Monday, August 25, 2008

Snippets/ Mail Today, August 25, 2008

It’s easy to find the idiots on this box

WITH A gold and two bronze medals, Beijing 2008 may have been India’s best Olympics, but for the Games’ buffs in India, it couldn’t have been worse.
There were world class athletes performing before a worldwide audience, but for us in India at the mercy of Doordarshan, the idiot box was, well, the idiots' box. DD never stopped reminding us it was getting feeds from 16 different channels, so those who ran the show should be held accountable for the poor choice of sports, events and schedules. The two anchors spent so much time discussing inanities, we got to see only two of Michael Phelps's first five gold medals live. Even more appalling, minutes after Abhinav Bindra won gold, DD went back to the two unwise men in the studios.

As the nation waited to see more of the boy wonder, there was nothing on India’s only individual gold medalist in Olympic history for the next eight hours. About the programme scheduling, the less said the better. Most events or matches were shown for two to three minutes each and then it was back to the studios for more drivel. There was one fellow who kept talking about Christopher Columbus when the sailing event was on! At any Games, the showpiece events are swimming, gymnastics, track and field contests but thanks to DD, we saw little of these. I have a suggestion for my good friend Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, the I& B Minister. As a government owned channel with no accountability, financial or editorial, DD should telecast the Olympics on two channels: One devoted solely to studio discussions among morons who pass off as anchors and another for uninterrupted live coverage.
IT IS perhaps just a coincidence that on a day that I received an invitation from the Industries Minister of Kerala to attend a seminar on developing the industrially backward state, I also received a chainmail which best exemplified why the tiny state blessed with nature’s bounties remains where it is. To say that the Commies never let anything except Marxism grow is to state the obvious. But here is an interesting fact from the mail: Between January and now, there have been 89 hartals in the state. Mamata has one Singur to bring West Bengal to a halt, but the Malayalee has hundreds of Singurs: local ( bad roads), national ( inflation), or even international ( over the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The state comes to a standstill, buses and taxis stay off roads, trains are stuck on the tracks and shutters stay down, except of course at the liquor bars where the sales are brisk and booze is mostly hooch. Bacchus’ Own Country??
A politician- author is somewhat of an oxymoron, like a gentleman- thief. But when the country is gearing up for polls and politicians should be girding up their loins for the fight ahead, many of them have taken to writing books.
Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal has just released I Witness: Partial Observations , a collection of 88 poems, which, incredibly enough, was written entirely in SMS text on his cellphone. Publishers may not be queueing outside ministerial bungalows to sign up, but the glitterati, if not the literati, are lapping it up. The release of Kamal Nath’s book, India’s Century, a few months back was a celebrity studded affair with individuals with a combined net worth of more than $ 200 billion gathering to toast the Commerce Minister. Who else but Kamal Nath can gather around himself Sunil Bharti Mittal, Lakshmi Nivas Mittal, Mukesh Ambani, Vijay Mallya, not to speak of the European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson who specially flew in for the event. Some like P Chidambaram and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar seem too preoccupied with their official duties to find the time to write. So the Finance Minister compiled his weekly musings in a national newspaper and brought out a book, while Pawar’s public speeches were compiled by a groupie and the book was released by Manmohan Singh who for some reason chose to praise his Cabinet colleague as “ a great thinker”, unmindful of the fact the book is a tribute to Pawar’s decibel achievements. There is nothing cerebral about it. Which set me thinking: If all of them are writing books, who will write the poll manifestos?
Battle for Jharkhand rages
MADHU Koda has finally made way for Shibu Soren, who wants to be the chief minister of Jharkhand. On the face of it, it appears to be a battle for Jharkhand, but in reality it is one of survival of Lalu Prasad, whose fodder scam cases, dating back to the days of undivided Bihar, are being handled in Ranchi where Koda has been a reliable ally for the railway minister. Soren may turn out to be far less accommodative, which explains why when Soren began to make noises about the chief ministership, Lalu played difficult and initially even refused to meet him. It suits the Congress to send Soren packing to Ranchi. Not only will he stop being a nuisance at the centre, he will use the fodder scam to keep Lalu on a leash. For the Congress, this is important since in a few months’ time, it will enter into seat sharing talks with its allies, of whom Lalu’s RJD is the among the biggest and they will need Soren’s help to make Lalu fall in line.
So far, Lalu had been the undisputed leader of the non- BJP forces in undivided Bihar, but in a political set up where each vote counts, it suits the Congress to set the two regional chieftains up against each other. As long they stand divided, united stands the United Progressive Alliance.

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