Posts Tagged ‘Mulayam Singh Yadav’

CHURUMURI POLL: Could Jayalalitha be PM?

20 December 2013

Counting the chickens before they are hatched, is a familiar human frailty. And, as elections draw near with intimations of the mortality of the Congress-led UPA, there are many who are rehearsing their speeches from “the ramparts of the Red Fort” in the not unreasonable expectation that dame luck may not just smile but wink at them at the polling booths thanks to a lame duck government.

The Usain Bolt of them is, of course, you-know-who, who shall not be named. But a not quite unlikely silhouette is emerging from the shadows: Jayalalitha Jayaram.

With poll after opinion poll predicting that virtually 250 of the 543 seats in the next Lok Sabha may be occupied by non-Congress, non-BJP parties—with Tamil Nadu having 40 of them—the straws are somewhat leaning towards the Mysore-born AIADMK supremo who is now that State’s chief minister for a second term.

In just the last week, H.D. Deve Gowda (who became PM with 12 MPs) has suggested her name:

“An inner voice tells me that Indian polity is going through a sea change, and as a believer in the Hindu dharma, let me tell you that someone from the south is going to become the Prime Minister,” said Gowda, a frequent visitor to the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam, which also happens to be Jayalalithaa’s assembly constituency. “I wholeheartedly support the candidature of Jayalalitha for the Prime Minister’s post provided such a favorable political mobilization takes place.”

Now, the AIADMK general council has echoed Gowda’s sentiments:

“All the members of AIADMK want Jayalalitha to become prime minister this time and we have been working in this direction for the last three-four months. The federal structure of the country should give a chance to political leaders of other states to lead the country,” said M. Thambi Durai, an AIADMK leader in the Lok Sabha.

At a function held in Madras last year, Cho Ramaswamy of Tughlaq magazine said that Jayalalitha stood a good chance if Narendra Modi became unacceptable to NDA allies.

Obviously, this is speculation predicated on the assumption that neither BJP nor the Congress will be in a position to form a government on their own or with the support of their allies. But the fact that Jayalalitha has not met the BJP “prime ministerial candidate” Narendra Modi on three occasions, nor have her representatives been present at Modi’s rallies in Tamil Nadu, suggests that the flame of hope burns bright in more than just one Gujarati’s heart.

Questions: Does Jayalalitha, with her food schemes, her grasp of English and slightly understated demeanour in her latest term, stand a chance if AIADMK wins, say, 32-35 of the 40 seats? Is she a more accetpable bet than Narendra Modi? Will she be acceptable to other parties like Biju Janata Dal and Trinamool Congress, which are also likely to score heavily in Orissa and West Bengal? Will her proximity to the left parties (the CPI’s D. Raja won with AIADMK support) make her more amenable to Mulayam Singh Yadav‘s Samajwadi Party, just to spite Mayawati?

Is it time a Mysorean became prime minister? (Just kidding.)

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Is Jayalalitha PM material?

POLL: Is Advani more ‘acceptable’ than Modi?

16 April 2013

In politics, like in cricket, nothing is in the realm of the impossible. And it is not over till the last ball is bowled (and sometimes not even that, if it is a front-foot no-ball). So, what was projected to be a head-to-head faceoff between Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi for the 2014 elections is showing signs of becoming anything but.

In other words, it’s time to dip into the Kuala Lumpur Police Department manual.

On the one hand, the “young yuvaraj” seems to have presumptively developed cold feet about wanting to take over the mantle, as if the people of democratic India were dying to hand it over to him. Result: prime minister Manmohan Singh feels emboldened to answer hypothetical questions on a third term, if Congress wins, if UPA comes to power, if….

But it is what is happening in the other corner that is even more captivating.

After prematurely building himself up as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Modi is coming to terms with reality outside TV studios. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar‘s comment, among others, that “only one who can carry with him all the diverse sections of people can become the leader of the nation” is proving to be the spark.

Suddenly, a bunch of people within the BJP are finding virtue in L.K. Advani.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has realised that he is without doubt “our tallest leader“. Former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh finds him the “seniormost“. And former finance minister Yashwant Sinha says, “if Advani is available to lead the party and the government, that should end all discourse.”

The BJP’s allies too are piping in. Naresh Gujral of the Shiromani Akali Dal says “nobody can have any objection to Advani’s candidature. He is a senior and respected leader.” K.C. Tyagi of the JD(U) says, “We contested under Advani’s leadership in 2009 and will have absolutely no hesitation in doing so again.”

So, could Modi vs Rahul in 2014 become a Manmohan vs Advani battle?

Does Advani have the backing of the RSS or of larger BJP for the top job? Is the “man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred“—the brain behind the bloody rath yatra that led to the demolition of the Babri masjid—really “more secular” than Modi? Or, are his BJP colleagues and NDA allies firing from his shoulders against Modi?

Could Advani, 84, gracefully make way for a younger aspirant, like say Sushma Swaraj (who has the OK of Shiv Sena), or will he throw his hat in the ring? Does he have the carry that Modi enjoys?

Or is the “man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred“—the brain behind the bloody rath yatra that led to the demolition of the Babri masjid—destined to become a two-time “former future prime minister of India“? And is the next general election a semi-final before another election in 2015 or 2016?

Also read: Who could be the NDA’s PM candidate?

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?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Yedi exit harm BJP?

4 October 2012

After threatening to leave the Bharatiya Janata Party virtually every fortnight since he resigned from office in disgrace under a haze of sleaze and corruption in July 2011—and after making a mockery of two wonderful Kannada words sthana (position) and maana (respect) since then—former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa has finally mustered the strength and the courage to say that he has had enough with the BJP and will call it quits from the party.

By all indications, Yediyurappa will announce his new party in November or December, in time for the assembly elections due in the first-half of 2013.

Yediyurappa has ruled out joining any other political party although he has been singing paeans of Sonia Gandhi‘s Congress party over the last few weeks, and although Nitish Kumar‘s JD(U) and Mulayam Singh Yadav‘s Samajawadi Party, both avowedly secular parties with little presence in the South, are both said to be toying with the idea of joining hands with Yediyurappa, who cut his teeth in the RSS.

But the questions remain: Has Yediyurappa delayed his exit too long? Has BJP neutralised his influence by allowing him to drag on with his antics? Will Yediyurappa on his own be even half the force he was with the BJP? Will the BJP split help the Congress in the assembly polls? Will Yediyurappa’s new party result in a four-way race in the State and thus make it easier for the BJP?

CHURUMURI POLL: Who will be next President?

14 June 2012

After weeks and months of speculation, there is finally some official activity in the race for the next President of India.

The Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee says the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi has revealed two preferences: finance minister Pranab Mukherjee as the first choice and vice president Hamid Ansari as the second. In turn, Mamata and Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party have indicated their choices: prime minister Manmohan Singh, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, and former President A.P. J. Abdul Kalam.

The announcements turn the political applecart upside down.

Mulayam and Mamata have effectively snubbed Sonia, Manmohan and Pranab, thrown cold water over the overweaning ambitions of Pranab Mukherjee, cast a big question mark over Manmohan Singh continuance as PM and the longevity of UPA-II as an alliance and advanced the prospect of an early election.

So, which of the five names in the air could make it, should make it, to Rashtrapati Bhavan?

Or, all things considered, is this just kite-flying and could we see a totally dark horse (or mare) ride up Raisina Hill? And who could that be: Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, Congresswomen Mohsina Kidwai or Margaret Alva? Or how about Sam Pitroda?

CHURUMURI POLL: Abdul Kalam for President?

20 April 2012

It is a reflection of the current state of Indian politics that even as boring an exercise as the presidential election has all the markings of a heart-stopping show, which, to use the sage words of Ravi Shastri in an IPL season, “can go all the way down to the wire”.

The elections are still two months away, but the battlelines are getting drawn between the UPA and NDA, with more than a few aspiring (and perspiring) partypoopers lining up alongside. Result: Hopes of a “consensus” in the “national interest” are quickly getting “elusive”.

The Congress-led UPA, whose electoral victories are few and far between, obviously wants its candidate (vice-president Hamid Ansari, according to the prevailing wisdom) to get in, especially with general elections due in 2014. Ansari is suave, erudite, secular, has friends on both sides of the political fence, and oozes plenty of presidential air.

The problem is his conduct as chairman of the Rajya Sabha in the Lok Pal debate—when he called of the session without giving time for a vote—which seems to have rubbed the BJP on the wrong side.

Worse, as a “left wing intellectual” Ansari is anathema to the current diva of Indian politics, Mamata Banerjee, who is part of the UPA. She, it appears, is talking with Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajawadi Party and exploring the possibility of propping up former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam once again. Mulayam it was who had first suggested Kalam’s name in 2002.

Kalam’s name did the rounds at the end of his first term in 2007, but when the parties couldn’t reach a consensus, he dropped out. “Kalam Iyer” has given no indication that he is interested in a fresh tenure but by floating his name at this juncture, regional parties like Trinamool are giving every indication of a faceoff between a Tamil Muslim and a UP Muslim.

Questions: Will Kalam agree to enter the presidential race again? Should he? Does he stand a chance when the numbers are loaded against the Opposition? Could he end up becoming a pawn in the hands of small parties? Or, should the UPA consider him as the “consensus” candidate this time round given his role in defusing the Koodankulam anti-nuclear protests?

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.

‘Appe Midi’, Julia Roberts and S. Bangarappa

26 December 2011

D.P. SATISH writes from New Delhi: Even though Sarekoppa Bangarappa spent almost 15 years in the national capital New Delhi as a four-time MP—he entered the Lok Sabha on a different symbol each time—he actually did not like the capital and its politics.

Bangarappa lived at a sprawling British built bungalow behind the Prime Minister’s official residence for 10 years. This leafy bungalow, enveloped by rare and old trees and full of greenery, was a magnet for peacocks in the area, searching for food or water, and relaxing or dancing in the well protected, manicured lawns of the stately bungalows.

Bangarappa liked these peacocks and had built a pond for them in his lawn. He had instructed his long time secretary Chandrashekhar to arrange grain for the peacocks all through the year. He had also built a 5 foot high water fall built near the pond to enable peacocks to enjoy a shower.

He ordered his secretary to construct a night shelter to protect peacocks from New Delhi’s bitter cold. To his dismay, peacocks ignored his magnanimity and preferred to stay on branches of the tree during night.

Bangarappa used to sit in his lawn watching the peacocks for hours. Sometimes, he used to sing old classics and folk songs in his booming voice. I had the rare privilege of giving him company on many an occasion.

The former President of India Shankar Dayal Sharma had stayed in the same bungalow for over 20 years before Bangarappa. BJP president Nitin Gadkari now boasts the address 13, Teen Murti Lane.

***

Bangarappa missed playing badminton in New Delhi. He hated the extreme weather of north India. He often used to complain that Delhi was not fit for human habitation, and would rarely step out of his bungalow, if he had no work at the Parliament.

Some of his old friends in Delhi like Ghulam Nabi Azad, V.C. Shukla, Kapil Sibal, H.R. Bhardwaj, R K Dhawan, Farooq Abdullah et al used to visit him at his house for filter coffee and idli or dosa.

He would regale them with all kinds of stories, especialy about the man he hated the most, P.V. Narasimha Rao. Sometimes, referring to PVN, he would mutter ‘that bloody bugger is still alive’.

Unlike most Congress leaders, Bangarappa hated sycophancy. He was ready to go only to Sonia Gandhi‘s house. He always expected other leaders to come to his house.

Dr Farooq Abdullah was Bangarappa’s neighbour for many years. They had a very good relationship dating back to their days as fellow chief ministers in the 1990s. Sometimes, they used to return home from the Parliament for lunch in the same car.

Bangarappa had no security and Dr. Abdullah had Z plus security. Sometimes Bangarappa used to joke that it was dangerous for him to travel with Farooq Abdullah as he was facing a threat to his life from Kashmiri militants and it was like inviting a maari home!!

***

When Bangarappa quit BJP to join Samajwadi Party in 2005, I was with him at the SP office on Copernicus Lane near Mandi House. After his induction, we drove to his Teen Murti lane house in his car.

SP chief and the then UP CM Mulayam Singh Yadav was also with him in the same car. Bangarappa did not a know a word of Hindi and Mulayam did not know a word of English. The job of acting as their interpreter fell on me. They discussed their initial days in the socialist movement in the 1960s during that 15-minute drive.

Bangarappa was not impressed by Mulayam’s intellect. Later, he told me in Kannada: ‘Ivanige thaleeli yenoo illa. Ivananthavarigoo UP jana vote haaktharalla (He is a dull head. Even a man like him get elected in UP).”

***

Bangarappa had a fairly big collection of books at his house. He had a wide range of interests. He was fond of books related to science and nature. Of late he had developed a great interest in nuclear science, as a member of parliamentary standing committee on defence.

He even wanted to address international media on India’s need for nuclear bombs and had asked me to introduce him to foreign journalists in New Delhi.

His other habit was studying trees and plants in his compound. He would spend hours talking about them. He even wanted to plant a sapling of the famous Anantha Bhattana Appe midi (a rare variety of tender mango from Sirsi in Uttara Kannada district) in his compound.

Bangarappa was very proud of his knowledge of different types of maavina midi and their taste.

***

He was fond of home cooked food. He liked idli, vada, dosa and pongal for breakfast. He preferred anna, saaru, sambar and curd for lunch and dinner. I was his regular guest whenever he was in New Delhi for the Parliament session or for some meeting. He had a special liking for the people from his place Shimoga.

He was also a huge fan of Hollywood movies. We used to watch movies of James Bond, Clint Eastwood, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Julia Roberts and others at his house.

Once, a senior Congress minister from Karnataka also joined us. He was commenting non-stop on Julia Robert’s role in Pretty Woman. Bangarappa, who was totally engrossed in that classic, lost his cool and asked him either to shut up or leave.

He angrily told him that he was unfit to watch an English movie and he should restrict himself to the movies shown on Udaya TV. That minister later became a Karnataka chief minister!

***

Bangarappa had held all prime positions in the state politics. He was a senior minister holding major portfolios like home, revenue and agriculture. He was KPCC president and leader of the opposition. Later the chief minister of state. 7 time  MLA and a 4 time MP.

But, he was sad that he did not become a Cabinet minister at the Centre. He had joined the BJP with the sole intention of becoming a Union minister in 2004. But, fate had decided otherwise. BJP lost and Congress came to power. Bangarappa missed his chance.

I suspect he died with that regret.

During 2004-2009, Bangarappa rarely visited New Delhi. He was looking dull and unenthusiastic. His ego and self esteem never allowed him to admit that he was disillusioned. After he lost 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Shimoga, he visited New Delhi just 3-4 times.

During one of his meetings, he rued that dirty politics of Delhi was not for straight forward people like him and he had no hope left in his political career. He truly admired only two leaders Indira Gandhi, who made him KPCC president, and her son Rajiv Gandhi, who made him the Chief Minister. He had contempt for the rest.

He always maintained that he was not corrupt and used to hold his rivals in the party and state politics responsible for the charges against him.

May his soul rest in peace.

File photograph: Former chief minister of Karnataka, S. Bangarappa, who passed away in Bangalore on Monday, clambers on to a bicycle after joining the Samajwadi Party in 2005 (Karnataka Photo News)

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?

CHURUMURI POLL: Caste in the census, or not?

26 May 2010

The Union cabinet meets this evening to decide on including a column on “caste” in the 2011 censu, a move seen as a tacit quid pro quo for the support of the the OBC leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Sharad Yadav for their support in getting the cut motion passed in Parliament.

On the one hand, the Cabinet is said to have been divided on the caste issue when it was first raised following the announcement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the floor or Parliament.  On the other hand, the main opposition party, the BJP, which seemed to be in favour of the decision intially, is having second thoughts, too.

With sage voices within the RSS expressing themselves against any move to classify people on caste lines which will deal a blow to social harmony and, don’t laugh, “nullify all efforts of RSS and social organisations to bring about social harmoney”, the battle lines are drawn.

Question: Should the caste census go ahead or not?

Also read: Anybody Dalit in the media and speaks English?

Ramayana, Mahabharatha and the Women’s Bill

19 March 2010

Union law minister Veerappa Moily while receiving an award for his five-volume Shri Ramayan Mahanveshanam, yesterday:

“It is instances like Sita‘s fire ordeal which firmed our resolve for the women’s reservation bill.”

“In Sita’s ‘fire ordeal’, Ravan‘s wife, Mandodari, talks to Sita: “Are you not satisfied with the fiery ordeal of life we have tolerated and endured as women till now? Only a man of the epoch can put an end to women’s ordeal.”

Moily did not of course reveal who the “man of the epoch” was on 9 March 2009. Was it him, who moved the bill? Was it P. Chidambaram, who is rumoured to have said the dissenting MPs must be marshalled out?

Or, was it you-know-who?

Meanwhile, the veteran editor T.J.S. George too adds a touch of the mythological to decipher modern-day male chauvinism.

***

By T.J.S. GEORGE

Draupadi had five husbands, each with unsurpassed capabilities. None of them came to her rescue when she was dragged into the royal court for disrobing.

The political Yadavs of our time seem to have taken a self-serving lesson from this episode and resolved that women are unworthy of protection, let alone promotion. Either that or they have forgotten the double curse—pronounced by Gandhari, and then by Viswamitra, Kanva and Narada—that the Yadava race would destroy itself.

Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Yadav have already reduced their parties to tottering relics. Their opposition to the women’s reservation bill and, worse, the hooliganism of their men in the Rajya Sabha betrayed a 19th century mindset.

The hooligans brought such shame to the country that they would be better off under the waters that swallowed up Dwaraka.

But what do we see beyond the fossils of Yadu Kula?

Two realities are clearly visible. The first is the politics of the bill. The Yadavas talking about Muslim women’s quota is a desperate move to regain some of the Muslim support they have lost. Mamata Banerjee”s visceral hatred of Bengal communists made her an odd woman against women.

The Congress also put its internal politics on display. Singularly lukewarm about the bill on Day 1, it suddenly became determined on Day 2. In the Congress nothing happens until partymen know what Soniaji wants and once the signal comes, nothing can stop them from carrying out her wishes.

A parliamentary system is unhealthy when it adheres to the letter of the Westminster model, without heeding the spirit of it.

The other reality that looms large is that the women’s bill, even if it crosses the obstacles in its path and finally becomes law, will have only symbolic value. It will not by itself give women the human rights they have been denied for ages. That will require social reform and no social reformers are anywhere in sight.

If and when 33 per cent seats in legislatures are reserved for women, around 30 per cent of that will likely go to wives, daughters, nieces and girlfriends of male politicians.

Lalu Prasad himself put his unlettered wife in the chief minister’s chair while Mulayam Singh could only find his daughter-in-law to contest a Lok Sabha seat. The Kanimozhis and Supriya Sules will multiply when reservations become law.

And what will happen when they sit as law-makers?

Will it mean an end to the killing of newborn girls in the villages of Tamil Nadu and Haryana?

Will it stop crimes against women which increased by 30-40 per cent in recent years as against 16 per cent increase in general crime?

Will it bring down dowry killings which doubled in the last decade?

Will it make a difference to one-third of married women in India being children below 18?

In one sense India has already led the way in women’s empowerment. Women occupy top positions in corporate houses, financial institutions and in the arts. They have reached these positions through merit, not the favour of reservations. This will continue, making India an exemplar of women’s advancement.

But it will be foolish to close our eyes to the social debris that has collected over the centuries.

The tendency to treat women as beasts of burden is all too prevalent. Inside a family, discrimination is carried to the extent of feeding sons properly while daughters are kept on starvation diet. This has led to half the married women in India being anaemic.

The largest number of illiterate women is also in India—200 million. It’s all very well for Sushma Swaraj and Brinda Karat to forget ideologies and perform a celebratory embrace. But what about India’s social reality? Yaduvamsha still has a grip on that reality.

Also read: Goodbye democracy, say hello to Quotocracy

CHURUMURI POLL: Sonia Gandhi, smarter than Indira?

‘Women’s bill will only increase State’s power’

CHURUMURI POLL: Impact of women’s bill?

Maybe we are safer if our leaders sleep more?

28 February 2010

In The Telegraph, Calcutta, Sankarshan Thakur reports on the antics of the nation’s leaders on whom our democracy rests on budget day:

“But beyond these and few more, Pranab Mukherjee’s hold appeared vanquished by the pursuit of other pre-occupations. Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda snoozed on the crook of his wrist in the front Opposition bench. Plonked beside him, Lalu Prasad chuckled mischievously.

“Mulayam Singh Yadav repeatedly prompted him to nudge Gowda awake, but Lalu remained stoutly averse to the idea of putting an end to his benchmate’s embarrassment. “Sone do, sone do,” he reasoned with Mulayam. “Kya karega uth ke? (Let him slumber on, what will he do if he is woken up, anyhow?).”

Read the full article: Please laugh, it’s a joke

Link via Dhruva Batni

This BJP man has every right to slap his thighs

20 December 2009

At Chrismtas-eve celebrations at the CP stadium in Gulbarga on Sunday, Karnataka minister for animal husbandry Revu Naik Belamgi (right) gets into a bout with a competitor, proving that Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party isn’t the only wrestling politician in the ring.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

MEA culpa: Krishna’s lingo leela is lost in anuvad

8 August 2009

D.P. SATISH writes from New Delhi: For the first time perhaps in post-Independence history, three very vital ministries on Raisina Hill—home, defence and external affairs—are in the hands of South Indian Congressmen who have three different mother tongues: Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada, respectively.

While one doesn’t know how A.K. Antony and P. Chidambaram are making up for their lack of proficiency in Hindi, Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna, according to the grapevine, is quickly realizing that it is not “politically correct” to be found wanting in your Hindi language skills in the corridors of power in Delhi.

Although Krishna has been a Member of Parliament five times in his long and chequered career—he first entered the Lok Sabha as a Praja Socialist Party (PSP) candidate from Mandya in a by-election in 1968—he never tried to learn the language of the cow belt in his 40-year association with Delhi.

Probably never had to.

But, in his latest stint as the nation’s external affairs minister, it is coming back to bite.

In the just-concluded session of Parliament, Mulayam Singh Yadav‘s Samajwadi Party, which supports the UPA government from the outside, launched an all-out attack on the Congress and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the ‘badly’ drafted Indo–Pak joint statement at Sharm el-Sheikh.

The Congress MP from Mysore, H. Vishwanath, who had rubbed the former chief minister on the wrong side by writing about Krishna’s “old flame” in  his autobiography Halli hakkiya haadu, noticed Krishna sitting alone, in deep thought, in the front row of the treasury benches in the Lok Sabha.

Vishwanath went and sat next to his ex-boss.

This is what transpired between them, according to those in the know.

Vishwanath: Yenu saar? Thumba serious aagideeri? (Sir, why are you looking so serious?)

Krishna: Yenu maadli, Vishwanath. Prime Ministeroo ee Mulayam haththirra swalpa neevu maathaadi antha heli hodru. Aaadre nange ondakshara Hindi baralla. Eeeyappange ondakshara English baralla. Addike yochne maadtha eedeeni. (Vishwanath, PM asked me to talk to Mulayam. But I don’t know a word of Hindi and he doesn’t know a word of English.)

Vishwanath: Paravagilla saar. Mandya gowdara bhaashele maathaadi. Avarige artha aguththe. (It’s OK, sir. Speak to him in the Mandya dialect. He will understand!)

Krishna: I have been in and out of Parliament for 41 years. I never tried to learn Hindi. Never imagined that it would create so many problems one day. But, no excuse, no excuse. It is entirely my fault. I can’t learn it now.

Photograph: A television hand adjusts the microphone cable for S.M. Krishna during campaigning for the assembly election in 2008 (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: Bangalore’s idiots who speak an idiolect at home

If Chiba San is not a son of the soil, who is?

Whereever you see Marathi, replace it with Kannada

Hindi teachers, please don’t leave our kids alone!

And Abdullah and Gowda and Patnaik and Pawar

12 May 2009

Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

Jawaharlal Nehru did not hope or desire that his daughter should succeed him as prime minister — a fact that is not as widely known as it should be. On the other hand, Indira Gandhi worked to make first Sanjay and then Rajiv her political successor. Sonia Gandhi has followed her mother-in-law scrupulously in this respect, for she has likewise ensured that her own son would head the party, and, perhaps in time, the government.

“The example set by India’s greatest political party has been followed by many lesser ones. Had Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi not acted in this fashion, perhaps Bal Thackeray, Parkash Singh Badal, M. Karunanidhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav would not so brazenly have treated their own political parties as family firms.”

Read the full article: Its own greatest enemy

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

There is only so much Google ads can achieve

10 April 2009

Every single opinion poll so far has refrained from even venturing to suggest that either of the two “national” parties may touch the “magical” 150-mark on their own. But The Times of India‘s latest guesstimate, done the old fashioned way, bravely predicts the Congress may actually do so.

The UPA sans Lalu Prasad Yadav‘s RJD, Mulayam Singh Yadav‘s SP and Ram Vilas Paswan‘s LJP is expected end up just short of 200, the NDA minus Naveen Patnaik‘s BJD with 176. The Third Front, says the paper will get 109, and others and independents 60.

Graphic: courtesy The Times of India

A crash course in catching, fielding for our heroes

14 February 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The IPL boss and future BCCI chief, Lalit Modi, was a worried man. Irfan Pathan had muffed a sitter of Tilakaratne Dilshan in the T20 match against Sri Lanka.

If this is how we field, how will India defend its World Championship title in England in June ‘09, he wondered.

That the Pathan brothers won the match for India with a late onslaught was no consolation for Modi. Something had to be done quickly to improve fielding, especially catching.

Luckily, the solution came live on the TV while he was watching the news. Modi with his customary zeal started moving things and put an action plan.

He phoned Behen Mayawati and put forth his proposal. She quickly agreed but wanted a discussion along with Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Congress.

If it is a matter of money even political diehards come to an agreement quickly. The three parties quoted their combined price. Since money was the least of problems for Modi, the deal was signed quickly between BCCI and the UP government.

As Governor T.V. Rajeshwar addressed the joint session again, the marshals, er, members of the Indian team surrounding the Governor were ready for fielding/catching practice.

The boys in blue team were dressed in red bandhgala with black pants, the uniform for marshals in UP along with their helmets.

Irfan Pathan this time caught a chappal easily as did Yusuf Pathan who caught a glass paperweight aimed at the governor’s head. Mahendra Singh Dhoni with his gloves dived and caught a chair mid-air.

Apart from valuable fielding practice, the Indian team got to know how democracy functions in our Assemblies at close quarters.

Normally the 12th man brings the drinks during the drinks interval, but since mineral water bottles flew thick and fast from all directions during play, er, Governor’s address, the 12th man was allowed to be in the field of play.

Fielding coach Robin Singh himself had a narrow escape when the microphone aimed at Mayawati by a disgruntled Bahujan Samaj Party member came flying towards him. Coach Gary Kirsten, still agile at his age, dived and saved Singh’s head.

Sunny Gavaskar and selection committee chairman Krishnamachari Srikkanth, present along with Modi in the visitors’ gallery, were happy with the facilities provided at UP Assembly and the progress of the team by the end of Governor’s address.

Meanwhile looking at the win-win deal, other States pursued Modi to enter in to MoUs with the BCCI.

Bihar, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu Assemblies were short- listed as their MLAs had proven expertise at throwing mikes, shoes, chairs as well as knives and cycle chains.

In Bihar, where it generally rains stones during the Governor’s address non-stop, it was decided to allow even outfielders like Sehwag and Sachin to wear helmets. The players were also informed of the existence of secret doors to the Governor’s chambers should they find it difficult to cope with the avalanche.

In Punjab, the chief Minister and his Deputy digned the deal for themselves than for the Government.

In Andhra Pradesh, since stones as well as all kind of rubbish are routinely thrown at the Governor as well as at each other by both supporters of Chandrababu Naidu and Chief Minister Y.S. Rajashekara Reddy, there would be a surprise element as fielders will never know from which side a missile would land on his head. This would help the team to be on their toes all the time, felt coach Kirsten.

Lalit Modi was a happy man. At the end of the camps in Madras, Patna, Hyderabad and Goa the fielding would be top class. They won’t drop skiers any more. Of course BCCI would have to shell out few hundreds of crores at each of these camps, but it would be money well spent, thought Modi. That would also keep all the politicians a happy lot.

For some strange reason he didn’t arrange a camp in the Maharashtra Assembly which has ace shooters like Narayan Rane, Chhagan Bhujabal and the Shiv Sena.

May be he didn’t want to step on his boss Sharad Pawar’s shoes.

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Nepal row Indian business?

5 January 2009

The controversy over the decision of the Maoist government of Nepal to force priests from Karnataka at the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu to resign and appoint Nepalese priests in their place threatens, among other things, to turn into a fullblown bilateral row between India and Nepal.

On the one hand, BJP president Rajnath Singh has written to Nepal’s prime minister Prachanda urging the reinstatement of the South Indian Bhatta priests, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishat (VHP) has alleged the Maoists were eyeing the priceless jewels in the 17th century temple. On the other hand, the Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav has “expressed concern” over the sacking of the priests.

Question: Should Indian politicians interfere in the religious affairs of another country? Merely because we are an 80 per cent Hindu nation, does it give India the right to dictate terms to the “Hindu Kingdom” or any other country for that matter? Is Nepal, now the world’s newest republic, within its rights to embark on temple reforms? Or are the “godless” Maoists playing politics by making the temple the centrepiece of Nepalese identity?

Should the government of Manmohan Singh step in?

More things change, more they remain the same

27 December 2008

History, it is said, first repeats itself as a tragedy, then as a farce. But usually no one is laughing, no one is even noticing.

***

From Deccan Herald, 25 years ago, 26 December 1983:

‘Kranti Ranga merger with Congress likely’

New Delhi: The merger of the Karnataka Kranti Ranga with the Congress(I) appeared a distinct possibility today after S. Bangarappa had a meeting with Prime Minister and Congress(I) President Indira Gandhi here this morning. The Kranti Ranga leader, who had been forced out of the Congress(I) two years ago following his differences with the then Chief Minister, R. Gundu Rao, arrived here last night. “We talked about the general political situation,” was all he said.

From Deccan Herald, yesterday, exactly 25 years later, 26 December 2008:

‘Bangarappa wants to rejoin Congress’

Bangalore: Samajwadi Party state president S. Bangarappa is all set to return to the Congress. He, on Thursday, said that he was mentally prepared to contest from Shimoga Lok Sabha constituency on the Congress ticket in the next Lok Sabha polls. He said that his main objective in the state’s politics was to fight communal forces. “In order to pevent L.K. Advani becoming the Prime Minister, secular forces should come together and make sure that UPA continues to hold power at the Centre,” he said.

Bangarappa said he would convene Samajwadi Party working committee meeting and take a decision to merge party’s state unit with the Congress. He said he had been invited to the Congress by KPCC President R.V. Deshpande, working president D.K. Shiva Kumar and the party’s Shimoga unit. He would convey his decision to the SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, he added.

Bangarappa’s son and former minister Kumar Bangarappa has welcomed his father’s decision to return to the Congress.

How Indians would have saved Lehman Brothers

11 October 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I happened to run in to Nanubhai on Dalal Street. He was eating Khaman Dhokla in a farsan shop.

Khem cho, Nanubhai?”

Saru che.”

He was looking glum but gestured me to join him.

As I bit into the tasty dhokla with tangy chutney on the Friday afternoon, which was fast turning into a ‘Manic Friday’ as per Dalal Street lingo, he was staring at the bull near the entrance, which overnight had become a Russian bear hugging everybody that passed the Street.

Nanubhai is a well-respected Dalal Street dada with an answer to every shareholder’s query.

“What went wrong with Lehman Brothers?” I asked.

“Lots of things. If the founder brothers, Henry, Emanuel and Mayer were alive this wouldn’t have happened. Lehman Brothers were more than a 150-year-old company. But yet, it had no Lehman in the company. Such a situation can never happen in India.”

“Are you trying to tell me an Indian would have handled this differently?”

Bilkul. If it was an Indian firm, Lehman Brothers would have fought as soon as their father died and divided in to three companies. They would have diversified into clothing, polystyrene, petrochemicals, vegetables, movie making, telecom, drilling oil, mobile phones, retailing, books, spectacles, gyms, wellness. In short, anything and everything under the sun. They would have made money for themselves and their shareholders.”

“But when there is massive failure there would be no option but to file for bankruptcy?”

“Fail-wail chance hi nahin! Even if they encounter tough times, they would have friends like Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh to bail them out. They could finish off competition by befriending the finance minister and getting duties levied on the imports of competition. They would fund and befriend ruling parties. Unfortunately for Lehman Brothers in 2008, without a Lehman on the board or some Indian business brothers at the top, they couldn’t open the survival kit to stay afloat.”

As we were sipping double khadak chai, I asked: “Did anybody anticipate this global meltdown?”

“Anticipate? Mazak chodo! I will tell you something. America has some 45 Nobel laureates in economics from 1970. From 2000 alone there are 15 Nobel laureates in econometrics sitting on company boards, treasury benches and in places like Harvard, Stanford etc. Kisiko kuch patha nahin tha! How come none of these had any inkling to the disaster awaiting the banking circles all over the world? Even the finance ministers of G-7 talked of strong “fundamentals” of world economy around this time last year! Two months back the only topic they were discussing was the rise in oil prices.”

“What will happen if it goes all on like this?”

“Some American economist will study this, write a new a theory and get Nobel Prize next year, dekhna. Seriously, they forgot things like control, double check, systems-in-place etc and brought in vague words like Subprimes to give loans left, right and centre.”

“What will happen to the Indian market?”

“It’s already having the Lehman Brothers’ effect. Our finance minister seems to like the figure 60,000. While presenting the budget earlier in the year he pledged Rs 60,000 crore to write off loans given to farmers. Now he is pumping Rs 60,000 crore to help out the banks! I don’t know what he will do next. He is again from Harvard!”

“What is the lesson to be learnt from the Lehman Brothers’ episode?” I asked as we were leaving.

Nanubhai took a spoonful of saunf and said: “You know, we have an old elementary rule for keeping hisab-kithab. Divide a page into ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ with a line in the middle to denote Debit and Credit. In case of LB, as somebody said, nothing was right in the ‘Left’ and nothing was left in the ‘Right’,” concluded Nanubhai.

What Suhail Hindustani told cash-for-votes panel

19 August 2008

The following is the English translation of the affidavit filed in Hindi by Suhail Ahmed, alias Suhail Hindustani, alias Raja Hindustani, the alleged go-between in the cash-for-votes scandal that rocked Parliament on July 22 on how the sting operation unfolded. (The translated version was emailed by Sudheendra Kulkarni to media organisations.)

***

12 August 2008

To
The Honourable Speaker
Lok Sabha
New Delhi

Subject: Witness statement in the ‘Cash-for-Votes’ scandal in Parliament on July 22, 2008 involving Shri Amar Singhji, General Secretary of the Samajwadi Party, Shri Ahmed Patelji, Political Secretary to the Congress President, and Shri Reoti Raman Singhji, MP and Samajwadi Party leader

***

Honourable Sir,

I am submitting this statement to your Honourable Self as a witness in the recent “Cash-for-Votes” scandal that rocked Parliament on July 22, 2008. All the information contained in this statement is based on Truth, and nothing but Truth, and I say this by invoking the name of Allah or God Almighty. My life is in threat, but I am ready to sacrifice my life for the Truth contained in this statement. My only wish is that my body may be buried near the Jama Masjid adjoining Parliament.

Let me introduce myself as a devoted Muslim and a patriotic Indian. My original name was Suhail Ahmed, which I later changed to Suhail Hindustani. I am a small-scale trader of gems and jewelry. I had a shop (Bobby Emporium, Shop No.6) in the shopping arcade of Janpath Hotel in New Delhi, which was closed down in April 2008. I hail from Jaipur. My parents and other members of my family live in Jaipur.

For the past nearly 15 years, I am also active as an ordinary social and political worker of the BJP. For many years I was a karyakarta in the BJP’s Yuva Morcha and have worked closely with Shri Shahnawaz Hussainji, MP, when he was a minister in Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji’s Government. My family in Rajasthan has a long association with the BJP and the Jana Sangh. My grandfather was indeed known as Shri Sageer Mian Janasanghi Peeli Topiwale, who worked in Tonk and Ajmer Sherif.

I have lived most of my life in Delhi in the official residence of some MP or the other. Besides my business, I do small errands and liaisoning work for MPs belonging to various parties. This, combined with the fact that I move around mostly in North Avenue and South Avenue, has enabled me to develop close acquaintances with people in various political parties and also with some in business circles. As a result, I have acquired good ground-level knowledge of the political developments in the corridors of power.

In early July, after the communist parties withdrew support to the UPA Government, the “market” (as the place for political wheeling-dealings is called) was abuzz with talk that opposition MPs would be offered huge amounts as bribes to either vote for the Government or abstain from voting. Some of the middlemen contacted me to find out if I knew any “plots” (codeword for MPs willing to cross-over for a consideration). I would ask them how much “paper” (codeword for the bribe amount) was on offer. Their reply — namely, that the amount was in the neighbourhood of Rs 20-25 crore — took me by surprise.

I had been closely following the debate on the nuclear deal. From what I understood of the issue, I came to the conclusion that it was not in India’s interests and that it was a sell-out to America. In particular, I was well aware of the strongly critical sentiments about the nuclear deal, and about the US President George Bush, that prevailed in my (Muslim) community. I was therefore angry that, in its bid to go ahead with the nuclear deal, the UPA Government was indulging in horse-trading in order to save itself in the trust vote.

Around this time, I came to know from the “market” that a large number (over 15) of BJP and NDA MPs were being targeted by Shri Ahmed Patelji, Shri Amar Singhji and other leaders of the Congress and Samajwadi Party. I felt that the victory of Dr Manmohan Singhji’s Government through defections from the BJP was neither good for the country nor good for the Party I support.

On July 17, I left for Bangalore by an Air Deccan flight for three days on some personal work. I returned to Delhi on July 20 by a morning Air Deccan flight and booked a room (no. 307) in the India Islamic Centre to conduct my operations from there. I contacted Shri S.P. Guptaji, an IAS officer of Haryana cadre who works closely with Shri Bhupinder Singh Hoodaji, Chief Minister of Haryana. He is the chief administrator of the Housing Board of Haryana. He was with me for over an hour at the coffee shop of the India Islamic Centre. He took the list of MPs from me and said, “I don’t want any money in this deal. But if your list of MPs is pucca, I will take you to meet Shri Hoodaji and Shri Ahmed Patelji, who will discuss the deal with you.”

While I was at the India Islamic Centre, a mushaira was being organised in the evening at the Centre’s auditorium. I met Shri Uday Pratap Singhji, a Samajwadi Party MP, (also known as ‘Guruji’, since he is known as the Guru of Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav) outside the auditorium. I have great regard for him as an elderly politician who is wise and experienced. I told him that I had a list of opposition MPs who could be approached to support the Government, and added, “Mera kuchh kaam kar do, Guruji,” (Guruji, please do me a favour.) When I gave him the list, he told me that this work was being handled by Shri Amar Singhji and that I should contact him through Shri Reoti Raman Singhji. Shri Uday Pratap Singhji took my number and said that Shri Reoti Raman Singhji would call me on my mobile.

It was at this time that I decided to do something big in life to expose the scandal of bribing MPs by pretending to act as a middleman.

On July 21, at around 11.30 am, I phoned Shri Sudheendra Kulkarniji, a senior BJP activist who was OSD in the PMO when Shri Vajpayeeji was the Prime Minister. (His mobile number is 9810*****2). I have considerable respect for him due to my acquaintance with him when he used to live in the party full-timers’ rooms in the BJP headquarters at 11 Ashoka Road. He now works with Shri Advaniji. Therefore, I felt that he was the right person for me to convey the message that over a dozen BJP MPs were being approached by Congress-SP leaders.

Shri Kulkarniji took the names of BJP MPs from me and called me back in an hour’s time to say that he wanted me to meet him as soon as possible.

In the afternoon, at around 1.30 pm, Shri Guptaji phoned me and asked me to meet him at Claridges Hotel. He promised to arrange my meeting with Shri Ahmed Patelji. As we were having soup in the restaurant, two persons came to meet us — Shri Lovely Singh (son of Shri Buta Singhji, former Home minister and Governor of Bihar) and Shri Aman Arora, who was introduced as Shri Lovely Singh’s friend. They came in a black-coloured Honda CRB car. They asked me about the list of “Plots” (MPs) I had and questioned me about my contacts in the BJP. Shri Guptaji prepared the list as per the names mentioned by me. Soon thereafter, Shri Lovely Singh put a call through to Shri Ahmed Patelji from his mobile and gave it to me to speak to him. Shri Patelji asked me to come to his house at 23 Willingdon Crescent at 7.30 pm along with my “Plots”. When I asked Shri Lovely Singh and Shri Aman Arora about their mobile number, both of them gave, strangely, the same number: 989******0.

Thereafter, I met Shri Kulkarniji and I gave him all the information I had. After posing many searching questions to me, he asked me, “What is your motive in giving this information to me?” Since I am from Rajasthan, I said, “I want to be Maharana Pratap, and not Mansingh. Raja Mansingh accepted the Mughal rule and, therefore, very few people in Rajasthan honour him today. In contrast, Maharana Pratap wandered in jungles, slept on the floor and ate rotis made of grass but did not surrender his self-respect before the Mughals. Therefore, tens of thousands of people gather every year to pay homage to him on his birth anniversary. I have seen this contrast with my own eyes.”

I told Shri Kulkarniji that I recalled these contrasting images when I was faced with two diametrically opposite options: either to pocket a few crore rupees by betraying the country and acting as a dalal in the horse-trading of MPs, or to show courage and earn the blessings of Allah.”

My words increased the trust and confidence that Shri Kulkarniji had developed in me. He then asked me if I would facilitate the whistle-blowing operation by a few BJP MPs to expose the bribery scandal. I readily and enthusiastically agreed. He asked me, “Aap ki pahunch kahan tak hai?” (How high-level are your contacts?). I offered to take the MPs to Shri Ahmed Patelji and Shri Amar Singhji. I told him that I had come to know from my contacts in the “market” that both were active in settling deals with non-UPA MPs willing to defy their respective party whips and support the Government.

Late in the afternoon of July 21, Shri Kulkarniji introduced me to three BJP Members of Parliament (Lok Sabha) — Shri Ashok Argalji, Shri Mahavir Baghoraji and Shri Faggan Singh Kulasteji. Shri Kulkarni also told me that a team from CNN-IBN was coming soon to work closely with the three MPs, record their whistle-blowing operation and telecast it.

My contacts in the Congress and SP circles were excited when I told them that three BJP MPs were willing to cross over. As mentioned earlier, Shri Lovely Singh had arranged my meeting with Shri Ahmed Patelji at 7.30 pm at the latter residence on Willingdon Crescent. Since the CNN-IBN team had not yet arrived, I requested for the meeting to be rescheduled. I was then informed that I could bring the MPs to meet Shri Ahmed Patelji to Le Meridien Hotel.

The CNN-IBN team, comprising Shri Siddharth Gautam, reporter, and Shri Sudesh, cameraman, arrived at Shri Kulkarniji’s residence at around 10.00 pm. They fitted hidden cameras behind the shirts worn by Shri Kulasteji and Shri Baghoraji, after which I took them to Meridien Hotel at around 11.00 pm. All three of us were driving in Shri Kulasteji’s vehicle bearing the MP’s label.  Shri Argalji stayed behind at Shri Kulkarniji’s residence.

Upon reaching the hotel, Shri Lovely Singh told me that Shri Ahmed Patelji had left about 10 minutes earlier after having waited for the BJP MPs for quite some time. There were many Congress leaders in the lobby of the Hotel and the atmosphere was that of a ‘Ghodon ki Mandi’ (horses’ market). I am constrained to state here that, in CNN-IBN’s August 11 telecast of its sting operation on the ‘Cash-for-Votes’ scandal, the channel hid the information from its viewers that the visit to Meridien Hotel was to meet Shri Ahmed Patelji. The channel also showed no clips of the Congress leaders whom the two BJP MPs and I met in the hotel lobby.

From Meridien, we drove back to the residence of Shri Ashok Argalji at 4 Ferozshah Road.  Apart from Shri Argalji and Shri Kulkarniji, I met two other persons from CNN-IBN there. One was Shri Saif Kidwai, who introduced himself as a producer, and a colleague of his whose name I do not know. Shri Siddharth Gautam of CNN-IBN told us that instead of going out to meet anybody with hidden cameras, it was better to invite the person to a safe room since the quality of recording would be much better. Accordingly, his team fitted cameras behind curtains in the drawing room in Shri Argalji’s house, and a listening device in an adjoining room.

After our failure to meet Shri Ahmed Patelji, I focused my efforts on meeting Shri Amar Singhji. When I contacted Shri Reoti Raman Singhji at his residence (telephone no: 2378 2233) from my mobile (no. 999******0), he agreed to meet the three BJP MPs at Shri Argalji’s house. Shri Reoti Raman Singhji came at around 12.30. I introduced him to the three MPs. He told them that their interests would be taken care of if they agreed to support the Government. The MPs asked him how much they would be paid. He replied that the amount would be decided by Shri Amar Singhji and promised to take them to meet the SP leader. This entire meeting and conversation has been recorded by the CNN-IBN team on their hidden cameras.

During this meeting, I was partly inside Shri Argalji’s drawing room and partly in the adjoining room where Shri Siddharth Gautam, Shri  Saif Kidwai, Shri Sudesh and the fourth member from the CNN-IBN team were listening to the conversation in the drawing room. Shri Kulkarniji was also present in the adjoining room.

Since it was late in the night, the MPs refused to go to Shri Amar Singhji’s house. However, Shri Reoti Raman Singhji phoned me the next morning, on July 22, and said that Shri Amar Singhji was waiting for the MPs at his residence (27 Lodhi Estate). Accordingly, I accompanied two MPs—Shri Argalji and Shri Kulasteji—to Shri Amar Singhji’s residence. I was wearing green half-trousers and a white t-shirt. Shri Baghoraji stayed behind at 4 Ferozshah Road. This was around 10 am.

We drove in a white Maruti Zen (DL 5CC 7218). My friend Hashmat Ali was driving the car. I was sitting on the front seat next to the driver’s. Shri Argalji and Shri Kulasteji were sitting on the back seats. Shri Sidharth Gautam told us that he would travel ahead of us in a CNN-IBN car and capture on his camera our entry into, and exit out of, Shri Amar Singhji’s house.

Shri Amar Singhji welcomed the three of us warmly and treated us to dates and dry grapes. He was wearing white pyjama and a kurta of sky-blue colour. Thanking me for bringing the two MPs to meet him, he claimed that he had already “managed” the support of 275-285 MPs to ensure the survival of the UPA Government. Nevertheless, since Shri Reoti Raman Singhji had arranged the meeting, he would pay Rs. 3 crore to each MP if they abstained from the trust vote. At this point, Shri Argalji and Shri Kulasteji mentioned to him that they had one more BJP MP willing to abstain. Shri Amar Singhji told them that he would pay the same amount to Shri Baghoraji.

After this, Shri Amar Singhji spoke to somebody and informed that person that three more BJP MPs had agreed to abstain from voting. Once the conversation was over, he told us, “Aap ke baare mein main ne PM ko bata diya hai.” (I have informed the PM about you.) He then phoned Shri Ahmed Patelji from his mobile and said, “I have three more Kamals (Lotuses) here.” He made the two MPs speak to Shri Ahmed Patelji. From the conversation I could make out that Shri Amar Singhji and Shri Ahmed Patelji were working in a coordinated manner.

Shri Amar Singhji offered to pay the MPs a token amount of Rs. one crore and asked them to carry it with them. Shri Argalji and Shri Kulasteji said, “Hum nahin le jayenge. Bahar mediawalen khade hain.” (We won’t take it with us since mediapersons are standing outside your house.) Shri Amar Singhji then promised to send the amount with his assistant, Shri Sanjeev Saxena, within 10-15 minutes. The remaining amount of Rs. 8 crore, he assured them, would be paid to them after the trust vote.

As we were coming out of his drawing room, I told Shri Amar Singhji, “Thakur Sahab, aap Thakur ho kar Marwadi ki tarah baat karte ho. Teen karod to bahut kum rakam hain.” (Thakur Sahab, being a Thakur you are talking like a Marwadi. Three crores is too small an amount.) He smiled at me and said, “Aap der se aaye. Raat ko MPs ko le aate to Ahmedbhai bhi yahin pe the.” (You came late. If you had brought the MPs last night, Ahmed Patel was also here and they would have met him.” I then asked him, “Thakur Sahab, mera kya hoga?” (What about my share?) He said, “Aap ka saamaan hum ne Golf Course mein rakha hai. Vahan jaa ke utha lena.” (Your amount is kept at Golf Course. Pick it up from there.)

While entering Shri Amar Singh’s house, I had seen Shri Siddharth Gautam and his colleague Shri Saif Kidwai. Also present were reporters and cameramen from several other TV channels. While I was inside Shri Amar Singhji’s drawing room, Shri Siddharth Gautam (his mobile no. is 989******1) phoned me on my mobile (999******0) and said, “Please tell me what time you are leaving Shri Amar Singh’s house, so that I’ll be ready to shoot your car coming out of the house. I want to tell you that a lot of other mediapersons are also standing here.” This can be checked from my mobile call records and those of Shri Siddharth Gautam. We left Shri Amar Singh’s house at 10.48 am.

We left Shri Amar Singhji’s house to return to Shri Argal’s house at around 10.30 am. Within 15 minutes, his assistant Shri Sanjeev Saxena, accompanied by a well-built person, arrived at 4 Ferozshah Road in a white Gypsy car no. DL-3C-S-8562. The number was noted by a member of Shri Argalji’s staff. Before ushering Shri Saxena and his colleague (who was carrying two pistols hidden behind his clothes) into the drawing room, I told him, “Meri Shri Amar Singhji se baat karao, yeh maal bahut kum hai. Hum is par sauda nahin karenge.” (Make me speak to Shri Amar Singhji, because this amount is too small. We’ll not do not do the deal at this rate.”) Shri Saxena put the call through to Shri Amar Singhji, who told me that he would double the rate to Rs 6 crore per MP. “If this is acceptable, the deal is on. Otherwise, I’ll ask my man to return immediately.”

I replied that the deal was acceptable. However, I did not have the time to communicate this part of the conversation with Shri Amar Singhji (about the rate being hiked from Rs. 3 crore to Rs. 6 crore) to the three MPs (who were inside the drawing room) as the next stage of the operation took place swiftly.

I then ushered Shri Saxena and his colleague into the drawing room in Shri Argal’s house, which had already been bugged by the CNN-IBN team with hidden cameras. His colleague was wearing a yellow-coloured shirt with long sleeves. I had seen this person, who looked like a security guard, at Shri Amar Singh’s house. He was carrying a small revolver hidden beneath his shirt. Shri Saxena had carried the money in a dark green bag and removed ten bundles of Rs. 10 lakhs each, most of it in currency notes of Rs. 1000, and placed them on a table.

After this, Shri Argalji introduced Shri Baghoraji to Shri Saxena as the third MP. Shri Baghoraji wanted to speak to Shri Amar Singhji for direct confirmation of the remaining amount to be paid. Shri Saxena tried to connect Shri Amar Singhji’s telephone number, which was repeatedly coming engaged. Finally, he got all three MPs to speak to Shri Amar Singhji. After this, I asked Shri Saxena for his mobile number, saying that I would like to remain in touch with him in future for any “chhota-mota kaam”. The number that Shri Saxena gave me was 981******9. The CNN-IBN team has recorded these happenings on its hidden cameras.

After Shri Sanjeev Saxena left Shri Argal’s house, the CNN-IBN team filmed the serial numbers of the first and the last currency notes in the ten bundles. Shri Siddharth Gautam then interviewed with his regular camera the three MPs in the drawing room, with the amount of Rs. 1 crore displayed on the table. Shri Kulkarniji and I were not in the room when the interview was being conducted. But we watched it by standing outside near the door.

Thereafter, the three MPs packed the amount in two separate bags and left for Parliament. By this time, mediapersons had already started to arrive at Shri Argalji’s house. I, therefore, quietly sneaked out of the house, took a local bus to Dhaula Kuan, from where I boarded another bus at 2.30 pm to go to Jaipur. I arrived in Jaipur at around 7.30 pm.

I watched TV at around 8.00 pm and learnt that the Government had won the trust vote by securing 275 votes in its favour with 256 votes against and 10 abstentions. I was deeply disappointed. I switched to CNN-IBN to see if it was showing the tape of the sting operation. Although the channel was showing (indeed, all other channels were showing) the three MPs displaying the notes inside Parliament, there was no sign of the sting tape. I asked some people if the channel had shown the tape earlier. They had no knowledge of it. My disappointment and anger knew no bounds. I felt that the channel had betrayed the trust of the three MPs as well as the trust of all those who had facilitated the exposure of this bribery scandal.

All the information in this statement is true and factual. I am ready to be cross-examined by your Honourable Self or by the members of the inquiry committee appointed by you.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,

Suhail Hindustani

213 A, MS Flats Quarters
Opposite R.M.L. Hospital
Baba Kharak Singh Marg
New Delhi – 1100 001

***

Also read: Was CNN-IBN right not to air Amar Singh sting?

CNN-IBN clarifies on role in cash-for-votes sting

Arun Jaitley: Channel tunnel vision

Sudheendra Kulkarni: What I told the cash-for-votes scam probe panel

1991 liberalised economy, 2008 liberalised polity

21 July 2008

Towards draw of stumps on day one, Team Manmohan looks like it might score 271 in 20 hours. Or it might not.

But sometime in the year 2025, seventeen years from now, will we look at 2008 the same way we now look at a year 17 years before this one: 1991. As the year that altered our mindscapes and the landscape of our country.

As the year of Liberalisation 2.0.

With the benefit of hindsight, 1991 now seems like such an important, even essential thing for the country to have gone through. Out of compulsion if not choice, kicking and screaming, we opened our doors to let a blast of change blow through.

As Parliament burns the midnight oil on nuclear physics tonight, ponder this: would “Liberalisation 1.0” have passed muster in 1991 and would we be looking back at it the same way we do now if our MPs had adopted the same “rigorous” methods back then?

The biggest changes back then came within the first 100 days of the minority P.V. Narasimha Rao government taking over. There was no trust vote, therefore no debates like what we are seeing now.

It was a page straight out of “Shock Doctrine”.

There are plenty of honest critics of liberalisation even to this day, and it can be asked if it has really managed to erase the inherent inequity and inequality of our society, but there can be little doubt that 1991 was what Intel’s Andy Grove called the “strategic inflection point”.

Somebody had to do it.

Whether you are pro-nuclear deal or anti-nuclear deal; a Congress, BJP or Left supporter; an America lover or baiter, we are at a similar strategic inflection point.

1991 liberalised the economy; 2008 is poised to liberalise the polity. Behind both is Manmohan Singh. As benchmarks go, “India’s weakest PM since independence” has set a daunting one for all prime ministers in waiting.

Even an aye-vote on Tuesday might not help the Congress to win an election as it did not in 1996. Indeed, in giving Mayawati a pan-Indian image over just one weekend, the nuclear deal may have already taken the Dalits away from the Congress.

Add to that a tieup with Mulayam Singh along with an existing one with Lalu Prasad, and the Congress is staring at a mountain in the Hindi heartland, on top of a dozen or more defeats in State polls across the country.

But in achieving a perceptional shift in the minds of the middle-classes, in exorcising the ghost of the United States bang in the middle of our drawing rooms, Liberalisation 2.0 is as significant as Liberalisation 1.0.

It’s the sequel to beat all sequels.

True, the defections, the wheeling-dealing, the horse-trading, the favour-dispensing—and the sight of thugs, criminals, the sick and the dying being hauled in—make a joke of the “national interest”. But that applies as much to those pushing the deal as those opposing it.

Only Shibhu Soren’s support to a minority government, it seems, is the common strand between the two rounds of liberalisation. How odd can that be—and how very revealing of the maturity of our democracy, or the lack of it.

Maybe, it is too early to sing hosannas in praise of the liberalization of our politics. Maybe. But make no mistake. Tomorrow when the red and green buttons are pressed, Manmohan Singh’s vision is on test, sure, but it’s a bigger test for Prakash Karat & Co.

Liberalisation 2.0 doesn’t answer the grave questions about the independence of India’s foreign policy, about the subservience to the United States, about the deliverance of promises and so on, but in that respect it is no different from Liberalisation 1.0. It’s not the finished article.

It is possible that the impact of Liberalisation 2.0 will never be as personal and direct as Liberalisation 1.0. Against malls, mobiles and materialism, protons, neutrons and electrons don’t stand a chance.

Still, in 2025, the textbooks, unless they have been reworked, will have the same bold fonts for 1991 and 2008.

This piece also appears on rediff.com

What’s in your name? What’s in your namam?

24 June 2008

R. Ramaswamy Iyengar in a letter to the editor of Praja Vani:

“Some 58 years ago, N. Keshava Iyengar was the mayor of the Bangalore City Corporation. A staunch Congressman and Nehruvian, he was a firm believer in secularism.

“Some citizens needled him: “Sir, you follow secular principles. How come you still retain the ‘Iyengar‘ in your name?”

“Finding merit in the citizens’ argument, the mayor dropped his surname and soon came to be known as N. Keshava.

“The reason I bring this up is because so many of our secular titans continue to retain surnames that denote the name of their communities and sects. For example, H.D. Deve Gowda who heads the Janata Dal (Secular). Doesn’t this run counter to their secular credentials?”

***

The late economist and Member of Parliament Prof K. Venkatagiri Gowda would angrily telephone editors and reporters if he was referred to as Prof Gowda. “My name is Venkatagiri, not Gowda,” he would holler.

Lalu Prasad Yadav has long become Lalu Prasad, but Mulayam Singh Yadav continues to be MSY.

So, should Mani Shankar drop the Aiyar from his name? Does “former prime minister H.D. Deve” have the same ring as “former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda?” Would B.K.S. Iyengar have been as famous as just “B.K.S.”, or K. Pattabhi Jois as K. Pattabhi?


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