Monday, 18 May 2009
1. The Right didn't win. But, nor did the Left. The good news: If 2004 saw the Left's best ever performance, 2009 saw its worst ever. Mauled by the fiery Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, India's red bastion of three decades crumbled. The Left won in just 15 of the 42 seats in the state and its net tally came down by 20. In its other bastion Kerala, it won just 4 of the 20 seats. Its countrywide tally of 24 is its worst ever.
2. Mulayam Singh's SP lost its opportunity to be kingmaker. Its UP tally dropped by 13. It is now down to just 22 seats. And even as the Congress indicated that it may not need the SP's company, Amar Singh met the PM and offered support. As if he had any other choice. Out of power in UP, the Samajwadis didn't want to lose out on the clout in Delhi too. The good news: Parties that want to ban English and computers are out.
3. Out goes Mayawati from the power corridors of New Delhi, at least for 5 years. The good news: Leaders who want to erect statues of themselves all over the place, build nothing else but memorials and whose partymen routinely kill people who are unable to contribute to party funds are out. Mayawati's party may have increased its net tally by 2 seats but at 21, it is nowhere near the 40 - 50 that most analysts were predicting. (Even I had grudgingly given 30 seats to the BSP in my analysis but had made it clear that I would not want her in any seat of power in Delhi.)
4. Laloo and Paswan, two blatantly casteist leaders are out and Bihar can get to see some good governance under Nitish Kumar. Paswan's LJP won no seat with Paswan himself losing. Laloo Yadav's RJD did a tad better than LJP. It won 4 seats even as its tally dropped by 20. The good news: This is the best news that the people of Bihar can ever get.
And yeah, so I'm one happy man today!
Thursday, 14 May 2009
First, Jayalalitha spoke in fairly fluent Hindi while campaigning for Mulayam in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections of 2007. She attacked Sonia Gandhi over Quatrochi. Her pet slogan was ' E hai Mulayam is vatan me, Ek hai chanda jaise gagan me,.' (There is one and only one Mulayam just like there is only one moon on the horizon.) A small clipping of her speech be found at here.
Then came Karunanidhi, who considers himself to be the protector of the Tamil race. He quoted a Hindi couplet on communal harmony after a backlash over his comments on Ram. Earlier arguing in favor of the Sethusamudram Canal Project, Karuna had called Lord Ram a drunkard and questioned his 'engineering expertise to build the Ram Setu'. A video showing Karuna reciting the couplet is here.
But, while the politicians themselves speak in Hindi when it suits them or when they have to please their northern allies, they lose no time in recalling the protests of 1960s whenever they feel they are losing ground to the other before elections. However, Jaya has always been a bit more soft towards Hindi. Even in a recent panel discussion on the news channel Times Now, her partyman Maitreyan began his answer to anchor Arnab Goswami's question in Hindi. This video can be found here.
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh
We start with India's crown Jammu & Kashmir. BJP may be an untouchable in Kashmir but will most likely win both the seats in Jammu keeping in sync with its performance in the Assembly elections last year riding on the Amarnath agitation wave. Then, in the hill state of Himachal, BJP is likely to win 3 of the 4 seats riding on the development agenda of the Prem Kumar Dhumal government.
Punjab and Haryana
Punjab is not going to be so easy for the BJP - SAD combine because of Parkash Singh Badal's family politics. (Shiromani Akali Dal chief Badal is CM, his son Sukhbir Badal is Deputy CM, his nephew is finance minister. Plus, his son-in-law is there in the cabinet too. And, Sukhbir's brother-in-law (Sukhbir's wife's brother) is a minister too.). The BJP - SAD combine won 11 of the 13 seats (SAD - 8 & BJP - 3) last time. This time, they may win around 6 or 7 (BJP - 2 & SAD - 5) if the Sikh anger over Congress works in favor of the combine. In neighboring Haryana, the BJP is now allied with the INLD unlike in 2004. The Congress government of Bhupinder Singh Hooda seems quite fine on the issue of development but the alliance might just help the BJP better its score of 1 in 2004. In 2009, I predict the BJP - INLD combine to win 6 seats, with both parties sharing the honors equally.
Then, comes the NCT of Delhi. In 2004, the BJP had one just one of the seven seats. V. K. Malhotra had won the posh South Delhi Lok Sabha seat, largely due to the Punjabi vote. In fact, the victory was a foregone conclusion. But, post - delimitation, South Delhi is no longer that posh seat and has large chunks of urban villages from the erstwhile Outer Delhi constituency. And even Malhotra is no longer in the fray. But, the Sikh anger over 1984 may lead to the party winning a couple of seats this time around, especially after Jarnail Singh's shoe throwing incident at Home Minister P. Chidambaram.
UP and Uttarakhand
Before we look at Uttar Pradesh, we'll look at the other hill state of Uttarakhand that has 5 seats. Here again, CM B. C. Khanduri's development agenda will get the party at least 3 of the 5 seats. Now, we go to UP. BJP would surely love to do a 1996 or 1998 in UP. Those were the years when the Ram wave swept the state and the BJP walked away with 50 of the 80 seats. Now, there is no such Ram wave. But, there are other factors that will favor the BJP. Firstly, the Brahmin - Dalit alliance of Mayawati is beginning to show cracks. And, people have begun to see that the dalit ki beti is as good as Mulayam. The criminal - politician nexus and jungle raj, that Maya promised to replace, continue and government officials who refuse to contribute to BSP funds are murdered. This has led to disenchantment among the people. Secondly, the Congress and SP are fighting alone. Thirdly, the BJP has now a new NDA partner, the RLD that is somewhat of a force in Western UP. (RLD is contesting 7 seats.). Fourthly, Muslims are disenchanted with SP due to its alliance with Kalyan Singh and more so, because senior SP leader Azam Khan is openly in revolt. This may split the Muslim vote further between the SP, BSP and Congress and also a new group called the Ulema Council that has put up candidates in some seats. Fifthly, the so - called Varun effect may consolidate the BJP's core votebank. In light of these factors, BJP may end up winning around 20 seats bettering its 2004 tally by 10. The RLD will pitch in with 3 or 4 seats.
Bihar and Jharkhand
In the other big state of the Hindi heartland Bihar, the BJP - JD (U) alliance is expected to do well riding on the goodwill of CM Nitish Kumar who has given Bihar good governance after two decades. The JD (U) is expected to win at least 15 seats and the BJP around 7 to 8 seats. In Jharkhand, the BJP is expected to do well too after Shibu Soren's loss of credibility. The BJP is likely to win 8 of the 14 seats and the JD (U) may chip in with one or two.
Orissa, West Bengal and Assam
Then, we have Orissa. The BJP - BJD alliance has split and BJP is contesting alone. Naveen Patnaik in alliance with the Left and NCP may win around 10 of the 21 seats and the BJP will win 2 or 3 seats. Of course, the result for the BJP would have been better had the two fought together. Then, in West Bengal, Jaswant Singh may get the BJP its lone seat in this state if the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha manages to ensure his victory from Darjeeling. In West Bengal, the Congress and Mamata Bannerjee's Trinamool Congress are fighting elections together. For the first time, this Left bastion of three decades has been challenged. This time, one can expect he TMC to win around 12 seats. Post 16th, the Left and Congress are likely to have a deal leaving the TMC open to join the NDA again. After West Bengal comes Assam. In Assam, the NDA partner this time is AGP. Last time, the two had fought separately. Here again, the Muslim vote is likely to be split due to a new coalition of Muslim parties, the Assam United Democractic Front (AUDF). The tally from Assam is expected to be BJP - 5 and AGP - 5.
The other BIMARU states (Rajasthan, MP and Chattisgarh)
Ah! We suddenly moved eastwards from UP and left out two of the BIMARU states Rajasthan and MP. So, we again go back slightly westwards to Central India's Madhya Pradesh. In 2004, BJP won 25 of the 29 seats from MP. This time, it is expected to do well again barring some minor losses. This can be attributed to the low - key but hardworking CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. I believe the BJP will win at least 20 seats this time riding on the development mantra that was demonstrated in the BJP victory in the Assembly polls last December. Same is the case with the new state of Chattisgarh. Chouhan and Chattisgarh CM Raman Singh are two of the most hardworking BJP CMs who also manage to maintain their low-key profile. The BJP won 10 of the 11 seats from Chattigarh in 2004. Now, they may win at least 8 if we account for a minor anti - incumbency that is bound to set in after 5 and a half years of a BJP state government. We head to Rajasthan now. In Rajasthan, the BJP won 21 of the 25 seats last time. This time they may win just about 10 to 12 after having lost the Assembly polls last December.
Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa
From Rajasthan, we cross over to Gujarat. This BJP bastion let the party down in 2004. BJP won just 14 of the 26 seats last time. This time, expect the party to pull up its socks and win at least 18. In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena - BJP alliance and the Congress - NCP alliance are most likely to share the spoils equally. This means, the BJP - Shiv Sena will get about 24 of the 48 seats with both parties sharing the honors almost equally. In Goa, the BJP and Congress are likely to win one seat each from the two up for grabs.
BJP's Southern Star - Karnataka
Forming the Karnataka government has been the BJP's way of shedding its baggage as a Hindi heartland party. But the question is if the BJP's star will deliver in 2009. In 2004, the BJP got 18 of the 28 seats. This time, it may get around 14 or 15. This may increase if Yeddyurappa's honeymoon with the electorate is not over yet.
Tamil Nadu (and Pondicherry)
The BJP is a marginal player in a state where being Dravidian counts. And to top it, it has no proper ally. Its allies include Subramanium Swamy and actor turned politician Sarath Kumar who are also marginal players. Safely, we can expect the Congress - DMK alliance to be battered at the hustings. And Jayalalithaa's alliance comprising of AIADMK, PMK, MDMK, CPI and CPI(M) is expected to win at least 30 of the 40 seats in TN and Pondy of which the Leftists will have 4 to 5 seats. But, the remaining 25 are with JJ, who can very well migrate to the NDA. It will also be interesting to see how actor Vijayakanth's DMDK fares in its maiden Lok Sabha election.
The BJP is unlikely to win any seats from Kerala. Here, the Congress will make gains at the expense of the Left.
This is another state where the Third Front currently exists as a 'Mahakootami' (Grand Alliance) of the Telugu Desam, Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), CPI and CPI(M). But, cracks have already appeared with the TRS attending the NDA's unity rally in Ludhiana this week. Expect the TDP to win about 20 of the 42 seats and the TRS to win about 5. While the TRS has already almost crossed over into the NDA fold knowing the BJP's track record on small states, the TDP may need some prodding before it follows suit. As a party that thrives on anti - Congressism, it cannot do business with the Congress. So, the BJP, being a marginal player, suits its agenda. Again, here, one should look out for how actor's Chiranjeevi Praja Rajyam fares in its maiden Lok Sabha election.
Rest of the Northeast and UTs
The above discussion has covered about 525 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. It has left out the north-eastern states (except Assam) and the Union Territories (except Pondy) that account for one or two seats each. Even without discussing them, we get an almost good idea of the NDA's poll prospects.
Going by my predictions, the existing NDA (i.e. BJP, SAD, Shiv Sena, JD(U), RLD and INLD) may get around 190 seats with the BJP getting around 150. If the TDP-TRS, AIADMK - PMK - MDMK, Trinamool Congress and Biju Janata Dal decide to go back to the NDA's fold, we might have L. K. Advani at the helm of affairs. This is the only possibility for the NDA. And, even this looks difficult. Let's see why:
1. While the TRS will easily crossover, the TDP may not want to go back to the "communal" BJP. Same is the case with the Trinamool or BJD.
2. AIADMK's JJ has no such compulsions. But, she knows that she can make the DMK minority government in TN fall by just aligning with the Congress. No Article 356, No dirty play, simple withdrawal of support to the DMK government by the Congress.
But, though difficult, it is not impossible and some bargaining will definitely ensure that Mamata, Jaya, Naidu and Patnaik come on board.
Another possibility (something I don't like) is that the BJP can try and get Mayawati's BSP (with around 30 seats) on board. But, she is likely to be make quite a few unreasonable demands, that may be difficult to fulfill. She may demand to be made Deputy PM or Home Minister. And, then where would we be? I'd rather have the BJP in the Opposition than Mayawati as Deputy PM. The thought of a Lutyen's Delhi peppered with towering statues of empress Mayawati and BSP symbol elephant is .... well, leave it. Even thinking about it makes me shiver.
Sunday, 10 May 2009
First, he is basically from Bihar. After the recent MNS - sponsored Marathi manoos campaign and the consequent increase in the anti - bhaiyya attitude, he didn't want to live in Mumbai. According to him, Chennai was no longer 'anti - Hindi'. Plus, it has a lower cost of living. He can get a better standard of living with the same salary. Point taken.
Soon after, another 'Bihari' also rooted for Chennai. This one claimed that in spite of all the negative image that Chennai has managed to accumulate over the years, Chennai was 'not really a bad place to live and work'. His claim was supported by economics alone - more fun with the same salary. Plus, everything that was there in Mumbai is now there in Chennai too. Chennai too has multiplexes that screen Hindi movies. Chennai too has some bars that serve good liquour, though you may have to hunt around a bit but he was fine with that.
I dismissed both these instances as arbitrary occurrences with no correlation and that the average 'northie' still considered a Chennai job a punishment. But, when another guy from small - town North India (not from Bihar or UP) used exactly the same words as Bihari No. 2 about Chennai 'not really being a bad place', I was convinced that these 3 occurrences were not one-off. And, there was more proof with each bus ride that I took. And each one told me that Chennai does seem to be making a comeback, slowly and steadily.
Now, when I travel by buses, I see some of the conductors using the one or two words they know in Hindi when they see a 'northie'. Some others speak in English and help them with directions. And, even 'northies' don't seem to be averse to Tamil. They reply to the conductor's broken Hindi in broken Tamil and then both exchange smiles. And, the average 'northie' thus learns to adjust in Tamil land.
Monday, 20 April 2009
On 9th evening, we went to ISKCON temple in East of Kailash and had good darsan. Then, we had dinner in Govinda's restaurant below. My maternal paati made a concession to us by agreeing to eat there (she doesn't eat outside food) becuase Govinda's made it without using onion or garlic and above all the presiding deity in ISKCON was Lord Krishna.
Even otherwise too, we eat at Govinda's. The food is nice - not having onion and garlic and associated masala makes it more delicious and it's got quite a few tables that can seat 10 - 12 (when my uncle and his family join us, we usually become 10 people). Govinda's has a buffet system. They provide two to three varieties of salad, two varieties of soup, four to five side dishes like dal makhni, aloo gobhi, palak paneer, pulao rice plus one or two sweets (usually halwa or sheera). The naans arrive hot at the tables. At the beginning of the meal, jal jeera is also served at the tables. This time, there was an Italian pasta too. And, in the end there was ice-cream because the sweet got over suddenly. But, they were quick. By the time we finished ice-cream, they had sheera ready and we were treated to that as well. Govinda's is priced moderately at about Rs 250 per head. Plus, you get the satisfaction of having contributed to the temple's funds.
On 12th morning, my bro went for JEE. He was quite tensed - definitely more than what i was in 2005 when I wrote. I guess the expectations were more now. Now, he had to live up to at least what I had achieved. No one had told him that, yet it was there for everyone to see. I have always argued that the second born child is better off because parent's know how to deal with them. Plus, they get the elder's advice. Now, I knew it is difficult for them too. They have to live up to expectations. And, that's really pressurizing. I had promised him that I'd be in Delhi on his JEE day and there I was (my parents' wedding anniversary helped me keep the promise.). He came back out of the first exam a little tensed. Apparently, the guy ahead of him hadn't turned up. My bro, in an hurry, had marked his thumb impression in the space meant for the other guy. The invigilator was confused. Later, she said she would do something. This incident, however, made my brother tensed and he didn't do really well, according to him.
However, he did better in the second part, probably because he saw that the invigilator had struck off the thumb impression made in the wrong place and written absent next to that guy's name. When we calculated the score based on solutions by Bansal's, VM, Narayana etc., it came to around 285 which dropped to 270 after my bro's coversations on the phone which lasted 2 - 3 hours. 270 - The predicted rank was within 1000 and I, at least, was happy. But, before calculating the score, we had Sri Satyanarayanan Pooja, which my parents perform every year around the time of their wedding anniversary.
Sri Vaikunthanath Ji Mandir
On 13th April, in the morning, we reached Sri Vaikunthanath Ji Mandir by 10.30 am. The temple had shut by then. We were there for a Dhanvanthari Homam. The Homam was performed by the archarkar there in a room in the back of the temple. It started at 11.30 and was over by 1 pm. Myself, appa, chitappa (dad's bro), Ramesh uncle (my aunt's husband) and maternal thatha sat around the Homam along with the archakar. After the Homam, we had food there itself - bisibela bath and thayir saadam and a big ladoo. I was one of the few who managed to eat it full.
We then went back home at 1.45 pm and reached by 2.30 pm. We left for the temple again at 4.15 pm and reached by 5 pmWe had darsan. Then Kalyana Utsavam to Lord Ranganathar and Thayar began. It was conducted very well by the archakar and was over by about 7 pm. We came back happy with the blessings of the Lord and his consort Thayar. Recently, I read in the 'Religion' column of The Hindu that worshipping the Lord without Thayar is meaningless.
Wednesday, 1 April 2009
I've often passed by it and always wanted to check it out in spite of the name being so crass. So, I did the other day. The shop takes its name quite seriously. With some trouble, you can read what appears on its glass door in the photo that I managed to capture. Some of the things written on it can make a feminist pull her hair. The first floor is nicknamed 'Virgin Territory'. One of the narrowest, winding staircases I've ever seen leads up to it. And believe me, one of the paintings there proclaims 'foetus'!
Inside, the stuff was pretty ordinary - branded sports jerseys priced at Rs 400, the shirts they had were unimpressive though the cargoes and jeans section upstairs up for that. They also have the now-popular three-fourths and other clothing stuff. Plus, they have accessories - leather belts at Rs 300 or so, usual junk jewelery, sunglasses, watches and even biker's helmets. They also have a few worn-out outrageously placed sneakers on display. One of the the shop assistants told me that I can expect variety in a couple of weeks.
Sunday, 29 March 2009
Most of the English language media is openly anti-BJP. And, unrepenting about the bias too. For them, the BJP is the worst thing to have happened to India. I agree that the BJP has made its mistakes. It doesn't have a clean track record either. But, what disgusts me is that BJP and India's majority community are singled out for attack like ...
Like in the way the phrase 'Hindu terror' dominated headlines sometime ago. Like the way Gujarat 2002 is blown out of proportion even as the death of Hindu kar sevaks in Godhra is never spoken about. Like the way nobody comes forward to make a movie on the plight of Kashmiri pandits and their refugee camps in Jammu. Like the way the media never condemns the alliance of the 'secular' Left Front with the PDP in Kerala (whose leader Maudani has been linked to the Lashkar-e-Toiyebba and whom the CPI itself has dubbed communal). Like the way the Indian Union Muslim League and similar parties are part of the 'secular' front. Like the way illegal immigration from Bangladesh into Assam and elsewhere is allowed to continue. Like the way the Congress -orchestrated anti-Sikh riots of 1984 (which killed 3000 Sikhs in the national capital) is now forgotten. Like the way the CBI wanted to give a clean chit to the perpetrators of the anti-Sikh violence on election eve.
These and many more instances are ample proof of bias. Do not misunderstand me. I don't think anybody wants Indian Muslims to go through what Hindus have gone through in Pakistan. (We have a larger Muslim population than Pakistan at 13% of our population even as the number of Hindus in Pakistan is now down to below 2%.) But nor does anyone want Hindus to be sidelined even in the (only) country they can call their own in spite of it being regularly attacked for over 1000 years by Islamic invaders from Central Asia. I certainly wish there were more Francois Gautiers to understand the plight of the Hindu.
Friday, 6 February 2009
Madras was renamed as Chennai in 1996. But, even now there are many who still prefer to call it Madras. For many, it's still 'Madras, Nalla Madras'.
Even many prominent educational institutions decided to keep their old name – the name by which they were recognized worldwide. Renaming them would have caused a lot of confusion. These included the University of Madras, IIT Madras, Madras Medical College and Madras Institute of Technology. The Madras High Court also didn't change its name. A number of other organizations also chose to do the same. So, we still have the Madras Medical Mission, the Madras Race Club, Madras Boat Club and so on. In fact, even Chennai's auto-drivers are better known notoriously as the 'Madras auto-kaaran'.
Keeping in sync with the tendency to clear the city of its colonial remnants, the names of many roads were also renamed. However, it's often found that after the renaming is done, only one of the names catches the public's fancy while the other is usually forgotten. One notable exception is in the case of Mount Road where both Anna Salai and Mount Road are recognized equally well.
In most other cases, while some of the new names have caught on; other roads are still referred to by their old name. One prominent new road name that has caught on is T.T.K. Road. How many of us know that T.T.K. Road, now named after former Union Minister T.T. Krishnamachari was once named after an Englishman called Mowbray? In fact, even now, there's a tiffin center on the road with the name 'Mowbray's Tiffin Center'!
Similarly, how many of us know that Sardar Patel Road was once Elliot's Beach Road and Radhakrishnan Salai was once Edward Elliot Road? Or, for that matter that Rajaji Salai was once First Line Beach Road?
In other cases, the old name is more popular. One prominent example here is L.B. Road (Lattice Bridge Road) which was renamed after dividing into two parts as Dr. Muthulakshmi Salai (Adyar side) and Kalki Krishnamurthy Salai (Thiruvanmiyur side). This road is almost always referred to as L.B. Road. Once, to test an auto-driver, I asked him to take me to Kalki Krishnamurthy Salai from a spot hardly a kilometer away. He demanded two hundred rupees because he mistook it for some other road in another corner of the city. I have always noticed that auto-drivers have a fascination for English names. But, I hadn't expected him to be so ignorant.
Some roads named after places also don't seem to fade away from public memory in spite of their being renamed after some notable people. Probably because it's easier to associate the road with the place it leads to. For instance, one can see the name Mahatma Gandhi Road only on signboards. Almost everyone still calls it Nungambakkam High Road. Same is the case with Poonamallee High Road which has been renamed as EVR Periyar Salai. Likewise, Inner Ring Road is preferred over Jawaharlal Nehru Salai and Old Mahabalipuram Road over Rajiv Gandhi Salai.
Sunday, 25 January 2009
This is and will be my last Saarang as a student in IIT Madras. As always, I am a bit nostalgic about this fact. On Friday night, we had Sonu Niigaam (yeah, that's his new spelling as per numerology) perform in the OAT.
In spite of a couple of hiccups like Sonu lambasting the sound department for some problems on stage right in the middle of his first song and the power going off in between for a couple of times, Sonu kept the audiance enthralled as he churned out hit after hit.
He even demonstrated how music is made in the industry. He asked the audiance for four names of vegetables. He got aloo, bhindi and mooli. Then, one of the guitarists (if I'm not wrong) on stage suggested mutter paneer. Initially, Sonu was reluctant since mutter paneer is a dish made of peas and paneer and not a vegetable. However, he accepted it later on. He then proceeded to attach a tune to these four words and sang a couple of lines as well. It was fun.
Sonu also reached out to two mentally challenged persons in the audience and displayed his emotional side as well. He was quite down-to-earth throughout the show and was much better than the Sukhwinder Singh we had two years ago. Towards the end, he even bared his biceps by removing his jacket. Thankfully, he didn't remove the vest.
After his performance was over, we had another guy called Benny Dayal. However, I left after his first song Dil Se, which he claimed was a tribute to A. R. Rahman for his Golden Globe.
My only disappointment was that Sonu did not sing two of the songs I had wanted him. Though he hummed the tune Kal Ho Naa Ho from time to time, he never sang the song in full. He also didn't sing Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte, his recent hit from Rab Ne Banadi jodi. But other than that, all his other songs were funa and had the audience clapping, dancing and jumping.