Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mumbai Attacked/ Essay/ India Today, December 8,2008

A harvest of terror

It was a cavalcade which, for once, brought out not the pomp but the limits of power. And it was not the sight Mumbai would have liked to wake up to after living through the dread and fear of the city’s longest night.

At six in the morning on November 27, when Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and half his cabinet drove past the Oberoi, the hotel where terrorists held sway, in a procession of 25 cars and well-protected by grey commandos, the worthies didn’t dare to take even a surreptitious glance at the policemen and reporters who lined the street. In another time, in another Mumbai, these gentlemen would not have missed the moment of photo ops and platitudinous banalities.
But this Thursday morning, as Mumbai bled and mourned, they were on the run. And it’s unlikely that they would have found a place to hide.

Well, there is no place for the entire political class to take refuge, for, the whispers of the dead—India’s political donation to the global enterprise of jihad—will frighten them out of every conceivable hiding place. Mumbai 2008 is the bloodiest of ironies that India, unarguably the softest victim state of hate, could have lived without. As the Indian Navy was excelling in its daredevilry by fighting pirates in the faraway Gulf of Aden, a few rubber boats could offload around two dozen armed jihadis in front of Mumbai’s prominent landmarks— the Taj and the Oberoi, the twin towers of the maximum city. And among the dead in the war on Mumbai was the boss of Maharashtra’s ATS (Anti-Terrorism Squad), which has been in the middle of a politically volatile investigation into the so-called saffron terror.

Sadly, the enormity of the Evil threatening the foundational solidity of the nation is yet to be comprehended by the political class, particularly the ruling establishment, which in every hate attack sees a million electoral possibilities. The impotent rage and vows of punishment in the wake of every terrorist strike—the frequency of which would have put any other country on permanent alert—are customary political theatre meant for the consumption of the gullible. The dead—who continue to multiply—don’t power India to new national resolutions.

They remain statistical trivia: 1,202 have been killed in 23 terrorist strikes in the country since the attack on Parliament. Five of them took place between December 2001 and May 2004 when the NDA was in power and the rest during the last four-anda-half years of the UPA Government. In three instances, terrorists were killed, but in all others, there have either been noarrests or, when arrests were made, the Government has not been able to secure their convictions. Still, we are not ashamed. And still, we are lining up to be killed.

As Mumbai becomes a horrific finale to a year that made India a nervous wreck, the politicians are back in the game—to be played with added deception in this season of elections. This could not have come at a worse time for the Congress which is already on the defensive over the twin issues of terrorism and national security. This week, voters in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan elect their new rulers and though L.K. Advani, who talked to the prime minister after the attacks began on the night of November 26, wisely desisted from playing the political blame game, no one doubts that his party stands to gain.

Grief and fear do not unite India. They divide us, for the nation is negotiable, but the vote bank is not, sorry. Mumbai 2008, perhaps more than Ayodhya 1992, is bound to change the syntax of Indian politics, and, immediately, it may reward the Indian Right. The colour of power in 2009 will be determined by the blood that discoloured the night of Mumbai on November 26.
Let that alone not be the political conclusion of Mumbai. India cannot afford to remain a nation in denial, and a nation shackled by the politics that divides. Winning an election is no longer the same as winning the soul of the nation. India, the most savaged nation on earth by the mercenaries of gods, is waiting for its political redeemer.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai Attacked / Exclusive /November 27, 2008

The night Mumbai turned into a ghost town

It's probably fate, but once again I found myself at the wrong place but at the right time. On Wednesday evening, I landed in Mumbai for a recording of my weekly show Seedhi Baat for Aaj Tak news channel. I am not much of a foodie and prefer my Dal Bhindi. But some close friends insisted on taking me to a dinner at the Pure restaurant of Taj Lands End Hotel. We finished our meal and topped it up with some wine when the waiter came and asked my friends whether they were heading back towards South Mumbai. I asked him what the problem was, and to my horror he told me that terrorists had taken over the Taj and Oberoi hotels.

The reporter in me wanted to rush to the spot. I rang up my colleagues at India Today. Our bureau chief was on her way home, another colleague was struck in a traffic jam. I looked out to see barricades coming up around the hotel and all vehicles being stopped at least a quarter mile way. Around midnight, I decided I couldn't afford to miss the action, but the hotel refused to provide us a car. There were three of us and surprisingly, we managed to persuade a taxi to take us on a tour of the city at that hour and on this day.

The drive from Taj Lands End, Bandra, towards Oberoi Hotel, Nariman Point, was the fastest I have had - hardly 20 minutes as opposed to the hour and half that it normally takes. Like New York, this is the City That Never Sleeps. But Mumbai this night was a ghost town. The road outside the Oberoi resembled a war zone. Police Commissioner Hassan Gafoor was leading his team from the front, leaning on his car and directing his officials to take positions. A young major from the army in civvies was also giving tips to the police.

The ubiquitous TV crews - over 100 of them - were there, spinning exclusives about every move the brave officers made or were about to make. "Do you journalists know what we are facing?" one of the police officials asked me before getting on with his job. I could sense his anger because the hand grenades that were flung out of the hotel windows were aimed in their direction and not at the huge tribe from the media.

For close to two hours, I stood there watching officers from the army, navy, NSG and local police working like a well-oiled machinery to tackle the situation which we, in our usual cynicism, say they will never be able to. We then moved to the Taj Hotel, Colaba, where the situation was much more grave. There were guests, wailing and shrieking, trying to get out of the hotel. Some escaped, the less fortunate ones were trapped inside. Senior executives from a sister hotel came around to offer help and move them.

All the while, I could hear the exchange of fire and from my vantage point see the secret movement of forces behind the walls of this 150-year-old majestic edifice, which has withstood many storms but now faced the real threat of being reduced to ashes by a handful of terrorists who had carefully chosen the Taj and the Oberoi, the twin towers of India's own economic might.
Back at the Oberoi, we were dismayed to find that Gafoor and his team had not met with any success. The terrorists were still in full control. At 6 in the morning, I saw a motor cavalcade - not less than 25 cars with full commando shield - whizzing past and was told it was Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and his cabinet colleagues doing a race.

Mediapersons waved hands and shouted but the cars just sped by. In normal times, the VVIPs would have stopped to give the media biting bytes about an opponent. But this time, the opponent was deadly and they were too scared to talk. Or they knew they had no answers to the many questions. As Deshmukh headed home, I got back into my taxi to go back to the hotel. On the roads of Maximum City, there was not a soul to be seen. Even the petty thugs who roam the streets targetting "outsiders" chose to stay indoors. And even my guest for the show didn't turn up.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mumabi Attacked / Exclusive

Taxi was meant to blow up Mumbai airport?

The flyover outside the domestic airport in Mumbai and a taxi driver’s unfamiliarity with the new slip route to the terminal perhaps went a long way in averting a major disaster that could have taken the toll into hundreds on Wednesday night itself.

Shortly before the terrorists moved into their targets in South Mumbai, a black and yellow taxi, with three passengers and enough ammunition to bring down a dome, sped in the direction of the airport. Instead of taking a slip road that would have taken the passengers straight to the airport, the driver took the flyover which bypassed the airport, only to get stuck at a red light.
At rush hour, the lights stayed red for long, at which the passengers berated the driver and asked him to cut the traffic lights. The driver moved on, but the wait turned out to be a minute or two too long. The car exploded. All that was found was a severed head and parts of three human legs. Had the terrorists' plans of coinciding a blast at the airport with the attacks on the Taj and Oberoi hotels succeeded, the death toll of 26/11 would have been much bigger than it already is.

Planned to perfection From New York to London, Madrid and Bali, the world has seen horrific terrorists attacks but few have been as perfect in terms of planning, organisation, operation and execution. It was clinical enough to make it apparent that the two dozen or so terrorists had logistical support from scores of "field officers" who mingled with the crowds outside the Taj and Oberoi hotels, not to speak of the many others who were sitting in hideouts watching TV.

The presence of TV crew, many of whom quoted their sources to tell readers about impending action by security forces, came in handy for the terrorists, at least some of whom are reported to have used satellite phones. With TV reporters dishing out exclusives about the actions that the forces were contemplating, it appeared that the terrorists were always a step ahead. The frustration boiled over and the official agencies had to finally ask the hotel management to disconnect TV cables.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Power & Politics / Mail Today, November 24, 2008

A BOUT a fortnight ago, a colleague of mine at India Today received an email from the Central Information Commissoner Wajahat Habibullah.
The brief it said — “ Received and being looked into” — took a long time coming. In November last year, following reports that several union ministers were not declaring their assets despite instructions from the PMO — nothing surprising, since I don’t expect ministers, especially those belonging to coalition partners, to take orders from the Prime Minister — India Today had invoked the RTI to find out the truth.

We filed RTI applications before the PMO and the Cabinet Secretariat seeking the relevant information. The reply from the PMO was swift but gave away nothing. It informed us that the information we sought lay within the domain of the Cabinet Secretary. A few days later, the Cab Sec wrote to us saying the domain lay with the PMO. For the next four months, we sent several reminders to both the PMO and the Cab Sec and the two kept lobbing the ball back and forth. So on March 17 this year, we wrote to the CIC detailing our experience with RTI and stating that by stonewalling our efforts, the PMO and Cab Sec were defeating the very purpose of the RTI. We requested the CIC to direct the officers in charge at South Block to make available the information we sought.

Around then, I ran into Habibullah at a social gathering and in the midst of informal exchanges reminded him about the RTI query. “ The matter is being looked into,” he assured me. Months passed and nothing happened. So two weeks ago, we sent an email reminder to the CIC. A day later came the above mentioned reply which certainly wasn’t very helpful anyway. So much for transparency.

Things are no better in the states. Last week, I was in Kolkata where a top Opposition leader told me about an RTI query he had filed before the state Information Commission seeking details about the agreement the West Bengal government had signed with the Tata group for the now aborted Nano plant in Singur. That appeal too became a victim of sabotage as a senior officer in the state IC issued a writ that all information must be first delivered to him, in sealed envelopes!!!!! In May this year, at a function to mark the UPA Government’s four years in office, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh got so carried away with his regime’s record that he declared the UPA stood for open government: “ The UPA government has set a new standard for transparency and accountability in govern- ment”. He would have fooled none. The RTI is supposed to enable ordinary Indians to seek information about the functioning of the government, its ministers and other minions.

But as the term of the government nears its end, the CIC which is supposed to address citizens’ queries on the government and governance seems to be abdicating its reponsibilities.
Of course you can get all the information you want about the truant District Magistrate in Barabanki or Jhumri Taliaya and similar small fry, but if you are looking for the big fish, you are likely to be denied.

The moral of the story: Transparency sounds a good idea but is not particularly popular with governments and IAS officers. One has much to hide, the other a lot to gain.

Snippets / Mail Today, November 24, 2008

LAST week, over 150 police officials, including DGPs, IGs and senior IB officials from across the country, gathered in Delhi for a meeting convened by the Home Ministry. Normally, such a meeting takes place in the first month of the new year but was advanced this time at the instance of the IB whose chief P. C. Haldar is retiring next month. More time was spent on bear hugs and back pats than serious discussion and I am told the little brain- picking that took place centered around the political impact of Malegaon and its implications on intelligence gathering. But the meeting assumes significance because it is the last one before the elections. The agency has always been seen as an adjunct of the ruling party at the Centre, whoever the incumbent is. The IB's role during the July trust vote was shameful to say the least. As elections near, its officers are getting hyperactive on behalf of their political bosses. The flip side is they have seldom got it right.

Set up GoM, sit back and relax

THERE are Cabinet ministers and Ministers of the Union Council. And then there are Groups of Ministers ( GoM). At last count, there were about 60 such groups. When faced with a delicate problem that has the potential to ruffle the feathers of coalition partners, the UPA Government takes the easy way out and sets up yet another GoM. There are GoMs looking into a whole gamut of issues that normally should have been tackled by the Cabinet. There are groups dealing with Naga talks, airport modernisation, Commonwealth Games, disaster management and even one to decide how far the Delhi Metro should be allowed to expand.
It’s a nice way to abdicate responsibility and avoid taking decisions. But does anything worthwhile happen at these meetings? Not a chance. Last week, a scheduled meeting of the GoM to decide on the Enron- built disaster at Dabhol was postponed because many members were not in town.
They were busy campaigning for the Assembly polls in their states. Many GoMs are headed by senior ministers belonging to alliance partners to whom the PM can hardly afford to hand down sermons like “ Take your job more seriously”. GoM meetings have in the past been scrapped at the last minute because ministers supposed to provide notes on whatever is on the agenda from their ministries came ill- prepared.

But the real reason why nothing works is because quite a few of the GoMs are looking into contentious issues involving corporate rivalries. Among the many GoM meetings put off in recent times was one to decide the gas pricing policy where two brothers, until recently hailed as among the richest men in the world, are fighting a bitter battle. It’s easy to see why the ministers can’t make up their minds.

THE Sangh Parivar is not the type to gloat over a minor victory scored in faraway London but whispers are doing the rounds about the reasons behind Chris Patten, a former British Minister, talking the same language as some ministers of the UPA government. The latter have demanded a ban on the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal while Patten is said to have actively lobbied with Whitehall for a ban on the entry of Sangh Parivar outfit members into Britain, a demand which has now been rejected by the British government. Sangh Parivar circles wonder if Patten’s endorsement of the ban is due to a link with MK Narayanan, the National Security Advisor. Narayanan is a former cop, while Patten is some sort of expert on policing.

Five years ago, Narayanan, as vice- president of a Chennai based think- tank, had hosted Patten and in a speech gushed about being in the presence of “ a celebrity like Patten”. Never mind that the electorate back home in England had rejected him outright. Patten visited Chennai again last month and among the first things he did after getting back home was to raise the demand for the ban in the House of Lords of which he is now a member. I am not sure if the two met on Patten’s recent visit but senior members of the Sangh Parivar do suspect a link between the timing of his Chennai trip and the lobbying for the ban that began on his return home.

Paying for GenNext campaign

THE Election Commission and political parties have for long been involved in a cat and mouse game. Every election, the EC keeps a close watch on poll expenses incurred by parties while the latter devise newer and more sophisticated methods to connect with voters. Delhi is in the middle of an election but a visitor to the city won’t be able to tell, because the EC long ago curtailed the visible, vulgar and ugly aspects of campaigning — the gaudy posters, the loud speakers that blared late into the night, the currency notes and booze bottles that changed hands outside polling booths. And most of all, the cap on expenditure on candidates.

But political parties and leaders have devised innovative methods to get around such curbs. One being the ubiquitous SMS. It was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, all of 80+ then, who employed this new age strategy first. Millions of handset owners were surprised to receive calls ( which were recorded messages) from him asking for votes.

That seems ages ago and cellphone ownership has grown exponentially since then. Today, every third Indian possesses a mobile phone and service providers, knowing there is a killing to be made, have provided details of users to political parties which are now connecting with voters via the handset. Millions of SMSes go out every day seeking votes. But the EC doesn’t agree. It is planning to ask service providers to furnish details of calls made and SMSes sent by politicial leaders and their managers.
The EC wants to club call and SMS charges to the total election expenses allowed per candidate.
Political parties and candidates are likely to accuse the EC of playing spoilsport. To which Nirvachan Sadan can well say: Fair play please.

Seedhi Baat / Aajtak, November 23, 2008

Can't compare T20s with Tests: Ganguly

Cricketer Sourav Ganguly syas on Seedhi Baat a player has to display a lot of skills in Test cricket.

टीम इंडिया के सबसे सफल कप्‍तान रहे सौरव गांगुली ने संन्‍यास लेने के बाद की योजनाओं के बारे में बताया. सौरव अपनी कप्‍तानी में वर्ल्‍ड कप नहीं जीतने से निराश हैं. उन्‍होंने कहा कि इसका मुझे मलाल रहेगा.

Watch video: part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4; and part 5

Monday, November 17, 2008

Power & Politics / Mail Today, November 17, 2008

WITH THE economy slowing down, everything seems to have a “ For Sale” tag attached to it. But you wouldn’t expect our politicians to pin similar tags on election tickets, would you? You’d be wrong if you didn’t.

As Margaret Alva, the now resigned Congress General Secretary, then Yogendra Makwana, who was forced to step down as head of the Congress Scheduled Castes Cell and now Vishwendra Singh, the BJP MP from Bharatpur in Rajasthan, have all told us, India’s two largest parties are auctioning tickets to the highest bidder. If anything, this is further shameful proof that something is rotten in our political parties. Earlier, when Mayawati did it brazenly, nobody questioned her because she was the party and the BSP was Mayawati. But now we see the so- called national parties taking to the same “ cash for tickets” route. A cursory glance at the assets declared by those who control the national parties and those blessed with tickets by them makes it clear as daylight that India’s mainstream political parties are now becoming Of The Rich and For The Rich. And Run by the Rich.

I wish we had a parliamentary variation of the US system of primaries that throw up common party workers who rise to the top by sheer dint of hard work. We see, instead, parties that swear by democracy not holding genuine inner party elections, political thugs dictating terms to dedicated party workers and powerful cabals that have nothing to lose and everything to gain calling the shots.

Political gangsterism has overtaken the decision making process. You are an orphan in today’s politics if you don’t let your money do the talking. Why, you may not even find access to your own party leaders if they don’t have a clear idea of your bank balance. The irony is inescapable: we are a democracy and elect our MPs and MLAs. But our choice is truly limited, because the people whom we can vote for are decided by cabals in our political parties, which are increasingly run like family held companies. India Inc is being replicated on Political India.

All of them are equally culpable — Congress, BJP, BSP, SP. In my constituency in South Delhi, the BSP candidate is a gentleman whose chances of winning are just about as much as that of a snowfall in Delhi in the middle of June. Nobody had heard of him until last week when he rode an elephant ( his party symbol) and went to the ADM’s office to file his nomination papers. The secret was soon out: he had declared assets in excess of Rs 150 crores. Now I cannot think of even one party leader who would say no if the above worthy were to offer even a miniscule faction of that humongous wealth in exchange for a ticket. After all, top leaders need money to run their outfits and in these days when no leader worth his salt flies anything but charter and lives anything but fivestar, that kind of money goes a long way in keeping our leaders in luxury.

Seedhi Baath/ Aajtak, November 16, 2008

'Tulsi has left a lasting impression'

Actor and politician Smriti Zubin Irani says on on Seedhi Baat that the TV character of Tulsi has carved a respectable image for her.

आज तक के साप्‍ताहिक कार्यक्रम 'सीधी बात' में छोटे पर्दे की बहू स्‍मृति ईरानी ने कहा कि उन्‍होंने तुलसी के रूप में लोगों के बीच सबसे ज्‍यादा छाप छोड़ी है. हालांकि वो खुश हैं कि लोग उन्‍हें स्‍मृति ईरानी के रूप में भी जानते हैं.

Watch video: part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4; and part 5

Snippets / Mail Today, November 17, 2008

LAND PRICES may be crashing all across the country, but not in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli and adjoining districts which of late are witness to land sharks from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and other cities descending in droves, many of them either relatives or close associates of some union ministers.
The buzz is that several auxiliary units for the Kudankulam Atomic Power Project, that is to become operational next year, are to be set up in the area, for which thousands of acres need to be acquired. After the Nandigram and Singur fiascos, the DMK government has decided not to play middleman in deals involving villagers land. But there is no shortage of brokers. Every other revenue official or village officer in the district is ready to moonlight for the right consideration. Since the buyers are the well connected, the petty officials need have no fear of retribution.

Ring, ring... no one’s answering
THE STEEP drop in their net worth is not the only reason that some of India Inc’s leading lights are taking refuge on foreign shores. A lot of them have simply vamoosed because it is the election silly season when there is increased demand on their rapidly depleting resources from the political class. Desperate politicians who store the handset numbers of such honchos on their speed dials are alarmed at their frantic calls eliciting the standard monotone response: the number you are dialling is out of reach.
The rich and the powerful from Mumbai and Delhi have switched off their primary numbers and are using unlisted ones until elections are over and demand wanes. A conservative estimate would put the joint e
xpenditure of the Congress and the BJP in the five heartland states at about Rs 500 crore and high command leaders of both parties and even chief ministers of poll bound states are enlisting the support of the intelligence network to track down the traditional liberal donors. The only one unperturbed is Behen Mayawati who, like Barack Obama, accumulates her millions in small change.
Even in these bad times, the Congress is perhaps placed better than the BJP to collect money from states that are not poll bound. It has sought assistance of its chief ministers in the financial powerhouses of Maharashtra, Andhra and Haryana to mop up resources, but in the BJP, Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, arguably India’s fastest growing state, refuses to play ball, while BS Yedyurappa, a toddler still trying to find his feet, is wary of taking risks. It can at best bank on PK Dhumal in Himachal and Khanduri in Uttarakhand and there is not much that two of India’s smallest states can do to put a smile on the face of the saffronites. But they can take heart from the flip side. At least the rich donors won’t be able to claim ownership of the party.

PEOPLE have already lost confidence in politicians, but God forbid, is their cynicism now spreading to the judiciary? For years now, people kept faith in the judiciary and still continue to. Times are fast changing as cases pile up about the misdeeds of the men in black and there are rising demands that the judiciary clean the Augean stables. Fortunately, in K. G. Balakrishnan, the country has a chief justice who has heard these howls of protests and sent out the message that however high My Lords may consider themselves to be, they have to face the process of law.
The CBI and other investigative agencies are busy at work gathering information on the Ghaziabad Provident Fund Scam in which nearly three dozen judges, including one from the apex court and several from high courts and district courts across the country are under the scanner.
I am told that in a few days time, the CBI will hand over what they say is irrefutable evidence to the CJI for his perusal and whatever action he may choose to take. The heads of many sitting judges are expected to roll, several more retired ones will be shamed. The CJI has already won admiration for the manner in which he confronted tainted judges with evidence and forced some to resign though the obstinate ones are holding out. More power to his gavel.

CEC is the bugbear of the UPA
CONVENTIONAL wisdom suggests that the dates for the General Elections will be decided sometime in December after the results of the impending Assembly elections are known. Nothing could be more off the mark because there are other factors at work. True, Manmohan Singh wants to go in for early elections and Sonia Gandhi, Lalu Prasad, Sharad Pawar et al would rather wait till the last minute.
I have reason to believe that whichever way the results turn out next month, we may have to wait a couple of more months to know the schedule. The reason is a man who goes by the name of N. Gopalaswami. The Chief Election Commissioner has been the UPA government’s bugbear and in the three- man Commission, no member talks to another ( when they do, it is to agree to disagree).
The government is loath to go to the polls under Gopalaswami. The good news for the UPA is that he is due to retire on April 15. But the bad news is that the 15th Lok Sabha must be constituted by May, to enable which, the election process must start well in advance. Over- enthusiastic Congressmen are now mooting for the EC to be converted into a four- or five- member body where the extra seats will be filled up by loyalists who will not ask inconvenient questions.
One name being suggested is P. C. Haldar, the IB chief, who is to retire soon and who may be rewarded for past favours. Like the trust vote scam in July when Haldar’s inputs to his mentor, the National Security Advisor M. K. Narayanan, went a long way in making July 22, 2008, one of the most disgraceful days in Indian parliamentary history. In this season of cricketing cheer, who knows, the day will soon come when the EC has enough members to field its own Twenty20 team.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sharad Pawar on Aajtak, November 10, 2008

"People do not support Raj Thackeray"

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar says on Aajtak that people from different parts of India stay together in Mumbai as Mumbaikars.

Watch video: part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4; part 5 and part 6

Monday, November 10, 2008

Power & Politics / Mail Today, November 10, 2008

NEVER in recent times has the relationship between the government and Corporate India been as cosy as during the last four and half years of the UPA Government. It is easy to understand why business honchos prefer to be “ politically correct” and stay on the right side of the establishment. But with our politicians – both from the ruling combine and the Opposition – showing a tendency to openly wine and dine with industry titans, it almost seems as if the two are made for each other.

The once clear dividing line between that two has blurred to the point of extinction. In the past, the government occasionally wielded the stick at India Inc but it’s more standard practice on its part, business is seldom critical about the government. As a wag said, this is a government “ by business, of business and for business”. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against such interaction. In fact, I think open contact between the two is far more preferable to the practice during the command economy days when such meetings were mostly clandestine and little that transpired was above board. Of late however, while meetings have become transparent, they have also become too frequent for comfort. In any given month, the Prime Minister, his Cabinet colleagues and even the Leader of the Opposition are seen spending more time attending conferences organised by FICCI, CII, ASSOCHAM and other such bodies than attending party workers meetings.

Maybe it’s the ambience at such do’s or the fact that in these dangerous times, they feel more secure in the company of members of the billionaire club. With thousands of young men and women losing sleep worrying about losing their jobs, Manmohan Singh was absolutely right in calling the honchos last week and asking them to resist from retrenching workers. They in turn promised him they won’t. It’s a different matter that some of them left the meeting and headed for their boardrooms to discuss Q3 performance with senior managements and then went onto do exactly the opposite of what was promised to the PM. Manufacturing jobs are being lost as some of the biggest business houses either close plants entirely or factories are shuttered for a few days a month. Many Congress leaders I know are worried with this trend and frustrated at being unable to put their views across to the party top hierarchy.

And they are right to be worried. It is not their case that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues should not meet industrialists, it is just that they are concerned that the government is seen to be following a path which seems tailormade for the Singh: For business rich. Shades of 1996? Or Barack Obama 2008? The Bush administration policies that were seen to be benefiting fatcat corporates at the cost of welfare programmes for the large numbers of the poor was one reason for the resounding win of Barrack Obama.

Next week, Manmohan Singh flies to Washington for the G- 20 meeting hosted by President Bush. Reports say Obama may attend the meeting in which case, Manmohan should request Bush to arrange a meeting with the President- elect. Who knows, Obama may agree to share a few tips. In which case, we can all hope to see Manmohan returning with a spring in his step to tell his party colleagues: “ Yes We Can”.

Seedhi Baat / Aajtak, November 09, 2008

The master blaster says on Seedhi Baat that cricket is a childhood dream that he is living.

क्रिकेट मेरी जिंदगी है: सचिन तेंदुलकर
आज तक के 'सीधी बात' में सचिन ने कहा कि क्रिकेट से कोई बड़ा नहीं होता. हमें रोज कुछ नया सीखने को मिलता है. यह हमारी जिंदगी है. हमारी टीम काफी संतुलित टीम है.

Watch video: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6.

Snippets / Mail Today, November 10, 2008

THE alumni roster of St John’s College at Cambridge University would read like a listing of world leaders and statesmen but the college must have a special fondness for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who graduated from the Class of 1957. That’s hardly surprising since on a visit to the university two years ago, Manmohan had acknowledged the role the university had played in shaping his life saying “ Cambridge made me”. Last year, the university reciprocated the sentiments by instituting three doctoral scholarships for Indian students to pursue Ph. D courses in science, technology and social sciences. At 35,000 pounds, the scholarships are no small change. Doubts linger though. Rarely are scholarships granted in the name of those living; what’s more the scholarships in the Prime Minister’s name are sponsored by two major British firms that have vast business interests in India. Ah, the corporate connection again, albeit with a foreign twist.

Wine is curse of the political class
LOTS of things are going wrong that call for urgent government attention but our ministers not only get their priorities wrong but are even duplicitous. A senior minister told me that last week, the Cabinet burned the midnight oil debating the “ propriety” of setting up a Wine Board in a country where the directive principles of the Constitution encourage all states to encourage prohibition.
The proposal for its creation on the lines of the Coffee Board, Tea Board, Coir Board, Spices Board etc came from the Food Processing Minister Subodh Kant Sahay, who said it will go a long way in monitoring the production and processing of grapes for the manufacture of wine. His argument was that 82 per cent of fruit produced in the country goes to waste for lack of storage and processing facilities. With the numbers of wine imbibers growing at 30 per cent per annum and domestic wines making inroads into the foreign markets, he believes it is only a matter of time before India begins to compete with the best in the world.
Already, farmers in large parts of the country are taking to cultivating grapes as an alternate cash crop and as such Sahay’s instincts were perhaps in the right place. But the Cabinet meeting witnessed heated arguments, with the most vocal opposition to the proposal coming from a few ministers from a handful of states that ironically account for more than half of all the liquour – hard liquor, not wine mind you – sold in the country. It was left to Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to play the role of mediators. There will be no Wine Board. Efforts are on for a compromise and the frontrunner is the Grape Processing Society under the Food Processing Ministry. Even the most obfuscatory babu will find it hard to better that.

THE last few years have seen New Delhi and Washington cosying up to each other so much that it will be a while before our bureaucrats and diplomats – including retired ones – manage to rid themselves of Uncle Sam phobia. The N- deal is done, signed and delivered; the White House will have a new resident in January who is on record that Pakistan’s problem comes not from India but from within. So why is former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, the N- deal’s chief navigator, rustling up carpets in search of a piece of paper for assurance – where none is sought – that the deal will have full backing from the incoming Barack Obama administration.

Last week, when the world was celebrating the Obama landslide, Saran spent anxious moments searching for the letter that Obama had written to Manmohan Singh a couple of months back assuring the Prime Minister of his support for the deal. As the PM’s special envoy on the N- deal, Saran had met Obama who is said to have given him a stern lecture. Now that the deal is through, Saran deserves the nuclear enthusiasts thanks for his untiring work in pushing through what was once believed to be a lost cause. But the former foreign secretarty, now the prime minister’s special envoy on climate change would do better concentrating on his new assignment, which incidentally is a subject very very close to the president- elect’s heart.

Cracking glass ceiling
THE TICKET distribution process for elections in six states due from next week is over and all political parties have given a raw deal to the huge pool of female talent within. The line up is again so male dominated that some of the most talented politicians in the country will be nothing more than unpaid campaigners. No wonder the women are seething with rage. The Congress list gives the impression that the party’s Central Election Committee feels a woman at the top of the party is one woman too many. At the BJP, dharnas outside its offices have become order of the day.

The feisty Sushma Swaraj, a vocal proponent of 33 per cent reservation for women could guarantee no more than four out of the 70 seats in Delhi for them. Rajasthan has a woman CM but less than 10 per cent of BJP candidates are women. Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan together account for 584 seats but between them, the Congress and the BJP have handed out less than five per cent seats each to women. It is clear when the odd woman gets one, it is more because of ideological proximity to leader than party.

Kusum Rai, close to former UP CM Kalyan Singh, had issued threats of revolt. The BJP gave her a Rajya Sabha seat which will be vacated by no less than party chief Rajnath Singh. As I said, she is the exception and the glass ceiling will not be broken easily.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Ask Prabhu

Should India opt for the US election system?
India needs a presidential form of government with strong state governments as well.
Why is India so averse to third party mediation in Kashmir? If we are so sure of our legitimacy, why should we worry?
Will Pakistan invite a third party for dealing with Baluchistan and Sindh?
Is Rahul Gandhi the Obama of India?
No. Rahul has an advantage of pedigree while Obama has no such luck.
I had sent you some information on the illegal Indian landline phones working in Nepal, but it seems you have not taken any action.
It is being investigated.
Will you accept the job of prime minister? If yes, will you be a better candidate than your predecessors?
I don't think about the job for which I am neither a candidate nor anyone has offered me so far.
Is it possible to balance life in today's competitive world?
Why not? Must compete for good work at workplace and at home as well.
What is Bihar and UP doing to improve the quality of life of their citizens so that they do not have to migrate outside their states?
Both are planning big infrastructure projects in their states which will generate employment.
Do we have IT BT job-cut threats from Obama?
If he implements his speeches then Indians involved in IT BT jobs are heading for a serious trouble.
According to you, what is the solution to the Kashmir issue? I think even if we gift Kashmir to Pakistan, the latter has come so far in spreading terrorism that it cannot stop it.
The only solution is to accept LoC as the international border and give more autonomy to the J&K government.
Why aren't parochial feelings nipped in the bud itself? For example—Karnataka refusing to adhere to SC's directions on the Cauvery dispute, Maharashtra turning a blind eye to Raj's atrocities, etc.
We don't have a strong and decisive leadership both at the state and the central level.
Would Uma Bharati's BJSP make an impact in the upcoming elections in MP? Will it be a great loss for the BJP?
The BJP has lost a mass leader. But her impact on the BJP may not be much and confined only to a few seats.
The BJP says it will adopt the Obama policy. Are you sure?
American model can't be imposed on India due to our cultural and political diversity.
The recent revelations made by Maharashtra ATS establish the nexus between the Army and the Sangh Parivar. However, further digging might prove that someone was punished for somebody else's sins. Who then would believe its propaganda?
It is matter of concern for all of us. We will soon get all the facts.
Will you call the FM or the PM or even the RBI governor on Seedhi Baat to confirm that banks are correctly reporting their position on NPAs? Are they not concealing bad assets just to please our FM?
Your apprehension is right. Our banks are hiding more than what they have revealed.
ATS has become so active in the Malegaon blast case, but it could get nowhere in other blasts. Have the ATS and the press forgotten about the Assam blasts? Is everything guided only by vote-bank politics?
I don't know whether ATS is motivated by vote-bank politics. It is doing its job.

You cover all the possible angles of news related to the people you criticize so that they remain in the headlines. Shouldn't you instead highlight something that is meant for society's welfare?
I don't understand your question. We report facts and our comments are based on factual position.
When India Today published the headline, Impotent India (Aug 11, 2008 issue), on its cover, did you worry that someone in this country will try to prove you wrong? It could be a sadhvi, an Army officer or anybody else.
I still hold the same opinion. Bullet for bullet option is not valour.
Who is your favourite politician?
None amongst the living ones. But I admire Indira Gandhi for her firm conviction and strong leadership.
Is it true that almost all Indian English TV channels have been taken over (controlling stake) by Christian agencies from Europe and the US?
You are living in a world of your own which has no connection with reality and survives on fantasies.
Is Manmohan Singh India's best Sikh ever? Is Montek a slack administrator? Do politicians get paid by the UN and the IMF?
Manmohan Singh is definitely the most successful Sikh in the world.
Has Uttarakhand developed after becoming a separate state when compared to other newly-carved states?
It is doing better now than when it was part of Uttar Pradesh.
Does the arrest of Lt. Col. Purohit show that the army is losing its integrity?
No. Even in the past, the defence officers have been arrested for spying for enemies.
What is your opinion on the performance of the CMs of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan?
Wait for the election results. But both of them have not performed according to their potential.
Why does India Today ignore important news from Orissa? Why is the Orissa CM, Naveen Patnaik, shown only in a positive light?
Please form the opinion only after reading the magazine.
Will Obama's views on the Kashmir issue and his idea of appointing Bill Clinton as the special envoy for Kashmir solve the problem?
I don't think any third person can solve this problem. It has to be dealt by the leadership of India and Pakistan.
The US has got its first black president in the 250 years of its democracy. Will we have to wait equally long to get the country's first Muslim prime minister?
We have a much better record. We had three Muslim presidents, two chief justices and many chief ministers.
Why are the Indonesian Muslims agitating after the execution of the three terrorists? Is it because they support terrorism?
It is their business and could be part of their domestic politics.
Thousands of children are being trafficked from the flood-affected districts in Bihar. Can't we have a strong law to stop it and punish the culprits?
We have very strong laws to deal with such crimes.
There is not much clarity about the RSS as an organisation. We only know what comes in the media and from the statements issued by parties like the Congress. What are your views? Will you do a cover story on the RSS?
We have done so many stories, including a cover story on the RSS.
Earlier, we had seen some Muslims were terrorising the Hindus, and now some Hindus are terrorising the Muslims. Don't you think that India is knocking doors of a civil war?
There is no threat of a civil war as the number of communal riots and fights has declined over the years.

Can India conduct nuclear test in future?
Yes, but it will lose the benefits of Civil Nuclear Agreement.
Why is the government afraid of ordering a judicial probe in the so-called Batla House encounter?
It will set a wrong precedent. Our judiciary will be able to find out the truth when the trial of the case begins.
The UPA wants to ban the RSS and the VHP, but doesn't even think to ban the MNS. Why?
The MNS is dividing the Shiv Sena votes which will help the UPA. A ban on the RSS will fetch them Muslim votes.
Can the US be India's good friend on which it can trust?
The US is a fair weather friend and can be trusted only for mutually beneficial economic and business relationship.
Why are only Biharis being targeted in Maharashtra?
Every north Indian is a Bihari for them like every South Indian is a Madrasi. It is just dirty politics.
Shouldn't Raj Thackeray be charged with treason?
No. But he should be dealt with an iron hand. I am surprised that civil society activists are silent in Maharashtra and behaving like lambs.
Have you read Aravind Adiga's book The White tiger, it's like a simpler non-fictional version of India in Slow Motion by Mark Tully. When will we be able to say 'enough is enough' and get rid of corruption?
Frankly speaking I haven't. India is growing at 8 per cent which is the highest for any democratic country and thrice than that of UK.
Why has India Today stopped conducting surveys on the performance of the Central Government?
Because we have to find some innovative scientific ways of getting it right due to nature of coalition politics.
What is the reason behind the current political instability in India?
I don't see any instability in India. UPA government is going to complete it five year term.
Why didn't the Railways print advertisement related to its exam in the Marathi media in Maharashtra? Since when has our Constitution defined Hindi as the only national language of correspondence?
We follow a three-language formula at the Centre. But all the central government ads are only in Hindi and English.
Why is the Indian government assisting the Sri Lankan government and abetting the genocide of ethnic Tamils in that country?
The Indian government can't intervene in the internal affairs of any other country.
The scientists of India have done a great job by launching Chandrayaan-I to the moon, but they have not mentioned any state name on that rocket. Please comment.
Chandrayaan is a Sanskrit name and quite appropriate, since it means moon craft.
If the N deal does not succeed, who will be responsible? The government or the public?
Why public? They had no role to play in it.
Whom do you rate as India's finest prime minister?
They have been good and bad. But there is no one who could be called the best.
How many languages do you know?
I can write in Hindi and English, and speak in Punjabi, broken Bengali and Gujarati.

If the governments of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra can make their respective state languages mandatory in the state, why can't the Centre make Hindi mandatory in the country?
Central government belongs to the entire country. It has to take into account the sentiments of other states.
Narendra Modi could drag the Nano project to Gujarat successfully and make the land ready for possession in just one week. What is his strength and conviction not seen in other political leaders?
By getting Tata to his state he has also scored a political victory over his secular adversaries.
What's the difference between you and Bal Thackeray?
He roars. I bite. He polishes off a full bottle of wine while I have no such luck.
When was the last time that a government and the media supported a secular principle against the Sharia?
During Shah Bano case in 1986 when Rajiv Gandhi government changed the law to reverse the impact of a judicial verdict.
Why are youths with degrees like Ph.Ds and MBAs still unemployed? What options do they have but to commit suicide or become criminals?
To become self-employed. By the way, MBAs either from ordinary colleges or degree shops could be unemployed because all the IIM graduates get jobs before they complete their courses.
Why don't the media houses publish atrocities done on the so-called forward classes?
I appreciate your anger. But send us a few real examples or cases of atrocities against forward classes.
Why do the police allow criminals to hide their faces from the public and the media despite the fact that they are so dangerous for the society?
It is a legal requirement. No accused can be exposed to public until he or she has been identified by a witness.
The two terrorists recently killed in Kashmir were from Kerala. Isn't the fight in Kashmir becoming a religious war? Why don't our lawmakers take strict actions against it?
Law makers are aware of this but are helpless.
South India is far better than north India. Isn't it time for the south to secede from the north and form its own union?
Do you mean a healthy and wealthy son or daughter should betray the family because others are not as lucky but gave him or her all the support to achieve his objective?
Politicians are targeting the Bajrang Dal and the VHP on one hand and playing vote-bank politics by appeasing Muslims on the other. Can we witness a Hindu backlash in the next general elections?
This is what the BJP expects and the UPA is walking into the trap.
Don't you think that credibility of the news media has gone down after the coverage on Gujarat and Narendra Modi? Aren't media groups interested only in depicting a wrong image of both?
As a responsible media, we have to cover both the best and the worst.
Whenever people start discussing the need for an anti-terror law, the Cong-led UPA government says it may become an instrument for violation of human rights. Whose human rights are they concerned about—those of terrorists or innocent citizens?
Does the government know that? I feel the Congress party is totally confused.
A large part of Hindu society was tolerant for the last 60 years. Now, organisations like Bajrang Dal have evolved from it. Is it because successive governments have failed to prevent atrocities on Hindus due to vote-bank politics?
Hindus are not being threatened as a community in India. Bajrang Dal, etc have just become self-appointed saviours of the Hindus.
Shabana Azmi feels Muslims are ill-treated in India when a few of them couldn't find a house in a certain locality. What will she say now that some Muslims are accused in serial bomb blasts?
She has spoken against terrorism. It is not desirable to deny a home to a person because he or she belongs to a particular community.
Muslims are supposed to be the minority community in India, but they dominate media coverage. What type of secularism is this?
Minority views always get more attention because they have to be heard.

Considering that Indians are not sticklers for discipline and other niceties, Ricky Ponting may be right in claiming that the Indian team and the BCCI mounted a cover-up operation to save Bhajji in the racial abuse row. Please comment.
Australians are no better. I have travelled extensively in Australia and they sometimes cross the limits of civil behaviour with Indians.
The voter turnout was 60 per cent in the J&K assembly polls in 2002, but now the people are up against all the pro-India parties. How do you see the upcoming elections in the state in such a situation?
What do you mean by the pro-India parties? All of them are Indians whether they vote or don't.
Americans are world heroes when they elect a black President. When will we see such enthusiasm in India?
Americans can do it because they speak one language, over 90 per cent follow one religion and they are fully educated.
Though more individualistic than Indians, the Americans are also more nationalistic than Indians. Why?
Because they speak for the country and not for their community, caste and colour.
You had said earlier that the Tatas are one of the finest industrial groups in the world and deserve a favour. It's not true. Please check the corporate social responsibility activities of the Tatas in states from where it gets minerals at very low rates.
These terms of lease were fixed when no one was willing to invest in such areas.
Why is India going down the drain? Why are we so callous and indifferent to all that is happening? Is there any way we are going to be a vibrant and a forward-looking society?
Don't be so pessimistic. We are growing at more than 7 per cent.
Pakistan today is embroiled in internal disharmony. How does this environment affect India's security and what are the options to mitigate the fall out?
A weak Pakistan is not good for India as it would encourage extremist elements.
Is India a developing country or an emerging nation? The latter is good, but the former is an indication of poverty. Is Montek Singh doing a good job? Is the moon mission real?
Yours is three-in-one question. India is an emerging economy.
Was Bill Clinton responsible for terrorism?
It didn't start when he was the President.
Why is the voice of youth missing in India and what's the remedy?
Because they are aren't speaking loudly and forcefully.
Bribery is one of the several obstructions to India's growth. Is there any permanent solution for this?
Bring in stronger laws and stringent punishment for such crimes.
Is it right for the private banks to put money in the mutual funds under the guise of savings?
If the banks are transparent in their business, we should not object.
Has Dilip Vengsarkar the right to comment on Sourav Ganguly's retirement decision?
Why not? He is quite senior and may have his views. It is for you and others to accept or reject them.
Won't the ongoing politics of hate give the Communists a chance to shine with their populist policies?
It may cause social conflicts but there is no chance of a Communist rule in the country.
Is this the right time to buy a house in Mumbai? Will the house price go down in near future?
I have no experience in this area. But I wouldn't invest in a house at this stage.

Indian roads are riddled with holes, ditches, cracks and patchworks while those in developed countries are excellent for travel. Why?
We have roads in potholes because the money goes into the pockets of those who give contracts.
Will India get rid of power cuts forever by signing the nuclear deal with the US and France?
Very unlikely. And nuclear power will not come till 2014.
Do you think the violence in Orissa is politically instigated to project the VHP and the Bajrang Dal as Hindu terror outfits, just like Islamic outfits such as SIMI and HuJI?
If Bajrang Dal is involved in attacking Christians, they should be treated at par with SIMI.
Is nuclear deal the last and the best weapon of the Congress to win in the next parliamentary elections?
It appears so at the moment. They have no other slogan.
The N-deal proves that Manmohan Singh is one of the failures in Indian history. France and China have never entered into such deals. Singh should have drawn wisdom from Iran and North Korea. What is your opinion?
Our Prime Minister claims that India has got a better deal without signing the NPT.
If Bajrang Dal be banned for unleashing communal violence, why not the Congress party for the 1984 communal riots?
Congress as a party was not involved in anti-Sikh riots, but few prominent leaders were accused of arson against the Sikhs.
Today, when the common man is bearing the brunt of fanaticism, why can't people realise that terrorism seeks no religion? Can't they unite instead of raising fingers at each other?
I agree with you.
Amar Singh is supporting the nabbed terrorists and favouring judicial inquiry into Batla House encounter. Please comment.
Amar Singh has the right to express himself. It is for others to take it or leave it.
With a population of 15-20 per cent, why can't Muslims start taking decisions themselves by leaving parties like Congress and SP behind?
I have a feeling that churning has started. Muslims have realised that they can't be used as pawns.
Isn't the media underplaying the atrocities on Christians across the country?
Media is giving it the coverage it deserves and the community seems to be satisfied with it.
If you become the prime minister, what will be your first step for the country?
Please give me a chance and you will see.
I heard the stunning news that three Bangladeshi terrorists were responsible for the recent Tripura blasts. How long will we tolerate all this?
As long as we continue vote-bank politics and politicians keep blaming each other.
M.C.Sharma's family received a nominal amount as compensation from the government. Do you agree that the government rewards sportspersons more than the families of the real heroes who sacrifice their lives for the country?
I agree. Police officers who sacrifice their lives for the country should be handsomely rewarded.
After the Batla House encounter, Shivraj Patil declared it a success, but other ministers like Kapil Sibal and Digvijay Singh labelled it as fake. Who is correct? Muslim Imams of some mosques like Malegaon are also blowing up such encounters.
Many leading personalities have raised questions about the encounter.
Isn't it shameful that Delhi CM Sheila Dixit calls Soumya's night-driving "adventurous"? Will she blame us for going to places where bombs could go off? I think, she needs to take action like Narendra Modi for protecting the people.
Please don't compare her with Modi. While Dixit belongs to the Congress, Modi is a hardcore Hindutva icon.

How can we save the Christians in India?
They should be in a position to convince others that they are not involved in any forcible conversions.
How will you define SIMI in one sentence? What can be done to end its activities in India?
Sentimentally Inspired Misguided Individuals (SIMI).
What is the difference between terrorist activities in Punjab and those in metros of India?
Both are led by misguided and disgruntled leaders in the name of their communities.
Do you think reservation is necessary in higher education and Class I jobs?
I recently came across a software that optimises images, bringing them to a fraction of their original size without any perceptible loss in quality. Why don't you run the images of the current issue through that software before uploading it on the websit
Many thanks for your suggestion.
I am a common man who can only write about the problems we are facing in Assam. Why don't you suggest our leaders in Assam as well as those in Delhi to strive for peace, progress and unity in Assam?
Our leaders are well aware of the serious situation in Assam. I am sure they will soon give up vote-bank politics.
How can you say that the involvement of Muslims in the recent blasts is a mere coincidence? The entire world is now suffering from Islamic terrorism.
Unfortunately, the names of those who have been involved are such that the entire community bears the brunt.
I live in Canada and am currently studying International Crime. My research paper is on 'Crime in India'. Can you tell me the crime that is ranking high as well as the one that is on the decline in India at present?
In India, economic offences are rising very fast while there is sharp decline in minor crimes like theft, etc.
Are you pseudo-secular?
No. I am a nationalist secularist.
Is the BJP fit for secular India?
It has not been officially declared a communal party yet.
Will the collapse of Lehman Brothers affect the Indian stock market?
The Indian stock market has already faced a Tsunami.
What is the future of print media, especially magazines? Which is the largest selling magazine in India?
We are the largest selling news magazine in India. I see a great future for the magazine industry.
Can Bajrang Dal be banned in India?
Why not? If the government has enough evidence against any organisation, it can ban its activities.
Terrorism was eliminated in Punjab due to the determined efforts of the Sikhs to a large extent. Can't all Indian Muslims come together and issue a fatwa to get rid of this menace from our soil?
You are absolutely correct. That is the only way.
I agree it is unfair to label all Muslims as terrorists, but the fact remains that those involved or caught in terror strikes are only Muslims. Shouldn't prominent Muslims or their organizations come out openly against SIMI, IM, etc?
I find more and more Muslims coming out against terrorists.

Shouldn't the media highlight the fact that not all Muslims are terrorists and don't support terrorist acts? Maybe, it will help build confidence between the Hindus and the Muslims.
If more and more credible and prominent Muslims come out against terrorist activities, the media will definitely give them enough space and attention.
Why is that only SIMI, IM and LeT are accused for every blast? Can't it be done by any non-Muslim group? The suspects are declared soon after the blasts. Is it possible?
Suspects can be declared only after a crime is committed. How can someone else be charged for an act which has not taken place?
Why no report has been published on Congress's Salman Khurshid being one of the lawyers for SIMI and one arrested terrorist being the son of a Samajwadi Party leader? Are they not traitors?
News about advocate representing any organization and relationship of terrorists is always carried when the news is broken.
Politicians made a beeline for attending the last rites of Inspector M.C. Sharma, who is the first policeman to lay down his life after the Parliament attack in 2001. One person from the army dies for the motherland every seventh day, but nobody gets the
Please recollect the recognition given by the country to the martyrs of Kargil and other such fights against aggression and terror.
Despite being a national project, the gauge conversion of the Lumding-Silchar railway link has been held to ransom by a small group of people and nothing is being done. Isn't Barak Valley important for the powers-that-be? Can you find out when it will be
I understand your agony. Many such projects in India have been held to ransom by some extremist elements.
Should AK-47 and Trishul be seen in the same light?
Both can kill innocent people if misused.
Christians are providing education and healthcare facilities to all which induces people to convert. Do you consider this a forced conversion?
In a highly divisive atmosphere, rumours play an important role.
Why not consider enabling payments via online account transfer and credit care for Care Today? Thank you very much for your suggestion. We will look into this.
Why don't you give straightforward answers to questions? Please support the Muslims who are good, but are being hounded everywhere in the world.
I give correct answers and not the ones which a person may be expecting.
What is the percentage of Muslims who support terror in India?
Not less than the Hindus in terms of percentage.
How do you compare Bajrang Dal and SIMI?
Both indulge in violent activity, only the degree varies. But, both are not comparable.
Why all the terrorists involved in the blasts are Muslims?
It is just a coincidence.
In reply to a question on covering Assam, you had said it is not prudent to cover floods, illegal immigrants and AASU all the time. However, the time is not far when you will need to cover the state prominently as it will be the hub of Mujahideens.
I am sure such a situation will never arise because of vigilant Assamese leaders like you.
I read in the newspapers that the Home Minister is writing a book on good governance, quoting Chanakya and others. How can he do so after failing miserably to carry out his duties?
A person who is not confident about himself always quotes others. So let him do that.
It is really surprising that you have ranked Kerala at a higher place than it deserves. There is hardly any industrialisation in the state, and around 80 mandays have been lost in strikes till date in 2008.
Kerala, in fact, has dropped in our rankings from No 2 to No 4 during the past four years.

Why don't you visit our troubled state of Assam and get a glimpse of the real problems faced by us?

I have just come back from Assam after addressing the IIT Guwahati. I visited the state almost after 20 years and I find not much progress.
What are the drawbacks in the Aarushi case and who is to be blamed?
Investigative agencies. Both at the state and at the central level.
In an interview on Seedhi Baat, Mehbooba Mufti said 1947 was a religious divide and Kashmir has the right to split from India as it has a Muslim majority. Her statement sounded as if Muslims have no right to live in India. How could you provide a
I appreciate your concern and sympathise with you, but as a journalist, I have to provide a platform to all kinds of leaders irrespective of their views and convictions.
What are the social responsibilities and norms of a business organisation operating within a society?
Business organizations must provide the best working conditions and look after the interests of their employees.
Will the fabulously rich people from the business and film worlds help their fellow countrymen affected by floods in Bihar?
At the moment, all of them are travelling abroad. Let us wait for them to return and see the misery of the people of Bihar.
With the present set of politicians in India, is it possible for us to revamp and revive sports like China or say Britain has done?
Have you noticed the complete Christianisation of Bollywood eversince the Congress came to power? All religious symbols shown in Hindi movies are Christian. How shameful to see Hindu and Muslim actors, producers and directors allowing themselves to be use
Why do you look at entertainment as a medium for creating religious divide? Treat them as pure fun and enjoy.
It seems Raj Thackeray and his MNS are running a parallel government in Maharashtra and the state government is watching as a silent spectator. Will it not have a dangerous impact on other states?
Raj Thackeray is not running a parallel government, but it is the state government which is afraid of taking any action against him.
How do you claim India is a true democracy when everything here is corrupt?
Tell me any democracy including the United States of America where there is no corruption.
Indira Gandhi purposely left behind a bunch of spineless, sycophant and incompetent politicians at the top in the Congress. Don’t you think we are just paying a price for their incompetence?
Sycophancy is a very strong and surest way to success in politics. Since leaders now own the parties either as a cabal or as a family, they are insecure about other equally successful individuals.
I saw in a TV channel that the wire of a CC TV was cut and the TV was not working. This was barely 100 feet away from the blast site. It could have provided vital information on the blast. Who is responsible? God save India!
God is kind to the Indians. We blame others for our own faults. But in this particular case, the culprits may have snapped the connection just before the blast.
When Ram Vilas Paswan, Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Yadav give statements in favour of SIMI, how can we expect that the government will take any strong action against SIMI?
It is vote-bank politics. These leaders have not realised the extent of damage they have caused.
What’s the level of India’s tolerance? Can’t something concrete be done about it?
We Indians have limitless patience. But when we rise as one-India then even the Almighty may surrender to our collective power.
Don’t you think SIMI is only retaliating to whatever the VHP and the RSS have done to them in the past? How can we only blame them for all these incidents and glorify people like Modi?
I totally disapprove of their actions which lead to communal disharmony. But you can’t equate them with SIMI which bombs innocent people all over the country.
Don’t you think the Congress and its allies are responsible for terrorism in this country and only Narendra Modi can save the country from terror attacks?
Individuals can’t solve a problem alone. Only institutions led by strong leaders can

Indira Gandhi purposely left behind a bunch of spineless, sycophant and incompetent politicians at the top in the Congress. Don’t you think we are just paying a price for their incompetence?
Sycophancy is a very strong and surest way to success in politics. Since leaders now own the parties either as a cabal or as a family, they are insecure about other equally successful individuals.

I saw in a TV channel that the wire of a CC TV was cut and the TV was not working. This was barely 100 feet away from the blast site. It could have provided vital information on the blast. Who is responsible? God save India!

God is kind to the Indians. We blame others for our own faults. But in this particular case, the culprits may have snapped the connection just before the blast.

When Ram Vilas Paswan, Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Yadav give statements in favour of SIMI, how can we expect that the government will take any strong action against SIMI?

It is vote-bank politics. These leaders have not realised the extent of damage they have caused.

What’s the level of India’s tolerance? Can’t something concrete be done about it?

We Indians have limitless patience. But when we rise as one-India then even the Almighty may surrender to our collective power.

Don’t you think SIMI is only retaliating to whatever the VHP and the RSS have done to them in the past? How can we only blame them for all these incidents and glorify people like Modi?
I totally disapprove of their actions which lead to communal disharmony. But you can’t equate them with SIMI which bombs innocent people all over the country.

Don’t you think the Congress and its allies are responsible for terrorism in this country and only Narendra Modi can save the country from terror attacks?

Individuals can’t solve a problem alone. Only institutions led by strong leaders can.

What is the reason behind the recent blasts in Delhi?

A weak intelligence work coupled with equally weak terror laws are responsible for spurt in violence against innocent people.

Will this Congress government ever wake up to the need of an anti-terror law? If condemning with words was enough, why have an IPC?

I agree words of wisdom for sympathy are not the appropriate action against terrorist killing.

Why our great Hindutva leaders, Bal Thackeray, Uday, Raj and Narendra Modi, are not raising a sena of dedicated followers who will fight terror? Is raising the issue of Hindu sena merely a way for them to accumulate power and fool the common people?

They probably feel that is the only way they can protect their vote banks and create an effective deterrent against various armies of terrorists.

In a scenario wherein the terrorists can attack at any time and in any place in India, what is wrong if we encourage or at least overlook fake encounters?

Fake encounters are not an answer. But shoot those at sight who are indulging in terrorist attack could be a possibility if there is a national consensus on this course of action.

The bomb blasts in Delhi prove that our nation is helpless against terrorism as the terrorists can strike at will wherever they like. Please comment.

We are not helpless. We are just impotent and it appears as if the security of the people has been mortgaged to politics of lethal vote-banks.

Do you think Modi can be the PM one day?

If his party wins a majority, he may be a front-runner in 2014.

Do you think Barack Obama is good for India, considering his anti-globalisation stance?

Let us wait for him to take over. Don’t forget, every American is American first and will do whatever is in the best interests of his or her country.

Multinationals, like Walmart and Tesco, are entering India in a big way. Shouldn’t the government improve the PDS shops so that they can compete with these biggies?

How can you compare the two? Walmart and Tesco are multinationals and PDS shops are run on the basis of quotas given by the government.

Our communist brothers learn that China is not a friend of India, provides nuclear weapons to Pakistan and is trying to spoil our relations with our neighbours. It may even launch a proxy war against India through these countries. Shouldn’t India take a

I am sure, the Government of India is aware of the Chinese intentions, and the policy planning unit of the Ministry of External Affairs has been involved in making advance plans to deal with the future Chinese threats.

Don’t you think Muslims should be given a good package in terms of education and employment for their upliftment?

Various packages for educational and economic upliftment of the minorities are in place in various states.

Isn't the Tata's project at Singur being targeted for political gains?
Is there any doubt? Mamata Banerjee is a politician by profession.
How do you rate the performance of India's young MPs? Who's the most effective?
Young MPs have not been able to show their full potential in Parliament because their leaders did not give them enough time to speak on behalf of their parties.
Aren't the recent Bihar floods getting so much coverage in the media due to the BJP chief minister in the state?
Nitish Kumar has not joined the BJP so far and I don't think he will ever do that. He belongs to the Janata Dal (U).
Why don't you publish a special edition of Ask Prabhu in India Today?
Thank you very much for your suggestion.
Are politicians responsible for the recent Bihar floods?
Partially, yes.
Why don't the people from UP and Bihar learn Marathi and imbibe Marathi culture in order to survive in Mumbai or Maharashtra?
Most of the people from Bihar and UP staying in Mumbai speak better Marathi than the locals.
Kudos for writing an excellent cover story on Kashmir without visiting the place. If you had visited the place, you would have seen how the BJP workers harassed pilgrims on highways and stopped them from proceeding on the Amarnath yatra.
I don't think you have read the magazine.
The CPM has accomplished its mission by making West Bengal a loser among all states in India. Will the people of the state vote for it again?
Let us wait for the final verdict in March 2009 when they vote for electing the MPs.
When the Maoists have already claimed the responsibility of Swami's murder, why are you people fuelling communal violence by posting a news story—'Swami Laxmananand feared for his life'?
Media stories are based on the information given by various sources including the police and people connected with various social organizations.
Aren't the actions of the RSS, the Bajrang Dal and the VHP a threat to the integrity of India?
Yes, actions of any organization, which leads to the death of innocent people and disturb communal harmony, are serious threat to the country.
What punishment should be given to a prime minister who lies in the Parliament and to his people on an international agreement like the nuclear deal?
If you are convinced about the allegation, you and your friends and family have the option of voting against the party to which he belongs.
Aadvaniji ke 'role model' ka definition kya hai?
Yatra for every cause which he feels affects the nation.
How is India preparing to continue its leadership status as the "back office" of the world?
By achieving an annual GDP growth of over 8 per cent—highest in the world—and signing the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Energy Deal.
What impact will Chiranjeevi's party, Praja Rajyam, have on the politics of Andhra Pradesh?
It will only encourage a fractured verdict with none of the parties getting a clear majority.
I want to lodge a complain with you.
Email me at
Isn't the BJP one of the villains of the Amarnath row? They were stopping pilgrims on the Punjab-Jammu highway and not allowing them to proceed on the holy yatra.
The BJP is equally responsible for the mess in the state