High on eccentricity
High on eccentricity
There are many ministers in the Gogoi Cabinet in Assam but public health engineering department minister Gautam Roy stands out among them. Not for the work he does, but because of his eccentric sartorial taste and startling pronouncements. He is always seen in a hat and sunglasses — perhaps even wears them indoors. But more bizarre is his habit of appearing in his constituency dressed as a traffic cop or sometimes a singer: he even sings and dances for his voters. He named a welfare scheme for the poor Mandira Awas Yojana after his wife, Mandira Roy, an MLA, rather in the manner of the Indira Awas Yojana, named after the grande dame of Indian politics. At a public meeting he was frank enough to say that Gandhian values don’t work for him. “It’s no use following Mahatma Gandhi now. My father was a Gandhian. He could win only one election. I don’t follow the Mahatma. I won six elections,” he said. Yet on Gandhi Jayanti, October 2, Mr Roy seemed to have imbibed some of the Mahatma’s charitable instincts. Escorted by his staff, he distributed wads of currency among tea garden workers. Coming across a policeman, who was obviously part of his security detail, Mr Roy generously handed over some cash to the bemused cop too. Whether the veteran Congress minister was motivated by Gandhian values or the rather more mundane ones we have come to associate with the political class today, we cannot say.
Is red the culprit The seat of power in West Bengal has shifted from the iconic Writers’ Building in Kolkata to the HRBC Building across the river Hooghly in Howrah. This significant shift is yet another testimony to the paribartan that Mamata Banerjee heralded in the state on May 11, 2011, when she threw the CPI(M) out of power. During Left Front rule, due to overcrowding, some government departments in the administrative headquarters such as labour, health and industry were shifted to different locations in the city. But the Marxists could not even imagine a wholesale transfer of the entire state secretariat to a different site and that too in Howrah. The British had built the Writers’ Building way back in 1777. It originally served as the office for junior officers of the East India Company who were known as writers. This explains the name of the building. The CPI(M), which ruled the state for 34 years, considered and treated Writers’ Building as their fiefdom or fortress. The Opposition Congress, and later the Trinamul Congress, used to call their important anti-Left agitation programmes either “March to Writers” or “Writers Chalo”, signifying a symbolic attempt at removing their ruling CPI(M) opponents from power. To justify her decision for a shift of secretariat, Ms Banerjee explained that the over two-centuries-old Writers’ badly needed repair, renovation and restoration which could be possible only if the entire building was vacated. A wag, however, pointed out that there was another reason behind Ms Banerjee’s decision: the colour of Writers’ Building. “The historic state secretariat is a red-stoned edifice and Ms Banerjee is simply averse to the colour red,” he said. No prizes for guessing that the HRBC Building, which she has christened “Nabanna” (new crop), has been painted in her favourite blue and white hues.
Dead poster boys The election scenario in Bastar — which has 12 Assembly seats and is considered crucial for the political parties vying for power in Chhattisgarh — is taking a bizarre turn. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Opposition Congress are leaving no stones unturned and sparing no one, not even the dead, to put up a good show in the tribal-dominated region in the upcoming Assembly polls. The Congress appears hell bent on making the recent massacre of its key leaders at Jiram Ghati in Bastar district on May 25 by Naxals, a major poll issue to generate sympathy among voters. So wherever Chhattisgarh Congress president Charan Das Mahant goes while campaigning for the party in Bastar, he never forgets to say “We will not let sacrifices of our leaders who were killed in Maoist ambush at Jiram Ghati go in vain. The Raman Singh government is to be squarely blamed for their killings.” Huge hoardings and billboards carrying photographs of the slain Congress leaders dot the skies over busy thoroughfares, markets, schools and strategic places across Bastar indicating Congress’ intention of making it a major issue in the coming Assembly polls. In a bid to pay the Congress in the same coin, the BJP has decided to rake up the 1966 incident in which former Maharaja of Bastar, Prabir Chandra Bhanjdeo, was killed in police firing in his palace in Jagdalpur, the district headquarters of Bastar. Chief minister Raman Singh was successful in wooing the late Maharaja’s grandson Kamal Chandra Bhanjdeo to BJP. On October 3, he announced at Jagdalpur to set up life-size statues of the late Maharaja at various places in Bastar apparently to resurrect the anti-Congress sentiments among the locals. Someone has rightly said the dead do not speak, but others speak for them.
He spoke too much The removal of senior Samajwadi Party leader Ram Asrey Kushwaha from the post of general secretary of the party and then as chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Remote Sensing Centre may not make much of a difference to the party but it has left several scribes depressed. Mr Kushwaha was the only Samajwadi leader who was always eager to give a statement on any issue — be it local, national or even global. He had a penchant for the electronic media because he loved seeing himself on the small screen. TV scribes were often woken up with his “emergency” calls, saying that he was ready with statements on various newspaper headlines and they could come to him at their convenience. Though Mr Kushwaha was never authorised to give statements on the party’s behalf, he continued to do so and, in the process, even contradicted the official party line. Being a backward leader, the party leadership ignored his antics for as long as it could. But when he overreached himself, he was shown the door by the party bosses. TV scribes will now have to look for other sources of information in the party.