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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!!!!

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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.

delhi elections 2

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 ?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.”

MORAL POLICING: MUCH ADO ABOUT A KISS WHILE THE PISS GETS THE MISS !

If Indian Culture is under imminent threat follow these simple steps to render it invulnerable -shout obscenities, slap randomly, smash windows and time it for the TV cameras! And to share a secret, the easiest to prey upon are young couples confused between love and hormones. But beware, sometimes the hunter becomes the hunted and its even more bizarre when the weapon used is a mere “Kiss of Love”.

In end October 2014, Downtown Café in Khozikode,Kerela was vandalised and ransacked by members of the Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha (BJYM) for allegedly “facilitating immoral activities” by its young patrons. This was after Jai Hind TV telecast a programme about the alleged “immoral activities”.Interestingly the entire drama unfolded in front of the cameras and yet BJYM goons managed to evade arrest.

This incident led to the Free Thinkers group and others organizing a “kiss of love” protest against the “moral police” and its wanton and unrestrained hooliganism.Promptly a Facebook page came up and exhorted people to defy moral policing by locking lips at the Marine Drive on Kochi on the 2nd of November! Soon there was furore all over. The Shiv Sena,like all extremists painted a grim and murky picture when it  bizarrely predicted that the “Kiss of Love” protests would lead to “sexual anarchy” (what does this mean) and a renewed and more virulent form of “love jihad”.The battle lines were drawn and the stage was now set for a “kiss-ectrfying”  protest day.

On the anointed day, some protestors did managed to lock their lips (same sex also). Most of them though may have actually bitten each other because of the attendant chaos caused by throngs of yet-to-kiss-for-the-first-tine onlookers and i-am-jealous-of-your-girlfriend type goons of the “morchas”! Pandemonium reigned as the goons wanted to hurl the “kissers” into the sea, the “kissers” wanted to keep kissing as life had never been so good and the Police did what they are good at – baton charged, broke up the crowds, arrested the kissers and let the “morcha” hooligans go.Like always.

The fire spread to all corners of India and in Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi similar protests were organized. The media focused only on the kissing and invented a “kiss counter” which did not miss out on a single “kiss” whatever be the level of chaos taking place. Inadvertent fights too broke out and the Police did what they had in Kochi.

In spite of the “kissers” endangering themselves for a seemingly just cause, opinion was largely divided on the issue of the propriety of the form of protest and it did deflect attention from the moot issue -the “heckler’s veto” which is being exercised by the “moral police” and leading to infringement of liberty and fundamental rights as well.

This Amul ad captured the dominant national controversy of the time. It shows a love struck couple sitting on a bench poised to kiss, though appearing to do it on butter draped slices. The “moral police” is depicted by a caricature holding a placard and remonstrating angrily with the couple. A camera holding caricature represents the over zealous media. The Amul Girl is shown separating the “kissers and the morchas”.

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The Tag LineKiss Power Ya Uss Paar..is a play on the protest titled the “Kiss of Love” and a popular hindi proverb “is paar ya us paar” which urges people to make a decisive choice which in this case is either for supporting the “kiss of love” or not supporting it and bringing to fore the question of propriety of the chosen form.

The Punch Line..Lipsmakhan Taste... is a subtle play on the lips and kiss and is spin off of the English term Lipsmacking Taste, which simply implies that the Amul butter has an amazing taste.

The “Kiss of Love” protest was not a knee jerk reaction to the Downtown Café incident, but a pent up reaction to a series of instances of moral policing in Kerala. So , though, the idea of a protest received wide spread support but a call to openly kiss did not receive the same kind of acceptance. It appeared that some took it as a right for indulging in “in your face” public display of affection which irked the majority sentiment. Call it false morality or what you may, most of us are not comfortable with “lolling tongues” and drooling couples in our vicinity. Even Bollywood used embracing flowers or a raging fire to depict the “ultimate expression of love ” (or lust). In a country where Emraan Hashmi movies were considered soft porn, accepting lip locks as a form of public protest was a tad too much to accept. Most related it with their own children and disapproved of the form.

This is where the protest lost its zing and instead struggled for its own legitimacy.

It is well understood that protests need to be innovative to have an impact but the organisers got the form wrong. The focus should have been on the over reach of the “morchas” instead it became an effort towards making maximum lip locks possible with leery on lookers assembling for a free show.Women protestors being chased by hoodlums seeking “kisses of love” totally queered the pitch and the accompanying obscenities was totally avoidable.

Another aspect is that the Police never really arrested the hooligans indulging in violence at the protest venues but preemptively arrested the protestors on the pretext of maintaining public order as the yet-to-be-planted-kiss could invite an imaginary sucker punch from a real hoodlum present in the gathering. So who is a threat to public order? The real hoodlum or the hypothetical kisser?

Also while our “moral police” raves and rants about women’s hem lines and kissing in public it is conspicuously quiet about “pissing in public” .Why? Isn’t it obscene and unIndian? And while women are blamed for getting raped because of their dress where is the moral police when the need for community policing arises?

The Central Government maintained a studied silence and got blamed for soft pedaling on the issue of the “morchas” due to its own umbilical linkages with the Rashtriya Swamsewak Sangh (RSS). This will only encourage the obscurantist groups to try and apportion more and more of the social landscape and one fine day we will be like Pakistan.

“Kiss of Love” protests were an eye opener and a definitive moment when some amongst us tried to push back the tide of rising moral policing. Only that it got waylaid out of exuberance but still managed to leave a “bite” on the moral police’s hips. Vigilante groups have no sanction under law and they should be restrained at all costs. If they have a problem with a particular behavior then like all law abiding citizens they should approach the courts and not run riot.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner let’s get serious about getting the “morcha types” girlfriends as this will keep them away from smashing windows and chasing couples. Otherwise be prepared for a sucker punch heading your way and also ending up spending the night in a lock up while the “puncher” keeps counting his hits.