Tag Archives: Amul

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

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

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

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

Net neutrality?????

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this how we want the internet to function?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

“FREEZER “, “KISSING” & “TUNNU” BABAS – GODMEN GALORE AND THEIR TEMPLES OF DOOM !

In a country where a black cat can do what a traffic light can’t and where time is auspicious and not precious it’s natural to have your very own “customized” “Godman”, promising you salvation,and mercifully at cheap rates too. But with cheap rates – sleaze, avarice and crime also come cheap;sadly at the expense of the hapless victims of this Ungodly Man!

In late November, Satlok Ashram (hermitage) of self-styled “Godman” Sant Rampal, witnessed a pitched battle between his “private” army (Army of God? Mujahideen?) and the Police. Rampal, an erstwhile engineer, calls himself the “avatar” or reincarnation of a mystic poet Kabir. His stand off with the Police took place as he had been defying court orders to appear in relation to a case of inciting violence and murder ,dating back to 2006.

Rampal used 15000 disciples as “human shields” and caused the death of six people before finaly being arrested. Search revealed ostentatious opulence, sex literature, porn CDs and pregnancy kits from the “Godman’s” personal chamber and records of transfer of funds running into crores of rupees while the standoff was in progress. Rampal now stands accused of treason and sedition also . Definitely a first for a God!

There are others too in this Roll of “Honour”.

Asaram “Bapu” (father), preached the “existence of one supreme conscious”, but stood accused of murder and sex crimes while creating a Rupees 5000 crore empire. He and son Narayan Sai were arrested on charges of rape based on the complaint by a former disciple.The Police had to conduct a paternity test on the septugenarian “Godman” to get the charges to stick.Asaram passed with flying colours and the duo are still behind bars.

Please welcome Nirmal Baba- a failed businessman, who prescribes bizarre solutions for ushering in “kripa” (blessings),such as changing the “lal chutney” (red dip) for the “hari chutney” (green dip) while partaking the Indian snack “samosa” (???) and promises uninterrupted blessings for as less as Rupees 2000 (USD 30) to those who are gullible enough to believe him.He is presently facing charges of fraud leveled by some of his “now enlightened” followers.

“Freezer” Baba or Ashutosh Maharaj of the Divya Jyoti Jagran Samiti died on 29 January 14 but his body is still kept in a deep freezer by his disciples as they say he will awake again from “spiritual Samadhi”! His death is shrouded in mystery owing to land and wealth related issues.

“Kissing Baba” who hugged and kissed his devotees to remove their afflictions and problems, was recently arrested in Kaddapa.

We also had “Godman” Chandraswami who could supposedly “read minds” but was “famously” accused of gun running  and of being involved in Rajiv Gandhi’s murder. And Swami Premanand who produced “lingams” (male phallus) for select devotees (??), but only until he was arrested and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for raping 13 girls!!

But its Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ek Insaan-spiritual head of the Dera Sachcha Sauda takes the cake. He drives a Range Rover, wears rockstar clothes, has Z plus security status and is a “spiritual Mika” who has crooned Punjabi pop numbers such as “Love Charger” and “Atom Bomb” ! He is making his directorial and acting debut in the film MSG-The Messenger of God in which amongst other stunts he plays rugby to save the world! To round up the impressive CV, Rahim is accused of blasphemy, two rapes and two murders also!

The movie -MSG-The Messenger of God,starring Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim has run into serious trouble in Punjabi and has stoked communal embers  as it portrays him as an apostle of God. And also God himself!. It’s release is being opposed vehemently by the predominantly upper caste Sikhs and the ruling  Akali Dal.The Censor Board chief ,Leela Samson resigned citing political interference in by the ruling dispensation in according clearances to the movie which the board had denied on grounds of communal harmony.The matter went to the tribunal and is presently subjudice with the movie yet to be released.Meanwhile the opposing camps have only been becoming more belligerent and threatening violence against each other..all in the name of God.

The Amul ad on the movie MSG-The Messenger of God captures  the controversy regarding the Censor board certification.It shows a caricature depicting Ram Rahim in a costume worn by him in the movie and looking surprised at the cuts made by the Censor Board.It also shows a caricature depicting Leela Samson angrily walking out and a pen thrown on the ground showcasing the fiasco surrounding her sudden resignation . .The Amul Girl is witness to it all while a raging fire depicts the violence that has erupted because of  the controversial movie.

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The Tag Line…Sab  Godmal Hai. ..is a play on the Hindi word “golmaal” implying that everything is murky about the incident and also hints at the entire controversy being in the name of God – and in this case the Godman  of Dera Sachcha  Sauda.

The Punch Line..Messenger of Taste..is a play on  the name of the controversial movie and suggests that Amul is spreading a simpler message unlike others around us.

Getting back to the main theme.

The Amul Ad on Sant Rampal depicts the  carnage and fiasco at Satlok Ashram. It shows Rampal with his trademark hand gesture being nabbed by the Police. The battle gear of the Police, an upturned ashram and shadowy figures of the trapped disciples round off the scene,with the Amul Girl shown as a bystander.

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The Tag Line…Sharampal Baba?….is a take on the name “Rampal” and the urdu word “Sharam” meaning shame. It asks the simple question that isn’t this “Godman” ashamed of all that he has indulged in?

The Punch Line…Spread Amity and Amulity…is a message for these “Godmen” as also the society to spread peace and amity and a subtle play on the name Amul.

Religion in India is characterised by elitist rituals,schisms,exclusivity and “Godmen”  who have held sway over the minds of the excluded as well as the so called “privileged” groups.The “Deras” are a result of the former where the excluded classes have found a semblance of acceptability and also a sense of strength in numbers.Even the, affluent and the privileged get sucked into this whirlpool of religiosity.Since our childhood we are fed on a staple of “miracles” by saints and Gods we get drawn to modern day “super healers” and “Godmen”.These then conjure fake miracles and prey on our need to lean on a superior power.

Once the “Godman” has sufficient following he is then a mascot for the politicians who intend exploiting the crowd pulling power of these “saints” for their electoral gains. And the “Godman” then perpetuates more power and wealth. A self-sustaining cycle is thus in place and includes the most demeaning aspect of sexual exploitation of the disciples.

The misdeeds and ungodly conduct of the “Godmen” are well documented yet we allow this charade to continue.It is because of the “disciples”; they are the biggest perpetrators of this misery.Seeking redemption and solace these mindless herds flock in thousands to any new wonder magician claiming to be the reincarnation of any deity under the sun.These disciples allow themselves to be fooled and start believing in their “Gods” and their machinations and contribute to the perpetuation of various myths surrounding the “Godman”; the most common being some wonder “vibhuthi” (holy ash) or concoction or potion which cures all ils except superstition !

Superstition and lack of rationality perpetuate undying loyalty to the chosen “Godman”.Its an amazingly successful “business model” and all that is required is to master a  few scriptures, voice modulation,a PR agency,handful of congregations and a sleight of hand for tricks packaged as miracles.Of course a pliant section of the media too.Then in 2 to 3 years anyone can become a “Godman” and then carry on with his legacy and whence the politco-religious nexus is complete he can unleash his perversion on the hapless yet culpable devotees.

Why is this phenomenon successful in India?Well, when the mere ability to sign ones name is considered a benchmark for literacy then true knowledge and rationality will surely give way to robed charlatans and their antics. QED!

The negative manifestations of the “Godman phenomenon” are also and undeniable result of the mixing up of politics, religion and democracy and its exploitation by the politicians. This prevents our government of the day from taking resolute action against frauds and charlatans and encourages them to inflict misery and  chicanery on the hapless (yet culpable) disciples.

To round up, I suggest that the next “Godman” should name himself “Frauddy Baba” as the name itself would be a disclaimer and he could then indulge in all that he desires!

POST SCRIPT

Related to the subject is the recently released Raj Kumar Hirani directed and Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma starrer “PK” which is a satire on the business of “Godmen”.The movie has become the highest grossing Bollywood flick but has run into serious trouble with right wing Hindu organisations protesting the supposed denigration of the religion in the movie.

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A previous Amul ad on “PK” depicted a controversial nude poster of Aamir Khan for the promotion of the movie and the Amul Girl is shown wearing an attire which was worn by Aamir Khan in one of the scenes of the movie. The tag line and the punch line are a play on the name of the movie and the fact that Aamir bared all in this venture.

The protests against the movie inspired another Amul ad.The ad shows a  caricature depicting Aamir Khan as PK and borrows from a scene in the movie wherein PK shows the contents of his briefcase to his friend Jaggu, played by Anushka Sharma. Here Amul butter blocks are shown in the briefcase with the Amul girl depicting Jaggu in a similar attire as in the movie.

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The Tag Line Don’t Bhaste It,Taste it…has borrowed the word “bhaste” from a song in the movie which is but a demented pronunciation of the word “waste”.It subtly implores people to watch the movie and not to ruin it by baying for its banning.

The Punch Line… Tarray it ,Please…is an oblique exhortation to the public to try the Amul butter as also a clever play on the heavily accented eastern dialect of the central character PK and it obliquely exhorts the people to at least watch the movie and to give it a try before dismissing it out rightly.

The controversy was needless and most on ground were protesting without having watched the movie itself.And if there was anything to be protested about then it was he blatant misuse of a gullible man’s faith to perpetuate practices and superstitions as highlighted in the movie.

MODI IN SIACHEN: BETWEEN MANTO AND A HOT DIWALI ROCKET !

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated Diwali with the Indian Army soldiers in Siachen, it captured the nation’s imagination. On the back of resounding election victories and a successful US visit this was a political “masterstroke” which was bound to bolster his political star.

At 5 AM on 24th October, there was a desperate knock on the bed room door of Nawaz Sharif. It was the Pakistan Army Chief, Raheel Sharif. He informed a bemused Nawaz that Modi was on his way to Siachen and that Pakistan HAD to respond at all costs. And that too soon.

Still wearing his pink coloured polka dotted night suit, Nawaz Sharif was bundled into a chopper heading to the Pakistan side of the Saltoro Ridge which houses the Siachen Glacier.As Modi was reportedly wearing two jackets in the icy heights, the Pakistan Army thought their PM would look “macho” without wearing even one !!!

Without a jacket, Nawaz Sharif developed delirium and started praising Modi for his adroit sense of politics and shouted that “Pakistan mein bhi Modi Sarkar” !!!! Fearing embarrassment, the Pakistan Army chopper was ordered to abort mission!

Modi’s surprise visit to the “world’s highest battlefield” had claimed its first unintended victim.

The Indian PM was to initially mark Diwali in flood hit Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). Intending to send across a message he also added Siachen to his itenary. This was to be the first visit in a decade by an Indian PM to Siachen Glacier (which in Balti means ” Land with an abundance of roses”; an irony indeed )During the visit to the glacier he flew over the Indian Army positions,visited the Base Camp,addressed the troops as well as interacted with them over a cup of tea.

Modi expressed solidarity with the soldiers and conveyed to them the Nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices of the Indian Army. He also commended the Army’s rescue effort during the recent floods in Kashmir and assured that prickly and emotive issues such as modernization, One Rank One Pension and a National War Memorial will be addressed satisfactorily.

The sub text of the visit was also unmistakable as the PM was visiting a difficult battle zone in the backdrop of his decisive and firm response to Pakistan’s trans LC firing. And with a strategic connivance of China and Pakistan converging in Kashmir, his visit held massive significance.

By now the opposition had woken up to the news of the latest Modi manouevre. Dear ol’ “Pappu” was confused as to why was Modi visiting Siachen on Halloween and claiming it was Diwali ??? Halloween???Someone quickly went an placed an earthen pot on his head lest he called a press conference to “expose” facts which would decimate his Indian National Congress (INC) to the extent that all its members would only be acting in Ram Leela for the next few decades or so. Pappu of course would struggle to get the role of even a tree in the “Ashok Vatika”!

Modi was also visiting Srinagar and this gave the opposition a whiff of a chance to get back into the “game”.Spokespersons and leaders such as Rashid Alvi (Congress),Anwar Ali (JDU), Tariq Anwar insinuated that Modi’s real intent in going to Srinagar was to further his Party’s prospects in the upcoming elections in J&K. Irrespective of the truth, not one demonstrated neither compassion for the flood victims nor solidarity with the soldiers. All that mattered was “the Party line”. For this unbridled buffoonery all  of them have qualified for an all-expenses paid 9 nights and 10 days on Bana Top, a post at 22000 ft! Of course without jackets !

The Amul Ad/ topical on Narendra Modi’s Siachen visit is based on a photo of the PM during his  visit, wherein he is depicted as seated and patting a dog with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Dalbir Singh Suhag and another officer are present in the background.A smiling Amul Girl is shown as the dog handler. The detailing is good as the characters are identifiable by their attire during the actual event.

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The Tag LineSiachen Jahan Se Achchais a take on the popular patriotic Urdu poem “Saare Jahan se achcha Hindustan Hamara” by Muhammad Iqbal (also known as Allama Iqbal) and conveys Modi’s intent in celebrating Diwali in Siachen rather than any other place in the world. Ironically the creators have chosen a tag line to depict Siachen – a battle zone between India and Pakistan – from the works of a poet who was later the ideologue behind the idea of Pakistan. (Iqbal composed this poem as the Taranah -e- Hind in 1904 and his transformation from a secular poet to an ideologue of a future Muslim society was complete when in 1910 he composed the Taranah -e-Milli ,an ode to the greatness of Islam).

The Punch LineTop of the worldsignifies the giddy heights at Siachen and relates it to the status of Amul Butter as being on top of its trade!

There’s been much speculation about whether the dog with Modi depicted was a adopted stray or a trained canine serving alongside the troops? It reminds me of Sadat Hasan Manto’s short story “The Dog of Tithwal” wherein the Indian and Pakistani troops name the same stray dog as “Jhun Jhun” and “Shun Shun” respectively. And to underscore the situation of the time the dog is expected to choose nationalities.It later loses its life when he is shot at by both sides.

To lift the veil, the dog in the strip is named Deva and it’s a Great Swiss Mountain Dog serving as a combatant with an Indian Army Dog Unit and is trained for Avalanche Rescue Operations.

Its important for us all to realize that Siachen is one of the key national efforts and the PM’s visit has gone a long way in endorsing the fact. Some columnist have also observed that Modi has re-established the “institutional relevance of the military” in nation building. His visit endorses the Government’s commitment towards defence related issues, be they operational or administrative in nature.

Modi’s visit was like a well-made Diwali rocket which had the intended effect its fired for – loud and spectacular. Its just that some in the opposition felt its hot end finding its mark on them !!!

After having walked to the Base Camp the onus is on Modi to walk the talk.He will need to back his words with deeds and resist the temptation to use the military as an expedient for his political agenda.Genuine or rhetorical – the true import of his actions will emerge as time goes by. Mr Modi, history and the thousands of families who have given martyrs to this country are watching you intently.Fail at your peril !

Meanwhile, taking a leaf out of Modi’s book, Mulayam Singh Yadav has decided to express solidarity with “his” troops over Christmas.He is visiting the buffaloes in his native Saifai !!!

 

MONEY OFTEN COSTS TOO MUCH & “BLACK MONEY” MUCH MORE !!!

No one would acknowledge the title of the post more than the Finance Minister (FM) Arun Jaitley. Black money may or may not come back but the FM is surely scoring some self goals and giving black eyes to his government while trying to defend the indefensible.Reputation at stake, the NDA regime has some deft handling to do or else “Kaale din aane waale hain” !!!

In 2011, a stolen CD containing details of HSBC accounts and a purported statement of the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) claiming that Indians had deposited USD 1.4 trillion in Swiss vaults brought the spot light on the retreival of black money.782 names from the CD were handed over by the French to the Indian government.The Supreme Court (SC) of India directed the government to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to deal with the issue.

The UPA regime dragged its feet for 3 years and also did not declare the names siting “confidentiality clauses” in its Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAA) with various countries. The BJP, in opposition, attacked the UPA regime over this issue and promised that, if voted to power they would secure the entire black money in 100 days and from within it deposit rupees 15 lakhs in the account of every Indian!

In April 2014 the UPA regime however did share 26 names of “blackiyas” with the SC.

In May 2014 the NDA regime took over and promptly constituted the SIT.By now additional 627 names of “blackiyas” had been received from various countries including Switzerland.Three names were made public (Pradip Burman,Radha Timblo and Pankaj Lodhya ) and the FM cited the UPA’s “confidentiality clause” to not reveal the entire list.The BJP was now accused of doing a “U -turn” on the issue.

The government contented that it was bound by treaty obligations to make the names public only if the alleged “blackiyas” were to be found prima facie guilty of tax evasion.Otherwise it would impinge on their privacy (!!!) guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.The FM also alleged that it was the DTAA signed by the Congress in 1995 which was today a stumbling block. Later the Congress stated that the DTAA in question was signed in 1996 when it wasn’t even in power and that the subsequent NDA regime had signed 18 similar DTAAs! Then why was the BJP blaming the Congress alone?

The SC threw out the government’s contention and sought the names in a sealed envelope.Accused of shielding the “backiyas” the humiliated FM beat a hasty retreat and eventually handed over “the list” to the SC.

But the damage had been done.Narendra Modi’s government was facing its first major political embarrassment and was unable to explain its actions. One of its major poll planks was now haunting it.

But they weren’t the only ones getting the jitters.

Pending the handing over of the names reports came in of water shortage in plush areas all over India as the occupants were seen spending too much time flushing water in the washrooms.

Wives handing over grocery lists found their husbands jumping and sitting on ceiling fans to stay as far away as possible from any “list”.

Lines to Switzerland were busy all day with banks being told by the account holders that they would be shortly forwarding their own death certificates ! Swiss bankers being sticklers insisted that till the deceased did not come and prove he was indeed deceased the name would continue to figure in “the list” !!!(ISD call ke paise bhi kharab hue!!!)

Barbers had a field day as they realised all that they had to mention was “black money” and  the hair of their customers would stand on its end and make it ever so simple for the barber to ply his trade !!

Opposition parties convinced people that the government was planning to label the income generated out of milching black buffaloes as “black money” ! Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad have since painted their buffaloes saffron, green and white ! Bharat Mata ki Jai !!!

Arvind Kejriwal hollered himself hoarse over the issue but i think before he does anything about “kala dhan” he should cure is “kaali khansi”.

Last but not the least,the FM is still washing the smear from his face.

The Amul ad/ topical ob Black Money  is inspired by the ruling BJPs supposed U-turn on the issue of retrieving the ill gotten gains.It shows a caricature depicting a politician furtively inspecting his loot in a vault with the Amul Girl making a sudden entry with the keys of the vault and indicating that the game’s up!

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The Tag Line...Going Black on Promises.… is a nice play on the term “black money” as well as the aborted volte face by the BJP led government.The white crosses on the “o’s” in the red font draw on the Swiss connection.

The Punch Line….Indian Butter not Swiss Cheezproclaims Amul butter as truly Indian and not a Swiss product with the word “cheez” implying an object but at the same time being a play on the “Swiss Cheese”.

It needs to be understood that black money is what is generated after tax evasion however in financial parlance there’s “red money” too where the source of the income itself is illicit and unknown.The government in its affidavit has focused only on tax evasion and has inadvertently clubbed “red & black money”. Red money is the bigger of the evils and tax havens exist only to chanellise it back into the global economy.It is imperative to retrieve and declare the names of the red money account holders as well.

The UPA and the BJP both seem to be in cahoots and need to explain their actions, especially their reluctance and rationale for seeking refuge in confidentiality for data obtained illegally and irrationally under the DTAA.

A word of caution for Narendra Modi.The Nation has given him a mandate for change and a fiasco of  this magnitude will eventually render him a lame duck PM. He must resolve this issue in the best interests of India or else this incident can cost the government its credibility….and much more!