Archive for November, 2009

Air Conditioned Vehicle: No hand signal, please

30 November 2009

On the miracle that is the Indian road, M.K. VIDYARANYA captures a stainless steel shop on the wheels of a moped made by the old firm of T.V. Sundaram Iyengar in Salem.

Also read: Don’t tell us you didn’t know this one on Rajnikant

Yediyurappa’s shocking bid to shield the Reddys

29 November 2009

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: It is now clear as crystal.

Either the chief minister of Karnataka, B.S. Yediyurappa, is mortally afraid of annoying the Reddy brothers, lest it cost him his chair. Or, he and the bigwigs in the BJP have a stake, direct or indirect, in the illegal mining happening on either side of the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border.

This is the only inescapable inference one can draw from Yediyurappa’s dogged refusal to agree for a CBI probe into the illegal mining operations, which the Centre is desirous of having.

Yeddiyurappa, mind you, is not required to initiate the process of a CBI enquiry on his own.

Such a step has already been taken by his AP counterpart, K. Rosaiah.

Acting on the recommendation of a committee constituted by the Supreme Court, which is seized of the matter, Rosiah has called for a CBI proble, notwithstanding the fact (or probably because of the fact) that one of the Reddy brothers, Gali Janaradhana Reddy, was a dear friend of the late AP CM, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

In a virtual indictment of the Reddys, the central empowerment committee said that the illegal mining be stopped in the six mines in Obulapuram and Siddapuram villages of Anantpur district, and that mining activities be resumed only after a demarcation of the boundaries of the mining leases was completed.

It is this reference to the demarcation of the boundaries in the report of the CEC which brings Karnataka into the picture.

The mines are located on the border areas and the allegation is that the company owned by the Reddys has encroached upon the mineral-rich areas outside their mining leases and is carrying out large scale illegal mining in the unclothed reserved forest areas.

The Centre is inclined to accede to AP’s request for a CBI probe and it wants a formal concurrence from Karnataka to start the CBI enquiry.

But Yediyurappa is dillydallying in the matter and has been stonewalling the request.

It is true that the Reddys officially have no mining leases in their name in Karnataka. All their mining operations are conducted in the name of the company—Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC)—located on the other side of the border in Andhra Pradesh.

But the fact remains that the Reddys have emerged as the movers and shakers of Karnataka from the financial clout that they have acquired through mining over the years. Several mine owners of Bellary openly talk of how the Reddys intimidate or overpower the lesser lot and dominate the mining activities.

One such person, Tapal Ganesh, whose family has been in the mining operations for over three generations, has taken the issue up to the Supreme Court.

In his application he has said, inter alia, that the OMC:

“…is owned by influential and politically powerful persons. Its managing director Janardhana Reddy is a cabinet minister in the Karnataka government and who is also involved in business partnership with the son of the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. The OMC has encroached upon mineral-rich areas outside their mining leases and is carrying out large scale illegal mining in unallotted reserved forest areas.”

Yediyurappa’s stand is surprising on three counts.

One, whether Karnataka agrees or not, it cannot preclude CBI from looking into OMC’s activities in the State because of the reference to the illegal mining activities. It would be graceful if Karnataka agrees. Otherwise Karnataka would lose grace as CBI, by the very nature of its mandate, can press ahead with the investigation regardless.

There are already reports that the CBI team has visited Karnataka to collect lot of documents required for the  enquiry.  And the report of the Lok Ayukta of Karnataka, which Karnataka wants to push under the carpet, provides enough grist to the CBI mill.

Secondly, it was the BJP group, which had vociferously demanded a CBI inquiry when Janardhana Reddy, then a first time legislator, had hurled charges of  corruption in the mining activities against the then CM, H.D. Kumaraswamy, during the BJP-JDS coalition in the days preceding the 2008 elections.

Thirdly, as a leader of the opposition, claiming to champion the cause of the people, Yediyurappa was prone to demanding a CBI probe at the drop of hat and used to slamming governments which did not accede.

But the illegal mining issue is more serious than all the issues on which Yediyurappa had demanded a CBI probe in the past. This is such a serious issue that no CM would have said “no” in the first place. As a matter of fact, the onus of demanding the CBI enquiry should have been on Yediyurappa  himself.

But he is weakly trying to stall the matter.

Or is it that Yediyurappa wants the CBI enquiry without officially appearing to be favouring it as a matter of strategy to deal with his bete noire, the Reddys?

Nothing can be ruled out in the mercurial nature of the internal politics of the BJP, where the wounds left by the Reddy sponsored rebellion against Yediyurappa have yet to begin to heal.

Photograph: courtesy Outlook

Why should they pay Rs 200 to play in their park?

29 November 2009

BHARGAVI S. RAO and LEO SALDANHA write from Bangalore: Employing a highly illegal policy, the government of Karnataka intends to restrict entry to Bangalore’s heritage Cubbon Park and Lalbagh only to visitors carrying an electronic ID card.

Needless to state, this electronic ID comes at a steep price of Rs 200 per person and will be regulated based on a highly restrictive application process.

The intent is to prevent common folks, especially the urban poor and the voiceless, from using such public spaces while showcasing Bangalore as an elite friendly and global investment friendly city, with its public spaces out of bounds for local residents.

This is the beginning of the state’s encroachment of people’s right to freely access public spaces and a stage is being set to privatise public commons. All sorts of devious reasons are being flung at the public, including security concerns, morality and misuse of parks by “unnecessary elements”.

The manner in which the policy is formulated encourages the particular exclusion of access rights of the urban poor (especially from minorities), street and working children, elderly people, transgenders , migrant workers, labourers, street vendors, drivers of autorickshaws and taxis, the differently abled, families with children, etc.

The idea of having to carry an ID merely to access these two parks, fundamentally distances them from their unfettered and constitutionally protected right to use public spaces.

This policy also promotes discriminatory access to public spaces as it privileges ‘regular walkers’ and thus negates the very concept of parks as public commons. Simply stated this draconian policy encroaches our very fundamental right to live a healthy life based on dignified and unfettered access to public spaces.

It may even initiate conversion of our public commons, such as parks, playfields and open spaces, into private havens—a practice already in vogue by the State granting large parts of Cubbon Park to the Karnataka Lawn Tennis Association, Century Club and various other private clubs.

To protest such abhorrent acts of exclusion, we have organised a protest on Monday, 30 November 2009, from 4 pm to 6 pm at Queen’s statue, Cubbon Park, M. G. Road.  We urge you to join us in this very critical struggle against encroachment of the fundamental rights to access public spaces.

We have also mounted an online petition to the Horticulture Minister Umesh Katti, who has initiated this policy, demanding that he immediately stop this illegal move.

***

Bhargavi S. Rao and Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group, Bangalore, on behalf of Slum Jagatthu, CIEDS, Vimochana, Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (Bangalore district), Sanmathi, Alternative Law Forum, Sangama, Stree Jagruthi Samithi, CIVIC Bangalore, Hasiru Usiru and Open Space.

Sign the online petition here: Keep Lalbagh, Cubbon Park public

Does BJP have no decency left to defend its own?

29 November 2009

The Liberhan Commission report on the demolition of the Babri masjid throws no new light on the dastardly designs of its its 67 execrable perpetrators. What it does is throw an unlikely pebble at the towering reputation and legacy of what it thinks is the 68th: Atal Behari Vajpayee.

The BJP’s rare “moderate face” has been a carefully constructed and preserved structure, designed to appeal to the soft side of India’s aspiring middle-class millions while providing the smokescreen to the saffron brotherhoodlums; a “mukhauta” in the words of K.N. Govindacharya.

That mask has been, well, unmasked by the lead-laced fingers of Justice Liberhan on the basis of a single videographed speech delivered by Vajpayee on the eve of the demolition, December 5, 1992.

Without calling the former prime minister to the witness box and without giving him a chance to explain, Liberhan calls Vajpayee a “pseudo-moderate” who can be held “culpable” of the crime of being the country to the point of communal discord by his “sins of omission”.

Given that the great voice of Vajpayee is now at the mercy of a voice-box, he cannot even defend himself from the miscarriage of justice at the hands of a judge. However, it speaks for the state of the saffron scrum that no one but no one has mounted a defence of a defenceless man.

Thankfully, Sudheendra Kulkarni steps up to the plate in today’s Indian Express:

“The most egregious part of the Liberhan report is its indictment of former Prime Minister Vajpayee, condemning him, along with Advani, as a “pseudo-moderate”. This will no doubt please communists and Muslim extremists, but, anyone who knows Vajpayee (and also Advani) knows that nothing can be a worse travesty of truth.

“I suspect that this character assassination of Vajpayee by a government-appointed commission has been done deliberately to dishonour him in India’s official history, so that only members of a particular family are recognised by posterity as true nationalist leaders.

“Implicating Vajpayee raises some serious questions. Does the mere fact that he gave a speech supporting the Ayodhya movement make him a “pseudo-moderate? Are we then to believe that only he/she is a moderate Hindu who opposes the BJP, and counters the demand for a Ram Mandir at the disputed site in Ayodhya?

“I too supported the Ram Mandir movement before 1992 (when I was not in the BJP) and I continue to support it even now, when I am no longer in the BJP. There are millions of ordinary, non-communal but proud Hindus like me who feel outraged by Liberhan’s warped belief that the only correct definition of secularism is that which disregards legitimate Hindu sentiments and silently acquiesces in the negation and falsification of the long history of temple-breaking by bigoted Muslim rulers. If Islamic bigotry could blast Bamyan Buddhas in the age of television in the 21st century, are we to believe that religiously inspired temple-destruction didn’t happen in medieval India?”

Cartoon: courtesy Satya Govind/ The Charicaturist

Read the full article: Vajpayee a pseudo-moderate? A canard

Think local, act global? Or think global, act local?

28 November 2009

Stories of employees of call centres and outsourcing companies in Bangalore working on major Indian holidays just so that their company’s commitments to clients are met, makes news every now and then.

Now, Infosys Technologies, which got into a major jam with the Phaneesh Murthy scandal, has got into yet another nice, little row in the United States, with an Indian-born American citizen suing the company for….

For mocking her observance of American holidays like Thanksgiving and refusing to pay her overtime.

In her lawsuit, Promila Awasthi, a Silicon Valley consultant with Infosys’ Fremont (Califoria) office, paints a picture of a culturally insensitive organisation where she had to work in “intolerable” conditions from February to November 2008.

NBC quotes from the lawsuit:

“Infosys management routinely disparaged Americans, including Mrs Awasthi, as not having “family values,” and stated that layoffs in America are good because the jobs will be outsourced.

“Infosys management ridiculed Mrs. Awasthi for celebrating the American holiday of Thanksgiving, telling her that she should not celebrate Thanksgiving because she is Indian, and that therefore she must work on Thanksgiving Day.

“Infosys management ridiculed Mrs. Awasthi’s children for celebrating Thanksgiving, and called them “ABCD” short for “American-Born Confused Desi,” and “IBCD” short for “Indian-Born Confused Desi,” insulting terms used to criticize people of Indian ancestry who are Americanized.

“Infosys management ridiculed Mrs. Awasthi for celebrating Christmas, saying that “we” do not celebrate Christmas, and that she should not celebrate Christmas. Infosys management repeatedly discussed the quality of Mrs. Awasthi’s work by explicitly commenting on their expectations for “a woman your age.”

Questions: Standard Operating Procedure of transnational companies? Sour grapes of a sacked employee hoping to strike it big?

Is it OK to give a “local” employee a holiday for a “local” festival but deny it to “non-locals”? Should an Indian company in Rome behave like a Roman or like an Indian company, with Indian values and Indian holidays?

Or, in the new age of outsourcing and offshoring and all that, should companies have the luxury of an elastic policy cutting across cultures?

Link via Anamika Krishnan

Also read: Sepia Mutiny: No turkey for you

Like, bombers get scared looking at bombshells?

26 November 2009

OK, Rang de Basanti and Munnabhai may help us bullshit a bit, but does anybody have any idea how (and why) “candle lit vigils” have become a part of our culture?

OK, the phenomenon keeps poor candle makers (like Dimple Kapadia, maybe?) in business, and it helps starving (starving of TRPs, that is) TV stations houses get a few good images.

But how exactly does lighting a candle (or a million) help us relate to (or “connect with”) with the victims of terror or whatever victims we are trying to relate to (or “connect with”). And how exactly do these silly rays of light help us scare off terrorists or whatever it is we are trying to scare off?

All of which just gives us a nice pretext to sneak in Dimple’s name and plug our lovely pal Divya Spandana alias Ramya‘s touching tribute to victims of 26/11 siege of Bombay at the Cubbon Park in Bangalore on Thursday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: One more example of commodification of women

Another example of commodification of women

Another example of commodification of examinations

Winners of churumuri Deepavali greetings contest

26 November 2009

With a speed that would put Manmohan Singh Liberhan to shame, churumuri.com is pleased to announce the winners of the Deepavali greetings contest.

The first prize of Rs 1,001 goes to the screenname “kAlaharaNasuratrAna“.

The second prize of Rs 501 goes to “vinay“.

The third prize goes to “Poli Huduga“. (The second third prize goes unrewarded for obvious reasons.)

Winners may please send their snailmail addresses by email to churumuri.churumuri@gmail.com

Hopefully the cheques will take less time than it took to announce the winners for reasons beyond our (or your) control!

Also read: CHURUMURI predict-the-verdict contest winners

CHURUMURI: Children’s Day caption contest winners

CHURUMURI Contest #2: The winner is Girish Hampali

CHURUMURI Contest #1: The winner is Rohit K.G.

6 proposals from (and 3 questions for) Lalit Modi

26 November 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) has signed a contract with Nimbus Corporation for a jaw-dropping $612 million. The BCCI’s present sponsorship and sale earnings are around Rs 3,354 crore, the breakup being: team sponsor Rs 415 crore, kit sponsor Rs 215 crore and media rights Rs 2,724 crore.

With all this money, what is BCCI’s plan for cricket in the country?

Or for that matter, the Indian Premier League’s?

IPL czar Lalit Modi recently announced his plans at a media conference.

Since time is money, and although the Indian and foreign media were invited, only three questions were allowed due to paucity of time. The function was held in the Taj Mahal hotel’s crystal ball room. The television rights of the 2-hour programme itself were auctioned for $ 50 million.

The members of each team flew into Bombay in their own brand-new “Air IPL” plane and helihopped to the Gateway of India.

After the now-mandatory gymnastics show by Chinese girls, songs by rapper Eminem, belly show by Shakira, Modi took the stage. He was accompanied to the stage by cheer girls of Vijay Mallya’s Royal Challengers.

After receiving a standing ovation from the glitterati, the IPL commissioner read out his vision of IPL over the next 5 years:

1. In IPL-3, three paying spectators will be ushered into their seats by their respective club’s cheer girls. A token charge of $25 or equivalent in rupees will be levied. This would generate the IPL revenue of additional $200 million.

2. There will be two breaks of 10 minutes after every 7 ½ overs. This will enable the cheer leaders to change their dress. It will also take care of complaint from spectators that they are tired of seeing the girls in the same dress for the entire duration of the match. The dressmakers will add $ 100 million to the IPL kitty every 7 ½ months.

3. IPL-4 will be held in grounds of all countries that play cricket. The host cricket boards will pay IPL a royalty of 10 million for each match. At least $200 million is expected as some matches will be played twice in a ground in one season.

4. An international cheer girls training school will be started in London before IPL5 Season. Umpire Billy Bowden will be the director. Since this is an honorary post, IPL will incur no expenses in the appointment.

5. The US cricket association wants to have IPL-7 matches in their cities. IPL will directly negotiate the media rights with CNN, ABC and NBC networks and we hope to get revenue of $ 1 billion at least. If President Barack Obama agrees to toss the coin for the inaugural match and the finals, the revenues will be doubled.

6. By the time we reach IPL-10, using stem cell research and human cloning, IPL intends to have look-alike robots for leading players like Sachin Tendulkar and Andrew Flintoff so that they don’t have to field. This also opens the door for superlative Twenty20 players of the past like Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and Sanjay Manjrekar to stage a comeback.

With his proposals now laid out, Modi threw open the floor to the media and invited the three questions.

Question 1: Mr Modi, this is regarding fielding, a term used in cricket wherein the fielders chase the ball and dive to stop the ball making it difficult for the batting side to score runs. Don’t you think that had India fielded well and their batsmen run faster between the wickets they could have easily become the No. 1 ODI team? Wasn’t the sacking of fielding coach Robin Singh inappropriate?

Modi: I don’t know what you are talking about? My guess is, you must be talking about the 2009 one- day series.  We have already moved on. I am in the 2014 IPL planning stage. I also don’t deal with the nitty-gritty of cricket administration any more.

Question 2: Mr Modi, what will happen to Test match cricket, I mean the classic cricket one plays with white pants and white shirts and a red ball for five days. It already looks dead now in 2009. I am afraid you will have to re-enter circa 2009 and answer my question.

Modi: I think the problem is with the dress. Let’s face it. How many of us wear a white pant and white shirt these days? Even while playing maidan or gully cricket? Everything has changed around. Isn’t it? We need to take a hard look at the dress and decide something on this. But again this comes under trivia.

Question 3: After planning IPL-50, Mr Modi what will you do with your time?

Modi: It is not easy organising these events in Moon or Mars. I have to make sure the logistics is just right no matter where we play.

Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen.

CHURUMURI POLL: Should the BJP apologise?

25 November 2009

The indictment of the entire top management of the BJP, including the party’s moderate mascot, Atal Behari Vajpayee, for the demolition of the Babri masjid by the Justice Liberhan commission will shock few.

What should really shock is the almost complete lack of contrition on the part of those named and shamed for the trail of death and destruction that the communally pumped-up Ram janmabhoomi movement in general and L.K. Advani‘s rath yatra in particular left in their wake.

“We fully own up to the movement, we will not apologise” says the RSS spokesman Ram Madhav. “I’ve said before and will say so again and again, it was the happiest day of my life,” says Vinay Katiyar of the VHP. Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, who has been slammed for masterminding the State’s soporific response, says “no force on earth” can stop the temple from being built.

However, none of the saffron brotherhoodlums responsible for the “irreparable damage to the secular, democratic fabric of the country” stand for elections. The BJP, which is the political face of those organisations, does. Union law minister Veerappa Moily says the BJP is accountable to the nation for bringing it to the brink of communal discord.

“They owe an explanation, they owe an apology to the nation,” Moily says.

Question: Should the BJP apologise to the nation?

‘A narrow idea of India fuels illiberal tendencies’

24 November 2009

Professor Jyotirmaya Sharma of the University of Hyderabad in Mail Today:

“The label of India being the largest democracy is not enough. It is not sufficient for us to go through the motions of conducting elections; sending representatives to Parliament and legislatures is not enough. Along with democracy, we need to build liberal institutions in the country.

“A narrow, official conception of nationalism often comes in the way of suppressing dissent, ignoring minority views, and demanding compliance in the name of an abstract idea of the nation. In turn, these illiberal trends fuel the demand for unity, which often is authoritarian tendencies masquerading in the name of keeping the country united and strong.”

Illustration: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today

Also read: ARUNDHATI ROY: India is not a democracy

ARUNDHATI ROY: Election is not democracy

CHURUMURI POLL: Should the RSS be banned?

24 November 2009

Nothing is what it seems in politics. Once the manufactured fireworks over the leak of the Liberhan report even while Parliament was on (and then the hard thud of reality with its tabling in Parliament) dies down, political parties and politicians will get down to calculating the gains and losses.

Who do you think stands to gain from the report and its contents? Will the gains be all India, or will it restricted to Uttar Pradesh alone? Does the Babri masjid issue still have steam to tilt voters and elections? Was the report leaked to scuttle parliamentary debates and opposition unity on price rise and Madhu Koda?

Was it leaked with prime minister Manmohan Singh away to steal the thunder from his landmark US visit? Should the indicted parliamentarians, including the former future prime minister of India, L.K. Advani resign? Should the Congress expel the former BJP man in its ranks, Shankersinh Vaghela?

And the big question: should the RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena be banned?

‘Ayodhya destroyed what is essentially Indian’

23 November 2009

The former India correspondent of the BBC, the Calcutta-born Sir Mark Tully, on 6 December 1992:

“I witnessed… many tragedies often involving people whose names will not be recorded in history, but, asked to recollect one incident I reported for the BBC, I’ve chosen Ayodhya because it was a denial of something which I regard as quintessentially Indian.

“The culture of India is by its very nature accommodating, and for centuries it has allowed all the great religions of the world to make their homes here.

“Hindus traditionally accept there are many ways to god and, as one 20th Century Western scholar has put it, “for the dogmatic certainty that has racked the religions of semitic origin Hindus feel nothing but shocked incomprehension.”

“So India with its Hindu majority should be the last place to find religious fanaticism. It should be an outstanding example of religious pluralism in a world where people of different faiths still so often find it difficult to live with each other.”

Read the full article: Ayodhya mosque destruction

Also read: ‘It’ll be a disaster if India progresses like the West’

Who does the chief minister owe allegiance to?

23 November 2009

Depending on who you would like to believe, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is either a noble, benign, cultural organisation of volunteers, straining every sinew to strengthen the moral and spiritual fibre of the country; doing backbreaking relief and rehabilitation work whilst providing health and education to the needy.

Or…

Or, it is a sinister, fanatical, militant, communal, Hindu nationalist organisation inciting hate and spewing venom at the minorities, while seeking to dictate and direct the political, economic, and cultural discourse through its various subsidiaries, in ways and means better unseen than seen.

The word “fascist” is loosely and routinely, but not unjustly, used to describe its activities.

Using wikipedia, both sides will helpfully produce certificates to bolster their claims. Nevertheless, neither side can deny that this “cultural organisation” has been banned not once, not twice but thrice for slightly uncultural activities in India’s 62 years of independence—and may well on the way to a fourth.

Although the RSS likes to think it is not a political organisation and is not interested in politics—its founder M.S. Golwalkar had a professed hatred for politics, and likened it to a “woman of the multitude” i.e. prostitute—recent events including the RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat‘s farcical attempts to decide the BJP’s future course, show that the RSS is anything but political.

Even so, does it behove of a democratically elected chief minister of a State who has taken oath under the Cosntitution of India, as the very seriously beleaguered B.S. Yediyurappa happens to be, does it behove of a demcoratically elected chief minister of a State to take the salute of an organisation which does not believe in the Constitution of India?

Or to be visibly falling at the feet of extra-constitutional authorities at the helm of the RSS who do not?

Obviously, Yediyurappa, like so many of his cabinet colleagues, is an RSS member and there may be nothing wrong in being respectful to your parent organsiation. Still, in the many testy matters involving the RSS and the BJP-ruled State, do pictures like these really give you the impression that the “State” would get precedence over the RSS in his (or his colleagues’) books?

Photographs: Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa strikes the RSS salute at a public meeting of sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat at the palace grounds in Bangalore on Sunday (top); below, the belaguered CM reaches for the toes of a sangh leader (Karnataka Photo News).

Also read: Will an RSS-run BJP be more vicious in future?

Let there be no doubt, tail doesn’t wag the dog

A picture for the personal albums of the sangh

One question I’m dying to ask Justice Liberhan

23 November 2009

After 17 years—three more than Lord Rama‘s exile—and 48 six-monthly extensions, the Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan commission’s Rs 7 crore quest into the “truth” behind the demolition of the Babri Masjid is bearing fruition. The Indian Express reports that the entire top leadership of the BJP—not just usual suspects like L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, but also Atal Behari Vajpayee—has been indicted by the commission along with the “cultural organisation”, RSS.

But, reveals the paper, the then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, who took the UP chief minister Kalyan Singh‘s assurance on face value and presided over the demolition, has more or less got a clean chit. As indeed has Rajiv Gandhi, whose decision to open the locks of the masjid ostensibly to make up with Hindus for his government’s cop-out to Muslim fundamentalists in the Shah Bano episode.

What is the one question you are dying to ask Justice Liberhan? Keep your queries short, civil and quick.

CHURUMURI POLL: A pardon for Mr Azharuddin?

22 November 2009

A classic cliche in Indian cinema is the criminal who tries to gain legitimacy by standing for an election and getting elected. Something quite like that but not the same thing is afoot with the former India captain and middle-order batsman Mohammed Azharuddin.

Consigned to the dustbin of cricketing memory by the matchfixing scandal, the gentle, softspoken Hyderabadi was magically thrust on the people of Moradabad by the Congress party, who not only flocked to his election meetings in droves but elected him with a thumping majority.

With the suffix “MP” now after Azhar’s name, a delegation of Congress leaders led by former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh who has the ear of Rahul Gandhi, and including BCCI functionary and Congress Rajya Sabha member Rajiv Shukla, have petitioned BCCI president Sharad Pawar to lift the ban on Azhar.

“We want the lifetime ban to go from the man who brought laurels to the country with his skills. There were many players in the match-fixing case but they are all free of the ban. Why should the one on Azhar continue?” Singh is quoted as saying.

Since Azharuddin is too old to make a comeback, the lift-ban plea, according to reports, is designed to remove the taint on the “middle-order miyan” in the Congress’ bid to package him into a “Muslim mascot” in Uttar Pradesh, where the party has big plans.

Question: Should the ban be lifted? Was the ban too harsh to start with, especially with Azhar requiring just one Test to complete 100 in a career? Can politics be used to overturn a cricketing ban? If any crime is pardonable with the passage of time, is anything worth the time?

Join the campaign to free Laxman Choudhury

20 November 2009

India’s war on Maoists, described by prime minister Manmohan Singh as the “gravest internal threat” facing the country has begun to ensnare journalists too.

Laxman Choudhury, a stringer with the Oriya daily Sambad, picked up eight weeks ago because eight leaflets of Maoist “literature” addressed to him were found with a bus conductor, is still in jail.

Newspaper facsimile: courtesy The Indian Express

Also read: BBC journalists secure abducted cop’s release

There’s a new ism in town, Arnab-ism

Speak out. Sign the petition. Free Maziar Bahari

In a team of lottery tickets, one surefire winner

19 November 2009

Kunal Pradhan in The Indian Express:

“At a Thai restaurant in Islamabad, after the first day’s play in the final Test in 2004, Rahul Dravid politely declined to stay for dessert, saying he needed to sleep because he had to bat the “whole day tomorrow”.

“Not early, not in the morning; the whole day.

“It led to a few involuntary sniggers at the dinner table, but Dravid had chosen his words carefully. Ten not out overnight, he was unbeaten on 134 when stumps were drawn the following evening. And then, for good measure, he batted almost the whole of the next day as well, finishing on a career-best 270. It wasn’t the most attractive knock, and not nearly his most fluent — in fact, at 12 hours and 20 minutes it was the longest innings by an Indian player ever — but Dravid had ensured, almost single-handedly, that India won their first Test series in Pakistan.”

Read the full article: Higher than The Wall

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Should Rahul Dravid retire?

Who cries in Bangalore for Rahul Sharad Dravid?

Just 4% of population but 7 Brahmins in Indian team?

Of course, one of them was crying on TV recently

18 November 2009

Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa, and his cabinet colleagues (from left) Suresh Kumar, Vishveshwar Hegde Kageri and K.S. Eshwarappa are all smiles for the cameras at the BJP’s state core committee meeting in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

The unfolding tragicomedy of Yedi & the Reddys

18 November 2009

Ajay Sukumaran in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The man who performed the Herculean feat of getting the BJP to power in the south is now carrying out, like the Greek hero, the tasks ordered to keep his government intact…. But unlike Hercules, whose labours such as slaying the nine-headed Hydra, were a test of his strength, Yeddyurappa’s tasks are seen as giving the rebels more muscle.”

Read the full report: The five labours of a BJP Hercules

Also read: How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

It’s true, political analysis = fortune telling

17 November 2009

Astrologer Veenu Sandal on what the stars foretell for Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa in M.J. Akbar‘s fortnightly magazine, Covert:

“His stars indicate that his long experience of more than 20 years in public life will continue to be challenged strongly by dissidents who started their political careers much later but are far more powerful. As now, so it will be upto mid-2010—Yediyurappa will have his back to the wall, with factionalism, opposition and a signficant degree of deceit continuing to be a bane. He will be locked in bitter feuds, pulled between the necessity of devoting time and attention to development work and keeping his detractors at bay. In fact, despite the support extended to him by key people it will be only after September 2010 that he will be able to recover lost ground in real terms.”

Also read: Say hello to all our world-famous VIP astrologers

What the stars foretell for our avivekanandas

What the stars foretell for you—yes, you—this week

Why Jagadish Shettar’s film could be ‘Oye Lucky’

17 November 2009

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Luck, more than anything, has played a major role in the ascendancy of Jagadish Shettar, who has resigned from the post of speaker of the Karnataka legislative assembly to impose himself on an unwilling Yediyurappa as a member of his cabinet.

In a span of just 15 years, Shettar, an innocuous low-level party functionary, has transformed himself into a contender for the top post of the chief minister, challenging his one time mentor-cum-benefactor

Shettar cut his political teeth in 1994, when he won a surprising victory from Hubli rural, a constituency which had been out of bounds for the BJP/ BJS. The constituency, which had been pocketborough of the Congress since the beginning, leaned towards the Janata Dal for three consecutive terms from 1978, returning the late S.R. Bommai, who rose to become CM succeeding the late Ramakrishna Hegde in 1988.

But with the shock defeat of Bommai in 1989, the Congress regained the seat in 1989 and the 1994 election was poised to be a tussle between the two traditional rivals. But the Idgah Maidan controversy brought about a change in the political preferences of the constituency, thrusting Jagadish Shettar into the limelight.

The Idgah maidan was a piece of land located in the heart of Hubli where Muslims offered prayers twice a year. A legal dispute over the ownership of the land resulted in the Anjuman Islam losing the case, with the court rejecting its claim that it had a lease.

The court ruled that what Anjuman had a license and not a lease.

The BJP spearheaded an agitation for hoisting the national flag on national festivals in the Idgah maidan. This sparked off communal tension. The actions of the Congress government in Karnataka was also a contributory factor for the escalation of  tension. which  resulted in the police opening fire in which seven persons were killed, months prior to the election.

So, with the Idgah row hanging in the air, the BJP went on to capture Hubli. The Janata Dal candidate, Basavaraj Bommai, the son for the former chief minister, failed to avenge the defeat of his father in the previous election.

Jagadish Shettar, who was picked by the BJP as its candidate, was a political non-entity, being merely the head of the Hubli rural taluk unit of the party.

He got lucky.

Since then Shettar has not looked back.

If Idgah did the trick in 1994, it was the shock defeat of Yediyurappa in his home-constituency Shikaripur in 1999 which proved lucky for Shettar to move up the political ladder.

Yediyurappa had a pathological aversion for the party’s senior most legislator B.B. Shivappa from Hassan in succeeding him as the leader of the opposition in the assembly. The mantle as a consequence fell on the shoulders of one of the junior most legislators of the party, Shettar, who was on to his second stint as MLA.

The reason proffered then was that as a junior he would be more amenable to Yediyurappa than anybody else. Yediyurappa was proved right.

In the 2004 election, Shettar performed a hat trick of retaining the seat.  With the return  of Yediyurappa to the assembly, it was no longer possible for him to continue in the post. But in another quirk of political he found himself landing up as the new party president, in place of Basavaraj Patil Sedam, who was caught in the vortex of the struggle between Yediyurappa and Ananth Kumar.

Shettar’s name again came in handy.

The Yediyurappa group outsmarted others in wangling the post for Shettar. Result: Shettar, who had hardly any organisational experience,  found himself as the party president of the Karnataka unit of the BJP.

The win in 2008 election was a cakewalk victory for Shettar, with the Congress and JDS fielding weak candidates against him.  And the internal fight within the Congress also contributed to his fourth success. His place in the cabinet was assured by his position and seniority in the  JDS-BJP coalition, which fell apart after 20 months in office.

He was also a member of the short-lived BJP government, before President’s rule was imposed paving for election in 2008.

In all the posts he has held since his first election—as leader of the opposition in the second term, as party president in the third and as minister in the fourth term—the performanance of Shettar was not brilliant but ordinary, run of the mill variety. He hardly ever managed to emerge out of the shadow of his senior and the mentor Yediyurappa.

Though he had registered his fourth win from Hubli, Shettar was shocked to find that Yediyurappa had not preferred him to be a member of the BJP government formed for the first time. For the first time, the message went out loud and clear that the relations between the mentor and protégé had become strained and Yediyurappa felt that the latter was growing beyond his shoes and deserved to be cut to his size.

What however hurt Shettar was not his exclusion but the subtle attempts made by Yediyurappa to promote a junior Lingayat legislator and new entrant to the party like Basavaraj Bommai, whom Shettar had defeated in 1994.

Bommai who was in JDU and  represented the local authorities constituency in the legislative council joined the BJP and  successfully contested the assembly election  from Shiggaon. The only small mercy  shown by Yediyurappa was that Bommai was not made as the minister in charge of Dharwad district.

Miffed, Shettar stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony as a mark of protest. Thanks to the intervention of the party high command, he scaled one more notch of this political career to become the Speaker of the assembly. For a while he was reluctant to accept the speaker’s post. He demurred only when the High Command made it clear that it was a “take it or leave it” situation.

Though he occupied a post, which was equal in  stature if not more than that of the chief minister, Shettar made it clear that he was not interested in continuing in the office and that his heart was set on being a minister.

Despite his differences with the CM, speaker Shettar proved to be a convenient tool in the “Operation Kamala” mounted by the BJP in cahoots with the Reddy Brothers to muster a majority. Opposition legislators were enticed by the brothers to resign their seats, and submit their letters to Shettar.

But the banner of revolt raised by the Reddy group against Yediyurappa, pitchforked Shettar into prominence.  Shettar was a mere camouflage  to cover their real designs of occupying the gaddi one day or the other. But it could not stake its claim right away, since it was not only politically inopportune.

Even if the Reddys had succeeded in dislodging Yediyurappa and put Shettar in his place, the latter would have been  nothing but a puppet manipulated by the wily Reddys, since Shettar neither has the support nor the clout to withstand the pressure of the Reddy group.

When a strong personality like Yediyurappa could be brought down, where  do the lesser mortals stand against the manipulations and machinations of the Reddys?

So, dame luck  has once again dealt a card favourable to Shettar, projecting him as the chief minister in waiting, notwithstanding the fact that whether he has or does not have the capacity, grit and gumption to handle the onerous responsibility in a trying time like this.

It is another matter, whether Shettar  should have involved himself actively in politicking, when the office of speaker held by him demanded that he remained apolitical. But Shettar today stands only one step away from the coveted post of the chief minister.

Will the streak of luck run further to make him realise his dream  of occupying the gaddi of the chief minister remains to be seen.

Photograph: Jagadish Shettar, who joined the state cabinet, takes the blessings of his parents, Shivappa Shettar and Basavannemma, during the swearing-in ceremony at Raj Bhavan in Bangalore on Tuesday. (Karnataka Photo News)

Does art imitate life or is it the other way round?

16 November 2009

vasoolraja1

22 students of a teachers’ training institute in Tamil Nadu get caught cheating in an exam using mobile phones. The incident happens shortly after the Kamal Hassan starrer Vasool Raja, MBBS, the Tamil rip-off of the Sanjay Dutt film Munnabhai MBBS, is released.

So life imitates art?

Far from it, says the thespian, currently celebrating 50 years in cinema. Kamal defending the film fraternity in the Madras High Court:

“We only borrow what we see in society as we have a dearth of stories. So don’t blame us…. We’re a happening society and we only look to society for such ideas.”

So art imitates life?

Photograph: courtesy sulekha

Also read: When life imitates art

Kamal Hassan: Conceited, egotistical, narcissistic. The greatest?

Not as crowded as the Kumbh but a lasting curse

16 November 2009

KPN photo

Silhouettes are made of these: an early-morning sun, a river, a swami.

At Talakad, the site of the famous curse that is believed to have rendered the Maharajas of Mysore childless, a devotee takes a dip during the Panchalinga Darshan on Monday.

“In the course of the power struggle with Vijayanagara, Raja Wodeyar skirmished with the empire’s viceroy Tirumalaraya and his subsequent tiff with his wife Rani Alamelamma led to the supposed suicide of the Rani in AD 1610. She threw herself into the Cauvery with the famous three-line curse which is said to be the reason for the submergence of Talakad in sand, a whirlpool at Malingi, and the childlessness in the Wodeyar lineage.”

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Who was the woman who cursed the Wodeyars?

VIKRAM SAMPATH: Why the queen sold her diamonds and jewels

CHURUMURI POLL: Tendulkar vs Thackeray?

16 November 2009

Sachin Tendulkar‘s comment that Bombay belongs to India, and that he was a proud Maharashtrian but an Indian first, has predictably kicked off a storm with the hobbled Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray saying there was no need for the batsman who has 29,951 international runs against his name to take a “cheeky single” by making such remarks.

“By making these remarks, you have got run-out on the pitch of Marathi psyche. You were not even born when the ‘Marathi Manoos‘ got Mumbai and 105 Marathi people sacrificed their lives to get Mumbai,” Thackeray said in an editorial in his party’s mouthpiece, Saamna.

Who is right? And can this be applied across the country?

Also read: S.L. RAO on parochial passsions

Let there be no doubt: tail doesn’t wag the dog

16 November 2009

surendra

Does a “cultural” organisation like the RSS interfere in the affairs of a political outfit like the BJP?

As Nitin Gadkari, an unknown Maharashtrian of unknown leadership skills, prepares to ascend the gaddi, because of his geographical proximity to Nagpur and because the RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat has decreed the next BJP chief will come from outside Delhi, is the question any longer moot?

Cartoon: courtesy Surendra/ The Hindu

Also read: Will an RSS-run BJP be more vicious in future?

A picture for the personal albums of the sangh

‘The only out for the BJP now is to split’

 


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