Monday, April 26, 2010

The Tribune- Chatterati '26th.April.10'


Ever since the high flying NRI from America, Sant Chatwal got his Padma Vibhushan, he seems to have changed his lifestyle, or has it got something to do with the austerity drive of the Congress and thanks to his deepening links with some Congress guys. He was in town recently to attend a wedding. The high flying Chatwal this time around noticeably decided to skip his usual five star hotel accommodation and stayed instead with his dear friend the Rajya Sabha Member and Industrialist T.Subbarami Reddy. Even though Delhites were amazed with his being awarded with the Padma Vibhushan, they were impressed by the high profile parties held thereafter for him in the capital. But to beat all of that Chatwal was even felicitated out of town by Union Ministers. Chatwal it seems has growing and strong contacts in the corridors of the power today. He is close to high up bureaucrats too. Obviously, his having been blacklisted in America and declared bankrupt thrice doesn’t affect the standing with Delhi’s high ups. With the Padma Vibhushan under his belt he seems to be aiming for the coveted Rajya Sabha next, if not some other decoration in the future.
The ousted leader of the Samajwadi Party Amar Singh has been keeping a rather low profile now-a-days. His highly touted come-back rally was a bit of a flop show. Ever since he has left the Samajwadi Party, he seeming to be loosing his friendship with his two close brothers Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Ambani. Jaya Bachchan after all has chosen to still remain as the Member of Rajya Sabha from Samajwadi Party and in Parliament is seen to be on great terms with the other Samajwadi Party leaders. Jaya Prada on the other hand was more loyal and left the Samajwadi Party with Amar Singh and has openly been criticizing the S.P leaders since then.
Ever since Amar Singh had his serious kidney surgery in Singapore the Samajwadi Party’s leadership had been out to get him taking advantage of his absence. Amar Singh now really cannot hide any longer his disappointment with the Bachchans with not standing up with him in this time, of crisis. He as usual is rather blunt and speaks his mind in the capital whenever questioned on this sensitive subject. Which is so Amar Singh.
Naming roads in Central Delhi is an infrequent affair. Most of them have been named already and the rules now do not allow renaming. But clearly some spaces still exist and one of Delhi’s most idyllic leafy lanes recently got itself a new name, K.K.Birla Lane in memory of the industrialist and newspaper baron. It thus acquired a touch of history and national politics. In a simple roadside ceremony Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit arrived promptly on time to unveil a plaque and name the K.K.Birla Lane. Simplicity was the highlight of the event with the low-key Gopal Gandhi being the person called upon to be the main speaker at a small seminar that was held immediately after the ceremony was done. K.K.Birla’s three daughters and their families got pictures taken by the roadside providing a rare sight to office goers curiously peering from office cars.
At the ceremony site itself the only officialdom present were the Head of NDMC and the local M.P of New Delhi Ajay Maken. Most guests avoided the blazing sun of the ceremony and headed straight to the cooler India International Centre. The seminar focused on the contributions of K.K.Birla beyond the world of business and commerce. The large number of political attendees R.K.Dhawan, Abhishek Singhvi, N.K.Singh and Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia was a testimony to Birla’s stints in the Rajya Sabha, a role now taken over ably by daughter Shobhana Bhartiya.

Pioneer-Dilli Billi '25th.April.10'


The IPL controversy was long overdue. Lalit Modi was flying too high and a lot of powerful celebrities cheered for him. It was a give and take game for all of them. Any intelligent person would have known that this is not a straight game. It was an entertainment no doubt for a common man but for the rich and famous it was a money minting machine, gambling was in full swing too. Lalit Modi flew to new heights with his association with the former BJP Chief Minister of Rajasthan. His calculative and sharp brain was good to a point but then he got too carried away. Shashi Tharoor was a misfit in the politics right from day one. He just did not know how to play the Neta. Just changing from western suits to Fab India khadi kurtas does not make you a politician. His OSD Jacob is a bright young St. Stephen educated boy, an import from Dubai was also not really a good guide to a minister. This was a change that they could not digest. Arrogance and success too quick got them.
With the coming of Rahul Gandhi a lot of educated and bright people are coming in. The ones from political background are well settled. They know that each word they utter can cost them their chair and can ruin their future. They are neither arrogant nor bossy. They have spouses who adjust to their husband’s profession easily. You cannot afford to be flamboyant. It is a world full of hypocracy.The politicians may have a mistress in every town but she cannot be your arm candy in social gatherings; you could be making money hand over fist but implications of corruption should be kept far away from your family and close friends. When you are as high flying as Shashi Tharoor you may win the first election but your new khadi kurta must not be stained. If you have one friend in politics which is so rare, you will have hundreds bringing you down. You don’t need to take cash to be corrupt but you could be flooded with expensive gifts; someone could be paying for your children’s expensive lifestyle; you could be a silent partner in a company abroad or you could have a keeper of your money who then runs your household. That is what Lalit Modi did. He has everybody who matters in his business on the roll in one of the above ways.
Shashi Tharoor was naïve, arrogant and too carried away with his own image. There are some political high ups who get carried away with suave and well spoken guys but most of these guys are not cut to be politicians. They are best kept as diplomats or heads of commissions. Now that the government has opened the can of worms of the IPL they should see it till the end. A lot of senior ministers can be involved through their relatives. It is the best time for the Congress to clean the system and send a clear signal to the public that we are not scared even if the UPA government gets insecure. Such ministers become liabilities and with this ill gotten wealth they finance their politics. They also become powerful and arm twist the allies who are innocent. Everyone knows that this IPL/BCCI needs to be cleaned and cleared.
The sooner the better and the Congress high command will not get a better chance like this. So, on the whole the Tharoor, Sunanda, Modi controversy has cost these three huge personal losses but would hopefully be good for the real game cricket.

Monday, April 19, 2010

'The Tribune-Chatterati'- 19th.April.2010

Indian politics is often deep, dark and dirty. Indian Cricket is also very often no less of a cesspool. The two have begun to meet, merge and marry. The resulting mixture is therefore naturally toxic. It is into this mess that combines politics, players and power purse strings, that Shashi Tharoor decided to step in. As mentor for to the Cochin team, he may well claim that he was after all, only acting in his role as Member of Parliament. The southern state does not have a long history of cricketing passion. But now in his new role the gloves are all off. But in troops companion Sunanda who hails from Kashmir to Dubai via Canada and along comes OSD Jacob from Dubai coincidentally in the big investors who are mentored by Tharoor, to put serious money into the IPL new team are bidding from Dubai. This gang from Dubai has made Tharoor the main talking point of Delhi as no other junior minister has been in the last several years. Talking on a rude and offensive first strike by Lalit Modi has now opened up a can of worms that Tharoor with his United Nation’s experience could simply not have been prepared for. It didn’t help matters that Sunanda’s past too came under scrutiny. Sunanda has earlier only been seen in Delhi circles accompanying the Minister of State from gallery openings to smaller intimate gatherings.
Delhi was already curious about Shashi Tharoor’s personal life. It was now rivetted by this Kashmiri blonde on his arms. Fuelling Shashi’s ire at Modi’s revelation on Sunanda who magically appeared as a sweat equity holder in IPL winning Cochin bid was fuel to the fire in the form of OSD Jacob and his own set of tweets. The result of all this, a situation that Delhi has not experienced in recent times.
For a government that has been formed on a waifer thin margin and some alliances of convenience, the UPA has had a good run so far in its second tenure. But inevitably as we have seen in the past, the Prime Minister’s long foreign trips often throw up local fracases. His healing type of no comment while available, very often douses flames even before they become local conflagrations.
Digvijay’s comments from America, while on a personal visit, about Chidambaram’s anti-Maoist policy was one such. It showed the Congress ranks in disarray just a day before, and even during Parliament’s discussion on the Dantewada massacre. Because the two leaders are immensely senior and powerful, Delhi’s political pundits began to read subliminal messages and made multiple interpretations. Some of that, the party hopes will die down after the Parliamentary discussion on it. As if that is not enough to create nervousness in the Centre we also have a whole clutch of Union Ministers who have run out of their Rajya Sabha terms. They are of course hardworking and many are Ministers who deliver, so they have little reason to worry. Since all of them were also too nervous to attempt a Lok Sabha outing they are now dependent on the Congress high command. The constitutional point on whether they can survive as Ministers on expired Rajya Sabha seats is not yet tested. So, Ministry work proceeds nervously at best, while mantris keep a tentative hand on their kursis while signing files with the other. Some are even doing cross country official trips to woo states which may have spare Rajya Sabha capacities but whose Chief Ministers are nervous about accommodating outsiders. But all of this surely makes for a government that is nervous.
Amita Modi Singh’s party last week had guests from all walks of life. Amita had been planning this party for some time. It was a little late to celebrate her husband’s Sanjay Singh’s victory in Uttar Pradesh but never the less the party was full of people from different spheres. From Shiela Dikshit to Kapil Dev. One thing one gets to see in Delhi political parties is that M.P’s across party lines are there at their colleague’s house. Sanjay Singh’s youngest daughter Akansha played a gracious hostess with her mother. Bollywood stars are now more and more often in Delhi’s political parties. Jackie Shroff was a little uncomfortable wearing a suit in this heat. Nafisa Ali, Sangeeta Bijlani, Rudy Pratap Singh & Raj Babbar all had a great time here being their happy boisterous selves.

'Pioneer- Dilli Billi 18th.April.2010

There was a time, when I remember being completely aghast that Sharad Pawar a political King of the time wanted to join the Cricket Management Board. I was, I confess naive about the implications in the long run and about his shrewd behaviour and thinking. Even his colleagues of NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) were taken aback and were unhappy. Of course as the years rolled on it did cut into his political time.
Cricket is a religion in this country. The public of this nation, hero- worship every cricketer and will do anything for the game. But sadly it has been commercialized beyond belief. One cannot even imagine the amount of money that this sport has now got. Politicians have overrun this sport and used it for their benefits. As usual businessmen and politicians go merrily hand in hand and exploit every opportunity available. They have always played with the weakness of the public and used it for their benefits. From Jammu & Kashmir’s Farookh Abdullah to Himachal’s Chief Minister’s son to the Maratha king and now a Union Minister from Rajasthan, all of them are in this sport as the Presidents from their states. And, some in more roles than one.
It is absolutely absurd for the common man who cannot fathom why a politician spends so much time in this gentleman’s game? Well it is to exploit their weakness. The entertainment that Cricket supplies is one big reason. How can the youth of this country not be a part of Cricket? So to get a hold on their youth it is a must to sell them a collective dream. Every sports person in the villages wants to become a Kapil Dev or a Dhoni and that is not possible anymore, it seems now without a politician’s pull or a businessman’s sponsorship.
In the elections now-a-days, I have noticed free kits for playing Cricket were being distributed to youth. One may say whatever for but then, the child is happy. And when the parents are happy their vote is yours. That is not a compensation for no electricity or no water in the village but yes it is child’s play for politicians to get these votes. I also wonder why politicians want to head these odd sports committees. Why don’t the politicians just stick to their jobs and let the sportspersons to take over the sports bodies. Whether it is Hockey, Shooting or Badminton most of the money supplied to the players of these sports are actually eaten up by the people who head these sports committees. They are unfamiliar with the needs of sportspersons but are very familiar with the money which is meant for the sportspersons and not for their comforts. The sportsman travels cattle class whereas the politician with him travels first class. The kits for participants they cannot afford but once again politicians stay in five stars.
But as for Cricket it sells. Hence we have business people like Lalit Modi who have capitalized on it and made a fortune cheering the owners of the teams they back. He has made a money making machine and commercialized to the hilt by giving opportunities to new talents but ruined the essence of the real Cricket. It has become a rich man’s toy and once again it has made Lalit Modi a force to reckon with. Because of the power that Cricket has given him he can buy his way through any problem whether it is Shashi Tharoor over his stake in the Kochi team or Chief Minister Ashok Chauhan in Maharashtra to do away with the 25 percent entertainment tax.
How and when it will finish, one wonders! But we have been much interested in watching the show.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

'Pioneer- Dilli Billi 11th.April.2010

In the last one week I have been horrified by what I see on the electronic media on Sania Mirza’s forthcoming Nikaah. It has become a national debate and as usual our media has gone hysterical. This Hyderabad Tennis champion is our national pride. She is a great ambassador for our country when she represents it in matches abroad. She is pretty, educated and witty; knows her mind and speaks it too.
I am a great believer that personal lives of celebrities should be kept undercover and away from media glare. This young girl was so excited and happy to announce her wedding plans to the media. Her fiancée is a well regarded Pakistani Cricketer. I presume Sania was aware of his past and as any other girl in love is only concerned about her future with him. Did she deserve such pain and agony that some insensitive frenetic people have given her?
The Shiv Sena supremo declared that Sania should not play for India after her marriage. We are fed up of his views on everything. He also now makes noise just for attention. Who is he to talk about what people should do and not do? He has no authority to intervene in everyone’s personal life. It is Sania’s wish what she wants to do; it will be the country’s decision makers who will take the final call if she can play for the country after her marriage or not. Why is it that our politicians must have to say in everything? Have they ever looked within themselves before making judgments on others? We are not blind to what happens in the private life of politicians or people involved in media. But no one is ready to take them on. They only pick easy targets. Most of our politicians live in glass houses and cannot afford to throw stones on other people.
As it is Sania must be going through a rough patch with her fiancée’s past coming to haunt them. She is a decent well bred girl has been dedicated to her career. If she has fallen in love with a Pakistani how does it affect anybody’s life? The families have agreed and the boy and girl are happy. They are both celebrities in their fields and will continue to remain so. I am also shocked at the girl who claims to be married to Shoaib in the past. The other girl Ayesha, would she have made such a noise if Shoaib had not been marrying a star and just a sidey? How can one shamelessly go on and on claiming that Shoaib is her husband? If anything it was an internet affair. This just shows how damaging internet can be; I personally know many friends and how they have been duped with false promises, false identities are given and someone else’s pictures are put on the net. All this is sheer nonsense and I really hope that our media will stop dramatizing every little thing they find. Give the couple the breathing space they deserve and blessings. And the politicians should stop shouting on things which has nothing to do with them or with national interest. They should concentrate on more serious stuffs which benefits the Aam Admi. Like the Right to Education Bill, Women Bill and Health issues.
Tennis is anyways just another two-three years for Sania. With age catching up she will have to take it easy. We all have sisters and daughters and we should just treat Sania as one of them and let her be married in peace and live happily ever after. In other words give the kid a break.

'The Tribune-Chatterati'- 12th.April.2010

Delhi, quiet on cross-border talks for a bit, had got a little nervous when Sania Mirza’s forthcoming marriage to Shoaib Malik opened a debate on the ethics of cross-border weddings. But we have already had some rather sensitive cross-border marriages in India which have worked well till now. Just a few months back the JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik too got much visibility when he married a Pakistani painter Mashal. Cross-border marriages do fortunately have a long history and Mashal was given a rousing reception on her maiden visit to Kashmir last year.
Marriage after all is a personal decision. Even one of our former Chief Ministers currently has a companion from across-the border. They are happy and now look rather well settled. It has made no difference to their professional lives so far. Sania is our national pride and she fortunately will remain so even after marriage to the former Cricket Captain of Pakistan. Fortunately despite TV hysteria, no official “Delhi Statements” on the matter, ensured there were no red faces at the end.
Pak Cricketers and India’s leading ladies have always been rather attracted to each other, currently for example there is a buzz about Sushmita Sen being amoursly entwined with naughty boy Pakistani cricketer Wasim Akram. And now that the Shoaib row has been amicably settled, Delhi will await, with the rest of the country, the hullabaloo around the nuptials in mid April.
Diplomat turned author Pavan Varma who is now-a-days our Ambassador in Bhutan was in the capital with his whole family. His young lawyer son was getting married. The Sangeet and the Mehendi were quiet family affairs that saw the family dance till the wee hours of the morning. But the reception at Motilal Nehru Marg had a heady mix of politicians, media personalities, and artists. Sheila Dikshit and her family quietly savored the delicious Hyderabadi food while Anand Sharma met up with some old friends. Nalini Singh, Vinod Dua and other media heads were busy chatting away about the future of the nation. Sonal Mansingh, Satish Gujral and Jatin Das mixed and mingled with the crowds. Arun Jaitley walked in with wife Dolly who is now-a-days a great advocate of the Women’s Bill. The Vice-President Hamid Ansari is a former diplomat so was very much at ease in this homely crowd. Pavan has authored very many well received books. He has translated the former Prime Minister Vajpayee’s Hindi poems into English too. He and his two beautiful daughters along with his elegant wife Renu were excellent hosts at a do that had Delhi’s creamy layer in attendance.
The Rashtrapati Bhawan’s usually staid Ashoka Hall for a change was lit up by the glittering stars of Bollywood. Trooping in to receive their prestigious national awards they shone amongst the usual VVIP suspects always present at award function. There was the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and several politicians but the one who stole the show was no doubt Kareena Kapoor watching beau Saif get his and of course Rekha, the ever beautiful muse. Kareena was over the moon and clapping all the way wearing a saree and ethnic jewellery as her boyfriend Saif Ali Khan Pataudi walked up to the President to receive his award, speaking later he said endearingly that he would cease to be a naughty boy and instead “strive to be a more responsible citizen”. No doubt he hopes to get a higher award soon, something that Sant Chatwal who despite being feted at Praful Patel’s party, found few sincere well wishers now that his story has been besmirched. The ever young Rekha was the cynosure of all eyes as she elegantly received her award. The controversial awardee Chatwal for ‘obvious’ reasons did not get the same reception as the other awardees. This was a unique mix of glamour and politicians. It was very apparent that Chatwal was a misfit in this gathering. Given his track record one does not need to wonder why.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

'Pioneer-Dilli Billi'- 4th.April.2010

Once upon a time money was not an issue in politics. I remember my father narrating a story to me of his first election in 1962. He was the Congress candidate and he had to fight against his lawyer friend from the Jan Sangh. In those days a couple of hundred rupees were enough to fight an election. There was no personal enmity between the candidates. It was just who delivered better. And who had a good rapport with the Aam Admi. The candidates were still friends for life. They had simple lives, no fuss. At that time there were hardly any politicians and they were like any other people. Having grown-up in a political household which was like any ordinary household where your father leaves for work like any other father. There was nothing special at all; no facilities, no extra pocket money, no special status, nothing.
Today whether it is a Mayawati being garlanded with a garland of crores or any other politician being weighed with gold coins or being crowned with a jeweled crown, why can’t we just stick to the old norms of just plain Marigold garlands? Why do we have a convoy of 10 cars with a politician and 6 security gaurd cars? I am just so fed up of walking into a shop and witnessing a politician’s child with 10 gaurds. If it wasn’t for the over powering gaurds I would have not even noticed the plain Jane or some spastic child who has an insecurity problem. It is annoying seeing and observing the self importance of these guys. It is irritating beyond belief when these good for nothing “Gunda” type politicians walk in with a horde of clone looking guys making way for the useless khadi clad.
The politicians today are so carried away with their self importance and always looking for media attention that they can go to any extent for it. They make controversial statements which are foolish and even pay for the broadcasting. The vulgar display of money always done by Mayawati amazes everyone but she uses it effectively. Her Dalit voters live their dreams through her. They cannot believe that one of them has made it. And the more she does this vulgar display more they applaud her. It is her PR tactic with her own. She cares too hoots for the big wigs.
The other thing is personal enmity in today’s politics nothing is in good spirits. The more you demolish your opponents whether it is in personal attacks, whether it is sting operations; or by any unfair means they will go the whole hog. Misuse of power, false cases using everything in ones power for negativity is scary. Its never ending. Where and how is it going to end? This pettiness of sorts is getting to the common man. For him today a politician is the pits. He has no time for him. What can change all this?
The young educated who are now entering politics, the Rahul Gandhis and like him who do not believe in playing these dirty games. They are not crafty enough. They have seen the world and know how to gain votes by delivering to their voters. They are decent .They do not use power brokers or middle men. They are wary of them. But as the only body who is listened to now-a- days is the Supreme Court. It is high time they stepped into to put a stop to vulgar display of money and misuse of security forces to protect the insecure, self important, goons and also some criminals. Even India’s Home Minister does not either have a convoy of cars or gaurds when he travels. And that’s the way it should be.

'Pionner-Dilli Billi'-28th.March.2010

As one awaits the AICC reshuffle and the Union cabinet reshuffle one is surprised by the BJP’s new team. It is supposed to be the battle team of the new President of the BJP. What is new about the team and how it will fight against it’s opposition political parties is going to be so interesting to watch. There are new faces but how relevant are these faces in the public eye?
The Hema Malini’s, Smriti Irani’s and the women who have been adjusted keeping in mind the 33 percent women quota are just glamorous faces. Hema Malini has been in the Rajya Sabha for a long time now but one has to still hear her voice in the upper house. She is not a grassroot worker or has ever worked in the Sangh or is familiar with the party’s working. Smriti Irani has more to offer on the small screen than on the political front. Uma Bharti was supposing to have been adjusted but obviously something went wrong. It is surprising that Vasundhra Raje is the only lady with a substance in this reshuffle. Najma Heptullah is the lady who has been so long in politics but how relevant is she again is a question. Muslim face but grassroot zero.
Gadkari has adjusted all the right hand people of the powerful lot in the RSS and the BJP. There was a time when the BJP cried hoarse over the dynastic rule of the Congress but now all the sons, daughters, nieces and nephews are in the new list of the BJP. One must say that Gadkari is a shrewd politician with all his adjustments. He has managed to keep away his detractors. He has some how not been able to give due representation to Bihar, thus upsetting the top leaders of Bihar. He has also not managed to get Jaswant Singh back. He has not made any in roads into the different camps of Vajpayee and Advani. Actually everyone in the BJP is in a wait and watch mood. They want to give him time and see what he is really all about. After all, he has the full backing of the RSS.
He is bit insecure for the moment from his detractor’s side. But this new team of the BJP really has nothing to offer for the other political parties to feel insecure. It lacks substance even though it makes everyone in the BJP who matter happy as all the different groups in the BJP have their all men get plum posts.
The fangs are still not out. Neither is the praise. Gadkari is young according to the RSS and a new face. May be he will manage to change the system and the thinking of the stalwarts. A tough task. But a must for the country which needs an opposition which is relevant. At the moment the ruling parties are making hay as there is no one to question them. So, the sooner they get their act together the better for the nation. Otherwise the ruling is carefree and are happily getting their way in everything. Which suits them perfect. At one time the Sangh was always tearing into the wrongs of the ruling. Now-a-days its too much of an effort for them to move. Its also that some of the high ups are hand in glove with the ruling. Its like you scratch my back and me yours. So, we both form blind and deaf to each others fault. How good that is for the nation is anyone’s guess?

'Pioneer-Dilli Billi'- 21st.March.2010

Living in Delhi one has to be prepared for the high levels of living danger and knowing that travelling in the capital is a risky business. A survey source recently conducted that Delhi is also one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians. Being snooty Delhities we are not surprised when we hear of accidents every second day where youngsters die of rash driving. Usually fuelled by excessive alcohol abuse. There are no stringent rules and regulations followed and everything is taken easily. We live in a system where saab chalta hai & jugaads. Where etiquette and social behaviour take a back seat.
I have seen in recent times that the administration and the police are trying its level best to try and do whatever possible. In this process of change the public faces a discomfort. It is not easy to adapt the new systems. I remember when the Metro was just being set up even a bit of confusion was too much for the common man to handle. The BRT making made the middle class so angry and desperate. The media went hysterical and slammed the Delhi Government for traffic jams and confusion. Shiela Dikshit was lambasted left, right and center by all classes. But the tiny lady stood her ground and went through the whole process of negative publicity positively. She knew that the outcome would make the Aam admi happy.
Today when I travel on these Delhi roads in the BRT in my “air conditioned car”, I am relieved to see how smooth the flow of traffic is. My car may get stuck at a red light or crossing for sometime due to heavy congestion of cars. But now the Aam Admi for the first time in their lives goes past me in a superb bus. It is so comforting to see the new sense of hygiene and systematic running of comfort that the Aam Admi relishes today. Thanks to a bit of firmness by the head of the state.
It is very easy for the middle class to try and bully the administration. It is the middle class and the powerful who break rules and regulations. I have seen on many occasions how a big imported car will leave the lane meant for it and jumps on to the bus lane at the BRT to get a clearer road. If he is caught he will pay his way through. I have also noticed now how happy the cyclists are on their path. The Aam Admi who travels through Metro cannot thank Shiela enough for this present.
It is always difficult to train a human being and make him change his ways. What we need here is to educate people living in Delhi; we have to educate the cops and everyone from top to bottom. We have to sometimes ignore the middle class and their tantrums. We need to have tighter regulations of traffic and public awareness and strict fines have to be put in place for vehicles and vendors who encroach on footpaths. The subways have to be made safe which are currently in immaculate condition needs to be maintained by the people who take pride in it. Zebra crossing lessons needs to be taught for one’s own safety may it be the pedestrian or the passenger. This is not what a Shiela Dixit or administration can do on its own. There has to be a collective responsibility of the public and media also. The administration can provide you facilities but what is the use of and awareness’ of these facilities needs to be target. The administration should focus on spreading the awareness of not spitting on roads, on how to cross the road and other civil behaviour. They should start from pre-nursery institutions till the top. Today we have seen children teach their parents about small things that make a difference in the society. One of the recent examples is burning of crackers in Diwali. Thanks to the educational institutions who drilled into the children’s mind that crackers are unhealthy and lead to pollution the outcome was amazing, therefore awareness on civil behaviour should start from tender age because today the poorest of poorest works and sends their children to the neighbourhood school to make better civilians.

'Pioneer-Dilli Billi'- 14th.March.2010

I was always amused by our Railway Ministers. I will start with Laloo Prasad here who was a P.R specialist. I must congratulate our Railway Ministers for their ambition. It is so far sighted that they loose focus somewhere in between. They promise the sky in their budget speeches but drop the common man somewhere in between.
Mamata Banerjee’s budget proposals are so ambitious that everyone was stunned. The brightest of minds failed to understand how she will ever fulfill such promises. She has given Kamal Nath a run for his money by making a promise of 1000 kms of new tracks in one year. Kamal Nath’s performance will really be on test here but I am sure he is not worried at all because in the last fifty years the Railway has managed only a 180 kms per year. But if Mamata does manage to do this with the help of great officers that her Ministry has she will create history.
I travelled the other day in a train after a gap of two years. I must say I was highly disappointed by how the quality of food and hygiene has come down. I was a great supporter of Railway travelling before this trip. I have been travelling by the Shatabdi very often and thoroughly enjoyed the food and the quality of service that it gave to it’s passengers. But this trip, I was aghast that how ugly everything was. The compartment was stinking, the seats were dirty, the trays were oily and the food tasted stale. I was actually ashamed even at the uniforms of the waiters serving. They were crumpled and stained. The toilets the less said the better.
I as a frequent traveler on these trains I would request the Railway Minister to stop being highly ambitious. I would much better ask her to bring up the quality of the trains. It has gone down stead fastly. I have never felt so ashamed and sorry of advising my foreigner friends to undertake a Railway journey but would never recommend it hence forth. A friend of mine who asked for a thaali got food poisoning. The T.T kept changing everyone’s seat according to his wishes and how much he was paid for it even and above one wonders. And there was no one to complain too. I would much better prefer Mamata to give a passenger security while travelling, cleanliness, security for women passengers, punctuality of trains and polite attendance.
It is not a bad idea for the Railway Minister to give instructions to the officers in the Railway Ministry to make sure that her vision for the department is fulfilled. It also won’t be a bad idea for the Minister to spend some time in the Rail Bhawan personally. She owes it to the people of the country. Atleast when she takes over as the Chief Minister of West Bengal. May her ambition be fulfilled in the next Assembly elections in West Bengal but not at the cost of the nation as she heads the Railway Ministry please.

'Pioneer-Dilli Billi'-7th.March.2010

Ever since I can remember the Congress has wanted to sincerely work for the empowerment for women. After all this is the only party where women have been encouraged and rewarded. The top posts today, that is the President of India who has been a political figure for decades; the Speaker of Parliament are both women who are performing their duties to perfection. The Congress may be the only party in whose rule you find so many lady governors in different states. The Congress has been for many years trying to tell their allied parties about how important it is for the women reservation bill to come through. But unfortunately a consensus could not be reached.
The long delayed women’s reservation bill now looks poised to finally pass through parliament. Having crossed the hurdle being cleared by the cabinet. The bill has been hanging in Limbo in various versions for a decade or more. The Congress party has always insisted that it is serious and passionate about seeing the bill through. But the karma of coalition politics that has dogged Congress Government in previous avatars prevented it from moving forward. But this time it seems that its set to pass. There was of course an attempt during the cabinet meeting by some Congress men to try and suggest that it should go to the Rajya Sabha first but fortunately it was over ruled.
But both Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi are quiet clear that this is a bill whose time has come. Indeed, it has the potential of completely changing the nature and nurture of Indian political life. And women cutting across all party lines see this as a huge victory in a battle that sometimes seemed never to end.
Once passed this Act will seriously affect all parties and the very nature of governance. Whilst the Laloo’s and Mulayam’s will predictably storm out of Parliament during the final debate the real reason is that this Act could severely constrain parties like theirs with an obvious male and caste dominance. They could see seriously poll reversals since their vote banks could get eroded. But in big parties i.e. the Congress and BJP that will have to do the most work. Women in parties, other than inheritors and a few favored otherwise, have had to struggle to get tickets to fight. With this sea change the big parties will have to scramble to get new talent and make them accept the challenge of polls. This will be a whole new ball game for parties with established war horses minding most states that they have hopes of winning. It is also very important that the kind of women who come into politics now. The screening committee of all parties have to make sure that the committed sincere and useful women are selected. Just to fill in the reserved constituencies without seeing the criteria needed for the lady to present her constituency should obviously be given preference. Otherwise it would be unfair to the Aam Admi.
How all this will play out and who will emerge with an advantage is the new big googly of Indian politics. And this is one where only one thing is certain. Either way, women win and hopefully with that, the polity too.

'Pioneer-Dilli Billi'- 28th.February.2010

There is so much noise being made on the price rise issue. Every political party is trying its best to get as much mileage as it can get from it. The UPA Government does not know how to tackle it. The Prime Minister is embarrassed but helpless. And the debate has attainted a high level of hypocrisy. No one has a solution or a constructive suggestion.
Firstly, the Prime Minister does not know how to tackle the Minister in-charge Mr.Sharad Pawar. He is the head of one of the major political party which forms the UPA today and unfortunately Pawar could not care less. He is a successful politician and is also a shrewd businessman. He is making the most out of the weakness of this Government. The aam admi is actually shocked at the silence of the Prime Minister, how he allows its coalition partners to blackmail him. It is more or less as you are in a fix. We are here for our agenda and not to make you comfortable beyond a point. Whether it is Sharad Pawar, Mamata or the DMK.
Mamata throws her tantrums and makes sure she gets her way. The other two partners are too arrogant to care. Sharad Pawar is a clever manipulator. He wears a lot of hats and as the head of the Cricket Board; he has lots of friends in the ruling as well as in the oppositions where favors are exchanged for their own benefits. Sharad had last year announced that he will not fight the next elections but obviously, gave up due to temptation. One wonders at times how much money does someone really need? Too much greed can make you loose your real focus. And that’s what has actually happened. But for sure his ambition of becoming Prime Minister, he know is not possible with Rahul as active as he is. Rahul has given all the other political party heads a run for their money.
Mamata Banerjee, on the other hand is too focused, she could not care a damn on what happens to the Railway Ministry. Her focus is only that she must, must take over as the West Bengal Chief Minister. She does not attend Union cabinet meetings; she is always in Kolkatta and hardly attends office in Delhi. She is very clear about her motive. She is not answerable to anyone. And makes sure her people are in line with her. Her agenda for the future is clear and will go to any extent to get her government in Kolkatta. To the extent of now even calling business to invest in West Bengal.
The DMK is of course all in the family for the Supremo. He has enough kids to be adjusted in the cabinet and he wants the most lucrative portfolios for them. He has managed till now and will keep managing between his two family houses he has till now managed with great balance. In the state and centre his kids are well looked after. They then look at the financial status of DMK. That is what happens to these regional parties. Finances to run a political party is a serious matter. The election’s expenses are so high. So, that is one good reason that the representatives in the high command of every party demand a sort of pay off for supporting the Government.
It is a shame that the voter does not realize how many adjustments even a straight and simple hardworking Prime Minister has to make to keep running if one party does not rule. Hopefully the voter will see through the hypocrisy of the allied partners and opposition too.

'Pioneer-Dilli Billi'- 21st.February.2010

Sharukh Khan, the mega star, thought he was articulating the correct cause when he lamented over the non inclusion of Pakistani players in the latest edition of the IPL cricket Tamasha. It is always nice for famous people to make the right noise over right issues so that their constituency remains intact worldwide. There was also nothing wrong with what he said. A lot of Indians too felt that Paki players would spice up the IPL and for Fashion hostesses, involvement of Pak stars would mean gainful employment for a while. Even Chidambaram expressed regret over no one bidding for Pakistani Players.
Sharukh, however, is also an astute businessman and owner of Kolkata Knight Riders. Why did he not bid for Pak players, nevertheless? He can simply fly in these players, even for moral support. Even now he can bid for some players if he wishes. After all the government of India made it clear that, it is not involved in such International auctions and rightly so. The response from Pakistan was hysterical. India bashing reached a new high and was laughable to speak the least. If only Pak establishment realized that in a growing robust economy of ours, the state is not interested in controlling everything. Only Pakistan can do that with disastrous results.
The truth is that owners of the various teams in the IPL are shrewd businessmen and women, backed by cricket experts, who want to earn money and rightly so. Preity Zinta, the brave woman who has once testified against the dreaded mafia in Mumbai in court, clearly said that economics was the prime reason behind selection, along with availability. Can any one find fault with the selection so far? Sharukh should also know that mercurial Afridis and Shoaibs may make you win one or two matches but can also make you lose quite a few, with their unpredictable behaviour. Hence many bid for new players on the block, say from West Indies, who are solid and devoid of any antics or attitude.
Notwithstanding the merits of Sharukh’s arguments, the riposte by the Shiv Sena was expectedly as hysterical as the Pakistanis. Sharukh’s statement hardly meant anything more than a wish, but Shiv Sena transformed it into a defining statement on Indo Pak relations. A dormant sena still smarting under the defeat in the last assembly elections comes alive on any banal theme relating to Pakistan, Biharis or muslims. Sure enough lumpens got into the act and threats were held out against Sharukh’s latest release in the theatres.
Sadly, everyone kept quiet. Even the actor’s friends! After all who wants to mess around with the street lords in any city of our country and face the consequences, when the state itself abdicates its responsibility? It was pathetic to see Maharashtra’s politicians and officers groping for answers when asked to respond to Sena’s hooliganism. It took a Rahul Gandhi to call the Sena’s bluff. Rahul confined them to the barracks as it were. Later the Union Home Minister had to remind Chief Minister of Maharashtra of his role as the custodian of law and order. Fearing that inaction may prove costly this time, the state government put its act together to deployed police at the theatres where Sharukh’s film was released.
In the end, no Paki player still made it. Shiv Sena , in the ultimate analysis, only gave tremendous publicity to the actor’s film for which Sharukh must thank the Thackereys. Lastly, there are still brave ones around. Like Preity Zinta who testified against the mafia, it was only Salman who spoke for Sharukh. Didn’t Edmund Burke speak something about good men keeping quiet?

'Pioneer-Dilli Billi'- 14th.February.2010

The Union Government of India displayed its due concern over the internal security situation in the country by organizing yet another meeting of the Chief Ministers on February 7. The concerns were many, as articulated by the Prime Minister in his inaugural speech and later spelt out in greater detail by the Home Minister. The prime Minister referred to the alarming infiltration levels from across the border in Jammu and Kashmir and the need to be united in fighting terrorism and divisive forces. He also talked about naxalism and insurgency in the north- east. Later Chidambaram appealed to the states to fill around 4 lakh vacancies in various ranks of the police across the states and take expeditious decisions on issues pertaining to security.
Though security issues have been debated in the country for the last so many years, these debates rarely went beyond some routine follow up exercises by the states’ and that also primarily with a view to gain Centre’s nod for more funds under modernization or other heads. Law and Order being a state subject helped both the centre and the states in blaming each other for the security related lapses. A series of terrorist attacks since the beginning of this decade witnessed a war of rhetoric engaged in by the two. Union Home ministers, hitherto, were conveniently shrugging off their shoulders, expressing their helplessness at the increasing attacks, citing lack of determination and action on the part of the states.
It is to Chidambaram’s credit that for the first time even the opposition states are now willing partners in the exercise initiated by the centre for shoring up our security apparatus. The chief Ministers listened to him intently and later complimented him for a number of initiatives taken by him. Modi praised him for “quick response time”, while Shivraj and Raman Singh assured their cooperation on security issues. This is a very healthy sign for our democracy where on a sensitive matter like national security we are able to have a consensus.
It was very heartening for the Government of India to see some Chief Ministers having done their homework before coming for the meet. Some of the issues like police vacancies, requirement of police stations, quick response teams, mega city policing were never on the radar of the CMs before because they did not fall in the list of ‘ vote catching’ schemes. Chidambaram’s persistence and the fear of public outcry after another attack has forced the hands of CMs to now take proactive stand on police matters.
It is still too early to say whether Chidambaram will be able to push all his schemes through with the help of the states. Some of his pet projects, however, are getting all round support like the MAC, meant for immediate sharing of intelligence inputs with the states and concerned security agencies. Another ambitious scheme of linking the police stations with the district and state police HQs and finally to the national database on crime and criminals is also getting a serious look in.
There is still a lot to be done. The Indian public was eagerly looking forward to the police reforms as directed by the Supreme Court. The states are, however, still blocking them. How can you transform the security apparatus, without police reforms? How can you improve policing without targeting the police stations and how can you run the state law and order machinery without choosing the right IPS officers? Unfortunately the Netas and the Babus will never allow the police to get out of their clutches. Chidambaram’s biggest challenge would be to free the police from their yoke and selecting the right officers who are only answerable to the Law of the Land.

'Pioneer-Dilli Billi'-7th.February

The choosing of personalities for confrontment of Bharat Ratna and Padama awards is done by a high level committee. The citizens of India are sure that the committee goes through every person’s name carefully that it is not tainted and it is deservingly conferred because of their exception and distinguished services to the nation. These awardees are a pride to the nation. They are people who the ordinary man looks up to and these awardees sort of set examples for the ordinary citizens.
This year there is a lot of hue and cry from all quarters on whether Chatwal, the hotelier from New York was eligible for the award. There were many cases pending on Mr. Chatwal with the CBI for which he was given a clean chit, but does that make you eligible for the award? Was his lobbying for the nuclear deal in the U.S enough material that all his suspect cases in India are washed off? I must say that I have followed these awards for many years as every other citizen and seen the pattern followed by the every political party ruling at that moment. I do suggest that the awards be re-named as the political party award rather than a national award. The awardees are obviously close to the ruling party and have done their two bits to help some high profile ruling person like in the last UPA Government. The Samajwadi party pushed through a lot of names for the awards. These awards have now become services rendered to ‘A Political Party’ than to ‘The Nation’. Why do these awardees only have to be high flying? There are many citizens who have done much more than the people who end up getting these awards.
The only solution to end the controversies around these awards is just scrap them. As of now these awards are now associated with personal favour to ‘A’ person other than excellence, or service to the nation. Its not just fair to the public that that people with suspect credentials often figure in the roll of honour. What is equally bad is that with lobbying often deciding who makes it and who doesn’t, suspicion shrouds the choice of even the people who are otherwise deserving.
There is a mechanism all these for choosing the awardees but people who have been it’s part have disclosed how they are observed in the breach. If this is how it works now why persist with a system that reminds us of the colonial era when awards and titles were conferred merely as a form of patronage and favour.
Governments should now correct the system and not use the Padma awards as a system of patronage and repayment of favours. These awards should not be used for political purposes. It turns particularly shady when you are giving it to business people or spiritual leaders who should know better than take awards.
Criteria should not be merely excellence, but “excellence plus,” a lifetime achievement. No guidelines seems to have been followed in general as the awards committee is not given reports of tax or criminal records of the prospective awardees. The President’s office, the Vice President’s office, the PMO and the Home Minister can give their recommendations even up to the last minute. There are influences and we cannot avoid. Many good people who haven’t asked for the awards are left out.
If the Prime Minister is so bent on changing the systems then this should be high on his priority list. Because we really don’t want tax evaders and suspects being awarded and make us feel that once again honesty, hardwork and dedication can be by-passed by some wheeler dealer who has the right connections.

'Pioneer-Dilli Billi'-31st.January.2010

Aamir Khan’s latest creation “Three Idiots”, the current rage among the academic community has highlighted only one of the weaknesses of our higher specialized education, that is the overriding focus on cramming, to clear the exams. There are actually so many ills afflicting our academic institutions that its about time we woke up to the stark reality about the low quality of our education than living in our make believe world of being a world academic power.
Our primary education is neglected, to put it mildly and the government has done well to pass the act guaranteeing education to all at this level. The issue is, however, does the central government have the resources to fund this ambitious project entirely on its own, considering the tardy response of the states, both in terms of their contribution towards finance and the necessary infrastructure? The primary schools across the various states lie in shambles- broken run down structures with teachers who live not in that village and make their presence felt occasionally. With the district Education Officer playing ball with the collector and local politicians, primary education is just another file in the Babu’s almirah both at the district and state headquarters.
That is why there is clamour for higher education. Because schools, except the kendriya vidyalayas and some good private ones teach you nothing and prepare you for nothing. Look at the applications you get for ordinary jobs- the qualifications of the applicants are astounding and yet a majority of them are not suited for even such jobs. This is because the degrees they hold are acquired easily through various underhand methods. Check out how some local politicians and sometimes even the big ones put in all their might to keep examination centres in some specific schools of their choice, not for any altruistic motive, but to allow students to use unfair means. After all vote banks are more important than the sanctity of the examination system.
While fake degrees have been unearthed from time to time during college admissions, it is the relaxed and farcical schedule of college classes that is most worrisome. Barring the professional colleges like the IITs and medical and law schools, students love college because of its “free for all” style. Lecturers lecture and walk away and students are left to themselves to do what they feel like. Therefore even an ordinary college degree fetches you nothing by way of a job.
As if this was not enough, the latest racket concerning the Deemed universities will finally put the last nail in the coffin of higher education in the country. According to the report filed by the government in the Supreme Court, 44 such universities are to be derecognized for non fulfillment of the laid down criteria. Roughly 2 lac students would be affected. Of course how many of them are serious students is anybody’s guess.
Even a fleeting visit to some of these so called universities will tell you what a fraud has been played with the system and how recognition was given to most of them. Worse still, grants were given by the UGC to several of such unfit ones. The whole system was subverted by appointing the ‘right’ expert committee and setting up ‘appropriate procedures’. An honest UGC secretary was hounded out when he protested.
Sure enough, politicians are involved with some pliable IAS babus as usual. Of the 44 to be derecognized, some are owned by politicians. For every minister in GOI, doling out favours is an important criterion of perceived importance. For HRD, recognition grant to academic institutions is one such critical area.
What is the lesson? Throw out politicians and the babus from the education sector and you will see remarkable improvement in no time.

'Pioneer-Dilli Billi'- 24th.January.2010

This is not the first time that one hears of a MLA’s alleged nexus with land mafia and a Dubai based hotel chain. To the common man all this is not new. Thanks to the over alert media, one is now familiar of all kinds of mafia, Dons and politicians friendships. Politicians today have to be in sink with business houses and the mafia to survive. Money and goons is what Indian politics has come to be known as. To encourage it there are enough wheeler dealers and brokes in the corridor’s of power.
Last week some senior policemen were caught on camera at a party hosted by some don’s right hand men in Mumbai. We have heard of cops and politicians being on the take from criminals and Dons on monthly basis. And I believe that the public has taken all this for granted till now. Whether it is the power of money or muscle the politician cannot survive without it. We have many of these criminals who have come into politics themselves. They have made enough money illegally and now want to come to power only to make more money and taste the nasha of power. And may be gain some sort of legibility too.
Manmohan Singh refused to take Shibu Soren into his cabinet in the centre because of Shibu’s past. Would I blame the Prime Minister in this? The Prime Minister has a cabinet with polished, experienced and men who deliver. There may be some on the take but not in the same shameless way like the one’s who belong to small political parties which are usually a one man show. The common man heaved a sigh of relief when the Prime Minister put his foot down on Shibu Soren. But Shibu Soren is back as Chief Minister. Is it money that worked or muscle power or both? For Shibu Soren’s of today there is no loyalty to anyone. He goes with anyone who ever gives him the chair to sit on. And a license to loot. So, now BJP with their high moral ground till now on Shibu are his partners in crime in Jharkhand.
But all is not lost; as I do feel that the new youth which is entering politics now will not resort to the same ways. As Rahul Gandhi asked the students in Gwalior last week. Do I look like a criminal or corrupt? He was urging the youth to enter politics. This is cutting across party lines whether it is the Congress, NCP, Samajwadi. Nor will the voter allow it. It is an aware voter. With the average age of a voter today is below 35. We do understand that politics does need money today hence business houses have their own men in politics whom they nurture. When the time comes their services will be used for some beneficial policy changing. No wonder many business men don’t want to be in politics themselves. Why dirty their hands when politicians can be bought to do their work.
Mafia, politicians and businessmen will have to change their operations as younger generation takes over. This is an educated more content and patriotic bunch of youngsters. And luckily for them their main assets are awareness and exposure. Whether it is through education abroad or through the net. And Manmohan Singh has got back respect and dignity into this profession of politics. His being the head of the nation has given hope to the youngsters that all politicians are not criminals and money crazy. So, hopefully the ‘Aam Admi’ youth will also participate in cleansing the dirty politicians. Also to break the nexus of criminals, business houses and politics.

'Pioneer-Dilli Billi'-17th.January.2010

The year 2009 ended on a grim note. A slew of agitations coupled with the ongoing insurgency in large tracts only indicate that we have to make some hard choices if we want our democracy to succeed. Democracy sometimes is confused with mobocracy in India. One wonders if lawlessness even pays at times. Consider the number of agitations being carried out leading to rampant destruction of public property and yet no one is punished because all such cases are withdrawn in “public interest”. Every second day, a national highway is blocked, vehicles torched and shops vandalized for some accident or the other. The police never swing into action, knowing that the political masters will never support them. In some cases policemen have also been lynched by mobs. With the law enforcement machinery or hesitant to act because of no clear directions from the executive, our democratic institutions are under serious threat.

Most State Governments are known to back track on issues of Governance. Public representatives never favour firm handling of law and order incidents lest it annoys a section of their vote bank. Very few CMs arouse any confidence or enthusiasm among the electorate with respect to governance or development. It is a pity to see the State of Jharkhand being run by a rag tag coalition under the “famous” Shibu Soren. The same BJP which criticized him vehemently for his various ills, is a major partner in the coalition. Jharkhand today faces the gravest threat from naxalism. With a fragile Government like this, it is anybody’s guess how well it can fight the naxals.

Naxal violence today has extremely dangerous portents and the massive drive to be launched by the Central Government in Maoist strongholds is awaited still. Problems in acquisition of bullet proof vests and other equipment, being daily projected by the TV channels, will only add as a dampener to police morale. Time and again, it has been emphasized to the State Governments that Naxalism cannot be viewed as a series of law and order incidents. It is a full blown insurgency which needs to be tackled by a quantum jump in allocation of resources and police deployment. With the security infrastructure in rural areas lying in shambles in the form of decrepit police stations, untrained constables and outdated equipment, the local police cannot even stand up to the naxals, let alone fight. Elected Panchayats and Zila bodies hardly help. Rampant corruption and political bickering have rendered them totally ineffective in either promoting development or stemming naxal advance in the area. The Maoist controlled areas need a different model of Governance with the twin objective of unfettered development along with hard anti insurgency measures.

Agitations for new States were the recurring theme in 2009. While the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha paralyzed the Darjeeling Hill areas on the simplest of pretexts, pro and anti-Telengana agitations reached a peak in the month of December. Unfortunately, this also gave impetus to the hooligans to resort to mindless destruction of public property. In Andhra, trains were stopped, highways blocked, government buildings targeted, vehicles torched and life and activity paralyzed in Hyderabad and major towns of Andhra Pradesh. Whether the issue is resolved or not, one thing is sure that all the criminal cases of goondagiri or hooliganism would be withdrawn by any government in power. This is a sad part of our democracy.

Have the newly carved out States really helped the cause of our democracy or led to betterment of lives of people in these regions? Both Chattisgarh and Jharkhand have suffered due to the naxal onslaught due to lesser resources and continued political bickering over Governance. What is the guarantee then that Telengana will not suffer the same fate? Who can say with confidence that the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha will give a better Government in Darjeeling? Look at the violence level of the districts in Bodoland Council, Assam created by the Union Government some years back.

2009 reveals that our democracy still faces many real and basic issues, which are just wished away by our political leaders. The Prime Minister would do well to call an all party meeting to arrive at a consensus, at least on some key issues like internal security and terrorism, poverty alleviation programmes etc,

'Pioneer-Dilli Billi'-10th.January.2010

Tigers going extinct, is and ought to be our major national concern. And a visit to Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan restores one’s realization that conserving nature and preserving our nature needs to be the highest priority.
Sighting a Tiger in the wild, is a magnificent sight that you cannot forget. Once you have spotted one in the wild, everything else is a bonus. In a forest like Ranthambore that has lots of Cheetals, Sambhars, Chinkaras, Wild Boars and a host of other animals including Leopards, seeing a Tiger is still the ultimate thrill for visitors to the park. And doing that over a New Year weekend provides a welcome relief to those who want to get away from all and for those who are seeking the restorative qualities of quietitude in the raw.
The Jaisal and Anjali Singh, owned ‘Sher Bagh’ with its luxurious tented accommodation and some of the most experienced forest drivers is clearly the best place to be when you visit. Sher Bagh’s proud Manager, Yusuf Ansari says, “Ranthambore is the only national park worldwide that allows you to combine pure nature along with ancient history”. Indeed, Ranthambore National Park has a beautiful jewel of a pre Mughal fort that is massive and awesome in itself and as a result the park is dotted with ancient monuments through which the wildlife now roam freely and fiercely.
The big cat is clearly the king of the jungle and the 1,400 acres of forest has allowed the park management to build up it’s fast dwindling population in recent years. Today the latest estimates are that Ranthambore now has close to 40 Tigers. An energetic and efficient DFO like the one in charge currently, clearly makes a difference to Park morale and animal mortality. But alas, these too are often changed by whimsical bureaucrats.
Ranthambore’s biggest and most obvious problem is a temple within the buffer zone that causes massive human pollution levels and encourages rampant commercialism. The crowds who go fairly deep into the Park arrive in hordes and place an unfair burden on the Forest Department. They are neither regulated nor even policed in any real sense.

Sadly the authorities have not been able to control the boorish behaviour of many tourists either who defile the park with behaviour that is uncaring for nature and the location they are in. They very often attempt to disturb animals, pay little attention to park etiquette and generally ruin the experience to those unfortunate enough to be stuck in the Park’s diesel-fume spewing Canters. But despite all this, clearly the park is popular and packed with Indian and foreign tourists who recognize it as an ideal spot to get a glimpse of a Tiger in the wild.
Sher Bagh and the quiet of the jungle are one very potent kind of combination that Indian Tourism needs for a sustainable future. In a fast paced world, where conservation and nature are the new buzz words, the appeal to both domestic and foreign tourists is only likely to increase with years ahead. Simple tents that have superb comfort levels are only one part of Sher Bagh’s appeal. An eco-friendly approach permeates everything they do-a model for those who need to study luxury tourism micro-cosms that work well. Given a more forward looking and quality conscious tourism policy, this kind of resort could be the model that makes an Incredible India that goes beyond the more obvious tourist trails as a magnet for global travelers in the future. Of course, this require concentrated efforts to make sure that the battle is between development, politics, man and nature is more often ,decided in favour of nature – which sadly, like Tigers, suffer simply because they do not have a vote.

'Pioneer-Dilli Billi'-3rd.January.2010

2010 is a year of celebration for the Congress. 125 years ago Congress set it’s a mark. There is no doubt that today this party has nothing to fear. It has no competition and its actually the single most popular political party today. After winning the Lok Sabha elections in 2009, this party regained it’s confidence and it’s worker got new life. It went on to come back to power in several states. Right from Jammu and Kashmir to Maharashtra and Tripura. With the Gandhis’ in control and a clean capable Prime Minister in place along with the Council of Ministers who are experienced, delivering and are any day more honest than any other Governments in the recent past. Even with the price rise and few acts of terrorism the aam admi is not feeling insecure or hassled. They know they are in capable hands.
The opposition parties are in tatters. Fighting among themselves and have more or less resigned to being on sidelines. They do try to perform their duties while instigating the public but fortunately nobody pays attention. Its not a unique situation when you see political parties going through a tough time when they are out of power. It has happened to the Congress many times, when the Congress had been in the opposition. Even though today the Congress is in power in 12 states only. It has got a larger image profile. The public has definitely realized that the Congress men at the top are top caliber and the image of Manmohan and Sonia leading the country ahead in the most secular way possible has made them the party gain ground.
The country’s voters today there are the 65 percent youth and obviously they are for Rahul. Rahul Gandhi is dedicated to bring democracy in the Congress by having elections in the Youth Congress and the PCC. If he manages to really make this party a democratic party he will be a clear winner. There are great hopes from this Gandhi scion. Congress members in the states are always vary of office bearers being selected from the Central High Command. This on the behest of just some chamchas who’s main agenda is to be seen in the powers of corridors in Delhi. They feed wrong information which only suits them. Most of them are loosers from the states they belong to and hence their insecurities does not encourage the democratic system that Rahul is trying to get into the party.
They would much better prefer observers from the Centre whom they host, dine and wine exclusively by themselves and fill his ears by feeding him what suits them. Old family connections are also exploited to do the same. Even though most of these guys are heritage pieces now and corrupted over time. They will send their guys only to meet the observer. No other can get an appointment. The High Command has to make sure that any Congress man should be allowed to fight elections of the party and the best man may win. If Rahul manages to abolish sycophancy and stop groupism, the Congress will never face defeat in any state. This democratic system within the party will give more confidence to an ordinary Congress member and make the Congress stronger for tomorrow.
Fair election is only possible if the observers are neutral and allow everyone a chance to say their mind. They should only be sincere to the party and not a person. They have to get over personal grudges and favourism. Rahul has to make sure his plans are all put in a place honestly and with dedication.

'The Tribune-Chatterati' 5th.April.2010

Delhi has been through a hectic social week. A bunch of Indian Premier League (IPL) matches and non-official after parties along with the FDCI Fashion Week and its bacchanalia, all coincided. The party of the first Indian Premier League match in Delhi was a ‘happening’ one in Delhi’s language. For a change the owner of the Mumbai team Nita Ambani and her two children were present. The Ambani children have been kept out of the media glare till now. This was actually a fun evening with the country’s top models walking on the ramp in Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna’s outfits. Of course in all IPL after match parties you have almost the same crowd of Lalit Modi, Rajiv Shukla and the relevant cricketers and team groupies who dance till the wee hours of the morning and then amazingly are again ready for the next match, next party, next city.
The much awaited fashion week of the FDCI was however a dampener. Obviously the FDCI’s carelessness led to commotion and frustration for many top designers. They could not get their fire license in time thus leading to the first day’s shows getting cancelled en-masse. So, Ritu Beri for example, could not get Sushmita Sen as her show stopper the next day because alas Sushmita was already booked for the next programme.
Actually the fashion weeks are now
quite a public flop. In this fashion week one neither saw celebrities or major buyers. The designers were not, privately, happy with arrangements at all. But here once again the after party of some designers were quiet a hit. Free booze and free khana is after all, always welcome in Dilli.
Drawing room Delhites are busy trying to keep tabs on the Common Wealth Games. This is a favourite pastime in Delhi circles today. Suresh Kalmadi’s apt reply on who’s going to be the face of the Common Wealth Games was well taken by some. It has to be a sportsperson and a young face and not a repeat of old Amitabh Bachchan of the Asian Games he indicated. It is as if the love-hate relationship that Amitabh and the Congress have is being carried on. And it cannot be that Amar Singh can remain out of it all. Delhites still cannot after many many years fathom - What is Amar Singh all about?
The Bachchans’ have a history of being in the way of Gandhi family controversy. It began when the Bofors case came up. Now Jaya Bachchan has for once not sided with her ‘dear brother’ Amar Singh. But obviously she is still busy humoring Mulayam Singh Yadav. Her Rajya Sabha seat is about to expire and she represents the Samajwadi party. The Bachchans’ also realize that there is no other political party that can accommodate Jaya Bachchan in the Rajya Sabha. The famous trio Amitabh, Anil and Amar which were known as Amar, Akbar, Anthony in Delhi circles seems to be in troubled waters now. So many people are now watching the Amar, Akbar, Anthony trio relationship closely as to see what the future holds for them and where they land.
As the Congress gears up in Uttar Pradesh to take on Mayawati, Rahul Gandhi has his own agenda very clear. As he is already now known for his hardwork and honest opinions, he is working overtime to take in as much as he can, whether it is meeting editors over a quiet meal or spending time with renowned religious scholars. He frequently visits Dr. Karan Singh who is a master of literature, music, art and culture. The ICCR Chief, Dr. Karan Singh has authored books on Hinduism too. Rahul is frequently seen with dedicated NGO heads at the South Indian eatery Sagar Ratna regularly. He walks into conferences to hear speakers who interest him frequently without any fanfare. He recently swept Black Swan author Nassim Taleb away for a quiet lunch. All very quietly.
So, when Rahul is not campaigning across the country he is busy grasping all that he can by meeting people, right from scientists to thinkers and industrialists. He has a limited circle of friends where he might spend a quiet evening at home with them; otherwise this young man spends his time meeting Congress men from across the country.

'The Tribune-Chatterati' 29th.March.2010

I had been hearing about the Ice-bar opening up in the capital for sometime. As the temperature soared up we decided to visit this minus 10 degrees bar. It was an experience that one has to share. “Freeze”, as it is called had a small changing room before you enter the bar; it is stocked with thermal jackets, gloves, scarves, caps which you have to wear before you enter the bar. In short everybody looks the same. Seems like all of us were Eskimos. It’s not a very big bar but very interesting. There are ice walls, ice tables, ice sculptures, everything was ice. It was freezing but the atmosphere was happy and charged as the DJ has some foot tapping music on. Little fingers came out of the jackets to taste the snacks but difficult to locate your friend if missing because everybody looked just the same.
This is the new wannabe place in Delhi at the moment with the rising temperature, its practical too. Delhities will be queuing up to get an entry even though it is 1,000 Rs per head but worth an experience. Maximum time to stay in the ice bar is 45 minutes. At the moment there are two ice bars in the capital but “Freeze” has an upper hand as it is the only one who serves food inside the bar. So we no longer have to go Stockholm or London for this enthralling experience of walking in from 45 degrees to -10 degrees in a matter of minutes. So, and this has got nothing to do with Common Wealth Games or otherwise.

The roll back on subsidies on to LPG in Delhi has provided some breath of life to the opposition. Having won her third consecutive victory the Sheila Dikshit Government is clearly keen to raise resources. The new budget raises the price of tea, milk and several other items of daily use. This helped the opposition in raising a ruckus over price rise. It claimed that the Delhi Government was unkindly breaking the backs of the public, given the overall inflation situation.
But it looks like Sheila will hold her ground – largely. The government believes that Delhi’s citizens are getting a brand new city almost. Even though its an account of the Common Wealth, several big infrastructure projects, new buses, new metro lines and new airports are suddenly changing the face of central Delhi atleast. The spirited defence of a better city aside Sheila has also taken defence behind the fact that even after the LPG price hike she is still providing it cheaper than the neighboring states. And unfortunately the Congress Government is stable in the centre and the Delhi State as elections are a long time away.
Those in the know believe that Sheila’s strategy of removing general subsidies and replacing them with individualized direct hand outs to the poor is a model that could provide others with inspiration. While these issues get debated the heat in Delhi just got notched up by a degree thanks to the opposition fury in the assembly.

Puritans in India are upset over the Supreme Court’s judgment on living together. The three bench judge has dismissed plea to make pre-marital sex and live in relationship as criminal. Activist, usually of a certain age are unable to come to terms with their violation by the court of their sense of culture and national practice. Of course, they may not want to engage in a discussion with their own children on this subject lest they discover that if the court had not dismissed the notion of criminality, their children could pretty much be in hand cuffs. What is encouraging is that the government has stayed totally out of this emotional side show fuelled by some fundamentalist of the social variety. For a notoriously conservative supreme court this is a remarkably forward looking judgment Actress Kushboo who was the prime target of the original matter, is not going to be the only one relieved. Human rights actresses are also going to be thrilled that the apex court has defined that the right to live in is an integral part of the right to life.

'The Tribune-Chatterati'22nd.March.2010

Bihari's are all over the world. But now Bihar’s famous snack litti-chokha will soon find place on the plate of US President Barack Obama.
A day after his meeting with US ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer in Patna, Irfan Alam, has been invited to the Entrepreneurship Summit called by Obama. He wants to carry a tin of freshly baked litti with dry chokha, besides a model of his rickshaw, to hand over the President at the White House this April.
Irfan, the 30 year old an IIM-A graduate is the chairman of the SammaN Foundation that works for the upliftment of rickshaw-pullers and their families. There are around 10 million rickshaw-pullers in the country and mainly illiterate and poor. 90% are farm workers who migrate to cities for want of employment. They hire rickshaws and end up with a pittance for themselves.
Irfan got banks to finance rickshaw pullers. He designed rickshaws, which can shelve newspapers, mineral water bottles and other such small items for sale if the passenger needs them. These rickshaws also carry ads and the pullers get 50% of the ad revenue. Irfan, who has gifted a model of his rickshaw to Roemer, started off with 100 such cycles in 2007. Now three lakh rickshaw pullers from across the country are registered with SammaN. The organization also provides books to rickshaw pullers’ children and imparts training in occupational skills to their wives.
Ambanis and Birlas have visited Bihar, but it is Bihari entrepreneurs on whom Bihar has to bank upon for enterprise in the state.

A fashion show and workshop, a shoe designing workshop by designer label and a dance evening and workshop by choreographer Shiamak Davar. This is happening at Tihar jail not a fashion meet. A hundred and six inmates took lessons in a fusion of jazz, contemporary and modern dance.
Designer Sanjana Jon, who along with singer Shibani Kashyap, boxer Akhil Kumar and Indian women’s hockey team captain Mamta Kharab, walked the ramp wearing outfits created by inmates, had an “overwhelming experience”.
The next time you see the uber chic shoes they may just be handmade by Tihar inmates. The jail has tied-up with shoe designer for a three-month course in shoe designing. Prisoners will earn a livelihood, and according to their conduct, their imprisonment time may also be reduced by 25 percent.

The new team of the BJP created by the middle aged President Gadkari is great lip service. Keeping in mind the 33 percent women quota he has adjusted the retired actresses Hema Malini and Smriti Irani. To them politics is a pass time whereas for the BJP it adds to the glamour quotient. Vasundhara Raje is the only lady General Secretary with substance.
The new BJP President Gadkari has coolly ignored his detractors and has put all the right hand men of the leaders who matter in the BJP and the RSS in plum posts. The new youth as they call it is hardly youth. The dynastic one’s like Anurag Thakur and Poonam Mahajan will be adjusted in the youth BJP. An interesting flash point that erupted immediately following the President’s new team was in Bihar. Shotgun piqued by other irritations has raised the obvious question as to why Yashwant was ignored at the cost of Ravi Shankar. Bihar is important because the BJP in partnership with JDU will soon be in election mode in that state. The real test is of course whether Gadkari stands his ground or whether Shotgun’s fulmination results in Gadkari having to change his team.
Inevitably, Gadkari’s choices will continue to be the subject of political whispering campaigns for a while more. But while Delhi waits for the famed for the AICC reshuffle Gadkari’s blood letting and team gathering show that this is a leader who is just getting to his scene two of his act one.

Shatrughan Sinha wants a Rajya Sabha berth from Bihar for his wife Punam, a former actress. The BJP, which has 54 MLAs in the Bihar Assembly, can ensure victory of only one candidate in the biennial Rajya Sabha polls due in April-May. Two in a family is not a problem here. Vasundhara Raje’s son and relatives and many others leaders are already adjusted.
Punam has campaigned extensively for her husband in the Patna Sahib constituency from where he won with a huge margin. The BJP keeps talking about 33 percent reservation for women but as a matter of fact, it refrains from giving even 10 percent representations for the fair sex. Also, the party is yet to send a woman to the Rajya Sabha from Bihar is Shotgun’s argument.
Shotgun was the first Bollywood star to join the BJP when it was a two – MP party in the opposition. He has contributed towards building the party. Despite his stature and popularity, he is neither a General Secretary nor a member of the Parliamentary board. What is wrong if he is seeking a Rajya Sabha berth for his wife?

'The Tribune-Chatterati'' 15th.March.2010

The new President of the BJP, it seems is a talented man, hailing from Mumbai. Obviously he has a soft corner for Bollywood. At the BJP meet at Indore Gadkari tried to create a new harmony amongst everyone present by starting a sort of ‘Antakshri’ on stage; you had Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and some Ministers sing along.
We know that Atal ji and Advani are both big Bollywood fans. Atal ji was a great poet and has written many books on poetry but Advani started writing his biographies which actually created controversies which he could not get out of it.
Well using Bollywood lyrics took at the leadership conclave to sing with them has not gone well with many in the party. The new President, everyone now thinks it is quite clueless about the sentiments of the Aam Admi. His song was well chosen may be keeping in mind from where he has reached to where – ‘Zindagi, Kaisi hai paheli haaye, kabhi to hansaaye, kabhi yeh rulaaye’. No one ever expected Mr. Gadkari to take over as the BJP National President, so obviously this is a paheli not only for him but for others too. While he is laughing all the way the other senior leaders who were in line for the post are crying.
Whatever else happened at the Indore conclave Gadkari’s singing along with his colleagues over shadowed all other resolutions passed. This is a new sing song twist to mind-storming conclaves.

Amitabh Bachchan became the ambassador for Gujarat some time back. And of course we have Rekha who has followed him there, can Rekha be far behind? May be he thinks his own charisma is fading. Now, the grapevine is Rekha will be walking the ramp to promote Patan Patola saris. It seems Modi is also pulling all Bollywood biggies to promote his state.
Patola are traditional double ikat silk produced in Gujarat. Patan is the only place in India where these expensive saris are produced. However, the designing of Patola saris is a dying art and the artisans are hoping that Rekha will once more make them fashionable.
He has roped in the melody queen Lata Mangeshkar to sing Jai Jai Garvi Gujarat when the state celebrates 50 years of its formation on May 1. Other celebrities will also appear in the video version that will be modeled on Mile Sur Mera Tumhara.

Mostly all well-off families of India invite Ministers to opulent weddings to show their influence. Mixing politicians and bureaucrats is the big thing. But a Chief Minister is the icing on the cake. However, the Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, made it amply evident recently that he was not amused by all this.
This is the first Chief Minister who while addressing a gathering of Gandhians in Jaipur said how upset and ashamed he feels when people come to his house with wedding cards which costs Rs 2000 each. They also spend Rs 1000 per plate in the feast when we have no money to help poor”. After all it was Gehlot who he allowed only 11 baraatis in his own wedding and also held a simple marriage function for his daughter. He added that if he attended such weddings he would also become as shameless as those who conduct them. We can be pretty sure that nobody will be sending him wedding invites for a while. And I do hope all other Politicians are paying heed and follow suit. It is always the leaders who can set examples. And Gehlot has always led a simple life and yet performed well and delivers too.

I have seen this man since ages in Chandigarh and Shimla.The in Chandigarh police arrested 52 year old Shankar Mehta aka Mehto from a government guest house. He had seen staying at the guest house for two months and had paid Rs 6,000 for staying there. He is a beggar who smiles at familiar faces. He flaunts the latest electronic gadgets; frequently visit Shimla and other tourist spots. The police recovered Rs 3,000 and a mobile phone from him at the time of his arrest. He was booked under the Prevention of Beggary Act.
Mehto told cops that he was planning to shift Shimla in summer. Originally from Raipur district in Madhya Pradesh, Mehto had left home in childhood. He has been begging since then and spends money on living lavishly. He was arrested in 2007 too. He was staying at a private hotel. The police had recovered a colour TV, a VCD player and various electronic items from him. He is known face in Shimla and Chandigarh.

'The Tribune-Chatterati'8th.March.2010

Even though it is just one year now of the Manmohan Singh’s Government, the Congress party finds itself in a bit of a fix. In 2009 elections the Congress came back with a larger majority and confidently formed the Government in the Centre. But unfortunately due to the coalition era the Congress depends on the Trinamool Congress, the NCP and the DMK mainly.
How well NCP Chief Sharad Pawar has performed as Agriculture Minister everyone now knows. He did not work hard enough to bring prices down, his predictions of more price rise actually got prices up in the market. The economic logic of simple supply side shortages not being able to account for the astronomical rise in prices of basic commodities is seemingly beyond him.
Trinamool Chief Mamata Banerjee is still totally based in Bengal alone. She is preparing for the 2011 Assembly elections rather than attending Cabinet meetings and looking after the Indian Railways. The amount of recurring accidents ever since she has taken over and the need for taking steps of prevention for no more accidents does not seem to matter to her. It is really low on her agenda right now.
Down South DMK’s A. Raja and MK Alagiri, are of course the limits. The loss Mr. Raja caused to the Aam Admi by allocating 2G spectrum at throwaway prices. Mr. Alagiri like Mamata spends more time in Tamil Nadu than Delhi. The most unfortunate fact is that the Prime Minister, critically dependent on his allies, can do precious little to make this errand flock of ministers fall in line. Maybe the voter should learn from this about voting for the parties with a pan-India agenda in parliamentary elections.

The long delayed women’s reservation bill now looks poised to finally pass through parliament. Having crossed the hurdle of being cleared by the cabinet. The bill has been hanging in limbo in various versions for a decade or more. The Congress party has always insisted that it is serious and passionate about seeing the bill through. But the karma of coalition politics that has dogged Congress Government in previous avatars prevented it from moving forward. But this time it seems that its set to pass. There was of course an attempt during the cabinet meeting by some Congress men to try and suggest that it should go to the Rajya Sabha first but fortunately it was over ruled.
But both Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi are quiet clear that this is a bill whose time has come. Indeed, it has the potential of completely changing the nature and nurture of Indian political life. And women cutting across all party lines see this as a huge victory in a battle that sometimes seemed never to end.
Once passed this Act will seriously affect all parties and the very nature of governance. Whilst the Laloo’s and Mulayam’s will predictably storm out of Parliament during the final debate the real reason is that this Act could severely constrain parties like theirs with an obvious male and caste dominance. They could see seriously poll reversals since their vote banks could get eroded. But in big parties i.e. the Congress and BJP that will have to do the most work. Women in parties, other than inheritors and a few favored otherwise, have had to struggle to get tickets to fight. With this sea change the big parties will have to scramble to get new talent and make them accept the challenge of polls. This will be a whole new ball game for parties with established war horses minding most states that they have hopes of winning.
How all this will play out and who will emerge with an advantage is the new big googly of Indian politics. And this is one where only one thing is certain. Either way, women win and hopefully with that, the polity too.

'The Tribune-Chatterati'1st.March.2010

In a rare event a Union Minister just got married while in office in New Delhi. The inheritor of a quiet political lineage, Jitin Prasad’s marriage to the gorgeous Neha was naturally a high voltage affair with both Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi spending time charming guests who were themselves a rather V.V.I.P glittering. The bride and groom were easy and relaxed through all the many loops and hoops of a traditional Thakur style wedding. The easy air was best epitomized by the fact that at the main reception the bride and groom refused to confirm to any formal seating style and instead wandered through the crowds which consisted of politicians of various states, media barons and industrialists. But the spirit of fun and frolic started from well before.
The guests may be tight lipped about it but those in the inner circle who attended the sangeet know that the evening had some fun festivities. The mehendi lunch on its part was however traditional with India’s young parliamentary brigade in full attendance, with their spouses teasing Jitin on the last days of his bachelorhood. Dancing, trying on bangles and applying mehendi while relishing the typical U.P delicacies was the order of many meals. As Jitin’s mother is from a renowned family of Himachal her side of the family performed the local ‘Nati’ dance. There were other folk dancers who kept the guests busy while the family gracefully performed the traditional pre wedding festivities.
While festivities were the focus, the refined formality of solemn wedding was not missed out. It started with the baraat getting ready with young Sachin Pilot having to pitch in and help the team of turban-tiers to cope with the high and mighty whose heads required the multi hued turbans individually prepared. The groom left his home dressed in an Achkan and old family Emerald Kalgi looking very much a khandaani Thakur.
Amidst a flurry of coins fling outwards for luck but in keeping with the general diktat of austerity loud bands and disco lights were mercifully totally missing even as the baraat arrived almost on time. The wedding ceremony was simple and swift but eating was long and delicious with cooks brought in from the Uttar Pradesh heartland where Jitin’s political fortunes lie. The focus was on friends and family in all the events except a reception after wedding festivities where even both the Ambani brothers turned up.
The reception set an example with its simplicity and elegance. No pomp and show here. In Jitin’s constituency a lunch was hosted where the groom and bride were present. After Jitin’s wedding one is reminded of his father’s Jitendra Prasad’s wedding. He was already a Member of Parliament when he came to wed Kanta Thakur in Shimla. It was in four feet snow that the V.I.P baraatis had to struggle through. But that wedding the Himachalis will never forget for its elegance and simplicity.

The other Member of Parliament who tied the knot within the same week of Jitin Prasad’s wedding was Deepender Hooda. In Delhi father Hooda, the Chief Minister of Haryana and his graceful wife Asha hosted a rather exclusive but traditional sangeet evening for only very close friends and family at their residence in Delhi. This function had the choori walas, the mehendi and the friends danced to the tune of Haryanvi songs lead by the groom’s mother Asha dressed in a typical elegant Haryanvi style.
Bhupinder Hooda did not make this a show of strength or power but more or less a family affair. The food was vegetarian but delicious. The evening saw the likes of close friends Gulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Ahmed Patel’s family. It was a relaxed evening, full of fun where everyone was at ease. The next day the baraat took off to Jaipur in Volvo buses to get the beautiful Mirdha girl home to Rohtak for the reception after.

'The Tribune-Chatterati' 22nd.February.2010

Instances of the Congress and BJP agreeing on anything are too rare. So, everyone was shocked when BJP chief ministers, especially when Gujarat CM Narendra Modi praised the Home Minister for impeccable handling of internal security. It shows to some extent a maturing of the Indian polity.
We are so used to the opposition parties protesting government policies just for the sake of it. Right after the Mumbai tragedy, the BJP lashed out at the UPA government and tried to make it a poll issue. This did not sell right for the BJP with voters. Terrorism is worldwide the biggest threat today. No party can afford to play politics on securing the country against possible terror attacks. Therefore it was a pleasant surprise that both the Congress and BJP seem to have realized that the country expects the political class to tackle the danger of terrorism unitedly.
Anyway it is time that our political parties realize what it means to be in the opposition and how to play the role responsibly. The culture of parties indiscriminately going hammer and tongs at the governing party should be finished. In a mature democracy, the opposition must play a constructive role. The opposition to keep the government on its toes they must talk of prices of essential commodities but on issues such as national security and terrorism, the government and opposition must work together. So, one was so impressed and relieved at this new development. How long it lasts let see.

One has been hearing of one man one post. So a reshuffle of the cabinet and A.I.C.C everyone is anxiously waiting for. But speculation about AICC reshuffle is quiet now with all in the Congress lobbying for Cabinet berths at the Centre as UPA-II will complete its first year in May. And as usual the back biting and leg pulling has started full on.
But now the mood at AICC headquarters here is not for a change. No one wants to disturb the process of organizational elections. Also, the party’s victory in the Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly polls has delayed the reshuffle. The “one man, one post” even as half dozen Union Ministers are still General Secretaries.
Rahul as a charismatic leader has made Congress party “feel good”. The one role everyone longs for in the Congress is to strengthen the hands of the young leader. Rahul, Congressmen feel has revived the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, made the party number one in Maharashtra and will now concentrate in Bihar. In Tamil Nadu and West Bengal Congress is bringing talent and youth into the party. Also Rahul’s taming of Bal Thackeray has gone well with all Congress men.
Lobbying for Cabinet berths in the Congress is interesting now because those in the second line in the ruling party want to prove their mettle by becoming ministers. Youngsters feel that the Prime Minister and the Congress Chief can create a space for a second rung in the Cabinet by giving other assignments to the senior ministers. The lobbying could become intense once the biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha are over. As many Union Ministers term will get over too.

Sharad Pawar is at the receiving end from all political parties including the Congress on the price rise issue. Pawar personally went to call on his old friend Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray and this visit has put the Congress on guard. Though Pawar claims that he went to request Bal Thackeray to control his forces when the Cricket matches will take place in Mumbai. But surprisingly, Pawar did not take his Home Minister, Patil with him for this visit. Wonder what comes first for Pawar Cricket or price rise.
The relationship between Pawar and Congress is rocky. R.R.Patil as state home Minister is cozying up to the Congress. He specially went to watch My Name is Khan at a multiplex in Mumbai and even stood in line and bought a Rs 350 ticket. The Shiv Sena in its 40 years of existence has never been so badly hit as now with Raj Thackeray out and Shah Rukh having the support of Congress. These Shiv Sainiks had been left red faced and also the fear of the Mumbaikers of the Shiv Sena is over it seems. With Pawar being pressurized for wearing too many hats and not concentrating on the Agricultural department one wonders if he went there for support and for what?