Archive for March, 2009

Sauce for the kaangis is not sauce for the sanghis?

31 March 2009

NAGARAJ BHARADWAJ writes: She holds the dubious distinction of being sacked as chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh on charges of corruption by the Supreme Court.

She was voted the second most corrupt IAS officer in Uttar Pradesh in a secret ballot held by the UP IAS Officers’ Association.

She has been accused of giving out-of-turn allotments of plots to her kith and kin, and others for a consideration when she headed the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority or NOIDA, a town on the outskirts of Delhi.

With such a record, how is it that Neera Yadav, the lady in question, was inducted into the Bharatiya Janata Party?

For a party that seeks to profess clean values in public life, and loses no opportunity to have a go at the Congress and other political opponents for their corrupt ways, the move indeed flies in the face of the BJP’s “we-are-clean” public posture.

Neera’s induction into the BJP smacks of the worst form of realpolitik.

She is a Tyagi married to a Yadav (her husband is an ex-bureacrat-turned politician too). And party chief Rajnath Singh, contesting from Ghaziabad, thinks that she will help him get the support of Tyagis who are in sizeable number in the constituency.

After all, when you are the BJP chief and you are contesting a Lok Sabha election for the first time, you can’t afford to lose, can you? Like they say in cricket, in the end it doesn’t matter how the runs come. So what if you keep the company of the corrupt to win an election?

What do you have to say, Mr Lalchand Kishinchand Advani?

Photograph: Neera Yadav (second from right), courtesy UPDASP

Idli-sambar and the (occasional) art of humility

31 March 2009

KPN photo

Modern politics is all about perception. After an early morning on his feet and in his track pants campaigning for the 2009 general elections, the BJP candidate for Bangalore South, H.N. Ananth Kumar, takes a breather and dives into a plate of middle-class idli-sambar at a middle-class darshini in middle-class Basavanagudi on Tuesday.

***

Each election season sees fiction writers back with a bang.

In an affidavit filed along with his nomination papers, the three-time minister and four-time MP claims his wife Tejaswini is six times wealthier than him with their delightful daughters Aishwarya and Vijetha possessing property worth Rs 6.04 lakh and Rs 7.6 lakh.

Out of office these five years, the family’s income has doubled from Rs 75 lakh to Rs 1.42 crore. The Kumars own a Reva car, a Kinetic Honda and a Hyundai Accent.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Why should candidates stand from multiple seats?

31 March 2009

MOHAN NELLORE writes: There has been a long history of candidates contesting elections from more than one constituency in Indian politics for reasons of safety, prestige and pure powerplay.

This has happened in the past and this time, too, it is going to be no different.

Either you can praise the Constitution for providing such a provision.

Or you can pan it.

I, for one, believe, that this provision creates a huge hole in the Treasury, especially if a candidate is elected from one or more constituencies to either the Lok Sabha or to the Assembly. More so when the electoral rules also clearly state that an elected member can represent only one constituency and fresh elections should be held in the constituency vacated by a multiple seat winner within six months.

Allowing candidates to stand from multiple constituencies results in a waste of resources and doesn’t serve any useful purpose. It only allows our leaders to exploit the electoral system by making a mockery of democracy.

I wish to see the following amendments in our Constitution:

# Candidates shouldn’t be allowed to contest from multiple constituencies.

# Candidates should not be allowed to contest for either Parliament or the Assembly if they are already a member of either house.

# If both the above rules cannot be implemented due to any technical reasons, then a candidate winning from more than one constituency should pay for entire re-election expenses. Plus, twice the expense amount towards public and government inconvenience.

# In addition to the third point above, such person should not be allowed to contest any election in future.

This is my personal opinion.

If a candidate is so sceptical about winning chances, he/she can never be a good leader. In a Freudian sort of way, it only points to a flaw in their thoughts and their inability to convince voters.

Every voter should think twice about such contestants and should punish them so badly that this kind of candidates should never chose to come in public again.

Folks, wake up. It is our money being spent to test their fortune. Do we really need such leaders to represent us?

An uber babu who applied the ordained poultices

31 March 2009

Tarun J. Tejpal, the editor of Tehelka, assesses Manmohan Singh in an essay of exquisite artistry in the latest issue of the magazine:

“What when he looks into the mirror, does he make of hmself? Does he see a professionarial economist who bust the seams of possibility by becoming the Prime Minister of the biggest democracy in the world? Or does he see a decent, remarkably inoffensive politician? Does he see an efficient flunkey, living and dying by the whim of the master? Or does he see an artful leader couched in the skin of an artless follower? Does he see strength in his eyes? Or does he see weakness in his jaw? Is that honesty shining there, or is it timidity? Is he the handiwork of a superior will, or is he the creation of lucky accident?…

“He probably sees a sincere, hardworking man who rode every accident of history with humility and gratitude. He probably sees someone truly exceptional, not great. He probably sees more decency than courage, more willingness than will. As the image shimmers, he sees there is a vision, but perhaps in need of some expansion and refurbishing. He turns to catch his profile. The nose and the jaw: well, they belong to both master and follower. He looks into the eyes, and then over his shoulder. He lets out his breath. Actually, he’s done okay. Given the circumstances, as well as he could. And if there is a second chance, he would certainly work harder at doing better.”

Illustration:  courtesy Thomas Antony/Iran cartoon gallery

A headline Varun Gandhi will surely understand

30 March 2009

In their weekly prognosis of which way the poll straws are blowing, the editors of Daily News & Analysis (DNA) estimate that Congress and BJP are now “neck and neck” following the collapse of the Congress’ ties with the PMK in Tamil Nadu, and the RJD in Bihar and Jharkhand. But the two main parties are still close to a 100 seats short of the 272-mark, paving the way for the smaller parties to obtain a stranglehold in the formation of the next government.

Significantly, this is the first independent survey that gives the BJP more seats than the Congress, after the BJP’s own internal survey. But after its defence of Varun Gandhi‘s verbal callisthenics, and its defiance of the Election Commission’s “advice” to not give him a ticket from Pilibhit, the question is moot: Has the BJP endeared itself to more voters nationally, or has it cheesed off more than a few?

Graphic: courtesy DNA

Also read: It’s a free world. You can believe any number.

Of course, predictions have gone wrong before

Arun Nehru: part I, part II, part III, part IV

In the end, all we have that is ours is memories

30 March 2009

1999-2009

churumuri mourns the sudden departure of the happiest, most peaceful, face in the family, but celebrates a life well lived—and well loved—and one that will be remembered every moment of every day.

Tony: 9 February 1999-29 March 2009

The classified ad that won’t appear this weekend

28 March 2009

“Three-month-old baby weighing an obscene 83 kg found separated from parents at Sampaje near Mercara on Saturday. Has been shifted to relief camp in Dubare. Shows a weird tendency to play with 11 full-grown males at the same time. Anxious parents please rush. Brokers excuse.”

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

TQM* as delivered somewhere in Chamundipuram

28 March 2009

The television crews are homing in on Mysore’s food as if it’s going out of business.

Kunal Vijayakar of Times Now manages the impossible—sitting space in Gayatri Tiffin Room® (GTR)—to sample the Mysore masala dosa©, and then walks down to a nameless 60-year-old restaurant in Chamundipuram where the owner, Mahesh, delivers a piece of wisdom which the TV channels might like to try at some time. The restaurant is open only for four hours every morning, he said, to maintain *quality. And, then Vijayakar goes to Guru Sweet Mart™ to hear the story of the origin of the iconic Mysore sweet, the Mysore pak©.

Also read: Zen and the art of eating the (Mysore) masala dosa

A good dosa is like your first love♥: unsurpassable

What Indian Political League can learn from IPL

28 March 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: My friend, the Ace Political Expert (APE), who also sometimes doubles as the Ace Sports Specialist (ASS), was sulking in a corner in the lawns of our club.

As I wished him for the evening, he didn’t say anything, but just motioned me to sit. Usually a cross between a chatterbox and a high-pitch voice- box, I found his silence somewhat funereal.

After ordering the bearer to bring Mallya’s Kingfisher and Dasappa’s masal vade, I asked him the real reason why IPL was moving out of the country.

“Where were the “security concerns” when the Bombay police commissioner himself had cleared it? Or was it a doosra from P. Chidambaram under instructions from Sonia Gandhi to teach the great Maratha, Sharad Pawar, some lessons in ‘Power Play 2’ after the Congress-NCP seat-sharing talks broke down?”

APE, who was downing his sorrows alone for god knows for how long, considered the question, thoughtfully nibbled at the vade, and said: “This is terrible political blood-letting on a cricket pitch of 22x 2 mtrs. I feel they are moving the wrong event out of the country. They should have moved the elections to South Africa, England or Timbuktu or some such place. Cricketers in the IPL mainly believe in clean hitting, either for a 4 or 6, bringing a lot of joy to families out in the evening. Amongst cricketers, there are no sitting MPs who are convicts and thugs; there is nobody among them who is either in jail or becomes a thief, sorry, chief minister when he is out of it. Nobody has faced a TADA court or hides in a hospital feigning political ‘Heart Attack’.”

“That’s true,” I agreed.

“It’s the politicians, if at all, who need police protection, not only from terrorists but people themselves, if you see what happened after the Bombay terror attack. South Africa could have easily organised our elections there. True, liquor will flow right through; cash for votes will be a daily affair and booth capturing from the lackeys of candidates a strong possibility, but the police of RSA could have easily handled that under their goonda Act or something equivalent to that. Meanwhile, we would have had peaceful, exciting IPL matches with sellout crowds cheering the cheer girls.”

“Yes. It’s a pity. We will miss all that.”

“Also we would have seen genuine camaraderie between Sangakkara and Jayawardene with Yuvraj Singh; between Dhoni , Muthaiah Muralidharan and Flintoff; Sachin with Jayasuriya and Dravid with Pieterson.”

“That’s the main objective of club games which transcends nationalistic feelings.”

“Instead, what will we have?  Even within teams they are itching to finish each other off. Arun Jaitley is openly fighting BJP president Rajnath Singh and Sudanshu Mittal. Siddaramaiah in Karnataka is still a political pariah not acceptable to most Congressmen, but may become KPCC chief. Vishwanath in Mysore is facing open rebellion within the Congress party if he is given a ticket. What kind of a team spirit will they exhibit which can be a lesson for our  youngsters?” asked the APE as he gulped down his third whisky.

“So true.  No one considered that.”

” The Pathan brothers, often contest for the one berth in the team knowing one of them will have to lose out, but you won’t find Irfan pulling down Yusuf if Yusuf makes it to the team. They are not jealous of each other but are happy for each other’s success. Can we say that of Priyanka or Rahul with Varun? Both are Gandhis and cousins, but behave as if they are different species belonging to different planets.”

“How do you think it will all end this year?” I asked as the bearer brought our bill.

“IPL 2 will still succeed in South Africa like the first T20 World Cup played last year. It will be a thrilling contest in the final.”

“What about Lok Sabha elections?”

“I won’t be surprised if the voters skip elections on the days of matches. There will be fractured verdict; more asses will be paraded after horse-trading. Non-entities will rule the country as if it is their personal fiefdom,” prophesied APE as we got up to leave.

CHURUMURI POLL: Should PM be from Lok Sabha?

27 March 2009

Unmindful of the fact that India is (still) a parliamentary democracy, the BJP continues on its relentless quest to turn each election into a US-style presidential race.

It wanted the Congress-led UPA to declare its prime ministerial nominee before the elections. While the primal attractions of this are undeniable, in a parliamentary democracy, the people elect their representative. The elected MPs of the ruling party (and of the ruling alliance) then decide who should become PM. What if a nominee loses, or in a gerontocracy like ours, if the nominee dies, both possibilities which are well within the realm of a democracy?

But now that Sonia Gandhi has clearly declared Manmohan Singh as the Congress’ (and therefore the UPA’s?) candidate, the BJP wants a US-style presidential “live” television debate between the NDA’s nominee, L.K. Advani, and the UPA’s. Again, in an unpredictable coalition melieu like India’s, where the “national” parties are shrinking, a debate like this shuts out the smaller players. If the Third Front is in the running, shouldn’t the “national” parties also want to debate with, say, Prakash Karat or Jayalalitha?

Unconcerned with these nuances, the BJP has now trained its guns on Manmohan Singh’s electoral status. It says the Prime Minister should be a member of the house of the people, the Lok Sabha, and not a member of the Rajya Sabha, like Singh is. Advani claims the Constitution makes membership of the Lower House a key criterion for becoming the head of the Government.

Does it? Should the PM be from the Lok Sabha? Is there any bar on an elder becoming PM? Since Rajya Sabha members are elected by people’s representatives in the Lok Sabhas and Vidhana Sabhas, are they still representatives of the people in some way? On the other hand, if a RS member cannot aspire for the high office, why have the RS at all? Then again, in the kind of democracy we have become, do “good people” like Singh have a chance to win, although most people agree he is kind of people we need in politics?

Does corruption matter? Is the Pope Catholic?

27 March 2009

Every single opinion poll and back-of-the-envelope prediction has put the BJP-led NDA behind the Congres-led UPA. So far. Now, an internal poll commissioned by the BJP gives it a slight edge, in the wake of the desertions from the UPA ranks by the RJD, SP and LJP in the North, and the PMK in the South.

Notwithstanding the Satyam scam and the imputations of Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy having benefited from it, the Congress is expected to hold on to its ground in Andhra Pradesh, winning 25 of the 40 seats, according to pollster G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, who was recently inducted into the BJP national executive.

***

Sudheendra Kulkarni, a member of the BJP’s election strategy group, offers six reasons why the Congress will buck the forecasts and lose, on rediff.com:

# Betrayal of the aam admi

# Concern over economic security

# Concern over national security

# UPA has withered away

# Crisis of leadership in Congress

Read the full article: Six reasons why the Congress will lose

Also read: Why Andhra is epicentre of the biggest scam

Biggest corporate fraud is now biggest coverup

What if the elections had been outsourced to SA?

26 March 2009

The poll dates clashed with the IPL dates. So, the Indian Premier League became the Non-Resident Indian Premier League. But, since cricket is religion, what if the IPL had been as scheduled in India, and the general elections had been held, instead, in South Africa?

Also read: Yum Ess Dee has the bat. Do you have the balls?

Brits divided & ruled. Our netas rule & divide.

25 March 2009

SUJATA RAJPAL writes: I often marvel at those who have the knack of identifying the religion/ region of a person just by looking at their attire, name, surname, or even accent.

I always goof up.

All Indians—Tamilians, Muslims, Malayalis, Punjabis, Parsis, Christians—all look the same to me. Of course, I can identify a turbaned Sikh from a non-Sikh, but that’s about how far I can get.

While growing up, we were told to focus on the inner quality of people, not their external features. We were told it was bad form to probe a person’s religion or language. We were told not to tease or taunt or make fun of their customs and traditions. Such sage advice now belongs to another world, another era.

That was then.

In “modern”, “new-age”, 21st century India, our politicians, irrespective of their political lineage, are falling over each other to remind us of who we are. And, more importantly, of who we are not.

The media is gladly playing along, and “We, the People” too no longer seem squeamish about joining in.

How many times in a day do we hear or read words that are predicated on our region, religion, language, caste? And what effect is such unconscious consciousness of who we are (and who we are not) having on us?

And our children?

And our society?

And our nation?

In the inter-religion vocabulary, the opposite of Hindu has become Muslim, and vice-versa. In the intra-country vocabulary, the opposite of Hindu has become non–Hindu.

The opposite of love has become hate.

Sanity has taken a backseat.

Be it the “struggle” for Kannada supremacy in Karnataka or for the precedence of the Marathi manoos in Maharashtra or the Assamese in Assam; be it the attack by the Sri Rama Sena on girls in Mangalore or Varun Gandhi‘s hate speech in Pilibhit; be it the ban on books or the burning of libraries; Kandhamal or Malegaon, the contours of  our public discourse is now so clearly defined by language, region and religion that it boggles the mind.

All this passes muster in the name of protecting what is “ours”—our land, our language, our region, our religion, our culture, our this, our that.

But, hey, can even an overdose of Ganga jal be toxic?

As per our Constitution—a document few of these hate-peddlers, venom-spewers, nuisance-mongers can be troubled by any longer—India is a “secular” State; a word that has now been turned into a pejorative.

It was inserted into the preamble by the 42nd amendment act of 1976, during the Emergency, and it does not mean what it has come to mean. It implies equality of all religions—and religious tolerance.

Every person has the right to preach, practice and propagate any religion they choose. The government must not favour or discriminate against any religion. It must treat all religions with equal respect. All citizens, irrespective of their religious beliefs are equal in the eyes of law.

But it fails to state that every Indian has the liberty to form and practice his own definition of a religion and no one has the right to preach to others what Hinduism or any other religion is.

33 years later, we only seem to observe secularism in the breach.

The first lesson in Hinduism or Islam or Christianity or Buddhism or any other religion is tolerance and respect towards all religions and fellow human beings. How secular are we? Like many other things in life, the definition of “secular State” in our Constitution has become obsolete and needs modification.

Those who claim to fight for the protection of Hindu culture perhaps do not even really understand what Hindu culture stands for or else they would not be preaching others.

In these elections, the issues which threaten the very existence of India as one united nation like terrorism, growing intolerance towards people of other faiths, mounting crime rate, growing water scarcity, rising corruption in society, etc, have been summarily marginalized.

Our parties are happy to score over brownie points over each other on who is a true Hindu.

And who is not.

It is shameful that our politicians are trying to divide the country in the name of religion but it is even more distressing that we are allowing ourselves to be fooled by them.

Before 1947, it was British who tried to divide the country in the name of religion and they succeeded. The Britishers left but sixty years later their legacy lives on, happily but sadly.

Does people’s court stand above the law court?

25 March 2009

In divorcing itself from any moral compulsions in l’affaire Varun Gandhi, the BJP has taken the same stand that it took in l’affaire Narendra Modi. Namely, in a democracy, the people will decide if they were right or wrong. The Congress, and countless other parties which put up killers, kidnappers, rapists, with gay abandon, has taken the same line in the past. But merely because “the majority” endorses the bestial, does it make it right?

***

B.G. Varghese in Deccan Herald:

“The BSP’s list of Lok Sabha candidates from Uttar Pradesh includes five persons facing murder charges and two nominees allegedly involved in other crimes. Five wives have been given tickets…. Other parties have also dredged dirt to pick up candidates. At least two Hindu right extremists who have been in the news of late for all the wrong reasons, are seeking court permission to contest the elections.

“Whatever the law, it is morally wrong to release such undertrials on bail to contest elections and, if they perchance win, to claim thereafter that they have been exonerated by the ‘people’s court’ and now stand above the law in their new avatar.”

Read the full article: Will they ever learn?

Cartoon: courtesy Surendra/ The Hindu

Of course, predictions have gone wrong before

25 March 2009

Before the Congress ran into trouble with RJD and SP, after the BJP broke off with the BJD, on the eve of the PMK deserting the UPA, and as TRS runs into trouble with the TDP, a Reuters news agency poll of 14 analysts of various backgrounds, incuding Universities, pollsters, banks.

Twelve of the 14 analysts say Manmohan Singh will become prime minister for a second time.

(The weekly poll was conducted last Monday and Tuesday. The poll does not aim to be scientific but is intended to give readers a snapshot of how some of the leading India analysts are thinking.)

Also read: It’s a free world. You can believe any number.

Arun Nehru: part I, part II, part III, part IV

‘What Henry Ford did then, Ratan Tata has now’

24 March 2009

The proof of the pudding is in the eating; the proof of a car is in the driving. Steve Cropley of Autocar UK takes the Tata Nano for a spin and comes away mighty impressed. Hormazd Sorabjee of Autocar India calls it a “Triumph of Indian ingenuity”.

Also read: Can India survive the Tata Nano?

CHURUMURI POLL: Has BJP shot itself in the foot?

24 March 2009

The BJP’s strident defence of Varun Gandhi‘s hate speech in Pilibhit, and its open defiance of the Election Commission’s advisory to it to deny him a party ticket, opens up a simple question: Has the “party with a difference” endeared itself to voters across the nation with its stand, or has it shot itself in both its feet?

There are plenty of legitimate points the party has raised: the EC’s over-eagerness in this case without giving the hate-monger a fair hearing; its technical expertise to adjudge the veracity of the video; and above all, the EC’s lack of a similar advisory to the Congress (which has the 1984 Sikh riots’ accused Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar in its ranks), and the Samajwadi Party (Sanjay Dutt with his conviction in the 1993 Bombay blasts’ case).

Nevertheless, there is such a thing as public perception and a good question to ask of a party which is said to be be on the backfoot in the coming elections, is: having initially expressed disapproval of Varun Gandhi’s remarks and its resolve to stick to the model code of conduct, has it missed a trick in so publicly backing religion-based hatred?

Would the BJP have gained in stature if it had acceded to the EC’s censure and shown the nation that it is different from the Congress? Would the BJP’s national acceptance have grown had it signalled that it was against spreading hate and enmity on grounds of religion? Or, is the party, which depends on the lunatic fringe in the saffron brotherhood for sustenance, right in sticking to its “core competency”?

Every picture tells a tale. Babu’s can fill a tome.

24 March 2009

Unlike India’s big cities, “happening” Bangalore has had a stunning inability to inspire writers and movie makers.

Mention Bombay and a welter of books springs to mind, only the latest of which is Suketu Mehta‘s Maximum City. Mention Delhi, and there is always Khushwant Singh‘s eponymous magnum opus, if not William Dalrymple‘s. Slumdog Millionaire and Delhi-6 are, of course, the latest billet doux that Danny Boyle and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra have signed on celluloid of those metros.

Not so Bangalore.

The iconic local book is missing, boring or out of print. There is barely a film, in English or Kannada, that could be said to capture the city. The newspapers and magazines are like the glass structures that dot IT halli: all glitz, no gandha. The reasons are aplenty (and a few of them can be found in Koshy‘s), but the result is Bangalore is lonely in the planet of popular culture, dependent on the PowerPoint™ wisdom of Thomas L. Friedman and Nandan M. Nilekani for succour.

Thankfully, blogs have filled the breach somewhat, and up there somewhere, near the very top, must be Gopal M.S.. A copywriter with McCann-Erickson in Bangalore, Gopal’s wife Kavita gifted him a point-and-shoot Canon A530 camera two years ago, and thus began a labour of love called Mains and Crosses.

Every day, Gopal, who lives in Sanjaynagar (Hebbal) takes a different route to and from work on Langford Road—a stop here, a detour there—and clicks pictures here, there, everywhere. The result is a chronicle and catalogue of a city that is changing by the second; erasing sights, sounds and smells the senses are familiar with.

“Like many Bangloreans, I have spent a sinful amount of time in the darkness of Plaza, one of Bangalore’s oldest movie theatres, while our teachers and lecturers were busy shouting hoarse to an almost empty class.

“Today, it’s Plaza that’s empty.

“Before a show began at Plaza, an old man, who seemed to be as old as the theatre itself, used to go around closing the wooden shutters. That ritual doesn’t happen anymore.

“However, light beams continue to stream in from the holes where the projector used to be. Minus the whirring sound. Plaza is now an empty shell, stripped of all the seats and curtains. However, a few memories from the past remain.”

Photograph: Babu, a security man, sits amidst the ruins of Plaza theatre on M.G. Road (courtesy Gopal M.S.)

Visit the website: Mains and Crosses

Also read: Once upon a time, in Bangalore (as we knew it)

Once upon a time in Bangalore on route No. 11

Once upon a time, when the gari did not put mari

Tatas, turtles and Corporate Social Responsibility

24 March 2009

The Tata Nano is so yesterday.

SHOBHA SARADA VISWANATHAN, in New Delhi, forwards a copy of an advertisement (above) taken out by Greenpeace in the Financial Times, London, and the International Herald Tribune, Paris, to draw the attention of the chairman of Ratan Tata, to the damage being caused to endangered Olive Ridley turtles by the Tatas’ construction of a port in Dhamra in Orissa’s Bhadrak district, in a joint venture with Larsen & Toubro.

***

Dear Mr Ratan Tata

The Nano is the realisation of a dream you have dreamed along with millions of other Indians. While the Nano is certainly something you’d like to be remembered for, your port in Dhamra could undo all that the Tatas have stood for and built their reputation on.

For two years in a row, ever since dredging began in Dhamra, there has been no mass-nesting of endangered Olive Ridley turtles in the area. If they disappear, it will be forever. And that’s why Greenpeace believes that the port must stop now.

98% of your own customers polled recently also think the port should stop now. Over 100,000 customers have already emailed, called and faxed you, asking that the port should stop now. And over 200 respected scientists—25 of them from IUCN’s Marine Turtle Specialist Group—say the port must stop now. But construction continues day and night, threatening to bring an already endangered species closer to extinction.

Mr Tata, we call upon you to uphold the legacy that your company has built painstakingly over 100 years. Place the planet at par with profits, because there are some things that money just can’t buy back.

Greenpeace

www.greenpeace.org/turtles

***

***

Also read: Tatas refuse to stop dredging

Join the Facebook group: Greenpeace India

It’s news only when Deve Gowda takes a snooze

23 March 2009

Body language ain’t for cricketers alone. Four former Congress chief ministers of Karnataka—from left, S.M. Krishna, Veerappa Moily, S. Bangarappa and Dharam Singh—convey vastly different attitudes to The Big Game on the anvil at the rally addressed by Sonia Gandhi in Davanagere on Monday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

It’s a free world. You can believe any number.

23 March 2009

The ruling United Progressive Alliance is clearly ahead of the National Democratic Alliance, although neither alliance is united or national, and the Congress will emerge the single largest party in the 2009 general elections.

A pre-poll survey by AC Neilsen for Star News shows the Congress-led UPA almost 73 seats in front of the BJP-led NDA. Even if Laloo Prasad‘s RJD, Mulayam Singh‘s Samajwadi Party, and Ram Vilas Paswan‘s LJP desert the UPA, the alliance will end up with 210 seats, 24 more than the NDA.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation by editors of the Daily News & Analysis (DNA) newspaper (below) shows the Congress and its allies at 184, versus 177 for the BJP and its allies. Others account for 182.

epaperimages_23032009_talkshdkdk-large1

Graphic: courtesy DNA

CHURUMURI POLL: Will IPL move impact polls?

22 March 2009

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has announced, formally, its decision to hold the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) outside India this year. This follows the reservations first aired by the Union home minister P. Chidambaram, and later echoed by various States at various times, that the “State” could not provide for the IPL at a time when the general elections were on.

The IPL came up with alternative dates which were reviewed by the home minister, and then further reviewed, and then further re-reviewed. Yet, different governments came up with riders and caveats that were clearly unacceptable to the IPL beyond a point, which was in no position to push the dates forward since there was no other window open in the ICC calender. IPL was also not willing to truncate the tournament.

Considering that “cricket is religion”, considering that Season 1 was a TV “success”, considering all the money, jobs, glitz and glamour associated with IPL, will an “Indian” Premier League being held outside India still have the same impact if it is held in England or South Africa? And, considering that most of the opposition has come from Congress-ruled countries States, can the BCCI decision have an impact on the elections?

Also read: Why should “State” provide security for IPL?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is 2011 World Cup in danger?

Can these venomous buffoons spell Bharatiyata?

22 March 2009

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A distressing feature of Indian public life today is the ease with which “hate” has become an integral, almost acceptable, part of the discourse. A thick cloud of hate—on the basis of region and religion, caste, culture and creed, language and sex—now hangs heavy.

In this churumuri.com exclusive, T.J.S. GEORGE, founder-editor of Asiaweek magazine, editorial advisor of The New Indian Express, and the author of the acclaimed biography of M.S. Subbulakshmi, writes on the ground that is shifting beneath our feet.

***

By T.J.S. GEORGE

In one respect this election season differs from previous ones: Incitement of religious hatred has become cruder and more reckless than before. Perhaps politicians see this as an easy way to win populist votes.

It certainly helps some pygmies to appear like giants.

Remember, till yesterday Pramod Mutalik (in picture, left) was an unknown frog in an unknown well. Today, he is a national figure, his face gracing every front page and every channel. That is the power of vulgar religious politics.

Similar is the case of Varun Gandhi (right), the spoilt son of a spoilt father.

When the boy was enrolled in the Rishi Valley School in Madanapalli, he wouldn’t eat for three days because neither the food nor the atmosphere suited the privileges he was accustomed to. Only because the staff and fellow students ignored his tantrums, and because hunger has a logic of its own, the privileged Gandhi reconciled to the culture of Jiddu Krishnamurti.

Kids born with a proprietorial attitude to everything around them rarely shed their air of superiority. Even his mentors in the BJP found Varun Gandhi to be egoistic and lightweight; his only “merit” was his surname. Then he came up with this new message of venomous religious hatred. Suddenly, the immature bambino was on every front page and every channel. Another Nobody turned into Somebody.

This is a political game where the players do not lose because they have protectors behind them. The citizen loses because he was no recourse when laws are broken at his cost.

Mutalik’s thugs could beat up citizens and walk proudly away because those who were supposed to protect citizens were inclined to protect the thugs instead. The court has banned this illegal moralist from entering certain areas. What if the police does not stop him? The system collapses when the state is party to evil.

The game, as played, is full of humbug and internal contradictions. Varun Gandhi announces that Pilibhit is a “violence-prone” constituency where Hindus are subjected to injustices. This is a serious charge against his mother, Maneka Gandhi, who has so far been representing Pilibhit in the Lok Sabha.

Clearly, the son is looking for what the original Gandhi, the Mahatma, called “the hasty applause of an unthinking public”.

He will not succeed, for never in history have hatemongers won the day. Three centuries of religious crusades by European Christianity gained nothing despite all the bloodletting, murders and cruelties. Hatred between Palestinians and Israelis continues to sacrifice generations without helping the cause of either. The mutual antipathies of Shias and Sunnis hold back the progress of all Arabs. Nazi Germany’s pogrom against Jews eventually destroyed the Nazis, not the Jews. Even the bond of Islam could not unite the Sindhi-Punjabis of West Pakistan with the Bengalis of East Pakistan.

Those who spew venom in the name of Bharatiyata are unworthy to speak of India’s civilisational greatness, let alone defend it. They take Rama as their mascot without knowing that Ramayana begins with a call by Valmiki in defence of two love birds.

When a hunter shot down one of the birds, the poet cried out Ma nishada. Brahma himself then appeared and urged the Adi Kavi to compose the story of Rama in the same poetic form.

Who represents Bharatiyata‘s beauty and greatness: Valmiki, who was outraged by the tragedy that struck two birds in love, or today’s petty men who hate love itself in the name of morality?

Ma nishada!

Photographs: courtesy Outlook (left), The Hindu

Also read: ‘The man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred’

How Karnataka is becoming the Gujarat of the South

How girls pissing in their pants protect Hinduism

Of course, Indian politics is the art of the possible

22 March 2009

The Congress is in the middle of a blazing row with Lalu Prasad Yadav‘s RJD over seat sharing. The BJP, deserted by the Biju Janata Dal, is in the middle of a intra-party war between president Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitely, not to speak of its execrable validation of Varun Gandhi‘s conduct.

Little wonder, Arun Nehru‘s guesestimates for the 2009 general elections clearly drawn up before the Congress-RJD fallout, published in Deccan Chronicle, continue to show the two “national” parties still way behind the “others”, but with one small difference: The gap between the Congress (153) and BJP (130) seems to be widening.

“While every party is under pressure on alliance pattern and seat selection, the BJP continues to damage its prospects. The fact that the Trinamul Congress, the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Telugu Desam, the Biju Janata Dal and the National Conference (all NDA allies in 2004) have chosen to fight the 2009 elections on their own clearly indicates that they do not wish to alienate the minority vote.”

Graphic: courtesy Deccan Chronicle

Arun Nehru‘s earlier guesstimates: part I, part II, part III

All nations have armies. One army has a nation.

22 March 2009

Using the latest in satellite technology, E.R. RAMACHANDRAN plugs into three telephone conversations:

***

“Hello! Is this Mr. Zardari?”

“Yes, Zardari speaking. May I know who it is on the line, if you please?”

“Clinton, Hillary Clinton. We are glad you followed our advice for the day. Tomorrow I will call again and tell you what to do. Please make notes as we talk. OK?  Meanwhile don’t get into any trouble.”

“Thanks, madam. I will be ready for your call.”

**

“Hello! How are you Mr. Gilani? This is Hillary. Have you received my point-by-point instructions and also answers from India for your 30 questions? You must have, by now.”

“I have not yet seen today’s daak, madam- Secretary.”

“When you open your mail, it will all be there.  Listen. We have been telling you for the last three months that you must do ‘more’. We want you to take some real action. What you have done so far is just not enough.  Understand? I will call you tomorrow evening. I want to go over with you each reply from India and action required from you. OK?”

“OK, madam.”

“By the way, it was a good show to reinstate Justice Chaudhry.”

“Thank you madam. Direct orders from our President.”

“Oh! Is it? A good move, I must say. And Nawaz Sharif’s Long March was also controlled in time.”

“That was Gen. Kayani’s orders madam.”

“Good. Nice to see everything working so well. Will call you again tomorrow.”

**

“Hello! General Kayani?”

“Yes, Kayani speaking. Who is this?”

“General Casey. We talked just before Mr. Sharif’s long march.”

“We did as you had instructed, Sir. We averted the long march.”

“Good.”

“Anything you want us to do, General?”

“Yes, indeed. Are you aware that Talibans come in ‘good’ and ‘bad’ shapes something like ‘good’ cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol? We want you to sort out the good ones from the bad. Our President wants to start a dialogue with the good ones. You can charge us for sorting out the Talibans.”

“OK, Sir. Anything else, General?”

“There’s one more thing.  Do you know anything about Hindu Kush?”

“Hindu always means something to do with Hindustan. Why do you ask, General?”

“It has got something to do with Osama Bin Laden.”

“Nobody believed us when we claimed that India has all along been hiding bin Laden. That is why Hindus are Kush, I mean happy. If you had let us attack India, we could have got bin Laden dead or alive as your ex-president wanted.”

“General Kayani! Hindu Kush is a mountain range connecting Pakistan with Afghanistan! We have information he is hiding there. No wonder you created a Kashmir problem all these years fighting for it when it was not yours! I will call you again and instruct you what to do tomorrow. OK?”

“Yes Sir.”

***

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looked on, Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr, remarked, “It’s awfully hard to run two armies at a time, especially one on a satellite phone. I don’t know how you  are running democracy in Pakistan by remote.  We must ask the President to double our salary or at least for a bonus!”


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