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  An epic ballot war

An epic ballot war

Published : Feb 22, 2016, 6:38 am IST
Updated : Feb 22, 2016, 6:38 am IST

Clamouring for attention Beni Prasad Verma, a former Union minister and senior Congress leader, is desperately seeking his share of spotlight.


Clamouring for attention

Beni Prasad Verma, a former Union minister and senior Congress leader, is desperately seeking his share of spotlight.


With his bête noire and Congress MP P.L. Punia hogging the limelight by chalking out a programme to bring dalits into the Congress fold, it is only natural for Mr Verma to feel ignored and neglected.

Mr Verma earned media attention by first lavishing praises on Prime Minister Narendra Modi but that did not go beyond a day. Next he announced support for the Samajwadi Party candidate for the Legislative Council polls in Barabanki.

When asked the reason for violating the party line, Mr Verma said that since the Congress had not announced any candidate, he decided to support the SP candidate and had even sought a promise from chief minister Akhilesh Yadav for the development of Barabanki in return.


The Uttar Pradesh Congress, meanwhile, seems to be enjoying the former minister’s antics.

As a senior party leader put it, “All he wants is some attention from the party high command — perhaps a meeting with Sonia Gandhi or a phone call from Rahul Gandhi’s office. If that does not happen, even a courtesy call by one of the state leaders will suffice.”

Is anyone in the Congress listening

Grammar Nazi Union human resources development minister Smriti Irani has been facing constant criticism by her detractors ever since she was made in charge of the sensitive ministry.

Over the past few days, the Jawaharlal Nehru University controversy also brought a fresh spate of attacks on her in the cyber world.


Ms Irani was tagged on Twitter by several of her detractors and questions were raised on her conduct. However, not to be outdone by constant criticism, she acted as the grammar Nazi and instructed one of the detractors: “Bhaisaab apni grammar theek kar lein, kataksh phir achche se kar payenge (Brother please correct your grammar, only then will you be able to make good sarcastic comments).”

Ringing Smiles While it is quite usual for ministers to attend award functions and launching of schemes related to their ministries, it was quite an unusual sight to see veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi — who has been far removed from the limelight ever since the National Democratic Alliance government came to power — hogging the attention while launching the much-in-news “Freedom 251” smartphone in the national capital the other day.


While defence minister Manohar Parrikar who was supposed to launch the cheapest-ever smartphone (for just Rs 251) failed to turn up, Mr Joshi was all smiles for he became the cynosure of all eyes as he launched the product. Truly, one man’s loss is another man’s gain.

Preventing an Alliance Even before the Communist Party of India (Marxist) central committee gave its nod to the West Bengal unit to explore alliance prospects with the Congress and other secular democratic forces, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee launched a campaign against such an alliance declaring it unprincipled, unethical and opportunistic.

She reminded Congress leaders and workers of all the atrocities that the Red Brigade had unleashed on them during its 34-year-long rule.


In a clear bid to stop the two Opposition parties from joining hands against her party, Ms Banerjee went so far as to dig out old political skeletons.

She reminded young Congress workers that in the past the Marxists had not only branded Indira Gandhi a witch, but renamed her son Rajiv as “Bofors Gandhi”.

Ms Banerjee also warned the CPI(M) and the Congress of the pitfalls of such an unprincipled alliance. “The CPI(M) and the Congress are committing a mistake by trying to forge an alliance. You can change your shirt everyday but you can’t change your ideology everyday. They are sacrificing their ideology in order to forge an alliance. If a party sacrifices its ideology for the sake of power and money, it will eventually cease to exist,” she added.


Scoffing at Ms Banerjee’s ideology-is-sacrosanct lecture, CPI(M) MP Mohammed Salim said, “Look who is talking about ideological mismatch.

Mamata never tires of projecting her party as not just secular but minority-friendly and still she had no compunction in joining hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party for the sake of power at the Centre”.

Looks like Ms Banerjee’s attempts are having no effect on the Congress or the Left.

MHA Goof-Up Some RTI replies sent by the Union home ministry to an NGO are bound to bring smiles on the face of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been aggressively demanding Delhi Police to be brought under Delhi government’s control.


The NGO Love Commandos had sought information related to threats being received by young couples who had gone for inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. But the reply came as a shocker to Love Commando’s chief Sanjay Sachdev.

In one such RTI related to Delhi’s Dwarka area, the ministry advised the NGO to take up the complaints with the State Human Rights Commission on the ground that “police and public order were state subjects”.

Seems like the home ministry has forgotten that the Delhi Police is under its control.

Is Mr Kejriwal listening

Banking on The Crowd Having pulled out of the World Championships in Germany and the World Cup circuit due to lack of funds, five-time Olympian luger Shiva Keshavan — the first Indian to qualify for the Winter Olympics — now ponders his future.


Although the absence of adequate finances have been a hindrance throughout his career, the 34-year-old from Himachal Pradesh is determined not to let monetary matters be an obstacle any more.

Keshavan has now started a crowd-funding campaign on BitGiving, an online crowd-funding platform, to raise funds for his participation, The funds raised will be used to cover his coach’s salary, training, equipment, travel, boarding and lodging.

While the government gives a cold shoulder to the development of winter sports in India, Keshavan is riding high on hope and is preparing his sled for participating in the Winter Olympics.

Good Thinking Defence minister Manohar Parrikar must be thanking his stars for not attending the launch of “Freedom 251”.


It is said that before the launch, Indian Cellular Association (ICA) — in a letter to communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad — had warned that the government should investigate about the company’s claim as the rate of such a smartphone could not be below Rs 3,500 even after a subsidised sale.

It suggested that till the air is cleared around the product, no Union minister should attend company’s event.

Now with news that Ringing Bells re-labelled Adcom Ikon 4 units as “Freedom 251” with a whitener and borrowed elements from the premium Apple iOS is doing the rounds, Mr Parrikar must be heaving a sigh of relief.

Straight talk Biju Janata Dal vice-president and Orissa excise minister Damodar Rout does not come in the category of politicians who indulge in flattering and pampering the party leadership.


When other leaders of the BJD heap praises on party president and chief minister Naveen Patnaik on different platforms, Dr Rout gives all credit to Biju Patnaik, the chief minister’s father.

Dr Rout, a close associate of Biju Patnaik, was often humiliated within the BJD. On many occasions he was shunted out of his ministerial and party responsibilities for differing with Mr Naveen Patnaik but was brought back again due to strong public pressure.

Dr Rout’s regular shuffle in and out of the state council of ministers doesn’t bother him.

“Biju Patnaik did more for Orissa than Naveen has. I follow my conscience even if it comes at a cost”, says Dr Rout. Now that’s some straight talk!


Trampling traffic rules Little did Bastar district collector Amit Kataria imagine that his daring ride in a motorcycle in a forest to reach a Naxal-infested village in his area would earn him a tag of traffic rule violator.

The flamboyant bureaucrat, who shot into national news for wearing shades while receiving Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the latter’s visit to Bastar recently, perhaps least expected that a “silly slip” would again land him in a controversy.

On February 14, Mr Kataria undertook a 30-km journey through dense forests to reach the Maoist-infested village of Kelong from Jagdalpur, headquarters of Bastar, by pillion riding a motorcycle to address the local tribals.


He was accompanied by senior police officers, including Bastar range inspector-general of police S.R.P. Kalluri and Bastar district superintendent of police Rajendra Narayan Das besides counter-insurgency forces. The journey, in fact, was planned to throw a challenge to Naxals, who have lorded over the region for the past few decades. But much to the chagrin of the district administration as well as the police establishment, the news spread like wildfire.

Many police officers were seen defending Mr Kataria. “First of all, where was the traffic (in a dense forest) to follow traffic rules ” a senior district officer questioned. Well said, officer, but if babus break rules, how can they expect the public to follow them


Gogoi’s ‘Ram’ avatar From writing his own blog to joining Google Hangouts and Twitter, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has left no stone unturned to target his opponents in the run-up to the 2016 Assembly elections.

However, not happy with his routine exercise on social media, Mr Gogoi seems to have decided to take the help of religious icons too.

This was more visible when Mr Gogoi appeared before his audiences with bows and arrows, clad in the costume of Ram, enacting the victory of good over evil.

Emerging from a bhaona samaroh, a religious congregation in central Assam’s Nagaon district, Mr Gogoi said, “As good prevailed over evil in the Ramayan, our message of peace and unity will defeat the divisive forces too.”