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Friday, April 25, 2014

General Elections-2014: Mumbai Hits Second Half Century In 25 Years!

After all the fears and speculation Mumbai, the financial capital of India, has recorded a voting percentage of 52.6% on the polling day yesterday for General Elections-2014. Although the figure is much lower than the national average and that of 65% recorded in the political capital of Delhi this reflects a 10% surge over the dismal voting of 41.4% in 2009.  This is the city’s second half century during the last 25 years with its first one coming in 1998 when the percentage was just over fifty. Before 1991 the voting percentage in Mumbai never fell below fifty percent and the city’s highest ever turnout of 68% was recorded in 1967 General Elections. Voter apathy grew largely after 1989 and various reasons like impact of economic liberalization, decline of the working class movement, closure of the cotton mills, constant shifting or elimination of slums, migratory population and even summer vacation during poll period are cited for this. This dismal voting in 2009 could also be explained in terms of the city losing faith in political leaders of all parties following the horrific Mumbai terror attack of 26/11/2008. 

Now speculation is ripe as to why Mumbaikars showed a willingness to vote in large numbers and whom this is going to benefit. One reason that comes to mind immediately is the tremendous public awareness campaigns undertaken by the Election Commission with active support from the media telling and urging Mumbaikars to exercise their democratic right on a daily basis. Then there is the latest voting option of NOTA (None Of The Above) thanks to which you can press that button to reject all candidates if they do not qualify in your view. Sulking and angry voters who sat at home on earlier occasions can now come out to exercise their democratic right and express themselves. 

Sachin Tendulkar Votes
Historically, at least since 1977, whenever Mumbai voted comparatively better there was a change of government. Post-Emergency in 1977 voting turnout in Mumbai was more than sixty percent and this reflected in rejecting Congress and bringing in the Janata Party Government under Prime Minister late Morarji Desai. The Janata Party messed up the public mandate leading to mid-term polls in 1980 and the angry city sulked. Post Indira Gandhi assassination and the tremendous national sympathy wave Mumbai recorded a turnout of more than 56% and brought back the Congress government in 1984-85 General Elections. Following Bofors Scam and growing terrorism Mumbai recorded more than 57% voting and rejected the Congress government in 1989 General Elections. Even in 2004 General Elections voting percentage was only a little higher than normal at 47% and that amounted to throwing the BJP led NDA government out of power. If this anti-incumbency trend is consistent then this time also the higher voting in Mumbai could spell trouble for the ruling combine of Congress-NCP in Maharashtra. Leaders of the ruling combine are quick to rebut the anti-incumbency or wave-for-change theory ascribing the higher percentage to an upsurge of voting by certain Muslim and backward communities. For witnessing the true significance of the Mumbai half century we will have to wait till 16th May, 2014 when counting of votes start and results come out.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

General Elections-2014: A Saga Of The Three Ps!

Five polling phases of the 9-phase General or Lok Sabha (Lower House of Indian Parliament) Elections-2014 have been completed. The sixth phase polling is being conducted on Thursday, the 24th of April. In this phase Mumbai too goes to poll with its six Lok Sabha seats. In this last phase of polling in Maharashtra there are 13 other seats including in Thane, Raigad, Nashik and Jalna-Aurangabad. When Maharashtra and Mumbai go to poll the malady of voter apathy comes in naturally since voting has been consistently low in these parts over the decades. Talking particularly about Mumbai the normal voting percentage has been around just 42% taking all kinds of poll into account. This General Elections things seem to be improving quite a bit, but about Mumbai fears are still there. Only tomorrow the scenario here would be clear. Anyway, we will come to this first P of our subject that is percentage of voting later.

The other two Ps are the absolute low points of this General Elections. First is personalized. Leaders of all political parties are getting extremely personal in their attacks and counterattacks. No kin of any candidate seems to be safe anymore. If someone is attacked for his rediscovered or existing wife then some other is attacked for the lack of a one. Similarly husbands, mothers, sons and even in-laws of candidates are being brought in to score more over one another as far as ‘antics’ or ‘the lack of it’ of their kin are concerned. The hapless voters are the mute spectators of such abusive missiles and they are at a total loss to understand what sort of political gains are being made out of these. We had already mentioned in these pages earlier that this time mutual attacks have plummeted to never-before lows and mere name-calling is driven out as an unnecessary detail of the past. Now the circus has stopped to be entertaining.

The most sinister P of our narrative is polarization. All political parties, major or ally or bully, are shamelessly indulging in the politics of communalism. One after the other political leaders in almost all parts are making hate speeches and divisive and inflammatory comments aimed mainly at polarizing the two major religious communities of the country. Their agenda or so-called manifestos are no longer national. They promise ‘things’ to be done for a particular community if voted to power. Those who want to come back to power are promising the opposite. ‘Revenge’ is also emerging as the underlying theme of ‘repairing’ things. Bans or restrictions have been imposed by the Election Commission of India and FIRs have been lodged too in some cases. But the leaders know well how ineffective these measures finally prove to be and so are hardly caring for these. Voters must take into account this unprecedented ‘low’ for the largest democracy of the world while exercising their democratic right.

The only highlight represented by one of the three Ps is percentage of voting thanks to the novel initiatives of the Election Commission and awareness campaigns. General Elections-2014 records high to very high voting percentages ranging from 70% to around 86% in various states of India that have voted so far. In Maharashtra the percentage has improved to around 65%, a 20% increase in some areas, so far. However, it is still low compared to other states or regions. More positively, in the Naxal or Maoists-affected regions citizens have voted fearlessly in large numbers.

Normally, high voting turnout is considered as an anti-incumbency wave. That is to say, people want a change in ruling political parties. However, due to the never-before polarization visibly obvious in the country some experts would like to ascribe this high percentage to polarization. This means that maybe due to desperation voters of a particular community want to ensure ‘their’ candidates win. We hope this is not the case. We hope the people of India are voting for an authentic and meaningful change. Amen!  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Crimes Against Women: Bollywood Villains Walking Out Real!

Even C-grade Bollywood (Hindi film industry based in Mumbai or earlier Bombay) movies show a kind of stark realism in terms of depraved, regressive and malignantly anti-woman villains. If you have been following Bollywood movies for at least the last three decades you must have noticed villains who when confronted with rapes committed (on screen) by their son/sons or male relatives normally say with pride, “He is a boy only…they commit mistakes man, please understand. In my prime time I too had done a lot of merrymaking. I’ll even burn this city to save my son!” These villains are dirty rich mostly being smugglers or business tycoons or plain dons and they carry the concerned ‘screen’ police force in their pockets. They do get punished in the end by the heroes, but after all the gory regressive oppressive chauvinistic feudalistic details shown gloriously by the filmmakers who definitely seem to pander to a sizeable male section of our society. However, you can hardly deny the ‘realism’ being portrayed with ‘painstaking’ details, particularly after you take notice of what has been happening in certain states of India like Uttar Pradesh in the perspective of the on-going General Elections of the country. This particular state of Uttar Pradesh has always been feudalistic and openly anti-woman—a point that we have mentioned here on several occasions.  Stiff opposition to Women Reservation Bill came from this state only cutting across all leaders of all political parties. Having easy access to modern weapons this kind of feudalistic practices is the most dangerous one and therefore we can say that Uttar Pradesh along with few other northern states are the worst possible enemies of womankind on our planet earth.

Veteran political leader of Uttar Pradesh, ex-Chief Minister and father of the present Chief Minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav  is the Samajwadi or Socialist Party (SP) of India Supremo, though his party is mostly full of anti-social or feudalistic elements. He seems to be severely pained by fast track courts delivering death or life sentences to horrible rapists in Delhi, in Mumbai and in other places of the country in the aftermath of the barbaric Delhi gangrape and the amendments in the criminal law that followed.  While asking for votes in an election campaign this great leader commented on the crimes of rape, “Boys are just boys…they naturally make mistakes. They should not be punished with death. Our party opposes the strict laws and the possible misuse of the same.” A national outrage erupted and even after that the great leader refused to apologize, so entrenched in his ‘beliefs’. What is more, his counterpart in Maharashtra, Abu Azmi, hardly caring for the outrage or sentiments blatantly decided to add to it, although one may say dictating a little more ‘balanced’ view. In an interview to a newspaper this fittingly ‘socialist’ leader reportedly said, “You see…the rapist is punished with death because he is guilty. But the woman or the rape survivor is equally guilty, and so both should be hanged. In fact all women, married or unmarried, having sex with a man with consent or being forced should be hanged.” His ‘solution’ encompasses hanging of the rape survivor too if not already murdered.

Well, this is the way our ‘leaders’ think of or about women. This abysmally shameful exploitative and perverted mentality prevails despite the national reawakening, despite the movement for prevention of crimes against women and despite the stricter laws being formulated. What can we do? We must carry on with our crusade nationwide and at this moment of elections we must vote against all such depraved animals of our society. India, the holy land of the Shakti cult or the revered Goddesses, we must rise up to the challenge, and restore and ensure full respect and complete safety for women.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Humor: Cash on the Cards!

Our friend Mr. Thames Pond often gets bogged down by his multiple credit card accounts. He tries to get rid of some now and then, but he gets into more traps and liabilities. On the top of it he gets bombarded with new and newer card offers. Due to his inability to refuse ladies he falls into the traps cleverly set by the card executives. He is particularly scared of the wily executive called Moneycanny whose name he cannot even clearly pronounce. He is getting another call from her now. As usual he prepares to get bold with her this time...

“Hello! Can I speak to Mr. Pond please?”
“This is Pond. Thames Pond.”
“Good Morning, Mr. Pond. This is Moneycanny. Can I have two minutes of your time please?”
“Err…Ms…Regarding what?”
“Well, Sir, there is a special cash back offer for our most valued credit card holders like you.”
“Okay, tell me how do I get the cash?”
“The highest percentage cash back will be on your utility bill payments like telephone, mobile, electricity bills. This means you will regularly get some cash back every month. Then you will also get cash back on other transactions though at lower rates, but never less than one percent.”
“But I do not want to make any payments.”
“Sorry? You don’t make any bill payments or pay for other purchases?”
“I mean I don’t want to make any payment to you for this offer.”
“Oh… Mr. Pond! There is no such payment involved in this offer.”
“You mean to say I will keep on getting the cash back on just like that!”
“Definitely Sir, these are benefits for our privileged customers only. There is no annual fee and your lifetime free card is still valid with this offer.”
“Are you sure? What about hidden costs?”
“Mr. Pond, I assure you there is absolutely no hidden cost.”
“Ok then, I go game for some high cash!”
“Thanks and congratulations, Mr. Pond. I am enrolling you for this offer. Our executive will confirm your status through a phone call within twenty four hours. There is a onetime activation charge of a thousand bucks which will reflect on next month’s credit card statement.”
“I told you I am not going to make any payment to you for this offer. I asked you a thousand times about the charges. Now what’s this?”
“Sir, this is not a fee! Only an activation charge! Considering the cash backs you are sure to get continually this charge is just nothing.”
“My dear Ms…err…whatever you’d like to call this. You are making me pay thousand bucks and this will take me my lifetime to get that back through your cash backs. Sorry, I told you. Take me out of it.”
“Mr. Pond, please consider again. This offer ceases tomorrow.”
“It ceases right now for me, milady! …No payments please!”
“Thank you very much for your time Mr. Pond. Have a good day.”
“Thank you!” (click of phone disconnected)… “Ha! Ha! Ha! Got you this time, baby! Hurray!”

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

IPL Vs BCCI Vs Cricket: Days After The Supreme Court Interim Order!

The world knows India as a cricket-craziest nation and its tremendous fan-following for the game; the world understands India’s potential as the ultimate market for cricket for all formats of the game; the world acknowledges the Indian cricket Board (BCCI) as the richest one with influence and hold running effortlessly through to the very top and the world sees the IPL as India’s answer to the football league and as one of the largest sports tournaments benefiting everyone’s coffers from cricket owners, officials and players. Besides, for the IPL there are huge players’ interests, particularly budding cricketers, and numerous stakeholders cutting across India. All these factors concerning the ‘spirit of the game of cricket’ finally seemed to have shaped the Supreme Court of India order as a somewhat ‘favorable’ one for the BCCI considering the circumstances preceding it.

On the historic day of 25th March, 2014 the Supreme Court asked BCCI Chief N Srinivasan to resign giving him 48 hours to do so. The power-obsessed Chief did not do so and as on earlier occasions offered to step aside till the inquiry is over. Sticking to the ‘very serious allegations in the sealed envelope of the Mudgal report’ observation the Supreme Court came down heavily on the BCCI on Thursday, the 27th of March, in a proposal putting the future of the seventh version of the IPL in great peril. It proposed cricket’s living legend Sunil Gavaskar take over as the interim Chief of BCCI; the bench also proposed to pass an order barring India Cements (company owned by N Srinivasan) officials from getting involved with the functioning of BCCI after senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for Cricket Association of Bihar, pointed out that many such officials including India Captain MS Dhoni, Vice President of India Cements, are at present part of the BCCI team and it proposed the suspension of Srinivasan or India Cements owned Chennai Super Kings (CSK) along with Rajasthan Royals (RR) from IPL-7 till the settlement of the case of betting and spot fixing  scandal before it. The court gave the  Board 24 hours to respond.

And the debate over the ‘spirit of the game of cricket’ took over throughout the country including prominent media houses. Emboldened, the BCCI appealed for allowing IPL-7 to go on as scheduled and proposed that President N Sriinvasan would step aside till the case is settled. On its interim order on Friday, the 28th of March, the Supreme Court withdrew its proposal to suspend two IPL teams asking the Board to follow on the other proposals, now made officially binding in its order. The Supreme Court asked Gavaskar to look particularly after the IPL-7 and asked Shivlal Yadav, the second-in-command of the BCCI,  to look after the admin matters. The BCCI, rather promptly, offered full compliance realizing the importance of IPL-7 being allowed to continue and that N Srinivasan would in effect continue to wield power unofficially leading to one more ‘cold war’ or ‘power struggle’ within the Board. But then, the fact remains that the BCCI has finally been forced to come down on its knees. Genuine cricket lovers would hope the IPL Spot Fixing Case is brought to logical conclusions and results by the Supreme Court in near future.

In another happy ‘coincidence’ as far as the ‘sprit of the game’ is concerned Team India have performing quite well in the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh reaching the semi finals still remaining as the only unbeaten team of the tournament. India have topped Group 2 and would meet South Africa in the second semi final on Friday, the 4th of April while the first semi final would be played between defending Champions West Indies and Sri Lanka on 3rd April. Major setbacks of the tournament include elimination of Pakistan and England, and total annihilation of Australia and hosts Bangladesh. England seem to be the most unlucky side losing a promising match to New Zealand on D/L method and then losing a thrilling encounter against South Africa. In the last few days the pitches in Bangladesh look to be broken up leading to low-scoring matches and the chasing teams unable to reach even the lowly targets.

In the meantime Gavaskar started functioning as the new interim BCCI President and the process of throwing India Cements Ltd officials out of the BCCI is in full swing. MS Dhoni was believed to have expressed his anger at being associated with the scam and had reportedly vowed to walk out from his post in the Srinivasan company. As far as the world of cricket is concerned it has been made apparently clear that Srinivasan could no longer represent the BCCI in international meetings or conferences. However, his bid to become chairman of the ICC in July-August this year seems to remain unscathed at the moment.
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