2013, Calcutta, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Straws Between The Hawa And the Zameen In Bihar

Driving about in North Bihar: The countryside lies liberally sign-posted with the clarion of a flaming war — hunkar! khabardar! lalkar! parivartan!

From the ultra Left CPI(ML) to the ultra unpredictable Laloo Yadav to the ultra nationalist Narendra Modi, a multitude of armies is laying siege to Nitish Kumar’s shaken bastion. A tussle unlike Bihar has seen in recent years is in the works.

At the Hajipur crossroads between the districts of Purvanchal and Mithila, Narendra Modi bears down a gigantic vinyl billboard, fist clenched, gaze belligerent, cry vociferous: “Hunkar Utha Bihar!” It may be no more than visual symbolism, but Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s smiling visage on a welfare banner flutters dwarfed underneath. A rag-tag red flag party is filing past, en route to yet another rally in Patna.


It’s months to go for the Lok Sabha poll, but in Bihar the trenches have been dug. “Nayi khalbali machi hai rajneeti mein, gathbandhan tootne ke baad sabko chance nazar aa raha hai,” the Bihari street oracle has spoken almost before the question can be popped, “Bahut dangal hone wala hai.” (A new scramble has broken out in politics, after the alliance broke, everyone is seeing a chance, we are in for a freestyle bout.” Bitter this campaign will be, and for the combatants also wearying, but whenever have Biharis been averse to an extended dose of political drama? They are almost smacking their lips at what could lie in store.

Continue reading “Straws Between The Hawa And the Zameen In Bihar”

2013, Calcutta, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Calcutta And The Art Of Political Seduction

Calcutta, March 23: Three noble notions jousted on the lawns of the Calcutta Club this evening. A fourth won.

The Telegraph National Debate 2013 was, in a sense, about none of the three ideas flung into the crucible of competition — democracy, freedom, equality. It was about a calling that serves or subverts them: Politics.

In the end all it took to conquer the House was a dose of well-meditated flattery. And who’s to be better at that than a politician, a dyed-in-the-khadi Congressman to boot? Arriving last at the lectern, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid just how — and why — politics, for all the ignominy it earns and exudes, remains the arbiter of superior things. Democracy, Freedom and Equality may be higher virtues; the art of charming goes the longer distance.

“This is the brightest, the most intelligent audience you can hope to find,” he proclaimed of his audience, “Don’t try to confuse it because it won’t be confused. This is Calcutta, ladies and gentlemen, and if equality doesn’t get support in Calcutta, it hasn’t a chance anywhere else.”

The House had been smartly stood up by Khurshid, its conscience tickled by entreaty to endorse equality, its cockles warmed by glowing praise. It’s weight fell on his side of the stage. A day after he tethered the runaway Italian marines back to face trial, the external affairs minister had lassoed a domestic constituency of eminences. Continue reading “Calcutta And The Art Of Political Seduction”

2013, Calcutta, News, Telegraph Calcutta

When Greg Comes To Gangulytown, Effigywallahs Haunt Him

Calcutta: He came despite the effigywallahs. There were enough of them at a time, especially in this city, for him to ponder cheeky profit — craft miniature effigies, trade them at a dollar a piece and die a rich man.

He came despite having had to wonder whether it had been worth trysting with India or Indian cricket, which can often begin to seem the same thing.

He came winging all the way from Melbourne for forty minutes on an arc-lit stage erected in another man’s honour.

Greg Chappell must desperately believe there are more pieces to his mind than got picked during his truncated tutorship of Team India. Any takers or none, he revealed some of the leftovers this evening in the course of a meditation on whether India can become the Brazil of cricket.

Continue reading “When Greg Comes To Gangulytown, Effigywallahs Haunt Him”