Karnataka looked. Sure, these things happen when you are dealing with technology, but should they happen in the land of N.R. Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani, and Azim Premji?

Screenshot: courtesy GAGAN K.

‘We drink in our caste with our mother’s milk’

30 April 2008

Apropos the news about “Dalit Christians” being barred entry into an “upper caste” Church in a village in Tamil Nadu, Jaithirth Rao writes in The Indian Express:

“From Abbe Dubois to M.N. Srinivas, we have had many analysts and scholars studying caste. Its persistence in our so-called modernising society remains a puzzle to many. Clearly, caste goes much beyond the Hindoo religious fold.

“My friend Richard Pon Arul considers his Nadar identity more important than his Roman Catholic one; the same goes with Steven Pinto who refers all the time to his being a Saraswat; and Mathew Jose, the upper crust Syrian Christian that he is, has maintained that he comes from one of six Namboodri families that befriended the apostle St Thomas.

“Even egalitarian Moslems are not exempt. The Ashrafs, who claim descent from Middle Eastern immigrants, contend that they are superior to indigenous converts and frown on inter-marriage. Some 40 years ago in Madras, my friend Shahul Hamid explained to me that Labbai Moslems will not inter-marry with those of Deccani descent.

“The noted historian, Fr. John Afonse-Correia, once said to me, “In India we drink in our caste with our mother’s milk”.

Read the full article: Caste by another name

‘Congress heading for majority in Karnataka polls’

29 April 2008

The first pre-poll survey in Karnataka is predicting a slim, significant and even surprising majority for the Congress in the 2008 Assembly elections, and a dip for both the BJP and the JDS. Asked who they would vote for “if the election were held tomorrow”, the survey indicates that the Congress will end up with 114 seats (up 49 over its 2004 tally) and the BJP with 60 (down 19). The JDS will win 37 seats (down 21).

The survey has been conducted for the television channel CNN-IBN in collaboration with Deccan Herald by Yogendra Yadav and team of the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). The pre-poll survey was done in 75 constituencies with a sample size of a little over 5,000.

The poll predicts a four per cent swing in favour of the Congress and a minor one per cent swing against the BJP. The Congress will secure 39 per cent of the popular vote, with the BJP securing 28 per cent and the JD (S) securing 20 per cent votes. The BSP will get only two per cent of the votes.

Old Mysore: Keen race among all three parties

Bangalore: Congress comfortable lead over BJP and JDS.

Hyderabad-Karnatak: JDS recedes, Congress leaps ahead of JDS.

Bombay-Karnatak: BJP expands lead over Congress.

Central Karnataka: Congress ahead of BJP in triangular race.

Coastal Karnataka: Congress overtaking BJP in two-horse race.

***

MOST PREFERRED CHOICE FOR NEXT CHIEF MINISTER

B.S. Yediyurappa: 27 per cent

H.D. Kumaraswamy: 22 per cent

S.M. Krishna: 16 per cent

Mallikarjuna Kharge: 5 per cent

Dharam Singh: 4 per cent

Siddaramaiah: 3 per cent

***

BEST CHIEF MINISTER IN LAST 10 YEARS

H.D. Kumaraswamy: 35 per cent

S.M. Krishna: 24 per cent

Dharam Singh: 14 per cent

B.S. Yediyurappa: 9 per cent

***

WILL BJP BENEFIT FROM A SYMPATHY WAVE?

24 per cent say BJP unfairly denied right to form government

35 per cent JDS unjustified in withdrawing support to BJP

23 per cent say BJP was not fit to run the government

39 per cent don’t know/ cant say

***

MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES IN ELECTIONS

Lack of basic facilities, infrastructure: 38 per cent

Farmers’ condition: 21 per cent

Instability of government: 11 per cent

Corruption: 8 per cent

Other issues: 10 per cent

***

HOW THE MAJOR COMMUNITIES ARE VOTING

Upper social bloc: Congress 34 per cent, BJP 33 per cent, JDS 31 per cent

Lower social bloc: Congress 54 per cent, BJP 18 per cent, JDS 18 per cent

35 per cent Vokakaligas support Congress, 18 per cent Vokkaligas support BJP

51 per cent Linagyats support BJP

Also read: One state, three parties, five regions. Result?

CHURUMURI POLL: Who will win State elections?

Each time you pick up a soap, little Azizah gasps

29 April 2008

K.T. VISHNU KUMAR, in Melbourne, forwards a YouTube video of a Greenpeace campaign against Unilever (Hindustan Unilever in India), makers of Lux, Dove, Surf and virtually every other soap, detergent and beauty product you see on the supermarket shelves.

Unilever is allegedly buying palm oil from suppliers who destroy Indonesia’s lowland rainforests, causing forest destruction and species extinction, and speeding up climate change.

Sign the open letter to Unilever here: Dear Group CEO Patrick Cescau

Read the proof Greenpeace has gathered here: Unilever campaign questions and answers

Can parties be sued for unfulfilled promises?

29 April 2008

U.R. Anantha Murthy in an interview with Vicky Nanjappa of rediff.com and India Abroad:

Q: Do you think we need to introduce a law wherein political parties, which do not live up to the promises that they make in their manifestos, can be sued in the court of law?

A: Remember, this is not a legal matter that can be taken up in a court of law. This should be decided in the peoples’ court. We need to wait patiently for the people to respond. However, in India, the tolerance level is rather high.

Read the full interview: ‘People living in Karnataka should learn Kannada’

Tomorrow’s photograph today? Or is Krishna…?

29 April 2008

The assembly elections in Karnataka is just what the editor ordered for sub-editors. With a canvas populated by a scowling B.S. Yediyurappa, a spiffy S.M. Krishna, the earthy H.D. Deve Gowda—and assorted characters like Dharam Singh, Mallikarjuna Kharge, Ananth Kumar and the Reddys who appear to have all tumbled out of some comic book—it is a perfect paathashala for caption and headline writers to show their imagination and creativity.

But why let them have all the fun?

How would you — yes, you — caption this excellent picture shot yesterday, 28 April 2008?

Photograph: courtesy Saggere Radhakrishna/ Karnataka Photo News

Also see: : The B.S. Yediyurappa portfolio

Is it an idol? Is it a statue? Is it a mannequin?

One leg in the chair, two eyes on the chair

Yedi, steady, go: all the gods must be crazy

If parties don’t politicise misery, the people will

29 April 2008

M.J. Akbar in his weekly column in Khaleej Times, Dubai:

“The Left, [the raft on which the UPA government has been sailing for four years] which is still anxious to save the Manmohan Singh government from self-inflicted wounds wanted to hear prescriptions [about the inflation turmoil]. Instead it got a sniffy sermon based on the extraordinary assertion that “political parties should not politicise the misery of the people”.

“I find this quite incomprehensible. If political parties do not politicise the misery, what should they politicise? What are they in politics for? To celebrate Diwali every week? Heaven knows, enough politicians do that already.

“But at least the Prime Minister’s formulation recognises that the people are indeed miserable. And when they are miserable it is hardly surprising that they tend to vote against those who have made them miserable.

“Here is a fact of life that Prime Minister Singh and Mrs Sonia Gandhi, his mentor, may want to remember: it is the people who politicise misery when they convert their anger into a vote.”

Read the full column: Nine per cent growth for 9 pc

Announcement: Vinod Mehta in Bangalore

29 April 2008

PRESS RELEASE: Vinod Mehta, editor-in-chief of Outlook magazine, is to deliver the convocation address to the graduating class of 2008 at the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media (IIJNM), Bangalore, on Saturday, 3 May 2008, according to a press release from associate dean, Kanchan Kaur. The time is 10.30 am. The location: IIJNM, opposite BGS international school, Nityanandanagar. On the Bangalore-Mysore highway, proceed beyond Kengeri; at Kumbalgodu, turn left, take the road that joins Kanakapura road.

The ‘Magnificent Seven’ light up the April skyline

28 April 2008

On a breezy afternoon, with rain in the air, the board of directors convene an emergency meeting on the road ahead. Do they woo back the runaway kid? Do they abandon the remainder of their plans for the day? Which watering hole should they converge at in the night? And who will foot the bill?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

’80 per cent of Indian journalism is stenography’

28 April 2008

P. Sainath, the Magsaysay Award-winning rural affairs editor of The Hindu, at the Rajendra Mathur memorial lecture organised by the Editors’ Guild of India, says the moral universe of the India media has shifted; outrage and compassion among journalists has died.

“One, the fundamental feature of the media of our times is the growing disconnect between the mass media and the mass reality. Two, there is a structural shutout of the poor in the media. Three, there is a corporate hijack of media agendas. Four, of the so-called four estates of democracy, media is the most exclusive and the most elitist.

“The moral universe of the media has shifted. Two things have died-outrage and compassion. You have a lot of drawing-room outrage, but not over issues that moved earlier generations of journalists. The structural shutout of the poor is evident in the way beats are organised in newspapers.

“How many national media journalists were covering the agrarian crisis in Vidarbha? There were six. But there were 512 journalists covering the Lakme Fashion Week in Bombay.

“There is journalism and there is stenography; 80 per cent of journalism you are reading or viewing today is stenography. Everyone knows there is a crisis of credit. Thanks to the loan waiver. How many of your newspapers or channels have told you that the guys who are claiming that they have expanded credit have closed down 4,750 bank branches in the last 15 years?”

Read the abridged text of the lecture: The terrible steno

Also read: ‘Indian media doesn’t cover 70 per cent of the population’

‘India is a nation of two planets: the rich and the poor’

Link via Anand V.

I swear I was only trying to show him how to…

28 April 2008

Life has a strange way of imitating art. True to the spirit of a cricket-mad City, the Calcutta Knight Riders have a fun site with spoofs, cartoons and fake magazine covers. On the day Harbhajan Singh‘s future in the Indian and “Bombay Indians” team is decided, this cover evokes a strange sense of deja vu.

Bhajji could get away from the Andrew Symonds spat by claiming he said maa-ki, not monkey (and because Sachin Tendulkar magnanimously put his reputation on the line). How can he possibly escape the wrath of the match referee in the S. Sreesanth slap with the television evidence around?

# “Sir, I was only trying to look at the nick on his forehead?”

# “Sir, I was checking to see if he could duck as well as he can dance?”

# “Sir, I was showing him my new ring when he inadvertantly banged his nose into it?”

Link via Alok Prasanna

Why are our brave, macho men crying so much?

28 April 2008

# Kapil Dev, the brave Jat, breaks down inconsolably on BBC when Karan Thapar reminds him of Manoj Prabhakar‘s claim that he had offered Rs 25 lakh to him underperform in a one-day match.

# L.K. Advani, whose very name makes millions cry, says Taare zameen par made him cry and then actually cries (“without glycerine“) in an interview with Rajdeep Sardesai on CNN-IBN and with Barkha Dutt on NDTV while touting his memoirs My country, my life.

# Siddaramaiah, the former deputy chief minister who bearded former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his sons, comes to tears before the media because he can no longer stand from Chamundeshwari assembly constituency because of delimitation.

# S. Sreesanth, the medium-pacer who looks at opposing batsmen menacingly even when he has bowled long hops and donkey drops, weeps in front of a Bollywood actress when punched in the face by Harbhajan Singh.

Why are Indian men using their lachrymal glands so much in public and bawling like babies? Despite our claims of being the stronger sex, are we instinctively weak; less in control of our bodies than women in corresponding situations? Are we incapable of holding back our emotions? Is our machismo just a put-on? Or are we seeing a new Indian mard—melodramatic, insecure, uninhibited, chaalu—using welled-up eyes to gain sympathy and convince the world of our case?

Why reservations in the judiciary is a bad idea

28 April 2008

ALOK PRASANNA writes from Hyderabad: We have heard of bloody coups, bloodless coups, military coups, silent coups, and even coups by mercenaries (and, no, not just those of us who have read Frederick Forsyth‘s Dogs of War). However, unique in the annals of usurpation of the constitutional functions of a government must be the coup d’état by judgment.

Yes, in 1999, with barely a mention on the front pages, the Supreme Court of India completed a process it began in 1993 by completely, almost unconstitutionally, usurping one of the roles of President and the Executive. And it was not some piddling guideline or rule the SC deigns to legislate from the bench every other day.

The SC, in 1999, managed to completely and totally usurp the executive’s constitutionally granted function of appointing judges (to the High Court and SC) and vest this enormous power with itself.

Whereas most democracies, the real ones not the ones which use the word lengthen the official name of the country (think “Democratic” People’s Republic of Korea), usually have some executive or legislative body nominate and appoint members of the higher judiciary, in India alone do we see the unedifying sight of the higher judiciary nominating and appointing judges to the High Court and Supreme Court.

The decision in 1999 reduced the President once more to a mere rubber stamp where this time, he would be bound by the “recommendations” of the collegiums of judges in charge of appointing judges.

The best part, of course, is that the popularly elected legislature, the Parliament can do absolutely nothing about it since any amendment can and will be struck down on the grounds of violating the “basic structure” of the Constitution. Never mind that a body deciding its own appointments and removals is against the basic structure of the Constitution.

It wouldn’t be so bad if there was a modicum of transparency in the process. While other constitutional authorities such as the President and the Parliament are exposed to the ruthless glare of the Right to Information Act, the judiciary has perched itself on a higher pedestal as the sole constitutional authority which refuses to adhere to the right to information.

Walk around the corridors of the Supreme Court and the whispers of favouritism, nepotism and regional bias float from all corners. Of course no one will dare air any of these allegations in the open for fear of invoking the contempt thunderbolt wielded by the Court.

Like all other bodies which have wielded such uncontrolled power, it seems to have gone straight to the collective head of the judiciary. So we are faced with sight of the CJI fluffing on his law to defend the judiciary’s non-transparent behavior. Not to mention the frequent (ab)use of the contempt law against journalists who dare to question the court.

Naturally, instead of trying to do something about this sorry state of affairs, our Parliamentarians have decided to add fuel to the fire by asking for reservations in the judiciary.

Reservation in the judiciary is nothing new. There is supposed to be an unofficial “minority”(read Muslim) quota, a Scheduled Caste quota and a token woman quota (currently unfilled) in the Supreme Court. Various High Courts have their own unofficial quotas on local caste, gender and religious bases (for instance check out the number of Reddys in the AP High Court).

Given the strict rule of seniority in the appointment of the Chief Justice of India, it is possible to pick and choose judges in a manner that will see them get elevated to the post in due course. Indeed the present CJI was appointed on the basis that he would be senior enough to become the first Dalit CJI when the incumbent retired.

Yet while these unofficial quotas are always denied in public, they are seen as a tacit acceptance by the highest Court that it is not inclusive enough.

So what is wrong by the demand of the OBC group to have reservations in the higher judiciary?

For one, it goes against constitutional propriety for one branch of the Government to be dictating the composition of another on divisive considerations (I don’t suppose the Parliament would enjoy the judiciary making observations about its caste composition).

It was bad when Indira Gandhi did it on “ideological” grounds, and it is bad when done on caste considerations.

For another, this is precisely the kind of thing the judiciary can wave at naysayers and close ranks against any move to improve transparency and bring about genuine reform. Short of driving up the steps of the Supreme Court in armoured cars, the Parliament or Executive can really do nothing much against a hostile and united judiciary.

Why, as Musharraf found out, even that may not be successful all the time.

Lastly, such a move, if undertaken successfully, will weaken, rather than reform the higher judiciary; the one arm of the Government middle-class India trusts and sees as its own despite some obvious flaws.

The higher judiciary’s one core constituency that is willing to forgive all its seeming shortcomings is the 300 million or so people who constitute the middle class in India. From PILs about the Ganga to the Delhi buses and (ironically enough) the Right to Information Act, middle-class India has always turned to the higher judiciary as its first and last hope.

For all the causes without a delimited constituency, the judiciary has been more than willing to create a constituency of its own with “creative” orders and stays. The judiciary knows that it can bank on the support of this constituency to hold off any attempts to weaken and divide it.

Practical demonstration: Pakistan.

Perversely, as long as it has the firm backing of middle-class India, the judiciary will continue to resist attempts at reform of the judiciary by Parliament, whether to ensure transparency or inclusivity (read quotas). Though often called the “least dangerous arm of Government” the judiciary has sufficient strength to hit the Government where it hurts, and it will continue to use its powers to hurt the Government and champion the cause of its constituents.

The judiciary is often compared to the “lions under Solomon’s throne”, but it seems that King Solomon is having a slight problem convincing them to get off his seat.

Every hand is of help in a make or break election

27 April 2008

A television hand adjusts the microphone cable for S.M. Krishna as the media-savvy, image-conscious former chief minister gets ready for yet another pow-wow from the ramparts of his residence—not a strand out of place, not a crease on his khadi.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also see: Uneasy lies the head that wants to wear the crown

Has Bhajji exposed Sachin with one tight slap?

27 April 2008

Former CBI director R.K. Raghavan in The Hindu:

“No cricket fan will be amused by what happened at Mohali. By all accounts, Harbhajan Singh slapped a hapless S. Sreesanth, all because the latter made a gratuitous remark, ‘hard luck’, which a captain losing three successive matches could not stomach….

“Now we know who spoke the truth when Andrew Symonds complained against Bhajji in Australia. That was a shameful cover-up in which a magnanimous Sachin (Tendulkar) also took part and blotted his reputation.

“Twenty20 has already won ignominy through the so-called cheerleaders, whose public display of flesh is deplorable. It is widely believed that the BCCI has lost its sense of proportion because of unabashed Mammon worship.”

Read the full piece: Mohali incident and BCCI’s duty

If 20 months could make Kumara a Kubera, then…

26 April 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji was frowning as she peered at her voter identity card.

“Don’t you like your picture, ajji,” I asked.

“Like? They have made me look like a cross between Puthni and Shoorphanaka. This is what you get when your picture is taken from a computer. I tried to smile as usual while facing the camera. The typist sitting there asked me not to move. When I tried to see who is ordering me about, my picture was already taken. I look terrible!”

“Don’t worry. You will use this only once in 5 years or whenever there is an election. By the way, have you decided which party you are going to vote for?”

Krishna paramathma had promised he will take birth in any yuga to destroy the evil forces whenever they exceed the good. As promised, S.M. Krishna landed here to take the Congress party to moksha. But there are more evil forces in his own party! His party is also heading for ‘Yadavi Kalaha’ at each turn. They are on ‘self-destruct’ mode like Yadavas. I am not sure if Congress will survive at the end.”

“What about BJP?”

“They have a Bhishma pithamaha in L.K. Advani. He is once again ready to hop into a chariot wearing his kirita, bow and arrow to dash off to fight an unknown enemy. But he has with him two permanently quibbling brothers, Chitraveerya and VichitraveeryaB.S. Yediyurappa and Ananth Kumar—who have to be kept apart lest they finish each other. I am again not sure about BJP.”

“Then Only JD(S) is left, like the gaade goes, ‘Haaloorige ulidavane Gowda antha! Will you then vote for JD(S)?”

Appa makkala kathene bere. Kumaranna papa; he spent most of his time sleeping on the bare ground in villages eating kadalekayi and bella. Yet he has become a Kuberanna in just 20 months! If he becomes a CM for a full term, he will end up as Kuberana appa!”

“Then you are not going to vote any of the parties? What will you do with your precious vote?”

“You have not taken me to Rameshwara so far. At least take me to Rameshwar Thakur’s Janata Darshan. I want to vote for him. Let him continue. It is the best thing that can happen for all of us,” said Ajji.

The genesis of the great Hegde-Gowda rivalry

26 April 2008

The Congress’ move to put up Mamata Nichani against H.D. Kumaraswamy in Ramanagara/m has attracted attention for all the wrong reasons. But as Johnson T.A. writes in the Indian Express, the coming contest recaptures a bitter rivalry between two of Karnataka’s foremost non-Congress leaders: Mamata’s father Ramakrishna Hegde and Kumaraswamy’s father H.D. Deve Gowda.

Hegde’s ascension to the chief minister’s gaddi in 1983 sowed the seeds of the rivalry between Hegde and Gowda but three specific incidents during the Janata rule are believed to have blown away the semblance of civility between the two.

# The first was when Hegde chose to nominate his then family lawyer Ram Jethmalani to the Rajya Sabha in 1986. Gowda and his supporters within the Janata Party resented the choice of ‘an outsider’ and threatened to boycott voting on the day of the elections.

# The second incident — the proverbial one that broke the camel’s back — came soon after when Hegde ordered a Corps of Detectives inquiry into allegations that Gowda as a minister allotted over 50 government sites to members of his family on the basis of allegations made by a BJP leader from Gowda’s home district of Hassan.

# The third incident is believed to be Hegde’s decision to nominate S.R. Bommai as his successor over Gowda in 1988 when Hegde decided to step down as chief minister accepting moral responsibility for tapping the phones of senior leaders in the state.

Read the full article: Play it again, Karnataka

Also read: Puppets in the hands of ultra-greasy slimeballs

Times of India’s executive editor wants to leave

25 April 2008

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi:The Times of India‘s executive editor Jaideep Bose says he wants to go. JoJo, as the affable editor is known, made the announcement at a retreat where editors of the paper had convened with brand executives over the weekend.

With tears in his eyes, JoJo is reported to have told his colleagues that what they were hearing in the past week was true. As the first SMSes bearing the bad news flew into Delhi, top bosses of Bennett, Coleman & Co went into a huddle to decide the next course of action.

Bose is slated to head the Indian edition of Financial Times that is to be published by Raghav Bahl‘s Network 18 in collaboration with Pearson, although there could be other print plans as well from the group which has set a scorching pace with its television, online, film and other moves.

But there is no confirmation of his possible destination.

JoJo’s sudden decision to leave the Times, less than a fortnight after the launch of the Madras edition of the paper, has sent shock waves in Times House, given his long and fruitful proximity with Samir Jain who runs India’s biggest newspaper group with his brother Vineet Jain.

The two questions many are asking today is: Will there be an exodus from the Economic Times newsroom, where JoJo was editor before he moved to ToI, for the new paper? (After the FT rumours broke last weekend, the group dipped into its deep pockets to blunt the possibility of further poaching. Senior Economic Times staff have received hikes, some to the extent of 50 per cent this week.)

An even bigger question confronting the Times group is, will the exit of JoJo make it even more difficult for the group for all its size, reach and prosperity to attract and retain serious journalists when larger, transnational players start dangling giant cheques?

One source claims that JoJo met the Brothers Jain on Monday to clarify his position after the quit reports surfaced last weekend. The brothers, it appeared, made JoJo a counteroffer and convinced him to stay on. JoJo for his part was listed to attend the World Newspaper Congress in Sweden in early June as scheduled, along with other top executives.

But, in private, JoJo himself had been characteristically non-committal. To some in his charmed circle in Delhi, he is reported to have confirmed that it is not a question of if but when, a view coming out of Network 18 too. But to some others in Bombay, he had offered an opposite indication.

In fact, some senior staffers who had put in their papers were told by JoJo this week to stay in the paper. He even offered one of them a larger, more clearly defined role for him. But when asked if he would stay, JoJo is reported to have said he would let them know early next week, presumably after the editors’ retreat ended.

But news of the resignation seems to have come earlier than that. In an organisation that wants its editors to maintain a low profile, the swirling rumours—even the slim suggestion that a journalist was running circles around the marketing mavens—was proving to be embarrassing.

While it was clear that the Jains could match any offer Network 18 or anybody could make to retain JoJo & Co if they wished, the persistent talk of a 10-17 per cent stake in the new paper for the editor probably took the debate into a completely non-negotiable realm in a privately-held, family-owned newspaper group which is not even thinking of an IPO for the moment, and which has long held that journalists don’t deserve so much bhaav for how little they impact the bottomline.

The manner in which JoJo has been poached by Network 18 has an eerie similarity with the manner in which
the group roped in Rajdeep Sardesai from Pranoy Roy‘s NDTV. In Sardesai’s case, too, he was given overall control of the new venture, plus a stake in the new channel. Clearly that seems to be the mantra in India’s exploring media atmosphere.

With Sharanya Kanvilkar in Bombay

Also read: Is Raghav Bahl India’s new media mogul?

Why JoJo might want to leave The Times of India

Crossposted on sans serif

You have sight, yes, but do you have their vision?

25 April 2008

S. Prashantha in today’s Deccan Herald has a touching story of three sisters from Shimoga—A.T. Asha, A.T. Ambika, and A.T. Anitha—who have pledged their eyes. What’s new? Well, what if we told you that the three sisters are blind by birth due to an optic nerve defect?

Photographs: courtesy Deccan Herald

Read the full article: Shimoga blind sisters to give sight

Sadly, not all could savour this magical moment

25 April 2008

There is no respite from our politicians for the alive and kicking. And, in an election season, there seems to be no respite for the dead and dying either. The Congress’s very rich nominee Kupendra Reddy went to file his papers in Bommanahalli in Bangalore on Wednesday, and an ambulance was among those stuck in a procession taken out by Congress workers.

For the record, only five persons are allowed to accompany a candidate to file nomination papers before the election officers, but outside it is a different story as candidates use the occasion to give a sneak peek of what voters can expect if and when they are elected. Sometimes, as in this case, one or two of them are cruelly deprived of the honour of receiving the promises in flesh and blood.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

CHURUMURI POLL: Should cheer girls be banned?

24 April 2008

The police may always be sleeping on the job, but the moral police are always on the job. Farmers are killing themselves in Vidarbha, inflation is soaring through the roof in Matunga, Maoism is penetrating Chandrapur, chauvinism is raging in Bombay… but the most important item on the agenda of Maharashtra’s politicians seems to be the “bulging breasts” and “gyrating bellies” of the cheer girls of the Indian Premier League.

Opposition MLAs have said the “vulgar” actions of the cheer leaders “degrade Indian culture“, and that they were “worse than bar dancers” who were rendered jobless after the live bands were banned in an earlier burst of prudishness. Last year, home minister R.R. Patil had called the cheer girls “obscene”. But the entry of cheer leaders from Washington seems to have provided the debate a fresh edge.

Questions: Is it OK for cheerleaders to whip up excitement and keep the spirits up among spectators in a Twenty20 match, or is it not quite cricket? Are the hip-wiggling actions and jhatka-matka gyrations of the girls vulgar, or are they just a sign of the times? When the girls are not being forced to dance and prance around, does anybody have any business telling them what to do? If near-naked film stars on television at prime time is OK, what is the problem with cheer leaders?

Photograph: courtesy Saggere Radhakrishna

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Are Twenty20 cheer girls obscene?

Puppets in the hands of ultra-greasy slimeballs

24 April 2008

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: The nomination of candidates for the assembly elections has followed a set pattern, suggesting that our political parties and politicians are like stuck records—they play the same song again and again hoping no one will notice.

So, we hear of tickets being “sold” for crores, as usual. So, we hear of real-estate, mining and other lobbies gaining a stranglehold, as usual. So, we hear of vandalism and defection on being denied tickets, as usual. So, we hear of caste and religion playing a big role, as usual.

So, etcetera, as usual.

We have heard all this before, we will keep hearing them again.

But if there is one set of nominations (so far) that shines a neat mirror on the stagnating, even regressive (male) mindsets we are dealing with, it comes to us courtesy of the nominees the Congress has deployed to take on H.D. Deve Gowda‘s sons, H.D. Kumaraswamy and H.D. Revanna.

The grand old party has picked two women to take on the sons of the son of the soil. In Ramanagaram, Ramakrishna Hegde‘s daughter Mamata Nichani (right) will take on the former chief minister. And in Holenarsipur, G. Puttaswamy Gowda‘s daughter-in-law Anupama (left) will take on his elder brother.

By itself, the nomination of women by Sonia Gandhi‘s party would have been welcome. While the 33 per cent reservation drama goes on and on, a 100 per cent reservation for women in the star-constituencies is a gift-horse the other 50 per cent of the electorate will not look in the mouth.

But….

But, this is less about women and more about the men behind them. As many Congress women have asked, especially about Mamata Nichani, are these two women—both related to powerful male politicians—the only women the Congress could find in a party that has been around for so long?

If that disease is easily diagnosed in a party where progenies are born not with a silver spoon in their mouths but with a Congress designation in their diapers, the obscurantist justification for putting up Mamata and Anupama takes your breath away, even if all is fair in love, war and elections.

If you decipher one newspaper report today, quoting sources close to that great statesman of our time D.K. Shiva Kumar, the decision to put up Mamata and Anupama is not a reflection of their political acumen or prowess but of their psychological impact on the “enemy”.

Apparently, the Congress bosses in the State consulted some astrologers who ruled that women were the Achilles‘ heel of the men of the Gowda kutumb.

Apparently, the Gowda family has been worshipping Lord Shiva, so the males have the blessings and protection of Rudra. But that power (of the Gowdas, presumably) wanes in front of women who are seen to be the epitome of Parvati. Hence, Mamata and Anupama.

Since Tejaswini Sriramesh had trounced Deve Gowda in the Kanakapura Lok Sabha constituency, the party decided that this was proof that women candidates like Mamata and Anupama would naturally put Kumaraswamy and Revanna on the back foot.

If Rahul Gandhi and his laptop-toting factotums can believe such retrograde, superstitious nonsense, from here to maata mantra of the B.S. Yediyurappa variety is just a click away.

(Or maybe Chennamma Deve Gowda, Anita Kumaraswamy and Bhavani Revanna know something the world doesn’t.)

Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy and Revanna have plenty to explain to the voters of the State—and to the country. The corruption in their (and their family’s) business dealings, the casteism and nepotism in their official appointments, their public and private conduct, their doublespeak, their backstabbing, etc.

Instead of countering all that, instead of seeking answers, all that the Congress can come up with are two goongi gudiyas puppeteered by ultra-slimeballs on some jyotishi‘s advice.

What a bloody shame.

Or is the Congress just preparing the ground for a tie-up with the Janata Dal (Secular) again by putting up dummies?

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: The only place black magic works is in your mind

Cheaper jet fuel at the Deve Gowda petrol bunk?

How Big B has pushed India to a regressive new low


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