Archive for July, 2010

Another un-Gandhian on the way to Mahatma giri

31 July 2010

Nothing reveals the disconnect between the Gandhian mode of protest that is the pada yatra, and the un-Gandhians who undertake it to attain his aura, than the spectacle of Congressmen and women walking from Bangalore to Bellary, ostensibly to bring the nation’s attention to the illegal mining in Sonia Gandhi‘s former constituency.

Overweight Congresswomen prancing like item girls, unfit Congressmen getting their calf muscles squeezed at close of day’s play, expensive buses and ambulances burning petrol to keep them alive… you have to wonder if the Mahatma had such hedonism in mind when he walked for the salt of the earth 70 years ago.

On Saturday, the working president of the Karnataka Congress, D.K. Shiva Kumar, all of 48 years old, put his leg up on the dubious Chinese device that tickles the underfoot of mall-goers, at Tavarekere on national highway 4. Click.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Why you never saw Mahatma Gandhi do all this

What if Indira Gandhi had been shown this pic?

31 July 2010

The cover of the 9 August 2010 issue of Time magazine. For a change, all four editions—US, Europe, Asia and South Pacific—have the same cover story.

Time‘s choice is doubtless provocative, one reason journalism exists.

Yet, such eagerness and such a desire to provoke isn’t visible on home turf, where squeamish self-censorship kicks into play each time news organisations ponder the possibility of printing the pictures of US marines killed while killing others , or the bodies of victims of 11 September 2001 attack on New York City.

***

By T.J.S. GEORGE

The leakage of 92,000 secret military intelligence documents is sensational anywhere any time. When the documents pertain to the war against Taliban-Al-Qaeda, it is also disturbing because it shows (a) that America is in a trap and is unlikely to win this war, and (b) that India is in for trouble, big trouble.

Let’s not forget that the information now leaked is new only to us, the lay public.

To the top echelons of leadership in America, the facts were known all along. They also knew that the records had leaked. Two months ago, in May, the US Army criminal investigation command had arrested an intelligence analyst in the army and charges were filed against him early this month, well before the leaked documents hit world headlines.

The arrested man, Bradley Manning, is 22 years old. If he is indeed the man who leaked the secrets, he must have done so as a matter of conscience, appalled by the atrocities American troops were committing. This is a “problem” with American democracy. One man with conscience will always be around to do the unexpected.

Remember those pictures of Iraqi citizens being humiliated and tortured by fun-loving American soldiers? Earlier Vietnam war secrets were published by Daniel Ellsberg, another military analyst then working for the Rand Corporation.

The latest documents had much to reveal about Pakistan’s complicity in terror network in the region. This led to some patriotic drum-beating in India—as if Pakistan had been caught with its pants down and now America would be forced to act.

Nothing of the kind will happen.

America has been seeing Pakistan with its pants down for quite a while. For example, it said more than once in recent weeks that Osama bin Laden was living in Pakistan. Blandly Pakistan denied it. And America let it rest at that. Pakistan is for America a pill that is too bitter to swallow and too sweet to spit out, a classic diplomatic trap.

Pakistan’s military leaders, especially the smart strategists of the ISI, know this very well, hence their audacious policy of helping al-Quaida and the Taliban. Some of the terror outfits the ISI trains and equips are fighting America. Knowing this, America goes on giving Pakistan one billion dollars in aid every year. That is how smart the ISI is.

By contrast, India gives America everything America wants—nuclear treaty clauses as stipulated by the American Congress, favouritism to companies like Union Carbide, virtual immunity clauses in the event of future industrial accidents, even a false declaration to ex-President George W. Bush that the people of India loved him.

What does India get in return? Repeated verbal declarations that Pakistan must do more to contain terrorism.

Why doesn’t America do more to contain Pakistan?

The fact is that today’s political dispensation in India has no clearcut strategy about countering Pakistan’s known terror tactics. It does not know how to call Pakistan’s bluff or how to tell America and its allies that enough is enough.

There are unofficial strategic experts in India who have been proposing covert action to counter Pakistan’s covert action. This makes sense in a volatile theatre where everyone is engaged in shadow-boxing. If India can mobilise the kind of strategic brilliance the ISI displays, it can hit Pakistan where it hurts. It may even get the tacit support of the CIA and M16.

What is required is an iron will on the part of policy makers.

Perhaps Indira Gandhi would have found that will.

If softness and diffidence continue in Delhi, eventually the Taliban will replace the Americans in Afghanistan, then the Taliban will have a say in the running of Pakistan, then Pakistan will become the operational headquarters of al-Quaida and all allied groupings.

When someone finally scores a hit in New York or London, the West will wake up—too late of course. What of Bombay and Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad? The ISI’s singleminded focus is India and that’s where the maximum danger lies.

Photo portfolio: The Big Picture

More proof Vidhana Soudha has gone to the dogs

30 July 2010

As the people of a State that used to be once known for its “decency” watch its rapid and seemingly relentless slide  into the abyss of competitive sleaze, corruption, crime and grime—with the BJP, Congress and JDS outdoing each other in levelling charges, taking out pada yatras, uttering expletives and such like—six unattached canines take a breather at the foothills of the mighty of democracy, wondering if the motto below its entrance “Government Work is God’s Work” deserves a small amendment.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Getaway of the Louts in the Gateway to the South

CHURUMURI POLL: Dismiss BJP govt in Karnataka?

In Ram rajya, hamaam mein sab nange hain

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

GOOD NEWS: Karnataka beats Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Kerala

Why Ram Pyari couldn’t take her daughter home

30 July 2010

SHAH ALAM KHAN writes from New Delhi: The so-called “irresponsible remarks” by Mani Shankar Aiyar on the Commonwealth Games have left the government and its beloved babus fuming.

The mainstream and the alternative media are buzz with outright condemnation of Aiyar, calling him anti-national and an unworthy son of this great motherland.

It all amuses me.

As an Indian, I know that the stakes of Indian pride on a global scene are too high to be meddled with at the last moment. The Beijing Olympics have showcased China to a global audience and we are told by the self-righteous hawks that we too should use this opportunity to showcase the might of India, the next super-power.

We are told that events like the Commonwealth Games bring with them employment and opportunities for developing and improving the existing infra-structure. The government sees the event as a boon for economic development and prosperity.

I won’t be wrong in concluding that we have been made to believe that the woes of the common Indian will be laid to rest on 3 October 2010 as soon as the games are declared open!

Alas!

This could have been true.

The darker side of the organisation of these Games is not only murky but plainly speaking dirty to the soul. Corruption, malpractices, poor quality and irrelevant budgeting have plagued the games in a big way. The Games will conclude with an approximate budget of Rs 35,000 crore (or $1.3 billion).

Imagine a sum of Rs 35,000 crore just to develop a showcase of might and economic wellbeing in a country where 47% of population earns less than $ 1.25 a day!

What can we call this?

Are there words to describe this inhuman and irrelevant extravagance?

I agree with those who argue that events like the Commonwealth Games shouldn’t be compared with governmental policies of public welfare. True but unfortunately it is not all about money; it is the irrelevance of thought of our policy makers which angers me.

It was heartening to see Rahul Gandhi talk about Kalawati during the trust motion in 2008. But can he imagine that how many more Kalawatis would have been added to the system ever since the inception of construction work for the Commonwealth Games?

I still remember Beena, the eight-year-old daughter of Ram Pyari, a migrant worker from Uttar Pradesh who had come to Delhi with her family to work on one of the stadia.

Beena had bone cancer and of course the family could not afford any treatment. Beena died in one of the slums which had come out as an illegitimate offspring of the Commonwealth games village.

The family wanted to take Beena’s body back home but couldn’t afford losing the provisional livelihood as the contractor wanted the work to go on a war footing: he had a deadline to meet.

Beena was buried in Delhi and Ram Pyari continued working at the stadia which is now ready as a symbol of India’s growing economic might—the ornament of the showcase which Suresh Kalmadi and his bunch of imbecile nitwits want us to appreciate.

I am sure the story of Beena and Ram Pyari is not the only one.

Many Beenas lie buried under the debris of what we think is the greatest sporting event in the country. Surely, the cost of organizing the games goes far beyond Rs 35,000 crore.

It is ironic that the logo of these games has been made to look like the Chakra (a symbol of India’s freedom) with four colors: red, blue, yellow and pink.

Each color has relevance and they represent the “trinity of values” which symbolizes the games.

Red represents a unification of humanity; yellow, a chance for the athletes to realize their destiny; blue promotes equality and pink, we are made to believe, adds an element of surprise and luxury to the Games and reflects India in all its resplendent glory.

On one of Beena’s visit to my clinic I had asked her which color does she like the best. It haunts me that she had abruptly said “pink”.

No wonder India’s “resplendent” glory could only be erected on her flesh and bones.

I am surprised why the “trinity of values” concept eludes our ruling class when it comes to prioritizing hunger, poverty and ignorance?

Why can’t the red represent an equitable distribution of resources? Why can’t blue promote social equality and social justice? And how about assigning the yellow color to opportunities and hope to fulfill the destiny of millions of common Indians who are otherwise too effete to even stretch their imagination beyond the need and fulfillment of daily bread?

It is indeed a matter of shame that we want to hold the Commonwealth Games even when we have yet to sort out more pressing issues which require an in-depth and humane allocation of funds and resources. I won’t be exaggerating if I compare this to Pokhran-II where an incumbent BJP government found it appropriate to conduct the blasts and gain instant middle-class popularity rather than mending India’s gaping economic and social wounds.

The showcase of Indian glory will also be a hallmark of core values which define our ruling political and bureaucratic setup – corruption, lop sided priorities and a determination to pose an untimely, unasked and unnecessary agenda on the common man.

I agree with Mani Shankar Aiyar that with the conclusion of Commonwealth Games on October 13, the hungry hounds will look forth to future programs of loot. Maybe Asian games or even Olympics- the final sporting spectacle, the final event for unprecedented plunder of my and your money.

In the meantime, Rahul Gandhi’s Kalawatis and my Ram Pyaris can only curse their fates. Their numbers will grow. Many more Beenas will be buried under the debris of “resplendent” glory and phony pride of India. Pinks will elude their meaning for her and for the likes of her; black will be the color of the day.

(Dr Shah Alam Khan is an orthopaedic surgeon at the nation’s premier medical college and hospital, the all Indian institute of medical sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. Visit his blog: India and Bharat)

Also read: IPL’s thugs are no better than Maoists and Naxals

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Mani Shankar Aiyar ‘anti-national’?

CHURUMURI POLL: Good to lose the Asian Games bid?

The wave that 160,000 cusecs of water creates

29 July 2010

Water gushes out of the Narayanapura dam in Yadgir district, whipping up a sinusoidal wave, after authorities opened 15 sluice gates on Thursday following copious rain. The water level in the dam stands at 490.90 metres, just a couple of metres short of the maximum.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Mani Aiyar ‘anti-national’?

28 July 2010

CHURUMURI CONTEST: What’s on their minds?*

27 July 2010

At a public meeting at Dabbaspet during the Bangalore-Bellary padayatra on Tuesday, former Union civil aviation minister C.M. Ibrahim does last-minute pushups with his eyelids, leader of the opposition Siddaramaiah dreams sweet dreams and Karnataka Congress president R.V. Deshpande shouts silently even as KPCC working committee D.K. Shiva Kumar updates his status on Facebook.

Don’t believe us?

Well, what do you think is on the minds of the four leaders?

Tell us in this churumuri.com caption contest. You can pick any of the four leaders or a combination of them or all four of them for your caption.

There are three cash prizes to be won: Rs 1,001, Rs 501 and Rs 251*.

Post us your entries as comments by noon, Thursday, 29 July 2010.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

* Terms and conditions apply

Why you never saw Mahatma Gandhi do all this

27 July 2010

After two days on the road to Bellary, the leader of the opposition in the Karnataka legislative assembly, Siddaramaiah, provides a telling epitaph for the modern, well-fed, unfit, disconnected politician. In contrast: a lean, mean, fit as a fiddle walking machine from 70 years ago, who spoke for the salt of the earth.

Distance from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi: 390 kilometres

Distance from Bangalore to Bellary: 307 kilometres

Salt satyagraha—2 March-6 April 1930; 25 days

Mining march—25 July-9 August 2010; 16 days

No. of km traversed by Gandhi & Co on day one: 21 km

No. of km traversed by Siddaramaiah & Co on day one: 15 km

No. of TV cameras that captured Gandhi & co: none

No. of TV cameras that captured Siddu buying shoes: one

No. of masseurs, ambulance that accompanied Gandhi: zero

No. of masseurs, ambulances that accompany Siddu: guess

What the salt satyagraha got us in the end: Freedom

What the march to Bellary will never get us in the end: Freedom from self-serving thugs and goons

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Who after Manmohan? Chidu, Diggy or Rahul?

27 July 2010

It’s a free for all in the Congress. Everybody’s happily taking on everybody. But the key war of words is the one between P. Chidambaram and party general secretary Digvijay Singh.

The latter’s called the Union home minster “intellectually arrogant” and slammed his muscular, unidimensional approach to the Naxal issue, as if it’s purely a law and order problem. And just when the issue had died down, he has reiterated his words, even terming it the “party view”.

At the same time, Chidambaram has squabbled with a range of ministers—with Jairam Ramesh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and A. Raja on Chinese security fears; with A.K. Antony on Army deployment in Naxal areas ; with Pranab Mukherjee on the caste census; with S.M. Krishna on visas and so on.

***

On the face of it, such dissonance in the ruling party might seem like classic Congressism—a giant umbrella acommodating leaders of different hues; offering different strokes for different folks.

However, at least one political commentator—Neerja Chowdhury in the New Indian Express—thinks both Chidambaram and Digvijay Singh are positioning themselves for the post-Manmohan Singh era, should the prime minister exit in 2012 due to health reasons, be pushed upstairs to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, or should Rahul Gandhi also listen to his “inner voice” like his mother did in 2004 after the next elections.

“The recent cacophony also heralds the emergence of two new wannabes — P Chidambaram and Digvijay Singh — on the political horizon, and both are known to be politically savvy.

“Chidambaram is clearly emerging as a hawk, pursuing a tough line against the Maoists and Pakistan, a stance favoured by a large section of the middle class. An underscoring of differences with other ministries reinforces the impression of a home minister who has his hands tied in very difficult circumstances. Chidambaram is increasingly coming to occupy the right of centre space, catering to the sentiment of the urban Indians, many of whom had viewed with favour — or backed — the BJP, particularly in north India.

“Digvijay Singh, seems to be  positioning himself in the left of centre mould, contra-distinct from the niche that Chidambaram is carving out for himself. By espousing the cause of Muslims (visit to the families of the Batla House accused in Azamgarh), tribals and poor (the Naxal problem cannot be handled with just a law and order approach), he is trying to come across as a representative of the old and traditional Congress line (representing upper castes, minorities and SC/STs).”

Read the full article: Congress’ rumble within

Also read: Jesus, Mozart, Alexander aur apun ka Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi‘s ascension: A foregone conclusion?

A functioning anarchy? Or a feudal democracy?

‘The most opaque politicians in the democratic world’

When killing becomes the motive and motivation

27 July 2010

Nothing has brought home to decent, ordinary, law-abiding, apolitical Indians the brazen disregard for the law of the land of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) than its verbal callisthenics and physical contortions after the arrest of the thuggish minister of State for home of vibrant Gujarat, Amit Shah.

First, an infantile leadership commandeered by the “former future prime minister of India“, Lalchand Kishinchand Advani, cancels a luncheon appointment with the prime minister, couching the fact that it was the Supreme Court not the Congress that ordered the CBI to probe the cold-blooded murder of Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauserbi.

Then, Narendra Damodardas Modi spots the usual ghosts of Gujarati asmita trying to “put obstacles in development work” although his own police had spoken of the “collusion of state government“. The party’s “mouth ke saudagar” wax eloquent on TV on how a gangster/extortionist somehow deserved the kind of death he got.

In all of this, there is not one word of remorse at lives cruelly snuffed out by agents of the State acting clearly at the behest of their political masters; as if the sight of a dozen IPS officers cooling their blood-stained heels in jail or a home minister absconding and not attending office is a normal thing.

In all of this, there is not the least bit of introspection on the part of the chief minister of a State—the State’s home minister, Amit Shah’s boss, to wit—who openly bayed for the blood of those he vacuously claimed had been sent to kill him.

And now the comical president of the BJP, Nitin Gadkari, delivers this tell-tale piece of evidence of the party’s mad machismo—the pumped-up blood-lust that has been sangh parivar’s signature since 1948 but especially since 2002—against the Supreme Court-ordered inquiry, in the Hindustan Times:

“If such inquiries are launched into encounters, then would police kill criminals? Who will fight terrorism?”

As if the police can be judge, jury and executioner.

As if there is no difference between vigilantes and uniformed cops.

As if the first action of the police when they spot a criminal is to kill.

As if those empowered to enforce the law should bypass the Constitution.

Cartoon: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Is Narendra Modi next?

Tweedledum-bhai and Tweedledee-bhai, and vice-versa

‘Cross-border colonisation leading to annexation’

26 July 2010

Supreme Court advocate Rajeev Dhavan weighs in on the Belgaum row between Karnataka and Maharashta, in Mail Today:

“If the Belgaum agitation is taken seriously, India’s federated states will never acquire territorial integrity. The essence of Maharashtra’s claim is that all the border villages in neighbouring Karnataka, where even a bare majority speak Marathi, should be handed over to become a part of Maharashtra.

“Over 60 years, these demands have been accompanied by violence, threats and the emergence of pan- Marathi fundamentalist nationalism…. Maharashtra’s claim rests on four principles: ( i) the villages as a unit, ( ii) geographical contiguity, ( iii) linguistic majority, and ( iv) wishes of the people.

“Shorn of pretences, if Maharashtra’s claim to annex border villages in neighbouring states where there is a Marathi-speaking majority was to be applied as a principle, inter- state border claims would never stop and be resurrected each time border villages show linguistic change. Movements of people across borders would be encouraged and villages colonised to create linguistic majorities to facilitate their annexation. Taken to its illogical conclusion, Indian federalism is invited to permit its States the indulgence of cross- border conquest by linguistic head-count supported by noisy, even violent, politics.”

Read the full article: Jingoism behind Belgaum row

Also read: If Belgaum should go away, how about Bombay?

Prosecuted, fined, rejected & a Rs 36,000 cr deal

26 July 2010

B.S. NAGARAJ writes from New Delhi: “We are pure gold, 24-carat gold,” declared Gali Janardhana Reddy last week with the same innocence with which he is profiled on the Bramhani Industries Limited’s website.

In the first of eight paragraphs, Janardhana, we are told, is the founder-promoter of M/s Ennoble Group.

“At an (sic) age of 21, he floated a RNBC – a residuary non banking financial company called M/s Ennoble India Savings and Investment Co., Ltd., Bellary,” says the website.

‘Ennoble’ did you hear?

Visit www.watchoutinvestors.com for more on the most (in)famous of the Reddys and Ennoble (ah, what a name!).

Now, this website is a watchdog promoted by the investor education and protection fund of the ministry of corporate affairs of the government of India. It alerts investors with information about individuals and entities that they should be aware, or rather beware, of.

Janardhana scores a hat-trick here, figuring thrice against each of the three Ennoble group companies, the other two being Ennoble Leasing (India) Limited and Ennoble Hotels International Limited.

He and his companies, we are warned, have been prosecuted, fined and applications by his outfits for conducting business have been rejected by regulatory authorities like the Reserve Bank of India and the Ministry of Company Affairs.

B.V. Srinivasa Reddy, managing director of Bramhani’s sister concern Obulapuram Mining Corporation (OMC), keeps him company.

The regulators charged them with “default in filing of copies of balance sheet and annual returns, failure to comply with RBI regulations,” and so on. They were prosecuted and ordered to pay monetary fines, and one of the companies was denied permission to carry on the business of leasing.

Investors are warned by the website that Ennoble India Savings’ application for registration as an NBFC was rejected on 31 October 2007. Obviously, the Karnataka government of B.S. Yediyurappa couldn’t care less—or why else should it sign an MoU for a proposed steel plant worth Rs 36,000 crore or some such obscene figure at that mega global investors meet in June?

Big deal, Yeddy and the Reddys seem to be saying. There are companies with worse histories, and aren’t governments doing business with them?

Sure, OMC and Bramhani are high up there in that list.

Photograph:

Also read: ‘Reddy brothers have changed the political paradigm’

Getaway of the Louts in the Gateway to the South

CHURUMURI POLL: Dismiss BJP govt in Karnataka?

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

A slightly horizontal start to a vertical movement

25 July 2010

Congress worker Pampakavi Belagali, who collapsed at the launch of the party’s Bangalore to Bellary padayatra, being carried to the hospital by co-workers, in Bangalore on Sunday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

If Naxals don’t, Didi will get you instant moksha

25 July 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji was watching the gas cutters extracting the dead bodies and near-alive ones on TV. Horror was writ on her face.

“What a terrible way to die. It is happening with sickening frequency.”

Howdu, Ajji. This has become a monthly feature.”

“Ramu. Earlier when I used to go to Bangalore from Mysore, it would take a whole day, but we would reach safely.”

“Mysore to Bangalore even now takes almost four hours! But you are right. It’s not safe any more.”

Alvo! Instead of making the journey safer why they are spending money on superfluous things like compter bookings, payment from mobile and all that?”

“This is the modern system, Ajji!”

“Modern mane halaaga! We don’t even know whether we will reach our destination at all!”

Ajji. Railways spend more on computerisation. You can charge your mobile from a plug point now. They now give wi-fi too.”

“Wifeu kodthara? Chee-chee, Rama Rama.”

“Wife alla, Ajji!! Wi-Fi, wireless fidelity antha, to use with the computer.”

“Thank god! I was thinking something else! It seems now they have a system to prevent accidents, anti-kollishn antha.”

“Correct Ajji, your hardware- software friends told you?”

Illa, corner house Railway Rathnamma’s son told her, it seems. He was earlier working in Konkan Railway.”

“That’s right. They have this device which prevents another train coming on the same track. This is available since last 10 years.”

Ayyo! Why doesn’t the railway minister use this?”

Mamata didi, our rail minister is busy preparing for the  next year election in Calcutta. She gets very upset if she is disturbed.”

Ketta hengasu! She is playing with the lives of people. Why do we have such people in helm of affairs who don’t bother when passengers are dying like mosquitoes?”

“That is all politics, ajji!”

“It seems a death track for passengers one way or other.  Either Naxals will get you or your Mamata-less didi. When the railway budget is announced, we all want no increase in fares and now look what happens when safety is thrown to winds. There is a lot of nataka whether it is Lalu or this selfish woman presenting the budget.”

“People want no increase in fares.”

“How can you not have increase in fares? Haven’t the cost of petrol and other goods increased? Isn’t it better to pay more and travel safely than feel sorry? And who wants all that nonsense of line-line booking, computer etc?”

Ajji it is not ‘Line line booking, it is online booking.”

Yeno sudugadu. I  still remember going to Kashi. It took more than 4 days changing 3 trains. But we reached safely and had Vishwanath darshana.”

Ajji, now till you get down at your destination, they can take you to the darshana of God anytime!”

“That means every train journey is some kind of yatra. You can get instant moksha.”

Howdajji. That seems to be the motto of our rail mantri.”

“I remember many years back there was a train accident in Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu. The rail minister resigned owning up responsibility. I don’t remember names anymore. Some poojari or purohitha, I think.”

Poojari-purohita alla, ajji. It was Shastri.”

“Lal Bahadur Shastri! Now I remember. He became prime minister too. He was inconsolable when so many died and that is why he resigned. Now they issue printed statements and some cash and that is the end of it.”

Howdu, ajji.”

“It is so sad. Somebody was saying ‘Namma desha banana agutthe antha.’ Koletha baale hannu agutthe.”

“Banana republic, Ajji! But you are right. It is heading towards becoming a rotten banana republic.”

Tweedledum-bhai, Tweedledee-bhai & vice-versa

24 July 2010

Sheela Bhatt on rediff.com:

“He is, obviously, a shrewd politician. He is a 24/7 politician. He also knew political management. He ridiculed Congressmen with his superiority complex and sharp observations—almost daily. He used information as a weapon. He is obstinate in his view that Islamic jihad has engulfed South Asia and it has to be suppressed by constant vigil, covert actions and intelligence.

“His arrogance is as legendary as Chidambaram‘s. He never entertained reporters. He had some terribly wrong notions about the functions of the media in Indian democracy. He never gave regular briefings. He kept reporters away. He’s a manipulative leader who knew his limitations very well. He found all the organs of democracy in New Delhi biased.

“His public image among his supporters was that of a bully, and that he would never compromise on Hindutva. He underestimated the power of men and women in khaki, and his total lack of judgment about the Supreme Court’s influence. “

That’s Amit Shah, Gujarat’s former minister of state for home, not his boss, home minister and chief minister, Narendra Modi.

Cartoon: courtesy Prasad Radhakrishnan/ Mail Today

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Narendra Modi next?

23 July 2010

Turning down a request for more time, the central bureau of investigation (CBI) has chargesheeted Gujarat’s minister of state for home, Amit Shah, with a criminal conspiracy to abduct and murder Sohrabuddin Sheikh in a fake encounter.

Sheikh was picked up in 2007 on charges of planning to assassinate the State’s chief minister, Narendra Damodardas Modi, tortured and bumped off, confirming the collusion of the State; his wife Kausarbi was burnt by police officers by the State’s own admission.

As if in response to the impending arrest of Shah, the BJP cancelled a scheduled lunch with prime minister Manmohan Singh, although it was the Supreme Court of India, not the Congress-led UPA government which put the CBI on the job of finding the killers. Shah is the second serving minister in the honourable Modi ministry to be so arrested, after Maya Kodnani.

Question: is the net closing in on Shah’s boss, the State’s home minister and chief minister Narendra Modi?

Also read: The beginning of the end of Narendra Modi?

‘Reddy Bros have changed the political paradigm’

23 July 2010

CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai in the Hindustan Times:

“The Reddy brothers have overturned the traditional rules of Indian politics.

“Conventional wisdom suggests that caste is the key determinant of political power. The rise of the Mandal forces has accentuated the belief that social engineering is critical to building a political base. That, whether it be the Yadavs of the Hindi heartland or the Dravidian parties in the South, caste loyalties are seen to be the defining badge of political mobility.

“In Karnataka, too, the Lingayats and the Vokkaligas have emerged as the main competitors for backward class dominance in the state’s caste cauldron.

“The Reddys have changed the rules of the game. The Reddy brothers — Karunakara, Janardhana and Somasekhara — are originally Andhra Reddys, with strong ties to their home state. In Karnataka, the Andhra Reddys number only a few lakh, making them a marginal votebank. But what they didn’t have in votes, the Reddys have more than made up with ‘notes’. By building a vast treasure chest through their extensive mining operations, they have created a situation where money power is a substitute to caste power. In a sense, they have almost rendered caste irrelevant, creating the basis for a new form of  post-Mandal politics.”

Read the full article: Rough and Reddy

It ain’t over till the Eyes Man twirls and tweaks

22 July 2010

Prem Panicker on Muttiah Muralitharan:

“Sport is relatively easy to write: angels and demons, heroes and villains, triumphs and tragedies, neatly linear narratives in a way the world, shaded in gradations of gray, rarely is. And that perhaps is the secret of sport’s enduring appeal — it satisfies our need to take sides, to hiss the villain and cheer the hero without worrying about nuance.

“And then there is Muthaiah Muralitharan — neither hero nor villain, neither black nor white; a player who resists being slotted neatly into the pigeonhole labeled ‘greatest spinner in the world’ or equally, the one labeled ‘cheat’.”

Read the full story: Cheat or misunderstood genius?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Murali, Warne or Kumble?

CHURUMURI POLL: Does Murali‘s record count?

‘Most opaque politicians in the democratic world’

21 July 2010

Sadanand Dhume in The Wall Street Journal:

“The Gandhis are probably the most opaque major politicians in the democratic world. They rarely speak to the media, and when they do it’s not to critics.

“Their views on the pace of economic liberalisation, the nature of the Maoist threat, or the roots of Islamist terrorism must be gleaned from a scrap of information here or a stray rumor there, say a book on counterinsurgency recommended by Rahul Gandhi to the prime minister, or his mother’s packing an influential advisory council with assorted tax-and-spend do-gooders.

“Most Indians haven’t the faintest idea about whether the Gandhis see the rise of China as more of a threat or an opportunity. Or whether they think American influence in Asia is in India’s interest or not. Or if, for them, the trouble with India’s economy is too much capitalism or too little reform.

“For the family, this opacity clearly has benefits. It keeps them above the fray of petty politics. It allows them to exercise power without responsibility. It gives them the flexibility to change political course on a dime. But smart politics doesn’t always generate good policy. Fostering a culture of opacity and public second-guessing about sensitive policy matters is no way to lead a major economy and an aspirant for great power status.”

Also read: Jesus, Mozart, Alexander aur apun ka Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi‘s ascension: A foregone conclusion?

A functioning anarchy? Or a feudal democracy?

Only one question anybody should ask Rahul Gandhi

Why is BJP backing Reddys? A: Sushma Swaraj

20 July 2010

By T.J.S. GEORGE

Cicero was a Roman orator and statesman of the 1st century BC whose writings deeply influenced modern thought. He was once retained by Sicilians to prosecute the Governor of Sicily, C. Verres, who had become unbearably corrupt and cruel.

Cicero prepared the first of what was to be a six-part chargesheet against the Governor, analysing the evils of greedy administrators. That first part was so powerful in its logic that Governor Verres gave up his post and retired into exile.

That was the good news.

The bad news was that the same Sicily gave birth to a secret nationalist society called the Mafia which in the 19th century turned into a collection of hired thugs specialising in blackmail, protection rackets and murder. Marlon Brando etched it into the world’s memory with The Godfather.

So why bring it up now?

To remind us that good history does not repeat itself. There was a time when people could prosecute the head of their government for corruption. That cannot happen now.

There were heads of government who would be shamed into voluntary exile when people filed charges against them. That is unthinkable today.

Bad history alone repeats itself. People who once had the power to prosecute their political boss later fell prey to the mafia. This is happening again and again around us.

Consider Karnataka, once one of the best governed states in India and led by some of best political minds in the country. Can that history repeat itself? Far from it.

Go into ancient history and we find rajahs losing their right to rule if they violated rajneeti; Sri Rama himself chose to heed public opinion even if it meant losing his wife. How different it is today? A. B. Vajpayee did accuse Narendra Modi of violating raj dharma, but it was Vajpayee who had to swallow his words while Modi went on with his violations.

Karnataka has hit national headlines for the wrong reasons. (Typical headline: Nataka in Karnataka). The Governor donned the battle dress, the Legislature became a war zone. All because of three ministers, the Reddy brothers.

A number of facts have turned public opinion against the Troika.

Fact: In 2008 a minority BJP Government was turned amorally into a majority with money provided by the Reddys.

Fact: In late 2009, under pressure of public opinion, the Chief Minister tried to curb the Reddys’ highhandedness; he transferred out of Bellary several officers who had been acting according to the orders of the Reddys and Reddys alone.

Fact: Within a month the Chief Minister cancelled the transfer of officers and withdrew criminal cases filed against the Reddys.

Fact: Under party pressure to placate the Reddy Troika the Chief Minister dropped one of his closest colleagues from the Cabinet, removed his capable and faithful Principal Secretary and withdrew a tax he had imposed on iron-ore trucks.

Fact: In the midst of the ongoing controversy, one of the Troika spends two hours in private conference with notorious criminals in a Bangalore Jail.

What gives the Reddys the power to run a state so haughtily? The obvious answer is their limitless “purchasing power” gained from the exploitation, without heed to laws and regulations, of the natural resources of Karnataka and Andhra. Less obvious is the unstinted support they receive from the BJP top brass in Delhi.

What motivates the BJP top brass when the Reddys are (a) not BJP-wallahs in any ideological sense and (b) an obvious liability to the party?

The short answer to that one is: Sushma Swaraj.

The Reddys publicly worship SS as their mother. Sushma Swaraj ignores their sins, ignores their unpopularity and gives them full support because perhaps she sees a day when brazen Reddy money can install a BJP government in Delhi as it did in Bangalore. No prices for guessing who will be the prime minister in such a government.

Thus does private ambition carry our country from misfortune to misfortune.

One question I’m dying to ask Yedi & Reddy

19 July 2010

After weeping and prevaricating for a fortnight, Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa has issued a “101 per cent” clean chit to the Reddy brothers in the mining issue from a lofty perch of New Delhi, saying there was no evidence against them. G. Janardhana Reddy, in turn, has issued himself a “pure as 24-carat gold” certificate to him, saying all the illegal stuff was being done by his Congress brethren.

This turn of events should surprise nobody, but everybody who has followed news reports over the last three years, Lok Ayukta N. Santosh Hegde‘s resignation, the Opposition’s dharna in the Vidhana Soudha  demanding a CBI probe, and the “former future prime minister” L.K. Advani‘s clarion call to the party to save the government if the Reddys have to go, should be scratching their heads as to what the heck the hungama was all about.

So, what is the one question you are dying to ask Yediyurappa and the Reddys? Like, is it true you have registered a domain name called dabbudabbudabbu.reddybrothers.com?

Also read6+1 questions after the return of Justice Santosh Hegde

‘In Ram Rajya, hamaam mein sab nange hain

Getaway of the Louts in the Gateway to the South

CHURUMURI POLL: Dismiss BJP govt in Karnataka?

GOOD NEWS: Karnataka beats AP, TN, Kerala

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

It’s still not here, but it’s kind of already here

18 July 2010

Even as the excavators pile up debris as tall as the public utility buildings Visvesvaraya Towers for the Namma Metro project, weekend travellers take a trip to nowhere in the new tourist-spot in Bangalore, on Sunday.

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

***

The Namma Metro photo portfolio

Yes, it’s for real, and it’s purple and off-white

4 cars, 3 SUVs, 8 bikes, and 16 autorickshaws

Oh God, what have they done to my M.G. Road

Saturdays, girlfriends, popcorn and other memories

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

Not a picture that will make it to Lonely Planet

Amar, Akbar, Antony. Or Ram, Robert, Rahim

Only a low-angle shot can convey its great girth

Lots of work overground for an underground rail

The unsung heroes in the dreams of Bangaloreans

When the Vidhana Soudha looked like Tirupati

18 July 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The Assembly hall of the Vidhana Soudha had gradually turned into a must-see tourist spot in Bangalore beating the likes of Dodda Ganapathy, museum, Bannerghatta zoo, Lal Bagh, etc.

I was one of the lucky ones to get a seat on the KSTDC bus that held a conducted tour every day.

When we reached the venue, Vidhana Soudha resembled Tirupati with pilgrims/visitors waiting in long queues to get a darshan of MLAs staging a dharna in the House.

Some pilgrims/visitors were complaining they could get more time in Tirupati to catch a darshan of Thimmappa than they could get to see Nanaiah.

But our driver–cum-guide was quite confident of getting us our money’s worth.

“It is not for nothing I have paid enough to get the last visit of the day allotted to us. There won’t be any restrictions. If some of you want to join them, you are free to do so. Yellargu chennagi thinsidini.”

As we approached the MLAs, the guide continued: “Stay with me and listen to me. You will get the inside story. They have just finished dinner. The vegetarian dishes came from Adigas. Hotel Atria and Eden Park supplied the non-veg items. Now they are waiting for desserts from Corner House.”

“What is the that tiny room with officers at the desk at this hour,” I asked.

“BBMP have opened a small office to streamline water supply, garbage and sewerage clearance. They have opened special ‘do-it-here’ kiosks for the convenience of protesters. Before the session starts, they clean the whole area and spray lavender perfume all over the place. The place has two distinct smells, one is lavender and the other is….”

“No need to mention that, please,” interrupted Ramesh Ramanathan of Janagraha who is a champion of civic rights in Bangalore and specialises in bringing transparency into BBMP work.

“How are they able to manage legislature work as well as dharna in the same place and at the same time?” asked MindTree’s Subroto Bagchi, an authority on work culture.

“That’s the beauty, sir. They are living where their work is and are working amidst their daily life. Nobody can tell the difference. They are fighting against corruption in politics even as they eat, snore and rush for nature’s calls,” said our guide.

“This is an unusual symbiosis. I know the “home-office” method of working. But the “office-home” concept is revolutionary; must study this in detail,” said Bagchi self-importantly.

As we were going around, the MLAs broke into a chaotic chorus of the song, KuNiyoNa bara, KuNiyoNa bara.

The reason for the sudden outburst was the arrival of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda along with his son and former chief minister, H.D. Kumaraswamy, to look up H.D. Revanna.

“How do they manage to sing songs while doing dharna?” asked Rajesh Krishnan, playback singer and music composer who had taken a break from his recording sessions.

“Old Kannada songs are the backbone of their struggle for power. It is because of this they are able to sleep better here than they could ever sleep at home,” justified our guide.

“If they had shown the same zeal and dedication all these years in their work, Karnataka would not be so backward and would not be amongst the top in corruption,” thundered a voice.

When we looked in its direction, it was not difficult to identify the voice.

It belonged to Shakuntala Narasimhan, crusader of consumer interest and an expert in Carnatic and Hindustani music among countless skills.

Just then the desserts arrived and the MLAs got busy eating.

Meanwhile somebody suggested they must eat dry fruits to stay healthy and some MLAs ran out to buy whatever was available from Russel Market in Shivaji Nagar.

As we were about to leave after the darshan, we heard that there was an arathi every night for its success.

Suddenly, the  Purohithru who seemed to be in a hurry to finish the arathi and catch Heegu Unte on TV9, dropped the  silver thatte.

***

My wife was banging on the plate to wake me up. I had dozed off after breakfast while watching the daily nautanki on television, and it was already time for lunch.

“You are just like the MLAs in Vidhana Soudha,” she said, “busy with only ‘ooo-ma-hey’.”

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Chidambaram a saboteur?

17 July 2010

Of all the millions of words that have been expended since Thursday night to examine and re-examine the collapse of the Indo-Pak talks into a slugfest between the two subcontinental S.M.s—Krishna and Qureshithe most incisive 1,042 words come from the editor of the Madras-headquartered New Indian Express, Aditya Sinha, who lobs the grenade the Delhi media cannot fine the ball bearings to: did Union home minister P. Chidambaram sabotage the dialogue?

How?

Even as Krishna is flying into Islamabad, Chidambaram’s top bureaucrat, home secretary G.K. Pillai, accuses the ISI of being behind the 26/11 attack in an interview with the Chidambaram-friendly Indian Express. Predictably, at the mention of ISI, Qureshi flies off the handle and accuses Krishna of taking orders on his cellphone, etc, and soon enough taglines like “Big Chill”, “Tu-tu-main-main“, “Aman ki Ashes” start crawling on TV screens.

Sinha’s entirely plausible theory sparks a bigger question: is the veshti-wearing, Harvard-accented Chidambaram what he is cracked up to be—a high IQ dude competently running his ministry unlike the bandgala-worshipping Shivraj Patil? Or is he just pursuing an agenda all his own that is often at odds with the weltanschaaung of the Congress and is perhaps even deliberately intended at causing discomfort to prime minister Manmohan Singh who has made foreign policy the signature tune of his second term?

The suggestion could have been dismissed off-hand if only if were the first such indiscretion. It isn’t.

# Witness the Telangana tamasha, manufactured mostly by Chidambaram’s breakneck speed in announcing the formation of a new State after TRS chief K. Chandrashekar Rao‘s fast-unto-death, that has turned Congress’ most profitable state into a liability.

# Witness the  operation against Naxals that has turned vast swathes of the hinterland into a graveyard posting for CRPF jawans. (Arundhati Roy has called him “CEO of the war” because he appears to be furthering the cause of his former clients by using State power to clear tribal land for their mining and business interests.)

# Witness the upsurge in violence in Kashmir after the CRPF, which is getting slaughtered in the Naxal badlands, opens fire on teenagers throwing stones and plunges the State into the kind of chaos not since the militancy began in 1989.

# Witness the Afzal Guru issue which again gained traction following a report (obviously in Indian Express) that the Delhi chief minister Shiela Dixit is sitting on it that causes further embarrassment to a party bending backwards to avoid it.

Chidambaram has, for long, been a slightly distrusted individual in the Congress. Partymen salute his obvious brilliance in dealing with complex issues like the Bhopal gas compensation, but he is seen as a bit of an upstart who left the party and became finance minister in non-Congress Third Front and United Front governments. There are some who whisper that the careerist very nearly joined the BJP.

Even if you put all that down to professional jealousy, it cannot be denied that he enjoys a fair degree of middle-class sympathy, especially among the NDTV viewing sections of it, especially for his muscular stance against Naxals and his “proactive” approach to policing by mouthing hollow American tripe like the “Buck Stops Here”. He is, in a manner of speaking, the English-speaking Narendra Modi, without evoking the same visceral venom.

Nevertheless, the Indo-Pak kerfuffle is a good time to ask if Chidambaram is playing his own tune in the government, (which is why he routinely runs afoul of party loyalists like Digvijay Singh and Mani Shankar Aiyar). Is he doing it on his own volition or to some higher power’s script? On the other hand, if Chidambaram is eyeing the “7, Race Course Road” address on his visiting card should such an eventuality arise, will such antics necessary earn points on the Congress high command’s scorecard?

Did Manmohan Singh miss a golden opportunity by not accepting Chidambaram’s resignation (not since offered) after the first Dantewada massacre of CRPF jawans?

Or is there something here that falls short of logic?

Also read: Is Chidambaram positioning himself for PM role?

How (free) India treats Foreign Correspondents

17 July 2010

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Indian politicians and patriots have long held the belief that the “western” media only relays bad news from Bharat.

That, despite all the towering progress made by the emerging superpower, foreign correspondents based out of India only tell their news consumers about death, disease, despair and disillusionment in our glorious land.

If not snakes, sadhus and superstition.

As if to underline the point, the Indian government has reportedly refused to extend the visa of Japanese television journalist, Shogo Takahashi of NHK television, allegedly because his reports focused extensively on poverty and the caste system.

In other words, “consistently negative reporting” about India, that is “not convenient for the interest of India“.

The Times of India reports that Takahashi, 46, first earned the displeasure of Indian officials because his despatches for the TV show Indo no Shogeki (The impact of India) dwelt overtly on the caste system in the Indian electoral system during the 2009 general elections.

Word has also now been conveniently leaked by anonymous officials that Takahashi often filmed his documentaries without taking permission or misused permissions to shoot something other than what permission had been taken for, and also shot “high-security” defence installations.

The word “bias” has also been mentioned.

NHK has expressed surprise at the Indian government’s abrupt decision and has sought an appointment with Indian embassay officials in Tokyo. There is talk that the channel may approach the Japanese foreign ministry to take up the matter with New Delhi.

However, the timing of the decision—shortly after a journalist of the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun complained at prime minister’s Manmohan Singh‘s national press conference about the difficulties in obtaining a press information bureau (PIB) accreditation—and the ostensible reasons are revealing.

On the one hand, for several months now, all the attention has been at estimating the number of poor in India (now conveniently fixed at 37% of the population). Is it so wrong if a foreign correspondent points it out? And since when did “consistently positive reporting” become a condition for visa renewal?

Does India even half-a-case to protest against anybody, Indian or foreign, dwelling on the menace of caste?

But it is the brazen manner in which a journalist has been sent out by a supposedly “liberalised” country for reporting what is not kosher that takes the breath away. That, and the silence of the Indian media lambs—the press council, the editors’ guilds, etc—at the treatment meted out to one of their own.

If Shago Takahashi had failed to convey something vital about freedom of expression in India, the faceless officials of the home and external ministries have done his job.

QED.

Also read ‘Caste is what has made Indians fearful of change’

‘Hinduism is in a crisis; there’s a civil war inside’

How not to appoint a University vice-chancellor

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

‘Yesterday’s caste is today’s struggle for equality’

You can take an Indian out of India, but can you…

Meet India’s newest toilet-cleaners, the Brahmins


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