Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Shop talk (Published in 'The Statesman' on 17/10/12)

The disgruntled former chief minister of Karnataka Mr BS Yeddyurappa recently declared that he intended to form his own political outfit in December. Jest Kidding talked to sources close to the leader to find out more about the party. We have been told that the new party would be named BJP(Y) ~ Bharatiya Jokers’ Party (Yeddyurappa). We have learnt that the party would be unfettered of ideology, vision or any cause. The party is being formed with the sole objective of providing unadulterated entertainment to the Indian public. This, it is said, would be accomplished by handpicking leaders from across the political spectrum. “The membership of the party would be strictly by invitation. To be considered for membership, one should have ‘proven capability for dimwitted comments’. Yeddyurappaji will personally select the members,” the source said.

Naturally, Mr Yeddyurappa is planning to extend the first invitation to Mr Digvijay Singh of the Congress party. It is learnt that Mr Digvijay Singh would be requested to be the president of the party. It is also said that Mr Yeddyurappa is closely following developments on the national political scene to identify potential members. Apparently, the former CM is quite satisfied with the turn of events over the last several days as it has helped him identify several deserving candidates. It is widely believed that Mr Robert Vadra would definitely get an invitation for his “mango people in banana republic” comment. Another person sure to be invited to join the party is Union steel minister Mr Beni Prasad Verma who has a solid track record. After justifying price rise, the minister had recently remarked that a person like Mr Salman Khurshid was unlikely to indulge in any wrongdoing for a paltry sum of Rs 71 lakh as the amount was too small for a Central minister to be bothered about. “Shri Verma would be an ideal member. We want people like him with established credentials,” said an aide of Mr Yeddyurappa.

There is also popular demand for considering the West Bengal chief minister for membership as her ability to inspire hilarity has been proven time and again. True to her reputation, the leader recently attributed the increase in the number of rape cases to men and women interacting more freely with each other. However, there was widespread relief and also disbelief that she did not blame the spurt in rape on Maoists. It is anticipated that Mr Om Prakash Chautala would also receive an invitation for his recent statement endorsing the stand of khap panchayats to reduce the marriageable age of boys and girls to 16 to curb incidents of sexual assault.

Jest Kidding contacted Mr Digvijay Singh to congratulate him on being offered the role of ‘party president’. But Mr Singh was not in a celebratory mood. He was extremely upset with the recent developments as several people are seriously threatening his reputation as the ‘Foot in mouth’ king with their ridiculous comments. Venting his frustration, Mr Singh said: “I strongly condemn the statement made by Om Prakash Chautala. Chautala should be forcefully made to marry Robert Vadra to prevent his thoughts from straying.” Asked about Miss Mamata Banerjee’s recent statement, Mr Singh scoffed: “I do not know if rapes have increased because of men and women interacting freely. But I know for sure that hilarity has increased because of Didi talking freely.”

Link: http://www.thestatesman.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=427068&catid=39

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Mountains and molehills (Published in 'The Statesman' on 10/10/12)

Jest Kidding managed to clinch an exclusive tête-à-tête with a veteran octogenarian politician from Tamil Nadu. In a candid interview, the politician shared his thoughts on the business of politics, the current political scenario, how politics has changed over the years and his meteoric rise from being a man of limited means to having a family that is worth several thousand, if not lakh, crores of rupees. Here are some excerpts.

When asked for his views on the latest controversy surrounding Mr Robert Vadra’s fortune, the visibly irritated leader shot back: “Come on, man. Grow up. Even some deputy superintendents in the police department are worth a few crore rupees these days. Vadra belongs to the first family of Indian politics and is the son-in-law of the most powerful politician in India. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. Be practical. Wake up to reality. Do you expect people to be like Kamaraj and Shastri today? Are we in 1950? Rs 500 crore is nothing. The allegation by Modi that several hundred crores of rupees of government money has been spent on Sonia Gandhi’s foreign trips is also extremely frivolous and childish. Even if this is true, being the head of the Nehru-Gandhi family, is she not entitled to even Rs.1,880 crore as perks from the government? Let’s be realistic.”

Answering a question on rampant corruption in politics, the leader said: “What’s surprising about that? With our educational and criminal background, it would be difficult for most of us to even get an LDC/UDC position in the government. Elections have become very expensive over the years. Winning an election is difficult. Making a career out of politics is even more difficult. Most of us in politics are not qualified to find an alternate career. So we make sure that when we are in power we make the most of this opportunity. Of course, rewards come with associated risks. But politics is a thankless job. Nobody appreciates the risks we take. Your daughter might end up in jail for several months spending the hot summer days in a room that is not air-conditioned. You need to be prepared for such eventualities. But we will bounce back and be a part of parliamentary panels and we’ll continue to win elections. We recognise that life is full of ups and downs. Politicians need to be extremely thick-skinned.”

When asked about Mr Arvind Kejriwal’s new party, the anti-corruption movement and the promise of change, the veteran politician said in a dismissive tone: “Arvind Kejriwal is a novice in the system. I have seen many Arvinds in my life. Slowly, he will understand the harsh reality of Indian politics and get institutionalised or disappear.”

In other news, the comptroller and auditor-general of India termed the figure Rs 500 crore ‘insignificant, tiny and laughable’. “I have seen much greater numbers. Have you forgotten the 2G and Coalgate scams so soon, as Sushil Kumar Shinde had ominously predicted,” the CAG asked.

Link: http://www.thestatesman.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=426197&catid=39

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Clean shot (Published in 'The Statesman' on 03/10/12)

In a move that has received widespread appreciation in Pakistan, a police officer in Karachi has invoked contentious clauses of the Pakistan Penal Code to register a blasphemy case against Indian cricketer Virat Kohli. It is learnt that the officer was greatly upset after Pakistan’s humiliating defeat to India in a cricket match between the two countries in the ongoing T20 World cup on Sunday. Apparently, the officer was desperate to vent his frustration and hence took the tried and tested path of the blasphemy law.
The officer has alleged that Virat Kohli showed deep disregard for the sentiments of a large number of people belonging to that country and that some of his shots were clearly blasphemous. “Virat Kohli”, the complaint reads, “behaved in an outrageous and unacceptable manner on Sunday night causing great mental agony to the citizens of Pakistan. He has hurt the beliefs and sentiments of an overwhelming majority of people. This constitutes a clear case of blasphemy under Articles 295-A,B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code.”

The officer also warned that condemning this act of registering a case against Kohli would also be blasphemous and hence anyone criticising this complaint would also be charged with blasphemy. Some groups have hailed the police officer as a “true son of the soil”.

Soon after the case was registered, a mob threatened to punish Kohli if he ever set foot in Pakistan.
In other news related to Pakistan, a Bangladeshi tabloid claimed that Pakistan foreign minister Ms Hina Rabbani Khar and Pakistan People’s party leader Bilawal Bhutto were involved in a scandalous affair. It was also stated that President Asif Ali Zardari was unhappy with their relationship.

Jest Kidding has learnt that a female politician from India considered to be among the most powerful women in the world has written a letter to the Pakistan president urging him not to oppose the relationship. “I am deeply concerned about your opposition to your son’s relationship. You do not know how it feels to be the parent of an unmarried son. You should be happy if your son wants to get married and settle in Switzerland. Such important events in life should not be delayed. If you do not let your son have his way now, many decades later you will regret to see your bachelor son leading the youth wing of your party, forever being a reluctant PM-in-waiting”, the letter read.

In another interesting development of last week, many Indians have taken serious exception to Mr Narendra Modi’s statement alleging that Rs 1880 crore has been spent on the foreign trips of Mrs Sonia Gandhi. People have strongly condemned Mr Modi for misleading the public with such baseless statements quoting abysmally low figures.

Link: http://www.thestatesman.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=425302&catid=39

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Reform, reform (Published in 'The Statesman' on 26/09/12)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seems to have woken up from a slumber after much flak from the Indian and international Press. Working with new-found resolve to catapult the sagging economy back to its formerly high-growth trajectory, Mr Singh announced a slew of tough measures last week.

In the wake of diesel price hike and FDI in multi-brand retail, the PM announced another tranche of reforms yesterday. To everyone’s surprise, these new reform measures had nothing to do with India. For instance, one of the announcements was about allowing 49 per cent FDI in the insurance sector in China. Another was regarding allowing FDI in the aviation sector in Pakistan. Another was about doing away with some investor-unfriendly tax laws in Russia. This latest development has baffled Indians.

Understandably, these measures have evoked sharp reactions from the nations concerned. The Chinese foreign minister expressed shock. The Prime Minister of Pakistan strongly condemned the latest move and termed it an “outrageous overstepping of jurisdiction”. A spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry preferred irony: “The announcement is funny. The Indian Prime Minister has a good sense of humour. Russia doesn’t take this statement seriously. People in his own country do not take him seriously. Why should we?” The officials in the foreign ministries of some other countries such as Uruguay and Paraguay dismissed the statement as not worth reacting to.

Jest Kidding has learnt that this faux pas is the handiwork of a fun-loving bureaucrat in the Prime Minister’s Office who is quite notorious for his pranks. Judging the mood of the Prime Minister who is too ready to say yes to anything that rhymes with ‘reform’, the mischievous official had included these proposals with other documents and letters that required the assent of the PM. The same person had earlier leaked former Army chief General VK Singh’s letter to the Prime Minister about the poor defence preparedness of the Indian armed forces.

“The Prime Minister took a cursory glance at the proposals and chancing upon words such as FDI and
foreign investors, he signed the documents with gusto,” said an official in the PMO who did not wish to be identified.

The prankster bureaucrat had also prepared a speech to be delivered by Mr Manmohan Singh addressing the people of China trying to drive home the importance of permitting FDI in the insurance sector in China. Some alert officials in the PMO prevented the Prime Minister from reading out the speech barely a few seconds before the recording was set to begin. The minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr V Narayanasamy, however sought to downplay the episode. “Our external affairs minister had read the speech of Portuguese minister at United Nations Security Council meeting last year. This is nothing in comparison to that. Do not blow things out of proportion,” said the visibly-upset minister.

Link: http://www.thestatesman.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=424532&catid=39

Fickle fortune (Published in 'The Statesman' on 19/09/12)

Chennai: The most popular fortune teller in the city who was believed to be earning several lakh rupees every month has suddenly run out of business. Narayanan, an astrologer who also dabbled in numerology, had several high-profile clients, including top film stars and politicians. What was once a thriving business for Narayanan has suddenly run dry. This, it is said, is solely because of a certain statement he made last week. The astrologer had predicted a landslide win for Congress in the 2014 general election. Soon after he made this statement, his daily client count took a nosedive. Today, a week after he made the prediction, almost no one visits him. Experts attribute this sudden reversal in the fortunes of the fortune teller to a ‘credibility crisis’.

This is what one of his erstwhile clients had to say about the incident: “By making an inconceivably ridiculous prediction that is so obviously wrong, he has done great damage to his reputation. Even a two-year-old knows what the fate of the Congress party would be in 2014.”

“This is ridiculous. Any person with an IQ greater than 30 would know what will happen to the Congress in 2014. Just this statement is enough to infer that he is a phoney,” said another of his customers who recently deserted him.

In another interesting development, questions on the electoral prospects of the Congress party in 2014 are being included in many aptitude tests conducted in the country for admission to different programmes and jobs as a test of one’s common sense. “With unprecedented levels of corruption, inflation and slowing economy coupled with irresponsible ministers making callous statements justifying price rise or mocking people’s memory of scams, the only obvious thing in today’s unpredictable world is the fate of Congress in 2014. If a person is unable to grasp this truism, it is easy for the examiners to judge his cognitive abilities. This is probably the simplest way of eliminating people in an aptitude test,” said an examiner who is involved in the preparation of a testing module for a national-level entrance test.

Pediatricians too are administering a certain test on babies only a few months old to detect impaired development at an early stage. Dr Sandeep Agarwal, a child specialist based in Delhi, when asked about the test said: “In this new test, six-month-old babies are asked about the electoral prospects of the Congress in 2014. Any baby with a normal mental growth would sneer meaningfully when asked about the Congress’ prospects. If we note some ambivalence in the baby, such as looking at its rattle or feigning interest in the family dog, there is a high probability that the baby needs help. This is an early detection system that has been indigenously developed and it has been quite effective so far. At least 250 babies with impaired intellectual skills have been identified out of more than 20,000 who were examined”.

Jest Kidding has learnt that the Election Commission of India has sent a letter to the Congress party seeking its response on whether the party really wants to contest in 2014. “If you decide to take the prudent step of not fielding any candidate in the next general election, the EC might explore ingenious options like smooth transfer of power, without elections, to a coalition of non-Congress parties if they are able to arrive at a seat sharing agreement on their own. This would obviate the need for elections in 2014 thus saving crores of rupees. Though several thousand crores of rupees would still be involved due to horse-trading, if parties were to arrive at a seat sharing agreement, that would be black money belonging to parties and not the money of taxpayers that would have to be spent if elections were held. We sincerely hope that better sense will prevail and that you will take the pragmatic step of not contesting,” the letter reads.

Link: http://www.thestatesman.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=423787&catid=39

What's in it for him? (Published in 'The Statesman' on 12/09/12)

IN the wake of the Washington Post article calling Mr Manmohan Singh a silent Prime Minister who has become a tragic figure and the brouhaha that followed, his media advisor has said that the Prime Minister’s office will soon come out with a statement to throw some light on what keeps the man going despite all the criticism and scorn heaped on him.
After Time carried Mr Singh on its cover and called him “The Underachiever”, the Washington Post recently followed suit with a scathing article referring to the PM as “a dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government”. The article also carried some “earth-shattering facts” which the writer believed were previously unknown to Indians — that the PM was silent, weak and unable to deal with rampant corruption. The Prime Minister has, by now, gotten used to criticism at home. But he never imagined his countrymen would breach codes of secrecy and ethics to inform the foreign press. Jest Kidding learns the Law ministry is examining if the Indian people should be charged under the Official Secrets Act or for sedition — like the Mumbai cartoonist — for squealing to the foreign press.

Against this backdrop, hundreds of thousands of people in India are wondering what keeps Mr.Singh motivated. “He is an island of integrity in a vast ocean of depravity. He is weak, not just because he is not the No.1 in his party but also, as he himself acknowledged, because of powerful coalition partners. He is unable/unwilling to rein in his colleagues. India has witnessed some of the biggest scams under his watch. He has become the butt of every joke today,” an observer said. Even the article quoted a couple of MMS jokes. “Despite all the abuse hurled at this gentleman who was once greatly respected for overseeing the economic reforms of the country, I do not know what motivates him to continue,” said a farmer from Assam, succinctly  capturing the sentiments of a large number of people.

Sensing the pulse of the people, the media advisor to the PM said yesterday, “Such doubts are completely legitimate. It is natural for anyone to be puzzled about what keeps the PM going and he has been made aware of this. Frankly, even I have thought about it quite a few times. In this context, the honourable Prime Minister has gracefully consented to issue a statement that would carry the answer to the million-dollar question, ‘What’s in it for him?’” Naturally, this announcement has led to great excitement across the nation.

After this article in the Post, Indians are eagerly awaiting the next issue of “Outlook India” as it is widely believed that US President Barack Obama would now be called a “tragic figure”.

In other related news, the Prime Minister rubbished rumours that he was considering retirement from politics in the near future. After meeting Rajya Sabha member Sachin Tendulkar at his official residence, the Prime Minister hinted at his being nominated to the Indian cricket team. However, he clarified that politics would remain his focus and that he would continue to remain in politics as long as he enjoyed his role as India’s PM.

Link: http://www.thestatesman.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=423002&catid=39

In and out (Published in 'The Statesman' on 05/09/12)

The Maharashtra government has requested Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Mr Raj Thackeray to come up with a list of infiltrators in the state to be used for administrative purposes. The chief secretary of Maharashtra, in a recent letter to the MNS chief has referred to Mr Raj Thackeray as the sole, undisputed representative of Marathi Manoos.

“Being the only person who has been authorised by the people of Maharashtra to stand up for their rights, the government thinks it appropriate to get from you a bona fide list of people who are permitted to live in the state. This would go a long way in identifying infiltrators and help the government in delivering better administration,” reads the letter.

This letter comes in the wake of a statement by Mr Raj Thackeray threatening to brand all people from Bihar in Maharashtra as ‘infiltrators’. Jest Kidding has learnt that Mr Thackeray is working on a complex algorithm to identify infiltrators in the state.

A person close to the MNS chief informed Jest Kidding that Mr Thackeray planned to prepare a comprehensive database relying on several parameters such as religion, date of settling in Maharashtra, among other things. “We would soon be launching an Online facility. Any Indian citizen can visit our website, key in details such as driving licence number/UID number/PAN card number to find out if he/she has the right to visit or live in Maharashtra,” the aide said.

In a rare display of unanimity, politicians belonging to different parties unequivocally condemned the statement by Mr Raj Thackeray. In a rare display of sanity, Mr Digvijay Singh took a dig at Mr Raj Thackeray and said that the latter’s family originally belonged to Bihar and had settled in Dhar in western Madhya Pradesh before migrating to Mumbai. The coherence in Mr Digvijay Singh’s statement shocked many as it is extremely uncharacteristic of the Congress leader to practise lucidity. Political analysts suggested that this is a ‘once in a decade event’. “The last time Digvijay Singh made a sensible statement was in 1998,” an expert who closely follows political developments declared.

It has also been learnt that several politicians from across India have approached Mr Raj Thackeray to tweak the rules to favour their domicile status in Maharashtra in order to safeguard their business interests. For instance, former telecom minister Mr A Raja of 2G fame has urged Mr Thackeray to fix the cutoff date for obtaining domicile status in Maharashtra as 1998. He has requested Mr Thackeray to include a codicil reading ‘any person who visited Maharashtra at least once before 1998 cannot be called an infiltrator’. This, of course, is to favour Mr Raja who visited Maharashtra for the first time in 1997. Apparently, Raja has promised to make Raj happy if his demand is conceded. Raj has promised to consider Raja’s case favourably.

Link: http://www.thestatesman.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=422280&catid=39