Archive for May, 2008

If he was an offspinner, he would be Muralitharan

31 May 2008

Chubs, a five-month-old Basset Hound, in Jayalakshmipuram, Mysore, gives his doctor “the look” as he waits for his monthly shot.

What music does his holiness recommend forgers?

31 May 2008

Three things stand out in the case of the momentary “arrest” of Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji, the postman turned pontiff of the Avadhoota Datta Peetham, on Sunday, 25 May 2008, in connection with the alleged forgery of documents in a land encroachment case next to his ashram in Mysore.

The first is its astonishing timing. Coming as it did in the middle of the swamiji‘s 66th birthday celebrations which were on in full steam, the negative publicity generated by the sight of “one of the rare living avataras” in the cop-house has impacted the enthusiasm of his VVIP guests. Former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has dropped out. Union home minister Shivaraj Patil too is said to be having slightly cold feet.

The second is the not very happy spectacle of a “divine guide” (who preaches music as therapy) standing accused of as murky an earthly activity as fudging land records, with the alleged connivance of city officials, for 120,000 square feet. Running parallel to this is the ham-handed attempt by ashram functionaries and factotums to bulldoze their way and to prevent government officials and the media from doing their job.

The third, most remarkable, aspect of l’affaire Sachchidananda swamiji is the extraordinary display of steel and spine by our top bureaucrats and police officers.

The cynical view is that they all uniformly have knees of cheese when ranged against the rich, powerful and influential—and that everybody is on the take. But in the case on hand, we get to see a welcome demonstration of the long arm of the law doing what it is expected to, without fear or favour. (It’s another matter that further investigations in “crime no 26/2008″ have since been stayed by the high court.)

The documents below provide some evidence of that. The first two pages, in English, is the letter that deputy commissioner and district magistrate P. Manivannan wrote to the investigating police officer in the case on May 22, three days before the swamiji‘s “arrest”. And the last two pages, in Kannada, is the report of the department of land records, on May 15, which after months of dithering, finally got its act together.

On page 2 of his letter, Manivannan notes:

“During the meeting [with ashram neighbour Dr S.R. Anil Kumar], three issues struck me

i) There is an interchange of survey numbers, which is normally not noticed in most of the survey documents. There was no convincing replay by the representatives of the [Ganapati Sachchidananda swami] ashram as to why the survey numbers have been interchanged.

ii) The documents produced by Dr S.R. Anil Kumar showed that there was a Gift Deed executed by the pontiff of the ashram, Shri Ganapati Sachchidananda to the ashram trust wherein the survey number mentioned was 106/3. But this survey number was not owned by Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda at that point of time.

iii) A part of survey no. 106/3 has been acquired by the government. But, surprisingly, the whole survey number has been shown as private property transferred to the ashram.

Manivannan places on record that when he ordered a survey to have a better clarity of things, “ashram representatives approached me and desperately wanted to stop the survey.”

***

***

The report of the deputy director of land records, dated 15 May 2008, affirming the alleged switch of survey numbers, that has resulted in the Ganapati Sachchidananda swamiji getting embroiled in the case, leading to his “arrest” last Sunday.

Photograph:courtesy Avadhoota Datta Peetham

Also read: God moves in mysterious ways. Godmen too.

Why P. Manivannan evokes fear, loyalty & awe

CHURUMURI POLL: Revoke Manivannan transfer?

The gateway to the south as seen from up above

30 May 2008

The view of the swearing-in ceremony from the roof of Visvesvaraya Towers (top); the lone woman minister Shobha Karandlaje urges the new chief minister to greet the hordes after the ceremony (middle); and all the members of the B.S. Yediyurappa family pose for the camera in his office after he takes charge (bottom).

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

It takes a village to raise a child. Are you there?

30 May 2008

VINUTHA MALLYA writes: I am helping raise funds for a community school started by the Ramsar Police in Barmer district of Rajasthan. The school has 150 students in just three years and needs Rs 23,550 (Rs 157 per student) to sustain itself for another year. This money is for simple things like books, pencils, chalks, slates, school bags, registers etc. It would be great if you could help us in this cause.

Please do visit http://apnaschool.wordpress.com for details.

If they could have criminal MLAs, why can’t we?

30 May 2008

Three days before the Karnataka results were declared, the BJP had accused the UPA of criminalising governance. And the party loses no opportunity to dredge up Shibhu Soren, Mohammed Taslimuddin and Lalu Prasad Yadav as epitomes of all that’s wrong with our polity.

But there’s such a thing as complaining too much.

Almost one out of every four MLAs of the BJP elected the new Karnataka assembly is tainted by criminal charges, and 60 per cent of all MLAs who face criminal charges belong to the BJP, says The Telegraph, Calcutta, citing Election Commission records.

Infographic: courtesy The Telegraph

Read the full story: Crime-taint on BJP foot

‘Moily will struggle to win a municipal election’

30 May 2008

Rajdeep Sardesai on CNN-IBN:

“Karnataka is only the latest example of the time warp the Congress is trapped in: a campaign remote controlled from Delhi was doomed for failure in the distant Deccan….

S.M. Krishna‘s predicament reflects the growing isolation of regional chieftains in a political party apparatus where there is a Supreme Leader and the First Family while the others are all expected to play the role of faithful lieutenants….

“The Congress’s Karnataka in charge, Prithviraj Chauhan, was constantly undermined by a party structure in which alleged proximity to Sonia Gandhi of a handful of drawing room politicians becomes an instrument of undiluted power and petty ambition.

“How does one explain, for example, the attitude of a Margaret Alva, who appeared to lose interest in the Karnataka elections once her son was denied a ticket? Or the clout of a former state chief minister like Veerappa Moily, who would struggle to win a municipal election in his home district of Udipi?”

Also read: Congress, the ageing family firm

All the little flowers that bloomed with the lotus

30 May 2008

L.K. Advani, Narendra Modi, Prakash Singh Badal, Rajnath Singh join Karnataka’s 25 chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa and his ministers from the Vidhana Soudha after taking oath on Friday, 30 May 3008.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Why PM couldn’t stand the sight of palak & gobi

30 May 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The Prime Minister’s ophthalmologist is not only a good eye surgeon but has a hawk-eye for political nuances that matter in the corridors of Delhi. He has the uncanny ability to see and identify his patients’ problems much before it develops on their cornea.

I wanted to know about Prime Minister’s recent eye operation and naturally his eye doctor was the one who could give the correct picture.

“What was the problem with the PM’s eye?” I asked when I met him at his clinic.

“Nothing serious. He came for a removal of cataract. But the irritation in his eye had started couple of months back.”

“Was this complicated?”

“Not really. But it was an irritant none the less. It started a week after HRD minister Arjun Singh went public saying he wanted Rahul Gandhi as the next Prime Minister. Having to see Arjun Singh in each cabinet meeting sitting in the same place, naturally created occular pressure on his right eye and eventually became a stye, which thankfully disappeared when Soniaji warned that sycophancy wouldn’t take people far in her scheme of things!”

“That’s amazing! We know so little of these things.”

“Sometime back, his eyes turned red for no apparent reason. He is basically a mild, affable person given to bland food and a serene temperament. But he developed a hue of red across the cornea. When even his eyelash turned red, it got me worried.”

“How did that happen?”

“It was the leftists who were giving him the red tinge. The endless talks with Leftists on the Indo-US nuclear deal with no agreement in sight were taking the toll of his eyes. He was seeing red everywhere. Never the one to complain over food last 30 years, he started complaining with bhabhiji, asking her why she was preparing sabzis with red palak and pink gobi. He wouldn’t touch sarason da saag as it appeared like deep red chillies. Not only that, he insisted she should use green kaccha tomato instead of red ones for raita. He wanted her to get green rajma!”

“How did you solve the problem?”

“We haven’t solved it completely. He was away from Delhi visiting Bhutan. He went to Karnataka for campaigning. His eyes almost became normal.”

“Any permanent solution for this? He cannot avoid meetings with Comrade Karat and Co.”

“That’s true. Karunanidhi has advised him to wear dark glasses. It seems that has helped Karunanidhi to stay cool even when he meets Jayalalitha. But the problem with that is he doesn’t know when it is morning or night. No doubt it is the best way to escape political reality. I don’t know if PM will accept that solution. But meanwhile a new problem surfaced when he came for removal of cataract.”

“What happened?”

“I was moving my index finger from one end to another end and asked him how many fingers I was moving. He didn’t see my fingers at all but thought I was waving my hand.”

“Probably his eye number has increased?”

“I think it is symbolic when he sees a hand moving out of his range of vision. It can only mean Congress with its symbol of hand is going out of Delhi in the next election! What he saw was a sort of ‘bye-bye’ for UPA.”

“That’s a phenomenal observation!”

“Not only that. Gone are the red colours affecting his eyes. Now when he moves his eyes from East to West or North to South his eyes have a saffron layer all over.”

“You don’t mean to say…”

“He is already seeing BJP coming to power in Delhi. That worries me a lot,” ended the ophthalmologist.

All in a day’s work for the next chief minister

30 May 2008

Before they swear on the Constitution, the modern Indian leader swears by the heads of the various religious mutts with a deep slash of vermillion or vibhuti on his forehead.

It may be genuine devotion, it may be an honest expression of gratitude.

It may be smart politics, of being on the right side of “god’s men”.

It may be just good PR, about sending the right signals to the followers of the mutts that here is a god-fearing (or godman-fearing) man who respects our ancient customs and traditions.

But what is the signal that is to be received when matters of faith, religion and spirituality have become the last thing on the minds of most (not all) swamijis? When transfers and postings, licences, land deals, and other forms of patronage have become their leit motif?

What is the signal that is to be received when a chief minister-in-waiting is made to stand while the swamiji sits grandly and hands out fruits, flowers and other prasada, while chelas, chamchas, brokers and factotums of neta and swamiji squeeze into the photo-frame.

That government work is godmen’s work?

That while “We, the People” might vote and reject, it is the swamijis whose writ eventually runs?

Yesterday, on the day 40 perished when a lorry tumbled into a coconut grove, B.S. Yediyurappa was visiting temples and mutts as if they were all going to be closed tomorrow.

Also read: Do our gods sanction our politicians’ silly games?

It’s true. God helps those who help themselves.

The criminalisation of politics or the vice-versa?

28 May 2008

The defining feature of the Karnataka elections of 2008 is the legitimisation of big money as being central to the political process. Whereas in the past, the various lobbies—excise, education, infrastructure, etc—were happy to bankroll their chosen ones and stay behind the scenes, the new moneybags like miners and land sharks are hands-on in their political ambitions and not at all cagey about advertising it.

And the BJP, for all its sanctimonious self-righteousness, is only too happy to play the game.

Leaders like Sushma Swaraj, whose election campaign in Bellary against Sonia Gandhi saw the mining lobby obtain a stranglehold on Karnataka politics, offer two very predictable responses. One, if the Congress has done so all these years, why should the BJP be stopped? And two, when there is no law against moneybags from entering politics, how can we keep them out if they want to “serve the people”.

Little wonder, the Reddy brothers—N. Karunakar Reddy and N. Janardhan Reddy—played a key role in wooing and winning over the independents whose support is crucial for the B.S. Yediyurappa government.

Little wonder, Anand Singh (in picture, above), the newly elected MLA from Vijaynagar, has taken out a full-page advertisement in today’s Hindu, larger than Yediyurappa’s own ad in Vijaya Karnataka.

Singh declared assets of Rs 74.56 crore, according to Karnataka Election Watch, and faces criminal cases for “unlawful assembly, rioting, rioting, armed with deadly weapon, voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means, voluntarily causing hurt, intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace, criminal intimidation, house-trespass, mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees, member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object, and attempt to murder.”

Lest we forget, M/s Singh, Reddys, et al, will be making laws for the people of the land.

If Bangalore’s so hot, why are its netas so thanda?

28 May 2008

K.P. Nayar, The Telegraph‘s Washington correspondent, writes of how the Karnataka elections were watched more keenly by Americans than the primaries in their own states, thanks partly to the flat world Thomas L. Friedman discovered on its lawns, but thanks largely to the fact that Corporate America has a stake in Bangalore, which, in a sense, is its laboratory for experiments in investing in India:

“Despite Bangalore’s image as India’s Silicon Valley, Karnataka has failed to throw up leadership that could catch the imagination of Americans who want to do business with India.

“A brief exception was S.M. Krishna. This columnist was once witness to an exchange in the US where one of Krishna’s well-wishers told him that he had no future in the Congress with its dynastic politics where sycophancy was the most valued political asset.

“The well-wisher joked that in such an atmosphere Krishna was a misfit because he was once a Fulbright scholar at George Washington University. If only he was “half bright”, he might have done better in his party, Krishna was told then.”

Read the full article: Another kind of deal

ANNOUNCEMENT: Biopic on K.G. Kannabiran

28 May 2008

Pedestrian Pictures is screening a part-biography, part-history film on K.G. Kannabiran, the human rights and civil liberties activist, at 5 pm on Saturday, 31 May 2008, at the IAT on Queen’s Road, Bangalore.

Titled ‘The Advocate‘, the 130-minute film, directed by Deepa Dhanraj, documents the contribution of Kannabiran, currently national president of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), in challenging the Indian State to uphold the rule of law in institutions of governance, justice and political praxis.

Spanning the period from 1968 till 2005, the film tries to cover his landmark cases, his work as secretary of the Tarkunde Committee and the Bhargava Commission.

A few years, a few inches, a few strands later

27 May 2008

Karnataka’s chief minister in waiting, B.S. Yediyurappa, then and now.

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

How shlokas, mantras put Bee in Akshay’s bonnet

27 May 2008

MADHU GOPINATH RAO writes from New York City: Anurag Kashyap, Sai R. Gunturi, Pratyush Buddiga, George Abraham Thampy, Nupur Lala.

Do these names ring a bell?

They are not up-and-coming scientists; well, not yet. These are the names of Indian-American kids who snared seven of the seven ‘Scripps National Spelling Bee’ contests between 1999 and 2005. In 2005, the top four finishers in the Spelling Bee were kids of Indian descent, including Anurag Kashyap, the winner.

To a query, “Cochabamba is the third-largest conurbation in what country?” by Alex Trebek of Jeopardy fame, your answer may have been “Huh?” but 11-year-old Akshay Rajagopal answered “Bolivia” to clinch the 20th annual ‘National Geographic Bee’ on Wednesday last.

The Geographic Bee is on the same lines as the Spelling Bee, but covers geography to the latter’s English spellings. Akshay not only won but he did so without dropping a single question—only the second time that’s ever happened in the Geographic Bee’s 20-year history. Nikhil Desai, Milan Sandhu were in the final 8 as well.

“Conurbation”, by the way means “a metropolitan area”.

In recent years, descendants of Indian immigrants—less than 1 per cent of the US population—have dominated some of these academic contests, snatching top honours.

In Spelling Bee, for instance, they made up more than 30 of the 273 contestants in 2005, not to mention hogging the top-four spots. Seems like Kenyans running away with marathon medals? This is not short of amazing. Amazing, especially given the history—spelling bees games were toyed with to help improve English in Indian-American kids.

The epiphany that is believed to be a corner stone of this success was a realization that Indian-American were not good at—hold your breath—spelling.

In 1993, a group of influential Indian-Americans noticed that children of immigrants from India were doing very well in the math section of the SAT, but finishing only average in the verbal category. They wanted to fix that, and came up with this idea: Hold spelling bees.

The idea caught on and how ; the results are there for every one to see.

In 2005, everyone from Wall Street Journal to New York Times to rediff.com lavished praise on this mini-phenomenon. 2006 – 2007 have been a relatively calm time for the desi speller, but with Anurag’s win a week ago in the Geographic Bee, the spot light is back on.

What’s the secret to this amazing success story?

It ought to be more than just the diligence post the epiphany?

Education is a big part of the Indian culture. It comes first. Many a movies have parodied how Indian-American parents push, rather aggressively, to ensure their kids strive to become doctors and lawyers than pursue other avenues. A vast majority of them, do end up becoming lawyers and doctors and this is reflected in how Indian-Americans as an ethnic group are positioned. Per TIME’s 2007 almanac, they are the richest ethnic group with above average median incomes in city after city.

Secondly, many of the Indians who come to America have had the luxury of a good education and a sound grounding in academics. They’re smart, focused and driven; and that rubs off on their children. Thanks to US Immigration laws, doctors, engineers and researchers have formed the vast majority of the immigrants over the last few decades. So these children are the kids of parents who themselves competed––probably at a ferocious level––to get into the best Indian schools, and then to get to the US.

Another factor could be the way India children have been schooled over the generations. According to an article in Language in India, a monthly online journal, memorization and recitation are big components in the education process. We all remember the multiplication tables from well before we could comprehend its actual meaning and use. This is touted to have its roots in the age old gurukula system where a lot of the learning was vocal and by repetition of shlokas and mantras.

Whatever the reasons, the achievements of these Indian-American kids is nothing short of spectacular.

So how does one sum up the possible reasons for this success?

How about one from the horse’s mouth?

The 1985 winner Balu Natarajan, now a 33-year-old doctor of sports medicine, describes the contest as a “a bridge between that which is Indian and that which is American” — that’s quite simple and easy for all to understand?

Photograph: courtesy Huffington Post

In first past the post system, one vote is enough

27 May 2008

Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari:

“The Congress lost 21 seats [in Karnataka] by less than 3,000 votes: two seats by less than 100 votes, six by less than 1,000 votes, another half-a-dozIen Assembly segments by 2,000 votes and seven constituencies by 3,000 votes. In fact, the party lost Kumta by just 20 votes and the former Chief Minister Dharam Singh was defeated in Jevargi by a margin of 70 votes.”

Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

Also read: You are winner if you get just one vote more. Still…

Lesson from loss: 2 better than 1

CHURUMURI POLL: Will BJP govt last its full term?

27 May 2008

An intimation of mortality even before promised date of delivery is not what any parent looks forward to, but by getting tantalisingly close to the half-way mark, yet not quite reaching there on its own, the BJP finds itself in just that position. For the record, the BJP has 110 MLAs of its own. Five of the six independents have offered letters pledging support to the BJP. Together, it adds up to 115 in the 224-member house, but in politics, numbers are all, and the possibilities are pregnant.

Three of the independents are Congress rebels, one is a JDS rebel, and the other a BJP rebel. News reports say mine owners Janardhan Reddy and Karunakar Reddy were present during the “talks” with some of the Independents. There are rumours of ministerial portfolios for a couple of them. Good news as that may be, will such support hold good in the long run? Will the independents stick with the BJP through thick and thin? Will the B.S. Yediyurappa government last out its full term of five years? Will the BJP have to “break” the JDS, as H.D. Kumaraswamy as alleged, to stay in power?

Photograph: The lotus blooms on a gate in Sultanpet in Bangalore (courtesy M.S. Gopal/ Which Main? What cross?)

Ours is not to ask whether smplr means tts-n-ss

27 May 2008

RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: Deccan Chronicle, the Hyderabad-based group that is listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange, has just launched its Bangalore edition. Hoardings like these that greeted Bangaloreans on the first day of publication, 26 May 2008, raise fundamental questions about how a bottomline-driven media (pun unintended) views its role in society and the kind of equations it seeks to build with readers it intends to serve.

Like, are well-sculpted “bare bodies” the only way of getting “young minds” interested in reading newspapers? Like, are male “young minds” so devoid of imagination as our media heads seem to think? Like, is there any proof that “young minds” have a problem with serious, meaningful content? Like, is this just a Bangalore/IT/BPO phenomenon? Like, are “middle-aged minds” and “old minds”—not to speak of “female minds”—totally out of the pale of our newspaper proprietors and managers?

Since the paper is landing at our doorsteps free of cost, maybe we shouldn’t look a gift-ass in the mouth. But, pray, what is this gorgeous young lady doing sitting like that?

ps: “young minds” might like to note, as my husband did, that the bird at the top left-hand corner of the hoarding is a crow.

Photograph: Prashant Krishnamurthy

Also read: The ads say it’s going to be smrtr and smplr. Bttr?

Neena Gopal to edit Deccan Chronicle, Bangalore

Forget invitation price, try a new paper for free!

Cross-posted on sans serif

Sorry, IPL fans, Test cricket is alive and rollicking

27 May 2008

ALOK PRASANNA writes from Bangalore: While the Indian Premier League (IPL) winds down towards the knockout stages, two of the most engrossing Test matches in recent times have been unfolding half way across the globe in Kingston, Jamaica, and in Old Trafford, Manchester.

Getting a close fought Test match between two supposedly mismatched teams is hard enough, but to have two of them happen at around the same time in two different matches in two different continents is, well, fantastic.

In most pre-match reviews, the fancied teams, Australia and England, were supposed to stomp all over the bottom rankers of the ICC Test table, West Indies and New Zealand, respectively, and prove once again, why Test cricket is boring and IPL is not.

Fortunately, the pundits have been proved wrong again.

Daniel Vettori‘s New Zealanders fought off England in a rain-affected match before threatening England with a follow-on on home turf. In the end, England did manage to score the 290-odd required to stave off the ignominy of going one-down at home, but it was thrilling stuff.

On the other side of the Atlantic, another dogged effort by Shivnarine Chanderpaul inspired the West Indies into giving Australia more than a run for their money, threatening to extend Australia’s loss/draw sequence to three!

Only a small mater of 287 runs stands between them and a stunning victory that will no doubt be cheered by pretty much every Test supporter in the world (Aussies included).

More than the contest itself, the cricket on display has been thrilling and engrossing (yes, even compared to IPL). A true cricket fan (such as yours truly) has a hard time switching between three channels at night trying to get all the action.

For those who predicted the death of Test cricket, matches like these are an all-you-can-eat word buffets.

Granted they will probably not get the kind of eyeballs the IPL is getting in India, but the rest of the world will tune in, once the IPL is over, of course. West Indies may yet choke, and Andrew Strauss did take England home, but the matches have been engrossing and evenly matched.

More interestingly, the players who have performed in the Tests have been those willing to go aggressive and, remarkably, the list of fifty getters and wicket takers in both matches is filled with IPL returnees.

Brendon McCullum, Jacob Oram, Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills and Ross Taylor have attacked and driven off the threat of seam, swing and bounce from English bowlers. Likewise, Vettori has used guile and attacking fields to torment English batsmen on seemingly placid surfaces, with Jacob Oram contributing with the ball as well.

Across the “pond”, apart from Chanderpaul’s heroics, Dwanye Bravo’s all-round performance and Ramnaresh Sarwan with some aggressive captaincy have ensured that West Indies are more than just “competitive” against the formidable Australians, for whom surprise, surprise, Andrew Symonds, Brad Hodge and Ricky Ponting have scored fifties and one blistering hundred, while Brett Lee has made the ball sing.

All of the above players are established performers but the fact of all of them performing at the same time is too much to be attributed to form and coincidence alone. Maybe, it is too early to tell, but as one who recently “converted” to Twenty20 cricket, but believes that it can and should co-exist with Test cricket, this is most heartening.

Younger players like Bravo and Taylor have admitted that the stint in IPL, alongside with the likes of Tendulkar, Jayasuriya, Pollock, Dravid, Kallis and Chanderpaul have helped them in no small measure to improve their cricket.

One can only hope that the same is true of the Indian domestic cricket players. But, if the performance of the IPL stars in the Tests is anything to go by, then Test cricket, ironically, will be the better for it.

The handshake everybody loves to watch closely

26 May 2008

The BJP’s chief minister in waiting, B.S. Yediyurappa, greets the newly elected MLA from Yeshwanthpur, Shobha Karandlaje, at his residence in Bangalore on Monday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: The inside story of the BJP-JDS negotiations

God moves in mysterious ways. So do Godmen.

26 May 2008

It’s not often that the long arm of the law manages to shake hands with India’s powerful godmen and women. But on Sunday, 25 May 2008, as the political vacuum in Karnataka was being filled, Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji, the postman turned pontiff considered to be an avatar of Lord Dattatreya, got a rare look at the pokey insides of a police station in the midst of celebrations of his 66th birthday.

According to news reports, the swamiji was arrested and summoned to the Vidyaranyapuram police station in Mysore “much to the consternation of his devotees”, for interrogation in connection with a land dispute with Dr Anil Kumar, who runs the Village Palate restaurant next to the swamiji‘s sprawling ashram on the Mysore-Ooty highway. The swamji’s attorney, however, says he was only summoned, not arrested.

Dr Anil Kumar had filed a criminal complaint alleging encroachment of his land, and a part of government land, by the trust headed by the swamiji, whose USP is the use of music as a healing agent. The 120,000 square feet plot (survey No. 106/2&3) that the doctor is fighting for, is now under the custody of the ashram which is running a hospital there.

Although he has been around for over three decades, the Telugu-speaking swamiji‘s star rose during the reign of P.V. Narasimha Rao as prime minister.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: The The Great Great Sri Sri Scam Scam

How the BJP got it right, and Congress didn’t

26 May 2008

Journalist turned BJP strategist Swapan Dasgupta, who had an inside track on the BJP campaign in Karnataka, writes about how the BJP learnt from and implemented the findings of an opinion poll commissioned by Arun Jaitley:

“There were four major findings of the poll. First, it suggested that the BJP was likely to hover around the 90- to 100-seat level, mainly on the strength of its clear lead over the Congress in rural Karnataka. Second, contrary to conventional wisdom, the Congress was significantly ahead of the BJP in urban Karnataka, particularly Bangalore.

“Third, that H.D. Deve Gowda‘s hold over the Old Mysore regions was unaffected but the Janata Dal (S) had slipped in other parts of Karnataka. Finally, the poll indicated that S.M. Krishna in the Congress and B.S. Yediyurappa in the BJP had strong popular support for their chief ministerial ambitions.

“The BJP acted on the findings of the poll: it announced Yediyurappa as its chief ministerial candidate, it went out of its way to recruit and promote Vokkaliga leaders who could tap into crumbling JD(S) bases outside Old Mysore and firmed up its organisational machinery in urban Karnataka, particularly Bangalore.

The Congress, on the other hand….

Read the full article: Congress Bangalored

19 tips for the Congress to start winning again

26 May 2008

G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, the psephologist behind Development and Research Services (DRS), who had offered ‘Six reasons why Congress will lose in Karnataka‘, now offers seven tips for the Congress to start winning again.

# Don’t bank on negative vote: Anti-incumbency doesn’t work if incumbent governments govern better.

# Take care of organistional health: Get strong leaders with experience, stature and mass following.

# Anoint your leader: Elections are increasingly personality-oriented; it helps to have a face.

# Get caste calculus right: Clearly understand and exploit the caste dynamics in each state.

# Counter future BSP damage: Adopt a dalit-friendly approach in future elections.

# Improve election management: Gone are the days of winning elections by chanting Panditji, Indiraji, Rajivji.

# Get some aggression into the system: Believe in yourself, instead of getting defensive and looking for excuses.

Read the full article here: Seven tips for Congress to start wining again

Also read: Twelve and a half steps Congress must take. Or else.

Because too many cooks spoil the bisi bele broth

26 May 2008

Sujan Dutta in The Telegraph, Calcutta, salutes Arun Jaitley, the commander of the BJP’s victorious army in Karnataka, and compares him to German “Desert Fox”, Erwin Rommel:

“Arun Jaitley has marshalled the victories for the BJP in four large States since the UPA came to power in New Delhi. For a politician who has not personally contested a mass-level election since he was the leader of the Delhi University Students Union, that is quite an achievement.

“As in Gujarat and Bihar before that, he rarely left the State capital. He rented a house in the tony Koramangala locality, took his cook from Delhi with him—he is on a strict diet since his bypass surgery—drove from the house to the BJP’s central election office in Malleswararam and back like a diligent executive would between work and home.

“He packed his office with infotech-savvy youth, ensuring that his database on Karnataka was as comprehensive as he could make it—all of this without being able to speak Kannada. He made sure that that nothing, absolutely nothing, from BJP headquarters in New Delhi to the state passed without his knowledge.”

Read the full article: General Jaitley’s conquest

Illustration: Sandeep Adhwaryu/ Outlook

State by state, saffron is becoming the new green

26 May 2008

Since 2004, the Congress has won assembly elections in Goa, Haryana, Assam, Maharashtra, Manipur and Pondicherry. It has lost in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Bengal, Tripura, Gujarat, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and now Karnataka.

Coming up next: Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.

Infographic: courtesy The Telegraph, Calcutta

CHURUMURI POLL: What did the trick for BJP?

26 May 2008

Now that the Bharatiya Janata Party has firmly set foot in the southern peninsula by exploding all the usual myths associated with it of being a party of just one community or a couple of regions, it’s time to understand how this happened: What, in your opinion, tilted the scales for the party and helped it come to power in Karnataka in such a resounding manner?

Is it the result of a surging tide against the Congress, which has seen Sonia Gandhi‘s party lose election after election? Did the BJP’s move to clearly and unequivocally project B.S. Yediyurappa as chief minister help? Is it Yediyurappa’s claims of good performance as finance minister? Or the promise of good governance? Is it the “betrayal” the BJP suffered at the hands of the H.D. Deve Gowda‘s JDS not once but twice? Was there a sympathy factor at work?

Was the voter sick and tired of the tenuousness of coalition politics, and wanted stability? Did underplaying contentious issues like Baba Budangiri pay off? Was the party smart in putting up “winnable” candidates instead of being hidebound about giving representation to women, minorities, and marginal castes?

Is the BJP’s rise in Karnataka a vote against the Congress, or a vote against the JDS, or a vote against both? Or is it more straight forward, a vote for the BJP? Are voters plain tired of the waffling and doublespeak of the Congress and the left on issues such as terrorism and secularism? And their “minority appeasement?” Did the voter punish the UPA government at the Centre for the mounting inflation and price rise? Is the BJP beginning to reap the benefits of Narendra Modi‘s image across the country?


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