Posts Tagged ‘Priyanka Gandhi’

CHURUMURI POLL: Is this Congress’s Bofors-II?

8 October 2012

The grenade lobbed by the Arvind Kejriwal-Prashant Bhushan gang on Friday, accusing Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, of dubious deals with the construction company DLF, has sent the Congress camp into a tizzy. Over half-a-dozen Union ministers trooped into TV studios to defend FDI*—the First Damaad of India—even as Vadra maintained a studied silence, before breaking it on Facebook (he has since deleted his FB account).

To be sure, there was little of surprise: the same details had been carried by The Economic Times a year and six months ago, quoting Registrar of Companies (ROC) documents. At the time, the Congress had not seen it fit to respond. But the timing of the latest “expose”, after the Jan Lok Pal movement was tarred and tarnished, after the announcement of a new party sans Anna Hazare, and in the run-up to the Gujarat and general elections, gives the issue a whole new angle.

Questions: Will the charges against Vadra become a millstone around the Congress’—and by extension, Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi‘s necks—forever, like Bofors has? Or will they peter out because there is no foreign hand like Ottavio Quattrochchi‘s and no clear quid pro quo? Do the charges prove crony conspiracy at its worst? Or, has the Kejriwal-Bhushan duo bitten off more than they can chew by hitting below the belt?

*courtesy Rama Lakshmi/ WaPo

CHURUMURI POLL: Rahul vs Modi in 2014 poll?

14 September 2011

Plenty of pre-electoral chickens are being counted after the Supreme Court directed the trial court to proceed in the Gulberg society carnage case in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002. And leading the charge is Narendra Damodardas Modi and his drumbeaters in his party and the media, who interpret the SC ruling as a licence for the Gujarat chief minister to now conquer the Centre. (Mercifully, L.K. Advani had announced his anti-corruption yatra three days earlier, else Modi’s prime ministerial candidacy would have been signed, sealed and delivered by now.)

Nevertheless, there is no denying that depending on which way the trial court goes in the Ehsan Jafri case, how the corruption charges against Modi’s government stick, what happens in the Gujarat assembly elections due by December 2012, how the other aspirants in the BJP (including Advani) react to Modi’s ambitions, and how the allies in the NDA take to him, Narendra Modi is now well and truly eyeing a role in Delhi, a suspicion confirmed by a US thinktank report which sees him as a “likely candidate for prime ministership”.

Should that happen, it opens up a delicious prospect. That of a State satrap with a much-touted record of corruption-free governance against the Congress’ heir apparent, Rahul Gandhi, whose record both as parliamentarian and as a party general secretary has at best been patchy. With the Congress president Sonia Gandhi not in particularly great health and with Manmohan Singh‘s reputation in tatters after all the scams under his charge, it is daunting challenge ahead of Rahul Gandhi, should he lead the charge in 2014.

But what if the trial court does clear Modi? Will Modi be the BJP’s (an NDA’s) automatic choice? Is Modi’s boastful administrative record enough to win national approval despite his remorseless attitude to his “alleged complicity in lethal anti-Muslim rioting”? Could the benefits of Anna Hazare‘s anti-corruption movement accrue to a BJP led by Modi? Could the Congress spring a fresh surprise, like say a Priyanka Gandhi in the fray, to upset the applecart? Could Jayalalitha, Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik, et al stich up a more potent Third or Fourth Front?

Also read: ‘Gujarat was vibrant long before Modi

Do only Gujaratis have asmita? Don’t Indians?

Why our silly middle-class loves Narendra Modi

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Sushma Swaraj right about Modi?

‘Bisexual’ Gandhi, bachelor Modi & author Moily

CHURUMURI POLL: Do we like our ‘icons’ single?

One question I’m dying to ask P. Chidambaram

7 April 2010

Operation Greenhunt, the UPA government’s branded effort to quell the challenge posed by “the gravest internal security threat”, i.e. the Maoists, has suffered its biggest humiliation, yet, with the dastardly slaying of 74 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and a lone head constable of the Chhatisgarh police.

The attack came just days after the Harvard-educated lawyer-home minister P. Chidamabaram called the Naxals “cowards” and reminded the West Bengal government about where the “buck” stops. And it comes a couple of months after he and the naxals had publicly exchanged phone and fax numbers.

The attack takes the sheen off Chidambaram’s aggressive, “hot-pursuit” approach that has come in for much praise from the urban media (and the BJP), as opposed to a slow, measured, all-things-considered approach, and it poses a big question mark on the man many believe is positioning himself to replace Manmohan Singh if push comes to shove.

The high price paid by the jawans implementing Chidambaram’s act-first-think-later approach, which also triggered off  the Telegana mess, also raises questions about the “CEO of the war”, as author Arundhati Roy has dubbed him, because he is alleged to be fighting a proxy war for his former corporate clients.

What is the one question you’re dying to ask Thiru Palaniappan Chidambaram?

Please keep your enquiries smooth, well oiled and civil.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: ‘What Muslims were to BJP, Naxals are to Congress’

CHURUMURI POLL: Will the ‘State’ beat the Naxals?

When Priyanka meets Nalini, she’s a messiah. When…?

CHURUMURI POLL: Sonia, smarter than Indira?

14 March 2010

The passing of the women’s reservation bill by the Rajya Sabha last week is the beginning of its journey to become law, not the end. It still has to be passed by the Lok Sabha and be ratified by the majority of the assemblies before it becomes an Act. Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that the journey has begun, never mind the route and time it will take.

UPA chairman and Congress president Sonia Gandhi has justly cornered much of the credit for pushing the landmark bill through despite opposition from within her own party and across the aisle, although its impact on the Manmohan Singh government will only be known in the days and weeks to come—and although Sonia wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without support from the BJP and the Left parties.

The media has variously interpreted Sonia’s role in piloting the bill. One TV channel saw it as the emergence of a “firmer” Sonia, in the wake of recent reports that she was stepping back. A weekly newsmagazine asks the question whether Sonia is turning out to be smarter than her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi.

The reasoning is: the foreign-born Sonia has managed to resurrect a crumbling century-old party, put it back in power (twice), silently answered her critics, gracefully declined office, put a “professional” to run the country, been less pushy about her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, and above all pushed pathbreaking social legislation like the national rural guarantee scheme, right to information, right to education, and now the bill.

All this, presumably, being in contrast to Indira, who was at the centre of a party split, imposed the Emergency (with censorship), unleashed her son Sanjay Gandhi, mouthed cliches like garibi hatao, silently cultivated fundamentalist forces like Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, and then launched Operation Bluestar.

In other words, outside of the triumph in the Bangladesh War, Indira Gandhi is seen as a largely negative influence, although some opinion polls find her to be the best PM India has had. In contrast, Sonia Gandhi, although not occupying the high office (therefore enjoying power without responsibility) is likely to be seen by posterity much more kindly than her mother-in-law.

Question: Is Sonia Gandhi turning out to be smarter than Indira Gandhi?

When Priyanka meets Nalini she’s a messiah but…

21 October 2009

priyanka binayak

Gladson Dungdung, an activist based in Jharkhand, a State bang in the middle of the “Red Coridor”, appeared on CNN-IBN on Tuesday night to discuss the Naxal issue.

Dungdung, who says his parents were murdered and their 20 acres of land taken away for a dam without being compensated, says the government is essentially batting for the multinational corporations (MNCs) who want forest land cleared for their projects.

To address the issue of Naxalites, the government, he says, has to first address the economic, social and cultural injustice which has been done to the adivasis and address the developmental issues.

Dungdung: See the problem is that two decades ago what Rajiv Gandhi used to say that only 15 per cent of the money used to reach the poor is the same thing that Rahul Gandhi is saying now. That means they have not done anything.

CNN-IBN: You are saying that the democratic process has remained unchanged in this country for the last 25 years.

Dungdung: Yes. Another thing when Priyanka Gandhi meets the killer of Rajiv Gandhi, she becomes the messiah for the people—or is at least projected like that. When someone like Binayak Sen treats an adivasi, he becomes a Naxal supporter. How is this fair?

Photographs: courtesy CNN-IBN, Revolution in South Asia

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Will State beat Naxals?

Are you a part of the 1%—or the other 99%?

Everybody loves a good number: 93, 77, 54, 33

Rising India’s share of the poorest is growing

Indians should never ask where on earth Gabon is

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

25 April 2009

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

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

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

View the full video: The Priyanka Gandhi interview

Watch the show: Tonight 5.30 pm; tomorrow 9.30 pm

In great IPL, what if Congress, BJP played cricket

25 April 2009

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

How would it be in the BJP camp?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

What Indian Political League can learn from IPL

28 March 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: My friend, the Ace Political Expert (APE), who also sometimes doubles as the Ace Sports Specialist (ASS), was sulking in a corner in the lawns of our club.

As I wished him for the evening, he didn’t say anything, but just motioned me to sit. Usually a cross between a chatterbox and a high-pitch voice- box, I found his silence somewhat funereal.

After ordering the bearer to bring Mallya’s Kingfisher and Dasappa’s masal vade, I asked him the real reason why IPL was moving out of the country.

“Where were the “security concerns” when the Bombay police commissioner himself had cleared it? Or was it a doosra from P. Chidambaram under instructions from Sonia Gandhi to teach the great Maratha, Sharad Pawar, some lessons in ‘Power Play 2’ after the Congress-NCP seat-sharing talks broke down?”

APE, who was downing his sorrows alone for god knows for how long, considered the question, thoughtfully nibbled at the vade, and said: “This is terrible political blood-letting on a cricket pitch of 22x 2 mtrs. I feel they are moving the wrong event out of the country. They should have moved the elections to South Africa, England or Timbuktu or some such place. Cricketers in the IPL mainly believe in clean hitting, either for a 4 or 6, bringing a lot of joy to families out in the evening. Amongst cricketers, there are no sitting MPs who are convicts and thugs; there is nobody among them who is either in jail or becomes a thief, sorry, chief minister when he is out of it. Nobody has faced a TADA court or hides in a hospital feigning political ‘Heart Attack’.”

“That’s true,” I agreed.

“It’s the politicians, if at all, who need police protection, not only from terrorists but people themselves, if you see what happened after the Bombay terror attack. South Africa could have easily organised our elections there. True, liquor will flow right through; cash for votes will be a daily affair and booth capturing from the lackeys of candidates a strong possibility, but the police of RSA could have easily handled that under their goonda Act or something equivalent to that. Meanwhile, we would have had peaceful, exciting IPL matches with sellout crowds cheering the cheer girls.”

“Yes. It’s a pity. We will miss all that.”

“Also we would have seen genuine camaraderie between Sangakkara and Jayawardene with Yuvraj Singh; between Dhoni , Muthaiah Muralidharan and Flintoff; Sachin with Jayasuriya and Dravid with Pieterson.”

“That’s the main objective of club games which transcends nationalistic feelings.”

“Instead, what will we have?  Even within teams they are itching to finish each other off. Arun Jaitley is openly fighting BJP president Rajnath Singh and Sudanshu Mittal. Siddaramaiah in Karnataka is still a political pariah not acceptable to most Congressmen, but may become KPCC chief. Vishwanath in Mysore is facing open rebellion within the Congress party if he is given a ticket. What kind of a team spirit will they exhibit which can be a lesson for our  youngsters?” asked the APE as he gulped down his third whisky.

“So true.  No one considered that.”

” The Pathan brothers, often contest for the one berth in the team knowing one of them will have to lose out, but you won’t find Irfan pulling down Yusuf if Yusuf makes it to the team. They are not jealous of each other but are happy for each other’s success. Can we say that of Priyanka or Rahul with Varun? Both are Gandhis and cousins, but behave as if they are different species belonging to different planets.”

“How do you think it will all end this year?” I asked as the bearer brought our bill.

“IPL 2 will still succeed in South Africa like the first T20 World Cup played last year. It will be a thrilling contest in the final.”

“What about Lok Sabha elections?”

“I won’t be surprised if the voters skip elections on the days of matches. There will be fractured verdict; more asses will be paraded after horse-trading. Non-entities will rule the country as if it is their personal fiefdom,” prophesied APE as we got up to leave.

The King of Good Times rescues a very Old Monk

6 March 2009

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ASHWINI A. writes from Bangalore: Something that Indians rever was on the auctioner’s block in the Big Apple last night: the personal effects of the most selfless human to have walked this soil in the 20th century.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi‘s glasses, watch, sandals….

The Mahatma’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi launched a bid to retrieve the national jewels. Prime minister Manmohan Singh wanted the treasures back at all cost. Television anchors were frothing at the mouth. Backroom negotiations were on to prevent the auction.

Now it was off, now it was on.

Finally, on Friday morning, came the good news that the King of Good Times “Dr” Vijay Mallya had successfully bid for the items. “The nation can be proud and happy that the items are with us,” culture minister Ambika Soni said, chest all puffed up some pride, on television.

The Indian Government procured the five personal articles through the services of Mallya, she said, as it could not bid directly because of a stay order of the Delhi High Court.

But pause a moment to reflect on the irony.

And then imagine tomorrow morning’s newspaper headlines if there were some truly ballsy tabloids in the country:

Mallya rescues Mahatma

King of Good Times bails out Old Monk

Liquor Magnate buys Gandhi Goodies

Beer Baron picks up Gandhi’s Glasses

And then ask yourself this question:

In this country of a billion people, could the government of India only find a man, whose millions are built on liquor, to ensure that the artefacts of a man who abhorred it, stayed with India?

And then this question:

In rising, shining, growing India where corporate and industrialists and businessmen trip over each other to demonstrate their so-called “corporate social responsibility”, could only Vijay Mallya find the requisite crores in an economic downturn to prop up the Father of the Nation?

And then this one:

In the land of opportunities, in the US of A, in the land of a million Patels and Shahs hailing from “Vibrant Gujarat”—most of them motel owners, doctors, real estate brokers, investment bankers—could not a single Gujarati or a bunch of them find the wherewithal to help one of their own?

Why couldn’t the Birlas, with whom Gandhi shared a close relationship, in whose precincts the Mahatma received the assassin’s bullets, with a “Hey Ram!”? Why didn’t the Tatas or Mittals who are buying up companies all over the world as if they are going out of fashion?

Why didn’t the Ambanis of Chorwad—Modh banias like the Mahatma—who are building 24-storeyed skyscrapers or buying planes, for their wives on their birthdays?

Or how about churumuri‘s favourite IT czar: N.R. Narayana Murthy?

Infosys probably earns Rs 9 crore a day. Would it have been so difficult for the image-conscious company to buy up the items and erase the bad press Murthy got becuase of his perceived insult to the national anthem?

And so on.

Pardon me for going on like a stuck record. Sure, these are tough times, but the short point is: Is Rs 9 crore that big a sum for our Superbrands™? And do our corporates and their captains have any vision beyond the bottomline at all?

In an age when image is all, the Gandhi auction was a god-sent opportunity for individuals and institutions to score big time on goodwill and publicity.

In an electio season, what if the overseas outfits of the Congress or BJP had bought it? What if Mayawati had bought it, or Amar Singh who “donated” Rs 40 crore to the Bill Clinton Foundation? What if L.K. Adavni had, instead of spending silly zillions on Google ads?

What if Rahul, Priyanka or Sonia who have benefitted from the greatman’s surname?

While these people and others may rue the missed opporuntity, Vijay Mallya has earned his place in the history books after successfully bringing back the Tipu sword, proving once again that while he may not be everybody’s favourite CEO, he is certainly the smartest, the quickest of the blocks.

At least he puts his money where his mouth is.

As for the others, all they are destined to say tonight is “Cheers”, while Mallya laughs all the way to the bank.

Also read: One question I’m dying to ask Vijay Mallya

Only a third generation can double this rail line

21 September 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Praveen Kumar III of South Western Railway was gazing at the track between Srirangapatna and Naguvanahalli.

As he was staring at the track, his mind went back to circa 2008-2010.

His great-grandfather Praveen Kumar, who was entrusted with the task of expediting the task of doubling the Bangalore-Mysore track project had one day, had literally stumbled into a monument from the period of Tipu Sultan in Srirangapatna.

Since monuments are sensitive matters, it was referred to the archaeological department to seek its concurrence before shifting it elsewhere.

Files in the archaeology department are never in a hurry and appear to wobble once in a decade in Karnataka. The approval for shifting the monument came on the same day when Praveen Kumar was due to retire from service. But the various agencies involved in shifting the monument—the public works department, the wakf board, railways, muzrai department, temple authorities—could not arrive at a mutually convenient date for their meeting.

Finally when they met, the Muslim board objected to shifting the monument during Ramzan; the temple authorities would not lift a finger during Shravanamasa. The archaeology department was yet to decide whether to classify the monument as a heritage piece or just a luggage. The PWD was busy building flyovers from Bangalore to Madras and Hyderabad on which cars could zoom in 2 hours and 3 hours to those cities respectively, to even bother.

So the project became comatose again.

When Kumaraswamy II became the chief minister of Karnataka, he too started doing village stays like his father. Once while eating ragi mudde marinated in Sula wine, his eyes fell on a paper beneath the mudde. The mudde would not go in as he found his affectionate father’s beautiful signature authorising the work between Bangalore and Ramanagaram.

HDK II left the dinner unfinished and began enquiring about the status of the project without even losing time to wash his hands.

He dashed off messages to railway minister and chairman of the railway board. Quick came their response. They appointed a young railway officer, Praveen Kumar II to handle this prestigious project. Praveen Kumar II flew in directly to Sriranagapatna from Delhi in his helicopter.

The Bangalore- Mysore project thus came out of ICU of railway hospital and started galloping like a “Flying Ranee”. Everybody hoped it would be completed by 2030.

But good things, as they say, do not last long, at least not in Karnataka.

No sooner had PK II solved the monument problem, they came across a foundation stone bang in the middle of the proposed track. Former and farmer prime minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, had come all the way to to lay it. A foundation stone with a pickaxe attached to it was found by the gang of workers.

After prostrating before the new sacred heritage structure, Kumaraswamy II decided not to shift the same and asked the engineers to find a solution.

The engineers after working for 5 years found they could encircle the heritage assembly with a poly carbon glass and take the track 20 ft. below the glass without touching it.

By the time the zilla panchayat and gram panchayats and the PWD, after quarterly interdepartmental notes, agreed to do the job, Yediyurappa III had taken over from Kumaraswamy II, who quickly reversed the earlier decision. He now wanted the tracks to go 20 feet above the foundation stone and refused to treat it as a heritage piece. He got it reclassified it as just a luggage.

Yediyurappa III like his grandfather was also a man in a furious hurry. He called Delhi to send an official to complete the project. Delhi beamed an officer who landed at the site in fifteen minutes through a jet propulsion robot much like ‘Scotty’.  As luck or ill luck would have it, it was Praveen Kumar III who landed at Naguvanahalli!

Thus, Praveen Kumar III found himself wondering whether the project would ever reach Mysore at all…

Finally, after several eras, if not eons, the double track project was completed and inaugurated by Rahul Nehru Gandhi III in 2080.

All the tahasildars, zilla panchayat and gram panchayat employees flew in their own helicopters powered by Indo-US nuclear fuel to attend the inauguration.

Since railways had stopped running trains from 2060, as a mark of respect, it was decided to run a special train once to mark the centenary of the fast track project. The nearly 200-year-old coal-based steam engine, was brought out of its shed to pull the Mysore-Bangalore Priyanka Express for the first and last time on the newly built track.

Five things I like (and don’t) about IPL (so far)

21 April 2008

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: As an early sceptic of the Indian Premier League, I thought IPL was going to be a reality show for the rich, but three days into Cricket ka Karmyudh, I am willing to eat one number small crow and unsubscribe to the purists’ rant about Twenty20 being a witches’ brew to kill the real thing. Looking at the crowds, the TV audiences, and the entertainment on offer, it’s clear the centre of the game is shifting—from Lord’s to the commoners.

What do I like about IPL, so far?

1) I like the fact it is not a distasteful display of the tricolour: The flags, the tee-shirts, the hairdos, and the stickers on the cheeks in saffron, white and green were getting on my very sensitive nerves. Thankfully, there is very little of this bogus nationalism on the field, as if only one country (India) was destined to win. Our cities seem to be slaying Norman Tebbit‘s demon of nation and identity every night.

2) I like the fact there are so many nationalities on show: I had had enough of spectators and audiences who learnt cricket by watching television, who thought only Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni were ordained to perform on Earth. It’s delightful to see them being stumped and surprised by a Brendon McCullum or a David Hussey or a Mark Boucher night after night.

3) I like the fact that there is something very unpredictable about the matches: When countries are playing each other, you know what is coming. You know who is fielding at point, who will come two-down, who will carry the drinks, etc. But it’s truly beautiful to be surprised at every stage of the IPL by friends, foes, and foes-turned-friends. To see Sanath Jayasuriya and Harbhajan Singh and Shaun Pollock put their heads together to haul Bombay out of the coals is a sight for the Gods.

4) I like the fact that it provides such a learning experience for young Indian cricketers: The gap between Indian domestic cricket and international cricket is huge. With our Test players away most of the time, there is no chance to learn for the young. But it is magnificent to see a promising Vinay Kumar being advised by Boucher. Or to see an Abhishek Nayar pull off a stunner under pressure.

5) And I like the fact that in the first few days, it’s the foreign players who have brought most of the value: At a time of great xenophobia and pseudo-patriotism, when the local versus outsider debate is raging, McCullum and Hussey for Calcutta, Boucher and Kallis for Bangalore, Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds for Hyderabad, Jayasuriya and Robin Uthappa for Bombay, et al, seem to have carried the day.

What do I not like about the IPL, so far?

1) I dislike the fact that it is really, all said and done, a reality show for the rich: The sight of the camera repeatedly panning on to grown-up actors like Shah Rukh Khan and Priety Zinta, businessmen like Vijay Mallya and Mukesh Ambani, and celebrities Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi leaves you wondering if the ghost of Mark Mascarenhas is back. Yes, they own the teams at great cost, but should we pay obeisance so often?

2) I dislike the fact that even if cricket changes, its commentators remain the same: Remember Sunil Gavaskar scored 36 not out in a 60-over World Cup match. Remember Ravi Shastri could never get adrenaline going if he didn’t hear “Hai, hai” from the crowds. To see the same slow coaches belting the same cliches (“The Indians will want a wicket now”) about fast cricket is, well, depressing.

3) I dislike the TV cameras hunting for the ball so often: Under the night sky, the cameraman seem to be finding it difficult to spot the ball. I hate that, and I hate the advertisements doing a balle-balle while the commentary is on, or the commercials slicing into an over or a commentator being chopped off mid-sentence. DD doing it was bad, but why should SET Max?

4) I dislike the fact that it seems to go on so late into the night: When last night’s Bangalore match ended, the milk truck had already arrived to unload the crates for the booth in front of my home! Seriously. I know that IPL is supposed to compete with the soaps but should the second match on the weekends start so late that we might as well soap, shampoo and leave for work on Mondays after the match ends?

5) And finally I dislike the fact that competition is just a relentless torrent: Five matches in three days and I can’t even remember anything from day one, except McCullum’s sixes. After a few days I will forget that too. I dislike the fact that it doesn’t leave you to savour a great spell of bowling or a fine catch. It’s all here and now. It’s not instant gratification, it’s instantaneous. If only victory and defeat are all that matter, only statisticians will worry about statistics at this rate.

So what do you like or not like about the IPL?

‘Have only the Gandhis suffered violence & loss?’

21 April 2008

Priyanka Vadra nee Gandhi‘s visit to the Vellore jail in March to meet her father’s assassin Nalini Sriharan to come “to peace with the violence and loss that I have experienced” has generated acres of positive coverage. The media has highlighted the largeheartedness of the Gandhi family and their forgiving nature, but Sudheendra Kulkarni, the former media advisor to Vajpayee and Advani, isn’t impressed.

He writes in yesterday’s Indian Express:

“Has Priyanka, her brother or mother ever publicly commiserated with the bereaved members of the families of 1,255 Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the IPKF operations in Sri Lanka and thus helped them “come to peace with violence and loss” that they too experienced as the result of a foolish and counter-productive decision taken by Rajiv Gandhi?

“Have they done the same with the bereaved kith and kin of those who lost their lives in the 1984 anti-Sikh carnage? Or, is it their belief that they alone have suffered “violence and loss” in this country? Or that their family is entitled to special privileges, both in life and in death?”

Read the full column: Why Priyanka’s visit is not personal

For want of a promise, an election can’t be lost

19 April 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The election propaganda in the State is yet to reach the high temperature of a viral fever, but there are already telltale signs of that. Sometimes a patient starts prattling under high fever in delirious conditions.

This seems to have happened after a Congress leader offered rice at Rs 2 a kilogram and also a free colour TV as bonus for the voter. I sought the views of spokesman of JD(S) on the Congress’s offer.

“Is it a manifesto? It’s laughable!” said the spokesman of JD(S).

“Why?”

“Tell me. With prices going through the roof, will anyone be able to live with rice at two rupees a kilo? You can’t eat rice alone. What about ragi, godhi, oil, vegetables, etc? Further, you need to cook rice and that needs kerosine which is again so costly.”

“I was happy. Here was somebody who understood the nitty-gritty of day-to-day living.”

“I am so glad you say that. What is your offer or counteroffer to this?”

“How long can anybody eat rice alone? We will distribute land free of cost so that every voter can grow paddy, wheat or whatever. We had prevented NICE from acquiring prime land in the name of the Bangalore-Mysore infrastructure corridor. We will distribute a couple of acres free of cost to each voter so that she can grow and feed the family any item of her choice.”

“Are you giving anything else?”

“Yes. Congress has announced it will give a 32-inch plasma colour TV to every voter. Where will the voter keep such a huge set? Does he have the place?  We will give a site of 40 feet by 60 feet to every voter free so that he could build a nice house for himself. Our party leaders have enough lands to distribute free of cost.”

“Won’t it cost a fortune to your Government to fulfill this promise?”

“Anything cheap is not worth the effort. Let’s get elected first. Then we will look into promises and their consequences. We are not exactly new to promises and know what to do with them.’

The BJP spokesman was ready to tackle both Congress and JD(S) offers with his counteroffer.

“What are you offering?” I asked.

“We make no promises that we can’t keep. We make no bones about it. Milk is the most nourishing food rich in calcium which everybody needs. We have already announced a subsidy of Rs 2 for every litre of milk produced by farmers. We might increase it to the cost of milk itself just before the elections.”

“What about those who are not farmers or who are not producing milk?”

“This is our initial offer. Later we propose to include everybody including those who drink milk in to this scheme. Milk is after all consumed by everybody.”

“Anything else?”

“We will start a calamity fund for Rs 500 crore which we will gradually increase it to Rs 50, 000 crore. Since there is bound to be some calamity or other every year and as of now it looks we may not win the Parliament elections, we would not like to go with a begging bowl to the Centre. This fund will help us to tide over any calamity in Karnataka.”

I met the Congress spokesman the next day who had already seen the counteroffers of BJP and JD(s) and had prepared his counter-counteroffer.

“You are in the soup. Your opponents have offered massive subsidies and freebies. What will you do now?”

“We have a Brahmastra which will finish any resistance not only in Karnataka but throughout India. We have just released a political tsunami with two epicentres at Madras and Delhi. Karunanidhi and our own Arjun Singh have just started chanting the mantra of ‘Make Rahul PM’. With Sharad Pawar and Pranab Mukherjee echoing the same, this will gather momentum and sweep everyone, including Manmohan Singh off his chair.”

“Do you think these waves will work now?” I asked.

“Just to make sure we have started a low second tsunami wave by suddenly bringing in to focus Priyanka Wadhra. The national press and breaking-news-by–the–hour electronic media, which mostly covers Shah Rukh Khan’s sneezes and Saif Ali Khan’s new interests, must have slept through the whole of March and April when Priyanka met Nalini in Vellore jail. We will have that as a standby and work on that in case the first wave fails,” said the Congress spokesman.


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