Category Archives: Politics

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 !

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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 !

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!

delhi elections 1

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 ?

A “RENEGADE” & THE “FUNNY PEOPLE ” !

The visit of the President of the United States (POTUS) is an event to remember. But, when Barack Obama decided to visit India for the Republic Day Celebrations it triggered unprecedented excitement as after all he was going to be the first ever US President to visit India twice and the first ever to be the Chief Guest at the R Day Parade.

To begin with, the visit offered 24 hour news (gossip?) channels an opportunity to shift focus from “really grave” issues such as the survival prospects of a live fish stuck in a boy’s wind pipe. Having long mastered the art of saying the same things in many ways – What will Obama do in India? Will Obama do anything? Has Obama done anything ever? – “in depth” expert analysis was provided. Nothing was too banal or sacred and Obama’s stomach ailment was explored ad nauseum and almost the entire nation was now an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of “acid reflux” – which was going to deprive the POTUS of the sumptuous and spicy Indian cuisine. Acid reflux?Its our very own “khatti dakaar” !

An earlier Amul ad covered this incident when Obama’s personal physican diagnosed him with “acid reflux”.The Tag Line ..Obamasala Nahin…is a play on the name Obama and the hindi word for spices –“masala”- and translates into no spices for Obama. While the Punch Line…No Spices Here……endorses the taste and virtues of Amul butter.

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Obama’s US codename “Renegade” was known to all and his seven layered security was reported upon in so much detail that even the US Secret Service learnt about its own capabilities watching these Indian channels. Also, ISIS got to know enough to threaten POTUS with beheading inside the White House itself! But some like the Delhi Police weren’t amused on being the outermost layer in their own lair (the farther the better?)!!!!

American “super dogs” were the toast of all channels. Their reported abilities and traits caused de-recognition of “desi” dogs as dogs itself. One guest on a show was at a loss of words when asked why Indian dogs in the forces did not have an officer status akin to their American counterparts. The reporter though tried to suggest that American dogs were smarter as they were thinking in English (Bihar Police dogs would be be gung ho in Bhojpuri?) !

Obama’s USD 1.5 million armour plated Presidential car –the Beast – mesmerized us Indians who are even deprived of wipers (Tata Nano) and other basic safety measures in cars.To ameliorate the situation “manufacturing” hubs in Punjab announced that one can get even his Maruti 800 converted into “the Beast” for a pittance and choose any colour as well. Fluorescent Green with MSG logo is a rage!

In the midst of all this the Americans rapped the Pakistanis on the knuckles over ensuring zero terror strike during the visit or be prepared to face the consequences. This left the neighbours red faced and obviously warmed the cockles of all and sundry in India.

An Amul ad on the US warning to Pakistan depicted this incident with Uncle Sam walking along with the Amul Girl dressed as a NCC Cadet and humiliatingly threatening a caricature depicting the Pakistani Army to ensure an incident free visit.The The tag line “O, bam abhi nahin” is a play on Obama’s name and the hindi word for a bomb and translates into “no bombs now”

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Just before the visit was too happen Obama cancelled the Taj Mahal due to the sudden demise of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. This was a dampener of sorts but for some it was good news as they could now merrily spit and deface the monument once again.

An Amul ad had highlighted this issue previously in 2014.

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Finally..Finally..Obama and Michelle arrived.

PM Narendra Modi broke protocol and received Obama and the First Lady at the airport.From then on, for the next three days, it was the personal chemistry between the two that drove the agenda.

Visuals of the ingenuous “chai pe charcha” (talks over tea) at Hyderabad House between Obama and Modi were beamed the world over and it was a unique one- on- one, in full public view but in private too. The body language and the personal rapport were indicative of a level of comfort unseen between US Presidents and Indian PMs.

This Amul ad on Obama’s visit shows two caricatures depicting him and Modi respectively in the lawns of the Hyderabad House in the same setting as it was during the “chai pe charcha”. The Amul girl has been shown as serving the butter laden toasts being savoured by the two leaders.

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The Tag Line..Buddy buddy baatein?.. is a play on the word “buddy” showcasing the bonhomie between the two leaders and the hindi word “badi” meaning big, which illustrates the fact that it was during these talks that perhaps the two leaders laid the foundations for the big breakthroughs achieved during the visit.

The Punch Line….. Bread Butter Bromance. Simply endorses the Amul Butter and the “brotherly” bonhomie between the two leaders.

Obama attended all the functions with a sense of purpose and commitment. He broke protocol during the R Day Parade by attending for two hours instead of the security stipulated 45 minutes. He also made it a point to break into Hindi, whenever he could.Obama’s speech at Siri Fort Auditorium was replete with examples of Indian icons such as Mahatama Gandhi, Swami Vivekanand, Milkha Singh,Kailash Sayarthi,Mary Kom and Shah Rukh Khan.Infact Obama’s attempt at a Bollywood dialogue…”Senorita ..bade bade deshon mein… “ struck a chord and further showcased his intent and positivity towards India and the relations between the two countries.The joint hosting of the popular radio chat “Mann Ki Baat” by Modi and Obama further underscored their personal rapport and was a unique way of demonstrating the growing bonding to a larger audience.

Much of the credit for this rapport goes to the highly successful US visit of Modi, He and Obama bonded based on their humble beginnings and have since carried it forward. The two have demonstrated tremendous statesmanship in taking bilateral relations forward. It’s quite a feat for a second term President, who is considered a “lame duck” to risk his political legacy for India ,whose citizen were once referred to as the “funny people” by Eisoenhower. This is  especially remarkabke for a US President who has lost control of both houses of the senate after the recent midterm elections.

An Amul ad on the US mid term elections to the senate covered this development in the US political sphere.

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The delegation level bilateral discussions fed on the rapport between Modi and Obama and major breakthroughs were achieved in the fields of civilian nuclear cooperation, India’s quest for a permanent seat on the UNSC, defence cooperation and bilateral trade. If India will benefit so will the US. India will bolster the US’s case in the international strategic sphere and is also a major economic market for the US to tap.

It has taken 70 years for the world’s leading democracies to draw closer. As one commentator has aptly put “it’s the dance of the stars” that are finally fortuitously placed to allow Indo-US ties to come out of the shadows of the past. A shared China centric view, common threats in the form of global terrorism and India’s rise and potential as an economic power are the three pillars of this transforming relationship.

Pakistan and China added to the fun by behaving like a jealous couple. Pakistan sulked at being passed over by the US for arch enemy India .And China uncharacteristically betrayed its anxiety at the sudden warmth between India and the US.

In the final analysis India should remember that the US always keeps its national interests foremost and so she should never be blindsided by any personal charisma or rapport or strategic promise, but maintain a pragmatic course.It was an immensely successful visit by the POTUS and the results will definitely emerge in time.

Overall the visit was an emphatic success and tremendously choreographed.The first ever Guard of Honour by a woman officer,Wing Commander Pooja Thakur, and the first ever all women’s contingents of three services were a special legacy of the 66th Republic Day celebrations that even the Obamas will remember. 

To round up the zany side.

The media focused so intensely on the numerous hugs between the two leaders that at a point it seemed as if it was dying to identify if they weren’t “straight” !For their part the two couldn’t really keep their hands off each other either!!!

Then someone remarked how Modi upstaged Michelle Obama’s fashion tastes (???)! Mrs Obama versus Mrs Li Xinping is fine but Modi versus Michelle???? Well, this happened because NaMo consistently wore some “cool” and chic kurta’s and bandhgala suits.One which caught the eye the most had his name embroidered in vertical stripes.So much so that the observers felt he had upstaged the first lady of fashion in the world !

Amul caught on the idea and made use of the same in this well timed ad on the personalised monogrammed suits wirh the Amul girl showing off the company branding in the same style as Narendra Damodardas Modi was embroidered on the PM’s suit designed by Bipin Chauhan.

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Though Amul found enough in the visit to take out four topicals, sadly it missed out one on the 66th Republic Day itself especially with its numerous and unique firsts. 

Lastly…The master stroke almost got missed out.PM Modi invited Obama and the American’s took over the security and thus Modi’s first R Day went incident free.Smart boy.For the next one lets call ISIS Chief Baghdadi.What say ?

Parting shot…Any guesses whom does the US Secret Service refer to as  Renaissance, Radiance and Rosebud in the Obama Presidential entourage 😉

POST SCRIPT 

Other than the nuclear deal it’s only the personalised monogrammed suit of Narendra Modi which has managed to retain its sheen from the not so recently ” concluded Obama visit.

The suit was associated it controversy when Modi’s opponents used it to attack his pro poor credentials.In fact the suit was seen as a factor, during the Delhi Assembly elections, in swaying voters towards the Aam Aadmi Party as it made Modi seem elitist and far removed from the underprivileged sections of the society.

However there was a clever twist in the tale when Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to auction the gifts received by him for garnering funds for the Clean Ganga Campaign.The Surat Municipal Corporation was entrusted with the responsibility.

The auction evoked derision,criticism as well as support but most of all keen interest and even keener bidding.bidding . For a total of 460 items the bid amount collected was a whopping Rs 8.33 crores with the replicas of the Statue of Liberty and the Pashupati Nath temple drawing bids of Rs 1.11 crores.

But the star attraction was “the suit” which drew 47 bids and was sold for a whopping Rs  4.31 crores. The bidding had stabilised at 1.48 crores on the second day of the auction but on the third day it sky rocketed to the final amount.The successful bid was made by Dharmandan Diamonds’ Hitesh Patel .The prized item is now gracing the reception of the diamond firm.

This Amul advertisement on the auction of Modi’s suit shows the Amul Girl looking at a display of the famous attire with a Narendra Modi mannequin donning it.A photo depicting the moment Modi wore the suit while receiving Obama completes the background to the suit and it’s claim to fame.

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The Tag Line …And the highest coat is… a take on the high bids drawn by “the suit”.

The Punch Line …Utterly Button-ly Delicious… is a play on the famous Amul ad line.

The high bids and the cause for which the auction was held may help in blunting the damage that the suit had caused to Modi’s image but in a sense it was good fun too as never had a dress made it to the headlines in such an emphatic manner.

I for one am eagerly awaiting the China visit !

CHARLIE HEBDO MASSACARE: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD !

7th January 2015,Paris; 13 people lay dead after two gunmen had attacked the office of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and massacred members of the Charlie Hebdo editorial team as well as its top caricaturists. Shouting “Allahu Akbar” the assailants triumphantly left the building and claimed that the Prophet Mohammad was avenged and that Islam was safe again.

Paris continued to reel under Islamic terror when four more were killed in a hostage situation in a Kosher (Jewish) Supermarket. The hostage taker, Amedy Coulibaly (who claimed allegiance to the ISIS), was gunned down as also the two out of the three Charlie Hebdo assailants, Algerian brothers Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi (al Qaeda). The third, Hamyd Masoud surrendered. The French Government suspected an international conspiracy behind the three day carnage. Eventually the Al Qaeda In Yemen (AQIY) took responsibility for the attacks on Charlie Hebdo.

What provoked the carnage? The answer contains uncomfortable truths for the victims as well as the perpetrators.

Charlie Hebdo started in 1970 after its predecessor the “Hara Kiri” was banned for mocking the death of ex-President Charles de Gaulle. It remained out of print from 1981 till ’92 when it was resurrected by the efforts of François Cavanna (editor 1969 – 1981),Phillipe Val (editor 1992 – 2011). The magazine is irreverent, satirical, provocative and non-conformist while dealing with religion and French politics. Its editor Stéphane Charbonnier (Charb), who was killed by the gunmen, had once described the magazine’s positions as left-wing, secular, and atheist. It has caused maximum controversy when covering religion, particularly in the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed.

In 2006, it provoked protests when it featured a weeping Mohammed with the headline “Mohammed Overwhelmed by Fundamentalism.” And also featured reprinted cartoons from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that caricatured the Prophet.In 2007, it again caused furore when it published cartoons of Mohammad carrying a bomb in his turban. In 2010,it supported France’s “burqa ban” through the caricature of a naked woman. In 2011, its offices were fire bombed when a Charlie Hebdo edition supposedly “guest edited” by Mohammad was taken out with a Mohammad cartoon announcing “100 lashes of the whip if you don’t die laughing” and titled Charia Hebdo (a refence to Sharia Law).

In response – the magazine published the cartoon of a Muslim man kissing a cartoonist !

In 2012, an edition had a cover showing an orthodox Jewish Man pushing a Muslim man in a wheel chair and titled “Intouchables 2” a spoof on a French movie “Intouchbles”.It also carried a spoof on the malicious, divisive and globally decried Islamophobic internet movie “Innocence of Muslims”, by depicting a naked Mohammad in pornographic positions! This was done against the advise of the French government.

The editors reacted to Muslim chagrin by saying that the fire bombers were “stupid people”, that the magazine conforms to French free speech laws and not Koranic and that they could be least bothered about the reactions or laws of Kabul and Riyadh. They admitted that they were against religion but depicted the Prophet especially to provoke and shame.

And provoke they did.

The Amul ad depicts the carnage in Paris.The Eiffel Tower is almost falling over under the onslaught of extremists with storm clouds gathering and paper, ostensibly depicting drawing sheets, strewn all around. The Amul Girl is shown as defending free speech with a drawing pencil in one hand and a paint brush in the other.

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The Tag LineParis Is Reeling…is a statement on the unprecedented attacks in Paris and the “IS IS” in red is a play on the suspected role of the Islamic fundamentalist movement Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This is an incomplete representation as the two main suspects had announced allegiance to al Qaeda.

Secularism is the de facto official religion in France. Inasmuch that the French have twice imprisoned recalcitrant Popes in 1798 and 1809 who tried to resist the Revolution. In 1905 the French Third Republic decreed the separation of the church and the state to ensure Freedom of Thought. This entailed strict official neutrality known as laïcité – absence of religious involvement in government affairs and vice versa.

French Identity is essentially non ethnic and non-religious and is now under strain due to the immigration of people of colour and multi ethnic identities from the former colonies. It’s in this backdrop that the Charlie Hebdo editorial line is to be seen.

Strictly secular, Charlie Hebdo swore to safeguard laïcité. It had subsumed for itself the right to equally offend all, also known as – equal opportunity blasphemy- with irreverence. It intended to subject to brutal interrogation, any self-sanctified institution especially religion. It aimed at making humorous attacks so common on the most sensitive issues and concepts that these would get defanged and lose their control and illogical hold on the people. Charb was loathe to self-censor and would never indulge in appeasement of a group or two at the cost of his core ideals.

This courageous editorial underpinning put Charlie Hebdo on a path of direct conflict with the six million Muslim immigrants of France and the extremists within them. These are the most disenfranchised ethnic grouping who have also felt targeted by the government especially when the latter banned head scarves and veils. Charlie Hebdo demonstrated a strange naiveté when it ventured into these troubled waters upholding laïcité but ignoring the transforming ethnic realities of France. Its irreverent and offensive attack on the most sacred entity for the Muslims – Prophet Mohammad- was seen as racial and humiliating by a marginalized ethnic grouping. These caricatures thus became the catalyst for the inevitable outburst of a suppressed and discriminated minority made to feel unwelcome in France. And resulted in a senseless carnage leading to the death of 17 people.

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the younger generation is a failure of the French State especially when the original immigrants assimilated so well that they are at the forefront of the voices against extremism. The French need to accept the changing paradigm of the ethnic composition of France. Marginalisation breeds a pronounced sense of identity and leads to overt display of religious symbols and beliefs which cannot be stemmed by stringent laws alone. Without serious thought being given to the root causes of alienation the next incident too should be round the corner as Charlie Hebdo has responded to the massacre by publishing yet another Mohammad Cartoon with the latter holding the “Je suis Charlie” placard and saying “ all is forgiven”.

The Muslims too need to introspect as to why is that when Charlie Hebdo depicted the Pope with a condom, Marie Le Pen shaving pubic hair and Michael Jackson as a skeleton immediately after his death that none of the groups resorted to large scale protests, fire bombings, shootings, executions and hostage taking? Free speech is a modern concept which is far removed from Islamic tenets and is a cherished value of the Western nations. Such blatant attacks will lead to nations reacting in a manner which will threaten to further exclude the Muslim community and typecast them .If the Muslims aspire for a better life as immigrants then they must assimilate and learn and develop tolerance and shun extremism.Western nations too must ensure that the right to offend is moderated.

Muslims also need to give serious thought and voice to the demands for reform in Islam keeping in mind the changes in the 1400 years since the compilation of the Holy Koran.It is not their belief which is coming in the way of assimilation but the manner of interpreting the teachings of the Prophet and the  Koran.

There is a lesson for us Indians too especially in the backdrop of the protests against the Aamir Khan starrer -PK. Extremists all over the world speak the same language of intimidation when they want to subvert free thought.And they need to be resisted. And the rabid protestor could also be reminded that if he feels belittled by the depiction of certain practices and concepts which have crept into the Hindu religion then why doesn’t he protest about these practices too while demanding limits on free speech.

Charlie Hebdo and the ones who died represent the “mockingbird” – who never harms us but sings its heart out for us.And to kill a mockingbird, is to kill something innocent and harmless that too when the devil is within us. To quote from the famous novel by Harper Lee “when they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of those things … Atticus, he was real nice,” to which he responds, “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

CONVERSION CHARADES:STUPIDITY IS A GIFT OF GOD TOO..LETS NOT MISUSE IT.

Religion is “the opium of the masses” – these words of Karl Marx perfectly explain why our polity would choose dogma over progress. Religion has been unabashedly exploited in India by the British and this continues unabated even now. It seems God too is fond of jokes, and he played one on us by making us the people that we are – helpless against our own failings!

In December 2014, Dharam Jagran Samiti (DJS), carried out the reconversion of some muslims into Hinduism in the city of Agra. It turned out to be a fiasco as the affected individuals, all rag pickers, declared that they had been duped into forsaking their faith and allurements such as BPL cards, Aadhar cards and entitlement to government housing were used in the attempted subversion of their faith. DJS , however denied the allegations and claimed the activity to be voluntary.

Matters weren’t helped further when plans for a slew of such events, termed “ghar wapsi” (homecoming),came to light and other right wing Hindu organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal announced plans for unprecedented number of reconversion to Hinduism in diverse places such as Aligarh, Rae Bareilly, Kerala, Goa, Bihar and elsewhere.

These reconversions were justified by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) on the ground that the ancestors of the Christians and Muslims of India were essentially Hindu and had been converted under coercion and now that the conditions had changed, the present generation was merely making a “homecoming”.

The opposition parties, were till now like a hapless boxer who didn’t even have his shorts on let alone the gloves, suddenly found themselves with an agenda to throw punches at the Modi government.

Meanwhile minority organsations rushed “task forces” to areas where the planned reconversion was likely to take place to help people keep the faith (why were they losing it in the first place?). Emergency symposiums were also conducted by them to keep their “flock together”.

The BJP government was accused of not reining in the Hindu organisatons and the opposition demanded that the PM make a statement in the Parliament to reassure the minorities. The PM did not oblige and instead the BJP asked the opposition parties to support a National Anti-Conversion law to ban all conversions completely. This led to a deadlock and the combined opposition stalled all legislative activities.

Dance of Democracy indeed !

The Amul Ad deals with the Conversion Controversy.The Amul Girl dressed as a chef, with caricatures depicting a Sikh and Tamil Brahmin and serving generous dollops of the “yellow delight” on platters of Parantha (Indian Bread) and Idli, Dosa and Sambhar respectively. The strip attempts to showcase the regional diversity of India.

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The Tag Line…..Easy To Convert To… hints at the complexities of the conversion conundrum by using the Amul butter as a medium. The line extols the pan India acceptance of the product and that it adds taste to any regional cuisine.

The Punch Line…Aapsi Mein Baato..is a play on the term “ghar wapsi” and literally translates into “equally distributing amongst all” implying that the product be consumed as widely as possible.

Religious conversion has been a sensitive issue in India due to the legacy of forced conversion of Hindus to Islam by various Muslim rulers and the proselytizing carried out by the Christian missionaries. Princely states had anti conversion laws specifically directed against conversion to Christianity. British India though did not have any such law and for obvious reasons.

Post-independence the Indian Constitution recognizes, in Article 25(1), that “all persons” are free to “profess, practice, propogate freely” the religion of their choice. The Supreme Court of India has ruled that the right to propogate be not confused with the right to convert and has also empowered states to enact Freedom of Religion laws to deal with forced conversion related issues. States of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh ,Tamil Nadu and Chattisgarh have all enacted such laws right from the 60s upto now which make forced conversions a cognizable offence under the sections 295 and 298 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Also, while law prohibits conversion, `reconversion’ of low caste Hindus is permissible.

The above mentioned laws are seen to be aimed at keeping the low caste Hindus within the folds of Hinduism in the face of socially demeaning practices. Since most of the low caste Hindus are at the lowest rung of the society they are succeptible to coercion as well as allurements. Christian Missionaries have been regularly accused of proselytizing in the garb of providing relief during disasters or while spreading literacy and providing medical care.

Interestingly, though Islam and Christianity do not claim to have a hierarchical strata, yet in India these faiths too follow a caste system! At times converted Christians are discriminated against based on their erstwhile Hindu   caste ! The Hindu organisations have declared that all reconverted Hindus will be free to choose their new castes !This is an impossibility in Hinduism at the same time it’s a fantastic allure keeping in mind the sops and reservations available to low caste Hindus in jobs and education.

To those who fight over religion, I ask is there a perfect religion worth fighting over?

The Bible has improbabilities such as talking snakes and bushes ! Ask a dad about his belief in the story of the Virgin Mary if it is to be applied on his daughter? And how come Noah found Penguins and Polar Bears in Palestine??? (Where was the North Pole back then??)

Even in Islam the Quran is said to contain fables already existing at the time which have been presented as the “word of God” to the Prophet Mohammad.

Perfect religion?

A word about our politicians. The opposition came across as “pseudo secularists” when they do not complain against any incident of forced conversion of Hindus coming to light. Also they balked at the idea of a National Anti-Conversion law not on the grounds of constitutionality (as the constitution guarantees freedom of religion) but offered obfuscated logic to try and hold on to THEIR “flock of voters”.

I also ask the Indian National Congress (INC) or the “Janata Parivaar” that which PM of India has made a statement since 1947 to reassure the Hindu community when cases of forced or coerced conversion at the hand of Christian Missionaries have come to light? Then why such blatant vote bank politics at the cost of governance and development? Let religion be in the absolute background.

The ruling combine needs to be faulted for not nipping the menace in the bud and letting the Winter Session go down the drain.Also, could not the PM have addressed the people of this Country through any medium to instil confidence in his governments commitment towards secularism and secondly to defeat the opposition’s banal tactics?

Its time we got on with governance and development as even as I write there are millions sleeping on the roadside in the bitter cold, who have also gone hungry and will squat in the open tomorrow morning and have no way of ensuring that their children can avoid this fate.

Religion after all is the opium of the masses. Is it?

Btw the Bible does contains much that is relevant today, like Noah taking 40 days to find a parking spot !