Life’s a cycle. One year goes out, another comes in. While Mysore’s photographers were shooting the annual Kukkarahalli Kere silhouette shot to mark the passing of 2007 for the morning papers , a Karnataka Photo News lensman was capturing the last sunset at Mavatur Kere in Tumkur.
Archive for December, 2007
With 2007 just hours from becoming history, it’s time to look at the 20 stories that clocked the most pageviews and the most comments on churumuri.com in the year gone by. And like a packet of churumuri, it took a bit of this and a dash of that to make it a delectable experience on both sides of the browser.
Articles on language, literature, IT, identity, human rights, religion, cricket, technology, trends, movies, music and media, among other issues—local, regional, national and international—grabbed the most interactive eyeballs, some of them being sticky enough for the mainstream media to take notice.
To all of you, from all of us, here’s a big thank-you for making churumuri.com a part of your web media consumption. We wish you a new year full of peace, success, happiness, good health, and a little prosperity. May 2008 be what you want it to be, and may we all retain the hunger to question everything without ever losing our sense of humour. And let’s do everything in moderation—including moderation.
One of the ironies of the global village is that the bigger the media gets in size and reach, the less we know of the world outside of us. Customisation, personalisation and localisation have inverted the pyramid and reduced users to an audience of one. The result is a constricted weltanschaaung, sans balance and proportion.
So while we may like to think that 2007 was about Mayawati and Narendra Modi, Nandigram and the nuclear deal, Prakash Karat‘s shenanigans and Deve Gowda‘s betrayals, Maoist upsurge and Hindu resurgence, Sanjay Dutt‘s incarcertation and Salman Khan‘s, the sensex, Om Shanti Om, and Twenty20, the truth is they are just feeble signals amplified many times over in the echo chamber we inhabit.
What made news outside of it in the year gone by?
Al Jazeera English has a fine media programme called Listening Post, available on YouTube each Friday, free of cost. In this, edition, Richard Gizbert and team look at the 15 top media stories of 2007. The survey conducted with the help of a Canadian company called Influence Communication, does not include online news, tabloid press or gossip magazines. The survey took into account the placement of the news item, the circulation and viewing figures, and how often a story was repeated in the media.
Google has already released country-wise lists of the most searched for items on the search engine. Time magazine has filled an entire magazine full of lists. By this time tomorrow, your newspapers will have delivered the top ten-this, the top ten-that of everything under the sun in circa 2007. Well not quite.
Below are a set of 30 links that might help you make better sense of the year gone by.
NEWS STORIES: Top ten stories you missed in 2007
UNDERREPORTED STORIES: Ten most underreported stories of 2007
WEIRD NEWS: Top eleven weird stories of 2007
SCAMS: The top ten scams of 2007
ARCHAEOLOGY: Top 10 archaeology stories of 2007
INVENTIONS: 10 most brilliant inventions of 2007
ENVIRONMENT: The top ten trends of 2007
TECHNOLOGY: The ten underreported tech stories of 2007
TECH FLOPS: The 15 big tech disappointments of 2007
TRAIN WRECKS: Top ten train wrecks of 2007
GADGETS: The ten worst gadgets of 2007
USB DRIVES: The top 10 weirdest USB drives
CAR ACCIDENTS: The ten freakiest car accidents of 2007
MARKETING BLUNDERS: Top ten marketing blunders of 2007
VIDEOS: Top ten hottest videos of 2007
VIRAL VIDEOS: The top ten viral videos of 2007
CAR COMMERCIALS: The top ten car commercials of 2007
SEXIEST WIVES: The 20 sexiest athletes’ wives of 2007
UNSEXIEST MEN: The 100 unsexiest men of 2007
ASTRONOMY: Top ten astronomy pictures of 2007
TOP TEN TOP TEN: The top ten top ten lists of 2007
UNUSUAL TOP TEN: Ten most unusual ‘Top 10’ lists
Photograph: courtesy coedmagazine.com
On the night of Narendra Modi‘s thumping win, Veerappa Moily decided to further expose the intellectual bankruptcy of the Congress. Appearing on a CNN-IBN show hosted by Sagarika Ghose, the former Karnataka chief minister, quoting a newspaper report, said Modi had hired a Washington-based image consulting firm called Apco Worldwide, that had previously burnished the image of assorted dictators around the world.
Moily recounted the story, published exactly 36 days earlier, with great glee. That Apco had a record of boosting the images of corrupt African and Russian leaders who had fallen out of favour with their followers. That Modi’s government was paying $25,000 (approximately Rs 10 lakh) a month for the job. That Apco’s brief was to build and sell Brand Gujarat to the outside world, but any help in making Modi look better wouldn’t go unappreciated.
With which part Moily had a problem is obvious. But a juicy rumour now doing the rounds in Delhi is that India’s best known “image management and communications consulting firm”, run by a former journalist, too was in the running for the Modi account. But the firm backed out when it realised that, among other things, it was also required to polish Modi’s image to such an extent that it would pave the way for a United States visa for Modi.
Now, as everybody and his uncle knows, Modi’s US B1/B2 (tourist/visitor) visa was revoked in 2005 “for alleged violation of religious freedom”. His request for a diplomatic visa too was turned down. Modi said the United States had “insulted” India, and the Manmohan Singh government said the move was “uncalled for”, and that it displayed a “lack of courtesy and sensitivity towards a constitutionally elected chief minister.”
Questions: With Modi re-elected, should the United States revoke the revocation of his visa? Has anything materially changed in Modi’s standing from a legal and diplomatic point of view through his reelection for his visa to be restored? When scores of dubious leaders manage to get into the US, should Modi, with the backing of “five crore Gujarati people”, be blocked? Should Modi be bothered about a US visa at all? Can an image management firm pave the way for a US visa for a politician with a documented record of blood on his hands, when ordinary Indians sweat and toil for it? Will human rights activists succeed in blocking a US visa? Or will Gujarati NRIs succeed?
Photograph: courtesy NDTV
The pat post-facto rationalisation of the Gujarat verdict is that the Congress was hoist with its own petard because it was speaking a political language that not too care to follow in an India on the march. In other words, Sonia Gandhi, by hurling the “maut ke saudagar” grenade, reopened the Godhra wound ignoring the fact that Gujarati voters wanted to “forgive and forget” and “move on”.
Tarun J. Tejpal, the editor-in-chief of Tehelka, disagrees. The Congress, he writes, erred in not addressing the Godhra pogrom and Narendra Modi hands-on complicity head-on. Result: The century-old “keeper of the humane flame”, in whose crucible the idea of India was born and delivered, has forgotten what it stands for. It has become a poltergeist: its shape amorphous, its intentions shadowy, its substance insubstantial:
“The stupid spin doctors of the Congress who are now running a whisper campaign to blame Sonia Gandhi need to realise that maybe they got wiped out not because she made a direct assault on bigotry, but because none of them did. What they did was to show that they were not leaders in Gujarat but mere vote accountants, desperate opportunists. They wooed the bigots they were meant to fight; they relied on snatching and stealing vote banks, not inspiring and commanding them; they came not with a vision for the people or the country but with a game-plan to acquire power. There was nothing in their speech or conduct that inspired trust.
“Instead of taking on the travesty of 2002 directly, and eloquently appealing to the Gujarati to see the dangers of an unjust society, they decided to play the bigotry game. Today these same strategists who assured everyone they had the whole election stitched up are running for cover, spinning further dishonesty—bereft both of power, and the lustre that comes from having stood for the right thing and fought the good fight.
“In contrast the Italian-born lady at least addressed the fundamental issue, and understood that at the end of the day the moment may be about Modi but its final message is not. The final message is about contesting world views, the civilisational vision. Do we wish to travel on the miraculous road the founding fathers forged: democratic, liberal, inclusive, modern? Or are we going to careen off into jingoism, bigotry, retrograde religion, and the powermongering of political-corporate cabals? As a people do we look to becoming modern or merely prosperous? As a people do we understand that a free society, a democracy, is not just about winning elections but about creating and sustaining institutions that strive for equality, justice and fairplay?
“Might is not right. Majority is not right. Money is not right. In the good society, only right is right. And we all know, at all times, the difference between right and wrong.”
Read the full article here: To kill a party
Like he slipped so smoothly from Kannada to Tamil, Rajnikant is racing from Bandipur from Mudumalai, on his new acquired 70 cc “TVS XL Heavy Duty moped”.
A cigarette is swinging in his mouth from left to right, right to left.
Just as Rajni enters the Tamil Nadu side of the forest, a pack of three tigers starts chasing him.
How does superstar escape?
At a T-junction on the road, he switches on his right indicator—and turns left.
Also read: 11 similarities between the iPhone and Rajni
Illustration: courtesy Simply South/India Today
E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: As the year draws to a close, still fretting about what a dismal job an economist is doing as prime minister? Ever thought how it would be if some other professional ran the country?
Let’s take a look at the one and only thing what’s likely to happen, if some of them occupied the PM’s chair:
Carpenter: Charge salary on hourly basis and screw the cabinet.
Doctor: Hold the pulse of the nation, shake head and recommend a series of illegible tests.
Cab driver: Paint Lok Sabha yellow and black and run it like crazy.
Plumber: Plug the drains in RBI and wait for the currency to dry.
Intellectual: Argue each point and blame the politicians of previous government.
Circus trainer: Pitch his tent inside Parliament and tame the animals.
Traffic cop: Use only one hand for all transactions.
Movie star: Convert nation into a set and run country on reel life
TV newsreader: Do a sting operation on opposition and break news every hour
Cricketer: Charge channels per appearance on TV
IT professional: Convert free land into call centres and talk in code.
Postman: Deliver promises after a year as dead letter
Shepherd: Skin sheep (people) and fleece the nation
Editor: Give lengthy sermons to cabinet and reverse it next day
Churumuri: Look at everything negatively, wait for comments from far and wide, and watch the fun
How would other professionals fare as PM? Tell us.
B. Raman, former additional secretary, and director of the Institute of Topical Studies, Madras, in Outlook:
In the Hindu diaspora in the West, more young people admire Narendra Modi than grown-ups. Many of his young admirers in the US were born and brought up there and had the benefit of the best of secular education. In spite of this, there is a sense of pride in them that the Hindu community has at long last produced a leader of the calibre of Modi.
What is it they see in him?
His simple and austere living? His reputation as an incorruptible politician? His style of development-oriented governance? The fruits of his policy, which Gujarat and its people are already enjoying? His tough stance on terrorism? His lucid-thinking on matters concerning our national security? His defiance in the face of the greatest campaign of demonisation mounted against him the like of which only Indira Gandhi had faced from her political opponents and sections of the media in the 1970s?
All these are factors, which influence their favourable perception of him, and which have already been highlighted and analysed in the articles on his impressive election victory. But there is one factor, which is more important than these and which has not found mention in the analyses…
That is, for large sections of the Hindus—young and old, even more among the young than among the old—he gave them a sense of pride in their identity as Hindus. They feel that he removed from their minds long habits of defensiveness as Hindus carefully nurtured by the self-styled secularists.
Bharathiyar, the Tamil poet who inspired millions of Tamil youth to join the independence struggle under Mahatma Gandhi, wrote: “Tamizhanenru Chollada, Talai Nimirndhu Nillada (Say You Are a Tamil, Hold Your Head High).”
The growing legion of Modi’s admirers in the Hindu community all over the world are saying: “Hindu Enru Chollada, Talai Nimirndu Nillada. (Say You Are A Hindu, Hold Your Head High).”
Read the full article: The secular hypocrisy
Swapan Dasgupta in The Telegraph, Calcutta:
“In Gujarat, the media were neither disinterested observers nor merely biased against Narendra Modi; they were an active participant. From disseminating ridiculous stories about lack of crowds in Modi’s meetings and overplaying the Patel revolt in Saurashtra to Yogendra Yadav’s self-confessed doctoring of the exit polls, the media took it upon themselves to ensure Modi’s defeat. The suggestion that the English-language media were the worst offender is not true; for purely collateral reasons the Gujarati print media led the charge.
“Media activism ensured that a large section of India switched on to their TV sets last Sunday morning fully expecting the downfall of the man who has been painted as a cross between Hitler and Attila the Hun. The results helped catapult Modi to the national stage as the man who could dare—and win. If it hadn’t been for the media becoming a prisoner of their own fabrications, the impact of Gujarat would have been strictly regional.”
Read the full article: Merchant of victory
Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express
JDS helmsman H.D. Deve Gowda was/is well known for deeply contemplating the upliftment of the underprivileged in very, very public settings. At the Congress janandolana in Bijapur yesterday, former deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah demonstrates that he has picked up a wink or forty from his former guru.
Photograph: Karnataka Photo News
Karan Thapar, India’s premier television interviewer, was an old friend of Benazir Bhutto. They had known each other since their days at Cambridge and Oxford, respectively. Benazir, according to Thapar, had tried to get him married (unsuccessfully) for 18 years. Thapar says he spoke to her just four days and had asked her to “stay safe”.
Thapar says Bhutto also had a fine sense of humour. At one Oxbridge debate on “sex before marriage”, Thapar recalls that he rang the bell and asked her if she dared to practice what she preached. The hall went up in laughter. And after the last laugh had been heard, Benazir, says Thapar, pulled out her spectacles, screwed her eyes, and said: “Certainly, but not with you.”
The dastardly assassination of Benazir Bhutto today underlines how bloody deaths have become the common theme of the premier political families of Pakistan and India, two countries born within two days of each other, over the blood of a million innocent people.
1979: Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, hanged by Zia Ul Haq regime
1980: Shahnawaz Bhutto, killed in suspicious circumstances in France
1980: Sanjay Gandhi, killed mysteriously in a glider crash
1984: Indira Gandhi, shot dead by Sikh bodyguards in her home
1991: Rajiv Gandhi,
shot deadkilled by LTTE suicide bomber in an election campaign
1996: Mir Murtaza, shot dead in police encounter
2007: Benazir Bhutto, shot dead by suicide bomber in an election campaign
Crooked Timber: Whatever else can be said about Benazir Bhutto, it showed tremendous courage to return to Pakistan and to contest the elections when her assassination was always likely.
sfcmac: This is terrible. She worked hard to reform a country full of misogynist, Islamofascist miscreants. Pakistan has formented terrorist scumbags and extremists for years. She knew her life was in constant danger, but returned to her home and courageously stood up to subhuman filth. To be sure, the Musharraf regime will blame the United States for brokering an agreement to let her back into Pakistan, and the moonbats on the Left will blame President Bush because everything is his fault, from their lousy childhoods to their miserable worthless adult lives. Musharraf is probably glad that someone finally got to her. She was the biggest threat to the oppressive, corrupt regime.
The Belmont Club: There were already questions about whether Bhutto—or any other candidate—could create a political alternative to the dilemma of rule by the Army or rule by the Taliban. Now there will not even be the semblance of an electoral outcome. Pakistani politics might not miss Benazir Bhutto as an individual, but it will surely want for the elections in general.
Abu Muqawama: Okay, folks, we all know she was eloquent, went to Harvard and Oxford and was a darling of the English-language media. But she was arguably the most corrupt woman in the history of South Asia. She was removed from office not once but twice on corruption charges. And ruthless? She killed her own brother in 1996. So by all means, mourn Benazir Bhutto, but those who live by the sword….
William Beutler: As I understand it, Benazir Bhutto was hardly a great prime minister—twice-removed from office on corruption charges that I presume are largely true but not the proximate cause…. I assume her reputation outside of Pakistan as a friend of the U.S. and a representative of moderate Islam— now, to borrow a phrase, martyred—may grant her a legacy that her actual record doesn’t necessarily warrant.
Michael D: There will be chaos in Pakistan because of this. F**king crazy. Holy shit.
Also read: BENAZIR KILLED: Is Pakistan a failed state?
More blog reactions: here
Photograph: courtesy David Guttenfelder/ The Associated Press, Link via PDNPulse
Benazir Bhutto in the preface to the second edition of her autobiography, Daughter of the East in April this year:
“I didn’t choose this life, it chose me. Born in Pakistan, my life mirrors its turbulence, its tragedies and its triumphs. Pakistan is no ordinary country. And mine has been no ordinary life.
“I know that I am a symbol of what the so-called Jihadists, Taliban and al-Qaeda, most fear,. I am a female political leader fighting to bring modernity, communication, education and technology to Pakistan.”
Last month, a BBC World Service compared Benazir Bhutto to the Burmese leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi, two Asian women whose fathers were politicians. But the historian Ramachandra Guha punctured the argument in The Telegraph, Calcutta. Benazir chose to live in exile in luxury, he wrote, Suu Kyi stayed put and roughed it out. Benazir asks what her country can do for her, Suu Kyi asks what she can do for her country.
“While Suu Kyi has a principled commitment to non-violence and to democratic procedure, Benazir has a rather opportunist approach to power and authority. The words that come to mind when describing the great Burmese freedom-fighter are courageous, honest, decent, principled, democratic. On the other hand, the career and credo of the Pakistani politician can be summed up in the words vain, disingenuous, delusional, ambitious, demagogic.”
Read the full article: RAMACHANDRA GUHA on Benazir Bhutto
Former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto has been killed in a suicide attack in Rawalpindi. She was 54, and is survived by her husband and three children. The killing throws the January 8 election process, Parvez Musharraf‘s attempts to gain legitimacy, and the anti-terror campaign of the United States in serious turmoil. Benazir had survived an audacious attempt on her life when she had returned to her country from exile 10 weeks ago, but the “life” was short-lived.
Amid all the hoo-ha over this being the 150th anniversary of the first war of Indian independence, and the 60th year of our independence, it is easy to forget that this is also the 150th anniversary of a war that ended up in the creation of Pakistan, and the 60th year of its independence. Yet, while India exults in the diamond jubilee of its freedom, Pakistan is going through all the familiar pangs and pangas that has marked that country’s existence.
Periodic dictatorships, the hanging of one Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the mysterious death in a plane crash of president Zia ul Haq, now the killing of Benazir. Add to this, the circumcision of citizen’s and media rights, a puppet judiciary, an economy in a shambles, its support of terror, and you wonder, is Pakistan a failed State? A democracy that doesn’t seem to be able to get its house in order for a reasonable length of time? A nation whose only raison d’etre was, is and will be India?
Also read: Was Benazir a friend of India?
Tunku Varadarajan: State of Nothing
Photograph: courtesy Greg Baker/ The Associated Press
This churumuri poll was first published on 12 May 2007
PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Narendra Modi‘s victory has deep-frozen the political discourse. The pseudo-nationalists are acting as if the kingdom is already theirs—for keeps. And the pseudo-secularists are acting as if the world is about to come to an end for royalty of the Janpath variety.
Meanwhile, breathless TV anchors are looking forward to their annual holiday in Goa.
Make no mistake, Modi won and won big. He won on his own terms, bucking all the usual cliches like anti-incumbency, caste, dissidence. But, even five days after the verdict, we are still to receive the clear-eyed analysis that we used to in the past.
Result: one side is talking as if for the first time since the dawn of human civilisation, voters like progress and development. And the other side is acting as if they didn’t know this at all.
Since the pseudo-national camp is punch drunk to even bother with the details, it is left to the pseudo-secularists to attempt a dissection of what happened in Gujarat and what it means.
CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai has exploded some myths. He writes: The BJP actually did much better in the non-riot affected areas of Kutch, Saurashtra and South Gujarat than it did five years ago. The BJP won 12 of the 13 scheduled caste reserved seats. The party performed impressively in the tribal belt of South Gujarat, while its tally actually went down in Ahmedabad city, it performed strongly across rural Gujarat, including those districts which conventional wisdom suggests have been left out of the vibrant Gujarat platform.
“In each of the last four Assembly elections, the BJP’s support has kept increasing, from 42 per cent in 1995 to 50 per cent now, which in a two-party state ensures comfortable majorities. With the exception of the 2004 Lok Sabha election, the BJP has dominated every election in the state over the last 12 years, including at the panchayat level. This suggests the emergence of a saffron bastion, not too dissimilar to the Left Front in West Bengal,” writes Sardesai.
Vidya Subrahmaniam in today’s Hindu, has attempted a bit of number-crunching. And what she establishes is that the Gujarat election wasn’t the cakewalk it is made out to be for Modi (a point Mallika Sarabhai made on churumuri yesterday). But the Congress was lucky too.
The BJP won only one seat out of the 116 it secured for the first time. In all, writes Subrahmaniam, 48 seats were won with a margin of under 5,000 votes; 20 of them under 2,000 votes. But it is not as if only the BJP benefited from this, the Congress did too. While the BJP won 24 of these seats, the Congress won 23.
Shabnam Hashmi, the
wife sister of the slain activist Safdar Hashmi, has been circulating a note in the pseudo-secular camp. She writes:
“While the whole media except a handful of journalists is under the spell of Modi’s magic, it is important to register the fact that, for example, in Gandhinagar, though 81,864 people voted for the BJP, there were 78,116 people who voted against BJP and Modi.”
Indeed, if you look at the table below of 33 constituencies, being circulated by Hashmi, you can come away with three conclusions. One, the race was certainly closer than we have been told. Two, in many constituencies, a third candidate or an independent (or the two together) secured more votes than the difference between the BJP and Congress. And three, Mayawati‘s BSP is making far greater inroads than either camp, or the media, will acknowledge.
1. RAJPIPLA: BJP 37722, Congress 37091, Difference: 631, BSP 2807
2 . MANDAL: BJP 34843, Congress 34166, Difference: 677, Independent 3818
3. KHAMBHALIA: BJP 40358, Congress 39560, Difference: 798, Independent 4275
4. KANKREJ: BJP 37930, Congress 37090, Difference 840, BSP 28934
5. JAMNAGAR: BJP 33021, Congress 31941, Difference 1080, Independent 1098
6. KADI: BJP 65835, Congress 64508, Difference 1327, Independent 3848
7. GADHADA : BJP 50579, Congress 49152, Difference 1427, BSP1478
8. SURAT CITY: BJP 39607, Congress 37908, Difference 1699, RJD 2584
9. ANAND: BJP 63745, Congress 61975, Difference 1770, Independent 12134
10. KALOL: BJP 27565, Congress 25255, Difference 1884, Independents 1427 + 1016
11 . CHIKHLI: BJP 59471, Congress 57204, Difference 2267, BSP 2708
12 . SIDHPUR: BJP 52610, Congress 50181, Difference 2429, Independent 2694
13. MANGROL: BJP 48256, Congress 45625, Difference 2631, BSP 3389, Independent 2782
14. BOTAD: BJP 69662, Congress 66474, Difference 3188, BSP 2134, Independent 3188
15. VIRAMGAM: BJP 47643, Congess 44327, Difference 3316, BSP 3286, Independent 3364
16. MANSA: BJP 44381, Congress 41011, Difference 3370, BSP 10478
17. GANDHINAGAR: BJP 81864, Congress 78116, Difference 3748, BSP 1766, Independent 5128
18. RAKHIAL: BJP 53993, Congress 50048, Difference 3945, BSP 1395, Independent 1428
19. DASADA: BJP 38174, Congress 34108, Difference 4066, BSP 3898, Independent 2408
20. SIHAR: BJP 50756, Congress 46638, Difference 4118, BSP 3501, Independent 2973
21. AMRELI: BJP 48767, Congress 44578, Difference 4189, Independents 3143 + 1397
22. VISAVADAR: BJP 38179, Congress 33950, Difference 4229, BSP 3399, Independent 2074
23. UPLETA: BJP 36602, Congress 31917, Difference 4685, BSP 1946, SP 4141
24. SOMNATH: BJP 61233, Congress 56004, Difference 5229, BSP 7099
25. BAYAD: BJP 40395, Congress 34711, Difference 5684, BSP 3107, Independent 3569
26. CHHOTA UDAIPUR: BJP 44422, Congress 38304, Difference 6118, Independent 8056
27. KALAWAD: BJP 39497, Congress 33225, Difference 6272, BSP 3449, Independent 3693
28. WADHAWAN: BJP 47466, Congress 40564, Difference 6902, Independent 23261
29. DANGS: BJP 56860, Congress 48977, Difference 7883, Independents 5010 + 4446
30. KUTIYANA: BJP 37130, Congress 27980, Difference 9150, BSP 3064, Independent 8060
31. VADGAM: BJP 50481, Congress 40776, Difference 9705, Independent 16372
32. ABDASA: BJP 39004, Congress 28985, Difference 10019, BSP 12397
33. CAMBAY: BJP 50163, Congress 40086, Difference 10077, BSP 3081, Independent 8684
We cannot make a big deal of the margin of the BJP victory in these constituencies. In a first-past-the-post system, electoral fortunes have been decided by single-digit margins, and then tilted again by a recount. So, the lotus bloomed whichever way you look at it. Still, there is a case for a sober-eyed view of elections and results than the puerile propaganda we have been dished out so far by both sides.
There is nothing to suggest that if the BSP or the independent/s were not there, the Congress would have triumphed in these constituencies. And there is no reason why they should have paved the way for the Congress. Still, as an arithmetical exercise, the numbers are interesting because they point to something we are not being told by the mainstream media which seems so in love of its own creations: “Moditva”, a national role for Modi, and what happens to L.K. Advani.
James “Scotty” Preston, the former New Delhi correspondent of the New York Times who became the executive editor of the paper, writes in his memoirs that he always preferred not to predict which way an election would go. “An election is a secret communion between a voter and democracy.”
Both the pseudo-secularists and the pseudo-nationalists seem to be ignoring that cardinal piece of advice.
As Harish Khare wrote in The Hindu, “In a democracy an electoral defeat is always a sobering moment, but it would be doubly counter-productive for the Congress and the other secular forces to feel overawed by Narendra Modi’s victory… The Sunday win does not necessarily endow any kind of ideological legitimacy to Modi’s voice nor does it provide a licence to communal forces or even political respectability to his message outside of Gujarat.”
PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: There are still a few days left for the year 2007 to end, but do we already have a clear winner in the Mythological Man of the Year category?
Maryada Purushottam Sri Ramachandra aka Lord Rama.
The Archaelogical Survey of India filed a writ petition in the Ram Sethu issue stating He did not exist, and then backpedalled. Next, Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi called Him a drunkard and questioned His engineering skills. His (Karunanidhi’s) West Bengal counterpart Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee piped in softly, and then claimed he was misquoted.
Enter Prem, the director of hit Kannada films like Jogi and Excuse me.
Prem’s latest offering Preeti yeke bhoomi-mele ide is due for release on Friday. And like Rajiv Gandhi‘s government proscribed Salman Rushdie‘s Satanic Verses without even reading the book, the oxymoronic Sri Ram Sena has gone on the rampage even before the first show of the film, almost as if to prove the film’s title right.
Foot soldiers of Lord Rama’s Army launched by the former BJP loose cannon, Pramod Mutalik, stormed the premises of the movie’s producers Ashwini Studios today, broke furniture and window panes, heckled the producer Ram Prasad, foulmouthed the director, and warned against releasing the film.
Reason: The lyrics of the “Sullu, sullu” song in the film (sung by Kailash Kher and Shankar Mahadevan) has these two lines:
“Rama Hanuma sullu, Sita mata sullu/
Ravana kadiddu sullu, Lanka suttidu sullu”
Rough transliteration: Rama, Sita, Hanuman are untruths, Ravana‘s stealth is an untruth, Lanka’s torching is an untruth.
In a gripping two-hour interaction between director Prem (who also wrote the lyrics of the contentious song) and the “brigadier” of the Bangalore wing of the Lord’s Army, a chap called Vasant Kumar alias “Bhavani“, on TV9, the full scale of the tragicomedy called creeping censorship—the “Taliban mindset” as Soli Sorabjee put it—became clear.
Brigadier Bhavani wanted the two lines deleted. Correction, he only wanted the first line with the three names deleted; he did not seem to have any problems with what Ravana did to Sita or what happened in Lanka.
He said the lines were an insult to the Hindu icons. He claimed the lines were deliberately inserted to exploit its potential at the “box office”. He said the lines were objectionable especially at a time of mounting conversions. And he openly warned against the movie’s release with the song in its existing form.
“Taakath idre release maadi,” Brigadier Bhavani blazed on air. Translation: if you have the guts, release the film.
At Ashwini Studios, he had told a police officer very audibly: “You know what happened when Karunanidhi made his statement (two people were burnt alive in a bus). We won’t be responsible if it happens again.”
Prem might like look like a nice rustic boy in the urban woods, who got lucky when Rakshitha chose him for a life partner. But the boy from Mandya is, if nothing else, studio smart.
Have you seen the film, he asked. Do you know who wrote the original lyrics? Do you know how I chose this song? If the movie-goers of Karnataka think the lyrics are objectionable, I will cut it out.
Prem said he had been inspired by Santa Shishunala Shariff, the 19th century saint-poet.
The moment the Muslim sounding name was uttered, Brigadier “Bhavani” was flaming saffron. “We don’t believe Shariff,” he said. When TV9 anchor Ranganath Bharadwaj explained Shariff’s place in the hearts of decent Kannadigas, the brigadier backtracked. “You didn’t understand me. I only said we don’t believe Shariff wrote that.”
Prem was undeterred. He said he got hundreds of folk artists to hear the song and they had all appreciated it. And, by the way, do you know the context of the song in which these lines appear?
The context: there are two characters, clearly indicated by the choice of two singers. One of them is a believer, the other is not. The non-believer utters the lines the Ram Sena is quoting. The believer then responds with these lines.
“Hey, ninna nijave ondu sullu/
nee bayosodella sollu, nee baduko reeti sullu”
Rough transliteration: What your truth is an untruth, what you seek is an untruth, the way you live is an untruth.
In other words, the whole song is a conversation in which the believer contradicts the non-believer. In the end, the song actually underlines the existence of Rama and Sita and Hanuman, which is presumably what the foot soldiers of Sri Ram Sena want to be underlined.
But Brigadier Bhavani would have none of that creative licence. Kannada movie goers are not so mature to catch such a nuanced message, he said.
Don’t underestimate Kannadigas, warned Prem.
From Hubli, commander-in-chief Pramod Mutalik chipped in: “Why only Rama, Sita and Hanuman,” he thundered. “Why couldn’t you add Allah and Christ and say they too did not exist?” Because they do not figure in our janapada.
The wise viewers started calling in with their queries: Why don’t the Ram Sena troops do something more concrete to help Hindus, like, say, when Dalits are attacked in villages? How can you protest about something when you have not seen the actual work and context? Instead of amicably seeking the removal of the offending lyrics, how can you provocatively demand the insertion of other religious heads?
Then assorted producers and directors jumped in: Why didn’t you react all this while since the movie’s audio has been around for six months? If the censor board had okayed the film, what’s your problem? Why didn’t you approach the film chamber of commerce? Or the producer or director? Why are you indulging in this propaganda on the eve of the movie’s release? How can you indulge in this kind of vandalism and put crores of rupees at risk.
Brigadier Bhavani made vague noises. He said there had been court cases but the petitioners had withdrawn their plaints. He said the Sri Ram Sena had sent a letter to a distributor in Hubli. He said the director or producer didn’t have the courtesy to call them and ask what their objection was.
“If you knew the location of the producer’s office today, why didn’t you go there all this time if your intentions were honourable?” asked one viewer.
Struck dumb by the viewers’ (and film fraternity’s) lack of empathy to join the cause, Brigadier Bhavani was stumped. he tried to sneak in a cheap jibe on how Prem had paid Rs 60 lakh or Rs 70 lakh for Mallika Sherawat to perform a cabaret in the movie. How do you know it’s a cabaret, shot back Prem.
Finally, Brigadier Bhavani could take it no further. He said in an exasperated sort of way: “Ee prashnegalanna keluthaa iddre, nachike aaguthe.” Exact translation: Listening to these questions, I feel ashamed.
Ashamed perhaps that the “humble peoples of Karnataka” are not adding fuel to the communal kettle that is on the slow boil before the elections?
Niranthara suddigaagi noduttha iri TV9.
Narendra Modi’s detractors in Gujarat and elsewhere might be squirming at his victory, but one of his most vocal and visible critics, Mallika Sarabhai, says the fineprint is actually encouraging. The Ahmedabad-based dancer and activist, daughter of the renowned space scientist Vikram Sarabhai, and an MBA and doctorate from IIM, Ahmedabad, has been on the wrong side of Modi since the Gujarat riots of 2002.
She was made to pay for this, when in 2003 a dancer in her troupe filed a case against her, alleging that she had cheated her in not taking her on a promised US tour. For more than two years, Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, which Mallika runs, was routinely targeted by the Modi regime on the basis of that case. It was evident that the complaint was politically motivated and the charges were finally dropped for lack of evidence in early 2006.
Mallika continues to strongly oppose Modi’s brand of politics, but is not all cut-up with his recent victory. She tells VINUTHA MALLYA why:
VM: How does it feel to see Narendra Modi back as chief minister for a third term?
Mallika Sarabhai: Initially, I was very depressed, but after watching the election analysis, I am feeling much better.
VM: And why is that?
MS: The victory margin by which the BJP has won in many seats is very narrow. In some seats it is as little as three votes! In the state capital, Gandhinagar, BJP has won 81,000 seats against the second candidate who got 79,200 votes. The BJP has won narrowly in as many as 70 seats. So, it is not as disastrous as we thought. They have won hugely by luck.
VM: What is your interpretation of verdict 2007?
MS: Just because Modi has won does not mean all of Gujarat is behind this man. It is just not true to assume that. The margins also show that not every single person in Gujarat is ‘brainwashed’. So, I believe that this election has in fact shown encouraging results.
Photograph: courtesy Darpana Academy of Performing Arts
PRITAM SENGUPTA in New Delhi and PALINI R. SWAMY in Bangalore write: Udaoed in Uttar Pradesh. Pichkaoed in Punjab. Upset in Uttarakhand. Gored in Gujarat. You might think it can’t get any worse for the Congress, but it could. So how can the Congress be resuscitated to believe that there might be life after death?
Your answer might be, why the eff should we be bothered, that’s Sonia Gandhi‘s problem. If that is your answer, stop reading right here. On the other hand, if you spot a management challenge—a 122-year-old brand in dire need of fresh thinking, better positioning—here are 12-and-a-half steps the Grand Ol’ Party must take if it is not to be pummelled in the next general elections.
1) Have the humility to recognise that somebody could be better than you at playing this game. Merely because three members of your family have been prime ministers, it doesn’t mean there is something special about the water and air at 10, Janpath that will keep power in the family’s bloodstream forever. In other words, admit there is a problem. It could just be wrong brand of tea you are sipping (Narendrabhai, wink-wink).
2) Stop looking for scapegoats; go into election mode—now. Get thinking heads like Sam Pitroda and Jairam Ramesh to strategise on the key issues you are getting hammered on like terrorism, internal security, minority appeasement. Hire top-flight American image makers to communicate this lucidly to the educated, urban middleclasses—it is they who are deserting the Congress in droves. Use the traditional media like newspapers, radio, television by all means, but also exploit new media to reach out to the young. Set up blogs, send SMSes, have Sonia Gandhi speak on YouTube. Heck, get a “Second Life“!
3) It’s not a nuanced game the BJP is playing. It’s a primal, jugular campaign that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Let the BJP know that two can play the game. Get some aggression into the system. Get a few straight-talking ruffian-types, for want of a better word to describe the Rajiv Pratap Rudys, to fight the nightly television battles with the BJP spokesmen, not smooth lawyers like Kapil Sibal or Abhishek Singhvi or hopeless wimps like Veerappa Moily. Remember, the English channels are a small constituency. And they don’t bloody vote.
4) It’s a young country; get the young into the thick of things. There is no point claiming that Rahul Gandhi is “Our Dhoni” and keeping him in the reserves. Remember, Dhoni doesn’t score his runs in the pavilion. Remember, also, that L.K. Advani has a 50-year headstart in politics. Push Rahul baba to open the innings. Give him the partners he wants, not just other sons he has played with (Jyotiraradhya Scindia or Sachin Pilot). Let him get his hands dirty fighting his battles. He might fail as he has in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, but he will be wiser; he will learn he’s to blame, not somebody else. After all, didn’t he grandly speak of “meritocracy”? Let the boy realise that there’s no such thing as a free prime ministerial lunch. He has to earn every morsel. Ensure that the message gets to every leader down the line.
5) Stop giving out the signal of protecting the “unprotectable” and undeserving. If Jagdish Tytler and his ilk are guilty in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom, allow law to take its own course. In fact, go out of your way to help the law take its course. Not just with Tytler but with every tainted Congressman everywhere in the country. Be open, be transparent, be fair, be fearless. Let the country know that nobody, howsoever mighty, howsoever close to “the family”, will be spared if there is even a taint. Adopt a zero-tolerance approach to criminality, corruption, rape, kidnap, murder, extortion… Like Hindustan Lever, advertise a “New, Improved” Congress. The nation will respect you for this.
6) Pull the rug from underneath the chaddis. Come clean on every single controversy you or your family have been involved in or accused of. Deprive them of readymade issues. If Ottavio Quattrochi is indeed guilty of anything, he should pay for it. In fact, go out of your way to help the CBI catch him. If he is not guilty, communicate to the country on where you stand. But don’t allow the impression to gain ground that you are using CBI to scuttle all moves to get him here. If you really play non-partisan, people will respect you for this. By being transparent, you will win the hearts of people.
7) Demonstrate that you look at all Indians equally, not as Hindus, Muslims, whatever. If you want to hang Afzal Guru, hang him. If you don’t want to hang Afzal Guru, say so why, clearly. Don’t dither. Stop giving the impression that you are shielding him because he is a Muslim. Terrorism has no religion, but terrorism is also not the place to show your secularism. It will fetch you votes, of course, but only minority votes. Remember, the majority is always bigger in size than the minority. Adopt the same strategy in all States.
8) Stop being so bloody defensive. Take the battle into the enemy camp; communicate, communicate, communicate. Shout from the rooftops that the BJP’s claims on handling terrorism are bogus. It sent Jaswant Singh with a known terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar. It released Peter Bleach. Shout from the rooftops that POTA did nothing to halt terrorism. After the IC-814 was hijacked when it was around. Parliament was attacked when it was around. Shout from the rooftops that its grandstanding on Naxalism is crap. BJP-ruled Chattisgarh is the hotbed of Maoist activity.
9) Stop being such control freaks. Encourage party leaders all the way down to the State, district and city levels to demonstrate that they are adult human beings with their own opinions, desires, demands, needs. You cannot win trust and confidence by ruling a State from Delhi all the time. When Modi is being tom-tommed as chief minister, how can you have a Bharatsinh Solanki say, “I will wait for ‘High command’ to decide!” This was good when Indiraji was ruling 25 years ago!” Times have changed. Give people what they want, and hold them accountable if they screw up.
10) Don’t let the tail wag the dog any longer; don’t get bogged down by the Left or by allies like the DMK. They are running the Government by proxy. They have succeeded in portraying you as running a weak government with a weaker prime minister. Stand up and stand firm. It is far better to go to the polls than to be seen and perceived as a weakling by all and sundry. Give the Left an ultimatum to put up or shut up; or tell them to take a long hike.
11) Allow people to stand up to you; encourage them to disagree with you. Where are the Rajesh Pilots and Madhav Rao Scindias? It is important to groom the younger leaders by giving them opportunity to lead. Give one State election to the team of youngsters to try out their plan, their method of working and see what happens. At worst, you could lose, which is happening anyway! At least you would have given them a chance to prove their worth.
12) Above all, stop acting so coy and give Manmohan Singh at the Centre and all the Congress-ruled States an ultimatum: deliver and demonstrate development in the next six months. Come up with quantitative and qualitative results to back your claims. Come up with one killer idea between now and then that you can take to the polls. Show that your growth is inclusive—it includes the majority. As shown by Mayawati, it is better to carry all sections of the electorate than pandering to supposedly minority interest always.And finally, this half-step.
And, finally, this half-step.
Stop giving the impression that you are running the UPA government by remote-control. Stop your cronies and factotums from giving the impression that they only dance to your tunes. Let the country know that Manmohan Singh is not just there to warm the seat but to run the government.
P.M. VIJENDRA RAO writes: Just the other morning, I was at the Kukkarahalli Lake in Mysore for my customary jog. I was a bit late. Even as I was beginning to soak in the post-dawn breeze, and the solitude, I spotted a hazy human figure at a distance, under the tall avenue trees behind the Kalamandira.
As I approached the figure, I found it wasn’t approaching me. It was stationary. Realizing that the man was relieving himself —a sight that is increasingly becoming common even at this awe-inspiring place—I slowed down. Then, it turned out to be a person known to me.
Unabashed, the man smiled at me and waved at me.
Unmindful of being caught in the act, he even talked the walk with me for a distance before excusing himself. He had, he said, an appointment to keep at Crawford Hall.
I was happy to take leave of the man, though not when he shook hands with me in a scene straight out of English, August.
And then I pondered.
For, the name of this person is among the many doing the rounds in University circles as a potential candidate for the vice-chancellorship. Probably, the man was desperate for a leak. Probably, he has medical issues. Probably, this is an indication of how poorly equipped our public facilities are. Probably, he didn’t expect to bump into an acquaintance.
But, all things considered, surely there is such a thing as setting an example, if there is a likelihood that you might end up running a University under whose purview the Lake lies?
Illustration: courtesy Indiarrhea
M.S. PRABHAKARA has a piece in The Hindu today on, among other things, the near-unanimous demand by the so-called progressive forces, seeking a ban on those inciting communal tension in Baba Budangiri from entering Chikamagalur district, and an “externment” of all those already engaged in such communal mobilisation.
Concepts like preventive arrests, banning entry of citizens, and banishing trouble-makers, he says, are vestiges of colonial rule devised by colonial rulers to stop people from fighting their legitimate, even necessary, political battles. That democratic India has seamlessly appropriate such oppressive features is sad.
“Assuming that the State concedes such a demand, would communal mobilisation be all right if it takes place outside Baba Budangiri or outside Chikmagalur district? This ‘Not In My Backyard’ mindset, with its open invitation to the State to use anti-democratic measures, poses grave dangers to the very democratic values that those protesting communal mobilisation seek to advance. Indeed, measures like externment or political detention are, of their nature, double-edged swords that make no distinction between democrats and fascists.”
Read the full article: Avaunt, thee wretch!
ALOK PRASANNA writes from Bangalore: Godwin’s Law states that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one, robbing the valid comparisons of their impact.
It is sort of true about the recent Gujarat elections, Narendra Modi, and the sangh parivar generally. All sane discussion on the policies and practices of the sangh parivar is supposed to come to an end once somebody uses the “F word”. Then the name calling begins and the discussion peters out.
Sadly, the media is also adding to this, and unfortunately, churumuri has also become part of this mindless trend.
By branding Modi and his ilk as “Fascist“, “Nazi“, and the like (Goebbelsian? Please!), the media are only pushing the Hindu right into a corner where they are convinced that it is, in fact, a simple matter of “us versus them”.
It is useful to see how valid the comparison of the sangh parivar with actual fascists (the European varieties). Let’s see what the fascists did in their brief period of dominance, against what our supposed “fascists” did in their six-year rule.
The fascists didn’t believe in democracy. It was a means to capture power, and once power was taken, democracy itself would be uprooted. They fundamentally despised democracy, and called for a one-party state. Sure a lot of fascists came to power through a democracy, but once there, they dismantled the damn thing, and did not just try to mildly change textbooks for high school kids. They broke down whatever democratic institutions existed, and used them to promote the one-party State.
The sangh parivar doesn’t stand for a one-party State. They know that making such a demand puts them in the same league as a certain Mrs. G and you cannot subvert a democracy from the inside if you keep losing elections. It’s not even as if a resounding majority is needed to turn a country into a one-party State. A few rigged elections, a threat of impending doom, organised mob violence at the right places, and voila, you have Nandigram… I mean a fascist takeover.
When democratic methods fail, or do not give adequate returns, fascists aim to take out the Government by marching into the capital with stormtroopers, literally. They oppose the State and its formal structure through violence and open warfare. Mussolini and Franco were successful; Mosley flopped completely, whereas Hitler flopped at first, but succeeded the second time around.
The sangh parivar cannot overthrow the State, nor does it want to try. What evidence we have seen of the sangh parivar’s macho-Hinduism has been mostly attacks on defenceless civilians, while in cahoots with the State machinery. When the State machinery turns agains them, or even just passes an externment order (a la Bababudangiri), they turn and run.
The sangh parivar has neither the guts nor the guns to turn against the State in order to meet their goals.
The fascists on the other hand, believed in an infalliable leader. The Il Duce was incapable of making mistakes (at least in front of his people), and when he seemed to, he always had the Fuehrer to bail him out. The titles are a dead giveaway about the importance fascism places in the cult of personality.
It is not that the Leader is important to the movement, but the Leader is the movement and the nation itself. The Leader is always right. Questioning the leader’s motives or capabilities was a pretty bad career move in fascist circles.
The sangh parivar, on the other hand, has tried its best to play down the cult of the single, unquestionable leader. Even Modi is a local aberration, and there is no way in hell he is going to be winning over voters in UP and Bihar with his Gujarat track record or anything.
Leaders are important, and they are figures around which the movement rallies around. You don’t see the sangh parivar touting one leader as the solution to all of India’s problems, and no way does it call for simple-minded obedience to that Leader. Now that I mention it, that sounds distinctly like… JD(S)!!
Finally, the fascists were really big on war. They stood for a state of perpetual war because might was right, and if you had a problem with it, you clarify that matter with the cold steel end of a bayonet! While constantly harping on peace, they would continually build up and arm for war, and when the moment was right, spring it upon their helpless enemies. It also helped to have the most kickass military in the world though that was somewhat compensated for by being allied with Italy.
The sangh parivar does not have the balls to actually go to war with Pakistan… or even Bangladesh. After all it was the BJP government that did not want to escalate conflict with Pakistan. Twice. Fascists don’t care about casualties or nukes. They love war. Not some low level, high altitude skirmish or periodic artillery jerk-offs, but the whole I-want-bomb-you-to-the-stone-age type so beloved of American leaders.
Of course the sangh parivar will talk big about teaching Pakistan a lesson, but when it came to walking the talk, their legs suddenly cramped up and a collective case of cold feet descended upon them. The Gandhi mother-son duo got us into more wars.
Sure the sangh parivar has some of the superficial similarities to Fascism, i.e., the fear of the foreign (and not just the Sonia Maino-type), the portrayal of Hindus as the victims (against Mughal oppression/Muslim dominance), and the general tendency to ignore individual rights.
However, disconcertingly, these traits have also been exhibited, at one time or the other by a lot of political parties in India, but for some reason, no one brands the CPI(M) as fascist, though they have done pretty much the same things as above for slightly different reasons.
I will not even bring up the example of the Congress.
So, ignore the occasional “endorsement” of Hitler. It is pretty much on the same level of their love for Shivaji. Distant worship, coupled with an absolute lack of cojones to do even a tenth of what their “heroes” accomplished make the sangh parivar nothing more than an angry rabble of fan-boys.
They also have a political party of smooth talkers and mass leaders, somewhat sane enough to know that the BJP is actually at the head of a slightly Centre-Right coalition—and that is better than being the sole champion of the lunatic fringe.
One of the most delightful parts of the BBC radio and TV show Good Gracious Me was the sketch that parodied the belief (dearly held by Indians, especially those abroad) that everything in the world originated in their ancient civilisation.