Archive for April, 2009

A VIP finger so right that it is almost to the left

30 April 2009

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The BJP’s candidate from the Shimoga Lok Sabha constituency B.Y. Raghavendra provides visual evidence that he cast his ballot the right way on Thursday, while his father, the chief minister, B.S. Yediyurappa, holds up his right finger to show that he probably did not.

Is the CM’s left index finger, which is where the mark is supposed to be applied, injured? Or was there already a mark on it necessitating the right finger? Did the CM insist on the mark being applied on his right hand? Did the voting official not know? Or is it the new status symbol in town, getting the voter mark on a finger of your choice?

Does the CM’s vote count? Or does it not matter if it is a VIP?

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

‘Media’s Congress bias is ominous for democracy’

30 April 2009

New York City-based human rights and media activist Partha Banerjee, in Counter Currents, detects an eerie similarity behind “the media-supported rise of Rahul Gandhi” as the next potential prime minister of India and the rise of Rajiv Gandhi and his brother Sanjay:

“I must say I’m frustrated to see the rampant bias in favour of the ruling party [in the Indian media]….

“The role of government as well as private media such as Zee TV, NDTV, Star-Ananda, CNN-IBN, The Times of India, etc., along with their many local and regional offshoots, to show extreme bias for parties and candidates of their choice is gravely ominous for democracy.

“”Contrary to the much-touted American media doctrine of a fair and objective reporting—doctrine they always preach but seldom practice—the new Indian media have resorted to an unrestricted, one-sided coverage of the Congress Party and its leaders.

“Sadly, even now during the election times, voters can find nearly no reporting of the fact that a vast majority of Indians still have no access to health care, education, drinking water or electricity. One wouldn’t know that in India, a world-record number of farmers committed suicide because of economic desperation and multinational companies’ forced seed-bank replacements.

“We don’t hear about the destruction of Indian environment and massive pollution and energy crisis. We don’t hear about the extreme lack of women’s rights (sure, we now have more fashion shows and jewelry models on the catwalk!). We don’t hear that India is now the fastest-growing AIDS country (and contrary to Thailand or USA, talking AIDS is still very much a taboo).

“We don’t know that police brutality and abuses on social and religious minorities are abysmal. We’re never told that international organizations have called India as one of the worst countries to protect human rights and promote equality. We’re not reminded that India has seen a massive number of communal riots, big and small, in recent years: not just in Gujarat, Ayodhya or Mumbai. And that our governments have failed miserably to protect us from terrorism.

“And that is why Indian media’s suppression of truth and generous donation to ruling class’s rampant lies are even more worrisome. In their election coverage today, opposition parties find minimal amount of time and importance. Third parties and especially those who have mass support to boycott elections are not given any time at all. Big media have belittled opposition alliances, and brought them to ridicule.”

Read the full article: Incredible India (Elections): Jay Ho!

Also read: How the media misses the woods for the trees

One question I’m dying to ask… Sonia Gandhi

29 April 2009

The disclosure by Indian Express yesterday that the UPA government urged the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) last year to withdraw the red corner notice against Bofors accused Ottavio Quattrocchi has once again swung the limelight on the scandal that brought down Rajiv Gandhi in 1989, and rears its head every election.

Not surprisingly, the BJP sees a Sonia Gandhi link behind the clean chit to the Italian businessman and views the development as another instance of the misuse of CBI by the Congerss-led government. Not surprisingly either, the Congress denies the imputation. If Mr Q is guilty, why didn’t the BJP-led NDA government or other non-Congress governments succeed in bringing Mr Q to justice, it asks?

Nevertheless, the suspicion persists, especially against the backdrop of allegations that the Congress-led UPA is not too eger to back the BJP’s demand to bring back Indian money stashed away in Swiss banks because you know why. What is the one question you are dying to ask Sonia Gandhi about the Rs 64 crore kickbacks?

Keep your queries short, civil and all in the family.

Only comments from valid, verifiable email IDs will pass muster.

Cartoon: courtesy Surendra/ The Hindu

Also read: One question I’m dying to ask Sonia Gandhi—Part I

‘Advani offers nothing creative, only resentment’

29 April 2009

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Aakar Patel does an excellent appraisal of Lalchand Kishinchand Advani in Mint, the business daily owned by the Hindustan Times group, on the basis of his memoir:

“If Advani has such a poor record on security [on Kandahar, Kargil and Gujarat], why do his supporters refer to him as strong? Sadly, this image comes from his willingness to do violence to India’s Muslims.

“Having had only eight years of executive experience, the same as the average 32-year-old, Advani has no long view. He does not understand strategy.

“He thumps his chest and warns Pakistan to behave after taking India nuclear, but is taken aback when Pakistan’s generals immediately use this as an excuse to weaponize their own programme. This has destabilized South Asia for generations.

“He opposes the Indo-US nuclear deal. Why? Because America does not treat India as “equals”. He views strategic policy through honour and emotion.

“Of his autobiography’s 48 chapters, not one is on economics. Muslims, Kashmir, terrorism, Pakistan, Musharraf, Kargil, Shah Bano, Naxalism, Godhra, Assam, Ayodhya. These are his concerns. His passion is all about what other people should not do.

“Under Advani, the BJP’s three policy thrusts were all negative: Muslims should not keep Babri Masjid; Muslims should not have polygamy; Kashmir should not have special status.

“He offers nothing creative, even to Hindus, only resentment….

***

“At the G-20 this month, London’s Financial Times put Manmohan Singh on its masthead next to Barack Obama and sent three editors to interview him. All Indians who are ashamed of the quality of our leaders must try to read this interview: www.ft.com/indepth/g20.

“First question: Do you agree with China on the failures of the global monetary regime and the case for a new reserve asset in place of the dollar?

“It’s not the question they would ask of Advani.”

Only comments from valid, verifiable email IDs will pass muster

Read the full article: Advani or Manmohan Singh?

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

A lifetime achievement award for L.K. Advani?

Tarun J. Tejpal on the uber babu: Manmohan Singh

A civil servant or a very civil servant?

All rise, the House is now called and is in session

28 April 2009

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At the mutton market at Kalasipalyam in Bangalore on Tuesday, the honourable members of the House show more decorum and discipline than the hawks who swoop in on the hut Kengal Hanumanthaiah built, as the honourable Speaker uses a sodium vapour lamp to deliver the keynote address.

Photograph: Sudhakar Jain/ Karnataka Photo News

5 more questions for The Great Debator to ignore

28 April 2009

Devsinh of Jalund Village has been fighting, without success for a road between Kalrada and Gamasana.

Monghiben of Borij has to actually swim out of her house every monsoon.

Ramilaben Purabia of Vrajvihar Society in Vejalpur has not been paid the promised subsidy under Ambedkar Awas Yojana, but is required to pay penal interest in case of default in payment.

Baldevji Thakore of Borisana village has until today, never been paid minimum wage. Laxminagar co.op. society of Kalol have paid for a bore well, but have not received water even once.

Jiviben of Piyaj wants her daughter to study but can’t send her to school as the daughter is required to fetch water daily.

Pushpaben Modi of Gota Housing Society has for the past 23 years received water once every eight days. 35,000 families live in Ramapir No Tekro. There are 10 toilets each for men and women in the area, which open at 8 am to close at 6 pm.

“Vibrant Gujarat” goes to the polls on Thursday, April 30.

Dancer-activist Mallika Sarabhai, daughter of the space scientist Vikram Sarabhai and dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai, and an MBA from IIM-Ahmedabad, poses a few more questions for her worthy opponent from the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency, Lalchand Kishinchand Advani.

# Since when has ‘Mahammad Ghazni’ become a term of endearment in the lexicon of Sangh Parivar?

# By what method of accounting are you and the Congress able to conceal election expenditure?

# Is it true that Gandhinagar has suddenly become an unsafe seat for you and that you will contest from Jaipur as well?

# Did the money accepted by your party’s then President Bangaru Laxman come from a Swiss Bank account, or was it swadeshi black money and hence less tainted?

# If redistributed, the promised sops to Tata’s Nano project would amount to Rs.30,000 for each family living below the poverty line in the state to start a micro-enterprise. Will the project ever create that level of employment and prosperity for the people of Gujarat?

Also read: Eight more questions for The Great Debator

At last, Advani‘s quest for a TV debate is realised

Thankfully, he didn’t need to strap a helmet on

28 April 2009

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Former deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah hops on to a photo-op while campaigning in Mysore on Tuesday. But looking at the number of people lending him a hand, and looking at his posture, here’s a trivial question: does the Janata Dal turned Ahinda turned Congress leader know how to cycle or not?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: No helmets, please, they are for the aam janata

‘Don’t be afraid of Taliban. They’re already here’

28 April 2009

The clamour within the BJP for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as the party’s next prime ministerial candidate is growing with everybody from Arun Shourie to Arun Jaitely to Venkaiah Naidu lining up in support even as L.K. Advani watches aghast and the Supreme Court inserts a small spoke.

In the India Today group’s newspaper, Mail Today, Jyotirmaya Sharma, a professor in political studies at the University of Hyderabad author of “Terrifying Vision”: M.S. Golwalkar, the RSS and India, takes on the demand for the anointment head-on, saying it has two things in common with Modi.

“The first is a certain brand of vulgar impatience and haste, a hallmark of the mob as well as the tyrant, born out of a sense of self-proclaimed purity and righteousness. The other is a misplaced sense of aspiring for such indeterminate goals such as ‘ progress’ and ‘ development’, a chimera that leaves everyone out of the equation other than the sort of worthies who stood on a stage and argued for Modi’s elevation as prime minister.”

But Prof Sharma makes a larger point. Using Modi’s challenge to prime minister Manmohan Singh to hang Afzal Guru to prove his strength, his sexist stereotyping of the Congress as budiya and gudiya, and his statement that he is ready to be hanged in public if charges of his complicity in the post-Godhra “riots” are proved, he concludes that the Taliban is already amidst us in India in the form of Narendra Modi and his zealots.

“There is an uncanny resemblance in all the three to what we have known all along as the Taliban’s preferred way of meting out justice. We frown on these kinds of barbaric acts and the Sangh Parivar often implies that there is a relation between these forms of barbarism and the religious affiliation of those who indulge in these acts….

“The Taliban of today is only a mirror image of the irrational and mindless rage of Ashwatthama, the son of Drona in the epic Mahabharata.  Modi is the inheritor of Ashwatthama’s rage. In the epic, Ashwatthama had to ultimately pay for his deeds. But before that he wrecked destruction and brought sorrow to countless people. Is Modi’s future and fate the same as that of Drona’s misguided son?”

Read the full article: The Taliban is already amidst us

Because: Sun also sets over a ‘downmarket’ area

27 April 2009

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Images, like words, are slaves at the hands of cliches and stereotypes. Therefore, the sunrises and sunsets in our mind’s-eye are usually silhouettes between hills with a lake or river in front, or through a magnificent structure, with some “love birds” fluttering away as a couple of flowers peck at each other.

But what when the locale is Kalasipalyam in Bangalore with eagles and vultures hovering above?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Like in an ODI or T20 match, every single counts

27 April 2009

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The latest desktop calculations of the editors of DNA with the two main alliances and the “others” running neck-and-neck.

An opinion poll reportedly conducted for a weekly newsmagazine by a polling agency, but not published due to the Election Commission’s diktat, gives the BJP 144, Congress 143, Left 32, BSP 30, Samajawadi Party 27, AIADMK 24, Telugu Desam 18, NCP 12, Trinamool Congress 13, DMK 13, Rashtriya Janata Dal-Lok Janshakti Party 15, Praja Rajyam Party 2, Biju Janata Dal 9, and Janata Dal Secular 2.

***

Swapan Dasgupta, the journalist cum BJP strategist, writes on his blog that the second phase of polling “has been very good for the BJP and its allies, good for BSP, not so good for the Congress, and somewhat diastrous for the so-called Fourth Front.

“In Karnataka the BJP appears to have done as well as in 2004. “But there are non-quantitative reports of the BJP not doing so well in Bangalore.”

M.J. Akbar writes in Deccan Herald:

“If the BJP becomes the single largest party, you would be surprised by the number of small parties which suddenly discover the virtues of stability at a moment of economic crisis.”

Read the full article: Array and disarray

Graphic: courtesy DNA

An epitaph to the literate, educated middle-class

27 April 2009

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One of the big cliches about Indian elections is that “the educated middle-class” voters do not come out to vote because they do not find the kind of candidate they can relate with.

And that the moment they do, our world will be transformed.

That cliche was kinda essentially reduced to bull shit on toast last week when just 44.73% of voters came to the booths in “highly literate” Bangalore South where besides the outgoing BJP MP, three people of pedigree—a young US-returned Congress candidate with a software spouse; a respected college professor standing on the JDS ticket; and an Air Force man who set up India’s first low-cost airline standing as an independent—were on offer.

But this middle-class apathy is neither new nor surprising.

BHAMY V. SHENOY with IIT on his resume, a long career in the oil industry in the United States, an established record as a consumer activist in Mysore, has twice stood for the Karnataka assembly elections: once in 1989 and then in 1994. The first time he won a grand total of 550 votes; the second time he was four times as lucky, getting 2,260 votes.

In 1994, when the average turnout in the State was 65%, Shenoy’s “literate” constituency recorded 52%.

Here’s his story which gives us more than an inkling of what is in store for Captain G.R. Gopinath, Mallika Sarabhai, Meerah Sanyal and other do-gooders of their ilk at the hands of “the educated middle-class” in the 15th general elections.

***

By BHAMY V. SHENOY

My own experience of contesting the election from the Chamaraja constituency of Mysore City as an independent candidate and losing the election by a big margin proves my hypothesis that Indian voters are not interested in elections, do not care who wins and often do not even know whom they are voting for.

One retired Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS) official who wanted to vote for me changed his mind at the last minute to vote for a candidate because, on his way to the polling booth, that candidates people gave him his voting registration number!

In my constituency, there were eight major slum areas and the votes there were controlled by petty feudal lords, usually small time politicians.

They are not influenced by what the policy of liberalisation is doing to the economy, whether poor are getting kerosene regularly, whether the condition of roads is good or in what way the reservation policy will affect our educational institutions in the long run.

They are swayed by how much money they will get or what position they can secure after the election.

I was hopeful that their votes would be more than neutralized by the active participation of literate and educated voters in my constituency. But my hopes were belied.

I had contested in the assembly election in 1989 also from the same constituency and secured just 550 votes. This time I could get 2,260 votes. The surprising thing was that even many of my supporters were shocked by my defeat.

When I contested the election in 1989, I was not known in the city. I had returned from the US in 1987 where I had stayed for more than 22 years.

But in 1994, the situation was entirely different. With the help of many leading intellectuals, scientists, professionals, retired army officials and bureaucrats, I had taken interest in solving every significant problem faced by the citizens in Mysore.

During the campaign I did not want to match my political opponents in terms of spending money. While they spent any where from Rs 7 lakh to Rs 20 lakh (despite the much publicized observance of the model code of conduct of T.N. Seshan), I spent less than Rs. 14,000.

But with the help of friends, we were able to visit more than 30,000 houses and talk to more than 70,000 people. We did not just ask them for votes. We spent some time in each house and discussed the problems faced by them.

Thousands of voters had promised to vote in my favour after understanding why I was contesting. If just 50% had kept their promise, I would have easily won.

As a part of the campaign, I had published a booklet Decline and Fall of Mysore: Who is Responsible? I was able to sell more than 3,500 copies of that booklet. Some who read that booklet voluntarily came forward to help me in the campaign. The message in that booklet was clear. Unless literate and educated people take interest in politics, we can not improve living conditions in city.

Eighty percent of the voters in my constituency were literate and between 40 per cent and 50 per cent were readers of newspapers and reasonably well informed. My strategy was to concentrate on this literate body and to take my message to them.

I also spent a lot of my time with members of Rotary, Lions and Round Table clubs, industrialists, employees of leading industries, shopkeepers, educationists, medical and engineering students among others. This is after all the segment of the society which is capable of understanding how professional politicians are duping them and this is also the segment of the society whom,  purportedly, I could easily communicate with and convince of the need to bring about a revolution in our political system.

I was obviously wrong in my assumption.

A shopkeeper was frank enough to admit that if we really root our corruption he would not be able to earn his living!

For the sake of argument and to show others how moral we are, many of us may talk against the present corrupt system. But many of our traders and industrialists have learnt the art of managing the system and continuing to make money. They may even agitate for unification of taxes and show anger against the political system which is bringing all kinds of irrational rules and regulations. But in the final say, they prefer a system where they can bribe and manage rather than one where the rule of law prevails.

When the average percentage of voting in the whole of Karnataka was around 65%, my constituency which has among the highest percentage of literate people managed to post the lowest percentage of voting: 52 per cent!

In other words, our literate class which should be able to vote taking into consideration the merits of the candidates did not even bother to perform their duty and betrayed their city. There was greater participation of voters from slum areas rather than from better neighborhoods.

I was hoping that since the literate class is fully familiar with the lack of a well-defined election  agenda on the part of political parties and lack of determination to implement what little they have, not only they would canvass for me but would publicly come forward and endorse my candidacy.

But for a handful of well known Mysoreans others were hesitant to come forward to support me publicly. Most of the leading intellectuals had privately assured me that I could depend upon their support and votes. Ironically most of those who had publicly supported me could not finally vote for me because their names were missing from the voters list. Is this just accidental or is there a sinister design?

I also observed another interesting phenomenon during my campaign. While all the people living in slum areas were registered, many people especially (the principal of a medical college and a retired judge to name just two) who had transferable jobs often are not registered.

The attitude expressed by some sympathisers of the Bharatiya Janata Party clearly shows how immature we are as far as democracy is considered.

Some of them did not even know who the BJP candidate was but that did not bother them. A few even told me that they would vote for the BJP even if the candidate was worthless. Some of them assured me the vote after hearing my name. They had assumed that I was the BJP candidate.

Even many educated voters did not know what was expected of their legislators. One doctor assured me of her vote if I could get two dustbins by the side of her house. Another housewife wanted my assistance that once elected I should come and clear the garbage in front of her house. Many were going to vote for certain candidates because they had received certain favours like getting admission for their children, or sites.

Very few were aware that a legislator should try to bring about a systemic change by enacting the right kind of legislation so that all are benefited, so that the rights of minorities are protected, so that society as a whole prospers.

With one exception, all newspapers completely ignored my candidacy. Even when I was prepared to pay, one newspaper was hesitant to accept my advertisement and I had to make many calls before I could buy space. No newspaper bothered to find out and publish what the stands of different candidates on various important issues were.

When a candidate-public meet was held for the first time and many professional politicians could not answer questions from the public properly, only one newspaper bothered to cover this important experiment.

The most significant revelation newspapers could make was that voters would vote along caste lines!. If that was indeed the case, being the only prominent Brahmin candidate from my constituency, where there are more than 20000, Brahmins, I should have got many more votes.

A longer version of this article was published in The Sunday Observer, Bombay, dated January 15-21, 1995.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News; author pic courtesy itbhuglobal.org

Also read: 61% vs 51%: So much noise and so little impact?

Eight more questions for The Great Debator

27 April 2009

The third instalment of Mallika Sarabhai‘s questions for the sitting MP from prime minister-in-waiting Lalchand Kishinchand Advani, contesting from the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency:

# What do you have to say about terror laws being misused?

# What are you doing about the thousands of families displaced — at least 15,000 living on the pavements of Ahmedabad — because of urban beautification?

# Why are Gujarat’s Human Development Index and all social indicators slipping?

# Why is Gujarat’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme performance the worst in India, not providing work for even 45 days against the stipulated 100?

# Why are you silent on the allegations against Maya Kodnani, the minister accused of personally leading a murderous Hindu mob?

# How can the BJP guarantee security when reports show that the Sabarmati prison leads the country in violent incidents?

# Why has Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi not appointed a lok ayukta?

# Why does Modi’s one-man human rights commission (Justice D.S. Sinha from Allahabad) not have any local, leave alone minority community, member?

Meanwhile, Advani is still to respond to Sarabhai’s invitation to a TV debate.

Also read: At last, Advani’s quest for a debate is realised

The Great Debator ducks out of a TV interview!

Sunanda K. Datta-Ray on the Mallika Sarabhai trail

One hundred and two plus ninety-six is about 200

26 April 2009

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Hindustani legend Gangubai Hanagal, 96, felicitates Sri Shivakumara Swamiji of the Siddaganga Mutt, 102, during Guruvandana in Hubli on Sunday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: When Mewati gharana met Kirana gharana

A classical confluence of 175 years of music

Garv se kahon hum Hindustani hain

More things change, the more confusing it gets

26 April 2009

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Arun Nehru in Deccan Chronicle:

“All political parties and important leaders play the minority/majority card and the interlinked issue of security….

“I don’t believe in the blame game but it would be fair to state the entire debate on caste and religion and even security issues pertain to minority and majority vote-banks and this has little to do with India’s objective of emerging as a political and economic superpower.”

Read the full article: Voters will reward good governance

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

In the digital age, anybody can be a ‘mukhauta’

25 April 2009

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Thirty-one years ago, when he was eight, his grandmother was standing from coffeeland in a landmark election after she had been defeated in Rae Bareli. In 2009, Congress workers go around in masks of the man who doesn’t want to be prime minister (yet) in a door-to-door campaign in Chikamagalur on Saturday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: T.V.R. Shenoy on the 1978 election

The best political interview of the year. (So far.)

25 April 2009

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: It took one cookie cutter from Manmohan Singh to send L.K. Advani scurrying into the thickets of victimhood. In contrast, it can be safely said that India’s Political Family No. 1 has faced the relentless fussilade from the lunatic fringe with far greater elan and equanimity.

Barkha Dutt‘s outstanding interview with Priyanka Gandhi on NDTV 24×7 showed just where it comes from, as the woman who many say resembles Indira Gandhi in her persona and personality tackled questions on politics, identity, tragedy, forgiveness, vipasana and more with ease and grace.

Why, she even uses a word few of the name-calling, finger-wagging, chest-thumping brigade could probably even spell: epiphany.

View the full video: The Priyanka Gandhi interview

Watch the show: Tonight 5.30 pm; tomorrow 9.30 pm

In great IPL, what if Congress, BJP played cricket

25 April 2009

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E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: In a rare show of friendship and camaraderie amidst hectic campaigning, politicians of various hues got together and played a five-overs-a-side tennis ball cricket match in Mysore, thanks to the efforts of the district journalists’ association.

Never mind how good they were as players but they showed a bit of much-needed sportsmanship in a season of name calling and mudslinging.

In the great Indian Political League, what if the three main national formations played a cricket match?

***

In the Congress, only Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi would have batted all through without anybody getting a chance to bat since the kit belonged to them.

If one of them got tired and retired, Priyanka would continue the innings. In the mid-match “strategy break” as in IPL-2, the team would be shown a photo gallery of great Gandhis of yester year like Indira, Rajiv and Sanjay, and the future Gandhis in diapers.

Leaders like Chidambaram, Kamal Nath, Kapil Sibal, Jayanthi Natarajan et al would  run around the stadium all day fielding without as much as a whimper of a complaint. Manmohan Singh would be fully padded, ‘boxed up’ , and helmeted to take care of sudden bouncers from disgruntled elements.

Senior pro and coach Pranab Mukherjee would be present to make sure no one, not even Sheila Dixit, with her record, would be allowed to come near the wicket. Even the younger and talented lot like Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia or Milind Deora would have to start from scratch and learn to play second fiddle!

The slogan for the team would naturally be: “One for all (Gandhi) and all for one (Gandhi). Jai ho!”

***

How would it be in the BJP camp?

There will be plenty of interruptions with the designated opening pair L.K. Advani and Narendra Modi taking a lot of time for strategic consultations.

Ostensibly, the discussions will be with the coach on the ground, but in reality the non-playing coaches will be sitting in Nagpur communicating to the players through a secret mike.

Although the game is supposed to start at 9.30 am, neither Advani nor Modi will come out to bat till the rahu kaala is over. The match start is further delayed because of confusion within the team over whether Rajnath Singh should open the innings with Advani or Arun Jaitely.

When there is no resolution in sight, Sushma Swaraj says she is game too, but Venkaiah Naidu says: “Arre baba, this is a cricket game, not a ticket game. This is a time for tricks, not chicks.”

Finally, Jaswant Singh harrumphs that he will open and Modi, given his pathetic showing in a previous match, can come one-down. But Modi says his previous record doesn’t count.

The overrate is reduced to six an hour since there will be regular and routine disruptions to take arathi of Advaniji after every over by all the district Ram Mandirs in India and because Advani likes to wring his hands after every ball to show that he is a man of action.

The knicker-clad openers find it difficult to counter the pace and fury, especially Advani who insists on wearing a guard made symbolically of loh (iron). When Varun Gandhi bowls an all-beamer over, the PM-in-waiting takes a toilet break and rushes to the pavilion, to sort out the mess between, well, all the pretenders—and to adjust his dentures.

Their slogan: “We may seem to be fighting, but that’s the reality. Jai Shri Ram”.

***

In the case of Third Front, the match never starts as the Left refuses to take the ground, if anybody resembling Manmohan Singh is seen near the ground.

H.D. Deve Gowda always has an eye on the next pitch where the Congress is playing, waiting for a nod from Sonia Gandhi to drop everything and run there.

Both Jayalalitha and Mayawati have a bigger crowd surrounding them in the pavilion than those waiting to watch for the match to start.  Before he can get his eye in and start scoring, Chandrababu Naidu loses his concentration when he sees Chiranjeevi walking across the ground.

Sharad Pawar who was seen driving into the stadium in an open car to loud cheers, mysteriously drives off after being included in the team. Amar Singh finds yet another ‘lost and found’ brother in Munnabhai, who to most people was not sure whether he was shooting or sobbing.

The slogan of third Front was:  “Take us seriously and don’t treat us as extras; or else, jaya he.

***

It was evident in chasing a score of 543,  no party would be able to escape the follow on and in the second innings, there will be large-scale fielding and umpiring lapses, to enable one of the teams with the help of ‘ extras’ to emerge as the winner.

‘Everyone has a story about friends breaking up’

25 April 2009

Govind D. Belgaumkar reports on the rising tide of communalism in coastal Karnataka, in The Hindu:

“The January 24 pub attack in Mangalore was just one of a series of acts of moral policing in the region…. To make matters worse, fundamentalists from the Islamic and Christian fold, have begun to follow suit. While they are no match for their Hindutva counterparts, Islamist organisations such as the Karnataka Forum for Dignity and a Christian group, the Social Action Committee, are involved in violently curtailing interaction between boys and girls belonging to different communities.

“Hatred based on religion is not limited to organised groups of fundamentalists. It has spread across the social canvas and enveloped large sections of the police, bureaucracy and media. It is not difficult to find voters on the street who say religion will be a factor while voting. Everyone seems to have a story about friends breaking up because of religion.”

Read the full article: Communalism in coastal Karnataka

Also read: How girls pissing in their pants help Hinduism

61% vs 51%: so much noise for so little impact?

24 April 2009

Karnataka voter turnout in first phase: 51 per cent

Average voter turnout in 2004: 61.4 per cent.

Bangalore city average voter turnout: 46.66 per cent

Average voter turnout in 2004: 51.5 per cent

Bangalore Rural: 57.92%; Bangalore South: 44.73%; Bangalore North 46.78; Bangalore Central: 45.25%

Blogs, internet chats, Jaago Re, Jai Ho!, Lead India, microsites, rock concerts, TV commercials… The 2009 general election has not been short of media noise. But has it really spurred youngsters to shut up and vote? Or is it all blather and brand building with an embedded social message?

Meenakshi Ravi of Al Jazeera‘s media show The Listening Post reports on how the Indian media has covered the world’s largest democratic exercise.

Also read: Sashi Kumar on media in the melting pot

Freakonomics: Is it smarter to sell my vote or cast it?

Wasting the sweetness of reforms on desert air

23 April 2009

The economist Bibek Debroy has an interesting piece on reforms in the first 100 days of the next government, in the Indian Express:

“Conceptually, there can be the following configurations: (1) Congress government; (2) BJP government; (3) Congress-led government; (4) BJP-led government; (5) Third Front, supported by the Congress from outside; (6) Third Front, supported by BJP from outside; and (7) Third Front government.

“One doesn’t need psephology to figure out Congress + BJP will add up to 280 seats or thereabouts. And clearly, neither Congress nor BJP is going to wither away. (1), (2) and (7) are therefore out. We are left with (3), (4), (5) and (6).

“Definitions of UPA and NDA are fungible. All one knows is (3) and (5) are a bit more likely than (4) and (6).

“However, there is greater certainty in the economic domain.  With (3), (5) or (6), incremental allies will stonewall enough to jettison all reforms. The first 100 days won’t shake India, except with (3), we might have a Right to Food Bill.

“With (3), (5) and (6), we are unlikely to get privatisation of PSUs too, not just on efficiency grounds, but also to bridge deficits. Privatisation is more likely with (4).

“One would like to think those reforms are more likely under (3) or (4), except that the last five years of (3) don’t inspire confidence.”

Read the full article: The next 100 days

Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Can he?

22 April 2009

americas16

The official White House caption for this picture reads, “World-famous cricket legend Brian Lara shows President Obama how to properly swing a bat”.

What would yours be?

***

Editorial in The Indian Express:

“So what does that photograph tell us? Does that determined jaw betray impatience with the paces of a game that unfolds over five days? Or does it convey parallel thoughts about how to harness America’s soft power with its own sports? Perhaps it’s just as simple as Obama concentrating as hard as a person must in the presence of a master.”

Photograph: courtesy Pete Souza/ The White House

Our democracy’s quantity is all right. Quality?

22 April 2009

Editorial in The Times, London:

“Indians rightly take pride in a democracy that has survived dictatorship, wars, regional conflicts and the growing threat of religious extremism and sectarian division. The system in India is robust enough to weather more shocks and tensions than the totalitarian regimes of most of its neighbours.

“What matters, however, is not the quantity of India’s democracy but its quality. And here the hard questions go beyond a simple choice between Congress or the BJP.

“Is democracy really working in India? Does it offer voters any real choice? And has it developed party structures disciplined enough to go beyond dynastic politics or the factionalism that is driven by personality, regional factors—and all too often—corruption?

“There have been hopes that Indian democracy will settle into two broad coalitions, led by Congress and BJP, representing a broad Left-Right choice… The hopes are premature. In opposition, the BJP has reverted to a narrow sectarian stance, and in power Congress has shown itself weak and indecisive—despite the popularity and probity of Manmohan Singh.

“They offer no rival visions for India’s place in the world, no competing plans for the economy, no serious differnces on social policy. The world’s biggest democracy means little without a clear choice.”

Read the full editorial: India starts to vote

A civil servant, or just a very civil servant?

21 April 2009

A. Surya Prakash boils down five years of Manmohan Singh to four men—Jagadish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar, Ottavio Quattrocchi and Navin Chawla—in The Pioneer:

“How will history judge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, specially when it evaulates him through the prism of constitutionality and the rule of law?

“As an honourable, ‘secular’ man as his shrill declamations would have believe or as a Prime Minister who lacked the moral fibre to stand up for the Sikh community, of which he was himself a member? As a man who enforced the rule or law or as one who ducked responsibility to help the Italian friend of his mentor? Will history remember him as a man who had deep respect for constitutional and democratic values or as one who sacrificed these values at the altar of political survival and admitted an unfair person to the sanctum sanctorum of democracy—the Election Commission?”

Read the full article: The man behind the mask

Also read: Tarun J. Tejpal on the uber babu

CHURUMURI POLL: IPL-2 better than IPL-1?

21 April 2009

The second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is two days old. Compared to IPL-1, IPL-2 has been a decidedly subdued affair. For starters, even the biggest stadiums accommodate no more than 20,000 spectators; twice as many unauthorised entrants get into stands here. The cheer girls are OK, but when haven’t they been?

The “atmosphere” has been missing. And the Television Rating Points (TRPs) have been dismal. We were told a billion people would do the same thing at the same time; it turns out only 13.9 million (i.e. 1/100th of them) tuned in.

On the cricketing front, too, it has been a muted affair. The scores have been low in all but one of the five matches. Fewer runs have been scored (1135 against 1565 last year), fewer fours hit (98 vs 131), fewer sixes  slammed (38 vs 67), fewer 50s and fewer 100s. More wickets have fallen, though, but above all, IPL-2 on foreign soil has (so far, repeat, so far) proved to be a tougher “ask” than IPL-1.

On the basis of the evidence (so far, repeat, so far), has been IPL-2 been a better viewing and sporting experience than IPL-1? Was it a good idea to shift the tournament to South Africa becuase of security considerations? Or will it heat up in the days and weeks to come?

A video for the viewing pleasure of V.S. Acharya

21 April 2009

YASHOVARDHANA KOTE, in Chicago, forwards a YouTube video of a police constable assigned with crowd control arguing with and abusing an officer on the sidelines of the Aero India show in Bangalore this February.

“As with all other institutions in India, I knew our police system had its problems too. But I never though insubordination would be one!”

As a medical doctor accustomed to details, the Karnataka home minister Dr V.S. Acharya will no doubt notice that besides wagging the finger at his senior, the constable also has his hands in his pockets.


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