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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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POST SCRIPT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

R.I.P AAP !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hereon, Manjhi took off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But for Arvind Kejriwal, Manjhi was almost home !

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

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

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

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

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

They stink.

POST SCRIPT  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#WontGiveItBack !

POST SCRIPT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19th March 15; Melbourne Cricket Ground

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

FIGHTING TERROR IN THE TIME OF NAYSAYERS !

In the dying moments of 2014, there was a high octane drama unfolding off the Gujarat coastintercepts suggested that a suspicious fishing boat was heading from Pakistan towards India with not so noble intentions,relayed in real time to the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) it resulted in a high speed chase and eventually then a fiery end for the boat, its cargo and all aboard! Was terror plot averted? Or was it a maritime “encounter” with a “staged chase” at the centre of it all ?

Early on 31st December 2014 the National Technical Research Organiation (NTRO) intercepted Thurayya set conversations off the Gujarat coast, between a vessel and its Pakistani handlers who talked of unloading unspecified “valuable cargo” in the vicinity of Porbander. This possibly involved 2 other vessels, all from the Pakistani port of Keti Bander. The message was promptly relayed to the ICG and the Indian Navy (IN) and by evening two fly overs by a Dornier reconnaissance plane positively identified it to be a small fishing boat, which was 365 km off the Indian coast and heading towards Porbander. The ICGS Rajratna was launched to intercept this “uninvited guest” and an hour long chase ensued. A few warning shots and edgy minutes later the boat was set alight by four persons on board who initially hid below deck. Later a huge explosion destroyed the boat and its crew and no remains or debris could be retrieved due to weather and sea conditions.

 The ICG and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) recorded all of the above issues as part of their press release and that the boat was planning some “illicit transaction”. No mention was made of any purported terror plot as that was yet to be ascertained.

Since the incident happened in the backdrop of renewed firing on the Line of Control and the strained India-Pakistan relations, the media raised the pitch celebrated it as a foiling of a terror plot.

This Amul advertisement on the Indian Coast Guard depicts the Amul Girl standing alongside two caricatures depicting the Coast Guard personnel on the deck of an ICGS. A reconnaissance helicopter completes the picture of vigilance.A small fishing boat in the background is a reminder of the incident which which inspired the strip.

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The Tag Line…A Toast to the Coast Guard…is celebrating the prompt action of the ICG.

The Punch Line…Guard against uninvited guests !….is more a statement on the suspicious boat trying to breach Indian coastal security than for the Amul brand itself.

Then most interestingly we had naysayers coming up with their stories with an alarming regularity and conviction, which suggested they were perhaps amongst the 4 crew members of the star crossed boat.

Manu Pubby of India Today called this an “encounter” and Sunetra Choudhry of NDTV doubted as to how the MoD knew the boat was going to do some “illicit transaction”.Praveen Swami of the Indian Express was the most vociferous and he came out with a piece debunking the official version totally.

Swami doubted India’s claims of “destroying” a terror boat” as “highly placed government sources” told him there wasn’t any terror link at all”. He quoted more “sources” to state that the boat belonged to small time smugglers from Keti Bandar and was ferrying “bootleg cargo” from Gwadar to Karachi. Further “three naval officers” stated there could not have been a chase at all as the larger ICGS would have easily outran the hapless fishing boat. He finally insinuated that “disproportionate” and “lethal” force was used to “destroy” the boat and that the official line was a cover up of sorts. Swami doubted the inability to retrieve debris etc. by quoting an open source site to point out that the contrary to the official version the weather and sea conditions on that fateful night were perfect ! He also blamed the NTRO for violating laid down procedures in sharing information.

This “source and evidence” infested article evoked interest internationally with many Pakistani channels using it to stoke the embers of the “staged chase” theory. It contributed largely to the perception that the Indian Government was fabricating facts for ulterior motives and cast a serious doubt on the credibility of the ICG and created a needless controversy.

Swami tried to showcase his reach but in actuality was dishing out, as one observer has put it, stenography in place of investigative journalism.

Firstly,who said anything about a terror plot or the “destroying” of a “terror boat”? It was consistently stated that the boat was set alight by its crew and that it was out to carry out “illicit transaction”. This was vindicated when India Today and Aaj Tak accessed the transcripts and reported that the Pakistani handlers, including the Army, constantly monitored and instructed the ill-fated boat and two others, which were later ordered to abort mission and return. All actions by the crew were known to and approved by the Pakistani handlers, who even spoke about suitably compensating the families of the 4 dead.

Then, If these were smugglers on the Gwadar –Karachi route why were they 400 miles south of an obviously easterly course and into an unfrequented stretch of Indian waters? Any experienced hand will tell you that smugglers tend to stick to busy sea lanes to merge into the trawler traffic and not venture as lone wolves waiting to become headlines! And if it was boot leg cargo only why did the occupants of the boat set it afire when they could have simply dumped the cargo in the sea???

Swami claims a “staged chase” as the ICGS would have easily outran the fishing boat and also that the weather conditions were clear and the sea calm. But the Indian Meteorological Department (IMT) talks of disturbances and poor visibility for the period in question. Yes, an ICGS can easily outrun a small boat anytime but on a choppy sea the scenario is entirely different especially with the prey carrying out evasive actions too. It seems Swami’s “open source” web site was referring to some intergalactic as yet undiscovered sea on planet Z67TREW2 and probably the IMT too involved in a grand conspiracy hatched by the Indian Government to establish its robust security credentials? Seems Mr Swami watched “Knight and Day” and “Tomorrow Never Dies” just before penning his article.

He also paints the ICG as wanton marauders keen on using “disproportionate” and “lethal” force. But are the ICG so daft as to destroy the boat knowing that absence of debris and the culprits will leave them with egg on their faces? And is their 12.7mm gun so potent as to set alight plastic explosives and diesel, both of which are not known to burn easily. Rajnikant would accomplish this with his eyes but it’s beyond the ICG for sure.

Swami is partially right regarding the NTRO’s actions as the latter crucially left out the Intelligence Bureau and the maritime and coastal Police in Gujarat and Maharashtra from the info sharing loop.

However,the alacrity of the ICG cannot be faulted .In 1993 it was the same Porbander coast where the explosives for the Bombay blasts were landed. The 26/11 Mumbai attacks too were set into motion by the hijacking of a small fishing boat, Kuber. So what’s the harm if the ICG wanted to be doubly sure especially since the incident was happening in the backdrop of the Vibrant India Summit being held in Gujarat?

The Pappu led, Indian National Congress (INC) seemed all at sea in its attempt to  politicize the issue.It bemoaned “civilian” deaths at sea (now how were they so sure of it?) and then asked the government to “come clean” with the facts,as if it was the PM himself who was at the helm of the sunken boat! Manish Tewari coined a lovely term and accused the government of being “chaperones of terror” (which means?)Some even wanted to know which “terror outfit” was behind the incident and if the government failed to provide the name then they blame it for obfuscating facts.

In a world where terror can be wrought upon the public from air, sea and land and the internet,what harm will it do to initiate the preventive measures whenever there’s even an iota of doubt? And this boat and its crew were suspicious by any count,especially when seen in conjunction with the intercepts.Every lead is to be investigated and struck down otherwise the prospects are ghastly to say the least. It’s important for the media to behave responsibly and to neither prematurely celebrate nor denigrate matters pertaining to national security. All this eventually contributes towards developing uncertainty in the minds of the security forces, which can one day prove counter-productive for national security. Even politicians should shun petty bickering in favour of national security otherwise they  are only compromising on national interests.

It was a bizarre sequence of events with stenographers serenading as journalists and clowns masquerading as politicians. I don’t advocate that no scrutiny be carried out.But base it on considered thoughts. Journalists and politicians need to be restrained and not embark on personal glory hunting at the cost of the nation’s image and security. I don’t remember any one asking George Bush to “come clean” when conspiracy theories emerged regarding the 9/11 World Trade  Centre attacks.

At least something should be sacrosanct.

I wonder if Swami and the political lot would dare to try similar antics with the IS,if they were citizens in the newly established Caliphate ?

18 February 15; the ICG finds itself in more controversy when it’s DIG,BK Loshali was quoted from what he reportedly told a gathering of guests during th launch of ICGS C-421in Surat that he ordered the blowing off of the Pakistani boat as he didn’t want to “serve them biryani” after arresting the crew. 

This directly contradicts the government’ stance regarding the crew setting the boat alight . Loshali has clarified that he was quoted out of context and his comments have been blown out of proportion.He also says that he wasn’t in charge of  the operation hence could not have ordered the blowing up of the boat

This once again rakes up the controversy and Manish Tewari of the INC, not learning any lessons, has tweeted that he is worried about the civilian deaths if these were not terrorists.

I think expecting full time politicians to place national issues over their petty 2 bit hassles is a bit too much actually. And Mr Loshali too should be served some biryani so he would keep away from speaking out of turn.Lets all just wait for the final report an if there’s a discrepancy then the government should not dither in disclosing it so that vital lessons are learnt.

Till  then let’s just hold our horses or shall I say  -our  plates of biryani! 

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 !

IPL SPOT FIXING SAGA: INDIAN CRICKET’S “WATERGATE” MOMENT !

Cricketer Sreesanth’s use of towels to spot fix during the Indian Premier League season 6 (I8PL 6) led to the biggest scandal that rocked the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as well as the IPL. Its flames engulfed Sreesanth and eventually the BCCI too. Finally, it was left to the the Supreme Court of India (SC) to resurrect the game of cricket in India. Ranbir Kapoor knows that a towel can make a career but now, BCCI President N Srinivasan’s and Sreesanth both know that it can mar careers too.

Spot fixing should have never surprised us Indians as we have been throwing hankies to reserve seats in buses and local trains, yet the IPL spot fixing incident became a major controversy and opened a Pandora’s Box for many others.

Gurunath Meiyappan, son in law of N Srinivasan and Team Principal of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) was arrested for betting and so was Raj Kundra, co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals (RR). BCCI appointed an enquiry committee but its ability to conduct a fair probe was always suspect till such time Srinivasan continued to don his twin hats as BCCI President and co-owner at CSK. Expectedly, retired judges Chowta and Subramaniam found nothing against anyone! The findings were challenged by the “unrecognized” Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB) in the the Bombay High Court which annulled the enquiry findings. BCCI contested this in the SC but the latter disagreed and instead instituted its own enquiry – the Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee.

And this was the turning point.

Mudgal Committee indicted Meiyappan and Kundra for betting and revealed involvement of some players too whose names were withheld. It was critical of IPL CEO, Sundar Raman for frequently communicating with a bookie. And suggested that Srinivasan be further investigated for his role in the entire matter ranging from fixing to attempted cover up. In light of the new facts the SC empowered the same committee to further investigate the matter.

The final Mudgal Committee Report was submitted in November 2014 and confirmed its findings against Meiyappan, Kundra and Sunder Raman. Meiyappan who was earlier termed as a mere “cricket enthusiast” (for enthusiastically sharing information with bookies !!!) by India cements to insulate CSK from possible termination from the IPL was confirmed to be a team official of the CSK. Srinivasan was exonerated of betting and fixing charges but not of attempted “cover up”. Some names were again withheld. Indian Captain MS Dhoni was speculatively dragged in as the mysterious Individual No 2 in the report, whom Individual No 1 (Meiyappan) frequently met to discuss team strategy of CSK and later passed the same details to betting syndicates.

A previous Amul ad on the Mudgal Committee shows a caricature depicting Justice Mudgal and the Amul Girl (as a lawyer) conferring while a player in whites is crying and holding his head in shame, which probably represents the game of cricket.

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The Tag Line , “Muh Khol Mudgal”, translates to “open your mouth” and in the light of the controversy exhorts the committee to come out in the open with all its findings. The Punch Line, subtly hints at the importance of the report as also of Amul Butter.

To take matters further, Srinivasan clearly had a conflict of interest while being BCCI President and took refuge under the BCCI’s amended rule 6.2.4 which allowed administrators running the game to have commercial interests in it as well. BCCI subsequently defended this clause unabashedly in the SC. The crude attempts to alter the status of Meiyappan to “enthusiast” and the alleged role of Dhoni and Srinivasan to support this fallacious claim exposed the entrenched interests. BCCI was also shown to be incapable and unwilling to introduce internal censure and probity and shamefully, contested the powers of the court to constitute an independent enquiry. Most glaringly, BCCI claimed immunity from the courts on the premise that it was a private society and not a public body hence its governing rules were not under the law of the land!

N Srinivasan was exposed as a megalomaniac intent on protecting his interests. Repulsively, Srinivasan wanted to investigate CSK, Meiyappan and others as BCCI President itself when he had such obvious conflict of interest. He fought tooth and nail to prove that he had none and with each assertion exposed himself further.

In spite of the SC’s suggestion, Srinivasan refused to step down as BCCI President to allow for a fair probe. This disgusting scenario presented the bookies with “windfall gains” as they were now betting on Srinivasan’s “would he, wont he” until the SC forced him out. It seems Srinivasan had imbibed the properties of the product being sold by his company India Cements. Luckily it doesn’t sell adhesives like Araldite or Fevicol in addition to the cement!!!

The AGM of the BCCI to elect new office bearers was also postponed by the SC beyond the present term which ended in September 2014, as it felt that the findings of the Mudgal Committee needed to be taken to their logical conclusion. Nauseatingly, Srinivasan still sought reinstatement as BCCI President, much after his official term had already expired. BCCI insisted that it will constitute its own “ethics commission” to implement remedial measures against those found indicted! This was but a vacuous claim which found no favour with SC. To accentuate the competing interests in the India’s cricket administration set up, ex IPL czar Lalit Modi admitted financing the “unrecognized” CAB (all cricket enthusiasts) in its fight against the BCCI and Srinivasan.

Consequent to the filing of the final report, marathon hearings were conducted in the SC during November / December 2014 in which the issue of conflict of interest haunted Srinivasan.Finally, in its January 2015 verdict, the SC endorsed the Mudgal Committees findings against Meiyappan, Kundra and Sunder Rajan. It found CSK and RR guilty of misconduct on the basis of the actions of its officials and owners. It exonerated Srinivasan of “cover up” charges but only for lack of evidence. And most importantly ruled that he had a conflict of interest and struck down the pernicious and contentious clause 6.2.4 of the BCCI. It also barred individuals with commercial interest in cricket from holding a position in the BCCI. And directed that if Srinivasan wanted to contest elections he would have to give up his stake in CSK.

The SC also set up a separate panel under retired CJI, RS Lodha to introduce transparency and accountability in the functioning of the BCCI to help it to gain “institutional integrity”. It will formulate rules to streamline issues of conflict of interest, to stipulate guidelines for the conduct of elections and for any other measure deemed fit for the functioning of the BCCI. It shall also finalise the punishment for the guilty in the entire IPL spot fixing fiasco.The recommendations of the panel shall be binding on the BCCI.

By this the SC has settled the insidious claim that BCCI wasn’t under the jurisdiction of the courts for once and for all. It’s shameful that it fell upon the SC to clean up the BCCI’s mess and to restore the public’s faith in the game. Hopefully this hiding will transform the moral landscape of the hitherto fore opaque and unscrupulous functioning of the BCCI.

This Amul ad profiles the post SC verdict scenario facing N Srinivasan. A caricature depicting him,replete with his trademark red teeka,  is weighing his options with a white flanelled cricketer representing Indian Cricket ,probably Virat Kohli and a yellow flannelled cricketer representing CSK,probably MS Dhoni, forming two sides of a balance.The Amul girl is missing from this piece.

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The Tag Line... Board? Cement? Chennai? India?  ..with initial capitals in red is a play on the Hobson’s choice imposed on Srinivasan regarding contesting elections to the BCCI.He will have to choose and choose he must.

The Punch Line Chairman of Butters endorses the Amul product line and is a veiled hint at the President’s job at stake in the BCCI.

This strip is rightly about N Srinivasan, as eventually it was he who stood between the BCCI and efforts to restore faith and probity in the game.

The verdict of the SC has triggered the fall of the most powerful BCCI President ever, just like it happened for Richard Nixon in the Watergate Scandal, and even that started with a cover up of sorts which was never proven! Like Watergate, it is proven that no one is above the law. Power could neither save President Nixon nor Srinivasan. And lastly, akin to Watergate, sports administrators will now value judicious conduct and avoid being brazen and arrogant

But what a paradox that all the trouble was taken to investigate betting in cricket, a game which commences with betting itself – the toss of the coin.

And btw you can make a career without a towel too. Ask Sunny Leone!

28th February 15;N Srinivasan has tendered unconditional apology to the SC for presiding over the working committee meet of the BCCI in spite of the apex court order of 22 Jan 15 ,specifically barring him from doing so.Srinivasan has expressed regret by saying that he misunderstood the order and “went by its letter and not spirit”.

Accepting the apology the SC allowed Srinivasan to attend the AGM meeting of the BCCI on 2nd Mar 15 and cast the vote as the representative of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association  (TNCA) for the election of the BCCI President.Had Srinivasan not apologised he would have lost stake in the crucial elections.Though barred from any administrative appointment in the BCCI he has substantial interests in BCCI and the IPL and would like to have retain de facto influence over the cash rich cricket body.

2nd March 15; Jagmohan Dalmiya made a remarkable comeback as the BCCI President,ten years after he was banished from the organisation over embezzlement charges.He had sensed an opportunity when Srinivasan was barred from contesting by the SC and went on to successfully lobby for himself as the consensus candidate of all factions including the Sharad Pawar and the Srinivasan group.

This speaks volumes about Dalmiya’s propensity for manoeuvre as also the lure of the post as all factions now have managed to protect their interests and secure their slice of the pie by having a common candidate .

Dalmiya’s comeback is remarkable as he was.once a pariah and today the same organisation has elected him unopposed.This also sends signals about the fact that the satraps in the BCCI have no intention of letting their grip loosen over its affairs as also that they will try every  trick in the trade to protect and perpetuate their interests.Election of a 74 year old corruption tainted well entrenched man doesn’t bode well for the future of cricket administration especially when the BCCI considers itself above the law of the land.

Power…money…politics…

It’s in this backdrop that the Justice Lodha commission has to suggest measures for reforms in  the BCCI.And the work of this committee now becomes ever more crucial.