Posts Tagged ‘Ramachandra Guha’

5 talking points you won’t hear on TV tomorrow

7 May 2013

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: Tomorrow, May 8, is results day for the Karnataka assembly elections. Since I am not going to be in front of a camera, here are five talking points I bet you won’t hear on your favourite news channel, but five points I sincerely wish TV anchors and analysts would use.

***

First, despite what everyone has said in the last month, there hasn’t been any discernible change in the fundamental poll dynamic since the elections were announced. What this means is that despite the month-long campaign and all that comes along with it (read money and other gifts to the voters), nothing much changed that actually altered the political climate.

What are the fundamentals that I refer to here?

The anti-incumbency of a largely ineffectual, scandal and dissension-ridden BJP government had created a small undercurrent of support for Congress. However, that advantage has been difficult to quantify and that’s because politics these days, especially at the state level, is local and very competitive. Further, political advantage doesn’t mean a wave in favor of a political party.

I am tempted to say the era of waves is over.

Congress stuck to its strategy, didn’t recruit too many outsiders (especially those who had ties with BJP), and focused mostly on consolidating its base.

True, its ticket distribution strategy seemed chaotic and the party took too much time to complete the process. There seemed to be much dissension, with ticket aspirants and activists demonstrating regularly in front of the party office. But much of this is media-driven to make the elections more interesting, and generate some stories.

BJP somehow managed to stop its bleeding just in time when its leaders managed to convince the four Lingayat ministers (Umesh Katti, Basavaraj Bommai, Murugesh Nirani and V. Somanna) not to leave the party.

This action enabled the state BJP leadership to save some credibility with its national leaders but more significantly increased its competitiveness in 12-15 constituencies and dealt a crushing blow to Yediyurappa’s dreams of consolidating his hold over Lingayats in north Karnataka.

***

Second, I want to submit that all the predictions, including the exit poll based ones, are bunkum.

I haven’t looked at the methodology and sample size closely. Yet, I suspect that extrapolating results from voting percentages is not accurate. The Janata Dal (Secular) and BJP are not strong in the same areas, which means that there are fewer triangular fights.

Hence, if Congress is competing strongly everywhere, even if its vote share goes up, it may not win a commensurate number of assembly segments.

This complementary nature of JD (S) and BJP’s support base introduces an element of uncertainty and I don’t know enough about our pollsters to believe they take into account all these variables.

***

My scepticism about predictions leads me to my third point: that the political culture in Karnataka (in fact, this is also a broader argument that could be made nationally too) has changed dramatically. Hence, history is not a good guide not only to make predictions but more importantly to assess political strategies.

What has changed in the last decade?

In a nutshell, Karnataka has seen a new breed of politician, who has had substantial business interests and is willing to plough back huge amounts of money back into electoral politics. This new politician is in politics to manipulate public policy, further his business interests and secure maximum profits.

He doesn’t have any ideological commitments or a substantial notion of public good.

His political strategy revolves around using his personal fortune (often ill-gotten from real estate, mining or some such natural resource owned by the state) to secure the loyalty of his constituents to himself and this has been the basis for a new form of populism in Karnataka.

There have been many consequences but let me list here only two.

First, the political space available for other kinds of politics, especially the ones inspired by ideology, socio-political movements and a substantial notion of public good, is entirely absent. Be surprised if any candidate who has spent less than five crores actually wins.

Second, even old-school politicians have reinvented themselves along the same lines. In order to understand the truth of this, you only have to look at Yediyurappa and the Deve Gowda family.

In this new political culture, we need a different theory of political strategies, especially in the electoral realm. But we haven’t even had a decent explanation until now about BJP’s own electoral success in 2008. So, I am not very hopeful that we will get a good theory in tomorrow’s shows when Ramachandra Guha and Yogendra Yadav hold forth on our TV screens.

There is much to say on this topic but in brief what we need to recognize is that BJP and JD(S) have recognized the changing tides very quickly and hence have been very nimble in making their strategies.

On the other hand, Congress is burdened by its past and seems like an elephant in its efforts to maneuver around the more nimble, more tiger like opponents. It still has to accommodate all the social classes and its base is largely made up of old time loyalists. The party continues to look to its high command for guidance.

Thus Congress continues to rely on its 20th century political culture/strategizing in what has been a dramatically different 21st century political reality. Most of the stories about Congress bungling (especially this OPED piece by James Manor in the Indian Express) its poll strategy do not recognize this simple fact: it couldn’t have avoided these pitfalls and the magical wand called leadership doesn’t exist.

So, if any analyst tells you that Congress lost because S.M. Krishna was ignored, consider that a load of bull crap. Active participation by Krishna wouldn’t have increased Congress’s total vote tally in the state by 100,000 votes. His counsel wouldn’t have made ticket distribution any more efficient.

If anyone says wrong ticket selection contributed to Congress losing, take that with some skepticism.

For example, at a constituency level there might have been mistakes but Congress had a larger goal. For example, giving tickets to C.K. Jaffer Sharief’s grandson in Hebbal and Shamanuru Shivashankarappa in Davanagere might have been problematic but if the goal is also to send a message to specific communities, then Congress will have succeeded.

This is where BJP, KJP and JD (S) are more nimble in picking candidates and they can afford to make tactical decisions in each constituency.

For example, former minister A.Krishnappa was fielded by JD (S) in Hiriyur after Congress refused to give him ticket in K.R. Puram. Krishnappa, a Golla (cowherd), is likely to win this constituency where his community is in large numbers and who along with Vokkaligas form a potent combintion. His opponent, D. Sudhakar, former minister who joined Congress just before the elections, was seen as a sure shot winner in this contest when elections began.

Here is the takeaway. Politics is extremely competitive and resourceful newcomers are ready to enter the electoral arena. They are trolling different parties in search of opportunities. Nobody can take elections easily these days.

If Siddaramaiah has sleepless nights caused by a political nobody, whose sole claim to fame is that he was Yediyurappa’s former aide and his sole strategy to secure political loyalty is to distribute large sums of money to all comers, then no leader is safe.

***

Fourth, I really, really wish our analysts would display a better understanding of the caste-politics equation. We really don’t have a good 21st century theory of caste loyalties inspire electoral politics. It is grating to see Yediyurappa described as the “sole leader” of Lingayats and Deve Gowda characterized as the Vokkaliga “strong man”.

Please internalize this: caste support to political parties and leaders is tactical and local; it is not strategic and translocal. I know this claim demands a research paper and not simply an assertion.

However here is the simple takeaway: Subcaste and matha-influence is more important than the kind of translocal caste loyalties that I referred to.

In Hiriyur, Kunchatiga vokkaligas are in large number but they are not strong supporters of the Gangadakara-dominated JD(S). If they vote for JD (S), it is not because of some caste loyalty to Deve Gowda. In fact, if you do a survey of Vokkaligas, most actually very strongly dislike the Gowda family, even if they vote for JD (S) most of the time.

In the same way, Lingayat solidarity across the state is a myth.

Surely, it is possible to secure broad based support from the community in favor of a party like BJP if someone like Yediyurappa is at the helm. But such a strategy would be predicated on finding the right sub caste candidate in each constituency.

Picking a Jangama candidate in a Sada or Panchamasali dominant area will result in huge electoral backlash.

Similarly, backward castes are also not a uniform entity. Siddaramaiah is a backward caste leader but unlike the 1970s and 80s when one could claim that mantle fairly easily these days all the backward castes have become highly politicized and do no want to be represented by someone from outside.

So, Siddharamaiah found himself challenged frequently by backward caste opponents, especially Nayakas, who are a large backward caste community spread across the state, just like the kuruba community to which Siddaramaiah belongs.

So, dear analyst, please do not speak use caste as an analytical category if you don’t understand the local dynamic. You will only sound like a fool.

***

Fifth, Karnataka saw the emergence of some new political outfits. B. PAC or the Bangalore Political Action Committee represented an alliance of new age entrepreneurs who wanted to influence electoral politics and public policy. This seemed to be inspired by American PACs, which play an enormous role in electoral politics.

Then there was Loksatta, which fielded several naïve, well meaning but political neophytes in urban areas.

All these efforts to build an alternative politics appeared half-assed, pretentious and frankly, quite insulting to the voter. It is not enough to claim that the political class is corrupt and inefficient. It is not enough to claim their own personal cleanliness, educational qualifications or industry experience.

What they lacked is a substantial movement or a public project that they could claim ownership over. Or if any of the candidates had even been a bureaucrat, something that would have brought them in contact with the public, where their conduct would have been monitored by people, such a person would have some claim to seek public trust.

A politician once told me: “What matters is not incorruptibility when you don’t have an opportunity to take a bribe. If you are incorruptible when you actually hold a public office and then work for public good, then you have a claim over public trust.”

The new, middle-class political aspirants seem to miss that simple truth.

***

2013 election coverage

12 ways Karnataka politicians con EC, buy votes

Why Modi will address only one rally in Karnataka

When a wife-beater campaigns for the Congress

Rahul Gandhi fails five tests in Karnataka poll

They cry before the polls, so we can cry after

‘Diminishing returns from aggressive Hindutva’

Why is corruption not an issue in Karnataka?

POLL 2013: Can the Karnataka opinion polls go awry?

POLL 2013: Has A. Ramdas not supplied ‘henda‘?

It’s unofficial: our democracy has a bribe future

What Minoo Masani’s wife thought of Sonia G

5 November 2012

These are quite extraordinary times we are living in. The floodgates have opened, indeed the floodgates have been prised open. And what till not long ago used to be taboo topics—the wheeling-dealing of Robert Vadra, the business acumen of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, the status of Priyanka‘s marriage, etc—is now meat and drink.

***

Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

In Zareer Masani’s recent memoir of his parents, And All is Said, he quotes a letter written to him by his mother in 1968.

“Yesterday we went to Mrs Vijayalakshmi Pandit’s reception for Rajiv Gandhi and his wife,” wrote Shakuntala Masani, adding, “I can’t tell you how dim she is, and she comes from a working-class family. I really don’t know what he saw in her.”

And All is Said was widely reviewed when it was published, but no reviewer seems to have picked up on this comment. Shakuntala Masani was the daughter of Sir J.P. Srivastava, once one of the most influential men in India, an industrialist with wide business interests and a member of the viceroy’s executive council besides.

Shakuntala’s husband, Minoo Masani, was a well-educated Parsi from a family of successful professionals, who was himself a leading politician and writer. By upbringing and marriage Shakuntala Masani was a paid-up member of the Indian elite. Hence the condescending remarks about the working-class Italian whom Rajiv Gandhi had chosen as his wife.

Read the full article: Family romance

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Is this Congress’ Bofors—II?

If the Mahatma could rethink his xenophobia…

8 October 2012

Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

R.K. Narayan did not write in Kannada, but his works sensitively portray the people, culture and landscapes of the state of Karnataka. His 1938 book, Mysore, remains a classic of travel-writing; still valuable for anyone who seeks to know about, or visit, the shrines, towns, and water-falls of the southern part of the state.

The Malgudi of his novels was almost certainly based on the town of Nanjangud, on the banks of the river Kabini, some 15 miles from Mysore. The name, Malgudi, was made up from the names of two venerable Bangalore localities, Malleswaram and Basavangudi.

The restaurant-owners, printers, shopkeepers, teachers, housewives and students who people Narayan’s stories are as authentic Kannadigas as one can get. Which is why the television serial, Malgudi Days, was such a hit in Kannada and among Kannadigas. And it continues to be watched, 30 years after it was first made, available in DVDs that can be downloaded from the internet.

I hope the Kannada writers [who claimed Narayan was, so to say, a ‘foreigner’, have the good grace to withdraw their protest after this necessary intervention by Girish Karnad and U.R. Anantha Murthy. To admit that one was wrong, or mistaken, is in the best traditions of writing and scholarship. Besides, there is the example of Gandhi; if he could rethink his impulsive xenophobia, so can the rest of us.

Read the full column: Good Kannadigas and bad Kannadigas

Also read: Four reasons why R.K. Narayan deserves a memorial

What Kannada racists can learn from a Raja-rishi

How can Bhyrappa & Co be the same as Yedi & Co?

Is slamming PM, government ‘yellow journalism’?

5 September 2012

The Washington Post newspaper has put in print just about everything that an ordinary Indian thinks about prime minister Manmohan Singh as he presides majestically over scam after earth (and space) shattering scam:

“An honorable, humble and intellectual technocrat (who) has slowly given way to a dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government.”

The people quoted by the paper (including the historian Ramachandra Guha and the PM’s ex-media advisor Sanjaya Baru) have called him a “tragic figure”—fatally handicapped by timidity, complacency and intellectually dishonesty—who has transformed himself from an object of respect to one of ridicule, and is in danger of going down in history as a “failure”.

Not surprisingly, for a government which thought Time magazine did not have the right to call Manmohan Singh an “underachiever”, there are calls for an apology from the Washington Post. Ambika Soni, the information and broadcasting minister who was once part of Sanjay Gandhi‘s charmed circle, has called Washington Post‘s reporting “yellow journalism”.

“We have our apprehension to a foreign daily publishing something baseless on our prime minister… This is what we call as yellow journalism,” Soni said.

“How can a US daily take the matter such lightly and publish something regarding the prime minister of another country. I will speak to the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and government officials and definitely do something over this issue,” she added.

Really? Is this yellow journalism or legitimate journalism?

It’s an ad, ad, ad world and it’s even official

20 December 2011

Rajiv Gandhi‘s 2011 birth anniversary: 108 ads across 48 pages in 12 newspapers surveyed by churumuri.

Indira Gandhi‘s 2011 birth anniversary: 64 ads across 32 pages in the same 12 newspapers.

Now, the Union information and broadcasting ministry has put a figure to the advertising blitz: Rs 7 crore in all; Rs 4.79 crore on Rajiv’s and Rs 2.46 crore on Indira’s ads.

The I&B ministry’s computation, which obviously includes other non-Delhi and non-English papers, does not take into account the death anniversaries of the two, or the birth and death anniversaries of Jawaharlal Nehru. In all, 393 pages of advertising were published on the six anniversaries, on the pages of 12 newspapers this year.

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

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

Image: courtesy Mail Today

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

Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

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

Indira Gandhi birthday: 64 ads, 32 pages

Times, Express groups get most anniversary ads

6 pages for Ambedkar; 393 pages for The Family

Stepmotherly affection for Father of Constitution

6 December 2011

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

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

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

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

***

The breakup of the Ambedkar ads today are as under:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Business Standard: 14-page issue; 0 ads

Financial Express: 18-page issue; 0 ads

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

***

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

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

Photograph: courtesy Sepia Mutiny

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

Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

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

Indira Gandhi birthday: 64 ads, 32 pages

Times, Express groups get most anniversary ads

Lessons for a Kannadiga in swachcha Cantonese

6 November 2011

The question of English continues to puzzle India and Indians even after six decades of independence from the English. Every academic year, every government in Karnataka (and elsewhere) ties itself up in knots on just when or whether English should be introduced into the syllabuses of students.

Buddhijeevis like the novelist U.R. Anantha Murthy argue that a child must speak and learn exclusively in her mother tongue until she enters high school lest she become totally disconnected from her social and spiritual roots. Dalit activists suggest that the promotion of Kannada is an upper-class ploy to keep them away from the fruits of modern learning.

As the historian Ramachandra Guha writes in The Telegraph, Calcutta,

“Dalits say that once the Brahmins denied them access to Sanskrit; now, the descendants of those Brahmins wish to deny the Dalits access to the modern language of power and privilege, namely, English.”

While we continue to look at speaking English merely through the prism of power, privilege and livelihood, there is yet another dimension to it, as Sunaad Raghuram discovers in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

***

By SUNAAD RAGHURAM in Hong Kong

As the Jet Airways Boeing 777 began to activate its ailerons in sight of the Hong Kong International airport by the South China Sea, and heaved its gargantuan body sideways, aligning its pudgy nose with the dark grey of the runway in the distance, I peered groggily out of the window to see the lazy bobbing of fishing boats in the haze covered morning, with the October sun still haven’t woken up.

Out of the swank, squeaky clean airport which seemed to have halls large enough to house an assortment of aircrafts within their own expansiveness, I approached an elderly man and asked him the way to the taxi stand.

“No English,” he waved.

Even as I wondered if it was one of those things that I spoke to that one man in the vicinity who incidentally did not speak English, I noticed a line of red taxis, all Toyota Crowns.

Hailing one of them, I pushed my baggage into the rear of the car and sat down next to the driver and said, ‘Hi, good morning. Let’s go the Harbour Plaza Hotel, Tokwawan’.

The ease with which I threw the hotel’s name at him, I thought, would give him the impression that I was one of those travellers whose trip to Hong Kong was perhaps the 17th! The taxi driver looked at me, smiled a weak smile and didn’t do anything much else.

“Well, this is where I need to go,” I said to him, pointing to the name of the hotel and its address that I had written down on a piece of paper. Only when he stared blankly at it did I realize that even he did not speak or read or understand English.

Getting off the car, I walked up to a woman in uniform, may be an airport volunteer.

“I need to reach Tokwawan, the Harbour Plaza Hotel.”

Perhaps the familiarity of the sounds that I uttered rang a bell in her. She walked up to the taxi and said something which immediately elicited a nod, a smile and a wave of the hand from the driver who beckoned me to hop in.

Off we drove past the harbour bridge with its amazing pylons and cables of sheer steel that resembled its more famous cousin, the Golden Gate in San Francisco; the mesmerising views of the sea and the skyscrapers along its edge that seemed to rise out of nowhere amidst the clouds; the emerald coloured hills in the distance with their velvety looks; and finally the hotel.

On the third day, on a train along the Orange Line from Hong Kong Central to the Disney Resort in Sunny Bay on Lantau Island, I did small conversation with a Filipino woman who spoke impeccable English.

“Why don’t people in Hong Kong speak English all that much although the whole area was under the British for such a long time,” I ventured to ask.

She smiled and answered my question in just one word: “Defiance.” And then she said, “the thought here was; you have come to rule us, so you better learn our language.”

Yet Hong Kong is so much like legendary New York in parts. The mind boggling high rises; the million apartment blocks that have so many houses in them that the architects and the builders themselves seem to have lost count; the vibrancy, the power, the pace, the glitz, the showiness and the social electricity of Tsim Shat Tsui, the central business district; with its grand hotels, boutiques, restaurants, shops and showrooms that showcase the very best of the world’s fashion from clothes to jewellery to watches and shoes.

Louis Erand, Rado, Ebel, Breitling, Tag Heuer and Rolex. A piece of the last named brand that I chanced upon was a diamond encrusted one with a whopping $ HK 3,56,000 price tag, the equivalent of a little over Rs 21 lakh! And then, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Blvgari.

The magnificence of Victorian grandeur amidst modern day razzmatazz. Bentleys, Ferraris and Lamborghinis zoom around as if they are regulation here.

But in their showrooms somewhere in Hong Kong, I suspect, you better ask in Cantonese!

Congrats, your taxes have helped buy 265 ads

31 October 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: After the advertising blitzkrieg to mark Rajiv Gandhi‘s birth and death anniversaries, and the death anniversary of his grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru earlier this year, Union ministries and Congress-led State governments and departments have once again splurged heavily to mark Indira Gandhi‘s death anniversary today.

In the 12 newspapers surveyed, there are 64 advertisements of various sizes, amounting to approximately 31½ published pages to mark the assassination of the former prime minister on this day, 27 years ago.

In contrast, Vallabhbhai Patel, the late Union home minister, whose birth anniverary too falls on October 31, gets 9 advertisements in the same 12 newspapers, amounting to 3 published pages. While there are multiple advertisements for Indira Gandhi, no paper has more than one ad for Patel.

The breakup of the Indira Gandhi ads are as under:

Hindustan Times: 22-page main issue; 9 Indira Gandhi ads amounting to 4¼ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 30-page issue; 13 ads amounting to 6¼ broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 22-page issue; 9 ads amounting to 4 broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 2¾ compact pages

The Hindu: 24-page issue; 8 ads amounting to 4 broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 3¼ broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 16-page issue; 4 ads amounting to 2 broadsheet pages

The Telegraph: 22-page issue; 5 ads amounting to 2½ broadsheet pages

***

The Economic Times: 26-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ pages

Business Standard: 14-page issue; 2 ads amouning to 1 page

Financial Express: 20-page issue; 1 ad amounting to half a page

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

This computation is only for 12 English newspapers; many other English papers have been left, as indeed has the entire language media which are more numerous than the English ones, several times over.

Among the 13 advertisers wishing the dear departed leader are the ministries of information and broadcasting, commerce and industry, steel, women and child development, health and family welfare, human resources development, development of north east region, and social justice and empowerment.

The state governments advertising their love are those of Rajasthan, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh. Besides, most newspapers carry an advertisement inserted by the Congress party.

All told, so far, this year, tax payers money have been spent in buying 265 advertisements amounting to 132 published pages in the 12 newspapers.

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

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

Also read: Rajiv Gandhi death anniversary: 69 ads over 41 pages in 12 newspapers

Jawaharlal Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv Gandhi birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

CHURUMURI IMPACT: A train for R.K. Narayan

24 September 2011

churumuri.com is delighted to record the renaming (and flagging off) of the daily Mysore-Yeshwanthpur Express between Karnataka’s two premier cities as Malgudi Express, to perpetuate the memory of India’s first globally renowned English writer, the Mysorean R.K. Narayan.

We are delighted for two reasons.

One, we believe that even as small a gesture as getting a train named after Narayan’s creation, although rather late in coming, is an important signal in giving our literary, social and cultural titans their due.

And two, the railway ministry’s decision is largely if not solely the outcome of the suggestions of churumuri readers across the world, who responded magnificently to our campaign which began over five years ago.

In many ways, therefore, this is a victory of online activism of a kind not generally known or seen in India.

***

On this happy occasion, please allow us a moment of self-congratulation.

We would like to thank the then governor of Karnataka, T.N. Chaturvedi, who took the churumuri campaign to the railway ministry in the centenary year of Narayan’s birth; the Union minister for external affairs S.M. Krishna who revived the campaign in the 10th year of RKN’s death; and the railway minister Dinesh Trivedi who gave the green signal.

Additionally,we are thankful to the late Mysorean icon, T.S. Satyan, the historian Ramachandra Guha, and the writer Sunaad Raghuram who took the churumuri campaign to the governor of Karnataka. Several writers have kept the campaign alive over the years by writing pieces on Narayan. S.M. Krishna’s advisor Raghavendra Shastry, played a key role in reactivating the campaign this year.

Above all, we are thankful to our readers. Without you, this small salute for a giant Mysorean would not have been possible.

Coming up next: A stamp for R.K. Narayan.

***

MALGUDI EXPRESS TIMINGS

Train No. 17304: Leaves Yeshwanthpur daily at 11.35 am, reaches Mysore at 3 pm

Train No. 17303: Leaves Mysore daily at 12.10 pm, reaches Yeshwanthpur at 3.30pm

***

Photograph: courtesy Simon Winchester/ The Guardian

Read: All the stories in R.K. Narayan campaign

***

Also read: ‘Where is Malgudi? Where we all wish we lived’

R.K. Narayan on Mysore

Ved Mehta on a day in the life of R.K. Narayan

T.S. NAGARAJAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knew

T.S. SATYAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knew

R.S. KRISHNASWAMY: A day in the life of R.K. Narayan

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY: As Mysorean as Mysore pak, Mysore mallige

S.M. Krishna revives Churumuri’s RKN campaign

23 August 2011

The minister for external affairs, Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna, may be creating news for all the wrong reasons in the year of the lord 2011. But he has struck the right PR note by reviving churumuri.com‘s acclaimed campaign for recognition for India’s original English writer, R.K. Narayan, in his hometown, Mysore.

When churumuri.com was launched in 2006, we made an all-out effort to get Narayan his due place in the landscape of Mysore, where he spent almost all his life and from where he gave the world, Malgudi.

A churumuri delegation comprising the photographer T.S. Satyan, the historian Ramachandra Guha, and the writer Sunaad Raghuram even made a representation to the then governor of Karnataka, T.N. Chaturvedi, armed with reader suggestions on how Narayan’s memory could be perpetuated.

After all the usual noises from the usual quarters, the campaign died a slow death.

Now, S. M. Krishna, a close friend of  RKN’s brother, R.K. Laxman, has given the campaign a fresh lease life in this, the 10th year of Narayan’s passing away. He has written to prime minister Manmohan Singh and railway minister Dinesh Trivedi to name a train between Mysore and Bangalore as Malgudi Express, and urged communications minister Kapil Sibal to release a stamp.

It might be too early to hail this attempt, but at least for trying, Krishna deserves some plaudits.

Also read: All the stories in R.K. Narayan campaign

T.S. SATYAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knews

T.S. NAGARAJAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knew

What an idea RG! 108 ads, 48 pages in 12 papers

20 August 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: There is yet another advertising blitzkrieg by Union ministries and Congress-led State governments and departments in today’s newspapers on the former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi‘s birthday.

And it beats the number of ads on Rajiv’s death anniversary hollow.

While there were 69 ads amounting to 41 published pages in 12 newspapers on May 21, there are 108 ads amounting to 48¼ published pages in the same 12 newspapers today.

Hindustan Times: 24-page issue; 14 RG ads amounting to 7 broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 32-page issue; 21 ads amounting to 9 broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 28-page issue; 15 ads amounting to 6½ broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 11 ads amounting to 6½ compact pages

The Hindu: 24-page issue; 13 ads amounting to 5 broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 11 ads amounting to 3¾ broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 16-page isuse; 7 ads amounting to 3 broadsheet pages

The Telegraph: 26-page issue; 9 ads amounting to 3¾ broadsheet pages

***

The Economic Times: 16-page issue; 2 ads amounting to ¾ of a page

Business Standard: 18-page issue; 2 ads amouning to ¾ of a page

Financial Express: 22-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¼ pages

Mint (Berliner): 16-page issue; 0 ads

This computation is only for 12 English newspapers; many other English papers have been left, as indeed has the entire language media which are more numerous than the English ones, several times over.

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

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

Among the 21 advertisers wishing the dear departed leader happy birthday this year are the ministries of information and broadcasting, micro small and medium enterprises, power, health and family welfare, tourism, housing and urban poverty alleviation, new and renewable energy, women and child development, commerce and industry, steel, and social justice and empowerment.

The state governments advertising their love are those of Rajasthan, Haryana, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, all Congress-ruled States. And the departments putting their money where their mouth is are the Rajiv Gandhi centre for biotechnology, Navodaya vidyalaya samiti, national small industries corporation, national commission for women, and the coir board.

And, of course, the Indian National Congress.

Also read: Rajiv Gandhi: 69 ads over 41 pages in 12 newspapers

Jawaharlal Nehru: 24 ads over 11 pages in 12 newspapers

‘India, not a rising power or an emerging power’

19 July 2011

Ramachandra Guha in a piece titled “India is too corrupt to become a superpower”, in the Financial Times, London:

“The Republic of India today faces challenges that are as much moral as social or political with the Mumbai blasts having only temporarily shifted off the front pages the corruption scandals that more recent dominated. These (scandals) have revealed that manner in which our politicians have abused the State’s power of eminent domain, its control of infrastructural contracts, and its monopoly of natural resources, to enrich themselves….

“This activity cuts across political parties—small and large, regional and national. It has tainted the media too, with influential editors now commonly lobbying pliant politicians to bend the law to favour particular corporations…. [The] current wave of corruption scandals will put at least a temporary halt to premature talk of India’s rise to superstardom.

“Such fancies are characteristic of editors in New Delhi and businessmen in Mumbai, who dream often of catching up with and even surpassing China.

“Yet the truth is that India is in no position to become a superpower. It is not a rising power, nor even an emerging power. It is merely a fascinating, complex, and perhaps unique experiment in nationhood and democracy, whose leaders need still to attend to the fault lines within, rather than presume to take on the world without.”

Agree? Disagree?

Photograph: courtesy Garima Jain/ Tehelka

Also read: India’s most secular religion has to be Corruption

‘Editors and senior journalists must declare assets’

Player No. 207 is the modern-day Vijay Hazare

16 July 2011

Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“In the winter of 1947-48, the Indian cricket team visited Australia to play four Test matches. Australia, led by Don Bradman, were by some distance the finest team in world cricket. India, on the other hand, were greenhorns, having only played 10 Test matches, without winning any of them. To make matters worse, some of the country’s top players were not available for selection. These included three superlatively gifted batsmen: Vijay Merchant, Mushtaq Ali, and R.S. Modi….

“The loss of the three Ms would have hurt the team in any case; here, because of the quality of the opposition, their absence was catastrophic…. Only two Indians emerged with any credit from this unequal encounter. One was Vinoo Mankad. The other was Vijay Hazare…. To play a lone hand was not an uncommon experience for Hazare. He did that always for The Rest, his team in the Bombay Pentangular, then India’s premier domestic tournament….

“In the 1930s and 1940s, Hazare bravely bore the burdens of The Rest; in the 1940s and the 1950s, he oftentimes did the same for India. When India were 0 for four in a Test match in England, it was left to Hazare and his fellow Vijay, Manjrekar, to come together in a retrieving stand that restored some respectability to his side. In the first part of the 1950s, three Commonwealth sides toured India — in the 15 fiercely fought, albeit unofficial, ‘Tests’ that they played, the man that bowlers of the quality of Sonny Ramadhin and Jim Laker found hardest to dismiss was Vijay Hazare….

“No historical analogy can be exact, but still, it may be worth pursuing the question — who is the modern Hazare? One might say it was Sachin Tendulkar, who, for much of his career, has had to bear “this strange burden of popularity and responsibility”, to score hundreds upon hundreds to maintain his fame and keep his team afloat.

“But one can also make a case for Rahul Dravid. For one thing, his style is more akin to Hazare’s, sound and orthodox — coming in at 5 for one, which soon becomes 10 for two — he seeks to patiently rebuild the innings, whereas Tendulkar would seek rather to play some flashing shots and immediately take the initiative away from the opposition.

“These past few weeks in the West Indies, Rahul Dravid had indeed been the modern Hazare. As in Australia in 1947, three of India’s finest batsmen — Sehwag, Tendulkar and Gambhir — cried off from the tour. Here, as then, there were only two experienced batsmen left to carry along a bunch of novices. Laxman, like Mankad in 1947, has batted bravely on occasion — but the Hazare of this tour has been Rahul Dravid. That India won the series is owed largely to the magnificent hundred he scored in the second innings of the Test match in Jamaica.

“Like Hazare, Dravid is a man of courage and decency, content to play — and live — in the shadows of his more glamorous team-mates. Like Hazare, his contributions to Indian cricket have been colossal, and probably under-appreciated. It is time that one of the present, and very gifted, generation of Indian writers treated his achievements and his character in a subtle work of fiction. I suspect, however, that its ending will see its hero living not with animals in a farm, but among books in a library.”

Read the full article: The modern Hazare

Also read: India’s greatest match-winning batsman is…

Rajiv Gandhi: 69 ads over 41 pages in 12 papers

21 May 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: On the former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi‘s 20th death anniversary today, different ministries of the Congress-led UPA government are falling over each other to demonstrate that the “collective flame of political sycophancy” continues to burn brightly and shamelessly.

While Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi and their son Rahul Gandhi talk of “austerity” when it suits them, nearly a dozen Union ministries and a couple of State governments have released tens of ads through the government-controlled Department of Audio Visual Publicity (DAVP) to remind Indians that such a man as he walked this earth.

In eleven English news and business papers published out of New Delhi, there were 65 advertisements amounting to 38¼ pages, glorifying The Great Leader, without whom India wouldn’t have entered the 21st century.

Hindustan Times: 24-page issue; 9 RG ads amounting to 5¼ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 32-page issue; 10 ads amounting to 6 broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 28-page issue; 10 ads amounting to 5 broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 42-page issue; 8 ads amounting to 7 compact pages

The Hindu: 22-page issue; 6 ads amounting to 3½ broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 3½ broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 16-page isuse; 4 ads amounting to 2½ broadsheet pages

***

The Economic Times: 16-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¼ broadsheet pages

Business Standard: 14-page issue; 4 ads amouning to 1¾ broadsheet pages

Financial Express: 24-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages

Mint (Berliner): 12-page issue; 1 ad amounting to one compact page

Among the departments and ministries seeking to remind the nation of Rajiv Gandhi’s magical powers are the department of information and publicity; the ministries of commerce and industry, tourism, human resource development, social justice & empowerment, power, micro small and medium industries, information and broadcasting, steel; the state governments of Haryana and Rajasthan; and Rajiv Gandhi centre for biotechnology.

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

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

On his birthday in August last year, The Telegraph reported that “Union ministries released more ads on Rajiv Gandhi’s birthday today than on the anniversaries of the rest of India’s Prime Ministers put together in the past one year, Press Information Bureau sources said.”

For the record, The Telegraph received four ads amounting to 2½ pages this year.

Why more South Indian firms aren’t on Sensex

14 February 2011

North versus South is an evergreen theme to explore for newspapers and magazines and, of late, some TV stations too.

For decades, journalists, historians and pop-sociologists (all usually South Indian) have compared and contrasted politicians, filmstars, cricketers and others from either side of the Vindhyas to drive home their point (usually that the South is somehow better for the reasons they listed).

In most such scorecards, the South gets good marks for “culture”, simplicity, frugality, artistry, education, filter coffee and the masala dosa. Routinely, south Indians are accused of being docile, decent and civilised but lacking in drive and ambition unlike their thuggish, loud-mouthed northern counterparts, whose cut-throat killer instinct is blamed on their survival mechanisms evolved while combatting brutal invaders and an even more brutal climate.

Etcetera.

The February issue of the newly launched edition of Fortune India looks at businessmen from peninsular and heartland India. And the piece (written by a North Indian and a South Indian), like most previously published pieces, is replete with the usual sweeping generalisations about the South that leaves you wondering as always, “Gee, are they really talking about us?”

It says:

# “Companies in the South are seen as generally conservative, non-aggressive and reactive, while their counterparts in the North are considered aggressive risk-takers. The differences are sometimes so stark that they seem like two different countries. That’s an outcome of history, tradition and cultural ethos.”

# “The Bombay stock exchange was set up in 1875, while the Calcutta stock exchange was incorporated in 1908. The oldest exchange in the South, the Madras stock exchange, was established only in 1937. Perhaps because of their historical familairity with, and proximity to, the stock market, the average North Indian business is more willing to raise funds from the stock market than a southern company.”

# “Only two south Indian companies find a place on the benchmark 30-stock BSE Sensex. Both these are IT companies and both were moved to the South. Wipro was founded in theNorth by a North Indian business family belonging to the Ismaili community. Infosys, started by a Kannada Brahmin, was set up i Poone before it moved to Bangalore.”

# “Southern business houses are not in favour of chasing stock markets for better valuations and leverage and do not want to be driven by quarterly expectations…. Even when there is a need for funds, the first option would be internal accruals. Raising money from the market is the most expensive form of fund-raising.”

# “The stark difference between businesses on either side of the Vindhyas is a product of the way they look at growth. Businesses in the South behave like the tortoise in the fable. They move slowly but steadily. Companies are legacies to be inherited and passed on, not just cash cows to be milked dry.”

# “The North which has seen several invasions has provided fertile ground for entrepreneurs and risk takers. For those who have witnessed periodic destruction, being aggressive and acquisitive and living for the moment comes naturally. The mayhem following Partition only strengthened that feeling, especially among those who had to abandon flourishing businesses in what is now Pakistan.”

# “Diversification is more common in North Indian companies, while core competence is valued down south…. When it comes to growing inorganically, North Indian businesses lead.”

# “The ability and willingness to risk capital means that North Indian businesses are more open to going global. South Indian firms are content to grow organically and in their home territory. Fiscal prudence and frugality in the scale of operations prevents South Indian companies from making expensive global plays. Even when they have matching resources they are reluctant to enter the global arena.”

# “It’s not just global forays; companies in the South are often unwilling to cross the Vindhyas. Slow and steady growth has its advantages but the focus on stability could cost a group in terms of missed opportunities.”

# South Indian businesses are generally seen as legacies, so importance is given to succession plans, and handing over begins during the patriarch’s lifetime. Lack of this has dragged down many North Indian businesses. Bitter, open battles led to court battles that lasted for years.”

The only concession the Fortune India piece makes to “Madrasis” is in doffing the hat to the GVKs, GMRs, Satyam and Maytases of manna Andhra Pradesh.

“Andhra guys are an aggressive bunch, says the Fortune India piece. Most of these companies are promoted by families that made their fortunses in farming. They are comfortable taking risks because they know that they can always fall back on agriculture if all else fails. Like most traditionally agrarian communities, they have a feudal mindset. They typical Andhra-backed business hosue is seen as more corrupt than its other South indian business counterparts, an impression fostered by tis willingness to go to any lengths to get its work done.”

Photograph: courtesy Seattle Examiner

Also read: ‘Secret of Anil Kumble‘s success is his un-Kannadiganess’

CHURUMURI POLL: South Indians in the World Cup?

CHURUMURI POLL: Can’t South Indians play Twenty20?

RAMACHANDRA GUHA: An outsider looking in sports insiders don’t

CHURUMURI POLL: Are North Indians lawless?

A World War would have made South India(ns) different?

How did Dharwad become ground zero of music?

30 January 2011

Kumar Gandharva, Basavaraj Rajguru, Puttaraj Gawai, Mallikarjuna Mansur, Gangubai Hanagal, Bhimsen Joshi, Venkatesh Kumar….

The roster of titans from within a hundred-mile radius of Dharwad is long and illustrious. But how and why did the north Karnataka town become the ground zero of shastriya sangeet, the confluence of classical Hindustani and Carnatic music? Is it the mannina guna? Is it the guru-shishya tradition?

The Bangalore-based historian Ramachandra Guha offers a view in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“It was part of the Bombay presidency, and thus subject to influences from those two great musical centres, Pune and Mumbai. Even closer were the towns of Kolhapur and Miraj, where some famous (Muslim) teachers of music had settled, at the invitation of princes who were patrons of culture. Since Dharwad falls broadly in the region known as ‘South’ India, perhaps these vocalists also drew to some extent on the Carnatic style of music. We do know for certain that they were deeply influenced by folk traditions and by medieval saints. Both Bhimsen and Mallikarjun liked to sing songs composed by Purandaradasa, whereas Kumar Gandharva reinterpreted Kabir with great feeling and sensitivity for a 20th-century audience.”

Photograph: courtesy The Indian Express

Read the article in Kannada at Praja Vani: Jagathige serida sangeetha lokada dheemantaru

Also read: Where the soil, air and peda help the vocal chords

From Dharwad, India’s best shehnai player today, S. Balesh

From Murthy to Reddy, and from IT to ‘looty’

22 January 2011

On the eve of the 61st anniversary of the Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic of India, the historian Ramachandra Guha bemoans the state of the State in the latest issue of Outlook*:

“At the close of the last century, my home town, Bangalore, was a showpiece for the virtues of liberalisation. Access to global markets had allowed the skilled workforce of the City to generate vast amounts of wealth, which in turn spawned a new wave of Indian philanthropy.

“At the beginning of the presen decade, my home State, Karnataka, has become a byword for the darker side of globalisation. The loot of minerals and their export to China has wreaked large-scale environmental damage and polluted the political system through the buying and selling of legislators.

“A State once represented to the world by N.R. Narayana Murthy was now being represented to itself by Janardhana Reddy…. Had Manmohan Singh not been so reluctant to act against his tainted ministrs, B.S. Yediyurappa would not so easily have ridden out press exposure of his corrruption and that of his cabinet colleagues.”

* Disclosures apply

Read the full article: A nation consumed by the State

Also read: ‘A heady confluence of crime, business & politics’

How China changed the face of Karnataka’s politics

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

ARAVIND ADIGA: A 21st century Adiga’s call to Kannadigas

Why Ambedkar had to reject the Gandhian model

4 January 2011

A new edition of The Flaming Feet, a collection of essays on and around B.R. Ambedkar by the late Bangalore University professor D.R. Nagaraj—“the foremost non-Brahmin intellectual to emerge from India’s non-English-speaking world”—has just been published by Permanent Black.

Edited and introduced by his former student Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi, a Mysorean who is on the faculty of the department of humanities at San Francisco State University, the book has been hailed by the historian Ramachandra Guha as the most important work of non-fiction in 2010.

A Nagaraj nugget, quoted in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

Babasaheb [Ambedkar] had no option but to reject the Gandhian model. He had realized that this model had successfully transformed Harijans as objects in a ritual of self-purification, with the ritual being performed by those who had larger heroic notions of their individual selves.

“In the theatre of history, in a play with such a script, the untouchables would never become heroes in their own right, they were just mirrors for a hero to look at his own existentialist anger and despair, or maybe even glory.”

Read the full article: Contending visions

Also read: ‘Harijans had Ambedkar, Girijans have Naxals’

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

Why some of us just love to hate Sunil Gavaskar

1 January 2011

For all his titanic batting feats, Sunil Gavaskar doesn’t quite earn the automatic applause of Kannadigas, partly because, well, he batted left-handed against Karnataka in a Ranji Trophy match that Bombay was about to lose.

But largely because of his brother-in-law Gundappa Ranganath Viswanath. The stats of one cranks up the search engines; the style of the other inspires the poets, artists and aesthetes.

To provide a modern context, it’s that very very special, self-effacing, self-less feeling that Vangiurapu Venkatasai Laxman brings to a table where other giants also sup and dine.

The Delhi-born writer Mukul Kesavan (whose Mysorean-father B.S. Kesavan went on to head the national library) salutes genius of the Vishy and VVS kind that is beyond the usual adjectives of dazzling and brilliant, in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“For many middle-aged men, including me, Sunil Gavaskar defines Indian batsmanship. But we all recognize that the modern era in Indian batting was inaugurated by Viswanath and sustained for a decade as much by his genius as Gavaskar’s.

“Diehards like Ramachandra Guha will go to their graves insisting in the face of all the evidence that Viswanath was, in terms of pure genius and certainly in terms of the pleasure he gave to those who watched, the better batsman.

“I once tried to persuade my father that Gavaskar was plainly the only Indian batsman of the Seventies who had a claim to greatness.

“He looked at me with the awful scorn that only age can summon and said: “I watched Duleep (K.S. Duleepsinhji) bat in 1934. I would catch a train to Eden Gardens to watch Vishy; I wouldn’t cross the street to watch that man-machine of yours.”

Link via Srinivas Bhashyam

Also read: Gavaskar: India’s most petulant cricketer ever?

Save Indian cricket: keep Sunil Gavaskar out

Are Gavaskar and Shastri India’s only cricketers?

Gavaskar of 2010 is the same Gavaskar of 1981

From Bhadravati, the Bhimsen Joshi of cricket

What the Gandhis could learn from the Nehrus

26 October 2010

With over 400 government initiatives, institutions, projects and programmes named after Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha takes a trip down memory lane in the Hindustan Times:

“When, in the year 1974, Indira Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) became bitter political opponents, there was a peculiar poignancy to their rivalry. For JP and Jawaharlal Nehru had been close friends. So, independently, were JP’s wife Prabhavati and Nehru’s wife Kamala….

“Prabhavati had wished to start a school for girls and name it for Kamala Nehru. She had written to Jawaharlal asking whether he would inaugurate it. Nehru, in reply, said that he was delighted that this school was being planned, for he had long been an advocate of education for girls.

“But, he added, he had taken a vow that in the case of any school, project, or programme started in memory of his father (Motilal Nehru) or his wife, he would not participate in its inauguration. He asked Prabhavati to go ahead and start the school, with another chief guest if required. He added by way of consolation that when the place was up and running, he would come visit it anyway.”

Read the full article: That family feeling

‘A heady confluence of crime, business & politics’

28 August 2010

In his column in The Telegraph, Calcutta, Ramachandra Guha compares the IT frenzy in the Bangalore of 2000 and the mining frenzy in the Karnataka of 2010. The two phenomena, he says, represents contrasting shades of globalisation, the benign and the brutal, and contrasting forms of capitalism, progressive and barbaric:

“When the world economy offers opportunities for knowledge workers creating products that do not use much energy and do not damage the environment, these must be grabbed with both hands. When the world economy instead invites us to exploit scarce natural resources quickly, and without a thought for environmental sustainability, then we must be more sceptical.

“In their search for the big buck, the Bellary mine lords have shown a profound lack of concern for the law and for their fellow citizens. On the other hand, the best among Bangalore’s software entrepreneurs have made their money fairly and legally, spent a small fraction on themselves, and a larger fraction on various charitable and philanthropic causes.”

Guha also quotes Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, the New Delhi journalist who is making a documentary on the Bellary mine lords:

“According to him, the case of mining in Karnataka represents the first time that such close links have been forged between the worlds of crime, business, and politics. In the past, a Mumbai mastan occasionally fought and won an election; other mastans funded the odd politician. But never before have those who made money by illegal and even violent means so brazenly and effectively taken over the politics and administration of an entire Indian state.”

Read the full article: The best and the worst

Also read: Shashi Tharoor on Princess Diana and Globalisation

TWEET THIS! Shashi Tharoor and Globalisation 2.0

Aloo mirch, tandoori chicken and globalisation

‘BJP has not followed ‘Recognition for All’ credo’

12 May 2010

The All India Congress Committee also known as the Congress party is in its 125th year. In a two-part interview with Sheela Bhatt of rediff.com, the historian and biographer Ramachandra Guha, author of the much-acclaimed India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy, discusses the birth and growth of the grand old party.

Sheela Bhatt: In the last many years, some of the Congress leaders have been seen as mocking Hinduism and sometimes even Hindu civilization while trying to attract the minority?

Ramachandra Guha: Lots of people have this view of the Congress. I wish we had a political party to challenge the Congress. That would offer the people of India a wider vision of how this country should be built. But we don’t need polarising issues. Such criticism comes from people who have a polarised vision.

I come from Karnataka. In the last election, the BJP put up 224 candidates but not one Muslim. Almost 15 percent of the population of Karnataka is Muslim. So you are telling 15 percent of Karnataka you don’t count for us. Then how can you blame them for voting for the Congress?

The BJP originally said, “appeasement of none, recognition of all.” But, they never followed it.

In Karnataka they attacked Christians after the Muslims in Gujarat. They had only one woman in the Cabinet and she too has been sacked. So, what message are they sending? Is this the alternative to the Congress? The Congress can be a cynical manipulator. It plays one community against the other, okay, but, what are you offering that is better?

Part I: ‘Historically, the Congress has been inclusive’

Part II: ‘Rahul Gandhi is not particularly intelligent’

Also read: ‘BJP is now just a B team of the Congress’

‘IPL threatens cricket’s democratisation trends’

10 April 2010

Population of Uttar Pradesh: 166 million; No of teams in the Indian Premier League: 0

Population of Maharashtra: 97 million; No of IPL teams: 2

Population of UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh: 1/3rd of India’s; No of IPL teams: 0

Population of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala: 1/4th of India’s; No of IPL teams: 4

***

The cricket writer and historian Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“This maldistribution of IPL franchises undermines its claim to be ‘Indian’, and is in defiance of sporting history and achievement as well. The truth is that citizenship and cricket have been comprehensively trumped by the claims of commerce….

“The Indian Premier League may be more appropriately renamed the League of Privileged Indians. For this tournament both reflects and further intensifies a deep divide between the India of wealth and entitlement and the India—or Bharat—of poverty and disenfranchisement….

“The promoters of the IPL claim to be speaking on behalf of Indian cricket. However, the polarizing instincts of their tournament run counter to—and threaten to defeat—the inclusive and democratizing trends that were inaugurated by the victory of the Indian cricket team in the 1983 World Cup and the boom in satellite television that followed….

“Whether by chance or design, the IPL shall establish a new hierarchy between the centres and cities it favours and those that it doesn’t, a hierarchy that has all to do with economic privilege and nothing to do with sport…. To be sure, the IPL has not created or constructed these inequalities—but it has certainly confirmed and consolidated them.”

Read the full article: The party of privilege

Photograph: courtesy Businessweek

Will cross-country marriages help ‘unite’ India?

7 September 2009

Chetan Bhagat, the author of the best-selling ‘One night @ the call center‘, is touting his latest book ‘2 States: the story of my marriage‘. The Delhi-born Bhagat, who is Punjabi but married to a Tamil-Brahmin from Thanjavur, is asked in an interview in The Sunday Times of India what one can do for one’s country.

His answer: “Marry outside your State.”

“Punjabis will have their meals sitting on the bed with plates piled on sheets of the previous day’s newspapers. But at my in-laws’ house, meal times were confined to the dining table and food was had in complete silence. It was a real culture shock.”

Really?

Is marrying outside your State going to make India a better country? Would you like to (if you haven’t already, that is)? Will marrying outside your State it help us understand each other better, sink differences, bring us closer? Can marriage become a national mission?

Also read: Ram Guha: If possible, marry outside the profession

How our buddhijeevis became one-tongue ponies

19 August 2009

In May this year, the Bangalore-based historian Ramachandra Guha delivered a lecture in Delhi on “The rise and fall of the bilingual intellectual”, lamenting the demise in modern India of  writers, thinkers and activists who were active in more than one language.

The occasion was the birth centenary of B.S. Kesavan, the Mysore-born scholar who spoke Kannada, Tamil, English and a smattering of Hindi and Bengali, and became the first Indian director of the National Library.

The latest issue of the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) runs the full text of the lecture in Guha (who like Kesavan’s son Mukul Kesavan, but unlike their Kannada-speaking multilingual fathers, are largely bilingual), in which he talks of the multilinguality in bygone Mysore :

“In the inter-War period, no Indian town better expressed this multilinguality than the town where B.S. Kesavan spent some of his best years, Mysore. Among the town’s residents then were the Kannada poet K.V. Puttappa (Kuvempu), who wrote political essays in English; the English novelist R.K. Narayan, who was equally fluent in Tamil and Kannada; and the journalist H.Y. Sharada Prasad, who thought and wrote in Kannada, but whose command of English was later put to good effect in the very many speeches he ghosted for successive prime ministers of India.

“A somewhat younger resident was A.K. Ramanujan, who later recalled that, growing up in Mysore, he had necessarily to become equally familiar with the language of the street (Kannada), the language of the kitchen (Tamil, spoken by his mother), and the language of the study upstairs (occupied by his father, who liked to converse in English). Ramanujan was an accomplished poet in both Kannada and English, and achieved undying fame for his translations into English of Kannada and Tamil folklore and folk poetrywork that was enabled, in the first instance, by his growing up in the multilingual intellectual universe of Mysore.

“Mysore was here representative of other towns in colonial India. The intellectual culture of Dharwad, Cochin, Allahabad, etc, was likewise bilingual, with writers and professors operating both in English and in the language of the locality or province. There was a cultural continuum that ran between qasba and mahanagar, between the smaller urban centres and the great cities of the presidencies.”

Read the full lecture: The rise and fall of the bilingual intellectual

Also read: Mallya gharana will never replace Kirana gharana

What’s in a name? What’s in a set of initials?


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