Monday, July 26, 2010

The Tribune-Chatterati-26th.July.10

AS they say true art never ages. In fact, it gets better and more expensive with time. Veteran artist Anjolie Ela Menon celebrated her 70th birthday last week. At the Habitat Centre, the Prime Minister’s wife Gursharan Kaur released a book covering six decades of Anjolie’s contribution to Indian Art. There was an art exhibition of her work and the launch of her book, both titled “Through the Patina.”
Film maker Shyam Benegal, who unveiled Anjolie’s book, narrated how he has been seeing Anjolie’s art for 50 years. Even then, he said, there was a uniqueness to her work which remarkably is still there. Sharmila Tagore, Jaya Jaitely and the French Ambassador also narrated their personal stories with Anjolie. The gallery was full of the artist’s recent and retrospective works. Gursharan Kaur said with a twinkle in her eye, “Anjolie and her sense of mischief and wit will always keep her 17.”
Way to go dear!
The troubleshooter of the Congress, Pranab Mukherjee, is an excellent host. Whenever he wants to discuss something of importance either with his colleagues, UPA partners or the members of the Opposition parties, he invites them for a meal at home. Every partner of the UPA government has shared a meal at Pranab’s table. But recently he invited Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley for lunch. The purpose was to evolve a consensus on the goods and services tax which was generating a lot of hue and cry. Must say that the Opposition leaders came out convinced that Pranab Da was right and they will support him. As the monsoon session approaches, Pranab Da is going to have to host a lot of lunches and dinners for the session to be smooth sailing. Get ready for some baat and bhaat folks.
As Delhiites welcomed reprieve from the heat with the showers, they were left wondering whether all this construction in the name of the Commonwealth Games going on in the city is worth it? The construction being made for the Commonwealth Games and the new Metro lines work has dug up the whole city. Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit was also stuck in a traffic jam for three hours last week and is a bit jittery now about the preparation of the Games. It is a nightmare at the moment for Delhi’s ordinary people who have to commute from one place to another for work across their mega city.
And as the final lap of the Commonwealth preparations gets under way the quarrels are getting louder. Mani Shankar Aiyer, former sports minister, has become the latest of the vocal critics, saying that the aam aadmi is being taxed for the benefit of a handful of Olympic Association officials.
Sports minister M.S.Gill too has joined the chorus of “it’s not my job.” Delhi’s Chief Minister, is jittery but not yet part of the chorus. The big names who have cancelled their visit to the Games include the world’s fastest man- Jamaican Usain Bolt. The British monarch, the head of the Commonwealth, is also skipping the Games for the first time in 40 years.
Gill has asked the Commonwealth Games Federation chief to ensure that countries brings athletes too rather than a battery of officials.
India too has played its own role in ensuring top athletes missing the event. It is now likely that the organising committee which has been found wanting on several other fronts did not even do a good job of negotiating with the participating countries with regard to their top athletes.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pioneer- Dilli Billi - 25th.July10'

As the monsoon session approaches, the public are left wondering what kind of drama is in store for them. It is a sad state of affairs when one looks at the condition of the nation’s political parties today. The Congress is just plain lucky that there is no Opposition, otherwise the state of the Congress and the UPA-II is no better according to the aam admi due to the price-rise. But the Congress and Congressmen still has a better standing than others any other party.
Sharad Pawar is not only a shrewd politician but has also put the Congress in a bad situation who has supported him through in all his doings. His dealings are not hidden from anyone and it clearly makes no difference to him or to his party. He has put the Prime Minister in an embarrassing position by trying to get rid of portfolios where a lot of questions will be asked during this Parliament Session. With nine members of Parliament he holds the UPA today to ransom. Then we have the DMK, where everything is in-house. The corruption charges on their Ministers and his associates are there for all to see on electronic as well as on print media. Once again the High command has lost face because they cannot take any action against the Ministers. The DMK supremo has dared the Prime Minister to try and change his Ministers. Then we have Mamata Ji who could not care less about the State of Railways. Mamata does not attend office, Cabinet meetings and dare anyone say a thing to her. The common man who pays for a ticket for any of the trains is shocked as to how the face of the Railways has changed in the last one year. The trains are now dirty, unhygienic, smelly and not on time. There is no accountability or deliverance. As it is the Congress are only ruling in a few States. And with the price-rise they should forget about winning Bihar, Uttar Pradesh or any other State. The aam admi has hundred questions to ask but who do they address? Only election time will they see some faces. Then it will be too late. Now let’s talk about the Congress Ministers who are openly taunting each other. Congressmen have found a voice and are openly expressing their views. There is no quorum or code of conduct. It seems there are only two people who are capable of putting things in order and that are Sonia Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee.
There is no accountability of any work done by Ministers. I have heard that Cabinet Meetings that are held every week are just a formality. No naxal movement or price-rise or any other such issue is discussed. Only decisions that are already been taken by the High Command is delivered to the Ministers in-charge of the concerned portfolios. That is one reason Mamata Banerjee says she does not want to attend the meetings. It is a sad and sorry state of affairs. If this is how UPA thinks of surviving for the next three years than it better be ready to sit in Opposition. It would be wise infact to hold mid term polls now and get rid of the burden of regional parties. I am sure the Congress will win hands down.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Tribune-Chatterati-19th.July.10

Delhi is getting crowded again. As the heat comes down, it's the humidity. And along with the rains come the returning 'Indians' from holiday. Suddenly, like the parched earth swept by the rain, events start pouring on. Of course, these are just little shoots of social action. So, smaller fashion shows and corporate events that had waited for weeks are the first off the ramp. The book events are back and, as ever, some shaadis are looming. So, its time for exclusive wedding designs to be launched.
The wedding saga began from Defence Colony by Pam Mehta. A whole floor of lehengas, shoes, bags, jewellery, wedding card designs and gift packings. This was all under one roof for the convenience of the shaadi shopper. An event manager too to arrange your wedding function to your specification. A small fashion show was also organised where the female models walked around various rooms in wedding lehengas, bridal jewellery and the male models in sherwanis, kalgis etc. A good concept for people who want an expensive professional touch in any easy one stop to their wedding.
The other launch of the same product was at the town's vanity mall: DLF Emporio. Here the glitterati were curious as to what's new in bridal trends. Top-end designers like Adarsh Gill and Mandira Virk showed off their bridal wear. Here, one spotted politician Amar Singh after a long time. Well, the conversation was as usual soccer, Delhi's traffic jams and, of course, what a great time everyone here had on their summer vacation abroad at some exotic location.
Because poets are the unsung window-cleaners of our collective consciousness, they deserve more space than they usually get. And what is more, Congressman Vishvjit Prithvijit Singh is one of those unique heavyweight individuals who has consistently maintained a soft footprint. This, despite his high connections and immense experience. Perhaps he is, therefore, most uniquely suited to be a poet? Well his gift for moving verse, for what it is worth, has lain dormant for a long time. Except for Vishu's furtive scribblings still unseen in his English notebook over the years.
But Vishu has just burst upon the poetry horizon with a collection of selfconscious but also self-revelatory poems in Hindi. He recited his poetry to a full hall of audience at the Habitat Centre. Most people can't stop gawking as the omniscient Vishu has always been associated with the world of English speakers and politics. A close friend and associate of Rajiv Gandhi's, Vishnu's other Avatar has been as the IT and research database whizkid of the AICC. Proud of his Punjabi lineage and equally of his robust UP heritage, Vishu's tongue has today found its true métier in his book of Hindi poetry. He says it's the language of his heart and soul and the quality of the poems, delivered in a gush after a long time, prove that indeed Hindi is what his heart speaks. And also that his wife Vijay - who works with President Patil -- is the muse of his magic personal poems. So Vishu joins the tiny ranks of India's most well-connected politicians with a bent for poetry. He believes though that his poetry has nothing to do with his politics, except for the many experiences that national issues have had as subjects for his angst-ridden expression.
In a series of quiet unheralded readings in Dehradun and Delhi and soon to be followed by readings in other cities, including Chandigarh, Vishu has been poet magnificent with full throated 'recitals' reveling in his role as author -- a relatively new one. He has assiduously avoided turning these affairs into any display of political power and prominence but instead friends and those involved in the world of Hindi literature have found a place and an opportunity to listen to a man whose heart is clearly where his verse is.

Pioneer- Dilli Billi - 18th.July10'


The turbulence in Kashmir has left the Central High Command very angry with the fumbling Omar Abdullah. The newbie Chief Minister’s rise to becoming the Head of the State was only because he was the grandson of Sheikh Abdullah. Young Omar is a well meaning educated bright but inexperienced in administrative affairs and naïve as to how to handle a complex state like Kashmir. He is not articulate as his father when dealing with the double faced politicians of Kashmir. He also lacks his father’s charming ways with the ordinary man.
Omar is surrounded from all four sides by people who are trying to pull him down. The State Congress leadership may be supporting his government but they are not his friends. His own party the National Conference is upset and may be still sulking that he took over from his father who should rightfully have been the Chief Minister. They just cannot come to terms that this inexperienced young man is now their leader. Mehbooba Mufti is a problem not only for her opponents but also for her own party. She was so comfortable when her father was Chief Minister and no political party disturbed them during this tenure of three years. But when the switch came to handing over the State to the Congress she felt betrayed. The Congress High Command according to a mutual agreement of rotating C.Ms for 3 years sent their Senior Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to take over, and she was livid. From day one she along with her ministers started creating problem and instigating crowds against the government led by the Congress stalwart. It seemed a case of more like that the grapes are sour. It is a known fact in Delhi and in Kashmir that the PDP is funded by anti-nationals. Their interest lies in not having a peaceful situation in the valley. If the PDP could make a mess for experienced Ghulam Nabi Azad then harassing Omar Abdullah is child’s play for her.
Omar Abdullah is lucky that the Central Home Minister is a firm and no nonsense man. Omar’s personal friendship with Rahul Gandhi really cannot save the State. P.Chidambaram would like Omar’s clear instructions that would help end a sense of ambiguity hampering police actions. Omar has given an impression that he retreated in the face of suppressed protest environment blaming CRPF for being out of control. The absence of Farooq Abdullah from the scene was not taken well. It is a well known fact that this young Chief Minister keeps to himself and it is not easy for a common man to meet him. In a situation like this even when he was instructed by High Command to visit riots hit areas he sent his Ministers. It is high time that the political parties in Kashmir also start behaving maturely like the Hurriyat and the PDP and assist the government to take control of the situation where hundreds of common men are loosing their lives everyday due to their instigating. It would be advisable for Omar to ask for his experienced father Farooq Abdullah’s help who is familiar with the local complexed politics. Omar is honest, blunt and candid. His personal life should take a back seat now. This is a fight against anti-nationals where innocents are losing lives. The sooner calm prevails upon the State it will be better for Omar. Otherwise he will end up loosing face and the State.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pioneer- Dilli Billi - 11th.July10'

The last six months has changed a lot of things in the States for the Congressmen. Organizational Elections are in full swing. Congress men from one State were sent to another to oversee the process. Rahul Gandhi who wants to make the party from a mass based party to cadre base wants free and fair democratic process to happen. This process has been more or less completed but has also left lots of mass base leaders unhappy.
The intention of this process is good and hopefully will result in a more disciplined cadre base. But the Congress sycophancy at every level is a tradition. If for example, a Kerala person has been made the PRO for Punjab, this Congress Keralite will weigh the pro’s and con’s of whom to favour; is Bhattal more close to the powers or Amrinder? Who is in favour in the eyes of the Central High Command? Not who is more a popular leader in the State. Only then this Keralite will lay the ground work of bogus voters, appointment of DRO’s, ARO’s etc. and who looks after the Keralite better in this State. Unfortunately the Keralite incharge does not understand that a confident mass base State leader does not need to gain favours to show his strength and will carry on never the less like an Elephant and when time comes, will squash the sycophants. But how can you not give preference to the solid person? The excuse given is ‘instructions are given from the High Command’. Sonia Gandhi’s name is used then. As if the Congress President has already told them her mind as to who to support for the future. So, if this is the case why is Rahul trying to do this whole exercise?
I have noticed in many States where Organizational Elections are being held and how they are being managed by the insecure Congressmen. The person who has been put incharge must know and has to do the ground work that who can win them the next elections. Who is capable of delivering because the person who is capable of delivering will not suck up to the person incharge and others who matter in Delhi. Can you imagine an Amrinder Singh or a Shiela Dikshit trying to gain favors and sympathy or suck up to anyone? Its not that they don’t have Senior Congressmen in the High Command who do not see eye to eye with them. But is that going to be the reason to let the State out of your hands. There are numerous complaints coming in from established leaders, former Ministers/MLAs who are not been heard because the leader who try and intervene in their home States have enough hold on these PROs’. We can just hope that these elections do not eliminate the people who work and have credibility in the State and loose out to people who cannot deliver. If this process is being orchestrated from the High Command then Rahul’s whole propaganda will be a farce. What is the use of this well meaning General Secretary when the system cannot change because of personal equations of these so called leaders? They should anyway be retired due to their incompetency, sycophancy and no delivery; track records of their tenures will show.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Tribune-Chatterati-12th.July.10

Delhiites welcomed Sharad Pawar when he went to see the Prime Minister to relieve him of his burden. In fact, it came as a relief for the High Command who was fed up with the UPA minister's tactical retreat for not doing justice to his portfolios. In fact, Sharad had called on a senior Congress leader during the IPL controversy between Lalit Modi, Praful Patel and Shashi Tharoor. During this meeting, Pawar told the leader that if he and his colleagues were going to be harassed by different agencies, it was better the NCP supported the government from outside. It was then decided that once Pawar took over as the International Cricket president, he himself would give up one of his portfolios.
It is also said that the Maratha wants to concentrate on Maharashtra while the Shiv Sena is losing grip there and Raj Thackeray is anyway his man.
The other ministers who may find a change in their portfolios in this reshuffle are Jairam Ramesh who has rubbed many ministers the wrong way. Mamata may ask one of her partymen to be accommodated.
Ajit Singh will have to be adjusted after he supported Satish Sharma to come to the Rajya Sabha.
Many MPs in Delhi are eyeing the MEA slot after Shashi Tharoor left. And to top the list is the Arabic-speaking Keralite E. Ahamed who was Tharoor's predecessor. He has a keen interest in Arab countries. Also, doing some rounds in Delhi are three Nair MPs from Kerala who belong to Tharoor's caste.
In this ministry, there are divisions like the Gulf and the Haj, Africa, Latin America passport and policy planning. So, unlike most other ministers of state, this minister has his hands full.
The BJP did what it is best in. Delhi came to a standstill on July 5 due to the Bandh. The BJP called it a success not realizing that it was more of a scare for Delhiites than their call that did it. The protestors, including women, were on Delhi roads vandalizing vehicles and burning effigies. The new Metro was stopped and buses were burnt, schools and markets remained shut. The BJP leaders courted arrest as a part of their drama. Some unlucky ones like Arun Jaitely in Lucknow got no VIP treatment in the lock-up; after all it is Mayawati's territory. He was made to sit on a cemented platform without any cold refreshments!
Rajnath Singh claimed that the price of petrol in Bangladesh is 22 rupees per litre, in Pakistan it is 23 rupees per litre, but in India it is 51 rupees per litre.
Nitin Gadkari in true Bollywood-style claimed that this was only a trailer and the full picture is yet to follow. The price rise, of course, has hit the poor but their main question was: why purchase petrol to burn it; will there be a rollback in the hike now? In plain words, life came to a standstill in Delhi with 95% shops not opening or forced to be shut down and RSS workers threatening to burn offices in Lajpat Nagar which were open.
The turbulence in Kashmir has the Congress High Command wondering if Omar can handle Kashmir. Despite his friendship with Rahul Gandhi, Congressmen both in Delhi and Srinagar have started criticizing Omar's lack of political and administrative inexperience to relate to the man on the street. Delhi was also appalled that the stalwarts of Kashmir were truant. When the valley began to erupt, Omar was on a personal visit to Rohtang Pass, the State's traditional leaders like Farooq Abdullah and state Congress stalwarts were conveniently abroad. They left the already-overloaded Chidambaram and newbie Omar Abdullah to manage matters.
The High Command here is wondering how long the Army can be deployed there for peace.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Tribune-Chatterati-5th.July.10


Will an ordinance help arrest social wildcat behaviour? Taunted by the sudden spurt in honour killings in the Capital, the denizens of New Delhi are waking up to the fact that it is a phenomenon that extends beyond the wilder parts of rural North India. The deaths in more than eight cases in the last few months in Delhi have created a media-feeding frenzy. Whether the numbers are rising on account of copycat murders or not are not clear, but local authorities are jumpy.
As usual it is the dominant pressure of deaths in and around the Capital that is churning the news and seems to be determining the enthusiasm of government reactions. What is worse is that there is a sense that under the guise of social norms, political stalwarts are often unable to take a stand against the big issue. Even so-called urbane young MPs like Naveen Jindal, caught in this brutal crossfire have had to side with the khaps on account of political considerations. Given the initial police reports in the Capital, these castes and sectarian impulses are still very strong among the middle class city dwellers. This could also impact other young MPs, even those with non-rural constituencies. Perhaps that is why their sounds of protests on the human tragedy and this throwback to medieval practices are rather muted. The murders are escalating even as the feeble protests are getting drowned in multiple voices.
The Cabinet may have to step in because of weak-willed politicians. Given that North India and now NRIs too are affected by a wave of honour killings and caste murders; neither any ordinance nor mere policing will work against the sweeping moral sanctions that the khaps have newly acquired.

While Rahul Gandhi was celebrating his 40th birthday in Europe with a few close friends and even though Mayawati was busy renaming the “family constituency” Amethi, Mahila Congress leaders in Uttar Pradesh were getting impatient to make him end his bachelorhood.
In this Mahila brigade had a new slogan - “Rahul, tie the knot”. This was seen in the Capital, merely as an attempt to be one-up in celebrating the leader’s birthday. Cakes from 40 kilos to 40 pounds in different shapes and sizes were cut to celebrate.
A deputation of Mahila Congress leaders is even seeking an appointment with Mrs Gandhi to persuade her son to tie the knot at the earliest. They promise to hold gala celebrations to make the event memorable. The major reason for all this now is that Varun Gandhi, his younger cousin, is getting married. Varun’s wedding date has been fixed on December 11, 2010.
Now that the National Advisory Council (NAC) is getting set for their next meeting in early July, staff recruitment is at an overdrive. The former rural development secretary Rita Sharma has been appointed as NAC secretary.
The joint secretary is going to be an Andhra Pradesh’s IAS officer with 35 more people forming the new NAC secretariat. The budget for initial expenses is Rs 35 lakh.
CVs with performance reports of the past five years now are pouring into the NAC. To be on deputation with the prestigious NAC, a large number of officials seem willing to move quickly.
The last meeting headed by Sonia Gandhi has already convinced the Manmohan Singh’s government to review the ongoing flagship programmes. The NAC’s comments are also seriously considered inputs into the ongoing work on food security bill. But clearly there is more to come.
The secretariat of the NAC had to have it all ready to tackle the early July second meeting of Sonia’s think tank.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Pioneer- Dilli Billi - 04th.July10'


With the Petroleum prices soaring world wide, price-rise of essential commodities has gone up once again. It was a must for the Indian Government to hike up the price of petrol and diesel. They tried to avoid it as much as they could but it has been in the offering for a long time. Is it fair on the aam aadmi who anyway can hardly afford his dal-roti today? The cost is much more than what he earns. The price increase of diesel has a bigger impact than petroleum. India’s diesel consumption is four times than of petrol. This will have a serious impact on the centre of fare of taxis and buses and also hike up the price of freight transport. The subsidy on diesel for commercial use will again help the middle class. As most of it is used by industry and private gensets. So the heavy loss in this again is for the poor farmers and their ilk. The hike of petrol will effect the middle class who use motorcycles and cars for their everyday travel.
The UPA-II Government came into power promising roti, kapda, makaan, employment and education to all. It is just been over a year that this Government has come into it’s own. The opposition is dead and the Congress is lucky that their ally partners like the NCP, Lalu and other small regional parties are more or less caught in their own fight of survival. It is as the Government top politicians know the right time to take any such unpopular actions. In another year it will effect the coming elections in several States. As today only Bihar is going to elections. If they delay this decision then the UPA would have to face the anger of the aam aadmi in States like West Bengal, Punjab and also Kerala. So, it was the right time for the Congress to give it a go ahead. It will not effect a major vote bank. Bihar there is no Congress party with no party-men but only leaders whereas the grassroot workers are nil.
It is unfortunate that the everyday life of a common man is going to be severely effected by this price-rise. It is unfair also that the Bhopal tragedy compensation to the effected is also going from the tax-payers pocket and not from the Dow company who was responsible for it. The expenses towards the Commonwealth Games being hosted in Delhi have also taken a toll on the aam aadmi. It is unfair and the common man does not have a voice at the moment to protest. As elections approach the schemes and other ways will be found to please the common man so that he forgets this price-rise. Then subsidized food will be available liberally, till then silence and may be half a meal a day is all that the common man can eat. What is the use of programmes in the villages when there is no food to feed their stomachs? There are no jobs too. The irresponsible behaviour of the Agriculture Ministry is another problem. We have heard of food getting spoilt in godowns. Why is the Food and Civil Supplies Department more careful with the distribution? There are so many problems in this sector which need attention. But when and who will?