Saturday, June 30, 2012
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) held a crucial meeting today in Mumbai and banned five domestic cricket players found guilty of corruption or indulgence in spot fixing. BCCI’s new anti-corruption Unit gave its report to the disciplinary committee and after deliberations in the meet the decisions were taken.
The five players were charged with varying degrees of culpability to negotiating or bargaining for money for spot fixing in domestic cricket matches and to loose talk or bragging bringing the game of cricket into disrepute. TP Sudhindra, the chief offender, was banned for life while Shalabh Srivastava was banned for five years. The other three namely Mohnish Mishra, Amit Yadav and Abhinav Bali, charged with lesser offence, were banned for one year each. These players were notionally suspended on May 15, 2012 after a television news channel sting operation exposed their involvement in spot fixing.
The BCCI verdict has been hailed as a tough measure to crack corruption and it is expected to act as a deterrent. But these five cricketers are only fringe actors and just two of them managed to figure in a few Indian Premiere League (IPL) matches without showing any exceptional abilities. They have no impact or influence on Indian cricket and that seems to be the basic reason for the harsh punishment. Okay, it might prove a deterrent to the small fish not to go for the bait straightaway! But this would be till they make it big. Once they make it big in Indian cricket they become untouchable and immune to the cricket Board itself. The biggest of deals always go unpunished despite being tremendous acts of corruption.
If fact, this applies to every field of Indian activity. Once you have clout you can dare and do anything. In the Biggest Indian Tennis fight we saw the ‘key’ players dictating terms in careless abandon. Their garrulous demands were accepted through pitiful begging, personalized negotiations and Olympian compromises. Maybe as a classic finishing touch, the fifth seeded Grand Slam winning mixed doubles pair of Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza crashed out of the Wimbledon today losing pathetically to an unseeded pair in a second round match. The London Olympics lies round the corner to carry the ‘fight’ forward!
For the moment though let us welcome BCCI fighting corruption!
Thursday, June 28, 2012
After extending a last-minute and much deliberated support to PA Sangma the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition political party of India, ensured that the 14th Presidential Elections to indirectly elect the 13th President of India was going to be a contest. Pranab Mukherjee, the former Finance Minister who was given a rousing farewell on 26th June, 2012, Vs PA Sangma, a political leader from North East India and the former speaker of the lower house of Parliament.
Both of the Presidential candidates filed their nomination papers today. Flanked by the Prime Minister, the Congress President, many other Congress leaders and prominent leaders belonging to the political parties in the ruling coalition, Pranab Mukherjee filed his nomination in the morning in New Delhi. Talking to reporters afterwards the stalwart Congress leader and also a consistent trouble shooter for the ruling coalition expressed his gratitude for the honor and thanked all political parties for extending support to him. He said he would start poll campaign after June 30 till 15th of July.
After about two hours PA Sangma filed his nomination papers. He was flanked by the top BJP leaders, leaders of other supporting parties and prominent leaders from the North East. In his press briefing Sangma reiterated his commitment to over 100 million tribal population of the country and hoped for support from other parties.
Two ironical elements are involved in this Presidential Poll. The people of West Bengal would have rejoiced as a whole at the prospect of the first ever Bengali President, but for Mamata Bannerji…!
The people of the Meghalaya would have celebrated for the first ever Presidential candidate from this hilly state of North East India and in fact, the North East in totality would have been a happier lot at the prospect of having another President after the brief tenure of Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (originally from Assam and President in 1974 till his death in 1977), if only Sangma’s candidature was properly carried forward. Sangma’s party, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), opposed him vehemently rather than proposing. Being forced to resign from the NCP Sangma asserted his ‘non-political’ identity while his coalition-Minister daughter and sons who were still active members of the same party started campaigning for him and are still doing so.
Anyway, the contest is on. Last date for nominations is June 30 after which campaigning starts. Polling date is July 19 and the results will be out on July 22. The electoral college consisting of the members of the Parliament and the state assemblies and members of other legislative councils has a strength of over 1 million votes. Pranab Mukherjee seems to be heading for a landslide victory with about 700,000 votes in his favor.
The citizens of Indian would hope the electoral process to steer clear of lobbying and dirty politicking in the coming days.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Sania Mirza, the No.1 female tennis star of India, had been silent throughout the biggest Indian tennis fight as she was not guaranteed to participate in the London Olympics. The moment she got the wild card entry into the Olympics Sania got wild and justifiably so.
Sania Mirza attacked the All India Tennis Association (AITA) for using her as ‘bait’ to pacify and lure a disgruntled stalwart (read Leander Paes) to represent India in the London Olympics-2012. She interpreted AITA’s compromise as ‘an insult to womanhood’ and a decision that reeked of ‘male chauvinism’. She also alleged that the said compromise had broken up the French Open Grand Slam winning combination of herself with Mahesh Bhupathi in the mixed doubles.
She also criticized Paes’s father for demanding a written assurance from her that she would pair only with Leander in the London Olympics mixed doubles. While expressing her anguish for such an unwarranted demand Sania said that she was committed to her country and would play with Leander for the larger interests. She did not spare even the stalwarts for their egoistic and grumbling behavior—Leander wanted only the best to partner him, Bhupathi did not want to play with him, the next best option Rohan Bopanna wanted to play with Bhupathi only and therefore the helpless AITA worked out a compromise of sending two men’s doubles teams and offering Sania as a 'concession' to Leander in the mixed doubles. The AITA was a picture of helplessness in its so-called defense of Sania’s attack.
Sania Mirza wrote to Leander upholding the case of Vishnu Vardhan as a very talented player and that there ought to be no second thoughts on partnering with him. On a positive note she said she was thrilled to be playing at the Olympics and for that she was ready to put her most humiliating experience aside.
With the Wimbledon Championships, the third Grand Slam event of the year, in full swing it would be interesting to watch how the disgruntled Indian tennis stars fare up to the challenge. They should realize, of course, that the same grass courts are going to be used in the London Olympics tennis events.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
The traditional date of arrival of the South West Monsoon in Mumbai is 10th June. This year the monsoon officially hit Mumbai on 16-17th June, 2012. But there have been no rains thus far. As I was writing out this post a heavy downpour started and looked set to continue. Alas! It dried up very fast as if not at all in a mood.
For the coming days the met office has no optimistic forecast. But the met office is hardly taken seriously around this part of the world. Whenever it forecasts heavy to very heavy downpour in the next twenty four hours people think they can leave their umbrellas safely at home! The greatest deluge in recent times and many other major rain disasters caught the met office totally unawares.
Apart from causing uncertainty for the Maharashtra farmers the no-rain situation worries the city as the authorities have declared that the city has a water reserve to last only 19 days more. After that water scarcity looms large, if monsoon does not still get into a mood.
Meanwhile the north eastern state of Assam has been reeling under flood with many areas in almost all parts getting inundated, streets and houses submerged. Due to incessant rains for the last three days flood waters have invaded roads and lanes and have sneaked into numerous houses in the city of Guwahati too. Our ancestral house where we enjoyed the beginning of the rains only recently has two-inch of water inside!
And then the absurd! Flood waters in a wetland in the city have swept in a currency note bonanza. Local inhabitants while coping with rising water levels noticed currency notes of high denomination floating around!
For two days now, they have been busy collecting the notes. The local authorities have done nothing so far despite people continuously searching for the windfall and demonstrating and drying up their find and one youth dying tragically in the mad rush. Maybe somebody’s treasure house of black money got devastated by the flash floods or maybe somebody took up the ‘natural’ opportunity to ‘legalize’ their black money! The police and the local authorities could be trying to hide somebody’s identity, perhaps! Nature cannot tell!
Meantime the rains pounced down again…and dried up again!
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Saturday, June 23, 2012
We have been used to be woken up by the staccato chirping of the house sparrows that jump and trot around the windows in the mornings. They have always been lovable small birds living in our roofs spending the full day with us, but over the years their numbers are getting less and lesser and in most of the towns and cities of India their morning alarms are almost non-existent. Environmental experts all over the world have expressed the fear of the sparrows getting extinct and the species already figure in the endangered list.
Proliferation of the mobile phone towers and increasing pollution are believed to the main reasons for this sad happening. Concrete apartment blocks replacing the traditional independent houses could also be seen as another factor.
While in Guwahati, Assam we were lucky to see a lot of sparrows in their normal gait and talkativeness, but definitely not to the extent as earlier. But in Nagaon, just two and half hours journey by road from Guwahati, the chirping birds are totally absent despite there being more traditional houses and not many mobile phone towers. In Mumbai the sparrow is extinct and the reasons are all there to see. Crucial factors are likely to come to light as experts go on analyzing.
We did not take them seriously when they were all around us. Now we miss them! We want them to come back and continue waking us up in the morning.
One Assamese song by Biren Dutta (a famous singer of Assam) of yore comes to the mind. "O’ ghansirika (meaning sparrow, also called gharsirika where ‘ghar’ means house), O’ ghansirika mor sotalot umalohi O’ ghansirika..." (Come O’ my little sparrow, come and play on in my courtyard…).
Friday, June 22, 2012
We have always heard about the Indian cricketing superstars dictating terms to their controlling Board on when they need rest or which format of the game they need to play and so on. But what the Indian tennis players have been doing to their selectors would make the cricket superstars look like silly brats! Both sets of players show a common characteristic though—self interest first and the pride of the nation later.
Leander Paes, the best international doubles tennis player for India, wanted the next best Indian to pair him so that the chances of getting an Olympic medal in London got maximized. The All India Tennis Association (AITA) toed his line from the very outset. But a crisis situation developed when the next best players—Mahesh Bhupathi—refused to play with Leander. The IATA then hooked up Rohan Bopanna, the next best seeded player, for pairing with Leander. But Bopanna also refused and agreed to play only with Bhupathi. The Indian Sports Ministry tried to intervene by suggesting a double-team option and by appealing to the players again to consider pride of the nation first. The final decision on the matter was left to the IATA.
Meanwhile Leander Paes kept on saying that he would never pair with a lower seeded player as that could nip Olympic medal hopes in the bud. He was even hinting at withdrawing from the Games if his wishes were not fulfilled.
With just hours before the deadline of making the tennis Olympic entries the IATA finally declared two men’s doubles tennis teams for the London Olympics-2012. Vishnu Vardhan, seeded 206 internationally, was selected to pair Leander. Bhupathi was allowed to be the second team with Bopanna. A decision that must have pained Paes and elated Bhupathi and Bopanna.
To placate Paes the IATA offered a concession that Sania Mirza, the lady tennis star of India, would pair only with Paes for the mixed doubles if, of course, she managed to get the wild card to participate in the Olympics. The IATA also declared that disciplinary action against the bullying players was not thought about at the moment since the Olympics was a huge occasion when all concerned ought to concentrate on making their country proud. One factor that also came in favor of IATA’s compromises or rather helplessness was the fact that unwilling players could not possibly be forced to show results or win medals for India.
But the biggest fight was far from over. The offended Paes had stopped communicating to IATA and his father became his spokesperson indicating the likely withdrawal of Paes from the Olympics. Paes was also reported of demanding a written assurance from IATA that only he would play with Sania in the mixed doubles. No doubt, he has been the greatest tennis player of India, but the greatest showing of power and clout is just not making his fans happy. As the fight starts to degenerate into a blackmail drama the suspense keeps everyone guessing.
An aghast nation waits disbelievingly for the sordid drama to end and the Indian Olympic campaign begin in the right earnest. All players who come in the way must be quickly and effectively brought to book, the cries seem to get louder and clearer.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
A massive fire gutted three floors of the Maharashtra State Secretariat or Mantralaya in Mumbai just before 3pm today. The headquarters of one of the richest state administrations of the country supposedly had all the modern security equipments including fire detection and alarm systems. Yet, the fire that reportedly started from the clichéd reason of ‘short circuit’ raged on for hours gutting the 4th, 5th and the 6th floors that housed the offices of the Chief Minister, the Deputy Chief Minister and of several important cabinet ministries like Home and Urban Development.
While it was a big relief that the all-important block of the city of Mumbai had been evacuated quickly, all trapped people rescued and the fire was brought under control by the joint efforts of the state and central fire fighting authorities basic questions arose about the possible destruction of crucial documents relating to land scams, housing society scams and other pending proposals. Such questions led to speculation about the actual reason of the fire, and, a sabotage theory slowly developed which threatened to transform into another raging controversy.
The Secretariat is located at the plush Nariman Point in South Mumbai which could be the most expensive urban area of India, where an inch of land costs a fortune and a mere square foot of a flat runs into thousands of bucks. The financial capital of India and the hub of the film industry Mumbai has been a city of dreams, but the city holds no guarantee how many of them would be fulfilled. Mumbai witnesses only population that goes on multiplying; only dreams that go on multiplying and only greed and sins that go on multiplying. When these quotients reach unbearable proportions Nature wreaks her vengeance on the indifferent city and attracted by the bland display of dirty wealth terrorists strike at will here.
Mumbai thus is a city where anything is possible at any time. No point crying conspiracy if the original documents of the Adarsh Society Scam and other crucial schemes have been destroyed, because more Adarsh scams will be created and more lucrative deals will be realized by the city’s unstoppable cycle of wealth in an inevitable way. Creating wealth is the city’s religion and the cycle of destruction keeps it under bearable limits. That’s all.
Yet, the life in Mumbai goes on, as usual. The common man goes on struggling to earn the bread and the butter—unmindful, unperturbed and perhaps resigned to Mumbai!
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
After a long spell of humid heat you get thrilled seeing dark clouds hovering above you and finally becoming a huge mass snuffing out bright daylight. As the dark clouds build up making rains imminent you are welcomed by a cooling breeze. And, when the big raindrops hit the ground in a scattered way first and then get into a heavy downpour the hard soil start emitting a deliciously sweet fragrance that many of us are accustomed to (you may call it a stench in concrete jungles!). You become ecstatic!
Those were the moments back in Guwahati, our home town, we enjoyed and cherished ! The scenes were in and around our ancestral home there.
Meanwhile, Mumbai got into a most lucrative rain-mood three days back, but gave it up soon afterwards due to some unknown reasons! Or maybe El Nino? This is becoming a real scare for the Indian Monsoon this year. On that particular Mumbai mood the met department did forecast heavy to very heavy downpour for the next 48 hours.
We hope for the raining best blessing the farmers and us alike, of course!
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Article first published as The Indian Opposition's Presidential Dilemma! on Technorati.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who leads the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) first suggested the name of former President APJ Abdul Kalam for the Presidential Elections of India to be held on July 19, 2012. They made a tactical blunder by neither consulting the NDA partners nor asking Kalam for his willingness or consent. The move thus got nipped in the bud as most political parties remained shut.
As the name of Pranab Mukherjee, the present Finance Minister, came up a consensus seemed to be building up slowly, because no party could really object to his candidature. The gradual build-up was brought down abruptly by Mamata Banerji’s bombshell! She managed to team up with a tricky Mulayam Singh Yadav and offered three names including Kalam and even the serving Prime Minister of India. After Congress's straight rejection Mamata stuck to Kalam and only Kalam. The BJP or the NDA did not react immediately to Kalam’s candidature as they must have been assessing the larger political opportunities that could come out of this most bizarre turn. They made one more tactical blunder, again on Kalam.
The Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA-2), the ruling coalition of India, took just two days of brainstorming to deliver a masterstroke by officially declaring the name of Pranab Mukherjee as the presidential candidate. Mulayam Singh Yadav forgot Mamata suddenly and offered support as a faithful ally. Mamata got totally isolated and turned to Facebook for solac! Several other opposition political parties also offered support for Pranab.
Meanwhile, PA Sangma had continued to be the only self-declared candidate officially in the race. He was the co-founder of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)—an important constituent of the UPA-2 and a traditional ally of the Congress. The NCP first requested and then started issuing stern warnings to Sangma to withdraw from the race or face expulsion from the party. The NCP had already declared its support for the UPA-2 consensus candidate. Sangma somehow hoped to get the full support of the NDA and therefore continued to be in the race justifying his commitment towards the Indian tribal population of more than 100 million. He even approached Mamata for support and got rebuffed soundly.
Now, the most logical option for the NDA or the BJP would have been to support Pranab Mukherjee as a consensus candidate, but the all-important electoral strategy for the next General Elections of 2014 or possibly for a mid-term election in 2013 prevented them from doing so. They feared that if they supported a Congress or UPA candidate they would lose the electoral advantage at this crucial juncture when the ruling coalition had been reeling under unmitigated opposition pressure.
The NDA could not make up its mind to support Sangma because he was not a candidate of national significance or of immaculate profile as compared to either Pranab or Kalam. So, on June 17, 2012 they deliberated twice at a national level meeting and failed to arrive at a decision.
On Monday, June 18 the BJP made a last-ditch effort to persuade Kalam to contest Pranab while its traditional ally in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena, did not take part in the meetings and declared its support openly for Pranab Mukherjee. To confound the NDA’s dilemma Kalam withdrew from the race on the evening of June18, 2012.
So then, PA Sangma remained the only option for the opposition alliance now with pressures building up on him to withdraw anytime. At the moment opposition parties are running out of candidates to carry on the politics of opportunism.
The Indian opposition parties were so obsessed with the prospect of a mid-term poll that the debate for their would-be Prime Ministerial candidate had already heated up with one constituent party chief demanding a secular prime minister. The BJP’s trump-card, Narendra Modi, could be the obvious bone of contention.
Divisions in the opposition camp are too openly visible for harboring any election ambition. If they aim at ruling a nation they must first understand what national pride is. Somebody within them said that Presidential election is very different from Parliamentary or assembly or local elections and one should not fight too much here! Right! That's national pride and honor!
Monday, June 18, 2012
The duo of A and B has been most productive for India winning three doubles Grand Slams over the years of togetherness. They had been the best of friends too and many described them as husband-wife preferring to remain silent on who was the better half!
But A and B fought…and fought bitterly in 2002 splitting up and going separate ways. They continued to team up and not ‘pair’ up for major international tournaments though. Maybe reaching an understanding about who was the better half they patched up and played as a pair for the Australian open in 2011.
But they fought again just before the London Olympics and fought the bitterest ever. B does not want to be paired with A at any cost as B lost faith in A irreparably. Both of them want C as a partner. Now C loathes A and wants only to be paired with B.
D—their father—pulled them up hard and stuck to what it thought the basic need of the hour. That A and B pair had been the best ever and the only real chance for Olympic honors. Coming under A’s pressure D wanted to consider pairing A and C, but C refused vehemently. Angry and confused, D asked them to think of the family first and personal issues later. The issue of sending two pairs from the same family never crossed distraught D’s mind!
Bitterly disappointed, B approached the Godfather and pleaded him to mediate into the family feudalistic matters. The Godfather ordered D to seriously consider the option of sending two pairs or rather two teams as the costs were to be borne by him only, as always. The Godfather set a deadline so that the Olympics started on time in July! Bemused neighbors joined in the already-gaining-momentum chorus ‘Stop Fighting, Start Playing’!
Dear readers, please put the values for A, B, C, D and the Godfather and get the full story. I have given you enough clues and links to get to that. Trust me; I do not doubt your intelligence. Like me you too must be looking forward to the London Olympics in July, 2012.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Sports fans have been the liveliest communities on this planet earth since ancient times and thanks to the modern day communication channels they are vibrantly visible everywhere. Their raucous and electric support for their favorite team in a particular stadium does not necessarily stay put there; it spreads, transmits, enthuses and ignites fellow supporters in countless homes and other environs.
There has come a sort of universality about the fans’ passion and they are increasingly becoming fond of enjoying their favorite sports with fitting preparations that include uniforms, masks, gears and an abundant display of colors. They want to preserve their precious moments with memorabilia. Other fans prefer enjoying it from their homes and start collecting related sports materials converting their homes into research centers.
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Ignite your passion for sports.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
The movie released on 1st June when I was on a home visit in Assam. Suddenly I found almost all shows in almost all movie houses in Guwahati taken over by the movie. Some rowdy behavior indeed, I mused! Two things attracted me instantly. First, its name Rowdy Rathore is quite unusual even by Bollywood standards. Second, I found the name of Sanjay Leela Bhansali as a producer which rather shocked me. What possibly could he be doing in a movie that sounds like a typical masala (spicy) commercial, I ventured! It must have been quite a journey for him from his celebrated classic Black (2005) to Rowdy Rathore (2012), not to speak of his other critically acclaimed movies! Maybe he wanted to take on the challenge of beating the masters of the masala art in their own game! My curiosity grew as I heard reports of the movie's remarkable success in the box office. I had to watch the movie...who knows...maybe some refreshingly different treatment awaits you! I could not make it there and so the first thing I did coming back to Mumbai was watching Rowdy Rathore!
I was thoroughly disappointed! There was hardly anything refreshingly different in the film that could set it apart from a typical potboiler. Except, of course, for terrific all-round technical quality in takings, photography, sound, editing and, performances-- especially by Akshay Kumar who took full charge of the movie from the beginning to the end in a double-role action extravaganza. Directed by the onetime sensational dancing hero of the South, Prabhu Deva, the movie tended to be louder and crasser than a normal Bollywood potboiler. The comedy was monotonous as it hardly deviated from the 'comic' art of stealing and the violence was jarring as the villains kept on laughing and shrieking maniacally. The totally redundant songs did contribute nothing to the plot but only to remind you of the late eighties and nineties when you strongly felt the urge to take a break at the very hint of a song!
The movie opened on a 'stealing' comedy with Akshay Kumar (first role of a thief of Mumbai) and his assistant looting and robbing unsuspecting people to make you roar with laughter. What still kept you on with the movie was that a sinister plot tried to come out of the comedy track again and again, and by the time it finally succeeded in stunning you it was nearly interval time. This brings us to the main plot.
Once upon a time there lived a dictator in a Bihar town where he and his goons looted, maimed, tortured, raped and killed people at will anytime. Even the wives of the cops there were not safe from those marauders. In came Vikram Rathore (Akshay Kumar in the punch action role), an outright and honest cop posted in that town. From the very arrival he started his mission of bashing, maiming and killing the goons with the euphoric support of the local people. Naturally, the goons wanted to kill the honest cop and they did nearly kill him, but Rathore with a bullet in his brains had to survive to shift the action to Mumbai for the last brave fight. As the Rowdy thief was very much around there in Mumbai, Rathore finally died so that the former could accomplish the mission along with his beautiful partner, Sonakshi Sinha, out there in the Bihar town. Nobody knew for sure if he got an appointment from the police authorities for the job!
How then Rowdy Rathore managed to become the fourth biggest Bollywood grosser of all time and the biggest hit of 2012? There are several crucial factors:
- Rowdy Rathore is a remake of a successful Telegu (a language of Southern India) blockbuster (2006).
- It imbibed elements from three hugely successful Bollywood films, Ready, Dabangg and Singham. From Ready it took the vibrant rhythm of song ‘Dhinka Chika’ to its ‘Chinta ta ta Chita Chita’! From Dabangg it got the style and gait of a corrupt cop for its small-time thief turned honest cop! And from Singham it accumulated the intensity of a fighting honest super cop—actor Anant Jog playing the corrupt Minister in both films! Though terribly overdone in each element mass attention has been won. Who cares for lack of cohesion or logic?
- The movie stages a comeback for Akshay Kumar as the dashing action hero of yore.
- Strong nostalgia for reemergence of the action genre and classic formula films.
- And maybe the magic of Prabhu Deva after his first Bollywood success Wanted.
My thoughts persist with Bhansali though. Okay, he has proved himself as a successful producer of potboilers and made much more money than directing classics. But what is next? Talks of a prequel to Rowdy Rathore are already doing the rounds!
Friday, June 15, 2012
The United Progressive Alliance-2 (UPA-2), the ruling coalition of India, finally delivered a political masterstroke by nominating Pranab Mukherjee, the present Finance Minister and a seasoned Congress leader, for the post of President of India today evening in New Delhi. All the twists and turns, all the politics of unholy alliances have been put to rest now. Well, hopefully… since even the most opposed political party would find it very difficult to reject Pranab Mukherjee. The citizens of India can have a sigh of relief now at the prospect of having a consensus candidate and a most worthy one for the top post.
Several political parties within and out of the UPA-2 have already extended support for Pranab. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the opposition combine of the country, too might very well go in for a consensus as they failed to find or convince a suitable candidate who could offer a strong contest. The NDA's decision is expected in a day or two. The Left parties too hardly have a choice to differ, though they have decided to announce their support or opposition after formal consultations.
And, Mamata Banerji’s convenient ally Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party had already declared support for Pranab. Mulayam justified the party decision by saying that the three names decided with Mamata were only suggestions and not at all binding. His decision is significant for other opposition parties, because his roared back to power in Uttar Pradesh on a huge anti-Congress wave. So now, Mamata became the only person opposed to Pranab and she and her party have been marginalized clinically. Even then, after being nominated for the top post the magnanimous Pranab Mukherjee, expressing his gratitude for the great honor, referred to Mamata as his ‘little sister’ and hoped to get her support eventually.
His name had been discussed all the while for nearly two months, he had become the frontrunner in the Presidential race and almost attained the status of a consensus candidate giving rise to the question as to why he was not nominated by the UPA-2 in the beginning itself. Maybe democratically that was not appropriate or maybe the state of political uncertainty delayed the inevitable. As a result murky and manipulative politics came to the fore, but finally it was worthiness and honor that prevailed. PA Sangma is still determined to contest, but his fate has been more or less sealed.
In Pranab Mukherjee we can have a President who can guide the Government in times of stress and make effective contribution to the governance of the country. In the entire history of independent India we have only one or two Presidents who strongly refused to be mere figureheads.
After the Mamata-Mulayam twist to the utterly unholy race towards the Presidential Elections of India in July, 2012 things are still far from honorable. While Mamata Banerji sticks to her demand of APJ Kalam as the presidential candidate her partner-of-the-moment Mulayam Singh Yadav is now on uncertain grounds. His Samajwadi Party has not still committed itself to Kalam’s candidature and is saying on the other hand that the party does not want instability in the ruling coalition in such times of economic crisis and so is against mid-term poll. This puts Mamata in a tight corner with the Congress party coming hard after her, but the lady thunders on despite her party on the verge being thrown out of the ruling coalition.
PA Sangma, the co-founder of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), former Speaker of the lower house of Indian Parliament and former Chief Minister of the North Eastern state of Meghalaya, continues to be in the fray. This is despite the fact that his party the NCP—a constituent of the Congress coalition both at the centre and in the state of Maharashtra— had never supported his candidature and on the contrary tried to dissuade him from the contest. Speaking to a news channel today Sangma expressed confidence in getting support from the opposition alliance and added that he was now beyond the NCP and was going to contest the top post only in the interests of over 10 million tribals of India. Incidentally, his daughter Agatha Sangma—the youngest NCP Minister in the ruling coalition—was recently reprimanded by the government for taking part in her father’s poll related meetings. While the NCP reiterates its support for the consensus candidate to be declared by the ruling coalition the same party’s co-founder is found banking on the support of the opposition alliance!
As per reports the ruling coalition is going to announce its Presidential candidate by today evening. Without Mamata now it would definitely look for support from the Samajwadi Party and might or might not approach the opposition alliance for a most sought after consensus. The Congress party has expressed confidence that the coalition candidate is going to be the ultimate winner even with or without opposition support. Sources reveal that chances have increased for the present finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to again emerge as the consensus candidate. Moves from the opposition alliance assume tremendous significance at the moment.
Let the worthy finally win and restore the pride of India!
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Article first published as Bizarre Happenings: The Indian Presidential Fix! on Technorati.
President of any country is the honorable first citizen of that country and election of such a personality ought to be honorable and prestigious too. But Indian politics continues to defy all thoughts of any honor. Bizarre happenings are the order of the day to corner a weak coalition government and capitalize on the chances of a mid-term poll. That the Indian President is to be elected hardly makes any difference to any politician.
India is set to elect the 13th President of the country on July 19, 2012 with results coming out on July 22 as the current President Pratibha Patil will be ending her term on July 24, 2012. For the last two months politicking has been going on to suggest possible candidates with unholy differentiations of ‘theirs’ and ‘ours’. For the first citizen politics has been of the third kind!
The main national opposition party was the first to start the process by suggesting the candidature of APJ Abdul Kalam (President for 2002-2007) for a second term. While there was no doubt about the worthiness of this brilliant scientist the party not only not consult their allies but even did not inform or get the consent of the candidate concerned.
The Congress party—mainstay of the ruling coalition—had been discussing names like that of the current finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, current Vice-President Hamid Ansari and a few others. In fact, Pranab Mukherjee was slowly emerging as the consensus candidate as nobody irrespective political affiliations could ever question his experience, dexterity and statesmanship. On the contrary, a few coalition leaders were questioning the advisability of his candidature since by that decision the coalition government would be losing the services of one of its most seasoned politicians.
But ‘their’ candidates could not be ‘ours’, opposition political parties thought. And, in came Mamata Banerji who had already earned quite a name for creating headlines for all wrong reasons in recent times. The irrepressible Chief Minister of West Bengal rejected the coalition candidates outright though her party continued to be a part of it. She rejected even her fellow Bengali leader Pranab Mukherjee, because she reportedly never wanted Congress influence in her state politics. Mind you, her party is Trinamool (grass-root) Congress (T,MC) and not just ‘congress’!
To confound the bizarre process of politicking Mamata somehow roped in the veteran Uttar Pradesh leader Mulayam Singh Yadav. His Samajwadi (Socialist) Party being an important ally of the coalition rescued the government out of many tight situations earlier. Maybe the motivation could be his Prime Ministerial dream that leaked out of him when he conferred Chief Minister’s responsibility on his son after the historic Uttar Pradesh elections of 2012.
The Mamata-Mulayam duo held a press conference on June 13, 2012 in New Delhi and announced ‘their’ candidates. Former President APJ Abdul Kalam…former Speaker of the lower house of Indian Parliament Somnath Chatterjee…no real problems, though a question struck as to how Mamata could suggest the name of a prominent Left leader like Somnath Chatterjee considering her tirade against the Left calling even for a social boycott against them in West Bengal.
The twist came when they floated the name of even the serving Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, as a Presidential candidate. An eminent economist and a man of honesty and integrity Dr. Singh would have been an ideal choice in any other situation. The politics was clear. Mulayam would thus pursue his dream and Mamata would acquire dictatorial powers in her state and in the country after the consequent mid-term elections for which all manipulative bizarre politics had been orchestrated. All oppositional political parties now think that if mid-term poll happens now they would win hands down.
Fact of the matter is no political alliance—coalition or opposition—commands enough numbers to get ‘their’ candidates win. There are cross currents, interdependence and ideological contradictions that are making the process ludicrous and impossible. Yet, politicking never allows anyone to see or realize the pride involved in the Presidential Elections of India-2012.
Today while briefing news reporters in Delhi Mamata Banerji openly dared the Congress high command to throw her out of the coalition and face the consequences. She also said that her party’s first choice is APJ Abdul Kalam and no problem if other two candidates got rejected by the Congress. Ironically she talked a lot about the importance of electing the first citizen of the country and added that Kalam’s candidature justified the importance. Incidentally neither Mamata nor Mulayam took a position when the main opposition party unilaterally declared Kalam’s name for the President. Answering pointed questions Mamata had an apparent slip when she blurted out ‘I am a simple man’ and so did not care about any possible threats!
Meanwhile the Congress rejected all three names proposed by Mamata-Mulayam and had a core committee meeting today in Delhi. The complex scenario could clear a little by tomorrow.
The citizens of the largest democracy of the world would definitely want a worthy person to be their President. The political parties must show sense and sensibility.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Article first published as Mehdi Hassan: The Emperor Of Ghazals Passes Away! on Technorati.
He had always been regarded as the most original Ghazal singer. He came into fame in 1957 in Pakistan and dominated the sixties and the seventies with a career ranging five decades. Bad health started plaguing him from the eighties when the masses, particularly in India, started listening to Ghazals and began to admire and love those thanks mainly to the friendlier and popular compositions of Ghulam Ali and Jagjit Singh. But even now, whenever we talk of Ghazal artistes we are told to go back to Mehdi Hassan to relish the essence of pure Ghazals.
Mehdi Hassan was born into a family of musicians in the Indian state of Rajasthan in 1927. Though his ancestors had been traditional singers of Dhrupad and though he had a burning passion for music Mehdi Hassan had the hardest time coming to music. Financially in trouble his family shifted to Pakistan during the Partition in 1947 and there in Pakistan Mehdi worked in a bicycle shop finally becoming a mechanic to help his family.
But Mehdi never gave up on music. Finally, he got a chance to sing a thumri in Radio Pakistan in 1957 and there was no looking back since then. Perceiving his immense talent his mentors encouraged him to sing Ghazals and over time he established his style of Ghazal singing firmly in Pakistan with his soulful voice, pure Urdu lyrics and effortless control over the ragas and gradually his fame spread to different parts of the world. He also did quite a few numbers for the Urdu film industry in Pakistan.
Mehdi Hassan always yearned to visit India—his home country. His dream was fulfilled only in 1978 when he performed in India. But his visits had not been frequent due to his bad health. His last performance in India was in 2000. He wanted to come back in 2008, but the Mumbai terror attack prevented that. Lately he desperately needed to be in India to meet Lata Mangeshkar and Amitabh Bachchan, but his deteriorating health never allowed him to do so. Ironically the legendary artiste was scheduled to come to India for medical treatment soon.
The Indian masses flocked on to the Ghazal genre of music when Jagjit Singh, a disciple of Mehdi Hassan, revolutionized the genre by making it linguistically familiar and with compositions more like modern Hindi songs; and when Ghulam Ali started his regular performances in India mixing Indian Classical and folk music in his Ghazals making his compositions readily acceptable and hugely popular. His popularity in India was further heightened by his singing Bollywood (read Hindi) movie songs. Other popular Ghazal singers like Talat Aziz who also learned from Mehdi, PenazMasani, Pankaj Udhas, Anup Jalota and the like joined in the wave.
But Mehdi Hassan remained the Emperor of Ghazals for all in India and elsewhere. Lata Mangeshkar, the nightingale of India, lauded Mehdi as the ‘voice of God’ and in fact, she took up a famous Mehdi number, added her voice to it and released the duet in an album in 2010.
The Emperor finally decided to get rid of his obstinately sick body and ascend to heaven. Mehdi Hassan, the legend, died in a Karachi Hospital on today after a long battle with a lung disease and multiple organ failure. Indian music lovers comprising of celebrity performers of Ghazal and other genres of music, the film fraternity and the common people mourn his death deeply realizing the loss as irreparable.
Mehdi Hassan has ceased, but his music remains as strong as ever.
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