Friday, November 9, 2012

A non issue of 'bad husband' Lord Rama


Ram Jethmalani has courted controversies yet again. But on a wrong issue. The credit for this goes to the media - who by television culture is surviving or thriving a corruption a day.

Jethmalani's remarks that Lord Rama was a 'bad husband' should be taken in the spirit he is said.

In an interview with Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN, the ace lawyer has rightly said that the media has lost its sense of humour too.

Thanks to the culture of the 'idiot box' - that is the television channels - the intellectual sense is just not around in media today.

I cannot agree more with Anita Pratap of the famous LTTE-Sri Lanka reporting in 1980s and 1990s that:

“The fallout of modern television coverage is that it has made journalism superficial, unnaturally fast-paced and entertainment oriented, and it comes with inherent, embedded distortions”. (Courtesy:
B G Verghese: ‘Breaking the Big Story – Great Moments in Indian Journalism’)

It is worth mentioning here that the Hinduism was never understood to be what it is today. Of course, the Sangh Parivar is to be blamed for making our grand Hinduism - one God religion.

Even in the past humour on Lord Rama and other characters of Ramayana have been around.

In Bengal, noted comedian the Late Bhanu Bandyopadhyaya had a satire record-player (audio) drama: 'Nava Ramayan' -- where jokes like Rama being a bad husband or Lakshmana being 'manly' only with women had surfaced.

Please note Bhanu died in 1982 and this was prior to BJP-Sangh Parivar era. We did not have Shah Bano case nor Salman Rushdie's 'Satanic Verses' was banned yet.... in other words, the country was more tolerant --- or in effect 'unmindful' to silly jokes or genuine jokes.

I am sure people never doubted Bhanu's faith in Hinduism, because that's never an issue.

This is new secular India and the media which will allow a so called great painter to paint Goddess Saraswati naked; but will make life hell for a BJP leader like L K Advani for saying Jinnah a 'secular' -- vis-a-vis one of his speeches as founder of Pakistan.

The same media latched on the remarks by Jethmalani....but forgot the joker in a 'crown prince' when he compared Kargil cnflict with FDI retail.

Here I am also tempted to talk about famous Bengali poet Michael Madhusudhan Dutt, who had described Lord Rama as 'bikari raghav' in Meghnad Badh Kavya.... In 2012, Michael would have been dubbed an ISI agent... over to you.

- ends



Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Dream Cabinet - Jokingly Yours


My dream cabinet on the occasion of Navratri and Durga Puja festive season is as follows:


# PM : has to be our honourable MMS (Dr Maun Mohan Singh) – silence is truly golden

# Minister for Jehad Affairs: After his bloodbath remarks, Salman Khurshid will be a natural choice

# Minister for Hit-and-Run in Corrupt practices: No marks for guessing – its Arvind Kejriwal

# Minister for Wrong Publicity: After stiff competition with Jairam Ramesh, Digvijaya Singh would get the honour.

# Minister for Toilet: Natural choice is Jairam Ramesh and on his mother’s special petition he is also given additional charge of Temple Affairs

# Minister-in-waiting: Rahul Gandhi --- Will be given status of ‘prime minister from 10 Janpath

# NAC (National Advisory Council for Family and of Family) chairperson will be of course, Italian madam, Sonia

--- Deputy chairman : Son-in-Law Matters : Robert Priyanka Gandhi Vadra

# Minister for National Sympathy: after the waves of sympathy for 'social enterprise', the portfolio will go to Nitin Gadkari


I am still thinking about portfolios for the likes of Sharad Pawar, Supriya Suley, Arun Jaitley, Mohan Bhagwat

Pls feel free to suggest…. (No caste politics will be encouraged ha ha--- PS: ‘national joke’)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Amitabh: Hero of disillusionment of young angry Indian


He will be best known as someone who defined and redefined stardom.
With a brooding look, fire in eyes and ire practically emerging out of his soul, his masterpiece roles in films like 'Zanzeer', 'Deewar' and 'Trishul' mirrored the disillusionment of young Indian of that time reeling under controlled economy vices – the joblessness, antagonized family life, corruption and price rise.

It was not without reason when one film writer rightly wrote once, one look at him on the screen and you knew: there was nothing much in life to sing and dance about.
Dissatisfaction, they say is very strong element in the life of a
middle class citizen and Amitabh's films will keep giving in
refreshing memories to Indians about the the roles he played – umpteen
times as Vijay – much befittingly portrayed every Indian's desire of
the time that man always feels that he could have achieved more – done
more good to himself and his society.
Born on October 11, 1942 to the family of noted Hindi poet, Harivansh Rai Bachchan and socialite mother Teji, he grew up with best of both the upbringing culture – western lifestyle from mother and the oriental values from his father.
Amitabh in later years once recalled his father saying, "If you don't
enter a gate, just jump over the wall". This is precisely what he did to
achieve the stardom, and of course retained it even at the ripe age of 60 plus with a finesse not mastered by many in the world of entertainment.
When romantic films and chocolate cream images of screen heroes were
going strong, it was swinging against the stream when he signed for a
role as inspector ‘Vijay Khanna’ in Prakash Mehra's 'Zanzeer' in 1973 to
record his first milestone performance. The role came to him only after
Dharmendra had rejected it. Grapevine was that with past failures, prior to Zanzeer, Amitabh was almost planning to quit Mumbai for good!

Zanzeer was his first film as the leading protagonist to achieve box office
success that earned him a Filmfare Nomination for Best Actor. The same year, he married Jaya on June 3 and around this time they appeared in several films together, not only in Zanjeer but in films such as Abhimaan which was released only a month after their ceremony. Later Bachchan played the role of an industrialist’s son Vikram in the film Namak Haraam, a social drama directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and scripted by Biresh Chatterjee addressing themes of friendship. His supporting role opposite Rajesh Khanna and Rekha was praised as his angst dialogue delivery and maneerism won him the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award – spelling a tough competition for Rajesh Khanna ahead.
Subsequently 'Anand' made Amitabh and probably unmade Rajesh Khanna.
In 1975 he starred in a variety of film genres from the comedy Chupke
Chupke, the crime drama Faraar to the romantic drama Mili. However,
1975 was the year when he appeared in two films which are regarded as
important in Hindi cinematic history. He starred in the Yash Chopra
directed film ‘Deewar’ opposite Shashi Kapoor, Nirupa Roy, and Neetu
Singh which earned him a Filmfare Nomination for Best Actor.

The film became a major hit at the box office in 1975. He did not look back since then. Released on August 15, 1975 was Sholay (meaning Fire) which became the highest grossing film of all time in India earning Rs. 2,36,45,00,000 equivalent to US$ 60 million, was another film that made his position practically invincible.

Although with angry young man image, Bachchan cemented his status as Bollywood's pre-eminent action hero, the Big B, as he came to be known later, illustrated that he was flexible in other roles, successfully playing the romantic lead, in films such as Kabhie Kabhie (1976) and comic timing in comedies such as Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and of course earlier in Chupke Chupke (1975) .

In 1979 for the first time, a multi-facet quality of his came to light when Amitabh was required to use his singing voice for the film Mr Natwarlal which he starred in alongside Rekha. His performance in the film saw him nominated for both the Filmfare Best Actor Award and the Filmfare Best Male Playback Awards.

In 1979 he also received Best Actor nomination for Kaala Patthar (1979) and then went on to be nominated again in 1980 for the Raj Khosla directed film Dostana in which he starred opposite Shatrughan Sinha and Zeenat Aman. In 1981 he starred in Yash Chopra's melodrama Silsila where he starred alongside his wife Jaya and rumoured flame Rekha. Other films of this period include Ram Balram (1980), Shaan (1980), Lawaaris (1981), and Shakti (1982) which pitted him against legendary actor Dilip Kumar.

Bachchan has won numerous awards in his career, including three National Film Awards and 12 Filmfare Awards and also holds the record for most number of Best Actor nominations at the Filmfare Awards.

In addition to acting, he has had a flair of politics as he was elected member of the Lok Sabha from the prestigious Allahabad constituency in 1984. He hold on to the seat till 1987 when controversy regarding Bofors gun deal and his friendship with the then Prime Minister left a sore experience of body politics in him.

Bachchan’s splendid career too has been marked by off-screen controversies like his on and off affairs with fellow actress Rekha, and Amitabh-Rekha pair by far remains one of the leading couple hits till today. He was also dragged into controversy by another actress, the late Parveen Babi, who had charged the megastar with ditching him. However, the allegation never stuck and was dismissed as utterances of a frustrated woman, disillusioned with life.

Again Amitabh’s surprising success came when he ventured into small screen thorugh reality quiz game show, ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’. This redfined his career and also the history of Indian television. Since then Bachchan has tasted success in many films including the award winning ‘Chini Kum’, ‘Black’ and ‘Khaki’. Importantly, opening a new vista film scripts were began to be written keeping in mind as the main protagonist.
His first English language film Rituparno Ghosh’s ‘The Last Year’ premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival on Septeember 9, 2007.
His fans will remember him passionately no doubt.

(ends)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Now The Arvind Kejriwal Spring : A Tale of two sons-in-law


The wikipedia describes Robert Vadra as an Indian businessman, husband of Priyanka Vadra and a “member” of the Nehru-Gandhi family by marriage.

It also says about Feroze Gandhi that in 1942, ironically the Quit India Movement year, he had married Indira Nehru and thus became part of the Nehru dynasty.

The similarity ends at that.

On this backdrop, one is really tempted, to employ a time tested maxim – nothing is permanent except change. The changes have taken place in the country’s first political family.

And the statement is a serious challenge to another well-worn saying, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The irony is not lost. While Feroze Gandhi had taken up a cudgel against the corruption and probably had embarrassed the Family, this time round, Robert Vadra is at the receiving end of the charge of gross impropriety and has embarrassed his mother-in-law braving her ill-health and a typical bad season for any ruling establishment.

My paper, The Statesman, rightly titled the story: ‘Robert Vadra in eye of storm’.
Thanks to Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan, the son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi’s husband had been charged with acquiring at least 31 properties worth several hundred crores in and around the national capital, thanks to huge favours from real estate major DLF.

In contrast, Feroz Gandhi in December 1955 had tried to expose how Ram Kishan Dalmia, as chairman of a bank and an insurance company, had allegedly sought to takeover of Bennett and Coleman and started transferring money illegally from publicly held companies for personal benefit.

In 1958, Feroze had again raised the Haridas Mundhra scandal involving the government controlled LIC insurance company. “This was a huge embarrassment to the clean image of Nehru's government”, says Wikipedia.

The take away from the Robert Vadra story is that the Law holds no fear for the new generation son-in-law. Rather he systematically bulldozed his way and influenced the decisions – probably in return forcing his mother-in-law’s ‘chamchas’ to dole out continuous and undue favor to the DLF, a key player in real estate.

The brazen manner Congress ministers and party spokespersons tried to undo each other and defend ‘madam’s son in law’ talks for itself that Mr Vadra is no private individual as otherwise an attempt is being made to build an argument on that line – that the deals if at all were between DLF and Robert, so Congress regimes across the north India’s states – including a ‘very efficient’ Sheila Dikshit regime – had nothing to do.

Even the purported pro-Congress television channels could not sing the other way round on Friday evening – as essential questions raised by Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan beg convincing answers. Even the anchors who get excited to paint pro-Congress slant to any developments under the sky, were surprisingly pleasant and blatant to ask Salman Khurshied and Jayanti Natrajan: "why you are defending an individual called Robert Vadra?"

In my initial reactions to the charges against Vadra, on Facebook posting, I lauded Kejriwal as a gutsy fellow – a ‘fidayen’- who took up the matter concerning country’s most sacred son-in-law about whom people were only talking among fiends and in close doors.

Of course, during the height of Anna Movement in 2011, Youtube
and other social networking sites had lot many postings and video clippings against the First family.

What Kejriwal and his team has tried to say is not something unknown. Believe me or not, just few minutes before Kejriwal spoke against Vadra on October 5 evening; one journalist friend from a 'reputed to be pro-Congress newspaper' had joked (I think!) what will happen, if Arvind names Robert Vadra.

Now, Arvind Kejriwal might not be the ‘dhud ke dhuley hue’; but Kejriwal has set for himself a unique preamble for his yet to be named political party.

He will be also a dangerous element to handle with by any political party and leader as he has been displaying a unique synthesis of good timing, doing a good homework on his own and showing a desi bravado.

It is true, he has been stealing away the thunder from opposition parties including the BJP on the issue of corruption. But it is not without good reason. 'The Economic Times' is apt in summing up the man: “He knows he can't win by fighting along the traditional matrix of caste, money and muscle power.”

And hence, his methods might not be right, he could be ‘wrong’ himself --- but he is different!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Is PM's FDI card akin to Modi’s Developmental model?


Does Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh share
something similar? Both pushed to the corner – one for riots and the
other for alleged corruption and both try to find a game-changer in FDI or
development model.

This write up is coming at a time – at the suggestion of my good friend
Jacinta Dsouza - when the country is debating the pros and cons of Foreign Direct Investment vis-à-vis the economic reforms.

Moreover the challenge is to explain in first person the factors those led to pen the book ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’. Incidentally, this being my third book on broad Hindutva related issues after ‘Godhra: A Journey to Mayhem’
and ‘Ayodhya: Battle for Peace’.

I am often asked, whether there’s any special reason?

Of and on, my contention is when a journalist decides to write a book,
you ought to be sure that either he is excited about the subject. He
likes it or he is annoyed with it, disturbed with it. In my case, the
book on northeast ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ comes under one
category. I love northeast region, where I was born and brought up.

The communalism on the other hand, really disturbs me. I am not saying Hindu communalism only. It’s about all.

The Godhra carnage, then post-Godhra riots all of it left me angry. So, came my first book on Gujarat and I was surprised that my
first book was not on northeast India.

About this book, I think the simple provocation was to try to break
some of the knots of the cobweb embroiled about Narendra Modi himself.

Undoubtedly, the story of Gujarat in last 10 years has been the story
of Modi.
Thus, the making of Brand Modi definitely deserves a closer look with
all its merits and albeit, also the demerits.

Today, to talk about the dynamics and complexities of Gujarat state
and the Hindutva politics of Modi has perhaps become more important
now than ever before especially in the context of forthcoming assembly
elections where in Gujarat’s most talked about chief minister will
seek his re-election.

The polls could also decide whether Modi will be the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate in 2014 parliamentary polls.

But as the currency these days in on FDI and reforms, I will try for a
while focus on these issues.

Gujarat in more ways than one reflects that story of multi-pronged
development and the liberal economic policy. Many are already
comparing Gujarat’s phenomenal success with the select manufacturing
hub of China; but the irony is not lost on many.

Although, the Indian development pace is much slower than China’s;
even in late nineties Gujarat had equaled the growth rate of China.

The developmental phases of Modiland notwithstanding the negative
publicity of the state administration since 2002 have many people
baffled. There are a few questions too --- as I examine in the book
‘Modi to Moditva…..’; can Modi really redefine the state’s and more
importantly his own reputation?

I also pose a rather mystifying question, “Can it keep the balance
with the traditional culture of Gujarat, its religious bias and the
unprecedented benefits of economic liberalization?”

In course of my work for the book, I did come across the obvious that
India’s reforms in 1991 under Dr Manmohan Singh as the finance minster
have come in compartmentalized forms.

In the absence of reforms in the administration, police and judiciary,
the new rules were enforced by an old system, and the mismatch has led
to weak enforcement.

The competition in presence of multiple players say in telecom could overcome
weak enforcement. This appears to be a
factor responsible for the success of equity markets and telecom but
the same story was not reaped in the oil and power sectors.

Many would argue that in a complex society like ours and in multilayered polity
of democracy in India, the consensual process of reform is important
for success. There is no doubt in the last two decades the policy
makers, the ministers and the law makers either in state assemblies or
in parliament, have spent time listening to groups, business chambers
etc before embarking on major policy changes.

So did even a supposed autocrat Modi. But his success story also underlines that ‘out of the box’ thinking is highly advisable. Here was a chief minister,
who despite the bad press, to the industry has always remained a
‘vanguard’ of not only change but someone who stood for what he said.

When Modi invited Ratan Tata after the latter’s Bengal misadventure,
at least the corporate honcho knew that Gujarat would embrace his
project. …this calls for some credit for the state chief minister.

A senior socialist based in Faizabad in UP, I interacted with in
course of my work on the book, actually said something sensational
putting me into a track to ponder about his point of argument. He said
Modi should be considered as an “injured tiger” - caged and pushed to
the wall by constant vilification.

The blot of 2002 had created a sort of a crisis for him. Fortunately for Modi, said my friend, he had no choice but to prove his mantle in administration and
that too for development.

Were it not for Modi having to confront a full-scale war against him
by the rival politicians and the secular brigade, it is unlikely that
Modi would have pushed his developmental card so hard and decisively.
May be, may be not!

(Enough of praising the own ‘kid’, the book in this case. Look for the
page turner ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’ by Nirendra
Dev (faithfully yours) and published by Manas Publications, New Delhi.

Well, some other highlights of the book include:

What’s common between Congress chief minister of Manipur Ibobi Singh
and the controversial Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi

What did Narendra Modi say after Vajpayee-Musharraf Agra Summit failed?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Demystifying 'big ticket reforms' drama of Dr Singh


Obviously, demystifying Manmohan Singh’s ‘big ticket reforms and FDI in retail’ could lead one to take a closer look at Indian political scene.

It will not be wrong to describe it as a desperate act of a student who has not studied the entire semester and wants to top the class by burning mid-night oil.

It's as if the government has come out of Rip Van Winkle slumber. The Washington Post article headlined "India's 'silent' Prime Minister becomes a tragic figure" has sort of given a jerk to Dr Manmohan Singh.

He has got back his spirit - a replica of 2008 when he dedicated himself full time to seal the Indo-US nuclear deal.
The pact was ensured but contrary to his promise, Indian energy sector still is waitng for that revolution.

On a different plane, now, post exit of Mamata Banerjee, on the face value, the government has managed to survive ostensibly with the support of highly unpredictable Mulayam Singh Yadav’s support and of course Mayawati’s BSP.

Moreover, these two cowbelt leaders - essentially caste (and of course often pro-Muslim) players are not known for strong left-oriented anti-reform stance of Mamata.

So far so good!

The government survives; and if it survives the country can expect more reforms --- on pension and insurance sectors to start with.

This has given Dr Manmohan Singh the fresh lease of life. One expected this confidence would be reflected in his rare address to the nation. But his speech
that day had sparked off rather angry reactions.

The comment - money does not grow on trees from an economist who has served with World Bank, who as Prime Minister is more known to have sided with Americans, American interests than the inflation-hit concern of his poor countrymen, actuall comes as an insult.
People have reasons to feel hurt.

Not many Congressmen have been able to defend him so far on this. The next day in high security Vigyan Bhavan, a shirtless lawyer, allegedly owing allegiance to Lalu Prasad Yadav’s party RJD, shouted slogans at him.

Perhaps the message is getting clearer that people are anguished with corruption as well as on the typical know-all ivory tower expert views of the Prime Minister.
“Yes, Prime Minister, "money does not grow on trees". That is why governments must spend wisely, not on programmes which are designed for specifically for looting in the name of the public,” commented our good friend and senior journalist Mahesh Vijapurkar from Mumbai on Facebook.

Real polity is tougher and more complex. Ultimately, Dr Singh is not just the ‘ceo’ of UPA; his party has to win election.
In Kerala, the Congress chief minister is set to oppose FDI.

The party, which stormed back to power in 2004 unseating a well-performing Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime on Aam Admi slogan, today stands isolated from the man on the streets.

Rahul Gandhi does not inspire Congressmen any longer. A family loyalist like Salman Khurshied says the crown prince role has been 'cameo'. These would make Congress depend more on Mulayam Singh, someone harbouring strong Prime Ministerial ambitions.

BSP is eyeing to play its own game and has asked Congress to show detachment from Mulayam to bank on her support.

The Congress MPs are themselves not sure whether FDI retail will ensure their victory. A section of Congressmen in Bengal and also outside are exploring the idea of hobnobbing with mass leader like Mamata Banerjee - even in states like Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

There is a possibility of split in Congress rank and file and thus, the general election could come by 2013.

In the meantime, FDI will remain on a table --- to be utilized as economic reform tool only in about 2 years from now!

A political counsellor attached to an embassy in Delhi, recently said,
"the announcement of FDI in retail by Prime Minister Dr Singh is only aimed towards foreign countries and MNCs. What happens to FDI retail hype if all or most states oppose it -- that too on the eve of elections".

This is the anti-climax of the second generation reforms inuntiated by our scholarly Prime Minister, who can be easily described as an 'over estimated economist and under estimated politician'.

The FDI drama is a good diversionary strategy of a shrewd politician, who loves to give indirect message that he is a reluctant Prime Minister. The target is to take people off the 'Coalgate'. But this is too late and too little.

ends

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jaswant Singh and Indo-US calculus


Having spoken about the possibility of having Jaswant Singh make a come back as the external affairs of India in the previous blog, perhaps I have provoked enough reactions among the readers, my patrons.

A few of them mailed me in private putting across their points of view. Well, my contention is I was only trying to debate Jaswant Singh’s role as country’s foreign minister in the crucial period of Indian diplomatic history when post-Pokhran 2 it faced near isolation globally and especially from the United States.

This was the time, mind you, US President Bill Clinton’s first reaction to his close team in the White House was: “we are going to come down on those guys like a ton of bricks”.

Thus, it is given to the credit of Vajpayee-Jaswant team that things were put on correct track at later stage. My humble suggestion is we should not mix up this episode of Indo-US history and the ‘dialogue’ Jaswant Singh had with Strobe Talbott with other issues particularly the Jaswant’s supposed mishandling of negotiations after the Indian Airlines plane was hijacked to Kandahar.

Now, when we come to Jaswant-Talbott ‘engagement’ as suggested by the latter in later stage – by his apt title of the book ‘Engaging India – Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb’ (a Penguin publication) – there is need to focus on some plain speaking that Jaswant did often at the cost of displeasing the American leadership.

Here’s an instance. Stressing on the point of ‘futility’ of any purpose in US pampering Pakistan, Jaswant Singh had at one point of time remarked:

“We realize that you’ve (US) invested so much in that relationship (with Pakistan) that you don’t know how to disinvest”. Jaswant Singh had also pointed up to Talbott that “we (India) held out the hand of friendship (to Nawaz Sharif), and we got a fist in the face”.

A reference to Lahore bus trip and then Kargil.
In fact, there have been occasions when Jaswant in mid-1999 had also suggested to his American negotiator that Pakistan was heading for a coup.

In fact, Indian government had strong inkling of Gen Musharraf taking over soon – but New Delhi was always more cautious about a regime under Musharraf because he has been the “moving force behind the Pakistani incursion and who would be even more intractable on Kashmir and everything else if he emerged as Pakistan’s new leader”.

Talbott also admits in his book that ‘Jaswant was fatalistic about a coup” in Pakistan but added :”there was nothing either India – or, for that matter, the United States could do to stop it, all we could do was not provoke it”.

Moreover, around that time the government of India under Vajpayee in the run up to the parliamentary polls – immediately after Kargil - did not drum up the war-cry. This can be debated because NDA’s victory became easier in 1999 due to Kargil.
Jaswant himself had told Talbott “we could have exploited the crisis”.

Well, moving over these, one must take note of Jaswant’s another point blank statement made to the US negotiator.

“You are playing yesterday’s chess match….The game now is for energy from a region that is falling increasingly into the hands of the forces of radical Islam….No one has had a much experience with Islam as India. You must work with us (India) more in waging our common struggle against these forces”.

Finally, things really changed in Indo-US context since these dialogues.

Today, India is held high as a partner in the comity of nations. It is not without good reason in 2010, all five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the United States, China, Britain, Russia and France — came calling on India extending all round friendship and cordial relations.

In 2011, Indian foreign policy engine room drew satisfaction during the year when they saw in what is seen as the “stepping up the rhetorical pressure” on Pakistan.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did some plain speaking urging Pakistan to act immediately against the military groups and powerful Haqqani network. “You can't keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours,” Hillary Clinton had said almost endorsing India’s years-old stand point.

In fact, Dr Manmohan Singh’s regime benefited in initial years of these bonhomie and robust Indian economy. Dr Singh exploited the improved relation Indo-US to the hilt in 2008 during parleys on Indo-US Civil Nuclear deal and in 2009 polls. Congress leaders can claim brownie points when they taunt Jaswant Singh for Kandahar.

But as the former external affairs minister and importantly Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ‘man for all seasons’ said, the calculus of human lives was involved. Well, perhaps Jaswant deserves some kudos.

And if not; there are merits in appreciating what Talbott said: “Jaswant advanced his nation’s interests and sought to harmonise US-Indian relations”. Now, ask Dr Manmohan Singh and the Congress regime: if Washington Post and Time magazine today find fault with them and their regime, should they blame Jaswant Singh’s mishandling of plane hijack drama?

(ends)


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Can Jaswant Singh make a comeback as Foreign Minister of India?



This piece is going on web at a time when grapevine in Lutyen’s city is about possible cabinet reshuffle. The buzz is that S M Krishna might be replaced by Shivraj Patil.

Don’t believe? Well, I also don’t. I would hate this to happen!!

But if Prathiba Patil can be made President of India and after a shocking defeat Shivraj can be handed over home, mortals like us can only stare up and blink helplessly as Sonia Gandhi mocks at 130 crores.

One is perhaps writing this piece little too late or even little too early. BJP’s onetime stalwart and once expelled Jaswant Singh has crossed his prime long back and ostensibly in more ways than one.

With Atal Bihari Vajpayee out of scene, the ‘man for all seasons’ too has fallen out of the radar.

Having lost vice presidential polls in 2012, and at the ripe age of XX he is now all set for retirement. Jaswant himself had announced that he would not contest Lok Sabha election again.

But as he lost the vice presidential election, only a die hard optimist would be happy that perhaps he still has a chance to return as country’s foreign minister.

But can he make it to the post?

Possibly yes, if BJP makes it in 2014. There are conjectures too, what happens if BJP is compelled to concede to give up prime ministership to Nitish Kumar, would Jaswant Singh make it as External Affairs Minister again.

Well, he might not be counted among the best of India’s foreign ministers, at least by country’s secular brigade but in framing India’s relations with the United States in the new millennium, his role cannot be forgotten.

Congress has lampooned enough at him for Indian Airlines plane hijack fiasco and sought to rubbish Jaswant’s contribution in re-establishing a workable relation with the US aftermath Pokhran-2.

Obviously, one is guided by his stellar performance as Vajpayee’s chief negotiator with Strobe Talbott, the trusted Bill Clinton point-man for Indian region.

At least Jaswant should be given some credit, of course besides Vajpayee himself, for taking a “journey” with the American leadership “guided by a sense of power and pride that India is not subservient to anyone and we (US and India) speak as equals”.

In the words of Talbott himself, “Jaswant was as hardheaded and tenacious an advocate for his government’s position as I had ever encountered”.

In his revealing page-turner ‘Engaging India’ where Talbott takes readers to the ‘backstage’ of a most suspenseful diplomatic drama, he has very high opinion of Jaswant Singh and describes him as “pragmatic and recalculating”.

He even distinguished Jaswant and L K Advani saying, “to me differences between him and BJP hardliners like Advani were real, not tactital. Jaswant represented a more sophisticated, less militant, but no less firmly held view of Hindutva”.

In fact, Talbott is to be believed, Jaswant and his team during the negotiations had given the US diplomats much tough time. “The danger with the Indians was that they would wear us down. They had their game plan ready and would stick with it”…. unlike Pakistanis, who Talbott says had no game plan.

Talbott also pays tribute to Jaswant’s diplomatic mantle saying, the Vajpayee’s Man Friday like probably the former Prime Minister had the “ability to keep the substance” of talks confidential while creating the impression that the both sides were getting along well.

Well, diplomacy is definitely about certain amount of ambiguity – at least till the final call is taken. And in terms of Indo-US relations, these were all relevant. It’s perhaps the irony of this country that Jaswant Singh might not make it as the external affairs minister again while S M Krishnas would make it and survive.

Thelikes of Shashi Tharoors and Jaswant Singhs would come and go and perhaps lament in some corridors that the basic intra-party democracy itself is lacking in India, at least in his Congress party.

(ends)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Track 2 with Pak: Elementary Issue of Terrorism


Peace with Pakistan is definitely among the top cherished wishes of Indian diplomatic leadership. New Delhi has never hesitated from taking the first step and running the extra mile to establish peace with the neighbouring country. And every time, the gesture has been positive from across the border, India has reciprocated the same in good spirit.

The recent visit of an 18-member parliamentary delegation from Pakistan headed by the Senate leader Muhammad Jehangir Badar to Delhi and Patna in the state of Bihar must be seen in that perspective.

In the crucial interactions between parliamentarians from both sides attended by ruling Congress and opposition BJP lawmakers from India, both sides sought a slew of measures, including the introduction of a liberal visa regime, more trade through the Wagah border and resolution of the Siachen and Sir Creek issues.

This is seen as confidence-building exercise especially to boost trade and peace through the track – 2 diplomacy.
The Indian delegation was led an opposition member of Lok Sabha, Yashwant Sinha, who has been also an External Affairs Minister.

In the words of Sinha, “…..it is quite clear that the people of the two countries want to live in peace and prosper together”.

The MPs from both sides rightly discussed the opportunities of deepening ties between the two countries focusing on easing of the visa regime and taking needful steps in key people oriented sectors like the role of media, education, tourism and local government.

The parliamentarians from both sides also proposed that citizens from India and Pakistan be able to obtain visas exempt from police reporting to avoid harassment during their stay. Delegates also rightly highlighted the importance of health-related travel and religious tourism.

It was this spirit which saw in the 1990s, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee making a bus trip across the border to Lahore. Similarly, the present incumbent Dr Manmohan Singh described his Pakistani counterpart Gilani as a ‘man of peace’.

In February 2012, this track – 2 ‘friendship making’ endeavour was again at display when at the end of her five-day trip to Pakistan, the Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had candidly said that she was “pleasantly shocked” to see the love that common Pakistanis have for Indians.

The more recent dialogue between the lawmakers from both the countries is being facilitated by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), a think-tank that works for strengthening democracy, or whatever that means across the border.

The dialogues this time around ranging from issues to promote trade to boosting people-to-people contacts is aimed at bridging the trust deficit’ between the two countries.

Now, having said these what is important to be underlined is that the dialogues have come ahead of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna’s visit to Islamabad. During his visit, S M Krishna will hold parleys with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and would review the second round of formal dialogue after the two sides revived their ties. The formal interaction between the two countries had suffered major set back after the now infamous 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai in 2008.

Now, while there is undoubtedly a clamour of peaceful co-existence between the people in both the countries, the vexed issue of terrorism and one is afraid, often the complicity about it from Pakistani side needs to be understood as well.
Although formal dialogues have begun, New Delhi is yet to be satisfied about Pakistani action against the perpetrators of 26/11. While these remain pending, the government of India has blamed again elements in Pakistan for the recent rumour mongering and questionable postings in websites and social networking sites which led to exodus of north east people.

On its part, when it comes to terror elements, Islamabad has been either at denial mood or doing too slow and too little. Hence, it must be underlined with no ambiguity that the true result of any efforts in track-2 diplomacy and enhancing economic ties can only come when there are ample steps taken by the establishment in Pakistan on terror front.

It goes without saying, any country where non-state actors support terrorism, that country owes a legal and moral responsibility to its neighbours and to the world as a whole. Pakistan ought to appreciate this.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When UPA appeases: Its playing with Fire


By its inept handling of things in Assam and vote bank politics, a discredited UPA regime on its lowest ebb in last 8 years is actually playing with fire.

The return of over 5000 native youths from their places of studies and job in a highly sensitive region bordering China would only mean that there is a ready made 'fodder’ for fresh rounds of anti-government and anti-India agitation in the vulnerable northeast region.

The government attributing Pakistani groups for rumour mongering and the belated blocks of questionable websites are only too little and too late.

And as Sharad Yadav says it's only a "cover up" attempt and that too very poor attempt. Nailing Pakistan does not absolve union Home Ministry its own job, nor Tarun Gogoi's.

The Congress and other secular brigade players – both in Assam and in the centre - are playing peculiar game with leaders after leaders denying any illegal migration. They are mostly trying to only consolidate Muslim votes won in the last Lok Sabha elections in 2009 across India as well as in 2010 in Assam.
In the process, as the towns and hamlets in Assam burnt and unfortunately these led to indiscriminate and unprecedented exodus of northeast tribals from across the country, none seemed to be trying to reach at the root of the cause of the conflicts.

The issue is never a Hindu-Muslim conflict as the political class would like to paint. The illegal immigration is definitely one of the major issues, ironically admitted by the then Home Minister P Chidambaram.

But there are other factors too for the anguish amongst Bodos. One such crucial reason is alleged step-motherly treatment of Bodos and Bodo areas by Assam government and of course the “demand for linguistic rights” of the Bodo Kacharis.

Thus, it was proved for once that the “language is the chief” and the most favourite saleable political issue in Assam or for that matter in the region.
“Ironically, the same yardstick of New Delhi’s elder brotherly attitude and exploitation, which helped fan agitation in Assam, was being used for a Bodo cause against the “local state government and the seat of power” --- earlier Shillong (then a capital of united Assam) and later on Dispur,” says my book,'The Talking Guns: North East India’ (Manas Publications).

Thus, in more ways than one, it is ironical that Bodos today find themselves caught in a quagmire kind situation against Bengali-speaking Muslims. This was perhaps never their goal.

All along, since 1967, when Plains Tribal Council of Assam came into being, Bodos are actually in a war-like situation against both New Delhi and Dispur (Guwahati) for their own rights. The complain against Assam government for trying to impose an Assamese hegemony only got a major bolster when in 1986 the state government committed a blunder by imposing Assamese as the compulsory third language upon non-Assamese students. The circular Assam Board of Secondary Education on February 18, 1986 imposing Assamese language as compulsory third language though was withdrawn after protest it had left a far-reaching damage beyond a point of repair.

In 1986, under late Upendra Nath Brahma, influential All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) gave a momentum to Bodo movement and later the apex Bodo People’s Action Committee (BPAC) in the four-day annual conference between 19th and 22nd December 1988, at Basbari instead of a union territory demand made a demand for a separate state. A group of youth had gone underground and floated militant organisation. It was truly beginning of yet another phase of Assam’s spate with violence.

The Bodos are tribal from the plains. Most of them are either Hindus or Christians and account for about 10 percent of Assam's about 3 crore people.

The Bodos started making headlines in national media but for all wrong reasons.

But, undoubtedly the clashes of July 2012 had left people amazed especially by the scale of it. As the hamlets burnt and people were either killed --- over 70 deaths confirmed - and the body count has been rising, officials as well as locals are unable to define whether this is ethnic strife, communal violence between Hindu Bodos and Bengali Muslims or simply a turf war over land.

Besides Muslim appeasement, the UPA government in the cente and Gogoi administration in Assam failed to initiate timely action.

But th political class and Muslim leadership for reasons obious got busy in turning the Bodo battle against 'influx' as tribal-Muslim warcry. From Badruddin Ajmal to Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi the refrain has been that the violence that have claimed over 70 lives and rendered lakhs homeless was a Bodo(read tribal)-Muslim conflict.

That’s a sad paradox. Northeast watchers say perhaps this is the single biggest factor that sparked off unprecedented exodus of “north east people” from across the country. The lopsided handling of Mumbai violence and letting the real wrong doers scot free have done more damage.



Friday, August 3, 2012

Question Hour: Mr Prime Minister are u ready?


1.Which Prime Minister sacrificed his Railway Minister despite endorsing his budget and that too in the middle of budget session?

2. Which government stoked Telangana fire?

3. Which govt. led Nagas and Meiteis to clash over visit of a Naga leader to his native village?

4. Which PM says “I m not astrologer” for problems like inflation?

5. Which PM blames coalition politics for corruption under his nose?

6. Which PM says “to err is human” when Muslim Minister A R Antulay says deaths of Mumbai top cops in 26/11 was due to “Terrorism plus factor”?

7. Which PM tries blaming his former Finance Minster for financial hara-kiri within days of the latter’s resignation to be ruling dispensation’s Presidential candidate?

8. Which PM rewards Power Minister on the day of darkness in 20 states to be country's Home Minister?

9. Which PM goes for a SAARC Summit and signs bilateral accord with Pakistan on Baluchistan?

10. Which PM looks the other way, when his Home Minister says - ice cream by middle class is a luxury ?

11. Under which government, aviation industry nosedived, Air India turned from ‘Maharaja’ to a pauper?

12. Under whose Government, 20 states crippled by unprecedented power failure for long hours --- July 30 and July 31 (2012) ?

Pls add up from yr end or ‘minus’ : with additional comments? No prizes please.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

South China Sea: Is India again playing upto its old script?


The bilateral relation between India and Indonesia, it goes without saying that New Delhi would like to see Indonesia emerge as a key economic player and a valued partner. India is definitely pinning hopes to emerge as a ‘valued investment destination’ in the region on its own and Indonesia can always a crucial role towards that endeavour.

It is said, the ties between Indonesia and India date back to the times of the Ramayana. Both the countries have shared civilisational relationship over the centuries and thus the healthier ties up can be for mutual interest in more ways than one.

This traditionally friendly relation obviously received a much needed boost with the just concluded visit of the Indonesian Minister to New Delhi.

The Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has rightly said on his part that since both the nations have become strategic partners in 2005, Indonesia has emerged as a key player for New Delhi in its pursuit of ‘Look East policy’ envisaged by the government of Dr Manmohan Singh.

In the words of Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr. R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa, his country and India share very robust and positive relations. Well, it goes without saying that in this delicately placed region, Indonesia and India are not merely close friends but they are critically valued regional partners to each other as well.

During the crucial Joint Commission meeting, both sides reviewed the overall bilateral cooperation and also identified ‘specific areas’ in which both countries would be working together to take the relationship to the next high level.

In specific terms, both the countries inked agreements on avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
Signed by both the ministers, the revised tax agreement would provide for effective exchange of information, including banking details and information that does not have any domestic tax interest.

On bilateral trades, the two countries have touched 20 billion US Dollars and have now set a higher target of 25 billion US dollars by 2015.

Indian investment in Indonesia has also started increasing as both the countries have intensified business deals in wide range of sectors including energy, oil and gas, coal, marine and fisheries, agriculture, science and technology, education, culture and defence.

Crucially, both sides are in league in evolving strategies for counterterrorism too.
“As large pluralistic democracies we have a stake in each other's progress and prosperity,” quote unquote S M Krishna rightly remarked at the joint media interaction reflecting the sincerity of purpose.

Both the leaders also held crucial talks on South China Sea in the backdrop of increasing Chinese influence in the region.

The South China Sea is at present at the centre of jurisdictional claims between China and five other southeast Asian nations.

The issue has snowballed into a major controversy in international diplomacy after ASEAN, Association of South East Asian Nations ministerial meeting in Cambodia had failed to issue a joint communiqué.

It has emerged as big and perhaps a very sensitive issue given the fact that it is for the first time that the regional body ASEAN in its 45 years of existence had failed to bring out a joint statement on any issue deliberated by it.

The South China Sea is a marginal sea as part of Pacific Ocean and the region’s importance is largely due to its huge oil and gas reserves. It assumed importance as probably the world’s principal shipping transiting take place through its waters.
Countries like Indonesia, Taiwan, Philippines and Vietnam are in conflicts with China over its jurisdictional controls.

During deliberations with his Indonesian counterpart, Krishna reiterated India’s established position that all parties should engage in discussions to resolve the issue while New Delhi also supported ‘freedom of navigation and access to resources’ in accordance with principles of international law.

On his part, the visiting Indonesian Foreign Minister described candidly the challenge of the South China Sea as a “fact of life”.

But sharing India’s sentiments, he said there is a diplomatic track to resolve the issue and referring to the ASEAN-China track, he also said that a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea is being formulated.

Thus, we see, India is only playing to its script. India is playing safe, as usual, may be. But, too much of playing safe, a traditional trait of New Delhi's dilomatic operatives, most of the times mean stagnancy. Stagnancy is often compared to the phenomenon of temporary suicide. This theory applies to business communities, other streams of life by and large as much also in diplomatic ballgame. These challenges ought to be overcome. India needs to position its real intent clearly.

A few months back, Indian diplomatic handling on Syria was almost historical and even path-breaking.
It had voted in favour of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution on Syria.
The vote was understood in the international circle as endorsing the dominating western vision vis-à-vis the ‘humanitarian concerns’ though New Delhi made it clear
that it would reject any suggestion that pointed to regime change.

But having said these, one must note that the same Indian
establishment and the foreign policy engine room had kept aloof during the turbulent time with regard to countries like Libya.

ends



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pawar wants sacrifacial goat in Maha CM: Will Sonia oblige


Sharad Pawar is actually left with little choice. The provocation is from
Maharashtra as the chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, a so called high command's
choice and paratrooped from Delhi, has been trying to needle NCP and more so
Ajit Pawar, NCP supremo's nephew.

The 'demotion' of the Maratha strongman and NCP supremo in the union cabinet ranking is just a good excuse that NCP has used. Both NCP cabinet members from the party Mr Sharad Pawar and Mr Praful Patel sent in their resignations to the Prime Minister on July 19 night.

"Letters of resignations have been sent to the Prime Minister," top
party sources even as the Agriculture Minister declined to comment
on the episode.
Mr Pawar also declined to react to reports that the Prime Minister Dr
Manmohan Singh had tried to reach out to him to mollify him over the issue.

Now, by the weekend, bracing for the crucial meeting of the party's
core group on Monday, July 23, which would try to redefine the party's relations with UPA, the NCP hinted that the "settlement at this
juncture looks remote".

Besides the issue of lack of coordination, there is a feeling that the
NCP's ministers are being targeted in Maharashtra at the instance of the chief minister. A section of NCP leaders privately do not rule out working out some new combination in Maharashtra though party spokesman Prof D P Tripathi said that such
a step would be "suicidal".

Sources say that NCP leadership has come under "personal pressure"
from Mr Pawar's nephew Mr Ajit Pawar as he is much antagonized
with the Maharashtra Chief Minister Mr Prithviraj Chavan's order for a
'white paper' on irrigation. Mr Ajit Pawar was Irrigation Minister
from 2000 to 2009 and the portfolio is now held by the NCP's Mr Sunil
Tatkare. The allegation is that despite over Rs 70,000 crores being
spent on dams, only 0.1% of land was added to the area under irrigation during last 8-9 years. Another NCP bigwig, PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal is also facing
allegations of corruption in construction of Maharashtra Sadan in
Delhi. The NCP supremo is keen to buy peace with his nephew as he is considered a real inheritor of Pawar legacy though Sharad Pawar would like to ensure smoooth
position for his daughter Supriya too.
Moral of the story: Prithviraj Chavan can be made sacrifacial goat?
Sonia has to oblige...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Moily makes veiled attack on Salman, Chidambaram(Interview)


‘Cong leaders should talk responsibly’


THE SATURDAY INTERVIEW

Senior Congress leader and Union corporate affairs minister Mr M Veerappa Moily is known to speak his mind. These days, the minister is busy charting out a roadmap to ensure ethical functioning of the Indian corporate sector. Mr Moily shared with
NIRENDRA DEV his thoughts on the state of the Indian economy, the crisis in the Karnataka BJP and the perceived policy paralysis and governance deficit afflicting the Congress-led UPA government

Let us start with Karnataka, your home state. How do you perceive the recent change of guard?

It’s no change of guard. It’s just a case of surrender before the whims and fancies of one leader ~ BS Yeddyurappa. The BJP has revealed that it has the weakest leadership at the central level. It has also endorsed the politics of corruption and casteism. The infighting in the BJP has now come out in the open.

But as a Congressman, it should suit your party…

That is another chapter. But it does not suit the state of Karnataka. There is drought, people are suffering and there is governance deficit. Karnataka has never seen such a dark period in its history.

Coming to your phrase ‘governance deficit’, that’s how people describe what the UPA regime has to offer. There is a widespread perception that the Congress-led UPA II regime is gripped by policy paralysis and governance deficit.
That is not true. Ours has been a very focused approach towards inclusive growth catering to all sections of people and that addresses rural employment, health care, among other things. Such inclusive growth is not addressed in Western countries. In our case, for all important government policies in the past eight years, Congress president Sonia Gandhi personally gave specific directions, especially for flagship schemes such as MGNREGA other than the food security and RTI Acts. So where is the question of the Congress lacking in direction?

However, ever since the Anna Hazare movement was launched, the Congress and the government seem to have lost their way. What has really gone wrong with the Manmohan Singh government? Were the movements spearheaded by Mr Anna Hazare and Ramdev mishandled?

Firstly, let us not go back into the past. There is no truth in your statement that the Congress has lost its way. If you are referring to the Time magazine report, I should say, Dr Manmohan Singh has led the government and the country well all these years. The periodical has only deviated from objectivity as it got swayed by the malicious environment created by BJP and a section of civil society. Any objective analysis of the Indian economy would reflect that the country has registered an average GDP growth of around 7.7 per cent in the last 10 years. Indian share in global exports has doubled from 0.7 per cent to 1.5 per cent. Literacy rate has increased. The country has a burgeoning middle class and the people’s purchasing power has increased too.

What about the latest ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease syndrome in Congress affecting all from Mr Salman Khurshid to Mr P Chidamabaram?
This (foot-in-mouth) is not my phrase, but the Congress is not given to this culture. We are expected to be disciplined and remember that the party’s prestige and image is of utmost importance. Without taking any names, I should say leaders should appreciate that everything has some repercussions (for the party). Therefore, leaders should talk responsibly and always keep the party’s image in mind.

Are you disturbed by such a trend? How much of this ‘loose talk’ do you think had cost the party in the UP polls?

For UP election results, there were several factors. Yes, it was one of them.

After the Prime Minister took over the finance portfolio, some of his steps such as review of taxation norms give the impression that there might have been a disconnect between Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr Pranab Mukherjee. Your opinion.

There is no disconnect. Any new finance minister will have his own roadmap. There is nothing wrong in it. You must also remember that in 1991, it was Dr Singh who had revived the Indian economy.

But what about the talk of policy paralysis? Dr Singh is the captain of the ship.

I agree. But there is no policy paralysis. Everyone is making a big fuss about the 6.5 per cent GDP rate. You all are missing the point that the fundamentals of our economy are very strong today. I think, it is more about perception paralysis. We have weathered a global crisis more than once. We have shown our resilience. Even in personal life, one cannot be cheerful always. A dull period comes… that does not mean the same cheerfulness will not return. Similarly, it will be erroneous to believe the Indian economy will not revive. The Prime Minister has already talked about taking important steps.

How do you think the economy can be rebooted? What should the government do in the remaining two years of its term?

We do not need any drastic policy changes. Things are on track. There may be need for some corrective steps… perhaps the Reserve Bank of India could think about reducing the interest rate.

Are you all pushing for that?

Well, RBI should go by the sentiments of bankers on this. As the corporate minister, I understand their pulse... the bankers are willing or are ready for a reduced rate of interest. Moreover, we need to improve the inflow of foreign investments. Look at big players like Vodafone. The General Anti-Avoidance Rules was formulated with honest intentions. But lobbyists launched a campaign suggesting the investment climate in India is not favourable. The Prime Minister has already spoken about these things.

Coming back to party politics, how much do you think can the Congress depend on the Rahul Gandhi factor?

The Congress has displayed a very strong and focused leadership under Sonia Gandhi. We have been pursuing party principles and manifesto sincerely. RTI is today a strong weapon in the hands of the citizens to ensure transparency in government functioning. Rahul Gandhi has increased Congress acceptability among the younger generation. The results will be seen in the long term. Rahul will emerge a stronger leader in 2014 like an Amazonian force and there will be no one from the Opposition parties to match him.

(The Statesman, July 14, 2012)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Failure of Manmohan regime: Are We, the people, to be blamed


I cannot agree more with my good friend, Binu, a journo and an expert commodity watcher, that: In early 2000, the big hope of India becoming a great nation with intelligent people with extraordinarily skills are shattered. A decade later, I see this country as a nation of a certain unscrupulous elements out to loot whatever ....


My response: has been


To a large extent people voted themselves into this by voting in so called UPA: Unscrupulously Pathetic Alliance in 2004
--- this happens when a country of 120 crore leave their fate on an Italian lady!


Checklist: in 2004 u had Shivraj Patil as Home minister, Lalu as rail minister, and above all PM with a golden silence and 'mmeenu ki approach' and of course Sonia with her little knowledge and commitment....only for her son, Rahul -- who ultimately stands exposed in UP and at the same time lacked the vital will-power!!

Initial few years/months since UPA took over power in 2004 went along okay for India, probably as an impact of some good works and the foundations laid by the NDA government. In 2004 and aftermath, I too strongly believed that 'India Shining' was a misnomer, but in circa 2012, who can dispute that THINGS WERE MUCH BETTER IN 2002, 2003, 2004 AND THIS DESPITE GUJARAT'S RIOTS.
NOW, the moment u say these: u r labelled :: Nagpur-walla.... I am not.


But, today, any honest analysis would suggest that things have not turned the way it appeared when Vajpayee government was voted out. If Gujarat riots of 2002 was a tragedy, the bigger national tragedy was Indian voters punished Vajpayee regime for the foly of Modi regime. And today, if we want BJP reviving, the hopes are ironically pinned on Narendra Modi only notwithstanding skirmishes from Nitish kumar.

On development front, Modi has also set the pace for inclusive growth, something cherished and given a lip-service in most cases. There is no denying that at the national level too, despite having someone like Dr Manmohan Singh at the helm, too much of growth has been concentrated in a narrow part of the economy – IT, BPO and some urban-based sectors. But in Modi’s Gujarat, there have been actions of the ground for generating mass employment with focused approach for expansion in manufacturing. The Gujarat government, despite its lapses, has also taken steps for high-value agriculture and food processing.

Gujarat today is a manufacturing hub especially as an emerging leader in auto sector.


Therefore, what can be the measure of Modi’s success rate on the developmental front?
He has put the subject of rebalancing the growth chart on the agenda. The question in Gujarat and in those minds interested in Gujarat affairs is now whether his developmental saga has to be checked or reversed. On the contrary, the clamour is for taking these to the newer heights.

Like his critics and admirers admit, Modi functions like a modern day CEO laying emphasis on the outcome and often allegedly putting the rules and normal norms into backburner. If his government helped Ratan Tata in 2008, it did come to the help other corporate players as well from Bambardier to Maruti. Such delivery level is appreciated but skeptics also wonder whether all procedures are being followed or reduced to a mere whimsical clearance by the chief minister just because it would go well with his image building exercises. A good-governance should also have proper checks and balances; and these are not happening.

So there are already talks about the cost of making things hassle free for big businessmen. But, first hand accounts say even small-time entrepreneurs are benefiting by the overall atmosphere. The state government officials deny that there is any special treatment for anyone and that a clear policy driven approach make things move. Many things and essential works are done in advance through IT facilities and thus when entrepreneurs or business houses come to the government for final clearance, things move fast.

Industry players like Adi Godrej and Ratan Tata have time and again said that single party government and a decisive chief minister also contribute their part in pushing matters, unlike in a state like Maharashtra wherein the pulls from coalition partners like NCP and Congress often end up creating hassles.

Even in single-party Congress-ruled Haryana and Andhra Pradesh, these are lacking because the fear of high command, some sacred cows in Delhi often prevent things moving. Industrialists admit that the cross purposes the government and the Sonia Gandhi-led NAC or even Rahul Gandhi himself function often add to the administrative and business delivery woes even at the government of India level.

Moreover, some point out that Congress has union ministers like Jairam Ramesh, who as in-charge of environment ministry, often blocked projects deciding by the tour programme of his ‘real boss’ – Rahul Gandhi. In Gujarat, to the contrary, Modi has put even his party into the second fiddle and other onetime influential forces like VHP and Praveen Togadia have been forced vanished from the scene.

ends

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pranab as next President: Some predictions

The Indian poitical characteristic is such that often we say the country is deeply troubled at heart, and at odds with many things of its own. The elections process throw opportunities to size up the polity. But, as with presidential elections, often these are wasted as caste and linguistic divisions throw up fragmented mandate. However, there r interesting facets these times. Was Sonia G not very ple...ased to announce Pranab's name as UPA candidate? her smile was missing? Has she lost her pre-eminence position.. Is this is a sheer glimpse of what Pranab can turn up in time to come? Well he could face defeat (seems unlikely) if Sonia's own people do not betray the other 'PM" at her beshest ..but if he makes it... bigger trouble for first political family is not ruled out. Many say Mulayam has acted according to script drafted by Congress's hitherto known best known draftsman...... From Didi to Dada, Italian lady could face real indian/desi heat .... well well...... Why she had to meet Mulayam herself? Was Ahmed Patel on leave? I could analyze things on my own more and more.... However, there is other side of the tale and the obvious side..... the implications of his elevation as President and how others are sidelined/marginalised.. But the presidential election in India is a gigantic task as the work involves keeping hawk’s eyes on each party, prominent individual leaders, local and regional factors. Pranab is today considered with the obvious 'pratham bangali' Rashtrapati tag.... and by having his 'chhoto bon (younger sister) against him, Pranab has practically managed the left votes --- ironically slghtly more than Mamata's Trinamool. Election this time has other players playing their own game. Naveen Patnaik is keen for a tribal card as this goes well for him in his own backyard... Jayalalitha wants to win over Christians who form sizeable voters in Tamil Nadu and are likely to be with her foes DMK as they being close to Sonia Gandhi herself. One should try to examine all these, more minuetly. Look at the big picture... a complete picture of our netas, their playing of chances, opportunism in self-seeking goals, myths called partnerships. Lalu Prasad is vocal in supporting Pranab as he is eyeing a cabinet berth to strike back at strong opponent Nitish. NCP satrap Sharad Pawar, could not conceal his lifetime ambition of running for Prime Ministership perhaps even for 2014 and therefore is desperate to prevent his own partyman P A Sangma to become president. Moral of the story is no body is above board.... remember the good old saying,,, 'Hamam mey sab nange hae... Now, zeroing down on Pranab. It's time to have a first Bengali as President of India. With his nomination, Pranab M joins the cub of R Venkataraman, Zail Singh, Shankar Dayal Sharma and Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy to be first citizen from among hardcore Congress politicians. and to be honest, none of these predecessors in Rashtrapati bhavan has left any mark. Except I suppose, Shankar Dayal Sharma went by text book and invited Vajpayee as the leader of the single largest party in 1996. Another Congress sympathiser and also a sympathiser of Sonia, K R Narayanan waited for days to oblige the Madam from Italy....Zail Singh would have swept the floor for Indira, according to his own words.. RV ran to airport to receive Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi when RG returned from Colombo from being hit by a soldier in the island nation. The same zail singh reportedly threatened to take action against Rajiv... well, now it is for time to see what kind of President, Pranab would make it. I could b wrong, but ther would be less for Bengalis to cheer abt Pranab's stay in Raisina Hills. Mamata has her reasons as Pranab could have helped her as Finance Minister. God forbid, my prayer is he does not end up as Somnath 'Shame Shame' Chatterjee and bring disgrace in more ways than one. On Somnath, Mamata Didi has been absolutely wrong, other than teasing the Leftists. the 'shame shame' Chatterjee, as he used to scream in Lok Sabha as presiding officer forgetting his own conduct, has been used as a 'joker' or poplu card by Mamata. About Pranab's contribution to Bengal after winning LS election from Jangipur, my friend Rajib Guha, a Kolkata-based journo, says is opening branches of nationalised banks in all the road of Jangipur. "There are a lot of banks in Jangipur. Other than this he has no contribution to Bengal. But his g...reatest contribution to corporate India is the rise of RIL in 1980s when he was the Finance minister in Indira Gandhi cabinet," says Rajib. So, if Dhirubhai brought in the culture of 'buying over anything and everything" in Indian government and bureaucracy and if Indira Gandhi is responsible for bringing corruption and sycophancy in all institutes... one cannot credit Pranab Mukherjee, the eternal 'the other PM' for being a Mr Clean...... I am a Bengali myself and essentially not a 'Bangali hater'......

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Now, Truism on Modi's Developmental Identity

Predictably, Narendra Modi is back in public debate once again after he literally has hijacked BJP leadership platform and forced the exit of his bete noire Sanjay Joshi. Said to be an organisational man, Sanjay Joshi was more a RSS-pointman but his functioning and also including lifestyle has been in controversies. Things have not been transparent either. For instance, when Advani as BJP president made the statement on Jinnah in Pakistan in 2005, he wanted the party office in Delhi to "interpret" his statement properly. As general secretary in-charge of organisation, Sanjay Joshi failed to deliver at least this is what ASdvani says, a "a lost opportunity" for his party. Now, coming to the main issue of Modi and his new identity as a mascot of Hindutva and development, there is a need to address certain key aspects. Were it not for Modi having to confront a full-scale war against him by the rival politicians and the secular brigade for the last decade, it is unlikely that Modi would have pushed his developmental card so hard and decisively. May be, may be not! After all Modi before being elevated as the chief minister of Gujarat was a typical 'also ran BJP neta' and was always overshadowed by the galaxy of media savvy players like Pramod Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj and Govindacharya. “But today things have gone in Modi’s favour. He might be a Muslim-baiter; but today he has brought in sustained acceleration in growth, perceptible progress against otherwise awful toll of poverty and the image of non-performing netas,” says one of his admirers. According to him, Moditva today as if a case of the ‘caged and injured tiger’ was waiting to be truly set free. Look at the results: the same chief minister vilified in the nation and who was denied a US visa in 2005 is wooed by corporate of all hues. He is finding himself engaged with top industrialists within the country and overseas and also there is engagement with the global economic power like China. His admirers have reasons therefore when they say Narendra Modi has changed the rules of Indian politics to an extent as from Nitish Kumar to Mamata Banerjee – everybody is following his footsteps organizing business summits and instead of rushing to Delhi with begging bowls are trying out to look for investment in their respective states based on their own strengths. The alleged ill-treatment meted to non-Congress state governments by the centre today have today provoked angry comments from Modi and even the likes of Jayalalitha, Naveen Patnaik and importantly, UPA constituent, Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress. Modi has also set the pace for inclusive growth, something cherished and given a lip-service in most cases. There is no denying that at the national level too, despite having someone like Dr Manmohan Singh at the helm, too much of growth has been concentrated in a narrow part of the economy – IT, BPO and some urban-based sectors. But in Modi’s Gujarat, there have been actions of the ground for generating mass employment with focused approach for expansion in manufacturing. The Gujarat government, despite its lapses, has also taken steps for high-value agriculture and food processing. Therefore, what can be the measure of Modi’s success rate on the developmental front? He has put the subject of rebalancing the growth chart on the agenda. The question in Gujarat and in those minds interested in Gujarat affairs is now whether his developmental saga has to be checked or reversed. On the contrary, the clamour is for taking these to the newer heights, as a key minister in the Modi cabinet summed up. Now let us try to take the debate on development and social sectors yardsticks into a different plane. Firstly, India’s reforms have come in compartmentalized forms. In the absence of reforms in the administration, police and judiciary, the new rules were enforced by an old system, and the mismatch has led to weak enforcement. The competition in presence of multiple players say in telecom could overcome weak enforcement. This appears to be a factor responsible for the success of equity markets and telecom but the same story was not reaped in the oil and power sectors. Many would argue that in a complex society like ours and in multi-layered polity of democracy in India, the consensual process of reform is important for success. There is no doubt in the last two decades the policy makers, the ministers and the law makers either in state assemblies or in parliament, have spent time listening to groups, business chambers etc before embarking on major policy changes. So did even a supposed autocrat Modi. But his success story also underlines that ‘out of the box’ thinking is highly advisable. Here was a chief minister, who despite the bad press, to the industry has always remained a ‘vanguard’ of not only change but someone who stood for what he said. ends

Friday, June 1, 2012

Truism about L K Advani and Nitin Gadkari

There is always a danger that for every performing politician and more so in a vibrant democracy like ours, there are those whose motives are self-serving and malicious. Now, this is no way to attempt to put either Narendra Modi, Advani or Nitin Gadkari in one category or the other. The posterity will judge that best, may be. But it ought to be stated that Narendra Modi’s or for that matter BJP’s accomplishments and methods to achieve electoral success in post Rajiv Gandhi era in Indian polity spark off few crucial questions of means and ends, as the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi had often spoken about. How does these means and ends relate in effect in parliamentary democracy guided ultimately by electoral success or failure? Is electoral success so vital and what would follow then? These questions broadly refer to the other political class too. How does Lalu Prasad or Mayawati’s segmented appeal and alleged corruption justify their success or failure? How does Congress absolve itself from the charge of creating vote banks by glorifying Urdu and playing naked minority (read Muslim) appeasement card in UP in 2012? What made Rajiv Gandhi make the infamous statement of tree falling and earth shaking? Did Congress get the ultimate message that Muslim in Uttar Pradesh outright rejected their carrot and gave back Rahul Gandhi’s party, the stick (read humbling defeat) in the elections? Firstly, while talking about Advani, one must say that the axiom about politics is that often charishmatic leaders like Advani, who contributed the most for BJP’s success, do not possess the vital luck and the right rhythm and flexibility to get the chance to lead a government or the country. Despite his glorious past, history will be no kinder to Advani. Since 2004, his political journey has been a test case of flirting with failures and mistakes. And mostly, they were self-inflicted flaws. If he thought ‘India Shining’ was a mistake, he should have corrected it on time. In more ways than one, Advani himself knew that with aging Vajpayee around; the 2004 general elections were more crucial for him as he would have been natural choice to succeed Vajpayee. Advani was already the deputy Prime Minister. In subsequent period, he went on committing one mistake after other. He replaced his onetime Man Friday Venkaiah Naidu as BJP president only to be challenged by sheer machinations of second generation leaders. Uma Bharati threw him open challenge in full televised view. Late Pramod Mahajan started working against him. No party leader tried to defend his remark on Jinnah. Advani must have been accustomed to be boss deciding and guiding the party’s destiny as well as calling shots for individual careers. From Sushma Swaraj to Venkaiah Naidu to Pramod Mahajan, and not forgetting Narendra Modi, everyone was his hand-picked leaders and beneficiaries of his benevolence. But the claim to remain the natural and legitimate player, that too in a commanding position, was torpedoed by the blunder of 2005 – Jinnah is secular hara-kiri. Similarly, his blog on May 31, 2012, the day his party had called for Bharat Bandh against petrol price hike was equally self destructive. In between too, he has committed few other mistakes like total mishandling of ‘cash-for-vote’ episode in 2008 trial of strength in Lok Sabha. In what was said to be Dr Singh’s crucial test, Advani staked his part that too --- significantly – probably at the instance of operators like Suddhendra Kulkarni. So much was the quantum of mistake that he was even pulled by then Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee for allowing BJP MPs to table cash in the Lok Sabha. Calling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ‘the weakest Prime Minister’ also did not help his case either. But it goes without saying that politically, people like Advani leave a mixed legacy. Among his most positive contribution for the party was to bring it at par with Congress. BJP never had a wider national appeal. But once his Somnath to Ayodhya Rathyatra was undertaken, the party had brought in bipolar approach to politics. This admittedly remains the most striking salient feature of his politics. This also has to be attributed to Advani’s pragmatism and far-fetched political vision, when in 1991 Mumbai convention of the BJP, he named his compatriot for many years Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. Vajpayee was extraordinarily popular and soon the BJP started to have a pan-India impact with even Naga leaders like the Late Vamuzo, swearing by Christian ideals, coming to the party fold or working out joint electoral strategy. Many call it Sangh’s political integration with Indian politics. Thus, in my understanding, it is hard to visualize what would have happened to BJP and Advani had he made the ‘Jinnah-secular’ statement in 1998-99 instead of 2005. In the case of Nitin Gadkari, he did not have much to claim except RSS blessings. While Narendra Modi’s motivations and objectives were never a ‘mystery’, I presume there are serious contradictions and difficult issues in evaluating Gadkari. Not so successful in state politics, one thing was clear from very beginning that he was RSS protégé and was readily willing to play second fiddle anytime. His actions often puzzled hardcore BJP supporters. During the peak of anti-corruption crusade led by Anna Hazare and that seemingly had put the UPA regime on the dock, Gadkari chose to take in one tainted minister of Mayawati, Khushwah just before the UP elections. Thus, it was not without good reason Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh mocked at Gadkari saying, the BJP president was more of a ‘businessman’. However, it ought to be said that his initial achievement after he took over in December 2009 was to bring a semblance of stability in the party and prevent the party from disintegrating into numerous factions. But the latent divisions in the party remained palpably all throughout. ends

Monday, May 28, 2012

Indian Parliament turns 60 – Part 3 ‘Babudom’

I am trying to pen these lines for the blog at a time when the CBI grilling and arrest of Jaganmohan Reddy, son of former Andhra chief minister, Y S Reddy is being talked about nationwide. This is truly yet another picture of ‘parliamentary democracy’ as it is more than apparent that the Congress party has become vindictive in dealing with Jaganmohan, son of their colleague – who undoubtedly gave them 33 Lok Sabha seats from the crucial southern state. Junior YSR has declined to kowtow to the diktats of Congress high command and has floated a party of his own. The leadership in Congress is particularly upset – post UP polls – as dynastic politics has been well exploited by Jagan while the ‘crown prince’ Rahul G was handed over a shocker. But the bigger debate, I seek to touch upon this time is the misuse of CBI. That CBI timing is questionable is only one aspect of the faultline. The premier investigating agency has chosen to ignore the same cases pertaining to several serving Congress chief ministers in the state. The misuse of CBI pertains to surrender of the CBI sleuths and the top brass. Now, it also goes without stating that India has one of the worst levels of red tapes. In reality, the poor and the common people suffer most from red tape, the chief tool of the bureaucracy (and not at the hands of politicians that way). And these combine together to work as an incentive for bribery. Even during the height of Anna Hazare movement in August 2011; the common people’s complaints about corruption were against the lower level bureaucracy and policing. But lower level bureaucracy and even police force would tell number of times that there is a hard-crust and that a chain effect works in getting the ‘corruption bug’ stay on. But look around; you will find bureaucrats are everywhere – doing well and well placed. List out the Governors: we have chiefly among the former government servants. In 2008, former Union Home Secretary N. N. Vohra took over as the new Governor of Jammu and Kashmir replacing Lt Gen (retd) S K Sinha. Sinha was a BJP appointee; but such is their efficiency (read acceptability), he was continued by Congress-led UPA. There are several others former IAS officer and Culture Secretary Balmiki Prasad Singh (Sikkim), Nikhil Kumar, former IPS, (Nagaland), Lieutenant Gen Madan Mohan Lakhera, Governor of Mizoram Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary, former DGP Kerala (Meghalaya), Gurbachan Jagat , former DGP Jammu and Kashmir (Governor of Manipur). There are others too, Nagaland Governor Nikhil Kumar’s brother N K Singh (a 1964 batch IAS officer of the Bihar cadre) is Rajya Sabha MP of JD-U. They also enter the think tanks. The Government run IDSA is a hub of babus both from civil and military service as well as from parliament secretariat. Even supposedly, privately and albeit run with Sanghi (RSS) ideology apparently, the Vivekananda Kendra is headed by a former Intelligence Bureau chief A K Doval. Even lately, former SPG chief B V Wanchoo took charge of Goa replacing Dr Shivinder Singh Sidhu, Governor of Goa, who had also served in as Guv of Manipur. Do not forget, not long ago, the UPA government burnt its fingers in defending the appointment of former IAS officer P J Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner. So, what’s the moral of the story? This country cannot be run without babus and retired babus ---- police/military and civil officials. Did our democracy ever ponder, why no top bureaucrat or secretary is ever raided like poor Jagan? Yes, occasionally the onetime powerful babus face cases as Gopi Arora, a Rajiv Gandhi loyalist during Bofors days, was in later stage chargesheeted. But what happened ultimately, one needs to be informed! Lest, I miss, even the incumbent Prime Minister is better known as a ‘babu’ only who had served under ‘Sir’ Pranab Mukherjee. But that’s the style of overestimated economist and underestimated politician. Ends

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy Birthday - A short story

(the short story has been used in website www.washingtonbanglaradio.com) Happy Birthday The 6th of May would unknowingly haunt him. Initially it was once in a while phenomenon ….. something not regular but lately – in last six years or so – it has become the regular feature of his life. May 6th: birthday of Kakoli Sen, someone Dhruv always admired and believed there was the similar appreciation in reciprocation. It was on this day, he had spoken to her first. It was on this day …. after a year – they had parted ways – never to talk about each other nor to talk to each other – ever. Memories have been always like floodgates to Dhruv – easier to open and tough to close. He remembered the first tele talk. She sounded sweet and sexy ….. There was an air of precipitous urgency about her. She wanted him to get into the business of ‘affair’ and ‘dating’ as early as possible. But Dhruv was in no hurry. The idea of marriage never excited him in the first place. Thus, he had thought; there is time. Let me not hurry it up, slow and steady he wanted to win the race. Thus the talk would range from movies to holiday spots and as she was already into a part-time job writing for a mofusil newspaper; they did talk about working atmosphere in a news room. How senior scribes would simply stammer in front of the bosses or how the jobs for the young gals were often certain but punctuated with certain subtle riders? He was little amused. But then he agreed for a meeting. Then, a few more. Interactions soon resulted in mutual admiration for each other. Dhruv thought, he appreciated her looks, the physique and a promising career in media for her as his notion was that the media was just opening up and there lay a bright future. Dhruv was not sure of what Kakoli actually admired in him. But she would smile all the way in his presence. Importantly, she felt relaxed. The rays of the sun would cast some magical aura around the Coffee Corner and he would gauge that her mood would be turning festive. Today they could reap a rich harvest! Dhruv knew his own strengths and perhaps also his weaknesses. He started enjoying the manner the girl was turning towards him. It was not a love affair per se as the parents in both sides had tried to broker the business of ‘knot’ and had allowed them time and rope to go around together for a while. Dhruv was confident of himself. He perhaps could understand it pretty well that Kakoli hardly saw the other side of him. Dhruv could be mean spirited and extremely self-seeking at times. But Kakoli had fallen for the man. A charming and elegant personality – were perhaps only thing that interested her. A small town girl pursuing a modest ambition of an ordinary working journalist, she thought Dhruv would be the best person to anchor her life and career --- in a big city or probably also abroad. But on the other hand, it was not sheer career ambition that fascinated Kakoli about Dhruv. It was her genuine love that became the most motivating factor leading her towards Dhruv. One evening, she held Dhruv’s hand and invited him for dinner in her place. Dhruv was from a well to do family in a big city. He had undergone several good technical training and was planning a huge investment – assisted by his father, friends and well wishers – to set up a showroom of IT accessories. This would fetch good money, he was confident about the prospective venture. The shadows were lengthening in the fading light of the twilight hours and the tastefully designed flower garden was almost deserted except for a few married couples or odd pairs like them. The invite was followed by a good shower. It rained modestly for over an hour making the temperature more soothing. The sky was slowly overcast and black rain-laden clouds drifted across. As if washed clean by the rain, the trees in the house compound had acquired a pristine freshness. Dhruv felt the excitement more. The house was decorated tastefully. The string of mango leaves hung across the upper doorjamb, almost like a bridal ornament on the forehead! He knew this was meant as a good omen. He liked the ambience of the inner courtyard too. It had a homely touch of a small town average income household. The sky appeared bathed in white moonlight. The clouds have disappeared – as he discovered staring above – almost unmindfully. There were few chairs, a tiny sofa was added to the row of beds. The centre table had a good cover too. All these were probably trying to impress Dhruv that his girl-to-be, Kakoli, excelled in arranging chairs and beds for guests. There were several family members standing scattered to welcome him --- and importantly to get a glance of Dhruv, a talented young budding business entrepreneur, at least Dhruv thought so. Will all them start questioning him about the probable dates for engagement and marriage? But I would not commit anything in hurry, he tried to reassure himself once again. Taking his place in the designated sofa, Dhruv thought of a ‘war’ – but his apprehension was based on a rather erroneous prospectus. Any marriage will be as healthy as the man – he thought. The latent male chauvinism too came into play. But that’s the self-pride of a man! However, after customary exchange of pleasantries – it was again left as a bilateral meeting. This baffled Dhruv for a while. But it was Kakoli on the other side yet again playing a good hostess – taking care of his coffee, sweet lassi and then a grand dinner followed by ‘Gurer Ice-Cream’. “This last item is not home made…..,” Kakoli voluntarily clarified. $ More intense meetings took place since then. Kakoli was more than convinced that Dhruv would ultimately confirm their marriage. She was so confident that she did never bother to ask: “henn go amader biye hobe toh (Oh dear, we will definitely get married na?)”. Days passed by…. Days became weeks, weeks turned months. As expected Kakoli was feeling the pressure. The midnight tele-talk that she used to have with Dhruv, now that he has moved to the large city, having launched his company was no more a secret affair. Almost the entire township knew about the love-on-phone tale. So, now Kakoli wanted Dhruv to act fast, confirm their relationship and agree for the marital knot at an early suitable date. The wish was not unreasonable by any standard but never so from the point of view of Kakoli, who has grown fond of Dhruv and wanted to settle down with him. The plea more in the tone of a demand left Dhruv thinking. It was dark and hot outside though raining. A sharp wind blowing across gave the trees no peace. As if the wind would hit again and again against the window pane and roof. Somewhere, he thought the breeze was singing a song mournfully. Did he stand undecided? Or it was a case of no second thought? Or Dhruv was still in two minds and not sure of whether he really liked Kakoli or not? The man in love or not in live: men have to be men, Dhruv seemed telling his inner self. Slowly, he saw a flicker of light! Hmm …… He could probably guess his own intentions, plans, ambitions and expectations from life, love and life partner to be! The business acumen ought to be tested. Life, he knew is a journey – but it could not be traversed only with emotional baggage called love. It had to be oiled by money, prosperity and prospect of further property. But Kakoli could offer very little of that. That’s what his mind was telling. Heart had no place. It was the man in love’s understandings of the reality. Only a few days back, Kakoli had told Dhruv in advance that she would continue to work even after marriage. Well, that was no issue to Dhruv. He was like any progressive man; an educated young damsel should work if she intended to. But how could as her husband, he allow her to forego all her salary and other perks to the gal’s house. The poor in-laws had problems; they needed his wife’s income to support their family and more importantly ensuring education of her two younger brothers as also footing the medical bills of her father and an aging uncle. “This is not the way a son-in-law should be handled,” he told his own shadow reflecting on the sidewall wondered staring up at the sky. Dhruv finished his food and walked up to the balcony. The heat of the day was gone. There was a softer breeze even as the yellowish light flickered on the street from behind the bush of coconut and the large banyan tree. He was angry no doubt; but he was too tired to feel irritated over what Kakoli told him. The night was passing slowly; he returned to the bed room and thought it was time to go for a sleep, rather sound sleep. “Woi meye ta --- That girl Kakoli” is not worth spending the entire night, he told himself. Next day, he picked up the phone and informed Kakoli of his decision. “Look here, the kind of things we were expecting from our marriage is probably not happening. So I have decided not to move ahead,” he sounded very candid. There was a momentary pause on the other hand. Bengal is famous for the bold women, Kakoli thought for a while. She knew she has to bear this out. Coming so far ….. and then pushed to the wall and shunned. Well, the pride was hurt. But that’s not all. She was thanking her stars that she could know of the man, Dhruv, before the marriage. After marriage, probably things could have been more difficult to handle. Kakoli had to handle things for herself and her family. She tried to conceal her emotions. Staring outside – she saw a tiny sparrow like bird hiding in the thickness of leaves. The sun ray was gradually peeping inside. But she was not sure what she was really waiting for. @ Time flew faster. Months became year and years slowly made about a decade. Kakoli got married; on the other hand, Dhruv found for himself a girl from a well to do family. She brought in largesse, as he was sophisticated enough not to call them dowry. His life has turned into a routine and money minting system. Things poured in lavishly. There was enough bank balance and property in his name. His wife Nishta could not ever complain that her husband has not given her enough ornaments and saris. Everything was in plenty. Obviously, Dhruv too could not complain. He had everything coming his way. Everything lay on his table and bank accounts. Things lay is his cupboard too, but mostly untouched and perhaps also unappreciated. His accessories, clothes and money and diamond set often lay neglected. Human life often changes very fast. It was the same Dhruv who had shunned Kakoli and her emotions today realized life cannot be run by property, a booming business and bank balance. Walking up to the spacious balcony, he was holding his glass of wine. This is his every evening companion now. Nishta has turned too busy over the years. She had cocktails and social obligations. Occasionally, she also threw in party herself. But all these revolved around more for exhibition than ‘enjoying the occasion’ or every moment as Kakoli used to say. Nishta has her priorities of life and so there was no time for her husband. Staring towards starry night, Dhruv wondered about two birds moving around. Where do these birds go every night? More, importantly where do birds really go to die, mused Dhruv. Returning to his spacious room, he stared at the moon outside – trying to brave the darkness alone. Does moon too get scared when left alone in darkness, he unwittingly asked himself. He again turned towards his room and predictably was overwhelmed by the presence of costly decorative pieces, an aesthetic piece of painting on the wall brought from an exhibition in Paris and a few wrist watches and of course the bar in the corner. So much that he almost wanted to crush them. But man cannot do everything, he wanted to. “What have I done?,” he again asked unwittingly. He was remembering his morning meeting with a big entrepreneur from overseas. The businessman wanted to pump in some money in India. The project report was prepared about two months back and they had met during the day earlier only to give it final touches. To Dhruv’s surprise, the businessman invited me to lunch at his hotel and surprised him saying: “I will introduce you to my wife. She has been in this part of the city about 10 years back”. Dhruv was stunned as he knew the lady he was being introduced. Yes, that was Kakoli…. same yet again. Looked gorgeous and full of life. Kakoli’s husband intervened in their silence, “Let me introduce you both to each other …..”. Kakoli looked full of life, smiling and folding hands courteously. Her husband said, “You know, I was a pauper till I met this woman. She has changed my life. But the best part is she has remained how she used to be calm, composed and humane. I am the happiest husband, I swear dude”. “You know”, the businessman continued, “why I decided to sign the deal today. It is her birthday today… 6th May”. Kakoli looked that sheepishly shy, introvert and yet in control of things. "Happy Bbbbirthday !" Dhruv merely fumbled. Dhruv knew that’s how happy couples are made. He also realized how unhappy couples are made, like he and Nishta. Kakoli smiled graciously screwing her eyes up towards her husband – Dhruv realized for once none can beat that! Nishta has not even once given her that look. Kakoli sat on the nearby chair like an empress sitting at a distance --- evidently not knowing, how unhappy Dhruv has become since parting ways with her. She had no reason to bother about him. (ends)