Posts Tagged ‘Mayawati’

Will Narendra Modi lead Karnataka BJP campaign?

3 April 2013

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: “Narendra Modi vs Rahul Gandhi“: It makes for a sexy headline. And for an audience drawing shouting match on television. But as an analytical frame to understand the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections, it just doesn’t make any sense.

Let me explain.

Neither Modi nor Rahul is on the ballot in Karnataka. They aren’t likely to lead the government if their parties are voted into office. Nor will they be difference making vote gatherers, and to say otherwise is to misread democratic politics.

Narendra Modi’s spectacular success in Gujarat is neither unique nor is it solely based on claims of good governance and absence of corruption allegations. In fact, Shivraj Singh of Madhya Pradesh, Nitish Kumar of Bihar and Naveen Patnaik of Orissa too claim similar track record of both electoral success as well as efficient administration.

If anything, all four of them (Modi, Singh, Kumar and Patnaik) may have in common is the social alliance they have managed to create in their states, which has enabled them to triumph in the electoral arena. Sure good governance and a clean image always help.

But elections are fought and won based on caste equations, finding the right candidate and moving the right pawns. Modi has done exceptionally well in building that combination, in addition to economic development of Gujarat.

Astute political observers have always pointed out that the secret of Modi’s success in Gujarat is not that he is a practitioner of Hindutva politics; but he has rebuilt the old social alliance (of Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim known popularly as KHAM) Congress relied on for electoral success until the 1980s.

Admittedly, Muslims aren’t a key element of Modi’s social coalition but there is evidence to suggest that he has secured significant Muslim support in the last few years.

Yet the point is Modi has turned out to be an exceptional political strategist within Gujarat, and his administrative acumen has only helped in consolidating these political gains.

Does that make him a star campaigner outside Gujarat, especially among people who haven’t benefited from good governance? No one is suggesting that BJP invite Shivraj Singh or Nitish Kumar to campaign in Karnataka!

This is where Rahul Gandhi may start out with a small advantage, which accrues to any Gandhi-Nehru dynast, and that gets him the initial name recognition nationally as well as some loyalty of Congressmen. That may have been enough in the past even until the 1980s when his father entered politics. But Indian democracy has changed and has become more competitive since then.

Political loyalties are only skin-deep these days even in a High Command centric party like Congress.

Rahul gives the impression of being a reluctant politician, who given a choice would do something else. He hasn’t shown the commitment or stamina of a professional politician who will breathe politics every waking moment.

Can he be the adept strategist and star campaigner that Congress party, and indeed even the media expect him to be?

I remain skeptical. The voter has gotten better at seeing through masks and evaluates his self interests in ways that media or political scientists do not recognize.

What Rahul and Modi will accomplish, if they campaign vigorously in Karnataka, is bridge and/or raise the enthusiasm gap for their parties. That is their appeal will be limited to committed supporters of Congress and BJP respectively, who will be energized to vote for their candidates instead of staying home.

A recent survey by Suvarna News and Cfore media bears this out: more than two thirds of likely BJP voters admit that Modi’s support will make them vote for BJP.

What neither will be able to do is to convert the undecided voter or the opponent. Hence their impact will be limited and marginal at best.

So, why do we still see stories like this in prominent newspapers?

Is it because the media is lazy and cannot come up with better explanations?

***

IAS – KAS conflict:  Are only direct IAS recruits efficient and capable of running fair and impartial elections?

The Karnataka Election Commission seems to think so and has replaced twelve deputy commissioners, who are IAS officers but promoted from Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS).  Sashidhar Nandikal reports in Vijaya Karnataka on April 1 that this has created a rift among direct recruits and promotee IAS officers.

Majority of the direct recruits into IAS are non-Kannadigas and therefore lack deep roots in local caste politics or personal / family connections to leading politicians. That’s the not case with KAS recruits, whose initial selection will largely be because of their powerful connections.

Still, we must file this question among the inexplicable mysteries!

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On Actresses and Politics: Recently, I was asked to explain why actresses are getting into politics in Karnataka. While the elders in the business, like Umashri, Tara and Jayamala relied on MLC nominations or an Academy chairmanship to launch their political career, the younger lot like Rakshita and Pooja Gandhi is sweating it out, traveling across the state and taking part in party conventions.

Lest the reader mistake their political activism to the tireless campaigning of a Mamata Banerjee or a Mayawati, I hasten to add that these actresses haven’t offered a compelling reason for entering politics. In fact, we don’t hear much about their political commitments or track of social service.

The talk in Bangalore revolves around the money they are being paid. Pooja Gandhi is supposed to have received Rs 2 crore for joining BSR Congress and when asked by Vijaya Karnataka, she strongly denied that rumour. Yet in a political career spanning a little over a year, she has been a member of JD (S) and KJP.

To my questioner, a journalist-friend, I suggested that for someone like Pooja Gandhi a political party is no different than a product or a business she endorses. I suspect she looks at herself as a brand ambassador for a party, and taking a fee for that work isn’t the worst thing in the world.

CHURUMURI POLL: Has India lost moral compass?

23 October 2012

In its 62nd year as a Republic, India presents a picture that can only mildy be termed unedifying.

Scams are raining down on a parched landscape with frightening ferocity. From outer space (2G, S-band) to the inner depths of mother earth (coal), the Congress-led UPA has had it all covered in its second stint. Meanwhile, Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of the first family of the Congress, has taken charge of scandals at or near sea level.

Salman Khurshid, the smooth-talking Oxford-educated law minister, thinks it is beneath his dignity to respond in a dignified manner to charges of pilfering Rs 71 lakh from the disabled. The Harvard-educated finance minister P. Chidambaram and his family is happily busy gobbling up parts of the east coast from farmers. Etcetera.

But what of the opposition?

The BJP’s president Nitin Gadkari is neckdeep in a gapla of his own,  one that threatens, in fact one that is designed to deprive him of a second stint in office. “Scam”, of course, was the middle-name of party’s Karnataka mascot, B.S. Yediyurappa. From Mulayam‘s SP to Mayawati‘s BSP to Sharad Pawar‘s NCP, from Karunanidhi‘s DMK to Jayalalitha‘s AIADMK, money-making is the be-all and end-all.

The less said of the corporates who have pillaged the country since time immemorial the better but Vijay Mallya presents its most compelling side as he shuts down his airline while his son hunts for calendar girls. The do-gooders of Team Anna and now Team Kejriwal are themselves subject to searching questions on their integrity levels. And the media is busy getting exposed as extortionists and blackmailers.

Questions: Have we as a country completely lost our moral and ethical compass? Are we going through an “unprecedented” phenomenon or is this what the US and other developed democracies like Japan have gone through in their path to progress? Or does it not matter in the greater scheme of things? Is all this leaving the citizenry cynical and frustrated or do we not care because all of us are in it, in our own little ways?

For Congress and BJP, writing is on the UP wall

13 March 2012

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Uttar Pradesh has proved once again the trend observed  in the assembly elections in  West Bengal and Tamil Nadu last year that political changes are wrought mostly by new voters rather than old voters.

The essential difference is that while in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu new voters en masse plumped for the leading opposition party, in UP new voters distributed their largesse among the main contestants and the Samajwadi party proved to be biggest benefactor.

A study of the electoral behaviour in the country has proved one thing in rather conclusive terms: that parties hold on to their bases generally and the shift of political loyalty is very rare indeed. Whatever shift happens takes place marginally, while the bulk remain loyal to the party they have voted before.

Under the circumstances,  political change depends essentially on new voters.

They comprise of two categories, namely newly enrolled voters and those who, though enrolled, had not previously voted before and come to exercise their franchise for the first time.

In Karnataka, it is the newly enrolled voters, who have regularly voted for the BJP in the past three elections, even managing to catapult the party to power in 2008.  It had happened in West Bengal too, where they supported the Trinamool Congress last time.

In Tamil Nadu first-time voters sent packing home the Karunanidhi government of the DMK and put the crown on  Jayalalitha of the AIADMK.

It has  happened once again Uttar Pradesh elections too, where SP led by the father and son duo of Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh Singh, have turned in a stunning performanance to displace the BSP government of Mayawati and regain power in a very convincing matter.

The UP polls, it may be noted here, witnessed a higher turn out for a State which has a track record of low poll percentages  all these years. For the first time nearly 60% of voters—that is three out of every five voters—turned up at the booths, which is perhaps a record for the State.

It marked a more than 14% increase in the poll turn out and reports said that women turn out was appreciably higher this time.

In terms of  numbers, the increase in poll turn out, meant that more than 2.35 crore voters had cast their votes. This included around 1.38 crore voters who had enrolled themselves as voters for the first time and  remaining chunk being the voters though registered long ago, were exercising their right for the first time.

All these voters were making the choice of parties for the first time.

Of the total of 2.35 crore new votes waiting to be shared, the SP was able to corner a whopping 88 lakhs, to win 224 seats as against 97 in 2007 and earned right to rule the biggest state in India by its own right. This appeared to be direct offshoot of the social engineering done by the SP in the allotment of tickets, the aggressive campaign done by Akhilesh Singh and rising disenchantment with the Mayawati government.

The  ruling BSP which could not match with the superior election campaign of the father-son duo lost the race to retain power. Its only consolation has been that despite all the propaganda unleashed against it, it did receive an additional vote support to the extent of 37.74 lakhs. But this was not enough to retain the power and stem the tide of support that SP had  been able to mop up.  It lost 126 seats to end up with only 80 in a house of 403  but emerge as the main opposition party in the sprawling State.

The Congress, which ran a spirited campaign under the leadership of  Rahul Gandhi, had the next highest share to the extent of 42 lakhs votes. In terms of the seats, it meant an additional six seats to its previous tally of 22.

What is significant is that its share in the polled votes reached the double digit bracket  perhaps for the first time, though it has still a long way to go in quest of power in the state, by taking on the two well entrenched parties, the  SP and the BSP.

All those who are writing off Rahul Gandhi’s campaign as a failure appear to have overlooked a significant fact that the campaign had brought an increase in the base of the Congress. This trend had  also been noticed in Bihar too, where also the campaign was managed by Rahul Gandhi.

The BJP, which regarded the present poll as something of a  runup to the parliamentary polls scheduled in 2014, had quite a disappointing performanance. Though it did receive an additional votes to the extent of  25.19 lakhs,  it lost four seats. Its share in the polled votes showed a decline with the party receiving 15.01% as against 16.96 % of the previous poll.

Another interesting factor is that there had been considerable reduction in the number of voters and seats going to the other splinter parties.  The four main parties between themselves could bag 376 seats in 403-member house, and capture more than 81% of the votes.

From a national point of view, in the context of the  coming parliamentary elections in about two years of time (if not earlier), the prognosis is not good at all for the top two national parties, the Congress and the BJP, whose disconnect with the voters at large has shown no signs of receding.

Of the 2.35 crores of additional voters who exercised their right, in UP, the share of  the two national parties was a  mere 68 lakhs, while a marked higher chunk of votes went in favour of the regional satraps, Mulayam Singh and Mayawati, who between them had received a combined support  to the tune of  1.25 crores of votes.

Going by the present mood, it is unlikely that the either the Congress or the BJP is able to show any improvement in the days preceding the next poll.

Why youth, women hold key to UP poll verdict

5 March 2012

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Greater participation of voters in the poll process keeps democracy alvie and vibrant. This has been proved in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal already, and Uttar Pradesh, the biggest state with a whopping 403-member assembly, is all set to follow suit tomorrow.

Higher voter turnout has been a regular feature in Karnataka since 1999. Newly enrolled voters, numbering around 35 lakhs in each election, have almost en masse plumped for the BJP, helping it to catapult to power for the first time in the south.

Result: in terms of the total vote base in the election, BJP has dislodged the Congress from the number one position. (How the BJP is doing hara-kiri with this is a different matter.)

In last year’s assembly elections, this trend was noticed in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, in particular.

In Tamil Nadu, there was no increase in the electorate. But the turn out was quite high. Around 32.11 lakh more voters turned up at the polling booths. Apparently all of them went for AIADMK, helping Jayalalithaa to end the hegemony of the DMK and Karunanidhi. The AIADMK, had an additional 33.81 lakh votes in its kitty. The inference is obvious.

In West Bengal, the size of the electorate increased by 79.26 lakhs while 81.81 lakh more voters had exercised their franchise. This helped the Trinamul Congress of Mamata Bannerjee, to breach the CPM citadel to put an end to its long reign.

Trinamul had got an additional support of to the extent of 80.31 lakh votes. The CPM suffered slight erosion to the extent of 3.22 lakhs. The Congress lost the support to the extent of 14.74 lakhs while the BJP had gained by 11.74 lakh votes.

From the available information, it seems that similar drama is being enacted in the UP too.

The state which has been under the BSP rule of Mayawati witnessed one of the highest poll turnouts in the seven-phase election this time to the extent of over 62%, in an electorate of 12.70 crores.

Around 1.35 crores new voters had been enrolled this time.

In terms of the voters who exercised their franchise, the increase was by over 2 crores according to the election authorities. The observers have noted a marked enthusiasm among women voters this time.

It is the segment of voters who have absolutely no political commitment whatsoever who are going to write the new political history in the state.

The question is, who is going to be the beneficiary of the voters’ largesse—the two front runners, the BSP and the SP, or the BJP and the Congress, which are in the third and fourth position and lag far behind in terms of the total vote strength?

The odds should obviously favour the balance in favour of the BSP and the SP, who between themselves had accounted for 55.85% of the polled votes last time. And their opponents the BJP and Congress lagged far behind in the race with combined vote strength of around 25%.

The choice between them is quite dicey too. The odds favour SP undoubtedly if the incumbency factor is to be reckoned with. But the scales turning in favour of Mayawati cannot be ruled out too in the context of the high turnout of women voters this time.

The chances of the Congress, which fought under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, and the BJP getting the bonanza may arise if the phenomenon of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, with the entire bunch of the fresh voters extending the support en masse to either of them.

Anyhow what is in the mind of the UP voters would be clear on 6th when the counting of votes is taken up.

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Manmohan Singh survive?

2 February 2012

In its second term in office, the UPA government of Manmohan Singh has been dealt several body blows that could have completely ennervated and incapacitated a lesser man. Scam after scam, scandal after scandal has hit the Congress-led UPA regime, but like in a C-grade Bollywood film, the protagonists have found the energy to wake up from every thundering blow administered by the courts and the constitutional bodies like the CAG, dust off the rubble and prepare to fight another day.

But could 2 February 2012 be slightly different?

In responding to pleas by Subramanian Swamy and Prashant Bhushan—cancelling 122 licences issued by the now disgraced telecom minister A. Raja; allowing the CVC to look at the functioning of the CBI and in giving a free hand to a lower trial court to adjudicate if home minister P. Chidambaram too should be made a party to the crime—the Supreme Court of India has virtually validated the Rs 173,000 crore 2G scam that had been described as a “zero-loss” scam by a fatcat lawyer in minister’s clothing.

And it indirectly validates the Anna Hazare campaign that has been floundering and looking for oxygen.

With the Uttar Pradesh elections around the corner, the SC verdict pulls the rug from under the feet of the Congress which has been going to town over Mayawati‘s corruption, even raiding her closest supporters. It also puts a big question mark over the future of the Manmohan Singh government, pending a judgment in the Chidambaram matter. With the budget session of Parliament looming and presidential elections around the corner, it also throws up interesting improbables.

Questions: Will the Manmohan Singh government survive? Or is it all over bar the counting? Or should the prime minister resign to protect what little credibility there is left to his once-clean image?

Also read: Will Manmohan Singh survive?

CHURUMURI POLL: Manmohan Singh, still ‘Mr Clean’—II?

Has the middle-class deserted Manmohan Singh?

CHURUMURI POLL: Manmohan Singh, still ‘Mr Clean’—I?

Can the paragon of virtue hear his conscience?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is India a liberal Republic?

20 January 2012

On the eve of the 62nd anniversary of the “sovereign socialist secular republic”, a nice little knife has been stuck into the heart of liberal India by goondas and moral policemen. The author Sir Salman Rushdie has pulled out of the Jaipur literary festival following threats from “influential Muslim clerics” of the Darul Uloom Deoband, who suddenly remembered that his banned 1989 novel The Satanic Verses hurt the sentiments of Muslims ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections.

Considering that the book was banned the cowardly Congress government of Rajiv Gandhi 23 years ago, it will surprise nobody that it was the cowardly Congress government of Ashok Gehlot that did the needful this time round. Instead of reassuring the world that the “Indian State” would protect every single individual, down to the last man, woman and child, even if he has offended the super-sensitive and super-patriotic—especially if he has offended the super-sensitive and super-patriotic—the Rajasthan government caved in to the thugs.

And the Manmohan Singh government meekly watched on—just as it meekly watched on when A.K. Ramanujan‘s essay Three-hundred Ramayanas was being proscribed by Delhi University (where Singh’s daughter works), under the benign gaze of Sonia Gandhi and Shiela Dixit (peace be unto them).

While the Congress deserves every brick, shoe and invective hurled at it for the latest “stain on India’s international reputation“—on top of its execrable efforts to screen Facebook, Google and the media—no political party is properly clothed in this horribly naked hamaam which repeatedly and brazenly cocks a snook at free speech and expression.

# The warnings of Hindutva hitmen owing allegiance to the BJP drove M.F. Husain out of India, forcing him to live the last years of his abroad.

# NCP goondas burnt down a library in Poona because its author had used it to write a book on Shivaji, which they didnt’ like.

# In the glorious republic of Gujarat, movie watchers could not catch Parzania because–horror, horror—it showed the plight of Muslim victims in the 2002 pogrom; because, well, Narendra Damodardas Modi‘s government couldn’t offer basic security to theatres.

# Ditto Aamir Khan‘s Fanaa.

# And of course, the “alleged apostle of peace” couldn’t bear the hints of bisexuality in the real apostle of peace, so Joseph Lelyveld‘s book on Mahatma Gandhi was conveniently removed from the eyes of readers.

# In Left-ruled Kerala, a professors’s hand could be merrily chopped off with gay abandon by Islamists because he had mistakenly prepared a question paper that used the named “Mohammed” for a somewhat daft character. (And who can forget what happened to Deccan Herald, when it printed a short story titled Mohamed the Idiot.)

# Taslima Nasreen was unwelcome in Left-ruled Bengal because her views didn’t match those of the mullahs. (She was later attacked by Majlis MLAs in Congress-ruled Hyderabad and her visa reluctantly renewed by the UPA.)

# The BSP government of Behen Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh banned the film Aarakshan because of is “derogatory” take on reservations.

Questions: Are we really a tolerant, liberal nation open to views from all sides? Or in the 21st century, are we utterly incapable of using the word freedom without adding “but” to it?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Does freedom have its limits?

‘Online extremism has lowered tolerance levels’

What’s the correct word for a Hindu fatwa?

Free to live. Not free to do and say as we like?

Why we mustn’t ban the book on the Mahatma

Never—ever—ignore the elephant in the room

10 January 2012

Online, people call it “The Streisand Effect“—an attempt to hide something which has the inverse effect of publicising what you are trying to hide some more. The Election Commission’s quixotic order that those gargantuan statues put up by Mayawati‘s government in Uttar Pradesh be covered up, since the elephant is the symbol of the Bahujan Samaj Party is a bit like that.

Little wonder, cartoonists are having a field day. And Delhi’s political hack-pack which has more or less allowed itself to be convinced by Congress media handlers that the Congress will be kingmaker if not the king himself in Mayaland, are wondering if the EC’s move could boomerang and play to Mayawati’s benefit?

Cartoons: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today and Keshav/ The Hindu

External reading: What if Mayawati was contesting in Kerala?

Stepmotherly affection for Father of Constitution

6 December 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: For all the lip service it pays “dalits and the downtrodden”, for all the tokenism of a Dalit as speaker of Lok Sabha, and for all the buzz about a possible Dalit replacement for Manmohan Singh as prime minister, the Congress-led UPA government has issued a measly six pages of ads in 12 newspapers to mark the birth death anniversary of the father of the Indian Constitution—and the icon of Dalits—Dr B.R. Ambedkar.

In contrast, the State government of Uttar Pradesh, headed by Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party, has issued seven pages in the same 12 newspapers surveyed by sans serif.

The Centre’s six pages of ads for Ambedkar is in stark contrast to the 393 pages of ads issued by various ministries and departments of the Union government and Congress-run State governments to mark the three birth and three death anniversaries of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi in 2011.

While various ministries were falling over each other to sing hosannas for the three ex-PMs, only the ministry of social justice and empowerment is in evidence for Dr Ambedkar. The only State government advertiser is the Delhi commission for safai karmacharis.

***

The breakup of the Ambedkar ads today are as under:

Hindustan Times: 24-page main issue; 2 Ambedkar ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 26-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

Indian Express: 20-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 compact page

The Hindu: 20-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

The Statesman: 16-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

The Telegraph: 24-page issue; 0 ads amounting to 0 broadsheet pages

***

The Economic Times: 24-page main issue; 0 ads

Business Standard: 14-page issue; 0 ads

Financial Express: 18-page issue; 0 ads

Mint (Berliner): 24-page issue; 0 ads

***

Last year, on the 19th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in an edit-page article in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that on May 21, 2010, perhaps Rs 60 or 70 crore were spent by the taxpayer — without his and her consent — on praising Rajiv Gandhi. Since the practice has been in place since 2005, the aggregate expenditure to date on this account is probably in excess of Rs 300 crore.”

Photograph: courtesy Sepia Mutiny

Also read: Nehru birthday: 58 ads amounting to 26¼ pages

Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

Rajiv death anniversary: 69 ads, 41 pages in 12 papers

Indira Gandhi birthday: 64 ads, 32 pages

Times, Express groups get most anniversary ads

Is Mayawati pilloried because she is a Dalit?

1 November 2011

With the Uttar Pradesh electoral joust not too far away, the shadow-boxing has begun. The Congress is going to town questioning the hundreds of crores spent by chief minister Mayawati on statues. In the other corner, Mayawati is being credited for uplifting Dalits and tribals and the success of India’s formula one debut is being placed at her door.

There is talk that Mayawati could emerge as a prime minister candidate if not as a kingmaker if the Bahujan Samaj Party does well in the assembly elections and repeats the show in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Which is why apparently the Congress is said to be pushing Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar as a potential PM to steal Mayawati’s thunder.

But, as always, the spectre of corruption hangs over her abrasive figure. Former civil servant Amitabha Pande writes in Mail Today:

Mayawati’s corruption or the growth of her private wealth through the use of political power has a political, cultural dimension which is often ignored. It does not justify it, but it may offer a possible explanation for the blatant manner in which it is done.

“Purely in terms of scale Mayawati will rank quite low in the gallery of rogues in comparison with many members of the Union Cabinet, many present and former chief ministers, sundry progenies and sons in law of prominent political dynasties, and other shadowy denizens of Indian political life. Yet, while most others will evoke nary a reaction from the chatterati, Mayawati’s conduct invariably evokes voluble expressions of revulsion. Caste prejudice is undoubtedly at work here.

“There is also no doubt that as much as the upper classes hate her, her own constituency adores and admires her despite or maybe even because of the growth of her wealth. Her identification with her own lot is so complete that her growth is their growth and a form of retribution for centuries of servitude and exploitation.”

Also read: Is even Ambedkar safe in Mayawati‘s hands?

A leader whose time has come to cross her legs?

CHURUMURI POLL: Can the BSP succeed in Karnataka?

For the doyen of downtrodden, all assets is maya

What one Yuvraj can learn from the other Yuvraj

17 May 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: In the second decade of the 21st century, India has two Yuvrajs trying to lord over all they survey.

***

The first Yuvraj is on the cricket field: Yuvraj Singh.

A brilliant fielder at cover-point and a batsman who can hit the leather off a cricket ball at will, he is every captain’s dream colleague.

This Yuvraj is a teen prodigy who came good despite a stormy upbringing: His partnership with Mohammed Kaif when India chased down England’s 326  to win the NatWest series, after being  147  for 5, is part of Indian one-day cricket folklore, second only to the win at 1983; make that third only to the World Cup win in 2011.

When he hit six sixes off a hapless Stuart Broad over  in a Twenty20 match in 2007, even  his critics had to sit up and say “wow”.

“Critics”, because Yuvraj Singh was not having the same success in Test match cricket. A nervous starter, he was vulnerable against both the short-pitched ball and the turning ball in the early part of an innings. Eventually he lost his place in the Test team to Suresh Raina.

To add to his woes, he was injury-prone, lost the vice-captaincy of ODI team, became overweight,  and  somewhat overbearing. He began making news off the field, even going after a pesky spectator who called him a ‘water boy’ because he was in the game only as a twelfth man.

From such a precarious down-in-the-dumps position, Yuvraj Singh rose like a Phoenix in the just-concluded World Cup. He worked hard on his fitness, lost weight and became the original mean and hungry looking man, batting and fielding like a man possessed.

He even sharpened his spin bowling to such a nagging length that he was difficult to score off and took  more wickets than the main spinner in the team, Harbhajan Singh. He was adjudged ‘man of the match’ four times, eventually being declared the most valuable player of the tournament when in the finals he took important wickets and stayed with his captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to fetch India a famous victory after 28 years.

This is our first Yuvraj, who, despite a stormy childhood at the hands of his father Yograj Singh, started as a precocious talent, went into the doldrums and a period of uncertainty but bounced back and delivered when it mattered most and fulfilled his promise.

His aura is now firmly back.

The “water boy”, Clive Lloyd said, “was drinking from the fountain’.

***

Our other Yuvraj also plays in white, but in a different field: politics.

Quite unlike the other Yuvraj, Rahul Gandhi burst on to the scene with a “home” advantage.

He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His bloodline was impeccable. His parents were happily married. Being the son of the most powerful and influential Congressman, Sonia Gandhi, he didn’t have to work his way up into the “team”. He was captain material from the day he entered the park.

The crown prince: if not Royalty itself, he was the closest to Royalty in a democratic context.

With his great grandfather (Jawaharlal Nehru), his grandmother (Indira Gandhi) and his father (Rajiv Gandhi) having all been prime ministers, the trajectory was clear for this Yuvraj from the day his mother heard her “inner voice”. Congressmen openly admit this Yuvraj has to only choose the time and day when he would like to become PM and the incumbent will readily make way.

This Yuvraj doesn’t have to bother about critics who criticise him, because they don’t.

This Yuvraj’s teammates doesn’t have to bother about the taunts of rivals and teammates, because they don’t.

This Yuvraj doesn’t have to bother about spectators who make fun of him, because they can’t get close to him.

Sure, he works hard like the other Yuvraj, travelling extensively in his continuing ‘Discovery of India’, campaigning in constituency after constituency. He even tries to get down from his ivory-tower SUV and mingle with the aam janata especially the young. And, he hasn’t shown any undue haste to become prime minister.

Sure, he says the kind of things people like to hear. He says he is against the pomp which most Congressmen fall prey to such as  motorcycle outriders and the “lal batthi” (red-light) syndrome. He admits that he had it easy but wants to democratise the party to allow youngsters to enter politics.

Still, success eludes this Yuvraj unlike the other Yuvraj.

Except for the childlike enthusiasm of the ‘Amul Baby’, the nation doesn’t know where he stands on the key issues of the day. Be it talking about “Kalavathy” or joining protesting farmers, the only arrow in his quiver seems to be symbolism.

His stand on substantial issues like Maoism, poverty, inflation, terrorism, etc, are unknown.

He holds on to his two-nation theory of India as if no other thought passes between his ears.

Worse, he has  exhibited a  penchant to put his foot in the mouth that exposes his limited knowledge of the Indian political system and the freedom struggle. His statement that ‘his family had made sacrifices’ to the country was met with strong criticism, perhaps deservedly so. The WikiLeaks cable that showed that he felt the growth of radicalised Hindu groups posed a greater threat to Indian security than Islamic terror groups, evoked guffaws.

So far, this Yuvraj hasn’t done anything spectacular to show that he has it in him to lead the nation despite the red carpet laid out for him. Indeed, if he was the other Yuvraj he would have been dropped from the team.

If this Yuvraj doesn’t come up with the numbers, doesn’t show leadership qualities soon, his ascendency to the throne will be regarded as a pure dynastic ritual rather than as any achievement that propelled him to that exalted position.

Whereas the cricketing Yuvraj changed his work ethic for the better which got him handsome rewards, the politicking Yuvraj is still only gardening the pitch, after taking guard nearly a decade ago.

Surely, it is time the crown prince Yuvraj took a leaf out of the commoner Yuvraj and belted some sixes and announced himself in the IPL—the Indian Political League.

Else, “We, the People” will be entitled to ask, why and not why not.

***

Photograph: Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi watching the 2011 World Cup semifinals between India and Pakistan in Mohali (courtesy PTI via The Times of India)

***

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Has Rahul Gandhi blown it?

What Amethi’s indices tell us about Rahul Gandhi

In one-horse race, Rahul Gandhi is a two-trick pony

‘Politics is about solving problems, not evading them’

‘Most opaque politicians in the democratic world’

Jesus, Mozart, Alexander and apun ka Rahul

A functioning anarchy? Or a feudal democracy?

Rahul Gandhi‘s ascension: a foregone conclusion?

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part I

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part II

Only question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

CHURUMURI POLL: Is BJP blackmailing Congress?

18 February 2011

Plenty of pixels have been expended on Manmohan Singh‘s inquisition on television against the backdrop of the scams enveloping his government, and the jury is agreed that the prime minister underlined his image as the lonely hero, blaming everybody—the coalition, the opposition and the media—for his woes, i.e. everybody except himself.

Seen from the PM’s perspective, though, he delivered a couple of telling blows. In reiterating that he will last his full tenure in clear, unequivocal terms, he sent a message to the Congress. And he socked it to the BJP where it hurts most: that it was using reforms like the goods and services tax (GST) as a bargaining chip.

“The reasons that have been given, frankly, I cannot mention it in public. They say because you have taken some decision against a particular person, who was a minister in Gujarat (Amit Shah), we must reverse it.” Singh, however, stopped short of naming the minister.

The Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi has, as is his wont, laughed the charge away, calling it the biggest joke of 2011, although we are just 45 days into it and we might yet seem better jokes in the days and months ahead. But the PM’s charge shines the light on the politics of blackmail that is the bedrock of modern Indian politics.

If B.S. Yediyurappa is accused of corruption, he threatens to reveal all the wrong doings of his predecessors but just stops short of it. The Congress switches on the CBI probe into the disproporationate assets of Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav like a switch, whenever it suits the grand old party. And so on.

But since even Lalchand Kishinchand Advani doesn’t deign question the personal integrity of PM, Manmohan Singh’s charge can’t be wished away. Also, given the kind of trouble the RSS and its inspirational figures like Indresh Kumar and Swami Aseemanand are in vis-a-vis “Hindutva Terror”, the PM’s allegation throws up the big question: for all its sanctimonious breast-beating, is the BJP blackmailing the Congress when no one is watching?

Making capital out of Ambedkar, Maoism, cricket

20 April 2010

By T.J.S. GEORGE

We as a people have gifts no other people have.

Italy and New York, for example, are celebrated for their great mafia leaders. But those leaders could only think of routine stuff like kidnapping and smuggling and murder and protection money.

Only an Indian could think up the non-violent idea of making millions from the humble, rarely noticed stamp paper. Telgi never harmed a fly.

Indians have the rare genius to turn everything into an item of trade. Who else has turned God into such profitable commerce? We discovered early that this line of business required the least investment. And the returns are huge.

All it takes is the right kind of uniform—saffron robes or bishop’s cassocks or a neutral white that looks now like a saree, now like a winter shawl—and some kind of marketing mantra. Then you get enough believers around the world to keep you in eternal wealth, not to mention attractive fringe benefits provided by young devotees.

The God industry will remain by far the most widespread and lucrative of all business ventures in India. But ours is a vast and fertile land. There’s plenty of scope for all kinds of growth industries. So we have been busy developing the commercial potential of various other previously innocent ideas.

Like Ambedkar, Maoists, Cricket.

B.R. Ambedkar is one of the greatest, bravest men who shaped our country’s destiny. K.R. Narayanan becoming President and K.G. Balakrishnan becoming chief justice of India are 20th-21st century phenomena and therefore not altogether uncommon.

Ambedkar was born in the last decade of the 19th century into a family that was not only Untouchable but described openly as such. For such a boy to get a scholarship to Columbia University and then to London was an almost unbelievable feat.

Instead of hailing him as an Indian of supreme vision and value, we have reduced him to a convenient bargaining chip of Dalitism. Mayawati today claims exclusive proprietorial rights over him. Rahul Gandhi, on a mission to out-Dalit Mayawati, is not allowed to garland Ambedkar’s statue in Ambedkar Nagar area.

In this one-up-manship game, Mayawati and Rahul Gandhi may or may not score points. But Ambedkar will lose. Because Ambedkar is no more than an item of political trade in their hands.

The Maoists of Dandakaranya are not very different. Home Minister Chidambaram‘s hawkish policy has run into opposition from his own party colleagues who see the futility of a militaristic approach to what is fundamentally a social-economic problem.

Unfortunately for Chidambaram, his earlier association with Vedanta, one of the companies that will benefit hugely if the Maoists are suppressed, has brought his motivations into question. It won’t be easy for him to avoid the impression that the lives of tens of thousands of adivasis are being traded for the commercial advantage of mining companies.

Cricket, of course, beats all other trading programmes, almost challenging the God business in scope and turnover. So many lakhs of crores of rupees are involved in the cricket business that the IPL presents its numbers in dollars and millions. Confidentiality, another word for secrecy, has been its watchword.

Could such vast sums be clean? Could they include black money, terrorist money, underworld money?

It is amazing that such issues attracted the enforcement directorate’s attention only when Shashi Tharoor and the Kochi franchise got into the picture.

Tharoor is a natural magnet for trouble, as a playboy who wants to be everywhere doing everything. But he is a bumbling Batman before Lalit Modi‘s scheming Svengali. How many political VIPs are interlinked with Svengali? Will they ensure that any investigation is yet another eyewash?

Tragically cricket is no longer a sport. It too has become an item of trade, flourishing in a fish-market culture. May all the money-makers burn in hellfire in due course for destroying the decencies that made cricket cricket and the values that made India India.

* tweet courtesy Ramesh Srivats

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Dinakaran be impeached?

21 December 2009

The case against Justice P.D. Dinakaran, the chief justice of the Karnataka high court, is the first in the history of post-independent India to be played out almost entirely in the age of 24×7 media.

While there have been dozens of judges with a question mark against them and while only two of them have had the infamy of having the impeachment process initiated against them (Justice V. Ramaswami and Justice Soumitra Sen), Justice Dinakaran has exclusively had his dirty linen washed in public.

Yet, slimy politicians will be slimy politicians, just as perhaps sleazy judges will be sleazy judges.

While 76 members of the Rajya Sabha have signed the 55-page impeachment petition, which the vice-president Hamid Ansari has admitted, the issue has quickly attained a pro-Dalit, anti-Dalit tone, just as it had when the issue first broke. Some Congress Dalit MPs have criticised the impeachment move, saying Justice Dinakaran was being hounded because he was a Dalit. And then that sturdy pillar of rectitude, Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Mayawati, has lent her weight to the issue.

In some ways, the current situation is no different from 1990, when Justice Ramaswami’s impeachment was seen as a plot against a south Indian. The Congress eventually abstained from the voting, rendering the impeachment void. However, the key difference in Justice Dinakaran’s case is the media play it has got. While the Congress is making the right noises today, there is no guarantee it will stick with this course.

Questions: Will Justice P.D. Dinakaran be eventually impeached? Or will the Dalit card help him out? Will the impeachment process drag on by which time he will retire “honourably”?

Full coverage: The strange case of Justice P.D. Dinakaran

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Dalit Dinakaran above the law?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC—II?

‘Integrity + competence + judicial temperament’

Yella not OK, but Supreme Court silent yaake?

The brazen conduct of Justice Dinakaran

The strange case of Justice Dinakaran (continued)

Audi alteram partem? Hear the other side out?

Harijans had Ambedkar; Girijans have Naxals?

23 October 2009

Former West Bengal finance minister Ashok Mitra in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The Dalits were fortunate to be gifted a cult figure in Bhimrao Ambedkar. He worked within the system from the Gandhi-Irwin Pact days to ensure a substantial say for his people in the nation’s affairs. He was the main architect of free India’s Constitution too, and availed himself of that opportunity to guard Dalit interests jealously….

“Descendants of India’s original inhabitants have failed to produce an Ambedkar from within their midst. They have been squeezed and squeezed for aeons on end by the superior classes, uprooted from their land, thrown out of their homestead, denied sources of food and water, whiplashed as bonded labour, their women were free goods to satisfy the sensual urges of the gentry, their poultry and pigs were confiscated to cater to the culinary requirements of the same set. Environmentalists and wildlife buffs have worried over matters concerning the preservation of the flora and the fauna; they had little time for the sufferings of the tribal people….

“Maoists seem to have done their homework. They have built an organizational network, silently and surreptitiously, across eight or nine states with a significant concentration of tribal stock. They think the revolution they have been itching for is well-nigh near. The foot soldiers of that revolution will be the suppressed and oppressed adivasis now ready for a glorious uprising against the tyrannies of State power.”

Read the full article: The phantom enemy

Also read: When Priyanka meets Nalini, she’s a messiah, but…

CHURUMURI POLL: Will State beat Naxals?

What’s in a name? What’s in a bold-faced name?

18 August 2009

Anil Dharker, the chemical engineer turned journalist, once wrote a famous TV review in the now-defunct Sunday Observer, in which he wrote Rajiv Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi a few hundred times from start to finis to drive home the Rajiv Gandhi overkill on the State-owned broadcaster Doordarshan.

Rajiv Gandhi is now history, but life imitates art in strange ways. Congress governments at the Centre and in the States have made it their life’s mission to immoralise Rajiv Gandhi‘s name till kingdom come, with project after project after project being named after the late prime minister with monotonous imagination.

Question: How many projects in the country are named after Rajiv Gandhi?

Answer: Below

***

By T.J.S. GEORGE

It is the eternal, inviolable law of democracy: You serve the people meaningfully, they will reward you with votes; you fool the people, they will bide their time to punish you.

This law was dramatically in evidence in this year’s election. Congress gained significantly because it was seen actively promoting a programme that helped jobless masses, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).

It was not politics, but service.

Alas, it is now going to be politics. Recognising the voter appeal of the programme, state government leaders began exploiting what was a hundred percent centrally sponsored scheme. Mayawati has launched a campaign in UP with her portrait in all publicity material as though it is her idea and her implementation.

But this is a game the Congress can play more brazenly than any other party.

In order to stop others from hijacking its scheme, the Congress is now moving to put an indelible party stamp on it. It plans to name the programme after, who else, Rajiv Gandhi.

Will Mayawati lend her portrait to publicise Rajiv Gandhi?

Naming a government-funded public programme after a single leader is an established Congress trick. We have always been aware of Indira Gandhi This and Rajiv Gandhi That.

Journalist A. Surya Prakash now shows us how this has grown into a national disease. In a petition to the Election Commission, he has listed 450 central and State government activities named after three members of the dynasty Jawaharlal, Indira and Rajiv.

It’s a frightening list.

He questions the political morality of attaching a politician’s name to government programmes aimed at improving the lives of citizens. The Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Yojana (with government funding of Rs 28,000 crore), and the Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission (Rs 21,000 crore over three years) give the impression that Rajiv Gandhi is to be thanked for the electricity and the water that citizens get.

Surya Prakash cites the case of an ambulance service in Andhra that provides emergency help quickly and efficiently. The expenditure is borne out of public funds, but each of the 650 ambulances carries a portrait of Rajiv Gandhi on both sides of the vehicle with the legend Rajiv Arogyasri thus giving the impression that this ambulance service is a gift of Rajiv Gandhi and his party to the people of Andhra.

By contrast, only the Backward Region Development Fund is named after Mahatma Gandhi. And not a single central programme is named after Ambedkar or Sardar Patel whose roles as builders of India remain unique.

In the dynastic naming spree, even Jawaharlal Nehru looks like an after-thought.

The formidable listing ranges from Indira Gandhi Calf Rearing Scheme and Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Vivah Shagun Yojana (Haryana) to Rajiv Gandhi Kabaddi Tournament, Rajiv Gandhi Wrestling Gold Cup, Rajiv Gandhi Stadium (three in Kerala alone), Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Rajiv Gandhi Aviation Academy, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture, Rajiv Gandhi Shiromani Award, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, Rajiv Gandhi Fellowship for SC/ST, Rajiv Gandhi Wild Life Sanctuary, Rajiv Gandhi Mission on Food Security, Rajiv Gandhi Breakfast Scheme (Pondicherry), Rajiv Gandhi Bridges and Roads Programme, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute.

There’s even a peak in the Himalayas named Mount Rajiv.

The latest addition explains why and how this happens. Sharad Pawar, at a loose end with his NCP getting nowhere, has been anxious to curry Sonia Gandhi‘s favour.

So he proposed that the new sea bridge in Bombay be named Rajiv Sethu. And so it was, scheming politicians turning India into a family estate.

At this rate, Bharat may soon be re-named Rajiv Rajya.

Only question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

30 July 2009

Anand-1

Whoever said only losers take up the arts? At 26 years of age, Priya Krishna, MA, LLB, s/o “Layout” Krishnappa, has Rs 770 crore of movable and immovable assets; and Rs 734 crore of loans from banks and financial institutions.

If Rahul Gandhi is really all he is made out to be—the great white hope of the Congress; the prime mover towards a new, improved Congress; the man who chose bright, clean, young candidates in the 2009 general elections—how on earth does he allow someone like this to be the Congress candidate from Govindarajapura, and how does he expect the world to ignore it?

Image: courtesy The New Indian Express

Link via Anand V.

Also read: When I grow up all I want to do is be a sub-inspector

Carper’s Index: Can crorepatis relate to crores?

C.H. Vijayashankar: That’s why they asked us to shut up and vote

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi

Mayawati: For doyen of dalits, assets is all maya

Kanimozhi: How many poems can fetch a poet Rs 8.5 crore?

H.D. Deve Gowda: A snapshot of a poor, debt-ridden farming family

R.V. Deshpande: A 1,611% jump in assets in five years? Hello!

H. Anjaneya: How to grow your assets by 81,465%? Ask him.

R. Ashok: Everyone is stark naked in the public bathroom

What Mayawati can learn from Bhakta Prahallada

3 July 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji was reading Praja Vani near the Tulsi katte, as usual. After sometime, she flung the paper aside in disgust instead of her usual practice of neatly folding it and keeping it aside.

Ajji’s demeanour resembled Manmohan Singh’s anger against his agriculture minister who was still flogging the Twenty20 horse in London when the country was getting desperate for monsoon rains.

Yenaaaythu Ajji; anything bothering you?” I asked.

Ramu! Years ago I told you about Bhaktha Prahallada and Hiranya Kashipu. Do you remember the story?” Ajji asked.

“Yes, as if it happened in front of my eyes. I especially remember the scene when the demon-king Hiranya Kashipu ridicules Prahallada when he tells him God is omnipresent.”

“Yes.”

“Hiranya Kashipu shows a pillar and derisively asks whether Vishnu was present in that pillar. Prahallada informs him that God is present everywhere including the pillar. When Hiranya Kashipu tries to break the pillar with his mace, Vishnu himself comes out through the crashing pillar and ultimately kills Hiranya Kashipu,” I said.

“Vishnu is present everywhere for his Bhaktha who can see nothing else,”

Ajji! I also remember your story of Krishna telling Arjuna that he will be reborn in the world whenever dharma is in danger and the evil forces have to be put down.”

“I am glad you remember that. In fact in the Bhagavad Gita the stanza is:

Yadaa Yadaa hi Dharmasya…… Sambhavami yuge yuge”( meaning: “Whenever there is decay of righteousness and rise in un-righteousness, I shall manifest and make myself evident; chapter 4 -7)”

Ajji! You had made us all by heart the entire stanza as well as the story of Prahallada. But what made you recollect all that now?”

Ajji paused for a while.

“Do you know something? Just as Vishnu appeared in the pillar to prove God is everywhere, now Mayawati is trying to show Dalits that she is Goddess and omnipresent with her statues all over Lucknow and UP!”

“Oh, Ajji!’

“Isn’t it shameful that a human being equates herself to Goddess and constructs her own statues all over using public money even as she proclaims herself as the messiah of the poor? Even Bhima Rao Ambedkar who did so much for the cause of Dalits did not call himself God. If any, he was one of the downtrodden and fought his way through education and later fought for their rights and condition in society.”

“That is true, Ajji.”

“Why, our own Bahubali who had won everything renounced his kingdom and his statue in Shravanabelagola stands there as a symbol of renunciation, sacrifice built not by Bahubali himself but his brother Bharatha.”

“That’s right.”

Idu vinasha kale vipareetha buddhi kano! Once, Indira Gandhi had displayed this when she clamped Emergency. Congress learnt the lesson and gave a public apology. L.K. Advani, in a moment of madness did a similar thing when he led kar sevaks to the Babri Masjid and reignited the Hindu-Muslim conflict. I don’t care what that retired judge Liberhan, who made a second career out of his commission, has to say on that. Now Mayawati, the megalomaniac  equating herself to Goddess, squanders thousands of crores of public money to build her own statue all over UP. Along with the corruption charges leveled against her in the Taj corridor case, spending crores of public money can only mean one thing.”

“What is it, Ajji?”

“The spark of indignation and revulsion that all feel against megalomania will result in removal of the ghastly statues lock, stock and barrel as also Mayawati herself as CM. Then only dharma can triumph against such evil forces,” concluded Ajji.

Also read: Is even B.R. Ambedkar safe in Mayawati‘s hands?

Almost like Obama, but also kinda unlike Obama, too

A leader whose time has come to cross her legs?

For the doyen of downtrodden, assets is all maya

Is even B.R. Ambedkar safe in Mayawati’s hands?

16 June 2009

M.K. VIDYARANYA writes from Bangalore: “In a world that grows steadily more angry and frightened, the rage and the fear mutually reinforcing each other, it is hard to look back to Mahatma Gandhi‘s kind of leadership without a desperate sense of loss. He loved the poor without hating the rich. He loved the great traditions of Hindu culture without hating the Muslims. He loved his country’s liberty without hating the British. He saw evil, misery and injustice as doing even greater harm to the oppressors than to the oppressed. So he loved his enemies with compassion and sought radical change by non-violent means since violence harms the man who uses it as much as, if not more than, the one who suffers it.”

This was the view of  the renowned author Barbara Ward Jackson in her contribution to the commemorative volume Mahatma Gandhi 100 Years edited by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and published in 1968.

Untouchability was widely prevalent in pre-independence India and the privileged sections of society shamefully practiced it, unleashing a sort of violence on the less privileged.

Gandhi responded by labelling the less privileged as Harijans (God’s men). The privileged were made to shoulder the responsibility of serving the less privileged and thus undoing the wrong done by their predecessors, generations after generations.

Gandhi founded Harijan Sevak Sangh during his life time and he was its founding President.

Gandhi had a higher goal and objective in doing all this and had he survived his assassin’s bullets, would have perhaps strived even harder to create an integrated nation by breaking the social alienation between Harijans and the rest of the population.

All this, of course, is known.

However, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati‘s scathing attack on the Mahatma is surprising, if not ill motivated. While addressing a meeting of MPs and legislators of her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), she is said to have called the Father of the Nation a ‘natakbaaz‘ (fake).

In Mayawati ‘s words:

“Congress has always been insensitive to Dalits. They have done nothing for the welfare of the Dalits. Only eating in a Dalit house and sleeping there would not solve the problem. These are tactics to fool Dalits which Congress has been indulging in since long. Even Mahatma Gandhi did the same. He used to do all these dramas and did nothing substantial to improve the condition of the Dalits.”

Has Mayawati studied the works of Gandhi in depth and submitted a thesis to draw this uncalled for and controversial comment which has taken even Dalits by surprise?

If today she can call Gandhi a ‘fake’ , who will she use the same terminology on tomorrow?

Babasaheb Ambedkar?

Admittedly, this is a free country and Mayawati is free to use her right of expression. Maybe, the Mahatma himself wouldn’t have minded such searing scrutiny rather than blind worship.

But is this scrutiny or slander? Is this justified criticism or motivated mischief-mongering? Or is this just plain megalomania; an ant firing at one of the greatest souls to have walked this soil?

Photograph: courtesy Outlook

Also read: Almost like Obama but very unlike Obama too

Why 2009 elections was like Mahabharata redux

27 May 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Now that the election results are out and the dust has somewhat settled, analysts and psephologists who had got it all wrong with their analyses and predictions are standing upside down and scratching their heads to read the real meaning.

It isn’t different in our home either.

After Ajji does her daily puje to the Tulasi katte, it is her usual practice to sit quietly in the open yard while I read the morning newspapers. This is the moment when she usually chews on what she has seen on Udaya TV and read in Praja Vani the night before.

Ramu, this election just resembles Mahabharata in every respect,” she started.

I was surprised and taken aback by the comparison.

Ajji, I don’t know how you can compare this to Mahabharata… Although there was lot of shrill verbiage, they didn’t come down to fisticuffs. Even Naveen Chawla and N. Gopalaswami shook hands at the transfer of power in Election Commission. There was no mara-mari.”

Illa kano Ramu… I think this was a war between Pandavas and Kauravas. Pandavas had only five people and their mother Kunthi. Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram, Rahul Gandhi, Kapil Sibal and Kamal Nath shepherded by Sonia were all what they had. Krishna came on the scene, as always, at the right time.”

Has Ajji lost it, I wondered?

Has she entered the first lanes of Alzheimer‘s?

“Ha, ha! And who were on the side of the Kauravas?” I asked nonethelesss.

“There were hundreds of them I can’t remember them all. There was Advani like Bhishma, Murli Manohar Joshi as Kripacharya and Jaswant Singh as Drona. Jaitely, the upright Karna, was emotional as always. But their DuryodhanaVarun Gandhi—made a series of blunders. Azam Khan was their Dhusyasana making obscene remarks at Draupadi, Jaya Prada. Behenji Mayawati was their lone sister, Dhusyale. Kauravas paid the ultimate price for their ahankara, over-confidence and lack of unity.”

Ajji had mastered all the names in just two months as Lalit Modi probably had in South Africa for IPL-2.

Ajji, you have got Mahabharatha all mixed up, but ninna story sakatthagide. What will happen in the future?”

“Pandavas will not exactly roll around on a bed of roses. For one thing, they should not have made peace with Dhrutharashtra. His sons and daughters will always be greedy putting their family’s interest before that of the country’s.  No doubt, Krishna will protect Dharmaraya from external forces.  Arjuna and Kunthi, along with BhimaChidambaram, will protect Bharathavarsha from all internal strife. Still, there will be pinpricks from Dhrutharashtra every now and then.”

Ajji! I think you are making up your own Mahabharatha now! But it is beginning to make some sense. Any predictions?”

“After some time Arjuna will take over from Yudhistira who will take to vanavasa. He will also groom AbhimanyuSachin Pilot—his trusted lieutenant, to take up some responsible position.”

“What will happen to Krishna?”

Ayyo, Krishna will ensure there is no trouble to Manamohana Rajya from our neighbours. But ultimately due to Yadavi kalaha in his home-State he will be ousted. His own people will prove to be his nemesis.”

“What will happen to Dhruthrashtra?”

“When Arjuna takes over, he will have a bigger headache as Dhrutharashtra’s great-great-grand childern, children of each of the present ministers and their wives (and husbands), will demand their pound of flesh, i.e. cabinet posts which will number more than 20. Kauravas would have also strengthened their positions through treaties with lesser known chieftains and ruffians. Without Krishna, external forces would also be emboldened to have a go at Pandavas. India will thus face threats both internal and external.”

Ajji was narrating the story like Alfred Hitchcock; rather like Nostradamus. The suspense was killing me.

“What will happen after that, Ajji? Tell me.”

“I don’t know. Thank god! I won’t be there to witness all that,” concluded Ajji.

Why God’s Own Party, the BJP, is in such a mess

21 May 2009

Loksatta editor Kumar Ketkar argues in The Indian Express that the BJP has become a hybrid organisation pulled in different directions by moderates, hardliners and lunatics.

Result: the party cannot recognise the real face from the several masks it has acquired for electoral persuasion:

“In Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the vast majority across classes and castes, has found the real plural India. Today, along with the markets, most Indian people have introspected and recognised the the folly of militant Mandir and Mandal politics. That is why we saw the decimation of Mulayam and Mayawati, the marginalisation of Pawar and Paswan, and the discomfiture of Advani and Modi. Plural India has triumphed.”

Read the full article: Mask upon mask in the BJP

In great IPL, what if Congress, BJP played cricket

25 April 2009

download

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

How would it be in the BJP camp?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Almost like Obama, but kinda unlike Obama, too

20 April 2009

Newsweek magazine has Mayawati on its cover in its Indian edition, calling her “The Anti-Obama“.

There are plenty of parallels, it says, between behenji and Barack: both are young, come from a long-oppressed segment of society, ar underdogs and outsiders.

“But unlike Obama, who promised a new politics that would transcend not only race but traditional ideology and corrupt Washington ways, Mayawati has built her power on demagogic class warfare. As her national ambitions have grown, she recently began reaching out to upper-caste voters—but by playing on their fears of the upwardly mobile middle castes, not by appealing to their better, caste-free angels.

“She has accumulated a suspiciously ostentatious fortune, and is dogged by corruption charges. She is admired by many Dalits, but often more for her power and jewels than for her limited accomplishments on their behalf. Her victory, if it comes, may be seen as a great leap forward for India’s oppressed—but, ironically, will end up bolstering the caste system that has kept them in chains.

“Mayawati would likely be a highly divisive national leader—an anti-Obama—and not only domestically. With his Kenyan father, Indonesian stepfather and inter- national outlook, Obama appeals across national borders and has already begun to steer the U.S. away from George W. Bush‘s unilateralism. Mayawati, by contrast, is parochial in the extreme. She almost never speaks about foreign policy, and when she does, her pronouncements are so vague as to be practically meaningless.

“And where she’s been specific, the substance is worrisome: she has decried U.S. efforts to secure Indian support for sanctions on what she’s called “our old friend Iran,” and has promised that a BSP government would renegotiate the nuclear deal India signed with Washington last fall. On trade, she’s sounded sharply protectionist notes, promising to safeguard “the interests of small shopkeepers” and “not to make any policy to benefit capitalists.” She would be—at the least—a wild card at the international summits attempting to repair global capitalism.”

Photographs: courtesy Sindh Today (left) and Weekly Standard

Read the full article: Rise of India’s caste warrior

Also read: A leader whose time has come to cross her legs?

For doyen of dalits, assets is all maya

CHURUMURI POLL: Who will win 2009 elections?

16 April 2009

The 15th general elections are now on but we will never know who is winning till it is all over. Reason: the Election Commission, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that “scientifically” done opinion polls and exit polls are more dangerous to the democratic process than unscientific opinions and reports.

But, since the ban doesn’t extend to blogs, why should that stop us from guessing which party and which alliance will come to power? What will be the final tally and who do you think will be the next prime minister of India?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Who will win 2009 elections?

CHURUMURI POLL: A Congress-BJP government?

Absolutely the last bloody poll we will publish

14 April 2009

ndtv

Not because good sense has dawned on us but because the Election Commission has banned the publication of all opinion and exit polls from 3pm Tuesday, April 14, till the end of the last phase of polling of the 15th general elections are announced on May 13.

Meantime, the findings of the NDTV opinion poll done in conjunction with GfK-Mode to chew on. Sample size: 50,000.

UPA 205-215, NDA 160-170, Third Front 120-130.

***

The veteran political observer Sheela Bhatt paints some post-poll scenarios on rediff.com:

1. If the Congress gets 20 seats more than the BJP the momentum to form the next government will be with the Congress.

2. If the Congress is in the lead position on May 16, the day of counting, and if the Left has 35 or more seats, then post-election the first tussle will be between them.

3. If the combined strength of the Congress and BJP does not touch 272 seats then the Third Front will grab the leadership in negotiating new alliances and will try to present a cohesive facade. In that case the Congress will be surely the kingmaker.

4. If and when the Congress sees that it is not in a position to form the government it may try to play kingmaker. The BJP can also enter the ring and sponsor Sharad Pawar, Jaylalithaa or Nitish Kumar.

5. If the BJP becomes the single largest party with some 25 or more seats than the Congress it will be a big surprise of this election.

6. Even if Mayawati gets 35 to 45 seats, she will be the most opposed leader after the election.

Read the full article: Elections 2009 seems like 543 mini-elections

Graphic: courtesy NDTV

The password is AFDPP6580Q, yes AFDPP6580Q

10 April 2009

imgad

If the Congress and BJP and Mayawati can use the wired world to get the message across to the voter, surely so can Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan? Therefore, they do, with a cryptic message that leads to “the most preferred ‘whipping-boy’ of the masses”‘s “website“, which also delightfully lets you in on his PAN card number and general “cast” category.

Also read: A leader whose time has come to cross her legs?

Also visit: Telugu Desam Party website


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