Posts Tagged ‘Sharad Pawar’

BCCI hands Dhoni cricket trophy without Kashmir!

25 March 2013

The Border-Gavaskar trophy was proudly handed over to Mahendra Singh Dhoni last evening by the “two legends” of Australian and Indian cricket, Alan Border and Sunil Gavaskar, after India’s stunning 4-0 brownwash of Australia in the four Test match series.

But look closely at the trophy which Dhoni received and held up.

You will find a map of India with half of Jammu & Kashmir missing; a map which looks like the maps that foreign publications use, on which the censors then dutifully put their stamp: “The borders of India are neither correct nor accurate”. Or something to that effect.

Is this a trophy created by Indians or Australians?

Did BCCI (which presumably represents the nation) okay the use of such a map? Did BCCI, many of whose high functionaries (from Sharad Pawar to Rajiv Shukla to Arun Jaitley to Laloo Prasad Yadav to Farooq Abdullah) are top politicians, agree to its use?

Is the proud uber-nationalist, Sunil Gavaskar, who refused the membership of the MCC when asked his identity, who walked out of an Australian ground because of a dodgy umpiring decision, OK with it? Couldn’t the commentators and the super-smart cameras which can spot a sweatdrop on a forehead, see this?

Or does it not matter, as long as the wallets—of the board, the cricketers, the ex-cricketers, the channels, the commentators—are overflowing?

Or is it all OK since even Gujarat’s borders or of the peninsula’s, are not what they usually are?


Hat tip: Rajeev A. via Abhijeet Harolikar


Also read: Narayana Murthy and the anthem row


China Daily hands back occupied areas to India

How New York Times stumped Indian censors

The Indian Express stands up for The Economist

Censored but no copies have been confiscated

The Hindu and a scribe who was told to shut up

CHURUMURI POLL: Has India lost moral compass?

23 October 2012

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

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

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

But what of the opposition?

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

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

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

Andheri raat mein, Diya tera haat mein phone

15 August 2012

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Freebies are the lubricants that grease the wheels of democracy in India—and the cranky old engine needs to be serviced at least once in five years. Wine and money have traditionally played a great role in ensuring that the cogs, also known as contestants, run smoothly for the next few years.

Of late, though, the traditional attractions have partly given way to other more persuasive and trendy modes in terms of sops. If DMK gave colour television sets, AIDMK promised free laptops in the last election. More recently, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister promised digital tablets.

Not to be left behind, the ruling UPA government reportedly hit upon a scheme to put a mobile phone in the pocket of every BPL ( Below Poverty Line) family before the next general elections. If things had gone as planned, this was to be announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Independence Day address at Red Fort this morning.

However, the ‘Har haath mein phone’  project seems to have been abruptly put on the backburner, though it should surprise nobody if it is launched with full fanfare before you can say 2014.

Costing an estimated Rs7,000 crore, the project would have “empowered” every BPLite all over the country.  Unfortunately, there was some spoilsport who put a spanner in to the works.

Disputes broke out over the actual number of BPL families. While the government thought there were 6 crores of them, state governments put the figure at closer to 11 crores and our ever-correct planning commission put the families at a safe 8 crores. Problems due to distribution, power shortage, recharging, battery replacement etc were also envisaged.

Imagine ‘har haat mein phone’ scene would have created in the country. It would have brought back memories of Dada Kondke’s 1985 movie ‘Andheri raat mein, Diya tere haat mein’ movie of double entendres.

It would have met the double agenda of Congress to win the elections and decimating the opposition.

Apart from being a stepping stone for winning the election ‘hands down’, what other uses would this massive project have served?

# In India more food is wasted than consumed the day after any marriage. The number of dishes, the menu drawn up etc is measured on a social scale than actual consumption. When marriages are conducted over a week with mehendi, sangeeth, Bollywood song and dance acts, what are a few crores for unconsumed food thrown away after each meal?

Har haath mein phone’ would have precisely helped reduce wastage on a national scale.  Most of the BPL phoneites would already be present outside marriage halls even as saath pheres are being taken. The food otherwise that would have gone wasted will now at least fill BPL family stomachs thanks to their networking with phone in har haath.

#  Recently Indian Railways who are supposed to carry passengers safely were given an additional job; that of disposing tons of food grains which were not fit for even animal consumption.

The railways had dumped their merchandise safely near Jagatpur, Odisha. The poor with nothing to eat dug into the riverbed and carried whatever they could in their bags. People rushed into feast on food certified unworthy of even animal consumption.

Well, with ‘har haath mein phone’, the BPLites would not have allowed it to happen. They would have networked and tracked the movements of the train, kept each other informed at every station and swooped on the food before it was buried in the sand. At least digging to retrieve grains from riverbeds would have been avoided.

# And in Sharad Pawar’s Maharashtra had they introduced the project, farmers, instead of committing suicide would have watched Dada Kondke’s old hit in the powerless nights across Maharashtra on their mobile phones.

CHURUMURI POLL: All over for Yediyurappa?

28 February 2012

The bottomline of the five headlines— “The high command had promised to reinstate me as CM in six months.” ” I won’t go to Delhi seeking CM’s chair.” “Untrustworthy people ditched BSY.” “BSY reinstatement chances bleak.” “Not many options before BSY.”—is that the BJP appears to have finally called the bluff on B.S. Yediyurappa.

Since his unceremonious ouster eight months ago, the former chief minister had, by turns, been sulking, simmering and scheming to return to the seat he once occupied but from which he was unceremoniously toppled under a haze of corruption charges involving the denotification and illegal mining scams.

Even the ignominy of a jail stint didn’t quell his ambitions, nor did it stop the Lingayat mutt heads—and the “leaders” seen with him—from making his return a caste issue.

So, what next for Yediyurappa? Will he stomach the insult and continue in the BJP? Will he bide his time till the elections? Will he split the BJP and join hands with Congress rebels to kickstart that outstanding party of clean politics, Sharad Pawar‘s NCP in the State? Does he still have some draw?

Or, is it all over for BSY bar the counting?

Also read: How much longer will BSY stay in BJP?


CHURUMURI POLL: Yediyurappa as CM again?

Not every song can become a Kolaveri Ditty

6 February 2012

Yes, it’s catchy. Yes, it’s creative. Yes, it’s a hit.

But, sadly, it will never be Kolaveri Di.

Still, to ask the contrarian question, does the song Pyaar namdukke aagbutaithe from the comic hero Komal‘s upcoming film Govindaya Namaha that uses “Shivajinagar Kannada” underline the usual stereotype about Muslims in a funny but offensive sort of way?

Also read: When Kolaveri Di meet Sharad Pawar ji

A real viral is when Hitler and Mr Bean sneeze

They gave us Veena Malik, we give them Dhanush

And the most popular song of the year is…?

And the most popular song of the year is…?

30 December 2011

A bunch of Punjabis sing the catchiest version of the song that will be played a million times on Friday night as the “murderous rage” of 2011 slips over into 2012.

Below, CNN reports that the first entry that pops up when you type “Why” into the search window is you know what.

Also read: When Kolaveri Di meet Sharad Pawar ji

A real viral is when Hitler and Mr Bean sneeze

They gave us Veena Malik, we give them Dhanush

They gave us Veena Malik, we give them Dhanush

21 December 2011

Who would have thought that an “actress” whose clothes gladly yield to gravity and a silly song with kindergarten lyrics would do more for “people to people” contact between India and Pakistan than the combined efforts of the external affairs ministries of the two countries put together and the heavy marketing of its two biggest media houses put together?

Link via Arun Simha, Charu Soni

Also read: When Kolaveri Di meet Sharad Pawar ji

A real viral is when Hitler and Mr Bean sneeze

CHURUMURI POLL: Yediyurappa as CM again?

20 December 2011

There is nothing like the aphrodisiac called power; it corrects all electile dysfunctions in a democracy. Barely five months ago, B.S. Yediyurappa was the black sheep of the BJP, kicking and screaming as he was led away to slaughter in full public view by his party which wanted to appear to the world that it was doing the right and correct thing in removing him from office following his indictment by the Lok Ayukta in the illegal mining scam.

“I will be back in six months,” were Yediyurappa’s ominous last words even as his protege D.V. Sadananada Gowda was taking charge as his successor. A stint in the central jail in Bangalore, after being named in a denotification scam, would have chastened normal human beings, but his “triumphant release” and the stinging defeat of the BJP in the Bellary by-elections have only embolded supporters to think that the ‘Return of the Yedi’ is round the corner.

First, all but three BJP members of Parliament reportedly told the party high command last week that they wanted him back as CM. And now, Yediyurappa himself has been quoted as saying “there is a feeling” in the BJP that he should occupy the hot seat again. He is even conducting special yagnas for his return, with Shobha Karandlaje in tow. With Gowda facing a crucial election saying that he will vacate if asked to, the scene is set, especially with rumours that Yediyurappa might split the party and hitch forces with Sharad Pawar‘s NCP if denied the chair.

Should Yediyurappa return? Will he? Has he paid for his transgressions with a mere jail stint? Will allowing him to return help or the harm the BJP’s image? And what happens to Sadananda Gowda?

Ask not what your leaders have done for you…

15 December 2011

With the year drawing to a close and Christmas close at hand, E.R. RAMACHANDRAN is in an expansive mood, compiling a list of gifts that he would like to give out to our various performing and non-performing assets.

1. Asif Zardari: A permanent hospital room in Dubai

2. Imran Khan: A Pakistani political pitch to bowl on

3. BJP leaders in Karnataka: Sites in Bangalore + a room in Parappana Agrahara

4. Jayalalitha: A set of 10,000 sample questions for practice

5. Rahul Gandhi:  ‘India is UP, UP is India’ T-shirt

6. Sharad Pawar: Protective cover for the other cheek

7. Team Anna: ‘Scams within’ report

8. Virender Sehwag: Indore pitch

9. Mamata Banerjee: Fireproof hospital (scale model)

10. Anna Hazare: Jantar Mantar for fasting

11. P. Chidambaram: A pocket map of Tihar

12. Manmohan Singh: A mike

13. Sonia Gandhi: Calendar with a red marker

14. Subramanian Swamy: Permanent room in  Supreme Court

15. Kapil Sibal: Facebook without faces

16. Sachin Tendulkar: 100 centuries of 90s

17. L.K. Advani: Hidden agenda

What gifts would you like to give your favourite performing and non-performing assets, for services rendered or denied in the year gone by?

Check out what ERR gave in 2008: Gifts for some one you love and don’t

A real viral is when even Hitler & Mr Bean sneeze

3 December 2011



Hi mama… yes, it is a catchy song mama. 1, 2, 3, 4

The lyrics are stupid-du, stupid-du

But the tune is good-du, good-du

Now it’s stuck in my head-du, head-du

And now I’m having a kolaveri, kolaveri, kolaveri, Headache-u dey.

Since the last two weeks Kolaveri di, the song from the upcoming Tamil movie titled 3 (moonu which in Tamil means three) has been all the rage. Kolaveri di (Kolaveri–uncontrollable rage or murderous rage and di–colloquial reference to a girl), is all the ‘kolaveri’ in India and among Indians abroad.

The media says that the song has traversed the language barrier mostly due to its ‘tamglish’ lyrics. But we all know that for music, language is no barrier. It just needs to please the ears. And this song, Kolaveri di, sure pleases the ears, but it also mocks our intellect. But then what can one expect, the song was penned in under 20 minutes as confessed by its lyricist and singer Dhanush himself.

This song will remind many of their college days when such songs were constantly made up and sung.

In college I, too, after a couple of pegs of whisky and high intensity discussion on human relationships, would become McDowell’s Muthanna, the bard, and along with my friends would indulge in our own kolaveri compositions, although ours were a little more risqué, entertaining and creative.

But we all can agree that anyone with even the slightest inclination towards rhyming has had his or her 20 minutes of banal lyrical outpouring like Dhanush.

The only difference is, he got paid for his ‘Tamglish’ 20-minute banal-spontaneity and it was recorded in a professional studio, which now has over 10 million YouTube hits. We, on the other hand, had a stool for drums and got paid in peg measures and our audiences were a few friends, some amused waiters and a security guard.

The only hits we got were from angry landlords and the occasional police patrol cops. All the same, these songs were fun. They were our stress busters and made life livable, and laughable.

That is why in India, where there is a constant sense of insecurity and heartache, music and songs are at our very core as they make — just for a moment — life tolerable. And so we wake up to music (suprabhatha), greet people musically, watch musicals and go to bed with retro lullabies.

No wonder we are a sing-song kind of people. We even speak in a sing-song manner, from the Hindi greeting, “kaisey hoooooo…” to the Kannada greeting, “hey-gidiee-raaaaa” to the Tamil greeting “nallaa erking laaaaa…,” we shake our heads, move our fingers, modulate our voices and come up with one hell of a musical greeting.

We are attached to music, so much so that even today it is almost unthinkable to have an Indian movie without songs. In fact music can decide the fate of a movie. But over the years the power of lyrical romance has taken a slight backseat.

From the mid-1990s, music was composed to match the atrocious lyrics instead of it being a homogenous creative process. And so romantic poets took a back seat and fly-by-night 20 minute-lyricists were born. And they gave us chicken fry and mobile numbers!

We are talking about the times of  Govinda and Bappi Lahiri when they gave us, “You are my chicken fry, you are my fish fry…” in the movie Rock Dancer. Then there was, “What is your mobile number, what is your smile number…?” in Haseena Maan Jayegi.

Even in Kannada films, the songs used to be so romantic, so poetic, while also being pleasing to the ear. Now we have lyrics like “Nim appa loosaa, nim amma loosa, naanoo loosa….” (is your father nuts, is your mother nuts, am I nuts?).

Now Vidya Balan’s song “Oo la la…” may be a hit. No surprise, it is a Bappi Lahiri composition, but back then Bappi got us hooked on to a ridiculous song titled, “Guttur guttur…” Yes, the chorus of the song was a bird sound! Guttur….guttur… a weird species only Bappi Lahiri could have discovered—or invented.

These songs may have terrible lyrical value, but they are catchy. They easily get stuck in one’s head and take a long time to leave. Such songs are called “awesomely bad songs”; songs that are lyrically terrible, but have a very high recall value, as you can’t stop humming them.

It was during this time that Hollywood made its entry into Bollywood in the form of the sexy Samantha Fox, once again thanks to Bappi Lahiri. Since then, we have had singers like Snoop Dogg, who wore a turban and sang “Singh is King, “Chiggy-Wiggy” by Kylie Minogue and more recen-tly, Akon singing “Chhammak Chhallo” in Ra.One.

Indeed artists like Akon can sing, but couldn’t Shaan or Himesh Reshammiya have done a better job with Chhammak Chhallo? May be, but they could not have generated the amount of publicity or hype that Akon did.

Today’s market is not talent driven but like all markets, it is driven by return on investment. And people like Akon generate publicity that indirectly helps in the movies’ box office collection. It also increased distributor confidence.

That is why Kolaveri di, though not a great musical work, is highly marketable. And so the first spark of marketing blitz was lit for the movie 3 with the news headlines “Dhanush’s new song leaked on the net!” (We have to wonder how, and who, “leaked” it).

This is called generating a buzz. The buzz turned to curiosity and people rushed to see what was so special about this song that it had to be leaked. To add to this, members of the whole team doing the movie are little-shots of the big-shots from the Tamil film industry.

The music director, 19-year-old Anirudh is the nephew of Rajinikanth. The director of the movie is Aishwarya, the daughter of Rajinikanth. The lead actor of the movie Dhanush, is the son-in-law of Rajinikanth. The lead actress of the movie is Shruthi Hassan, the daughter of Tamil star Kamal Hassan.

Need we say more?

And immediately after the “leak” there was an official release and an official video with these famous star children looking humble and intensely working at making a banal song. It is a perfectly executed publicity stunt.

The song is catchy; but what made it such a mega hit is the curiosity factor. After all, there have been better songs with much better tunes and lyrics composed by another Tamilian, A.R. Rehman. But his songs did not generate 10 million hits and end up becoming front-page news in national dailies!

In today’s digital world, curiosity is king. In today’s networked world there is a very thin line between voyeurism and curiosity and we very often go back and forth. And that is why Dhanush’s ‘Soup song’ was first a ‘leaked song,’ which inevitably then became a ‘hit song.’ But just because a song has millions of ‘hits,’ does not necessarily mean it’s the best or that good.

Soon Kolaveri di will be the new, cool Tamil word to use, like ‘macha’ was, a few years back. But for now I’ve had enough of Kolaveri di. People around me are constantly singing it and it makes me scream, “stop!” but then they don’t. So I’ve started singing my own irritating Kolaveri di back at them.

It goes like this mama….

If you don’t stop-u, stop-u,

I’ll give you a tight-eh slap-u, slap-u!

It’ll make your eyes pop-u, pop-u,

It may even make you poop-u, poop-u.

So please don’t test my kolaveri, kolaveri dey!

Well, this didn’t even take me 30 seconds to compose. Maybe I too can get a few hits, well, physical ones may be, from Dhanush fans.

* Speaking of slap-u…, if you liked the Soup song, you will love the Sharad Pawar slap song.

(Vikram Muthanna is the managing editor of the evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

Also read: When Kolaveri Di meet Sharad Pawar ji

India’s 25 most hated people: and the losers are…

2 December 2011

Of all the crappy devices that Indian media managers have devised to beef up the bottomline, nothing beats the unquestionable racket called “awards”. (If you can forget even more foul-smelling effluent like “paid news”, that is.) Between newspapers, magazines and TV channels, not a single area of life in the glorious land has been left unrewarded in recent years; the ranking duly unaudited by one or the other dubious consulting firm.

As so often when supply exceeds demand, what began as an exercise to salute the unrecognised has degenerated into a farce-multiplier. One English newspaper is currently in the middle of awarding—wait for it—India’s best salons. And what begins as a torrent at the beginning of the year goes on all year, and sometimes (as with awards handed out by a news channel last month) it is difficult to make out if the awards are for last year, this year or the next one.

For many of the media vehicles, the awards are merely a sophisticated of sucking up to power—for a price. (And vice versa.) And for most media houses, the awards’ “events” are a key source of revenue, as other avenues start drying up. Either way, the awards list—usually based on an opinion poll of humongous sample size—is a pain in the posterior of news consumers, full of boringly predictable names and crashingly boring acceptance speeches googled the previous night.

(Aside from the obvious irony that crooks, killers, looters and other vermin are presented as angels.)

How refreshing, therefore, that India Today magazine should run a ranking of not the best of the land, but the worst.  In its latest issue, the weekly has done a five-city opinion poll among 2,500 urban youth between 18 and 25 years of age, of India’s most hated public figures. And probably because the slap is fresh in their memory, Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar is at the very top of the pile of India’s generation next.

The top-25 most hated figures are:

1. Sharad Pawar

2. Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi

3. Prime minister Manmohan Singh

4. Former future prime minister L.K. Advani

5. BJP president Nitin Gadkari

6. CPM general secretary Prakash Karat

7. DMK chief M. Karunanidhi

8. Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha

9. Finance minister P. Chidambaram

10. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi

11. Congress president Sonia Gandhi

12. Petroleum minister Jaipal Reddy

13. RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav

14. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi

15. UP chief minister Mayawati

16. Former civil aviation minister Praful Patel

17. Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee

18. IT minister Kapil Sibal

19. Ex-Congress spokesman Jayanthi Natarajan

20. Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari

21. Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi

22. Law minister Salman Khurshid

23. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee

24. Urban development minister Kamal Nath

25. Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh

Of course, as with with all opinion polls, the India Today survey should carry the health warning: interesting, if true. Nevertheless, it is certainly interesting that the ten most hated list should contain only one communist, two Congressmen, three BJP men, and four from regional parties. Mayawati is below both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

Clearly the worthies between No. 19 and 21, both numbers included, come in because of their TV performances.

The IT poll also has a metro-wise split. Apparently the five people most hated by Bangalore youth are, in order of appearance: Sharad Pawar, Dinesh Trivedi, L.K. Advani, Sonia Gandhi and Prakash Karat.

So, who’s your pet hate?

What happens when Kolaveri Di meets Sharad ji

25 November 2011

It’s been a strange, surreal week, bookended by a third-rate Tamil song with nursery school lyrics going viral because the non-singer, non-actor who features in it is married to, well, Rajnikanth‘s daughter—and an agriculture minister who has been playing cricket with the country’s farmers and consumers for so long that no one would have minded him being slapped by a more educated, better placed sardar than an autodriver called Harvinder Singh.

Mercifully, someone has found a way out of the astounding piety and political correctness that has greeted Dhanush‘s “Kolaveri Di” and Sharad Pawar‘s ignominy to make sense of the two landmark events of the 47th week of the year of the lord 2011.

Link via Hari Shenoy

Is it time for Sonia Gandhi to be prime minister?

3 July 2011

The diagnosis of the UPA’s chronic illness since the 2009 polls has been markedly conventional. Everybody agrees that prime minister Manmohan Singh has messed up big-time, and that there has got to be a change at the top sooner not later, if “young” Rahul Gandhi‘s hopes are not to be dashed.

As for the aspirants, the usual names do the rounds: finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, the senior most leader in the party, whom the family doesn’t trust, home minister P. Chidambaram, whom the party can doesn’t trust, and neither of whom trust each other.

But do either Mukherjee or Chidambaram or anybody else in the party at the moment have in it in them to pull the Congrfess out of the hole and give it a push? In the Bombay newspaper DNA, editor-in-chief Aditya Sinha challenges the conventional wisdom, by suggesting that Sonia Gandhi should disregard her “moral voice” she first heard in 2004 with 2014 in mind:

“Perhaps the only thing left to be done that would undoubtedly shake everyone up and energise the government is for Congress President Sonia Gandhi to take over from Dr Manmohan Singh.

“It’s obvious, isn’t it?

“She is, after all, head of the dominant party of the UPA. If any of the allies threaten to walk out, she can walk them straight into jail. Imagine: if she throws Sharad Pawar in jail, she’ll become the Queen of Anti-Corruption (after all, Anna Hazare earned his crusading credentials by opposing Pawar).

“Rahul Gandhi won’t evade ministerial responsibilities for he’ll want to help his mother steer the ship of government through the choppy waters of global recession. Sonia at the helm of government will boost the Congress’s chances in UP. And she can smoothly pass the baton to Rahul in 2014.

“So, Soniaji, we beg you: rid us of this prime minister and instead of replacing him with one of the usual suspects, take matters into your own hands (before Sharad Pawar takes matters into his). After all, you have little to lose, and everything to gain.”

Read the full article: Time for Sonia Gandhi to become PM?

CHURUMURI POLL: Who is next in 2G arrest list?

20 May 2011

Make no mistake, 20 May 2011, is a red-letter day in contemporary Indian politics.

A serving politician, the daughter of a mighty regional satrap who is a partner in the ruling alliance, has been arrested and sent to jail for her involvement in the country’s largest scam. While we may quibble over whether the CBI would have been given the freedom to do this by the government of the day if it weren’t for the fact that the Supreme Court is directing it, there is no denying that this is not a everyday occurrence.

Kanimozhi‘s arrest is not the end of the 2G investigation and hers is certainly not the last arrest. She represents only one side of a hydra-headed scam that involves bigger corporate and political fish. Already Sharad Pawar‘s name has been mentioned in the Swan-DB Realty linkup; even bigger political names are being hissed about. Tata Teleservices and Reliance Telecommunications, the construction company Unitech, the corporate titans Ratan Tata, Anil Ambani, Venugopal Dhoot, Prashant and Shashi Ruia have all been mentioned in some form or the other. Etc.

Questions: Did you think you would see this day? Will Kanimozhi sing in concert with A. Raja? Will more politicians go behind bars? Will Niira Radia be next? Will the arrest of corporate chiefs shake the “confidence” of investors in the “India Story”? Was telecom really the “success story” it was made out to be? Will such arrests put the fear of god in politicians and businessmen? Or will it be business as usual after a few days?

What O-ji can learn from K-ji, C-ji and Rahul G

6 November 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Come Deepavali, most youngsters wait for the usual goodies: a new set of clothes, a box full of pataakis, and sweets, not necessarily in that order. But the essence is the same; everybody eagerly waits for presents in some form or the other.

This is also true to some extent when you have a relative coming from some other town to stay with you. As the aunt unpacks her suitcase after a hot cup of coffee, eager and expectant eyes hover around each and every move of hers as to when she will take out a packet of Bombay halwa or Dharwad peda.

So is the case with countries too.

When you have a visitor, who is also the most powerful person in the world, coming to visit your place, naturally there is some expectation about what he is going to unpack after he lands. So, when Barack Obama slips into Punjabi kurta and Michelle tucks into a saree, let’s see what goodies will pop on his teleprompter.



1. To stay clearly away from making any references to the ‘K’ word, not ‘Kama Sutra’ but Kashmir.

2. To make repeated references to terrorism, not in smooth general terms such as Al Qaeda etc, but in specific terms such as 26 /11, LeT , Jaish e Mohammed, etc, and handing over perpetrators of Mumbai massacre.

3. To get permanent membership to India on the United Nations security council.

4. Not to make it difficult to Indian companies to get visa for their employees.

5. To recognize and praise Rahul Gandhi as the future leader of India and not keep on praising Manmohan Singh as an extraordinary leader of our times.

6. To specifically reduce giving aid and arms to Pakistan which, all three contries know very well, will be used against India.


Although our honoured guest is not visiting Pakistan, as a rich guest he can still give gifts to our neighbour in so many ways and they both know that.

1. Raise Kashmir issue and nudge India to solve the same quickly. Or else the Af-Pak policy is doomed.

2. Quoting interlocutor Dileep Padgaonkar and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, they will want to be involved in dialogue with India.

3. Tell India to reduce their army presence in Kashmir valley and stop killing innocent civilians.

4. Tell India to solve the pending river water issues.

5. Tell India not to harass Pakistan cricketers implicated in match-fixing scandals through Sharad Pawar’s ICC.

6. Tell India and in particular home minister P. Chidambaram not to send so many dossiers every second day on 26 /11 as it has become difficult to find storage space for the same.


1. Praise India as one of the most important emerging nations in the world and since the time was not ‘ripe’ right now, he will ask India to continue its present great role and wait till time becomes ‘ripe’ .This is  for India’s permanent seat o the UN security council.

2. Will make a hair-rising, goose pimple-generating speech in Parliament quoting Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln. The 500+ MPs and their aunts will shake his right arm for an hour and almost yank it off. Hairs that dramatically rose during his speech will come back to the original position after sometime.

3. Will ask India to take over the leadership of Asia along with China; will praise India’s role in fighting terrorism. Same evening, the State department will praise Pakistan as ‘its strongest ally’ in its fight against global terrorism and announce another $3 billion in aid to a “valued partner”.

4. Will dance with school children of Mehouli and urge children from Mehouli and Minnesota to carry the torch of freedom to all corners of globe. Yes, they can.

5. Will call upon Bangalore software companies to share their knowledge with their counterparts in US by keeping their staff in Bangalore itself and not send them to US.

6. Will sing songs with adivasis in Connaught circus who have been rounded up outside Delhi and invite them to Alabama, US.

7. Will invite Suresh Kalmadi and Ashok Chavan, the emerging stars of the ruling party, for a White House luncheon and share their experiences for which they achieved their greatness.

In his eagerness to please the host, horror of horrors, he will forget to praise the emerging future leader which will create some kind of ‘cold war’ climate with the hosts.

Having realized this, he will send a message to the young leader before touchdown at Jakarta airport asking him to visit US as his personal guest and share his experiences of traveling in unreserved trains in India with full security around him.

Cartoon: courtesy Baloo‘s cartoon blog

Soup kitchens of soul as soup kitchens of stomach

7 September 2010

It’s a straightforward story. There are plenty of hungry people in “India Starving”. And there is plenty of foodgrains going waste in “India Rotting”. Give it to the needy for free instead of letting it go waste, says the Supreme Court. Can’t implement the suggestion, says agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.

It’s not a suggestion, it’s an order, reminds the SC. The court can’t formulate policy, says the prime minister of a country who talks too much of 9% GDP growth-rate and too little of eight Indian states accounting for more poor people than 26 African nations put together.

As the tu-tu-main-main continues, Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr looks to the world’s youngest religion for a way out of the logjam, in DNA:

“The Sikhs manage the langar successfully in the gurdwaras and this needs to be replicated in the public sphere. We need the people to do it because we have the means. Why is it not happening? Because there is a moral disconnect. We do not care. It is a damning state of affairs. If we have the means and we do not do anything about it, it means that our hearts are hardened.

“It is much worse than facing hard times. Those who are shouting the loudest on behalf of the poor are no better than those who have turned their faces away from it all because they refuse to act.”

And if the gurudwara example is expanded, and temples and mosques and churches and synagogues, all awash with funds, space, leadership and motivation, become the places to feed the hungry, then…?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Read the full column: We need public soup kitchens to feed hungry

Also read: Everybody loves a good number: 93, 77, 54, 33…

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

Is India still a developing, third-world country?

Indians should never ask where on earth Gabon is

P. SAINATH: India is a nation of two planets: rich and poor

U.R. RAO: Rising India’s share of poorest is growing

The Times of India and Commonwealth Games

3 September 2010

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: The year of the lord 2010 has seen the The Times of India in uber-aggressive mode.

The nation’s largest English daily that rarely ever wants to “afflict the comfortable” despite its size, reach, reputation, resources and influence, has pulled out all stops in exposing the murky IPL dealings of Lalit Modi, Union minister Sharad Pawar and his MP-daughter Supriya Sule, and their NCP partyman Praful Patel.

In all those four IPL-related stories, Times provided blanket coverage and then let matters rest after a while. But if there is one story on which it has been relentless in the last couple of months, it is its attack on the Commonwealth Games (CWG)—and Pawar’s former factotum, Suresh Kalmadi.

Day after day, Times has employed reporters, editors, columnists, authors, even commissioned industrialists, to rip the games and the chairman of its organising committee apart, with the kind of first-rate journalism that ToI has condemned to play second fiddle over the last decade.

A cursory count shows that between 1 August and 2 September 2010, The Times of India (Delhi market) has published no less than 107 negative headlines on the Commonwealth Games (sample them here) with the author Chetan Bhagat just short of advocating a boycott of the CWG on the pages of The Sunday Times of India (in image, above).

Given how rarely ToI wants to rock the boat, the question that is naturally being asked in Delhi and Bombay is, why. What’s behind the Times‘ new-found aggro?

Legitimate journalism, is of course the easiest explanation for ToI‘s proactivism. The fact that the CWG is in a mess—inflated bills, corrupt deals, leaky stadiums, incomplete facilities, etc—is beyond doubt, and Suresh Kalmadi’s own culpability in this (and other) dubious deals is also beyond question.

After all, if politicians like Mani Shankar Aiyar can ask searching questions on the CWG, why shouldn’t a newspaper?

Yet, it is unnatural for a “feel-good” newspaper like The Times of India, whose advertised credo is to wake up the reader with a good feeling in his head, to rub in the bad news in the all-important Delhi market, day in and day out. Moreover, bigger scams involving more important people have been allowed to rest.

So, what gives?

There are no answers, just whispers.

But for over a fortnight now, journalists have been hissing about a four-page document that reportedly suggests that the Times‘ interest in the story may be more than just journalistic.

Now, it is up on Flickr (and Scribd).

The first page of it is a signed November 2009 letter from a director of Times of India group (C.R. Srinivasan) on a ToI letterhead to Suresh Kalmadi, outlining the “costumer connect initiatives” the group proposes to undertake.

“Kindly let us know of your decision to grant ‘official newspaper’ status to The Times of India at your earliest convenience,” concludes Srinivasan’s letter.

The second page is a signed note from Times Group general manager Gautam Sen to the additional director-general, communications, of the CWG organising committee, presenting a “comprehensive print proposal” (for Times of India, Navbharat Times, Maharashtra Times, Mirror and Sandhya Times) along with a rate-card.

For 2-page reports on five key milestone days (carrying a half-page ad of CWG at DAVP (department of audio visual publicity) rates and a half-page ad at commercial days); for six one-page reports (where in 65% of the page will have edit and 35% will be paid-for); and 12 full pages of advertorial at DAVP rates, Times proposes a Rs 12.19 crore package.

For a claimed combined nationwide circulation of 51.84 lakh copies for the five dailies, the breakdown is Rs 4.61 crore + Rs 3.31 crore + Rs 4.27 crore = Rs 12.19 crore.

The last-two pages doing the rounds—an unsigned note from a bureaucrat to a senior bureaucrat or to Kalmadi himself, explaining the fineprint of the proposed Times package—leave little to the imagination.

In summary, the ToI proposal has the following benefits:

# OC [organising committee] in totality pays for 16.6 pages and in return gets the leverage for 28 pages.

# It [ToI group] has the potential to form opinions of the public at large. It is also expected that with the influence that the ‘Response’ department has over editorial, the OC can get neutral and positive coverage from now to the Games.

# We can consider and extended and beneficial deals with ToI‘s other properties viz, TV, radio, internet, etc, including Economic Times (all editions) may be requested of ToI.

While on the face of it, the sum of Rs 12.19 crore may seem large, the benefits offered on a national basis are considerable and the proposal should be considered favourably.

Obviously, these notes and letters do not represent the full story and there is nothing—repeat, nothing—in them to suggest that the Times‘ coverage of CWG and Kalmadi has a connection with this and/or other correspondence.

But judging from the CWG coverage so far, it is fair to assume that ToI did not get the “official newspaper” status. (The buzz is that Hindustan Times has received that status with a lower than Rs 12.19 crore bid. At what terms HT secured the ‘My Delhi, My Games’ tag is not known, but Delhi’s two biggest English dailies do not come out smelling of roses.)

Judging from the hyper-ballistic coverage of CWG and Kalmadi on Times Now, it is also reasonably safe to assume that the plan to extend the deal to Times‘ other properties came to nought. (CNN-IBN swung the baton rights’ deal, unlike Times Now and the other aggrieved bidder, NDTV.)

Nevertheless, at a time when other Indian media specialities like “medianet, paid news” and “private treaties” have become the flavour of the season, the four-page ToI-CWG note lays bare the alarming interplay between editorial and advertising in Indian media houses like never before.

The two-page note appended to the Times‘ managers’ notes also shows how advertisers are confident of buying “neutral and positive coverage” if they can throw a few crores.

Conversely, the bottomline is clear: if an advertiser doesn’t play along, there is hell in store.

Also read: Why Delhi shouldn’t host Commonwealth Games

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Mani Shankar Aiyar ‘anti-national’?

Why Ram Pyari couldn’t take her daughter home

If we can send man to the moon, why can’t we…?

8 August 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The Ace Political Expert (APE) was coming out of the Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra (GKVK) campus in Hebbal after attending a seminar. He was surrounded by delegates who held samples of food grains grown across India, in small, neatly packed, airtight ziploc covers.

After his guests left, APE and I went into the canteen.

“So you have become quite an expert in wheat and paddy,” I started off while sipping hot ‘Cothas’ coffee.

“Anybody can become an expert and go on to become a member of the Planning Commission. I am not saying this, It’s Kamal Nath, minister for roads and highways, who thinks so,” retorted APE.

“Which is why, perhaps, despite bumper crops we don’t have enough godowns or silos to store food grains in our country while millions get little or nothing to eat. Isn’t it shameful?” I asked as I held the samples of wheat he had kept on the table.

I was as angry as Muttiah Muralidharan was on Bishen Singh Bedi.

“When a country gives importance only to cricket rather than food grains, farmers suicide and malnutrition deaths, these things are bound to occur. Next, I won’t be surprised if you blame our agriculture minister Sharad Pawar for this,” APE responded.

“Every year the planning commission holds a series of meetings for ‘Budget Estimates’, ‘Revised Budget Estimates’ etc. Have any of their Members ever bothered how the country will store the food grains?” I demanded.

I think I was shouting like a town crier with a voice which had shades of Arnab Goswami in it.

“Cool it kanaiah, Ramu!  We are not in a Times Now debate. The planning commission only doles out funds for seeds, fertilisers, etc. Once in a way Montek Singh Ahluwalia may put his hand out of the window in Yojana Bhavan to check if it is raining. They are neither concerned if there is drought or bumper production nor in its distribution. They can’t be bothered whether there are godowns built in the last 60 years.”

“Who then is responsible? What about Food Corporation of India?”

“The FCI chief is already over- burdened to decide whether he should make all-purpose godowns or specialised godowns for different grains like wheat, rice millet etc. He is also seized with the idea whether he should construct the costlier silos or multipurpose godowns as in Punjab where they stack whisky and let the wheat rot in the open. Known for their strong economics, Punjabis stack fast-moving items like liquor than wheat.”

“What are the States doing in this regard? Don’t they have the responsibility of feeding their starving people?”

“Yes, they have. That’s why they are sending their entire MLA lot to foreign countries on a ‘study’ tour to understand how they grow, store and feed their people.  Karnataka under H.D. Kumaraswamy sent its MLAs to China. B.S. Yediyurappa is sending the whole lot from Vidhana Soudha to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore to study their agricultural culture in full detail.”

I was getting nowhere.

“Doesn’t the ministry of food and agriculture own responsibility in this regard at all?”

Without knowing, I had come back to square one.

“Who says they don’t? Since lakhs of tons of wheat had become inedible for even animals, to pacify hungry stomachs and those bordering on malnutrition, the minister sent some officials on a junket to quickly negotiate a price and import wheat.  Never mind we paid double the international price, but didn’t we solve the food shortage problem?” concluded APE.

I could do was stand gaping.

Everybody loves a cheap, vegetarian thali–II

6 August 2010

While the nation gets titillated this week by Suresh Kalmadi‘s ravenous appetite, last week by the Reddy brothers’, the previous week by Sharad Pawar‘s (and his adorable daughter Supriya Sule‘s), the week before that by Lalit Modi‘s, the fortnight before that by Madhu Koda‘s, Thiru Andimuthu Raja‘s in the one before that etc, spare a thought for how little food inflation seems to exercise the grey cells of our neta-babu log.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee managed to assuage Parliament by dipping into jargon like “adverse inflationary pressure” to explain what’s happening to prices. But if there’s one reason why the fattened calves of our demcoracy do not “get” what burgeoning food prices are doing in a nation where half the nation lives below the poverty line–836 million Indians get by with less than Rs 20 a day—it’s because they have little or no exposure to it.

The latest issue of India Today carries the menu card of the Parliament canteen, and it’s a reflection of the dream world our MPs and MLAs inhabit.

Tea: Re 1

Soup: Rs 5.50

Dal: Rs 1.50

Curd rice: Rs 11

Vegetable pulao: Rs 8

Rajma rice: Rs 7

Tomato rice: Rs 7

Fish curry: Rs 13

Chicken: Rs 24.50

Rice: Rs 2

Dosa: Rs 4

Kheer: Rs 5.50

Fruit cake: Rs 9.50

Vegetarian thali: Rs 12.50

Non-vegetarian thali: Rs 22

Chicken birnai: Rs 34

Chicken curry: Rs 20.50

Butter chicken: Rs 27

This, when the average worth of each MP is Rs 5.1 crore.

This, when the average salary of each minister in the Manmohan Singh cabinet is Rs 7.5 crore.

For the record, price of rice between 2004-08 shot up by 45 per cent and the price of wheat went up by 60 per cent in the same period. Below are the 2009 rates published by Indian Express to show how much unparliamentary “food inflation” has caught up with Parliamentarians in the Parliament canteen.

Vegetarian thali: Rs 12.50

Non-vegetarian thali: Rs 22

Sada dosa: Rs 2.50

Masala dosa: Rs 4

Dal (assorted): Rs 1.50

Soup with one slice: Rs 5.50

Four chapatis: Rs 2

Boiled rice: Rs 2

Of course, on top of free food, MPs also get plenty of free phone calls, free air line tickets, free railway tickets and a little pocket money in the form of MPLADs to play around with. Plus, on the last day of Parliament they also vote themselves another hike in their meagre salaries.


* Photograph used for illustration purposes only. The temple of democracy reserves the right to add, alter, switch items without prior notice depending on the day of the week.

Also read: Everybody loves a good, cheap vegetarian thali—I

IPL’s thugs are no better than Maoists and Naxals

25 April 2010

SHAH ALAM KHAN writes from New Delhi: To qualify as an Indian, it is essential that you love cricket, it is important that you gossip, it is vital to fall in love with pelvic-thrusting actors and cajoling actresses on the celluloid screen, and it is quintessential that you make money the quick (and sometimes the wrong) way.

The saga of Indian Premier League (IPL), the beleaguered cricket league of India, is no exception to these general rules of Indianness. The vulgar display of money, power and beauty is there for all to see.

From selfish business tycoons to iconic players, all adorn the masala called IPL. It is surely entertainment at its best.

The kind of recipe which made a friend’s 85-year-old grandma vouch for a team (it’s a different matter that she can’t make out why the two brothers, called “mid off” and “mid on”, play for every team!)’. IPL is fun as long as it confines itself to the cricketing field.

Last week the game spilled over, flooding our fragile democratic institutions and drowning a lot in its wake.

To believe that all what happened in the last couple of weeks is the result of an ego clash between Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor would be rather stupid and naïve. In fact are we being made to believe that a shrewd businessman and a newly crowned politician do have an ego? Doesn’t make sense to me.

In all its three years of existence, IPL was not about cricket. It was about money. About a lot of money!

The unprecedented value of the IPL was too much to be resisted by all—politicians, administrators, business moguls, cine stars. Everyone wanted a piece of this rich pie. But are we really interested in the Tharoors, Pawars, Ambanis and Modis?

Corruption in the IPL does not really worry me.

From the day of its conception the IPL was not a sanctum sanctorum. “Brand IPL” as it is tried to be labelled by those who believe in the politics and power of “brands” was a hot bed of vested interests. It was an outlet for black money. Yes, they also played cricket to keep the likes of us think that the league represented a sport so close to a billion Indian hearts.

The financial aspects of IPL are not only murky but an eye opener for those who thought that India was a poor nation with more than 40 per cent of the population living below the poverty line. The total value of IPL, which even Modi cannot predict with surety, is expected to be around Rs 70,000 crore.

This unaccounted money is available to the richest people of India. No doubt the rich got richer in the IPL.

Compare this to a cumulative expenditure of mere Rs. 27.59 crores in the prestigious national rural guarantee scheme of the government of India for the state of Orissa in 2008-09. The Orissa example is even more glaring as this is the state where hunger deaths are reported on a regular basis.

Some may argue, and correctly so, that it is foolhardiness to compare a government scheme with a privately owned sporting event which is meant for entertainment. Sure, but this is the best way to show how India entertains and Bharat survives under one roof.

The contrast of IPL money and the lack of it in governmental schemes shows the divergence of thought and responsibility which goes in making India a nation of such huge contradictions. It is this thought process which gives birth to Maoists, Naxals and other elements of state defiance.

With the muck and shame of IPL written large on the faces of corporate and political class of India, words of our honourable home minister, Shri P. Chidambaram, sound so hollow, “we shall counter the Maoists with force. They are the gravest internal security threat to our country”. How can we even expect to believe a word of what he says?

Maoists, Naxals, Naga Militia. Are any of these a bigger threat to the nation than the financial scamsters of IPL? Shouldn’t the equation be set right now?

May be one Maoist for every thug involved in the IPL?

How about “neutralising” the threat of Lalit Modi and his brigade before “neutralising” the alleged mastermind of the Dantewada massacre, Ramanna Paparao?

IPL even described socialism in its own new way.

According to a report released just before the end of IPL2 (2009) by the equity research firm IIFL, Rajasthan Royals, the team representing Jaipur would have made the highest profit of Rs 35.1 crore in the group matches of the second edition of the tournament even when their performance was below par compared to their champion status of 2008.

Kolkata Knight Riders, which finished at the bottom in the league table in South Africa, nevertheless ended up with the third highest profit of Rs 25.8 crore in IPL 2. King’s XI representing Punjab, which also did not make it to the semis, just beat Kolkata to second spot with a profit of Rs 26.1 crore.

How interesting is that!

Teams doing poorly in terms of cricket will not necessarily fare poor in their financial gains. It looks as if Lalit Modi and his gang of franchises have defined what could be called as “IPL Socialism”.

The IPL also represents a loot of public funds, my and your money, which doesn’t even get noticed.

Each day-and-night match of the IPL played under flood lights, consumes electricity enough to run 500 average Indian homes for a month. The provision of subsidised electricity doesn’t make things any different. It is believed that the average electricity bill for a single day and night cricket match of the IPL is more than $15,000.

For those interested in numbers, this is the government’s expenditure on health for ten adult Indians if they live up to an age of 70 years (at the rate of $21 PPP).

Water, a deficient resource in cities like Mumbai and Delhi is used to keep the fields green during the IPL. This, in a country which is now at the top of the childhood malnutrition charts of the globe with lack of clean water being the primary cause of a large number of infant and childhood morbidity and mortality.

The money and its earthy use in the IPL is a matter of shame for each Indian.

We all love cricket but surely not in a way in which Lalit Modi packed it for us. The very fact that a large part of our society is still deprived of basic daily needs including food should always weigh heavily on our conscience.

Why are we as civil society becoming oblivious to the needs of the common Indian? How can we even accept an agriculture minister presiding over the functions of the IPL when hundreds of farmers are committing suicide day in and day out?

How are we justified in condemning the Maoists when the Indian society gives them an IPL every now and then? If the law of the land does not permit theft, how can it allow this unprecedented day light robbery? The vulgarity of IPL stands defiant.

If Lalit Modi and his band of filchers cannot feel for the poor they should at least respect poverty.

(Dr Shah Alam Khan is an orthopaedic surgeon at the nation’s premier medical college and hospital, the all Indian institute of medical sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. Visit his blog: India and Bharat)

Photograph: The ICC’s next chief, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, with his protege, BCCI president Shashank Manohar. The duo met home minister P. Chidambaram and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday in Delhi after which Pawar pulled the plug on IPL commissioner Lalit Modi (courtesy The Hindu)

Also read‘IPL threatens cricket’s democratisation trends’

TWEET THIS: Shashi Tharoor and Globalisation 2.0

Making capital out of Ambedkar, Maoism, cricket

Anjushathamanam janangal matrame Tharoorine…

18 April 2010

Rajiv Gandhi didn’t have to go for the Bofors scandal.

A. Raja wasn’t asked to go for the spectrum scam. Kamal Nath stays despite the rice export scam. P. Chidambaram stays after presiding over the biggest mass murder of his own men. Neither the relentless suicides in Vidarbha nor the rise in food prices or a multitude of scandals, said and unsaid, can dislodge Sharad Pawar. His crony Praful Patel stays despite running Air-India into the ground.

Shashi Tharoor?

The New Indian Express goes to 523 Thiruvananthapuramkarans to get a feel of what the people in his constituency think of the IPL hungamam.

The answer? “Verum anjushathamanam janangal matrame Tharoorine ozhivakkanamennu aagrahikkunnulloo.”

Image: courtesy The New Indian Express

Watch the video: Stephen Cobert with Shashi Tharoor

Also read: TWEET THIS: Shashi Tharoor and Globalisation 2.0

CHURUMURI POLL: Is there a scam in the IPL?

‘Business is now just an extension of politics’

Aal iz not well. Sport needs a jaadoo ki thappad.

18 January 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: In India, high-sounding bodies like “sports ministry” and/or “sports federation” is an oxymoron. Because each is an anti-thesis of the other. And because, sometimes, they are also managed by absolute morons.

Let me explain why.

# In February 2008, the badminton association of India organises a camp in Goa prior to the Thomas and Uber cups. After all 32 players check in when the organisers realise they didn’t have  shuttle-cocks for  practice. The camp was called off and the participants were asked to go home.

# A number of Indian weight-lifters are routinely caught for taking banned drugs for performance enhancement, bringing country to disrepute and shame. Yet nothing is done by anybody either in the sports ministry or by the concerned federation to root out the evil. Instead, the same athletes participate year after year.

# Sprint queen P.T. Usha, who really put ‘Indian Athletics’ on the world map along with Milka Singh, cries publicly on national television when the organisers of an athletics function in Rajasthan can’t even arrange for a decent hotel room for her after inviting her.

# In the baton handover function in London for the Commonwealth Games, we had an array of film stars, tennis queens, dancers, none of them even remotely connected with athletics; there was no Usha the only Indian sprinter the world recognises to this day.

# If hockey players going on a strike to get their oral assurances in writing before they could continue with their training was shame enough, relief in the form of Indian cricketers who will contribute from their pockets to save hockey is shame multiplied many times.

# Even BCCI, supposedly the richest sports body on the planet, has people who know nothing about the game. In the recent Feozshah Kotla pitch fiasco, it was found the curator of the pitch knew nothing about the preparation of a cricket match as he was a sports kit manufacturer. The members of the 25-member committee are a builder, couple of businessmen, a banker, industrialists etc. Only two Kirti Azad and Chetan Chauhan were cricketers.

Who are these “jokers” who are ruining Indian sport?

And why are we silent about what’s happening?

The sports ministry and sports federations across the country are mainly run by babus, fixers, brokers most of whom would have never played a game or entered a sports arena, and whose chief interest is not in promoting the game or the players but in feathering their own nests.

Even cricket, the most popular, most televised, most watched game in the country, with overflowing coffers, is full of politicians, time-servers and social climbers.

# Sharad Pawar, Union agriculture minister, will shortly become the president of the International Cricket Council after being president of Board of Cricket Control in India.

# Arun Jaitley was the Union law minister when NDA was in power and is the President of DDCA.

# Laloo Prasad Yadav, former railway minister, is the president of Bihar cricket association.

# Narendra Modi, chief Minister of Gujarat, is the president of Gujarat cricket association.

# Dr Farooq Abdullah, the former chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and a Union Minister currently, is president of J&K cricket association.

The same goes for a number of other sports federations as diverse as football (Praful Patel) and mountaineering (M.S. Gill). Any wonder, there is hardly any coordination between the sports ministry and the various federations like boxing, wrestling, shooting, etc.

Any wonder, there is hardly any vision?

We have had some great players who brought glory for the country. But that has mostly come from those operating in spite of the federations, not because of them: P.T. Usha, Prakash Padukone, Vishwanathan Anand and now the Olympics gold medal winner Abhinav Bindra, who is at loggerheads with the national rifle association.

Till such day the sports ministry and sports federations realise they are there because of the sportspersons and athletes and their primary goal should be nurture and take care of their genuine concerns, sports in our country will remain at the bottom in world rankings and sportspersons will continue to languish.

Also read: With sports ministers like these, god, tussi great ho

Say hello to Mani Shankar Aiyar for a real cock-up

CHURUMURI POLL: Good to lose Asiad bid?

CHURUMURI POLL: A pardon for Mr Azharuddin?

22 November 2009

A classic cliche in Indian cinema is the criminal who tries to gain legitimacy by standing for an election and getting elected. Something quite like that but not the same thing is afoot with the former India captain and middle-order batsman Mohammed Azharuddin.

Consigned to the dustbin of cricketing memory by the matchfixing scandal, the gentle, softspoken Hyderabadi was magically thrust on the people of Moradabad by the Congress party, who not only flocked to his election meetings in droves but elected him with a thumping majority.

With the suffix “MP” now after Azhar’s name, a delegation of Congress leaders led by former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh who has the ear of Rahul Gandhi, and including BCCI functionary and Congress Rajya Sabha member Rajiv Shukla, have petitioned BCCI president Sharad Pawar to lift the ban on Azhar.

“We want the lifetime ban to go from the man who brought laurels to the country with his skills. There were many players in the match-fixing case but they are all free of the ban. Why should the one on Azhar continue?” Singh is quoted as saying.

Since Azharuddin is too old to make a comeback, the lift-ban plea, according to reports, is designed to remove the taint on the “middle-order miyan” in the Congress’ bid to package him into a “Muslim mascot” in Uttar Pradesh, where the party has big plans.

Question: Should the ban be lifted? Was the ban too harsh to start with, especially with Azhar requiring just one Test to complete 100 in a career? Can politics be used to overturn a cricketing ban? If any crime is pardonable with the passage of time, is anything worth the time?

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

18 August 2009

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

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

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

Answer: Below



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

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

It was not politics, but service.

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

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

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

Will Mayawati lend her portrait to publicise Rajiv Gandhi?

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

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

It’s a frightening list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happens if and when a dam of milk explodes

3 August 2009

KPN photo

Many moons ago, Sharad Pawar, then chief minister of Maharashtra, came to the Lalitha Mahal Palace hotel in Mysore for a summit with the chief ministers of the southern States. Stepping out, he grandly told the assembled reporters that agreement had been reached on the Dudh Sagar issue.

The reporters, of course, knew nothing of Dudh Sagar, although one of them bravely ventured to guess that it must be “some milk project” involving Karnataka and Maharashtra. The Dudh Sagar is some milk project, except that it is the milk of water.

Yesterday, this is how it looked when the milk majestically gushed into the State from India’s fifth tallest water falls.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News