DRUMPF GETS DRUMPFER & A CORONAVIRUS THAT CAN’T STOP LAUGHING!

Donald Trump, makes for the most exceptional and compelling reading in the backdrop of his Administration’s efforts to deal with the coronavirus. His repeated assertions from January onwards that the coronavirus “will miraculously go away” has led to the American public being less prepared than it should have been and his Administration being slow off the block. It’s a good thing to have a POTUS brimming with confidence it’s another to have one brimming over with baloney.It can cost lives and by last count, a million plus Americans have been infected with the novel coronavirus and over 60,000 have sadly died.

Despite promulgating social distancing guidelines Trump has undermined and ignored them repeatedly. Within 15  days of announcing the guidelines he was protesting against them saying “the cure cannot be worse than the disease”. Trump expressed his dismay at how the ‘fake news’ media was creating panic in the markets. Consequently, a large segment of the American population believes their President and is simply itching to reopen the country with a devil’s may care attitude. Trump is even instigating his own populace to come out against lockdowns. Some say that’s with an eye on the battleground states for the November re-election

Trump set up the Coronavirus Response Task Force, headed by US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Notably (and thankfully) Dr Anthony Fauci, the long standing head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was also appointed to the task force.

On January 31 he blocked travel from China but Americans and certain qualified foreign nationals were kept out of its ambit. This left a gaping hole open for the novel coronavirus to enact its dance of death in the US when this was not backed up with aggressive testing, contact tracing, and quarantine measures for almost 40,000 Americans who returned from China on around 1300 flights or more before the January 31 order. With this the Trump administration had definitively missed the window to act early and decisively.

Surprisingly the richest and most powerful nation on the planet suffered from a basic third world deficiency; it had no test kits for coronavirus in its initial days of response! Refusing to use the WHO approved kit, the US CDC went along with its own newly created kits only to find them returning unreliable results in huge numbers. This had its corresponding impact on the rampant spread of the coronavirus. Precious time had now been lost.

It has emerged that Jared Kushner,the President’s son-in-law,who with no known (or even unknown) experience of managing an epidemic or a national crisis was actually the one exercising max influence over a disconnected POTUS. It was the competing power centre created by Kushner and his team of analysts which was primarily responsible for feeding Trump the “virus will miraculously go away” narrative. When Governor Cuomo announced that New York would need 30,000 ventilators Kushner famously played it down and debunked those numbers only to be proven wrong by the deaths that followed. Describing Kushner’s role the New York Times wrote a piece titled ‘Jared Kushner is going to get us all killed’ and labelled his amateur foray into epidemic management as “dilettantism raised to the level of sociopathy”!

The WHO designated the novel coronavirus a pandemic on March 11 and on the same day Trump announced a travel ban from Europe (barring Ireland & the UK) and then on March 13 he declared a National Emergency. By this time Vice President Mike Pence was heading the Coronavirus Task Force.Trump started joining the Task Force’ daily media updates and as is his wont, started dominating the interaction reducing Pence to a bystander’s position.

Around this time something bizarre happened in ‘Trump Land’. There was a Trump meme taken out on March 09 by the White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino, captioned “Nothing can stop what’s coming” and showing a smiling Trump playing the violin with his eyes blissfully closed. An obvious comparison to Emperor Nero, who presided over the burning down of Rome while famously doing nothing but playing the fiddle.

meme
Meme Comparing Donald Trump with Emperor Nero which was also Retweeted by Donald Trump!

The co-relation was obvious but Trump failed to get it, baffling everyone he even retweeted it  with a comment “Who knows what this means, but it sounds good to me!”

To add insult to injury, someone tweeted to Trump the exact meaning of the meme and what it being retweeted by him spoke of the collective intellectual capacity and comprehension of the Trump Administration regarding the situation confronting the US. To put things in perspective while Trump had been playing golf on Mar 08 at his Florida Club, community spread of the novel coronavirus had been confirmed in California and around 550 cases had been reported from 34 states with more than 30 fatalities and yes, global markets and the Wall Street were also in a virus induced free fall. And Trump still managed to say “..it sounds good to me!”

In the coming days the meme fulfilled its ominous prophecy.

By end of March the coronavirus outbreak had struck the US with all its might and New York was the epicenter when its death toll vaulted from a mere single death in the beginning of March too over a 1000 within the same month.

Trump now became even more desperate and incoherent in his response. His running battles with Governor Anthony Cuomo of New York over ventilators and other medical needs became an international embarrassment. It was obvious Trump was still unable to take the events for their worth and get his act together. Once the epidemic hit hard Trump changed tack and even attempted to alter the narrative by claiming that he knew well before anyone (including the WHO!) that the coronavirus was a pandemic!

By now Trump’s daily briefings were his main area of focus. He realised that a strong night time TV performance makes for even stronger optics in the American political dynamics.

Declaring himself the “war time” President ,Trump delivered bombasts, rants about his impeachment, blame China/ WHO/ Obama and almost anyone else (even coronavirus) and rage against the likes of Andrew Cuomo. He peddled as many falsehoods from his bully pulpit as he could and when criticised by the media persons and under pressure responded by labeling it “fake news”/ “lamestream” media. He even played a video titled ‘Why Donald Trump is great and the media awful’! On one occasion he played a presentation showcasing his exemplary, inspirational and decisive leadership in the times of coronavirus right from January onward, carefully skipping out the parts where he continuously downplayed the virus threat.

Trump experienced delusional euphoria during the White House briefings in coming out with bizarre and unfounded claims about magic cures or unrealistic feel good assertions, such as the one about a coronavirus App being readied by Google, the obsessive ‘hunch’ which resulted in the endorsement of Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ-an anti- malaria drug) as a magic cure for covid19, its a small matter of detail that HCQ has some serious side effects and one of them being cardiac arrhythmia which can cause death, But all that Trump could say , in a rasping tone, leanig into his audience, was “What have you have to lose?But Hydroxychloroquine..try it,if you like”!

Such was Trump’s obsession with HCQ that the US FDA was under severe strain to fast track approvals for its use as a covid19 drug. Things apparently came to pass when sane voices were misconstrued and individuals raising legitimate questions about the efficacy of unproven treatment protocol were unceremoniously fired from their positions,as it happened with Rick Bright, erstwhile Director of the Biomedical Advanced R&D Authority. Bright, in a whistle blower complaint, has contended that he was removed after he stood firm on not giving into the Administration’s pressure to make “potentially harmful drugs (HCQ) widely available”.

And of course the vaccine claim when Trump said on March 07 that “Very soon, we’re going to come up [with a vaccine]”,course is as big a certainty as Boris Johnson being anointed the Queen of England!

The briefings had two seminal moments. First, when he erroneously claimed to have “total authority” as the POTUS. Obviously in contravention of the US Constitution on being pushed back on his claim Trump got into an ill-tempered spat with all and sundry, prompting Andrew Cuomo to quip  that it seemed the POTUS was simply “spoiling for a fight” (War time President?).Trump had to later climb down on his constitutionally misplaced notion.

If this was not damaging enough the second incident was when he touted his magic solution of injecting ultra violet light and disinfectant into patients to clean out the novel coronavirus! Trump received massive flak for this gaffe and later returned to say in his defence that he had been irritated by the journalists and was simply being sarcastic! (Uh huh?) Well tell this to those hapless (helpless?) Americans who believed their President and took him up on his suggestion!

Trump is known to make some ‘serious’ scientific interventions from time to time like looking at a solar eclipse without UV Glasses, declaring global warming a hoax created by the Chinese as a ploy to destroy US manufacturing, concluding that windmill noise causes cancer (ouch!), physical exercise is a drag on human energy and the one about nuking a hurricane to disrupt it! But injecting disinfectant in a covid19 patient? Like what, Lyzol, Dettol or Phenol? I wonder whats coronavirus’ take on this one? I am sure i will get its reactions once it stops laughing.

These briefings were a perfect forum for a showboat of a President. But woe behold, they attained epic proportions in showcasing Trump’s dysfunctional response to the epidemic. They became repetitive and if at all Trump shared information, most times his aides needed to clarify them subsequently or even retract. Contrary to Trump’s expectations the briefings contributed immensely to the sense of chaos and confusion already prevailing and hurt his ratings too.

Trump was now urged to stop attending the briefings or to limit his exposure to under 30 minutes of ‘scripted’ interaction. He accepted reluctantly, missed out on a couple of briefings and declared that they were ‘not worth the time and effort’! But was soon back again.

A leading American daily has published an analysis of a month’s worth of Trump briefings and it says he made roughly 600 utterances in self-praise , 110 blaming others and only “fleetingly” referred to the staggering death toll due to coronavirus.

Just touching upon Trump’s voodoo like cure of ‘disinfectant injection’, here in India too we had some bizarre voodoo-ish magic treatment for covid19 being championed. Most were benign though,such as singing bhajans (hymns), spraying cow urine (with some deodorant please), then a certain Swami Chakrapani declaring coronavirus an incarnation (?) of Lord Narsingh (??) and recommending erecting a corona statue and some suggested overcoming mental illness to fight the virus, but the dung pie for the cutest suggestion went to Chakrapani when he revealed that “gau bhakts” (cow worshippers) are immune to coronavirus (How does he know so much?)!

Well, this can pass off as plausible in a deeply rural and ‘underdeveloped’ India but the ‘disinfectant injection’ claim kind of tops it all and that too coming from the POTUS! In India too someone came close to this when some migrant labourers were hose sprayed with disinfectant but even we couldnt come up with the injection bit. In that sense I wish Trump had conferred with Chakrapani and made the ‘corona statue’ suggestion instead!

Apart from being unable to drive the national response Trump’s record of working the nuts and bolts of the anti-coronavirus effort with the States is way below the Mendoza Line. He’s essentially let the State’s be on their own and has constantly berated Governor’s for asking for more and more help. And on occasions where he has stepped in to help he’s boasted about it and anointed himself  the “king of ventilators”!

Trump has indulged in tremendous blame shifting and a common refrain has been that the Obama Administration had a poor record in dealing with the Swine Flu epidemic. This is debunked easily as unlike Trump, Obama did not wait for the WHO to declare a pandemic before announcing a public health emergency. And that just over 12,000 Americans died of Swine Flu while the figures for covid 19 are 60,000 and counting. Its no surprise when that, as widely reported by the BBC and other leading news papers on the transcript of a leaked call, Obama referred to Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis as a “chaotic disaster”.

His other two pet peeves are the WHO and China.

Trump has been seething at the WHO for initially resisting and decrying his January 31 decision to block travel from China. The UN Agency had then questioned this move. Terming the WHO “China centric” Trump accused the WHO of being slow in declaring the PHEIC and the subsequent Pandemic. He really got after the WHO around April 7, after a veiled attack by the WHO upon his administration’s use of economic sanctions in times such as the present Pandemic and Trump’s penchant for “stigmatisation and discrimination” emanating out of his “china virus” comments. By April 15 Trump had suspended over USD 500 million to the organisation’s budget. This was unprecedented and more so in the present scenario and reflected extremely poorly on Trump’s sense of judgment and US commitment to International Institutions and global protocols.

WHO Chairman Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has been under the lens for initially recommending against China travel bans, not informing the World on time about human to human transmission , not doing enough to call out China for its initial holding back of critical information and then for giving glowing accolades to China for its management of the crisis and lastly for being slow at declaring a PHEIC. The fact that the WHO declared a PHEIC only after the return of its Chairman from China has given rise to the speculations of collusion with China. These rumours gained traction after Trump waded in. And then a report by the German news outlet, Der Spiegel, quoted the country’s Federal Intelligence Service as having established that China “urged” the WHO to “delay a global warning” about the coronavirus outbreak in a call between Xi Jinping and the WHO Chairman has further fueled the controversy afresh.

The process of declaring a PHEIC is complicated and once it is declared it has certain obligations for the member states to go along with in terms of stocking, procuring and catering for humongous quantities of medical supplies. In Apr 2009 the WHO declared the swine flu as a PHEIC and a Pandemic but it fizzled out by July – August 2009. The WHO now came in for intense criticism from developed countries for declaring a PHEIC and Pandemic without due thought and in connivance with pharmaceutical companies and that its actions “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade”. Later that year 14 nations opened an investigation against the WHO and charged it with collusion with pharma companies and fraud!

Trump asserts that the reason why the US is seeing a raging epidemic is the absence of an early Pandemic announcement by the WHO.While the PHEIC accusations might still stick the rest of it won’t as it flies in the face of logic.Global spread of the virus was there for all to see and Trump and other world leaders were being regularly fed information about its virulence and lethality. They are supposed to and should have taken due measures to prepare their nations and support systems.

The WHO for its part defends itself by saying that it provided ample warnings to the world and that it declared a PHEIC when a mere 82 cases were known worldwide and no deaths and then designated the outbreak a Pandemic when there had been merely a little over a 120,000 cases worldwide. However, analysis of the WHO’s response after the 2009 controversy suggests that it has inhibited the UN Agency. There may even be some Chinese influence in the whole mix but it doesn’t absolve any state or leader of their own shortcomings.

As of now the WHO is on the wrong side of Trump and if this was a game of Kabaddi or Hu tu tu (as it is known in Western India) Trump has affected a successful ‘raid’ on the WHO.

Amul Topical on Trump Cutting Aid to the WHO, 15 April ’20

China too has come under severe attack by Trump, and for once he has to be backed for his stance against the Communist State not having been above board in keeping the world informed about just what exactly was unfolding in Wuhan since late Dec ’19. Having suppressed whistle blowers, passage of information and taking measures such as shutting down the very lab which gave out the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus, China has a lot to explain. Trump has promised an investigation and he and his ‘go to’ man for conspiracy theories, Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, have gone on record to say that there is overwhelming evidence of the novel coronavirus being man made and that it escaped from a Chinese Lab in Wuhan. Whatever the reality or the outcome of this investigation, Trump has found easy targets in China and the WHO to deflect blame for his own fiascoes.

How things play out for America in the days and weeks to come depends on its leadership and the ability of the States and the Presidency to work together and take the people along. So far with the way the reopening of the country is being planned – without coherent messaging – and the way the anti-lockdown protests are being encouraged, without due preparation for the inevitable second wave, does not bode well for the country and its people.During a Congressional hearing Anthony Fauci has made his reservations plain on the issue of opening up the nation prematurely especially schools since previously unknown impact of covid19 on children is only beginning to emerge now. But Trump dismissed Fauci’s reservations as well as trivialised the threat and vulnerability to children by saying that the coronavirus has “had very little impact on young people”. Another unfounded belief of the ‘commander-n-bleach’ with even more serious ramifications.

There’s a lesson in this for the rest of the world as well and for electorates to be careful about whom they elect to high offices. Trump, Boris Johnson and Bolsonaro are all disruptive leaders relying on machismo and populism and been found to be severely restricted with their abilities to govern in times of coronavirus and it isnt a mere coincidence that their nations are reeling under the impact of the Pandemic.

If nothing else,Trump should have known better than playing down an epidemic as he lost his Grandfather to the pandemic of 1918.

Before signing off, observing the absurdity playing out in the Trump Administration it reminded me of the blundering Doctor Evil and his dysfunctional world in the Austin Power movies. It seems as if Trump’s team dealing with the coronavirus has a one on one replacement for each character on Dr Evil’s team.

Trump of course as Dr Evil.. Especially since the position was vacant twice over after he fired the ‘@realDr Evil’ (remember the Mike Myers spoof) and the pretender Steve Bannon and for his ham handed approach to the unraveling crisis. But other than his established ‘scientific credentials’ his other qualifying acts make a splash by any standard-

– Like Dr Evil ranting about “why cant I get some frickin’ respect”

-When he gives the “why am I surrounded by idiots” look to Anthony Fauci during his infamous briefings.

-When he says he has saved “billions” of American lives (!) out of a population of 330 million, that is so Dr Evil declaring “why make a trillion when you can make a billion!”

-When in an inspired moment he suggested the “disinfectant injection” as a cure for coronavirus that was again so close to Dr Evil asking for “Sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads”

Mike Pence as the trusted aide ‘No2’ who quietly brushes and evens out the blips of his boss and works behind the scenes to make the ‘Virtucon’ (read White House) functional again!

Jared Kushner just has to be Mini-me (twice as evil?) ,minus the midget part, but then he more than makes up for the dwarf attributes with his intellectual abilities!His masterpiece of an assessment of the Trump Administration’s response to the epidemic that “This is a historically new challenge, and we’ve really risen to the occasion,…When history looks back on this, they’ll say, man, the federal government acted really quickly and creatively, they threw a lot at the problem and saved a lot of lives” gets him the ‘Mini me’ part with ease. (Cant help but think of the reaction of those who ingested the disinfectant! I sure don’t want to be in the same room as them when they read this quote!)

Mike Pompeo as Fat b@….d, for he is the ‘go to’ man for conspiracy theories, be it asserting ‘imminent threat’ from Iran and laying on ‘enormous evidence’ about the  coronavirus outbreak being man made in China or even when hard evidence has to be discounted, like bailing out Mohammad bin Salman in the Jamal Khasoggi murder.

Guilliani as ‘Random Tasks’ is one of the easiest picks for a casting director.

The most difficult part of Scott Evil actually goes to Anthony Fauci, who though not the biological son of Trump (and Thank God for it), has risked Dr Evil’s wrath for having rightly pointed out the latter’s bungling and almost got fired for it. He even said that the Trump Administration “could have saved lives” and it’s so close to Scott Evil telling his dad “you never kill him (Austin Powers) when you get the chance, and you are a big dope”.

Laura Inghram, Fox News, gets a walk in role for Frau Fabrissina for her long standing loyalty to the ‘Dear Leader’ and more so since her impassioned defence of Trump’s ‘disinfectant injection’ remark. And when she says that the Administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic was “..for too long” driven by “it seemed like unelected doctors” she kind of sews up the role for the sequel too. (Btw Laura, who other than seasoned doctors should drive policy during a pandemic? Voodoo doctors? Or morons ranting from the Rose Garden?)

The role of Dr Evil’s pet cat ,Mr Bigglesworth, goes to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany as she qualified for the part after her statement that “President Trump’s swift and unprecedented action has saved American lives,”!

Well, lets leave the alternate star cast to their own devices for now.

We have a laughing coronavirus to deal with.

VYAPAM SCAM: IMPERSONATING DEATH ! AND DOING A GOOD JOB ABOUT IT TOO !

Even Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t touch the VYAPAM Scam with a barge pole. Simply because it’s likely it would be the last thing he would ever touch! With 48 deaths of accused or witnesses (mostly unnatural and mysterious) in its wake it would be surprising if anyone would stick his neck out in the case knowing fully well that he could well be – #49 !!! Read on at your own peril , lest you know too much as well!

Third term as Madhya Pradesh (MP) CM & Shiv Raj Singh Chauhan was riding the crest of the largest and strongest wave of his political career, until it hit a breaker named – VYAPAM -acronym for MP Vyavasayik Pareeksha Mandal or MP Professional Examination Board (MPPEB).

The MPPEB, has been responsible for the conduct of entrance exam for professional courses since 1982.In 2011, its scope was widened to include all appointments except the gazetted ones. Overarching powers, rampant unemployment and the lure of the professional courses, made VYAPAM a lucrative proposition for anyone who was wily enough to exploit its potential for generating ill-gotten wealth. It was too good an opportunity to be missed.

And it wasn’t missed.

In 2009,Paras Saklecha, a one term independent MLA from Ratlam and an academic first raised the issue of alleged irregularities in the conduct of exams by VYAPAM in the State Assembly. Soon, Anand Rai, a government doctor, filed a PIL as well as a police complaint on the same issue. Undertones transformed into overtones and VYAPAM was now mired in a full-fledged controversy. An inquiry commission was then formed and submitted its report in 2011.Subsequently,certain admissions were cancelled and numerous cases were investigated.

Intriguingly, the Government’s actions did not act as a deterrent. VYAPAM’s own records suggest the number of irregularities in admissions kept increasing from 42 medical seats cancelled out of the allotted number in 2008 to 85 in 2009, 90 in 2010, 98 in 2011, 286 in 2012 and 439 in 2013.If observed, though the figures are for the medical seats only, the irregularities saw a significant jump in 2011 when a massive number of departmental recruitment too were brought under the banner of VYAPAM, ostensibly for streamlining the process and to introduce transparency in the system. But all it did was add more lusture to VYAPAM and made the professional and recruitment exams a ripe ground for the conspirators to exploit.Their impunity obviously resulted from the fact that they were comfortable in the knowledge that their “patrons” would cover for them.

This state persisted till 2013, when the edifice of VYAPAM took a body blow.Indore Police on a tip off arrested 20 impersonators on the eve of the PMT. The subsequent investigations blew the lid over what is today known as the VYAPAM Scam and the Indore Crime Branch discovered that VYAPAM had been completely compromised.

The façade of fairness had crumbled completely and Shivraj Chouhan found himself in the middle of a raging fire, for it was under his watch as the Minister overseeing VYAPAM that it had degenerated into a corruption mired sloth which was playing with the futures of young aspirants and hollowing out the credibility of the departments it was carrying out recruitments for.

This coupled with sensational allegations from Anand Rai impelled the CM to constitute a Special Task Force (STF) to investigate the VYAPAM Scam. The STF found that the rigged tests were the PMT 2008-13, Pre-PG medical test for 2012 and recruitment exams for contract teachers, food inspectors, police constables and Ayurvedic medical officers. A total of 167exams were now under the scanner.And a probable Rs 10000 crores exchanged hands !

The modus operandi in the VYAPAM Scam was based on impersonation, where a brilliant student sat on behalf of another candidate after having duly affixed his own photo on the admit card. This photo was later changed after the exam. Favoured candidates were also made to sit within an “engine and bogey system” where a proxy candidate or another impersonator sat between two others (bogeys) who would then copy from his (engine) answer sheets. Lastly, targeted candidates were advised to leave the answers blank on the OMR sheets and they would later fill the answers based on the high grades they were awarded in the test !It was obvious that none of this was possible without the active collusion of students, parents,examiners, VYAPAM officials and a well-oiled network of middlemen and VIPs who were recommending the candidates. For the record, success at the PMT was guaranteed at Rs 15 lacs and for the PG seats at Rs 50 lacs.

Arrests of middlemen led to the revelation that the principal system analyst Nitin Mahindra could get any candidate selected at will. He was found to be in cahoots with the chief controller of exams and Chairman at VYAPAM, Pankaj Trivedi. The arrests of these bigwigs clearly indicated that there was more to the scam as these individuals could not have run such an elaborate scheme without political patronage and blessings. VYAPAM had been stinking all along only that the stench was ignored by the CM, how can such an elaborately layered scam be perpetrated without anyone getting a whiff of it unless fate intervened?

The STF hired a free lance and ethical hacker and forensic expert , Prashant Pandey, to recover data from VYAPAM computers and call data records. An Excel sheet conforming to meticulous details of the transactions carried out by Mahindra was recovered ,giving out records of the candidates, the amount paid by them and the name of the middleman and the VIP/ individual recommending these candidates. In addition, Pandey retrieved another 40 GB of incriminating data as well as Call Data Records (CDRs) wherein he recovered SMS trails between various middlemen and the ones promoting the candidates.

This was the turning point in the investigation for more than one reason.

Not only did it lead to numerous skeletons jumping out of closets but also set in motion a sequence events that would eventually lead to the demolishing of the Shivraj legacy.

Based on these details and findings and the excel sheet records the STF went on to file 55 cases and 45 of them for professional courses and the other 10 for irregularities in the recruitments. The arrests made were spectacular as well and demonstrated how deep set the rot was. Dr Jagdish Sagar, known to be close to the BJP was arrested with a list of 317 PMT candidates he was going to target, barely days before the PMT counselling. State Minister for Technical Education, Laxmikant Sharma, was arrested for fraud in relation to a case in the recruitment of contract teachers. His OSD , OP Shukla was arrested for taking 85 lacs from Mahindra and Trivedi, and his PA Sudhir Sharma was arrested for his role as a middleman and a facilitator. Numerous bureaucrats and their relatives were also arrested for their role and participation in the scam. Quoting the Hindustan Times, Dhanraj Yadav, former OSD to governor, is accused of being involved in the recruitment of a large number of candidates. and the biggest catch of them all, Governor Ram Naresh Yadav was booked for allegedly accepting bribes from five people for recruiting them as forest guards.The CM’s then personal secretary Prem Chandra Prasad was also implicated in a case involving his daughter but was, allegedly, never pursued seriously.Names of RSS Chiefs and other Sangh Parivaar functionaries also figured as the sponsors of candidates.

During this time Prashant Pandey turned whistle blower when he despaired that the STF was not taking action against the CM, to whom it was reporting, and against his wife Sadhna Singh , who had both purportedly figured in the excel sheet retrieved by him.He alleged that the STF had replaced Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s name with the letters “CM” and with the name of the former MP CM ,Uma Bharti. He handed over the data to the Congress Party’s Digvijay Singh, who in turn used it to file a case in the MP High Court, making a case against Shivraj Chauhan as the kingpin and arguing that the STF was deliberately going slow in the case and instead of going after the real mastermind was simply filing cases against parents and children and also harassing them.

The MP CM’s and his wife ,Sadhna Singh’s name also cropped in cases pertaining to their relative’s being recruited as well as ineligible candidates being recruited from their native districts (these candidates were later disqualified)The CM was also accused of changing the rules of VYAPAM to suit his interests.

Following various writs against the STF and for handing over the investigations to the CBI the MP High Court constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to monitor the work of the STF.

All this while a spate of deaths and suicides started. Namrata Damor, a student of Indore Medical College was found dead in 2012.Her death was termed suicide in spite of the autopsy report suggesting violent homicide. Two years hence her name figured in the list of fraudulent candidates. She was allegedly close to Dr Jagdish Sagar and probably knew too much about the unfolding scam. Similarly almost 40 others also died, including the Governor’s son , Shailesh Yadav, who had been named as an alleged recipient of bribes. According to the STF’s own records 23 of the deaths were unnatural (suspicious or a result of accidents) and most were of people in the age group of 25 to 30, yet these deaths were not being independently probed. With each death the pressure on the Shivraj government increased to call for a CBI probe of the scam and the STF came under fire for failing to protect the witnesses and others involved. But the MP Government did not relent and continued to repose faith on the discredited STF.

In a dramatic turn of events, the case filed by Digvijay Singh based on the details provided by Prashant Pandey was thrown out by the MP High Court on the grounds that the SIT had found the data on Pandey’s pen drive to be forged ! The SIT never commented on the fact that it was the same Excel sheet which was relied upon for arresting so many others then how is turning out to be forged now??? The SIT also claimed that the SMS details provide by Pandey were inadmissible as they were obtained illegally hence their worth as evidence was void! But it could atleast have clarified whether the SMS sequences were authentic or not irrespective of the source.Why discount his fact after all???Pandey was also arrested for the forged data and certain STF staff were booked for hiring private investigators in an ongoing government inquiry. This totally turned the tables on the opposition and the MP CM found some breathing space. The MP Governor too won a reprieve as he had in a separate case suggested that the data could be forged and hence the FIR against him should be quashed. The opposition though maintained the pressure but the fizz was out from its drive against the CM.

The situation changed dramatically between 28 June and 06 Jul 15, when four deaths of people related to the VYAPAM Scam, occurred in quick succession. Two amongst them were police constables who were allegedly accused of being the beneficiaries of the scam (though this was denied by the MP CM) and one was the dean of the Jabalpur Medical College ,Arun Kumar, who was assisting the CBI in the investigations.The most shocking was the death of TV Today Group journo, Akshay Sigh , who collapsed and died of a heart attack moments after interviewing the family of Namrata Damor as part of his investigations into her alleged murder and its connect with the VYAPAM Scam.

The almost daily sequence of deaths shook the entire nation and VYAPAM was finally and firmly on the national mind scape. The details started tumbling out and it became increasingly embarrassing for the MP CM, whose position was fast becoming untenable. VYAPAM had become synonymous with death. And Shivraj Chauhan was losing the perception battle at an alarming rate. The general impression now was that there was a systematic cover up and the manner of elimination suggested shielding of influential individuals.The taint on the CM and his wife now returned to haunt them.With the death toll at 48 (the government though claims lesser) the sensationalism around the scam was at its peak. And with each new dawn it seemed one more VYAPAM Scam accused or witness or anyone possessing information on it would bite the dust till there were none left to depose or provide information!!

In the aftermath of the turn of events, the Supreme Court of India (SC) took cognizance of the matter in response to appeals filed by Digvijay Singh, Kapil Sibal and three other VYAPAM whistle blowers including Prashant Pandey, Anand Rai and Ashish Chaturvedi,to hand over the case to the CBI.Faced with imminent handing over of the case, Shivraj Chuhan then proceeded to , belatedly, approach the MP HC for the same. The MP HC however deferred the hearing and the SC eventually made the CBI responsible for the case.

This Amul Advertisment on the VYAPAM Scam featured in the midst of the raging controversy and after the spate of deaths of individuals related to the scam.It depicts the Amul Girl as a student sitting in a class room and scratching her head in a bid to figure out what exactly was going on that led to so many suspicious deaths.The sequence of question marks is as much a take on the VYAPAM Emblem – ? – as it is on the big question mark the scam had itself turned out into.

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The Tag Line ….Dial M for Madhya?… is a spin on the name of the famous Alfred Hitchcock thriller  “Dial M for Murder” , which is about a perfect murder plot. And in this case is a not so subtle and scathing commentary over the spate of alleged murders that took place in Madhya Pradesh in relation to the VYAPAM Scam and ostensibly left no evidennce to prove them.

The Punch Line …Play Safe…. Endorses Amul Butter as a safe product but also echoes the dominant sentiment of the time that it is better the people who knew about the VYAPAM Scam played it safe than being sorry later. If they were around at all !

In this entire sordid saga, the MP CM emerges as the man who would rue his missed opportunities to unravel the scam when he could have. His slow start to the investigations in the initial years, ignoring the scam as something that would blow away while winning a third term, not going for the removal of the Governor when he was named in an FIR, not going in for independent investigations in the numerous suspicious deaths, not handing over the case to the CBI in the face of the STF’s incompetence and helplessness are some of the slip ups that he is directly responsible for. Naturally many would argue that perhaps he is himself involved which explains his actions or inaction.This has demolished his “Mama ji” image – a well-wisher for the youngsters – as also his claims for a clean and corruption free administration.

When every action of the ones responsible for the probe was evoking suspicion then why did the MP CM not hand over the case to the CBI? Chauhan’s claims at being the original whistle blower fall flat as the pace of the investigations and the many omissions and commissions of the investigators puncture his attempts at attaining the moral high ground. He is today a lame duck CM, a far cry from the wave rider days, and is badly mauled in the aftermath of the VYAPAM Scam.He proved ineffective in preventing it, prosecuting the accused and also in protecting the witnesses and the key accused. Most damningly, VYAPAM the institution transformed into a monster which epitomizes everything which is wrong with today’s India – rampant corruption, poverty, exploitation, greed, unemployment, political patronage, nepotism, poor governance, lack of moral authority and accountability. The MP CM was all the while content with holding on to power and was least concerned with the fate of the 77 million affected due to the VYAPAM irregularities since 2008. VYAPAM became a synonym for corruption and death under his watch. His legacy is destroyed and his days in the appointment are numbered as well. His fate now hangs in the balance till the time the CBI reports on the veracity of the data presented by Prashant Pandey.

Some may argue that the deaths are being made out to be what they are not as part of an inner party tussle within the BJP and that once adequate collateral damages has been inflicted on Shivraj Singh Chauhan, making his exit imminent, the news reports would die down After all, the media is but a tool in India.Even if this is true, this is also true that the scam happened, 48 people have died and not all of them were meant to die just because they were born (as MP Home Minister and foremer CM Babu Lal Gauur would have us believe), that the STF was impeded in its progress and probably was inhibited too and lastly that VYAPAM has been an unmitigated disaster for the people of MP. For all this alone the truth needs to be found out and accountability fixed.Its a sad commentary when , if it is true, political vendetta leads to scams such as VYAPAM being taken to their logical conclusion !

For having forsaken the well being of the people of MP the CM needs to resign. And now.

However, the rot in MP runs deep and the fact that the Governor Ram Naresh Yadav is an accused is symptomatic of the same. His continuance in the post is baffling when the very same BJP Government in the Centre went hammer and tongs against untainted UPA appointed state governors and eventually replaced them. Obviously, I would ask that is Yadav being handled with kid’s gloves since he knows a little too much about the ones involved???Shamefully, an appeal demanding that the MP Government be asked to seek the Governor’s removal is pending in the SC.Will someone move even now???

Alarmingly, the sequence of actions in VYAPAM have a common chord with some other scams involving the high and mighty. The fodder scam in Bihar saw more than a dozen people connected with it die unnaturally. .Accidents were the major cause then too. Subsequently in the National rural Health Mission scam in UP, two CMOs were shot, a Dy CMO was killed in jail, another was killed in an accident while on his way to meet CBI officials, and a clerk was found dead in a field.

Isn’t it all too convenient in  India?

A swift closure to the investigations, independent inquiries into the unnatural deaths, setting up of a new institution with adequate safeguards and speedy justice in the cases seems to be the only recourse towards setting the house in order in MP. Though this seems to be a tall order as with 2000 arrests, 500 absconders and many more to be accused in the future the CBI has its task cut out. Whatever be the measures taken, the long term damage has been done.VYAPAM has single handedly destroyed the credibility of the professional courses and those graduating in them in India.

This is one scam which has come to light and there may be many more VYAPAM’s already underway or waiting to happen. And its likely we may not come to know of most especially since with the way the whistle blowers are “protected” in India, who would put his hand up for the greater cause when his/ her life would be almost certainly endangered.

Play safe has to be the mantra after all.

But the underlying feeling is of despair and dismay that almost anything can be tampered with in our country and if you are connected enough you can get away with it and the money as well. Life is cheap and never more so than in the VYAPAM conundrum.

I would like to personally compliment the kingpins and the masterminds on their modus operandi that it is so perfect that the VYAPAM scam successfully impersonated death and did a good job about it too.

Have I learnt too much?

If my cell phone doesn’t respond hereafter, please dial M for Madhya !

 

 

JAYALALITHA DA CASE: MUMMY RETURNS, IN STYLE, IN INCREDIBLE INDIA !

Jayalalithaa’s foster son was about to be married , when asked if he possessed a “bangla,gaadi ,TV, fridge, AC, and 1001 lungis, and 10002 bottles of coconut oil” required for leading a happily married life, he simply gave a knowing smile and calmly said uske pass “Ammaa” hai ! “Ammaa” too sponsored his wedding in style! And two decades later “Ammaa”, her moonh bola beta and a moonh lagi dost were still seen clearing the wedding dues in the form of a Disproportionate Assets (DA) case !

Jayalalitha first became the CM of Tamil Nadu (TN), in 1991, after her party, the AIADMK, swept the Assembly and Parliamentary elections. Fondly addressed as “Amma”, she found herself perched as the Prima Donna of TN politics. She progressed with her first term with equal mix of hits and misses and was known for her pro women policies and also the ablity to take a tough stand on contentious issues such as the Cauvery water dispute.

Amul did not miss the import and captured it in one of its first topicals on Jayalalitha ,which was inspired by the stand off between the Karnataka CM , S Bangarappa, and her.

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But Jayalalitha’s first term as CM was also conspicuous for her total reliance on her close friend Sasikala and some of the latter’s relatives.Sasikala emerged as the main power broker within the AIADMK. In time businesses and companies with Jayalalitha and Sasikala as stakeholders, went on a land and property acquiring spree and making huge financial transactions. It was at this time that Jayalalitha’s foster son Sudhakaran VN, Sasikala’s nephew, was married in the most ostentatious manner. The marriage found mention in the Guinness Book of Records for the maximum number of guests and the largest ever marriage banquet. The vulgar display of wealth and jewellery by Jayalalitha evoked a lot of negative publicity and curiosity. Her popularity waned tremendously in the wake of the controversial wedding.

Subramaniam Swamy, erstwhile Janata Party President and presently a BJP member, filed a case for investigating Jayalalitha for corruption to investigate the expenses of the wedding as well as other financial and land/ property deals involving her. She was accused of amassing assets worth Rs 66.64 Crores when her known income was estimated to be Rs 3 crore.

In 1996, “Amma” lost the State assembly and parliamentary elections.

The incoming DMK Government formed a special court and pursued the issues against its main political rival and charged her and her associates with corruption, acquiring income beyond their known sources of income, money laundering, benami transactions and land grab through dubious land deals. ”Amma” was eventually arrested in December 1996. The recovery of 28 kgs of gold, 800kgs of silver, 12000 sarees and over a 1000 pair of shoes from her residence was shocking in its mere scale and proportion. Jayalalitha and her associates had a lot of explaining to do.

Amul too was inspired to take out a topical on Jayalaitha’s arrest , which won the 1996 AAREN Awards.

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Following the furore Jayalalitha broke all ties with Sasikala and even disowned Sudhakaran as her foster son.She also vowed to abjure from wearing gold ever again.

The case was pursued vigorously for five years. In the interim Jayalalitha’s political fortunes swung once again when she with her 28 MPs.became a crucial partner in the BJP led NDA government of 1998. With waxing fortuneS, “Amma’s”  arrogance surfaced once gain and she exerted undue pressures on the coalition government to dismiss the DMK government in TN which was vigorously pursuing the cases against her.Important Income Tax officials investigating the cases against Jayalalitha were also transferred arbitrarily by central ministers belonging to the AIADMK .

The blatant misuse of power by Jayalalitha inspired yet another Amul topical way back in 1998.

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Eventually the situation came to a head and “Amma” threatened to withdraw support from the NDA as a sign of her political power. By now This too led to yet another Amul topical on her.

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 But in 2001 Jayalalitha, in spite of her conviction in the TANSI land case (which was later overturned) and all her histrionics she was back at the helm as CM (it happens only in India). Consequently, scores of witnesses in the DA case resiled and the prosecutors also faced pressure. The case was almost collapsing for lack of evidence when in 2003, senior DMK leader, K Anbazaghan sought and obtained from the Supreme Court of India (SC) the transfer of the case outside of TN. The trial was now to be conducted in Karnataka.

Cut to 28th of September 2014.

18 years, five judges, four Special Public Prosecutors (SPP), one senior counsel, 250 plus witnesses and innumerable dilatory appeals were consumed in arriving at the verdict in the Karnataka trial court of Justice John Michael D’cunha. Jayalalitha along with Sasikala and the other two accused was found guilty of amassing assets and wealth disproportionate to her known source of income, and sentenced to 4 years imprisonment. Jayalalitha was fined Rs 100 crore and the others Rs 10 crore each.

Jayalalitha earned the dubious distinction of being the first sitting CM to be convicted. She was unseated from the CM’s chair and stood disqualified from holding public office for 10 years, four years for the duration of the conviction and six years after its termination. “Amma” appealed against the judgement in the Karnataka High Court (HC) and also applied for bail, which was initially denied but later the SC granted her the same on the condition of a speedy disposal of her appeal in the HC.

All was over for “Amma”. Or so it seemed.

Jayalalitha had been unseated once before in 2001 when she was convicted in the TANSI land case. But back then the conviction was overturned and she was restored to the CM’s chair. And on 11th of May 2015, history repeated itself. Most surprisingly and unbelievably Jayalalitha found herself exonerated and acquitted in the DA case!

“Amma” was back; Mummy Returns! And how!

This Amul ad/ topical on Jayalalitha came out after her acquittal in the DA case. It shows a caricature depicting Jayalalitha, who is flashing her trademark “v” for victory sign and sweets in her hand. She is flanked by another caricature depicting a gleeful O Paneerselvam (again with sweets), who was CM while Jayalalitha stood convicted in the DA case. The Amul Girl is seen offering a bouquet to the elated “Amma”.Other supporters are seen joining in the celebrations in traditional Tamil attire.

JAYALALITHA DA CASE

The Tag Line ….Chief Amma-inister again… is a play on Jayalalitha political sobriquet and term “Chief Minister”. It is posing the question which all had in mind whether Jayalalitha will now be CM again and how soon?

The Punch Line …Chennai’s choice… is an endorsement of the Amul Butter and is a subtle take on the popularity of Jayalalitha in TN.

In her own words, Jayalalitha had now emerged “like tested pure gold”.

What turned the tide and that too in such a dramatic manner that all it took was a mere 10 seconds for the HC Judge, Justice KR Kumaraswamy ,to announce “Appeal allowed. All charges set aside. All are acquitted.”

18 years of prosecution up in smoke, AND in 10 seconds???

The main constituents of the assets under the scanner were the Sudhakaran wedding expenses, construction costs in Jayalalitha’s Poes Garden residence, acquired properties and the ownership of the seized ornaments, apparels, sarees and footwear. The trial court had estimated the wedding expenses to be approx Rs 6 crore and attributed it all to Jayalalitha, the construction costs were estimated to be upwards of Rs 27 crores, the ornaments and items of footwear and apparel were all accepted as being owned by Jayalalitha and it opined that Jayalalitha had spent approx. Rs 20 crores on the acquisition of properties by paying hidden amounts over and above the sale deed and for this it had relied on the testimonies of various individuals.

And as regards the attributed income; the loans obtained, foreign remittances and other gifts received and assessed income from Jaya Publications and the Grape Farm were disregarded by the Trial Court either in part or toto to arrive at its conclusions and calculations. Most damningly, the documents forwarded by the defence counsel to support various claims of a subscription scheme, “Namadhu MGR”, were deemed to be r an “after thought” as well as “fictitious”. It also did not consider the delayed filing of the income tax by the accused as a clarification on the assets acquired.

The HC on the other hand attributed the wedding expenses to the bride’s side including Sivaji Ganesan, as well as Jayalalitha and its verdict stated that the Prosecution had exaggerated the construction and wedding costs by a whopping Rs 28 crores! The Court also stated that their was no evidence (disregarding the testimony of witnesses as “hearsay”) to prove that Jayalalitha paid over and above the sale deeds to acquire the various properties. And regarding the ornaments, sarees, watches and footwear it said that it wasn’t proven as to when the assets were acquired and also that attributing everything to Jayalalitha when there were three other residents in her house is a faulty premise and thus calculated the total assets to be approx. Rs 37.6 crores instead of Rs 66.64 crores.

For computing the income , the HC included the loans, gifts, remittances and assessed income (as per the defence counsel) from Jaya Publications (including the subscription scheme, where AIADMK party members deposed as witnesses and provided evidence by accepting the scheme) and the Grape Farm and arrived at a figure of approx. Rs 34.8 crores.

In the overall analysis it found that the assets exceeded the income by a “mere” Rs 2.8 crores and since it did not cross the threshold as laid down by the SC in its 1977 judgement on the Krishnanand Agnihotri case, which introduces the concept that disproportionate asset to the extent of 10 per cent deserves no punishment, Jayalalitha and all others were acquitted as the HC felt that the prosecution’s case is not proven beyond reasonable doubt

To add to the irony, the SPP, Mr Bhawani Singh was unable to present oral arguments as he was appointed at the fag end of the SC stipulated time frame for dealing with the appeal, as his predecessor was removed when his appointment was found invalid. What is alarming is that the trial court had ruled most documents forwarded by the defence as not being genuine and the HC has relied on the very same documents for its verdict! How can two judges differ so much on such a crucial issue?

The HC verdict has rendered DA as a grossly vague and nebulous concept. There is a school of thought which says that it’s the nature and social impact of the corruption which has to be taken into account and the auditor’s computing. The SC itself considers corruption as the “enemy of the nation” and has followed a “zero tolerance” policy towards such cases. An appeal against Jayalalitha in the SC is essential for her to not only establish her credentials firmly but also to settle the issue of how to deal with DA cases.

But if left to the politicians even this would not happen.

Karnataka Government dithered till as late as possible to follow the due process of law and file an appeal against Jayalalitha’s acquittal until its legal expert reminded it that not filing an appeal would erode the people’s faith as also of the SC which had entrusted the case to the Karnataka judiciary! By now however Subramaniam Swamy and a social activist, “Traffic” Ramaswamy had already filed appeals to challenge the acquittal.

Jayalalitha’s acquittal was sensational and unprecedented but it all seems so farcical that a conviction can be so easily overturned. It would be fine that instead of such complicated computing Jayalalitha and co. could have simply stated that the entire wedding expenses were on loan, the house was repaired and constructed by donations, the foot wear belonged to angry supporters who hurled them at Jayalalithaa, the land and properties were… well they were simply not theirs and the sarees and ornaments were all gift including everything else that they could not account for! This is how incredulous the whole thing appears today.

The signal this has sent is that the high and mighty can manage almost anything in the Courts of Law. The verdict came close on the heels of the Salman Khan trial where in the actor secured bail, after being convicted of negligent driving, within a mere half an hour of the listing of the appeal. Whereas the common man keeps on languishing under the infamous “tareeq pe tareeq” dialogue from Sunny Deol. After these acquittals it is time Dawood Ibrahim surrendered as he can now have faith in our judicial process. It will firstly drag along for 93 years and surely our “learned” counsels will find a way to keep Dawood out of prison.

In the meantime, “Amma” is back in the CM’s chair amidst tremendous shows of loyalty and sycophancy. She took over on 23rd of May 2015 and is now calling the political shots and there are speculations that she may even order snap assembly polls to ride the wave of sympathy, support and euphoria. The wheels of fortune have truly turned for her and we have to hold our breath till the final act in this saga is played out in the SC.

Mr Paneerselvam, in deference to “Amma”, had refused to use her CM office and let everyone know that he was just a chair warmer! This modern day Bharat will surely be rewarded for his loyal behavior as he went a step ahead of the original Ramayana protagonist. Unlike the original Bharat who ruled on behalf of Lord Rama just as the latter himself would have, Paneerselvam inflicted administrative paralysis in the State. Projects were delayed, no decisions taken, no schemes launched and in particular for Chennai – the metro rail inauguration was delayed till “Amma” won freedom, and all this at the expense of the very people of the State in whose name the likes of Jayalalitha and her cohorts come to power.

Politicians will after all remain just that – politicians!

Meanwhile , in a mere 48 hours of “Amma” returning as CM , the TN Government has announced social welfare and development schemes worth Rs 3000 crores. The administrative paralysis has miraculously disappeared.

Mummy Returns, in style !

Incredible India Indeed !

ARVIND KEJRIWAL V/S NAJEEB JUNG: GOD MUST LOVE STUPID PEOPLE. HE MADE SO MANY !

Some Delhi school, actually two, will need to come forward and make an exception for mid-session admission of two kids in the Nursery section – that of Master Arrvind Kejriwal and Master N’ajeeb’ Jung ! When the two are not tweedling and sucking at their thumbs they are also the Chief Minister (CM) and Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi NCT respectively .The two “toddlers have recently run amok and wreaked havoc with the Delhi Administration. And how!

When the Delhi Chief Secretary (CS), Mr KK Sharma, proceeded on a 10 day leave, little would he have realized that it would be the most talked about leave in the country (of course after RaGa’s disappearance).The LG appointed a stand in CS ,1984 batch IAS officer Shakuntla Gamlin (wife of former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister and Congress regional satrap Jarbom Gamlin).

“Baby” Kejri soon opposed the appointment of Mrs Gamlin on the grounds that he had not been consulted and accused the LG of usurping the powers of the elected government , of not adhering to the ‘the Constitution, GNCT of Delhi Act and the Transaction of Business Rules’ . Now “baby” Jung (jaisa naam waisa kaam, so true!), took out his thumb, and claimed that he had acted under the provisions of Article 239 AA of the Constitution, and is the representative of State Authority in Delhi and that he is the authority on appointments and postings and his decisions will be binding on the government.

And hereon it was a veritable free for all.

Kejriwal shredded Mrs Gamlin’s public reputation by insinuating that she was close to power companies and had recently sought to influence government decisions in favour of the latter.Adding, in crass taste, that she (Gamlin) “might be in office for the coming few days, but rest assured the government will keep an eye on her every move and not allow her to misuse the power of her office.” After humiliating the officer in the Auto Samvad, Kejriwal then asked Mrs Gamlin not to take charge as her appointment was against the set rule. She however assumed charge.

The very next day, in an openly vindictive , brusuque and arrogant manner, Kejriwal removed his Principal Secretary (Services),Anindo Majumdar, from the position ! And this was meted out as “punishment” to the officer for simply having simply followed established procedures to issue the appointment letter to Mrs Gamlin, based on the instructions received from the LG. The other “baby” in the mix, Najeeb Jung, then attempted to bail out Mr Majumdar by declaring his removal as void on the grounds that the AAP government had failed to seek the LG’s sanction for effecting this change.

By now the entire saga had taken a sordid , comical and farcical turn.

And since kids love comics and make believe, both Kejriwal and Jung did not relent even at this stage. Shunning all possibilities of a consensus Kejriwal donned his “muffler man” suit and proceeded to defy authorities (isn’t he the authority now??). Reminiscent of his disconnecting – cables-from electric meter- days, Kejriwal ordered that Mr Majumdar’s office be locked and he be barred from entering it ! (Yes he did that !) Mr Majumdar , a senior bureaucrat, was humiliated in front of his own staff for simply following orders and procedures!

And the “AAP ka CM” was now back in his comfort zone, openly charting a confrontational course. By now I almost expected him to sit on Dharna. He did just that , but by other means available to him.

Following the “lock out” the AAP government defiantly appointed, the CM’s Secretary, Mr Rajendra Kumar, to look after the two departments which were previously under the charge of Mr Majumdar – Principal Secretary (Services) & the General Administration. This appointment too was promptly declared void by the rapier wielding Jung, who was also out to match fire with fire.

Mature handling, I must say.

And thanks to their respective attitude of seeking an eye for an eye, both Jung and Kejriwal were by now blinded by rage, arrogance and fury (all misplaced of course) and continued to blunder on. Kejriwal passed instructions that no bureaucrat shall initiate any action on the verbal or written directions of the LG without approval of the CM or the Ministers. Kejriwal was now openly challenging the Constitution while complaining that Jung wasn’t upholding it. This was simply preposterous.

And then in yet another escalatory action he appointed Mr Arvind Ray as the Principal Secretary (General Administration), and to really get everyone to ease out he added a dash of comedy by getting Mr Rajendra Kumar to issue the order in his capacity as Principal Secretary (Services), whose appointment, incidentally, had already been declared void!!!

Yes, fellas what you just read actually happened. And no points for guessing what happened next. This appointment too was declared void by the LG!

Having soundly pinched, bitten, kicked and blinded each other both kids now walked up to the Principal (the President, Mr Pranab Mukherjee) to seek resolution to the impasse and paralysis that had taken over the Delhi administration. It was comical sight indeed and I hope the “Principal” gave them a sound thrashing, for being the truant kids that they were at the moment!

Some drama was still left in the story.Now both the kids carried out some letter writing practice as well. Jung wrote to Kejriwal and declared void all appointments made by the latter in the intervening period since the appointment of Mrs Gamlin.Mr. Jung said he alone was competent to approve transfers and postings of senior bureaucrats in consultation with the CM. He also added he had the constitutional authority to decide on policy matters of importance over and above that of the CM.

In his reply, Kejriwal questioned Jung’s moves and sought to know under what provisions the Lieutenant-Governor had exercised his authority? He also wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi and urged him to allow the “Delhi government function independently,” and to not hijack it through the office of the LG..

The NDA government at the centre queered the pitch by issuing a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) notification ( LG functions directly under the Home Minister) making it clear that it was not mandatory for the LG to consult the CM on matters like services, public order, police and land and the Delhi Assembly had no executive powers on the subjects.It would have been prudent to take a dispassionate and concilliatory position at this stage, to get both the CM and the LG to sit and talk things over.

Predictably, the notification led to the AAP government accusing the BJP led NDA of nervousness and seeking to protect the interests of corrupt bureaucrats as also of being the brain behind the confrontation. And with this the imbroglio turned into an impasse.

This amul ad / topical on Arvind Kejriwal and Najeeb Jung depicts the impasse in the Delhi administration which has resulted due to the ongoing feud between the two protagoists. The topical has two caricatures depicting the principal actors of the feud who are engaged in a duel, with Jung carrying a sword and Kejriwal carrying his party’s symbol – “jhadu” (broom)- in the backdrop of the Red Fort which gives a lively red hue to the ad.

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The Tag Line …Najeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh… is a play on the name of the LG, Najeeb Jung as well as a spin off an old Bollywood song – “ajeeb dastaan hai yeh” – which referred to life being a strange tale.And in this case it’s a take on the distressing tale of the clash of egos of Kejriwal and Jung.

The Punch Line …Feud Chhodo, Food Khao… is a subtle call to the feuding duo to bury the hatchet and move on !

Kejriwal’s reaction to the appointment of Mrs Gamlin triggered the entire fracas and farce of appointing and “discarding” bureaucrats. It was just a matter of ten days and Kejriwal could have avoided this ugly spat by seeking constitutional recourse and not by indulging in impulsive actions aimed at playing confrontational politics resulting in pronounced brinkmanship, which seems to have become the operational philosophy of Kejriwal and by extension of the AAP as well.

Importantly, Kejriwal has sensed opportunity and now, through this bizarre fracas, has brought to center stage the demand for full statehood for Delhi. His assertions are absolutely valid that the CM needs to have a say in the appointments and transfers of officials as after all it is the government which is responsible for governance. Otherwise he isn’t really independent and it won’t be democracy either. He also sought a clarification on the powers of the LG so that the limits of intervention or affirmation are well laid down especially when it comes to the jurisdiction over critical departments, failing which the elected government will face hurdles galore in implementing its people oriented policies. According to Om Thanvi, a veteran political commentator quoted by Firstpost, “Kejriwal wants to raise the question loud and strong to prepare ground for a new mass movement to press the Centre to give Delhi the status of a full-fledged state” as by now the AAP government has realized that it does not have the requisite freedom of action to deliver on the campaign promises and to provide the model governance the Party claims to believe in. Which will cost it heavily in the long run.

The discordant note is how Kejriwal has denigrated civil servants and made them scape goats at altar of his the self-declared constitutional crusade. He tarnished the reputation of Mrs Gamlin in the most inappropriate public forum and and humiliated her and Mr Majumdar..By this he has deflated the intensity and morale necessary to be possessed by bureaucrats.Humiliation and derision are seldom known to motivate.

It is no surprise that Mr Majumdar has since requested for leave as well as deputation out of Delhi. And also that a body representing the IAS officers has protested against this insanely disdainful disregard of the dignity, prestige and respect of a bureaucrat.AAP may claim that it is acting against the “transfer-posting” industry in Delhi, but in real terms Kejriwal has denigrated the civil servants by using them as pawns against the centre and Jung.

By taking on the LG, the BJP,the NDA and the bureaucracy – which represent the “ruling” class- the AAP and Kejriwal are panning to their core vote base which comprises of the youth and the socially and economically under privileged. To them , this spectacle is a sign of empowerment and they will cheer AAP through every “guillotine” that it organizes to decimate the oppressors. In essence, Kejriwal is et again relying on anarchy to whip up emotions and achieve his ends.

But deep down, hopefully, he too must know that the systematic denigration of every established pillar of governance will erode the people’s faith and render the tools of administration ineffective. And no AAP KI SARKAR or Kejriwal can ever rebuild the edifice from scratch. And indulging in arrogant behaviour as well as constantly alleging that the central government wants to rule by proxy wont help either. AAP and Kejriwal are paying with fire. They need to realize that politics is best when it is based on consensus and not confrontation. Failing which , the AAP is only betraying the trust and faith of the Delhi electorate.

5 Saal Kejriwal?Any takers if the preceding is what it holds within?

As for Najeeb Jung, he hasn’t shared a comfortable relationship with Kejriwal who has gone from describing him as a “very noble person” (source India Today) to an “agent” of the Congress and the BJP. Jung could have demonstrated maturity in the face of impetuosity. Instead he chose to be equally immature. Rather than declaring everything void and rendering or presenting the Delhi government as impotent he could have sought constitutional opinion, and though the process would have been long drawn it would have maintained dignity and prevented a complete beak down from taking place.

And in this vein, the MHA notification was a needless act which only added to the impression that it was actually the Central Government which was the master mind behind the fracas. Both Jung and the Central Government need to be cognizant of the fact that the the AAP has been given a mandate for governance by the Delhi electorate and any tinkering with that will only result in a severe political and social backlash. Hopefully, grandiose plans for imposing President’s rule are not being discussed.

The entire controversy was needless. And its handling lacked maturity. Not even once has any one amongst Jung, Kejriwal or the MHA sat down together to help resolve the impasse. Each one of them is simply pursuing their respective narrow agendas. The Central Government is probably hoping to create enough friction so that the AAP government collapses under the weight of expectations. And Kejriwal is hoping that he will keep getting these “ropes” to help him deflect attention and come out of the hole the AAP finds itself in the face of unfulfilled promises.

It is undeniable that from this fracas what emerges clearly is that Delhi needs full statehood and denying it will only imperil the BJP, it needs the powers to be clearly defined, the electorate need governance which is presently paralyzed and lastly it doesn’t need kids to be CM and LG –but mature people with some vision.

More drama as well as TRP motivated histrionics of all concerned can be expected especally as a special session of the Delhi Assembly has been convened on the 26-27 May 15 to discuss the issue of the Queen’s (NDA government) notification to its Viceroy (Jung)- as referred to them by Arvind Kejriwal.

And after going through all of the above, I realise that God really loves stupid people. Thats why he made so many.

Some with mufflers and coughs and some with a beard and name which implies war !

DEEPIKA PADUKONE & THE “IT’S MY CHOICE” VIDEO: MISFIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS!

“Vogue” roped in Homi Adjania & Deepika Padukone for its Vogue Empower video on women’s empowerment in India. A seemingly fantastic mix of editorial, production and marketing choices indeed, which were bound to spur skywards the prospects of all involved. But after 22 million hits on You Tube, strangely, none of them is sure if that happened. So what went wrong?

Vogue India decided to celebrate their 7th anniversary by launching a social awareness initiative, #VogueEmpower, with the aim of drawing attention to women’s empowerment issues which (as per the Vogue website) “touch and impact the lives of both urban and rural women”. As part of the campaign Vogue India planned to include features in the magazine, get its ambassadors to espouse causes, to tie up with Give India to fundraise for various women focused organistations and to finally be a “conduit of change and champion of women’s rights to empowerment of mind, body, thought and action.” The chosen medium were the magazine, social media, multimedia, digital and off line activities with a simple message “It starts with you.”

To reach out to the social media, Vogue made its first video on the theme on the issue of women’s safety, titled Going Home, a film by Vikas Behl, it featured Alia Bhatt and received wide acclaim and was an inferno on the social media.

Emboldened by the response the next video was boldly titled “Its My Choice” and was about a woman’s ability or inability to freely exercise her choices. It’s a slick 2min:35 sec video with a catchy back ground score which had a montage of Deepika Padukone and 98 other women, in various expressions from joy to anger, with Deepika providing the voice over. The art in the video is predominantly black, for greater impact and to also go with the aggressive theme.

The opening lines go along fine when it talks about letting women wear clothes they want to and whether they want to be size zero or 15, because after all these actually are personal choices.Few controversial issues follow such as whether the woman wants to marry or not, whether she wants to have sex before marriage, outside of marriage or not at all, and whether she wants to love temporarily or lust forever, or if she wants to not to love or love a boy or girl- and in all of this Deepika says -it’s her choice. And her (woman’s)choice alone!!! And when adulterous behavior is simplified as a mere matter of mere choice, devoid of sensitivity , then the video would naturally lose appeal.After all havent the men been accused of the same callous attitude?Then how is the same behaviour a sign of empowerment for the fairer sex?Something doesn’t quite click, isn’t it?

The confrontational and “me versus you” undertones become OVERtones when Deepika says “you are my choice, I am not your privilege”. The apparaent trivialisation of the male hardly wins the video support from the “oppressors”, ironically, this is what the video set out to achieve.Instead of thoughtful reflection most men would easily,and damagingly, end up construing that “women’s empowerment = women’s supremacy” !When the reality is just the opposite.

Deepika reveals naivete when she associates empowerment with freedom to return home late and the offensive tone bars the father, brother or partner from even being concerned !The best (or the worst) is saved for the last when Deepika says it’s “her choice”  (alone) whether she wants to have “your” baby or not, and if the male wants it then he is being “cocky” (pun intended?).Now what kind of logic is this??Since when has having a baby been an individual’s choice alone?Isnt it a collective decision?

Finally,Deepika delivers the coup de grace by stating that the women’s songs, order or virtues are essentially a man’s noise, anarchy and sins respectively !Mercifully,the video ends soon after and all that lingers is the scent of controversy.

This Amul ad / topical on the Its My Choice video shows the Amul Girl depicting the montage of Deepika Padukone with open and windblown hair from the video itself. Designed against a black backdrop it is consonance with the black setting in the video too.

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The Tag Line …Its My Choice… is a play on the theme of the #VogueEmpower video.The all yellow “O” is a take on the traditional “bindi” which has been chosen by Vogue as its symbol of women empowered.

The Punch Line … To Use a Butter Knife or to Use My Fingers… is a witty play on the theme of the video while playfully endorsing the inviting and delicious taste of the Amul Butter.

So why did the video not click with the audience?

Vogue went off target right from the start. It chose mostly bourgeois topics to raise awareness. It totally panned to its upwardly mobile clientele and overlooked issues such as equal rights to education, health, support for seeking employment, more representation in public services, work – life balance, dowry, domestic violence, safety and security and respect in public places. So what was covered was essentially the peripherals to the debate.It seems someone at Vogue did his or her studies on women’s empowerment from IIN and goofed it up royally!

Next, the meaning of empowerment is mutual understanding, trust and respect which should lead to equality between the sexes. Whereas the video reduced mutual coexistence between the sexes to the realm of imagination.It alienated its target audience and was rejected across the sexes for being offensive, insensitive, missing the point and portraying an untrue and incomplete dimension of the espoused cause.Instead of a “me and you” approach the video embarked on a “me versus you” trajectory.

The above was exemplified by the controversy over the two most contentious issuse in the video – adultery and child bearing.

The entire agenda got hijacked when the video was seen to endorse adultery – “sex outside of marriage”- as a matter of choice for a woman.The men ofcourse turned around and asked if it was open season for them as well, with no questions asked?Is this what Deepika had in mind when she says “my virtues, your sins”?

The line adopted on the issue bearing a child was another sticking point which exposed the flawed logic and the misplaced sense of empowerment being espoused by Deepika and Co.And here she rings the death knell for the compassion sought to be generated.Women’s empowerment cannot happen without mutual undestanding and factoring in of each others sensitivity.

 As is obvious, the arguments were vacuous and the lines hollow and this undoubtedly damaged the espoused cause substantially.

In the aftermath, the men now, gleefully, demanded that they be not judged when they exercise absolute freedom of choice to love temporarily, lust permannently, to be adulterous and to consider everything about a relationship temporary. This retort and the line of argument by the men not only turned the logic of the video on its head but also exposed its hollowness completely. Seriously, I think Rahul Gandhi did more for women’s empowerment in his disastrous interview with Arnab Goswamy, than this video. At least in his case there wasn’t any hostility associated with the concept! Only hilarity.

The lines on returning home at 4am totally obfuscated the intent behind the video. It was as if the woman was saying that I will do whatever and you, the guy, can neither question (still understandable) nor have the right to be worried. And this in a country where crimes against women are committed on the streets, in the by lanes, homes, neighbourhood, trains, buses, fields, public parks and of all the places – Police Stations! So is being genuinely worried about a woman mutually exclusive with her sense of freedom??? If yes, then for me this is – #VagueEmpower!

The topics spoken about in the video are hardly mirroring rural concerns. Was there any mention of female infanticide (it happens in urban India too) or of the necessity to provide proper ablutions to the women or about the atrocities of the Khap Panchayats? If not then Vogue failed in its stated intent as mentioned in the beginning of the Post.

If it’s about absolute freedom, then let everybody do what they want. Let rapists run riot, let murders be committed, let eve teasing be the norm, let wife beating and marital rape not be cognizable offences, then don’t drag boys to court on charges of rape when they walk out of relationships – as in all these cases it was all about “their” choices and they exercised it. So, whats wrong with it?

Everything.

There is a fine line between freedom of choice and absolute freedom. The latter will lead to chaos and anarchy. Choices have consequences and the ones who make them have to be accountable for it, as these always impact lives of those affected by these choices. Even the universe, which Deepika has alluded to, conforms to rules to maintain order and eschews chaos.

The utter gibberish dished out by Vogue led to numerous spoofs. The best amongst them was the one titled #DogueEmpower, where the cute little canine politely tells us about “his/her” choices. And believe me, the canine’s assertions for exercising “his/ her” choices are far more convincing than those of Deepika Padukone. The video has thus far received over a 100000 hits.

For her part in this charade, Deepika Padukone of course has proven that she is competing with Aliya Bhat for the “new blonde in town” title. She comes across as comfortably dumb, to have not realized the implications of the hollow lines she was parroting. And she can’t seek refuge in the fact that here she was merely in her “on screen” avatar. Doesn’t she add value to her dialogues and roles, in a movie, by sharing inputs with her director? Then we expect her to have exercised her discretion in this case too. Thus she is equally responsible for the fiasco and is also a poor choice as a feminist poster girl.She speaks of the uncaged female spirit and the expanding universe but then in reality does everything that signifies enslavement of a woman’s mind, body and spirit – just to stay on top of in the film industry, which happens to be the most exploitative of the women who are part of it ! Ironical, isnt it?

Padukone’s association with the #VogueEmpower campaign is extremely hypocritical as she is herself endorsing figure slimming cereals and skin lightening creams and perpetuating myths and stereotypes about the way women should be seen rather than want to be seen (choice.. Remember?) So, Deepika, see if you can differentiate between “real” and “fake” feminism!

As for Homi Adjania – “yeh hi hai wrong choice baby”. In the Bollywood flick “Cocktail” he has trashed the freewheeling “snowflake” (girl), in favour of the nice “snowflake” who is the exact antithesis of the “coming-home-at-4am-sex before marriage-sex outside of marriage” type endorsed by him as the poster girl for women’s empowerment. So, Mr Adjania, what do you have to say about this? After all, a director’s work also mirrors his beliefs.And yours appear as hollow as the video you dished out !

The in-congruence of the video also lay in the choice of the 99 women. Though successful in their own right, they are all from privileged backgrounds where they would have hardly ever experienced the denial of a choice. Vogue had hoped to carry out a marketing blitz and cash in on the latest big thing – Indian Feminism. And the fact that the video was a result of a marketing ploy rather than a reflection of the realities of women empowerment explains why it did not resonate even with the mere 30% percent (english speakng) of the population that it targetted.It also suffered due to the poor credibility levels of fashion and life style magazines as they are known to perpetuate trends and stereotypes which are totally against their professed stand on issues such as empowerment !

The video was an utter failure and i really wonder how much #VogueEmpower can do for women’s issues especially when the campaign is floundering and misfiring on all cylinders!

In the end, my heart goes out to Jiten Ram Majhi, who was pilloried when he endorsed the extra marital affair of his son as a consensual relationship. But here , #VogueEmpower wants us to believe that it is a sign of women’s empowerment.If this video would have happened a few months back Majhi could have cited it in his support.

Its never too late though.Makes for good copy and some more juicy controversy !

NET NEUTRALITY:I DON’T WANT TO KILL YOU.BUT YOU ARE STILL ON THE LIST.

Kudos to Bharti Airtel for doing what common national interest could not manage. It got Saffronistas, Ra Ga retards and the AAP –clowns to unite on one common issue and unintentionally pitch forked “net neutraliy” into the national mindscape. This set in motion the toughest battle to date that the netizens in India have had to wage for a free and neutral internet!

In December 2014, Airtel had come up with a scheme to charge separately for VOIP services such as Skype, Viber and apps such as WhataApp,as these services were riding on its infrastructure and not paying for the same. By this it hoped to offset the telco’s “revenues foregone” (for calls and data/ messaging which otherwise would have been made on the telco’s services). Post a consumer back lash Airtel grudgingly stepped back.But maintained that these services / apps needed to share the revenues and if the consumers won’t pay then the VOIP types should.or they risk being blocked altogether!!! Goonda gardi, hafta vasooli…call it what you may!

Not one to give up easily, Airtel came up with a data usage plan – Airtel Zero – wherein apps and sites forming part of the platform paid for the customer’s usage of data while accessing them. Termed as a “zero rating” scheme, it’s virtually a toll free proposition but consumers would have to pay for anything not part of this scheme. Airtel positioned the scheme as one which would make universal internet accessibility a reality. It was supposedly the cyber equivalent of the eradication of hunger. There were khushi ke aansu all around, and just as Sunil Mittal almost announced “let there be light”, Satan descended upon earth and ushered in the clamour for scrapping Airtel Zero as it was against “net neutrality”. The controversy gained momentum when Flipkart made an exit from Airtel Zero as angry netizens penalized it en masse for being affiliated to it. This gave a rocket boost to the fight for maintaining net neutrality and the fire raged ever bigger. Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi, Naveen Patnaik, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Shah Rukh Khan too joined in in favour of net neutrality.

Net neutrality?????

In a land where even water and air have colour most were confused about the concept. Finally it dawned that “net neutrality” is the de facto governing principle of the internet and implies that the customers have access to all sites and apps without discrimination, at the same speed and at the same costs. That is exactly how you have been getting internet up to now. But the “Satan-archists” were alleging that Airtel was going to jeopardise the concept forever.

This Amul ad/ topical on net neutrality depicts the controversy generated by Airtel Zero and its impact on the internet as well as the consumer. It shows the Amul Girl sitting with an annoyed expression wherein a hand from the internet browser is making away with additional data charges. A reflection of the potential disruptive effect of the zero rating scheme.

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The Tag Line…. Tum com ho interfere karne waale?.. is a direct statement on the telcos attempting to subvert the nature of the internet in India and literally translates into “who are you to interfere?”

The Punch Line … TRAI this nutralicious snack…. Is a reference to the ball being in the regulators court and is also a play on the Amul butter and its much preferred taste.

Airtel swiftly came out with its rebuttal and claimed it supported net neutrality.It also asserted that Airtel Zero was non-discriminatory and was simply a marketing tool and not a tarrif plan (confusing isn’t it? ) which essentially encourages innovation. It averred that all the “satan-archists” objecting to the concept should preferably “ja ke apni bhains charayein” as they did not quite understand what net neutrality meant. And Sunil Mittal did. Period.

To counter this, firstly an app can only be on Airtel Zero if it had enough cash to cough up the fees.If this isn’t discriminatory then I am George Clooney!!!Based on the previous attempts at “hafta vasooli” and due to financial incentives Airtel could be expected to indulge in paid prioritization and providing better data speed to its partners.It could also resort to blocking a competing app, eg WhatsApp for Airtel’s very own Hike. So where’s the elbow room for innovation? And will this not strangulate a low budget start up? So if I want to start “CHH-ITTER” an app which not only allows you to “poke” but even slap (doesn’t matter if you don’t need it, but then that’s the beauty of the internet!) then I can’t as I just don’t have the cash to outspend my rivals Twitter and Facebook.Moreover, if Airtel Zero is not about tarrif then why all sites/apps on it are toll free and other sites arent? And why is Airtel silent on the modalities of payment and whether all on the platform are paying the same amount?

All this is definitely not in line with net neutrality as the world comprehends it. But then you and I don’t have the slightest comprehension of the concept. Sunil Mittal has.

Importantly, if Airtel Zero is allowed to operate then Airtel will be the de facto gate keeper of the internet. The telco has roped in Google and Twitter by not charging them any fees as of now, because today it needs them both. But tomorrow they will need Airtel and will then have to pay a “hafta”. And from whom would they as well as the others recover these costs from???And what about the consumer; how does he get guaranteed services for the sites/services /apps not on Airtel Zero?

Is this how we want the internet to function?

Facebook too has tied up with Reliance to offer “internet.org”, another zero rating plan for a collection of mostly content based sites with Facebook as its centre piece.Mark Zuckerburg, wrote a piece in its defence recently and has alluded to how it brings “internet” free to the next great innovator who otherwise may not be able to afford it.He pitches strongly for the coexistence of “universal accessibility” with “net neutrality to “alleviate poverty”. (Khushi ke annsu….remember…)

What “Mr Poke-you- anywhere” isn’t saying is this that Facebook becomes the gateway and “forces” millions to sign up for it if they want to access the free “internet”! And it also gets to control web content. Seeing this the advertisers will “poke” back harder. So everyone is happy poking while Mr Zuckerburg gets away with the cash. Voila! Poverty gone!!! And we are made to look like Pokémon!

So, Zuckerburg sahib watch “Dabbang” and you will realise “ki humein pyaar se darr lagta hai”.And that too the unsolicitef type.So,it’s not about accessibility it’s about money. The “young innovators” get to see a warped and limited version of the “internet” which shuts out the thousands of sites that can’t afford to be on “internet.org”. He would then be a captive netizen in a cyber-colony, based on Pokerburg’s and Sunil Net-eresa’s vision of the web.

And don’t be surprised that Zuckerburg wrote that piece. He is in a partnership with Airtel in Africa. Ek hi thaili ke…

It’s given that telcos and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will eventually resort to negative business practices.Comcast and Verizon in the US did this by blocking and resorting to paid prioritization of peer-to-peer apps.In another instance US ISPs ganged up against Netflix, a video service, to block it till it coughed up the requisite cash/ fees (hafta !!!). These incidents prompted the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to revamp its laws in April 2015 and to classify the internet as a public utility. It deemed net neutrality to be sacrosanct and a guaranteed right that will be safeguarded by regulatory protocols. Even President Barack Obama has spoken in favour of the same.

There are some other players too and their fallacious arguments that we need to shred ,amongst them are the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

TRAI – the “watchdog” – has come up with its consultation paper on net neutrality and other issues titled Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) Services which was true to its title as it went over the top of most trying to make head or tail of the jargon ridden paper. Simply translated, asking the public for its opinion on 20 questions, on regulating the internet and net neutrality. TRAI’s contentions in the paper are straight from the heart – the bleeding heart of the telcos!According to an editorial in The Hindu, it “appears to propose only two choices: that we either accept licensing of Internet services or compromise on net neutrality. If TRAI’s claims are accepted, any business that uses the Internet — e-retail, media or health care — can potentially be regulated by TRAI as an OTT service. This is indeed regulatory overreach on a grand scale.”TRAI is also convinced of the telco’s “revenue foregone” theory! Isnt TRAI on our side???

It’s a fine mix isn’t it…telcos…regulators…big business…hapless consumers…

Firstly, telcos have done no favour as they have been given a license to develop a nation’s resource on the terms and conditions meant to safeguard the people’s interest. Secondly, they are mere pipe layers and cannot control what flows through the pipes. For example a water distributing company can’t crib about the profit margins of a soft drink company and consequently seek to charge the soft drink maker or the consumer arbitrarily and irrespective of water usage. Why??? Because the distributing company (read telcos) didn’t think of innovating (read VOIP and messaging apps)! And now TRAI wants us to be sympathetic towards these crocs and help in making good their fictitious “revenue foregone” by making the consumer pay for it!!!

COAI has been trumpeting fallacious assertions to justify zero rating and to debunk net neutrality by talking about the negative financial viability of the sector, high spectrum and operating costs (7.5 lac crores) high debts (3 lac crores), prohibitive technology and binding security protocols.And says that while the OTT services are simply riding piggyback on the telcos and rake in millions while using 99% of the infrastructure of the telcos.The poor telcos get no share of the pie amidst falling revenues!But who’s pie is it – telco’s or the innovators ? And what falling revenues are we talking of?Excuse me… the Q3 fig for Airtel alone shows an overall increase of 30.5% year on year (YOY) in its net profit and 70% in its profit for mobile data revenue YOY with a 41% increase in data users.COAI… Naughty boy….you didn’t tell us this…did you?

And if the business prospects were so poor under the present unregulated and unenforced net neutrality concept, then why was more than 1 lac crore spent in the recent spectrum auction??? Quoting The Hindu, “In fact, when telecom companies want to raise money from investors, they present a rosy picture of a booming data business and rising revenues. Companies that prepare reports for investors — such as Morgan Stanley or PricewaterhouseCoopers — say much the same things. In fact, even voice and SMS traffic in India is growing.” Then why the campaign against OTT services???Also, even Telcos are using VOIP for transferring voice calls to and from their network, so is it only for the OTT services that they are laying and modernizing the infrastructure?

COAI says that if telcos are not allowed to dip into the OTT revnue share then data costs will zoom to x5 or x6 of the present level.And make it unaffordable for the masses.Okay..i am scared and can we no have the facts !!!.This is bunkum since the bandwidth rates are falling the world over as it is an infinite resource. And why have the telcos kept the data package charges so low as to hurt them when TRAI isn’t governing the rates? Then let there be a comprehensive study of the revenue model to arrive at the actual facts..Quoting alarmist figures, raising bogeys such as universal accessibility, alleviating poverty and financial viability is a common tactic by these greedy and avarice driven telcos.

Innovation drives investments. If we penalize innovation today (OTT services) then the telcos have no incentive to upgrade their services. At the same time banning zero rating isn’t a good idea at all. While allowing this let there be strict regulations and safeguards to thwart telcos and ISPs from violating net neutrality. OTT services too need to conform to certain standards so as not to have a free run but licensing of apps and services though is uncalled for.

The Internet has to be kept free from manipulation and monopoly, especially when the likes of Facebook has been found to have generated content to manipulate the mood of its customers. It needs to be declared as a public utility and TRAI needs to have the statuatory authority to enforce regulations safeguarding consumer interests. For this restructuring of the IT Act, 2000 and the Telecommunications Act, 1895 is urgently needed to align them with the advancements and realities of the sector, just as the US recently removed 700 parts from its archaic Communications Act.

And all of the above cannot be at the expense of net neutrality, which too needs to be defined and defined in line with international standards and not based on some Pokerburg’s theory!TRAI would have done well to extend the opinion period on its paper, like it was made 90 days in the US ( 1/6 our population).And by segregating the period into specific pros and cons window it again demonstrated myopic tendencies or was it intentionally done to taper the “referendum” in favour of the telcos?The “pros” camp has managed 1 million votes or mails and the cons (the telcos) then ran a counter campaign (bite this) backed by their deep wallets and mustered in 4 million votes !

In the end, we must take a cue from what Tom Wheeler, the US FCC Chairman, when he says, “the internet is too important to let service providers make the rules”. Because, though right now big business doesn’t want to kill the geese laying the golden eggs, but it’s always on their list!!!!

DELHI ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS: WITH SUFFICIENT THRUST ,PIGS FLY JUST FINE !

A reigning Heavy Weight Champion against an unimpressive Middle Weight challenger – a match up likely to be savoured by blood crazed boxing fans. The challenger may have harboured hopes, but then if pigs could fly…. ! But in the recently concluded Delhi assembly elections the challenger not only knocked out the Champ but sent him reeling out of the ring too. It seems pigs can fly indeed !

The BJP had swept the Lok Sabha elections and riding high on the Modi wave the Party had gobbled up 4 more states as part of its resounding electoral victories. Now the juggernaut was about to overwhelm Dellhi in its blitzkrieg. And all that stood between Delhi and the decimation of the opposition was the Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Kejriwal had been CM of Delhi previously in 2013 after the AAP had won an unprecedented 28 seats in its electoral debut, when hardly anyone gave it a chance. Amul had aptly covered the euphoria surrounding the victory of this unassuming and squeaky clean activist turned politician in 2013.

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But when Kejriwal quit controversially in a mere 49 days and tried to capitalize on its surprise victory in the Lok Sabha elections, he was labelled a “bhagoda” (deserter)He now had the onerous task of seeking to keep his and his Party’s political aspirations afloat.

Sensing trouble Kejriwal sought refuge in the comforting feel of his muffler, which he probably doesn’t remove while bathing too.The AAP party cadres were enthused by the sight of the muffler and they along with their star campaigner –“the mufflerman ” – jumped into the electoral fray.The party had in fact been at it since May 2014 and had been conducting door to door interaction and Delhi Dialogue to identify the problems facing each constituency.

The BJP on the other hand was busy setting its house in disorder. Unable to decide whether to usurp power by engineering a split in the AAP in the outgoing assembly or to go in for fresh elections it had made no strategy other than “ghar wapsi” (incidentally Azam Khan’s buffaloes too saw through the “ghar wapsi” charade and refused to oblige due to the VIP comforts available to them ) and at best seemed startled by the announcement.

Party President Amit Shah took the campaign under control and and foisted a complete “outsider”, Kiran Bedi on the Delhi BJP as the Party’s CM candidate. Actually it wasn’t Shah’s fault. To counter Kejriwal’s honest image the BJP only had blackened faces of its corruption mired local leaders, which were fit to be placed outside homes as “nazar battus” (evil eye). Bedi seemed like a good bet against Kejriwal due to her tough and honest cop image and this deft move found its way on a cheeky Amul topical as well.

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The Congress finally realized there were elections on. Prospective candidates rushed to drown away all news from reaching their lucky mascot Raahul Gandhi,lest he took off on the campaign trail ! But Ajay Maken wasn’t lucky enough. Nominated as the Party’s CM candidate, Ra Ga went all out to promote him and this effectively sealed his fate.

With the CM candidates announced the die was truly cast now. Another Amul ad/ topical on the Delhi elections covered this in an interesting topical.

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As the campaign progressed it became increasingly cacophonous, crass, vitriolic and negative.The marginalized Congress could not do much but the AAP and the BJP traded charges and went for each other’s throats (In this case Kejriwal was well protected because of his muffler).

AAP accused Kiran Bedi of opportunism in joining the BJP after once criticizing it bitterly.It also levelled charges about the BJP distributing cash and liquor to infuence the voters. And also complained about the possibility of the EVMs being doctored in favour of Sunny Leone-sorry, BJP. Charges were traded day in and day out in a no holds barred match between the two principal rivals. The BJP demanded that AAP come clean on its dubious funding. The AAP retaliated by challenging the Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley to prove the charges. And Jaitley, the champion of a million electoral battles (having won never) could only tremble indignation at Kejriwal but not much else.

The AAP campaign seemed to be getting derailed as it was almost coming to an end and no one had yet slapped Kejriwal. His victim’s image was taking a serious beating. The BJP then decided to help him out by taking out posters directed personally at him.Even his kids were sucked into the cess pool of politics.The personalized attacks were crass and crude to say the least and had an opposite effect on the electorate and they began to view Kejriwal as a victim.On the other hand Bedi was proving to be a disaster and she demonstrated her authoritarian side when her own campaign manager resigned in protest. She also embarrassed herself often and once in an attempt to reach out to the electorate in her constituency Krishna Nagar,she lashed out at its poor only to be told that the constituency had been represented by Dr Harshavardhan of the BJP uninterrupted for the past 15 years !

Somehow by the end of the of the campaign the BJP was losing ground rapidly to the AAP.

Soon Election Day dawned and the fate of the CM candidates and the parties hung in balance. The Congress was the least bothered but the BJP was fretting and the AAP was confident.

Delhi voted in huge numbers and recorded a massive 67.08 percent polling. Large poliing figures suggest land slides or electoral swings.And swing it did.

The AAP swung such a punch that the BJP won just 3 out of the 70 seats with its MLA’s coincidentally having their names starting with B,J,and P ! The Co ngress which had a 28 seat deficit with the BJP had managed to bring it down to 3 and won “0” seats. Ra Ga had done it again. And the winner was AAP with a whopping 67 seats – the biggest land slide win ever in the electoral history of the country.

This Amul ad/ topical on the clean sweep by the AAP Assembly Elections shows a caricature depicting Arvind Kejriwal holding his Party emblem,the broom, and riding on a mechanical super scrubber which has swept the opposition clean from the floor of the Delhi Assembly.He is being driven by the Amul Girl.Incidentally the topical missed out on the muffler on Kejriwal!

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The Tag Line… Clean Sweep… signifies the landslide victory of the AAP.

The Punch Line… Always AAParajit… is a play on the hindi word “aparjit” meaning undefeated and with the first three letters in capitals it shows the undefeated tag now worn by the AAP in the two elctions it has contested in Delhi.It is an endorsement of the Amul butter as well.

The win was spectacular but wasn’t surprising only the margin was. AAP had been in election mode for the last 9 months and its Delhi Dialogue had made it aware of the local problems far better than other parties. The volunteers also made the difference by carrying out door to door campaigning. Kejriwal addressed each constituency twice. By positioning itself as a neutral ideology and pro poor party the AAP benefited tremendously. Its vote share amongst Muslims and Dalits was 77 and 68 percent respectively ! The marginalized and the poor had felt the exploitative pressure ease up in the 49 day government and had loyally backed Kejriwal. He was also backed by the youth with 56 percent between the category of 18 – 22 voting for him. It was a remarkable turnaround for him as he was able to shed his :”bhagoda” tag by whole heartedly apologizing for the mistake and demonstrating humility. The electorate in Delhi had overwhelmingly voted for transformational , transparent and accessible politics. The concept of practicing grass roots democracy had yielded handsome dividends.AAP emphasised upon accountability and it’s clean micro donation based fund collection was in sharp contrast to the opaque methods of the BJP and the Congress.Eventually it emerged as the party with a difference.

For the BJP, it was a disaster to say the least.The Party applied some warped logic and even declined to take out a manifesto,instead relied on a vision document. For an average Delhiite his daily problems demand immediate attention and not some vague vision of “achche din”. And when this document erroneously referred to the people of the North East as immigrants it summarised the BJP campaign totally-sloppy and short on detail.The Modi government’s inability to demonstrate any substantial progress on corruption made its claims hollow in the face of the established anti-corruption credentials of the AAP. The BJP’s biggest mistake was to have focused entirely on demolishing the image of Kejriwal and this back fired totally as they had no one to counter the same. Kiran Bedi proved to be the wrong choice and demonstrated lack of confidence in the local leaders and also sowed the seeds of discontent in the Party. She enthused no one and herself suffered a humiliating defeat.The personal attacks on Kejriwal did not cut much ice and instead made the electorate rally around him. Modi should have known better after having benefited from exactly such a campaign against him in 2007 and 2014. Lastly, the divisive agenda followed by the Sangh and its affiliates sent a message to the electorate that the BJP had betrayed its development agenda and the minorities thus felt vulnerable and went en masse with the AAP.

For the time being the impact of these elections may not be far reaching in electoral terms as the AAP has learnt its lessons well from its Lok Sabha debacle and will rather consolidate before fledgling out.The BJP has been sounded a wakeup call as it was being seen to be closely affiliated with big money and business and exuded arrogance and was bereft of reality. Modi’s penchant for advertising governance rather than delivering it,had back fired terribly. Within 9 months the BJP had suffered a wipe out in a State where it had won all 7 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. This was the oppositions “Stalingrad” moment and the AAP has shown that the BJP is beatable and vulnerable when pitched in a two corner fight. The saffron agenda will always polarize the minority vote against the BJP and with the poor also transferring their vote from the Congress to the AAP,it’s definitely introspection time for the Party.It may yet recover but no doubt it has been bruised badly and suffered because of the narcissistic and delusional traits of its leaders.

Kejriwal will have to deliver this time and shed his high handed and controversial overarching ways. He will need to stop being an activist and instead perform as the CM, something he did not do the last time round. He has made a lot of populist promises but in time he will need to backtrack on them at the altar of financial prudence and that will be his biggest test. He will require to develop cordial relations with the Central government and the two will together need to preside over the development of Delhi.

The second coming of the AAP is in line with the global phenomenon against globalization and crony capitalism and resulting inequalities. If the BJP wants to remain relevant it needs to acknowledge this reality and needs to resolve these in the right earnest and not merely focus on foreign policy and hyped up mega schemes which do not alleviate the crushing inequalities in the society but are seen panning to the interests of “big business”. Otherwise it should be prepared to surrender space to AAP in the long term.

AAP has proven,for now,that with sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine !But do they perform til? 

POST SCRIPT

4th March 15; AAP has plunged into a crisis regarding a personality centric “cult” developing around Arvind Kejriwal. Founder member Prashant Bhushan alleging that a “high command structure” is developing within the party,which is against the principles they stood for, and has given rise to a rebellion of sorts.He has also alleged that inner party transparency is being compromised especially when it came to the issues of making public the election expenses and fund raising.

Party ideologue Yogendra Yadav has also been at logger heads with Kejriwal.There is growing unease within the party regarding Kejriwal donning the twin roles of CM and party convener and is being increasingly seen as imposing his will over the objections of the other members.

AAP is going through an internal churning and what will emerge will be it’s organisational character in the coming  years.But the allegations against Kejriwal are instructive in nature and a sign of the times to come.

11th March 15;The rebellion in the AAP has resulted in Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav being removed from the AAP Political Affairs Committee (PAC) and are most likely to be expelled from the Party. Kejriwal has established total control and like all most parties the AAP is likely to get into a “supremo” mode.This will affect the Party cadre and some will quit in the name of the founding principles being flouted.But today Kejriwal is bigger than AAP and thus eventually he will reign supreme.

This Amul ad/ topical on AAP covers the widening rift between Kejriwal, Yadav and Bhushan.It depicts caricatures depicting the trio and sitting on a split bench.It amply showcases the disruptive nature of the ongoing dispute in the AAP.The Amul girl is seen standing in the background and is demonstrating dismay over the ensuing fracas in the party which had promised to be different.

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The Tag Line …Aam Aadmi Parting?… is a play on the name as well as the initials of the party and is asking the question whether a split is imminent in the ranks of the AAP?

The Punch Line …Easy to agree on… is an apt hint on the disagreements in the AAP and also endorses the Amul butter and its consumer acceptability.

20th April 15; Amidst much mud slinging and “stinging”, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan who had earlier been evicted from the National Executive were finally expelled from the AAP for anti party activities.This was preceded by a sting operation being revealed wherein conversation between AAP member Bibhav Kumar and journalist Chandra Sutra Dogra was taped (without the knowledge of the journo) and used to implicate Yogendra Yadav for providing anti AAP facts for a piece done by Dogra in the daily The Hindu.Kumar taped the conversation in the guise of clarifying factual inaccuracies and when the journo revealed Yogendra Yadav as the source, the tape was then used as evidence against Yadav. And he and Bhushan were eventually given a show cause notice and finally expelled from the party.

The expelled duo have since formed a non political organisation “Swaraj Abhiyaan” to promote clean and issues based politics.

AAP’s resorting to stings on its own members has damaged its image and credibility just as much the public spat between the senior leaders.Kejriwal emerges as a devious and opportunistic politician who is willing to, in private, dump the party’s ideology while in public maintains a totally different posture.His dictatorial streak along with his reliance on a coterie will do the party harm in the long run.And the melodramatic and immature public image of AAP is not going to go down well either.It seems they haven’t learnt a lesson since their earlier tryst with fiascoes.So here they are dishing out more such fare !

Welcome to Indian Politics.Nothing remains untouched by the muck. 

R.I.P AAP !

THE ADVENTURES OF JITAN RAM MANJHI: WHERE GOOFY AND GAFFES GO HAND IN HAND !

In politics neither are there permanent foes nor permanent friends. Those who follow this to the “t” form a league of extraordinary gentlemen excelling in the art of survival. Lalu Prasad Yadav was an icon of this league and Jitan Ram Manjhi, a seemingly daft and ridiculous politician, who shares the ex CM tag with Lalu is now carrying his legacy forward. And that too in style.

The advent of “Modi Sarkar” spelt doom for the Nitish Kumar dispensation in Bihar and Janata Dal (United) – JD (U)- faced rapid erosion of its support base. To assuage the disenchanted electorate, Nitish then played a “mastercard” and stepped down as CM and instead anointed Jitan Ram Manjhi , from the Mahadalit community, as his successor. The decision assured Nitish of the “sacrifice” tag and also underscored his credentials as a champion of the downtrodden.

The unremarkable and unassuming Manjhi, a party hopper from the Cong (I), to the RJD and then the JD (U) had helped draw the backward class votes for the JD (U). Nitish obviously considered Manjhi trustworthy enough otherwise a politician can only trust his wife to keep his “seat” safe as Rabri Devi did for Lalu (else a Chandra Babu Naidu is always lurking around the corner). It was also assumed that Manhji would be fed instructions by Nitish Kumar to do his bidding and be suitable “remote controlled”.

The new CM started his innings so slow, that the only thing slower than that was an Akash Chopra innings. He was the quintessential “ever-so-grateful-I-am-so-indebted” type of second rung leader who made the right noises about his political mentor. But he had a strange penchant for the foot in mouth syndrome.

Manjhi once, controversially, quoted a minister travelling with him to a Temple that the idol and the temple were washed clean after his visit, hinting at untouchability being inflicted upon him.He was later contradicted by the minister himself. Manjhi angered his own colleagues when he likened the upper castes to foreigners, implying they were essentially exploitative ! Coming close on the heels of this was the warning to the doctors in the state that if they denied or delayed help to the poor, Manjhi would “chop their hands off”! When informed of people in flood hit areas eating rats he retorted that in his childhood he had eaten rats many a times and they were very nutritious!! He then went on to admit that he had paid bribe to get his electricity bills reduced and that he had accepted commissions from engineers/ contractors and to underscore this he even suggested that small time traders can go about black marketing and it won’t be considered a crime !He controversially exhorted Dalit youth to marry out of their castes to perpetuate greater power.Eventually his family too contributed, his son was involved in a sex scandal which was defended by Manjhi and his son-in-law came in for undue attention when Manjhi appointed him his personal assistant, flouting government regulations.

By now Manjhi had developed a reputation for being a buffoon, bumbling along in the corridors of power. When a week passed without a controversy, JD (U) leaders probably felt underemployed as they weren’t defending Manjhi’s utterances ! The controversies created a negative image for the JD (U) and threatened to reduce the CM’s office to a caricature. He was fast becoming a liability for the party as well as Nitish. Rumblings for Manjhi’s removal grew stronger but it wasn’t easy to replace him as it would have sent negative political signals to the disparate but 30 percent strong backward class electorate.And also cause severe embarrassment to Nitish for the comical turn of events.

But the wheels of fortune were turning and for Nitish they turned for the worst.

Manjhi started coming into his own. He cited his bribe giving as an example of how corruption was rampant in the State in spite of the efforts of Nitish Kumar. He also blamed “powerful” politicians and “well connected”bureaucrats of stifling him when he tried to chart an independent course. The hint was strong and not-so-subtle and eventually he and Nitish drifted apart. The alarm bells sounded when Manjhi started taking action against bureaucrats and officials (known to be close to Nitish) for a stampede in Patna. Not only was this in complete contrast to Nitish’s way of functioning as he had seemingly shielded officials in spite of previous stampedes (chhath puja, Nov 12) and bomb blasts (Narendra Modi’s “Hunkar” rally, Gaya) but also signaled Manjhi’s inclination to dump the “remote control”.

Hereon, Manjhi took off.

He declared his ambitions to be PM one day and pushed aggressively for Dalit, Mahadalit, EBC unity to be powerful stakeholders in the State. He also claimed to have done more in an year for the poor,sociaaly backward amd against corruption than Nitish had done in his 10 years as CM. Manjhi was now eroding Nitish’s credibility and standing faster and more effectively than the BJP ever could. Manjhi had now gained political traction by posturing himself close to Nitish’s bete noire, Narendra Modi , and foe turned friend, Lalu Yadav.

Finally after months of dithering Nitish belled the cat and Manjhi was asked to resign ad CM. He refused. The JD (U) then became the first party to expel its own CM!Nitish was made the leader of the legislature party but Manjhi managed a stay order on Nitish’s election and both of them approached the Governor to be allowed to prove their majority.

The political narrative gradually transcended from the ridiculous to the sublime. The JD (U) now demanded the status of the Leader of the Opposition (?) to demonstrate its distance from Manjhi while it was still the ruling party its members would also sit on the treasury benches!!! JD(U) –united- stood disunited and Nitish who had once borne Prime Ministerial ambitions was now struggling to even be CM and the undisputed leader within his own Party!

Bihar plunged into political turmoil with the status of the CM and his administration being reduced to mockery. When Manjhi recommended dissolution of the Assembly and fresh elections an unprecedented two thirds of his Cabinet colleagues resigned in protest! Manjhi then pushed for a secret ballot during the no-confidence vote banking on the BJP’s support plus a substantial chunk of MLAs breaking away from Nitish. 

This Amul ad/ topical on Jitan Ram Manjhi came out at the height of his exploits and shows two caricatures depicting Nitish Kumar and Manjhi involved in a tussel. Nitish is shown trying to wrest the CM’s seat while Manjhi is shown desperately holding on while the Amul Girl watches in bewilderment. The strip shows Manjhi and Nitish in their trademark attires and also captures the disgusting spectacle of power hungry politicians squabbling in public.

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The Tag Line…O, Manjhi re,Kaun Hoga Paar?…. describes the uncertain political situation and literally translates into asking the boatman who would manage to cross over to the bank from a rocking boat in the midst of the river.Manjhi is also hindi for a boatman.

The Punch Line… Utterly-Biharterrly Delicious… is a play on the famous Amul ad line as well as indicating the state of affiars in Bihar politics.

Eventually, the secret ballot wasn’t allowed and even more fortuitously for Nitish, the BJP lost the Delhi elections.To prevent further damage to its imageBJP drew its hand from openly supporting a split in the JD (U) and did not want to be seen as the ones rocking the boat. Devoid of his backers,Manjhi resigned without taking a floor test and in his own inimitable style announced thay he did so under rhreat to his and the lives of his supporters. Nitish Kumar was once again sworn in as the CM after 8 months of chaos.

Nitish had read Manjhi wrong just like Nawaz Sharif had read Musharraf wrong. Born in 1944 to homestead workers, Manjhi had learnt his political lessons way back in the 70s.While securing votes for others he realized he could do it for himself and did just that when he won his first elections in 1980.He simply applied the same theory when made the CM.A six time MLA and having always been with the party in power Manjhi wasn’t as pliant as he seemed. After all Clark Kent is seemingly harmless too!

Manjhi proved a deft judge of the political scenario.He correctly identified that to defeat the BJP the RJD, Cong (I) and the JD (U) will need the backward class votes.He being from the Mahadalit community (Musahar) could become the rallying point of this grand alliance in case he was able to posture himself as the undisputed leader of the downtrodden. This made his removal difficult as both Lalu and Nitish did not want to be seen as anti-backward classes. And his dalliances with the BJP should surprise none as Manjhi’s son is already a BJP member and way back in 1991 Manjhi had garnered the BJP workers support in his bid to win in the Gaya Parliamentary by elections. The BJP saw in him an opportunity to engineer elections in Bihar and to capitalize on the chaos in the JD (U). Manjhi too saw a great chance to be the CM in case the BJP backed him outrightly.

But for Arvind Kejriwal, Manjhi was almost home !

Manjhi in his brief tenure emerged stronger and his actions to increase quota for SC/ST in government contracts, appointing 45000 safai karamcharis, increasing land allocation for the landless from 3 to 5 decimals and hiking of government subsidies upto 80 percent for SC/ST farmers clearly presented himself as the last, best and only hope for the reinvigorated backward classes. His seemingly gibberish utterances were after all well thought out and had a subtle and telling effect.It is he who is the victim now and has survived his mentor. Clever indeed. After all, survivors are thinkers too.

In the end, Nitish Kumar emerged weaker and lost political capital. Lalu as lost as ever. Rahul Gandhi and the Congress totally marginalized (they may well consider joining Manjhi’s newly floated Hindustani Awami Morcha). BJP emerged devious but stands to benefit by this split in the backward class votes.

Whatever happened in Bihar shows us the ugly side of India’s caste based politics which trivializes development and governance at the altar of caste based politics. It’s always about vote bank. After all that’s why Manjhi could shout down protestors by saying that it’s not their votes that make him win. Simply means, if you matter you get benefitted otherwise languish right where you are and suffer goofy and gaffe prone clowns. Kashmiri Pandits and the victims of the Bhopal Gas tragedy are a case in point.

For those who want to be remote controls let me share an updated list compiled by a columnist, of those who defied the gadget,dumped their “controlling hands” and successfully charted their own political course – Pervez Musharraf, Suresh Prabhu, John Major and now Jitan Ram Manjhi.

Feom the chaos in Bihar what I have learnt is that politicians and diapers need to be changed frequently.

They stink.

POST SCRIPT  

11 March 15; Nitish Kumar expectedly and comfortably won the Confidence/Trust Vote in the Bihar Assembly when he garnered 140 votes.There was slight but predictable drama with the BJP staging a walkout and Jitan Ram Manjhi stay in away from the proceedings.

Manjhi had earlier sat on a dharna at the Gandhi Maidan in Patna to protest the revocation of 39 of his administrative orders by the present Bihar CM. Manjhi claimed that had Nitish persisted with the policy decisions they had the potential to rid Bihar of all its ills.

Mr Manjhi, pardon my ignorance but does this include politicians too ?

INDIA V/S PAKISTAN: WE NEVER GROW UP! BUT DO WE REALLY WANT TO….

Nothing gets the adrenaline flowing like a prospect of an India versus Pakistan match. Such is the rivalry that months are spent in anticipation and when the day dawns the roads are deserted, guns fall silent on the Line of Control (LOC), Hafiz Saeed too stays home watching TV and for those few hours people forget that there’s a care in the world. Time stops still…its just  The Match”.

The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 had pitched the arch rivals in one of its earliest fixtures and they were kick starting their campaign with this “juicy” match up, wherein India has had the better of Pakistan 5 out of 5 times, a streak running since 1992.The tickets were sold out months in advance.Such was the frenzy in our part of the world that when some aliens dropped by to investigate someone handed them a flag too.

For most, on both sides of the Radcliffe Line, the World Cup would begin and end with this match.

Going into the match the Indian team had had an indifferent build up where they had not won a single match in their long tour Down Under. The Australians had whipped them in the tests and the Amul topicals of the time say it all with only one of them talking of a genuine cricketing achievement and that was the twin centuries by Virat Kohli in the opening test.

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In the second test all that they could give Amul to write home about was the excessive chatter and sledging between the teams when India tried to do a Australia on Australia and it backfired with Mitchel Johnson blowing them off with both bat and ball.

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The third test was best remembered for MS Dhoni’s anticipated but surprisingly timed retirement from Test Match Cricket. Captain Cool had ensured a draw, batting last on the 5th day and then rode into the sunset.

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The fourth test ended in a draw with nothing invigorating enough.

In the tri series, even the One Day Cricket clowns, England, ripped apart the Indians. The batsmen were in woeful form, Rohit Sharma had last scored a fifty only on a Play Station, Shikhar Dhawan had no idea if he had a bat in his hand or not, Kohli lost his Test Match form as soon as Anushka Sharma joined in, Suresh Raina wasn’t sure what was the record of getting out on ducks so he kept doing that till someone told him, Dhoni was all at sea about his batting and Jadeja in any case masquerades as a batsman at the best of times. Barring Ajinkya Rahane no one inspired confidence. And as for the bowlers, well, their bowling cards had more centuries than the batsmen.

The World Cup team selection too had come in for flak and considered low on skill and experience.Stuart Binny and Ambati Rayudu were considered as bad a call as Kiran Bedi for Delhi CM.Yuvraj Singh not being selected was seen as hara kiri.

As for Pakistan, though it was short on match practice it had recently beaten Australia in a Test Series and its batsmen Younus Khan and Misbah ul Haq had found form in addition to Ahmed Shehzad, Shoaib Maqsood and Umar Akmal already in good nick. Shahid Afridi was behaving his usual idiotic self, claiming he would wrest back his record of the fastest One Day International century from AB de Villiers when he is yet to score one since ages, so all seemed to be going well. But their bowling had lost teeth. Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez ineligible because of a suspect action and Junaid Khan out injured with Hafiz joining in later.However they have traditionally been good with their bowling finds and still presented a decent attack.

India was listless in the warmups, whereas Pakistan was sharp and it seemed the latter would put one across this time. It was cricket’s equivalent of a Brazil v/s Argentina football match and a tremendous pressure game. It was billed as a match-up between the Indian batsmen and the Pakistani bowlers. the The victors would soar and the vanquished would sink without a trace in the tournament as it’s not easy to recover from such high stake losses, especially when the hopes of an entire nation are belied.

Star Sports came up with a courageous TV ad showing a teenaged Pakistani boy waiting to celebrate his team’s success but is shown putting away his box of crackers in all World Cups since 1992 and even in 2015, with a cheesy tag line ”mauqa, mauqa…kab aayega mauqa” (when wil the chance present itself).It was in the midst of such emotions that the match was about to begin. Narendra Modi chipped in with calling up the leaders of the SAARC nations participating in the tournament.

This Amul advertisement on the India versus Pakistan match captures the associated hype that goes along with the high stake clash. It depicts the occasion when “Big B” -Amitabh Bachchan commentated on the match,specially, on Star Sports in company of Shoaib Akhtar and Arun Lal.A caricature depicting Bachchan with the mike and is show in the company of the Amul Girl.

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The Tag Line…The Butter of All Matches ….is a take on the iconic status of the match and it is actually a spin off from the famous Saddam Hussein line “the mother of all battles” on the eve of the Gulf War in 1991

The Punch Line…Desh Ka Dish …is a take on the acceptability of the Amul brand all across the the Bharat Desh !

The team strategies had to be absolutely uncanny and out of the box since so much was at stake.

Dhoni -Captain Cool – His advise to the batsmen was simple and he of course having got away once was smug in the knowledge that if things went wrong he could always announce his retirement any time during the match. Rohit and Shikhar were to try and not get each other out and also score only one duck between them. For Virat, he was free to do anything (including abusing) as there was no point telling him anything. Suresh Raina was told it was IPL all over again and was to wear a CSK shirt under the Indian Blues. Ajinkya Rahane was asked to switch to CSK in case he wanted a permanent batting position. Jadeja was told that he was “sir” and how could he be coached. The bowlers were the least of the problem as Dhoni knew that nothing could be worse than what they already were. So there was hope.

For Pakistan, Afridi came up with a masterplan to stop Rohit from scoring a double hundred.He suggested Pakistan get all out at 190 !Misbah wasn’t available for the final team meeting as he was busy preparing his English lines for the post match ceremony. Waqar Yunus decided that the reasons for the defeat was the Indian conspiracy to get Ajmal and Hafiz reported for suspect action. It seemed plausible for sure. But.. wait a sec !The match hadn’t even started !!!

India won the toss and elected to bat.Rohit outlasted his talent by a couple of overs and was the first to go. Then Shikhar and Kohli scored a fifty and a century apiece to get the momentum going.Raina playing in the IPL is a different kettle of water and his breezy 74 proved just that (Yellow is the shade for him).The CSK brigade scored 22 between them and Ajinkjya managed a duck. To spice things up a bit, Sir Jadeja narrowly missed the record for being run out twice on the same ball. With the spirit of Ishant Sharma consuming the Pakistani bowlers, India seemed destined for a 300 plus score.In the end it scored 300 for 7.Not much but competitive.

Pakistan replied with 35 year old Yunus Khan coming in as opener. Slow on reflexes he soon departed and after a brief resurgence Pakistan soon suffered a batting collapse with Umar Akmal blaming the drone for his dismissal. Drone? Well, he was referring to the overhead camera actually ! Misbah’s plucky 70 odd weren’t enough and soon Pakistan slumped to a 76 run defeat.Sir Jadeja ofcourse trigerred the slump by actually catching the same ball twice.

It was 6-0 ! And “Mauqa, mauqa, mauqa…” rolled over to 2019.

The subsequent Amul advertisement depicts Shikhar,Kohli and Raina sitting on a table with the Tag Line ….India Jeet Te Raina (India Keep winning) and the Punch Line…Taste Ke Shikhar Par….alluding to the achievements of the opener and the middle order batsmen in the famous win. Surprisingly Kohli’s century has been passed over.

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India erupted in joy. The biggest hurdle was past and the World Cup could now begin in the right earnest. Young kids came out dancing in the streets.And once again there were no crackers in Pakistan. A local channel instead covered the Pakistani public breaking TV sets in sheer disgust.The social media went berserk too and handed a solid bollocking to the Pakistani netizens. Quips such as “Nawaz Sharif says –Yunus Khan out nahin Shaheed hue hain” were hilarious indeed. Another inferred that all the terrorists crossing the LOC were actually innocent Pakistanis wanting to be on the winning side at least once ! As a consolation someone stated that for all the drubbing, Pakistani men shall always be more handsome than the Indian men. I contest this and say we are equal if not better. Just compare the pics of Maulana Masood Azhar and Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Ek Insan – MSG actually scores over with his hairy arms !

In the end it all ended well for India. One did feel for Pakistan especially as I watched it with my Pakistani friends Tanveer, Sartaj, Shafiq and Ali sitting in far flung Abyei. We had all joined up together to watch the match knowing fully that there would only be one victor. It was a sweet victory for us Indians but sitting in the presence of friends it taught me humility too. We shook hands and left the room. Till the next time.

Thank God for small mercies. I have been on the winning side 6 times since 1992 and my son too is now. Though just an ad, but all I would say is…. thanks Kapil (1992), Jadeja (1996), Azhar (1999), Sachin (2003), Yuvraj (2011) and Kohli (2015) for ensuring that I wasn’t in the boots of the hapless young man waiting with his crackers for the last 23 years ! I have experienced child like joy while winning each time and just for the sheer pleasure of it…who wants to grow up anyway !

Tanveer has since confirmed that the crackers have been sold on OLX.

#WontGiveItBack !

POST SCRIPT

Expectedly the victory and the loss had different effects on the two teams.

While India thrashed South Africa by 130 runs (first time in the World Cup) on the back of a fantastic century by Shikhar Dhawan. Pakistan, though slumped to a 150 run defeat. And this time the blame wasn’t on the drone but on ex player and selector Moin Khan. No he wasn’t playing. He happened to visit a casino before the match against the Windies !

11 March 15:As of now India has topped Pool A and is heading into the quarters and the knockout stage with a clean slate.However it still has one more match to go against Zimbabwe.Topping the Pool has ensured that India plays Bangladesh in the Quarter Finals and does not have to travel to New Zealand,which is considered a positive development since the team is now used to the conditions in Australia and would like to exploit it as a “home advantage” of sorts.

This Amul advertisement on the Indian Team topping the Pool B standings is simply designed and shows the Amul Girl,all padded up and with a bat,pasting Amul butter on a points table showing “10” against India thus depicting the 5 wins out of 5 so far for the “men in blue”.

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The Tag Line ….On Top of Every Table… is as much a statement on the Indian Cricket team topping it’s Pool as it is on the standing of Amul butter as a brand name.

The Punch Line …Quarter It…. is  a play on the team making it to the knockout stage and also inviting the consumers to help themselves to generous “quarters” of Amul butter.

Pakistan on the other hand needs to put it past Ireland in its last match to make it to the knockout stage.Its surprise win against South Africa has helped in keeping it’s hopes alive.

19th March 15; Melbourne Cricket Ground

India versus Bangladesh Quarter Final (QF) at the ICC CWC 15 was being played under an electrifying atmosphere and much anticipation.The “Bengal Tigers” had upset England and earned the right to play in their first WC QF.and plus they had history on their side when they had knocked out India from the 2007 WC in the Caribbean.In addition, Robel Hussein and Mahamudillah had excelled with the bat and ball respectively and the “Tigers” were more tha fancying their chances against India.The pressure was on India as they were the stronger side against the “minnows” and above all were the defending World Champions.

India batted first and scored 302 for six, on the back of a magnificent first WC century from Rohit Sharma, and a breez and timely 65 from Suresh Raina.Virat Kohli failed with the bat in the much anticipated tie.

The Indian innings was graced with luck when on 90, Rohit Sharma was caught in the deep but was given a second life when the umpires ruled that the Rubel Hossain’s delivery was above waist-height and therefore a no-ball, although television replays suggested it was a marginal decision which could have gone either way.It was an extremely fortuitous reprieve as India would have been trouble as they were at 196-4 and looking to accelerate. Rohit went on t score 137 and India posed a daunting 302 -6 for the “Tigers” to chase, under lights at the imposing Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Bangla Desh started well but lost their way after openers Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes fell on successive balls after racing to 31 in 6 overs.India fielded well to stifle the opposition and  the turning point was shikhar Dhawan’s jugglery to dismiss Mahmudullah for 21 , the twin centurion for the Bangladesh side.Mahendra Singh Dhoni took a diving catch to send back e Soumya Sarkar for 29 and this put to rest any designs of Bangla fight back or a much anticipated upset.

India thus bowled out Bangladesh and won the game by 109 runs.They had thus achieved the feat of bowling out all their opponents in all seven matches they had played at the World Cup., another ominous warning for their remaining challengers.

This Amul Topical/ ad on the India – Bangladesh  CWC 15 Quater Final , depicts Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s diving catch to remove Saumya Sircar with the Amul Girl dressed in the Indian cricket team colours and egging on with a replica of the World Cup trophy in her hand.

INDIA AT THE WORLD CUP

The Tag Line …Bangla-dashed… is a play on the name of the opposition, Bangladesh, as also on the fact that their hopes of progressing to the semi finals were dashed with their loss to India.

The Punch Line ….Semi-nal butter… is a play on the “semi finals” that India had qualified for and translated literally- it was definitely a scenario full of possibilities just as Amul Butter too.

The heartbreak for the Bagladeshis soon found vent in the form of their disapproval of the umpire’s decision to rule out the Robel Hussein full toss to Rohit Sharma as a no-ball.ICC President, Mustafa Kamal, from Bangladesh, in his comments to the press alleged a conspiracy and said that the umpires , Aleem Dar of Pakistan and Ian Gould of England had come out with an agenda to favour India.His comments were highly controversial not only for the insinuations contained in them but also for the fact that he held a high office in the ICC and spoke in the most inappropriate manner and at a most unsuitable forum.

Entire Bangladesh was in mourning and echoed Kamal’s sentiment.So much so that the Prime Minister Khaleda Zia too came out in support of Kamal and the conspiracy theory and said thhat her team was “made to lose” the match and that they should not lose heart as without the help from the umpires , I ndia woul have never won the game !She also predicted a sonner than later World Cup triumph for the “Bengal Tigers”.

This Amul Topical/ ad on Khaleda Zia reacting to the umpire’s decision to rule Rohit Sharma “not out” shows a caricature depicting the Bangla PM berating the third umpire for the wrong call of the onfield umpires in calling a “no ball” to the marginal bumper by Hossein.In the back ground, Rohit Sharma and the controversial ball are also depicted.

INDIA AT WORLD CUP

The Tag Line …Haseena Kab Maan Jayegi?… is a play on the name of the Bangla PM and a spin off on a popular Bolllywood movie and song by the tit;e “Haseena maan jayegi” and translates into a question as to when would Sheikh Haseena understand that it was a valid call that went against the bowler and in a way  is an attempt to placte her as well.

The Punch Line …Bangla mein khao… is a gentle reminder of the team India played in the QF as also a taditional endorsement of the Amul butter.

Bangladesh may have lost the match but they have shown that they have developed as a one day side and vannot be considered as push overs by any oppostion.Better days are sure to smile upon them.

20th March 15; Adelaide Oval

Pakistan meanwhile lost to Australia in a pulsating Quarter Final against Australia which will always be remembered forthe fiery spell by Wahab Riaz to the Australians in general and Michael Clarke and Shane Watson in particular.The spell went down as one of the best seam spells in years and was a reaction to the sledging that Riaz was subjected to by the Aussies, Watson and Michel Starc in particular

.Pakistan was unlucky to lose and India would now face the Aussies in the semi final match between the World Cup holders on one side and the co hosts on the other.

Riaz’s spell desrved a topical fr sure for being one of the highlight moments of CWC 15.

26th March 2015; Sydney Cricket Ground

India faced Austtralia in the Semi Finals in one of the biggest match ups in the CWC 15.The co hosts were the overwhelming favourites against the World Cup holders. India had not won a single game all summer against the Aussies including in the one day tri series.But here at the World Cup , India was a different team , totally unrecognisable from the Australian summer.Their bowling had clicked and the batsmen were firing too.And they were coming into the match after rolling up 7 teams,lock, stock and barrel.

Australia the hosts had lost to their trans tasman rivals and had a miraculous escape against Pakistan.Plus , the Wahab Riaz spel had exposed chinks in their armour and on top of that the Sydney ground was likely to favour the spinners.

So in all it seemes an even match up.

Dhoni lost the toss on a perfect batting wicket and Clarke chose to bat, obviously! Warner was out early but then Steve Smith, continued his fine run against India , and scored an aggressive century.In the company of Aaron Finch , who scored a patient 81, Smith put up 182 for the second wicket.This set up the Australians well and though India did pull back by claiming wickets towards the  death, the Aussies managed 328 with a 9 ball 27 from Mitchell Johnson and a quick fire 28 from Watson/Johnson, who had been having a quiet World Cup was fired by the sledging by the Indian players and ended up providing the impetus the Aussies needed to put up a good score.

Chasing 328 under lights and against a quality pace attack was never going to be easy for India.They started well, with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma.But when the former fell to Josh Hazelwoodand Johnson snared Virat Kohli (who failed for the second time in a row in a crucial knock out game) and bowled Rohit Sharma in quick succession, it was all but over .Hereon the Indian innings lost steam and fight and dragged to finally end up 95 runs short of the Aussie score.Dhoni top scored with a fighting 80 plus.

Though India lost comprehensively yet they had won the hearts of their supporters for the manner in which they surged at the World Cup.Winning 7 straight games , they were the only unbeaten side other than the Kiwis till the last 4 stage.The “Men in Blue” gave a good accout of themselves and eventually lost to a far superior Australian outfit.

This Amul ad/ topical on the India- Australia semi final in the CWC 15 attempts to capture the sentiment that though disappointed at not retaining the World Cup, India played well .The topical shows a caricature depiting India Captain MS Dhoni in his number 7 jersey and dejectedly going back to the pavillion.Dhoni had waged a loe battle and the topical captures this well.The Amul Girl is shown carrying a stuffed Kangaroo to remind us all of the context and the opposition and is extending a hand of support to the India Captain in the backdrop of  the Sydney Cricket Ground.

INDIAT AT WORLD CUP 2

The Tag Line ….Jo beat gaya use bhool jao… is a play on the word “beat” as India were beaten by Australia in the Semi Finals of the CWC 15 and exhorted the Team and the Captain to forget and move on.

The Punch Line …Feeling Blue?Try Yellow…. is a catchy one which is a take on the feeling of being low and lonesome after a heart wrenching loss at a mega sporting event.It also turns the emotion into a an endorsement for the Amul butter by playing up the yellow colour of the product with the yellow colour of the Aussie jersey.

Virat Kohli’s disappointing performance in the knock out games in the World Cup came in for critical review as it seemed that young firebrand and the Indian Test Captain , for all his imperious talent had yet to learn how to handle the pressures and weight of expectations of being a frontline Indian cricket player, especially in big ticket games.He is being touted as the next Tendulkar, but he has a long long long way to go before he can emulate the maestro.Its not about the cricket scores alone, its also about the temperament and the ability to soak pressure, which Tendulkar did admirably for 25 years and stayed at the top of his game dishing out one memorable performance after another.

The adoring millions turned against Virat Kohli ,as they sought to vent their ire and lay the blame for the loss of their team at the World Cup.The presence of his girlfriend , Bollywood actor, Anushka Sharma, with him during the World Cup once again coincided with Virat’s poor form and led to blame being laid on her for his poor batting performance.Her presence was considered as the reason for Kohli losing his focus and concentration.Lots of netizens ripped into the duo and anequal number lent them support as well.Kohli and Sharma exited the airport, on arrival in India, holding hands and looing distraught and uncertain and clearly seeking solace and comfort in each other.

Also, Kohli’s misbehaviour with journalists and intemperate and immature on field spats an reactions point towards a larger malaise in the talented player.He needs to channelise his energies correctly or he may find that “jab tak balla chalta hai , tab tak thaath hain !”

This Amul ad/ topical on Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma captures the criticism that the duo faced for Kohli’s poor performances with the bat.It shows two caricatures, depicting Virat and Anushka sitting togethr and tending to each other, with the Amul Girl offering them the delicious Amul butter laced toasts.The topical captures the cricket player’s and the Bollywood actor’s romance especially in the backdrop of the negative publiciy that the duo received.

india pak wc 7

The Tag Line …Sab ne bana di jodi…  is a play on the Anushka starrer Rabb ne bana di jodi and hints at the Virat and her being a couple.

The Punch Line …Have It NHow… is a play on the word “now” with the first two letters in the word “NHow” ,subtly reminding us of Anushka’s home production NH 10, in which she also stars in the lead role.

It is going to be a new tournament four years hence and there will be a new set of heroes, hits and misses.So watch this space, in time.

AIB KNOCKOUT: IF I AGREE WITH YOU,WE WOULD BOTH BE WRONG !

The AIB Knockout Championship from the comedy collective All India Bakchod (AIB), sought to break new ground by introducing Comedy Roasts in India. Accused of obscenity, AIB and the format have faced calls for ban. The controversy pitches “Indian cultural values” and democratic tenets of free speech against each other. But is it simply about this or the issue straddles shades of grey too?

Comedy Roasts are shows where “peers trade insults albeit in a good natured way”. According to Wikipedia, the insults can be absolutely explicit hitting at personal habits and the public perception of the person at the receiving end, known as the “roastee”. The roastee’s friends too are subjected to a similar treatment. The host of the event is called the “roastmaster.” Anyone who is honored in such a way is said to have been “roasted.” The first roast is known to have been played out by the New York Friars Club in 1910, when it decided to counter “Toasts” (felicitations) of members. Later, Dean Martin and Comedy Central have made the format their own. The latter being a sought after privilege with Justin Beiber slated to be the roastee in 2015.

So “ROASTS” have taken 105 years to arrive in India (ask the Punjabis ), courtesy AIB which has been formed by four stand-up comedians — Tanmay Bhat, Rohan Joshi, Gursimran Khamba and Ashish Shakya. The “roastees” were film stars Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh and the “roastmaster” was Karan Johar with a panel of 8 others deputed to take on the roastees including film critic Rajeev Masand and Roadies producer Raghu Ram. The event was exclusive at Rs 4000 per seat and had 4000 attendees. Later its video was uploaded on YouTube with a due disclaimer which had age restrictions stipulated along. The event collected Rs 40 lakhs towards charity and it got more than 8 million hits on YouTube and went viral on the social network.Since Indians are a little too tight on getting offended and everything from Alia Bhatt’s dumbness to Modi’s suits are sacred cows, this is a welcome change indeed. Then what was the furore about?

Nothing had prepared the larger audience for the sheer volume of abuses, cuss words and 4 letter hindi words for everything sexual in our lives, not even our raucous National Elections. AIB went through its routine firmly believing in the right to offend and its jokes on taboo topics such as rape, gang rape, gays, race, religion, and homophobia which formed the core content of the show led to complaints and criticism. Though Karan Johar was very much at home walking like a dog and rubbing bums yet a PIL was filed in the Bombay High Court by Sharmila Ghuge who was offended by it all and accused AIB of crossing the limits of morality and decency, of vulgarity,and obscenity and of affecting the minds of the youth. Brahaman Ekta Sewa Trust was the first to lodge a complaint. Btw just try deciphering what the Santha stands for ? The four words seem …seem like disjointed ideas ! Yet, the Santha had the right to be offended and it exercised it just like AIB exercised theirs.

AIB has since removed the video ,issued an apology in general and also to the Christian community but defended its right to offend, an FIR has been lodged on the orders of the Court against the organisers, participants and some in the audience such as Bollywood actors Deepika Padukone and Sonakshi Sinha (what about the remaining 3998?).Procedural issues too are being looked into to identify lapses and as of now the script submitted has been found to be at a variance to the one spoken by the participants.

This Amul advertisement on the AIB Knockout controversy has three caricatures depicting Arjun Kapoor (standing) and Ranveer Singh and Karan Johar. The chairs and the dresses and the poses of the caricatures resemble the details on the actual show. The Amul girl is standing behind the chairs with an annoyed expression and indicates to the trio to seal their lips.

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The Tag Line…Yeh Roasti Hum Nahin Todenge…is a play on the hindi son “Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge” from Sholay which translates into a friendhip bod never to be broken.This is a reference to the bromance between Arjun and Ranveer and the word “roasti” is a reference to the comedy roast hosted by them..

The Punch Line….AIBAll India Butter…gives out the identity of the comedy collective which scripted the show and also endorses the Amul brand.

Free speech advocates maintained that there wasn’t anything objectionable and that AIB had the right to offend and the objections were to do more with the perception of what’s appropriate or not and as such who has the right to decide upon this in a democracy. They labelled all naysayers as “pseudo moralists” and puritans who were objecting to cuss words and abuses as if they had never used them before.

The naysayers were generally amongst the political class and this time they were muted after a serious backlash over “ghar wapsi” and the Kiss of Love campaign . However the Maharashtra Nav Nirman Sena  (MNS) issued threats to the roastees of preventing their film from releasing if they did not apologise for their part in the event.  Actor Aamir Khan objected to the content and called it verbal violence only to be subjected to some himself and was lampooned for his hypocritical attitude over his defence of his expletive ridden production “Delhi Belly” and its lyrics such as Bhag Bhag Bose Dk, Bose Dk and Hole ***,Hole ***, Hole *** , famous college anthems in their own right.

Talking of hypocrites Deepika Padukone and all the “free speech” advocates too are the same as during the the cleavage row they fervently preached about female dignity, and promptly forgot it while guffawing raucously on the vulgar and hurtful jokes directed at women during the AIB show.

AIB apologized in the face of rising criticism and denied their supporters their very own Charlie Hebdo moment by not being the sacrificial lambs. They stated that it was all meant to make people laugh and not to hurt though they retained the right to offend and expected others to not get offended as it was all in good humour. The group also positioned itself as free speech crusaders and were standing up for thousands who felt gagged as creators or activists.

Touching indeed.But what exactly were they standing for?

As a concept the Roast was a hit and credit goes to all involved. It really broke through the glass ceiling and yes it takes guts to do this in a country where a man playing Lord Shiva indulging in a cigarette can offend people. Then to pull it of saying that the last good thing Ranveer was in was Deepika Padukone, in front of them and not on a WhatsApp or a FB joke train is definitely new ground in terms of comedy in India, where the ultimate benchmark is something as slapstick, sexist and laborious as Comedy Nights with Kapil!

But the good part ended there.

It’s true that abuses and cuss words are commonly used, but not in living rooms and nor at work or school by not even the “roastees”, or AIB collective or their 8 million (and counting) supporters even in jest. That’s because these are established indecent form of expression across cultures not because the levels of vulgarity and obscenity may vary for us all but because swearing and cursing are associated with perpetuating an insensitive and aggressive attitude towards the groups or habits the cuss words are directed at. And this is not my hypothesis but of reputed institutes all over the world. All abuses are mostly directed at women and no vacuous arguments in favour of free speech can justify their mainstreaming in any country or society. Many below 18 were exposed to the open use of expletives and this is objectionable, not because of culture vultures or “desi Voltaires”, but because of the propriety of the whole issue. Similarly advocating use of filthy 4 letter expletives for women or anyone else cannot ever be clubbed with a free speech debate.

AIB does not only have the right to offend but also bears a responsibility. The videos did not have the disclaimers till the Maharashtra Government objected. Age restrictions were in place but could their subsequent circulation on Facebook or WhatsApp be controlled? If not then AIB’s defence stands exposed that they put adequate safeguards in place. This certainly makes AIB responsible for the message it sends across to these young minds.To skirt this, is like seeking power to influence without accountability.When Yo Yo Honey Singh glorifies “sabki bajate raho”, “chaar botal vodka kaam mera roxz ka” and ladkiyon ka buffet” these do get picked up by starry eyed youngsters eager to establish themselves and the weak amongst them will adopt the very ways being glorified.The impact of introducing expletives in the average comedy act would also be on the same lines.

Right to offend cannot be wielded without understanding those likely to get offended. An intended message will always be lost if an equal opportunity offender demonstrates “cultural blindness” leading to the “heckler’s veto” will gaining ground. Just drawing from the gags on the show, for those who are surprised at people being offended let me clarify for you that contrary to the projection in the gags all blacks do not have Ebola, only blacks do not have Ebola, calling someone black is not a laughing matter, all priests are not gay, rape and gang rape are unimaginably painful experiences and for the families of those beheaded by the IS… its not a joke.

When AIB and the “everything free” brigade came out all guns blazing they finally stood for championing gross language ad obscene and explicit comedy.I am a supporter of free speech and expression for the right of an artist to create what he wants. But what was being created by AIB? They were just promoting a comedy form to make themselves popular (no social or larger responsibility here) and created an expletive ridden Bollywood focused cuss word infested show. Was the obscenity directed at driving home a lesson about the way Punjab or Haryana Police behave or was it just to cater to the larger audience aimed at achieving instant popularity?

Though I am okay with the audience and participants consenting to the obscenity but not all who watched it were comfortable. Yes, they would have switched off the video but then you cant say don’t be offended and then defend it for the sake of defending.Understanding has to be mutual.If it is not then both parties need to find common ground .Banning the show or insisting on producing more crass shows is an extremist position which is unsuitable for a considered discourse in a complex world. After the Charlie Hebdo massacre there was widespread support for free speech but then eventually issues of sensitivities and the debate on the larger situation of the muslims in France also gained steam. In the case of AIB too there’s a need to acknowledge the problem and neither the moral police nor the defenders of free speech should protest simply because that’s what they can do.This should instead open a debate on the acceptable norms of decency including movies and reality shows , regarding controlling the content being uploaded in YouTube in India and also regarding the hounding of comedians by the government by using legal provisions.

If it was an Aseem Trivedi like incident where a cartoonist is charged with sedition or if Mamata Didi is jailing professors over cartoons then I would say that’s about freedom of speech and expression. But here you cant defend AIB for its language content and insensitive gags. When jokes and satire are directed at groups which are at the receiving of society or not on the same page intellectually and socially as the humorist then the gags on them shall be lost in translation and the intended message is almost always lost. And in this case there wasn’t any message at all. If humour is not contextual then it’s just a hollow medium being exploited for promotional or professional purposes. And AIB did just that.

The “free brigade” and AIB in reality do not stand for free speech and expression rather for using expletives and obscenity in shows without wanting to accept the responsibility that goes along. AIB has a right to produce what it wants, and banning is not an option. But then AIB has to ensure appropriateness of the content as well for all the reasons discussed earlier. If AIB continues to defend for the sake of offending it will in the long run damage the cause of free speech and not benefit it.

 I too support freedom of speech and expression but for a cause and not for the sake of it and if I agree with AIB and its supporters then we are both wrong!

POST SCRIPT I

13th March 15; The controversy generated by the Censor Board banning 28 cuss words has got a new lease of life with Board Members Chandrashekhar Dwivedi and Ashoke Pandit registering their protest by way of correspondence and through the social media.They have attacked the Censor Board Chief Pahlaj Nihalani for following and autocratic and arbitrary style of functioning.They have spoken against the list of cuss words as they feel it will restrict artistic expression in films and have sought the formalisation of the same after due deliberations within the Board as well as the civil society.

Two prominent movies have been affected by the new directives.Anushka Sharma starrer and her home production “NH 10” was recently passed with an ‘adult’ certification and 9 cuts (30 were originally proposed).The release of the movie was delayed as earlier it failed to obtain requisite certification. Varun Dhawan’s ‘Badlapur’ was luckier and was passed intact but with three cuss words removed.The film industry is up in arms and termed the new guidelines as “suffocating” and fear that too many rules can be used to victimise producers and directors .

Nihalani has stressed that movies that have too much swearing ,bloodshed and objectification of women shall run the risk of not being granted a certificate for public viewing. He has come under attack for proximity to the BJP and for furthering the Party’s cultural agenda.

This Amul ad/ topical on the Censor Board shows a caricatures depicting Pahlaj Nihalani running with a net to nab errant movie makers and with a scissor to “chop off” the  objectionable dialogues and scenes.

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The Tag Line …Gaali Gaali Mein Shor Hai… is a play on a popular phrase in hindi and literally translates into- every cuss word (gaali) being objectionable.

The Punch Line …Swear By It… is a subtle play on the issue of the list of 28 swear words as also endorses the trusted quality of Amul Butter. 

One wonders if there was ever to be a biopic on Virat Kohli then with the present Censor Board directives it would most likely have to be a silent movie or one with a continuous beep tone !

POST SCRIPT II

Jerry Seinfield the celebrated American stand up comedian and creator of the most famous sitcom ever – Seinfield – was to perform live in Mumbai .His events were as part of a series of events being organised by the event management company Only Much Louder (OML),as part of the Stage42 festival.It aims at showcasing some of India’s and the world’s most celebrated artists and experiences in comedy, music, theatre and food. The events were to take place between February and March in 7 major cities in India.

Seinfield, the Emmy and Golden Globe winning comedian, was to perform on 14th – 15th March 2015 at the The Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium and the National Sports Club Of India (NSCI) in South Mumbai.This was to be his first ever performance in Asia.Lekin ho na saka….and he came face to face with Mumbai Police !The organisers were told to cancel the show as Mumbai Police did not grant the necessary clearances since they were’nt satisfied about the parking arrangements for the show (???) !

Ya, you heard it right ! Parking space !!!

Like all good things, the conspiracy theories too came free with the cancellation. After all whats life without a bit of spice? The grapevine went agog with the news that the event was cancelled because the venue, NSCI had been recently involved in two major controversies.Once when in a charity show hosted by BJP leader Shania NC the Police manhandled the club members wanting to make an entry.This had caused major embarassment for Maharashtra CM, Devendra Fadnavis.And the other was the hosting of the show “AIB Roast”.To add more spice, OML were the organisers for the “Roast” as well.Hence it was assumed that owing to these reasons Seinfield was “stood up” !

However, as OML was to announce the cancellation, in true filmy Police andaaz, the Khaaki topi waalas made a last minute entry and granted the necessary clearances, albeit barely 48 hours before the show was to take place.OML tried to salvage the shows but they got cancelled anyway as it was a classic case of “too little too late “!.

Facing brickbats for robbing the Mumbaikars of some serious “laughter” , Mumbai Police put the onus of cancellation on OML , that when the permissions were granted then why did they cancel the show? The official answer from OML was that Seinfield had already changed his travel plans once and changing now meant that he had lost a vital day and now with barely 48 hours to go for the show would be jet lagged enough to not park his a** let alone perform on stage  !!! So you see, it was actually a “parking” problem ! But there was this conspiracy theory too (not again) that the ticket sales had been too low due to their high tag (6k/12k) and thus the organisers were forced to take this step of cancelling the show.

This Amul ad/ topical on Jerry Seinfield shows a caricature, depicting the comedian, with a shocked and aghast look as he arrives with his baggage and mike to perform , only to be told that the show is cancelled! The Amul Girl is standing alongside the “no parking” board depicting the “official” reason for the cancellation.

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The Tag Line ……Stand -up fans stood up?… is a quirky statement as well as a question about the fact and reasons behind the cancellation of the show .

The Punch Line ...Sein of good taste.. is as much about the Amul butter , with a play on the word “sign”, as much as it is on the name of the protagonist of the topical, Jerry Seinfield .

So, it seems the AIB Roast continued to score unintended “hits” on its victim counter  !!!

My heart , though , goes out to the organisers OML when I imagine their plight as they had the onerous task of “belling the cat ” – to inform Seinfield that his show wasn’t going to happen because of , of all the reasons, lack of parking space !!!

Had someone told me that its cancelled because of the effect of sunlight on the menopause of the butterfly, i would have still beleived it. But  – parking space ??? Who would believe that ?

As for Seinfield, he surely got a “taste of India” !!!

POST SCRIPT III

25th March 15; The Supreme Court of India (SC) while considering a PIL on the provisions of the IT Act, struck down as unconstitutional the most controversial amongst them all, Section 66A. The Section provided for the arrest of a person, for up to 3 years, for posting allegedly objectionable content on the internet. The Sec had gained notoriety after its provisions were invoked seemingly arbitrarily and was perceived to be against the freedom of expression on the internet.

The PIL was filed by a young law student, Shreya Singhal , in 2012 ,when two young girls, Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan, of Palghar in Thane District were arrested for posting and liking a comment against the forced lockdown of Mumbai in the wake of the death of Bal Thackeray and the other liked it. The girls had done nothing to disturb public order and the comment and the “like: could never be in the realm of “objectionable” but for the availability of Sec 66A as a tool in the hands of the political outfit.

Numerous transgressions and misuse of the act forced the SC in 2013 to declare that arrests under the Section would be made only after obtaining permission from senior officials such as the IG or the DCP. However, these advisories ‘did not deter the likes of Azam Khan from getting a class XII student arrested under Sec 66A for posting “objectionable” material on Facebook.

Finally, the SC struck down Sec 66A, terming it “draconian” and “unconstitutional”.

The Bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and Rohinton F. Nariman said that Section 66A “arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right.” The Judges established the paramount nature of the liberty of thought and expression in the Indian Constitution and held that this involved three principles – discussion, advocacy and incitement. Further clarifying that mere discussion and advocacy of an idea did not constitute an act against public order and cannot invite penal action, howsoever unpopular the idea may be.

The Bench also ruled that the definition of offences under the provisions of Sec 66A was “open-ended and undefined” as well as “vague” and also said that “what may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another”. Further pointing out that a penal law is void on the grounds of vagueness if it failed to clearly define the criminal offence as that would then lead to “discriminatory enforcement of the law.”

The Government of India attempted to defend the provisions of Sec 66A by offering reassurances that it would ensure reasonable enforcement of the law. But the Judges rejected the contention saying that “If Section 66A is otherwise invalid, it cannot be saved” and that such reassurances would not be binding on successor governments. What is important here is that how the government of the day fights tooth and nail to curb the rights of the very people it is supposed to protect against any such infringement!!!!

This Amul ad / topical on Sec 66A shows the Amul Girl as an activist who is carrying a “Thumbs Up” sign with the insignias of Facebook and Twitter dangling along.It denotes the victory for the freedom of expression on the internet with our protagonist marching ahead with a clenched fist, symbolizing a sense of achievement.

sec 66A

The Tag Line ….Free ‘dum’ of speech restored…. Is a play on the hindi word ‘dum’ which means power and while stating the obvious also says that in a democracy true power lies with the people and that is derived through the ability to express freely.

The Punch Line … com.’n get it… is an optic play with “com.” representing the internet and telling the reader about the domain in which the freedom of expression was in question. And it also invites the consumer to come and get more of the Amul butter.

The same Bench turned down a plea to strike down sections 69A and 79 of the IT Act which deal with the procedures for blocking websites and the exemption from liability of intermediaries.This shows that many questions remain unanswered about the regulating mechanism for the internet.Though freedom of speech is sacrosanct but there is no denying that the potential for using the internet against the national interests exists.

The alluding to what does or does not constitutes as “objectionable” will also have a bearing on the case against AIB. So should the internet conform to self-censorship or is there a need to regulate it and what about the famed “right to offend”? Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost….

And I am personally very relieved with Sec 66A not being in existence as otherwise by now I would have been behind bars for having referred to Azam Khan in my Post.After all he may have found it “objectionable” !

So,now you know just how thin the ice was while Sec 66A existed!!!!

 

A kaleidoscope of events that occurred & on occasions of those that should've,laced with some puns, some smiles & some butter.

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