Kedarnath opens, death (by negligence) beckons

Indians never seem to be troubled by the fact that so many people die due to criminal negligence. Disaster management is a joke (for 2013 CAG report excerpts see below). The flash floods resulting from cloud-burst had devastated Uttarakhand on 14-17 June, 2013. The entire Kedarnath temple complex was littered with dead bodies. More than 100,000 pilgrims were left stranded by the flooding and 5700 are presumed dead (many are missing, never to be found).

This was not the first mass murder by negligence and neither it will be the last. But for now everything is forgiven/forgotten. The devotees will march up the hills once more and if mother Ganga wishes to carry her children away to the promised next life, that is just your karma-fal (destiny).


Sacred portals of the Kedarnath temple
were reopened to devotees amid elaborate rituals early this morning..
..Chief priest of the shrine (Rawal) Bhima Shankar Ling
presided over the rituals as its gates were opened amid chanting of vedic
hymns…About 1,252 devotees including eight foreign nationals visited the
shrine on the opening day…
Expressing happiness over the first day
turnout, Singh said it was much more than their expectations. Makeshift tents
have been pitched at several places en route to the temple to accommodate more
than a thousand people.

The tragedy in
Uttarakhand is symptomatic of a larger malaise. India is one of the 10
worst disaster-prone countries of the world.
Of its 35 states and Union Territories,
27 are disaster-prone. Over 58 per cent of the landmass is vulnerable
to earthquakes, over 40 million hectares—or 12 per cent of land—is prone
to floods and river erosion. Of the 7,516-km-long coast line, 5,700 km
is prone to cyclones and tsunamis, 68 per cent of the cultivable area is
vulnerable to drought, and hilly areas are at risk from landslides and
The combination of natural and human-induced factors—adverse
climatic conditions to environmental degradation fuelled by
non-scientific development practices accompanied by a burgeoning
population—make the risks worse.

Bhuj India woke up to disaster management post the earthquake (even though the seeds of the idea were embedded in the 1968 Civil Defence Act). In 2004, it formulated the idea of a National Disaster Management Authority
(NDMA) and empowered it with requisite legislation in 2005. 
which is chaired by the Prime Minister, was reviewed by the CAG between May 2012 and September 2012. Its findings submitted in March 2013 explain the chaos witnessed over the week.

  • The National Executive Committee of the NDMA which is
    supposed to meet every three months had not met between May 2008 and
    December 2012, and there was no advisory committee since 2010. This
    impacts evaluation of disaster preparedness.
  • The National Plan for Disaster Management had not been
    formulated till September 2012, six years after NDMA Act 2005, and there
    was no provision to make guidelines binding on states in preparation of
    state plans.
  • Only eight states have prepared emergency action plans for
    192 dams as against 4,728 dams in 29 states, and inflow forecasts
    critical to mitigate risks from floods are available for only 28
  • None of the major projects taken up by NDMA were completed.
  • The National Database for Emergency Management, which was to
    be completed by August 2011, was yet to be operational in September
  • Shelters on river banks are a serious risk but a 2004 draft
    plan for amending rules on construction in vulnerable areas—particularly
    for quake, flood and landslide-prone areas—approved in 2007 is yet to
    be formalized.

And there is more. The reason why the rescue teams were using satellite phones of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Army
is because six years after the receipt of the equipment, the satellite
communication network is not functional. The cloudburst could not be
forecast or sighted because the Doppler Weather Radars
bought for surveillance of severe and weather system is paid for but
yet to be operational.
The National Disaster Communication Network and
the National Disaster Management Informatics System are still in the
planning stage, seven years after conceptualisation. The army and ITBP
had to be called in because NDRF is hampered by shortage of manpower.
Worse, only seven states had a State Disaster Response Force.




Ali Zafar is not a patriot (also Ghulam Ali)

Ali Zafar is a traitor (so says Shaan) because he works in India/Bollywood. Indeed from the comments it appears that many Indians do not have a clue that Ali Zafar is actually from Pakistan. But that seems to be precisely the problem with other patriotic Pakistanis, the fear is that Ali himself will forget the proud ways of Pakistan-yat and get lost in a sea of Indian-ness. 

Who knows, perhaps one day Ali will even stoop so low as to marry a Hindu girl (like Sharukh Khan, Amir Khan, Saif Ali Khan) and/or celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in his house (like Salman Khan). But not to worry, we just saw first-hand the formula for redemption as road-tested by Veena Malik. A few kicks to the groin when departing India (for good) and a visible conversion to a sterner version of Islam will help get out the red carpet regardless of past sins.

Shaan is a patriot (so says Shaan), as he is directing a sequel of Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth in Pakistan.
Sunday’s ARY Film Awards will go down in history – not as a milestone
where the industry’s major players turned out in their finest for a
night dedicated solely to celebrating the best of Pakistani cinema, but
as the night when two A-listers host, Shaan and AFA honoree, Ali Zafar
had, for lack of (wanting to use) a less sensational term, a ‘catfight’
on stage.

For those that weren’t in attendance at
the ceremony, and were spared melting in the sweltering heat of the
outdoor event, Shaan used his opening monologue to address patriotism,
and the lack thereof, in the Pakistani industry. Specifically calling
out artists who accept work from across the Indian border, he labeled
all those who choose to work outside Pakistan as unpatriotic

Shaan’s comment was seen as a thinly veiled dig at
Ali Zafar, who was set to receive the International Icon Award of
Pakistan later that night. Undoubtedly, our biggest export, as far as
the entertainment industry in concerned, Ali chose to address the
statement in his acceptance speech.

Calling it a disrespectful
comment to make, he pointed out that artists the likes of Ghulam Ali,
Zeba Bakhtiar, Nusrat and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Atif Aslam are a few
of the illustrious names that have worked in the Indian industry.

Patriotism is indeed encouraging an ‘emotional
transaction’ between the Pakistani and Indian film industries, like
Shaan did when he bought the rights from Mahesh Bhatt to remake Arth in Pakistan. 



Verdict: BJP (229), +42 (revised estimate)

We have been consistent in our opinion that something really extra-ordinary has to happen to enable BJP to cross the 200 seat threshold. The experts group appointed by Outlook are a left-neutral bunch and they were in agreement on this point six months ago.  

A state by state analysis at that time came up with 187 seats. Now the experts have re-assembled and the revised seat count is up by (42) to 229.  

We happen to agree, this was a personal observation of the local electoral proceedings that the hindu vote has been effectively mobilized, at least in the North and West. In the South and the East the BJP may not get many seats but the voters are firmly in favor of Modi Raj. This will help remove the “untouchability” factor associated with the BJP (in reality  the threat of muslim votes evaporating).

What about the Congress? The battle plan called for a three-pronged (proxy) attack, hold the southern forts of Kerala, Karnataka and Telengana (also score a draw in Maharashtra), hope that the Aam aadmi party stops the BJP in Delhi and other urban centers, pray that the caste equations in Northern India enables Team B (Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal) to stop the BJP in rural seats.

In our opinion Congress will do poorly in Maharashtra and only a draw in Karnataka and Telengana. That leaves the star performers as Kerala and Axom. It will perhaps win only a single seat in each of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Odisha. It will be completely wiped out in the north except for Punjab where it may put up a strong showing (still a draw). 

All of this adds up to less than 100…a complete disaster for Rahul Gandhi. The prince is unlikely to recover from this as he has lost touch with the people and they are unimpressed by him (they are a bit more well disposed towards his sister…but only if the honorable jamai babu is held under lock and key).

J/K: Total (6) BJP 2004 (0), 2009 (0), 2014* (estimate, change after revision) (2, +2)
Punjab: (13) 2004 (3), 2009 (1), 2014* (7, -3)
Himachal Pradesh: (4) 2004 (1), 2009 (3), 2014* (2)
Uttarakhand: (5) 2004 (3), 2009 (0), 2014* (4, +1)
Haryana: (10) 2004 (1), 2009 (0), 2014*  (8, +5)
Delhi: (7) 2004 (1), 2009 (0), 2014* (2)
Uttar Pradesh: (80) 2004 (10), 2009 (10), 2014* (30, +10)

Rajasthan: (25) 2004 (21), 2009 (4), 2014* (16, +4)
Madhya Pradesh: (29) 2004 (25), 2009 (16), 2014* (26, +6)
Gujarat: (26) 2004 (14), 2009 (15), 2014* (19, +2)
Maharashtra: (48) 2004 (13), 2009 (9), 2014* (32, +7)

Karnataka: (28) 2004 (18), 2009 (19), 2014* (18)
United Andhra: (42) 2004 (0), 2009 (0), 2014* (10)

Odisha: (21) 2004 (7), 2009 (0), 2014* (4)
Bihar: (40) 2004 (5), 2009 (12), 2014* (14)
Jharkhand: (14) 2004 (1), 2009 (8), 2014* (7)
Chattisgarh: (11) 2004 (10), 2009 (10), 2014* (7)
Axom: (14) 2004 (2), 2009 (4), 2014* (4)




Indians getting drunk on Twitter

Perhaps a Modi regimen (no drinking allowed) will be good for executives like Gurbaksh Chahal and Rakesh Agarwal. Note to R.A. – stay away from Twitter if you cant handle technology after having imbibed a peg or two, and stop making up silly excuses if you cant handle the truth.

backlash is predictable. Alex Cutter: Between the roaming
gangs of rapists in India, that Indian CEO guy who was beating his girlfriend,
and this Indian guy — what’s going on with Indian guys?
Agrawal is no longer with the company. Treat everyone with respect. No excuses.
PayPal has zero tolerance,” the company tweeted on Saturday. Agarwal had joined
Paypal around two months ago as its global strategy head.

Earlier, he sent out a number of tweets, slamming his
co-workers. The language and (lack of) grammar in the tweets hinted that he was
probably drunk when he wrote them. The tweets were later deleted but not before
some Twitter users took screenshots.

In one tweet, Agarwal said, “Christina Smedley is a
useless. Piece of sh*t.” In another he noted, “Duck you Smedley you
useless. Middle manager.” Smedley is vice president of global
communication at PayPal.

In one more tweet, he wanted someone named Don Christmas to
be fired. “People who should be fire from Paypal Don Christmas a pool a

Agarwal was apparently at a jazz festival in New Orleans
when he made these tweets. Later, he realised what happened and tried to do
damage control. He blamed the tweets on a new phone he was testing.

“Last night I was using a new phone that I bought
because I wanted to test experiences on android. Those messages were meant for
a colleague,” tweeted Agarwal. “Note to self: don’t test a new phone
when sleep deprived after working your ass off for 20 hours a day while on
According to Agarwal’s website, he “is a product and
marketing strategist who has spent 15 years working in web and mobile media.
His areas of expertise include social networks, local, commerce, payments and
mobile technologies.”

Earlier in March in a guest post on VentureBeat, Agarwal
explained why he was joining PayPal. Among several reasons, he listed his
desire to find smart co-workers. “There’s the old joke about what you
should do if you find out you’re the smartest guy in the room: Find a new room.
I’ve always placed a premium on companies and roles where I can learn from
those around me (and they can learn from me),” he wrote.

Two months later, it looks like neither Agarwal found his
co-workers smarter than him, nor PayPal found him smart enough to be a part of
the company.

Agarwal is second NRI executive to be fired this week for
improper behaviour. A few days ago Gurbaksh Chahal, who founded RadiumOne, was
fired by the company board over allegations that he assaulted his girlfriend.

Audrey Hepburn presents Satyajit Ray

Today is the 85th birthday of Audrey Hepburn and Google is celebrating the most beautiful, gracious lady that we can remember.

It was 1992 and both Hepburn was dying from cancer (she passed away in 1993) and Satyajit Ray was also in his death-bed (he died 24 days later on 23 April). The Academy honored Ray with an honorary Lifetime Oscar award and he requested that his favorite actress present it to him (virtually). It is an emotional moment …even after all these (22) years.

Academy Awards   
Honorary Award 
To Satyajit Ray, in recognition of
his rare mastery of the art of motion pictures,
and of his
profound humanitarian outlook, which has had an indelible
influence on filmmakers and audiences
the world. (accepted on tape from Calcutta, India) 
Audrey Hepburn 
& Venue:
March 30, 1992; Dorothy
Chandler Pavilion

SATYAJIT RAY: Well, it’s an extraordinary experience for me to be here tonight to
receive this magnificent award; certainly the best achievement of my
movie-making career. When I was a small, small school boy, I was
terribly interested in the cinema. Became a film fan, wrote to Deanna
Durbin. Got a reply, was delighted. Wrote to Ginger Rogers, didn’t get
a reply. Then of course, I got interested in the cinema as an art
form, and I wrote a twelve-page letter to Billy Wilder after seeing
“Double Indemnity.” He didn’t reply either. 

Well, there you are. I
have learned everything I’ve learned about the craft of cinema from the
making of American films.
I’ve been watching American films very
carefully over the years and I loved them for what they entertain, and
then later loved them for what they taught. So, I express my gratitude
to the American cinema, to the motion picture association who have given
me this award and who have made me feel so proud.
Thank you very, very

Google has celebrated Audrey Hepburn’s 85th birthday with a pink doodle.

The Breakfast at Tiffany’s star – and fashion icon – became a big screen legend during Hollywood’s so-called ‘Golden Age.’

was born on May 4th 1929 in Brussels to a British father and Dutch
aristocrat mother, before moving to London in 1948 to continue training
as a ballet dancer.

Widely considered to be the world’s most
beautiful women ever, Hepburn rose to film stardom after appearing in
several British movies.

She won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a
BAFTA for her lead role in Roman Holiday (1953) and starred in other
classics, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and My Fair Lady

She won a record three BAFTA awards for Best British Actress in a Leading Role.
appeared in fewer acting roles in later life, devoting much of her time
to working with UNICEF on good causes in the developing world.

She died in Switzerland aged 63 in 1993 after a battle with cancer.


Chicom cannons take aim in (Chinese) Jerusalem

As the backlash grows in Beijing (Christianity’s
growth… “too excessive and too haphazard”
), multiple
churches destroyed in (Chinese) Jerusalem.

The Chicoms will not be deterred by weak minded protests but why not hit them where it really hurts? It
is surely the case that the persecution of Christians in China is
multiple times as compared to Muslims in Palestine
(the first and most
important issue is freedom of worship). Even a visit by Ariel Sharon to the Western Wall was supposed to have been the trigger for the second Intifada.

Why not the people of the book(s) join and launch a BDS-II against China? They
can also think of a BDS-III against India if Modi comes too power. An
ever expanding BDS regime can be considered similar to the NATO expansion
movement in Eastern Europe (the results will be just as bloody). But
at least the faithful will live in hope that one day they will rule
heaven as well as all corners of the (yet to be civilized) earth.

A City known as China’s Jerusalem has had its holy statues depicting
biblical scenes destroyed, removed or “hidden” by authorities, adding to
fears of a renewed offensive against Christianity and drawing
comparisons with the Cultural Revolution.

About 50 government workers sealed off Wenzhou’s Longgang Hill, a
site of Roman Catholic pilgrimage, and used bricks to “hide” statues
portraying moments from the Passion of Christ, including the

Statues of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, each weighing up
to five tons, were “bricked around to hide them from public view” while
cranes were used to remove other holy statues and tablets from the park.

“All other religious decoration was demolished,” reported UCA news, a news agency covering Catholic issues in Asia. “About 100 Catholics who came to watch the removals were blocked at
the entrance,” said one witness, who asked not to be named because of
“security concerns”.

“Some who managed to sneak in sang hymns and prayed while watching. Some could not hold back their tears.

“The authorities’ behaviour is reminiscent of the smashing of church
property during the Cultural Revolution,” another member of the city’s
Catholic community told UCA News’s Chinese-language service.

The removals, news of which emerged Wednesday, took place on
Saturday, 48 hours, before government demolition teams razed a
Protestant church in the same city.

Wenzhou’s Sanjiang church became a symbol of resistance to the Communist Party’s draconian religious policies in early April.

Thousands of Christians formed a human shield around the place of
worship after plans to demolish it were announced, but the building was
eventually levelled on Monday evening.

Christians accuse Communist Party leaders in Zhejiang province of
attempting to slow their faith’s rapid growth by destroying churches
deemed too “conspicuous”.

They believe the “anti-church” campaign reflects Beijing’s extreme
discomfort with the rapid spread of Christianity in China, which one
leading academic recently predicted could have the largest Christian
congregation in the world by 2030.

A list compiled by Christian activists and shown to The Daily
Telegraph this week names more than 20 churches that are facing or have
already suffered some form of demolition work.

Officials deny the demolitions are an attack on Christianity,
claiming their campaign is aimed at illegal constructions “including
factories and Buddhist temples”.

However, in an internal address to party officials earlier this year,
a senior Communist official in Zhejiang complained that Christianity’s
growth had been “too excessive and too haphazard”.

A document purportedly issued last December by Communist Party
officials in Taizhou, another city in Zhejiang province, also appeared
to suggest that Christian churches were being singled out.

Local communist leaders should take “rapid actions” against illegal
buildings, “especially the Christian sites privately established without
proper paperwork or approval,” said the directive, which was obtained
by China Aid, a US-based Christian rights group. The demolition of
“Christian gathering sites” and nunneries are listed as key priorities.

Authorities this week indicated that the campaign was likely to
continue, promising to “aggressively push on with the demolition of
illegal buildings,” the state-controlled Zhejiang Daily reported.

The motive for what appeared to be a “widening crackdown” was unknown
but “an increasingly violent stand-off between authorities and the
Church” was taking place, UCA News reported.

Four Catholics were beaten and injured by government officials in
Wenzhou last week when an argument broke out during the forced
demolition of a church, the news agency claimed.



Travel warning: Saudi Arabia

Please exercise caution while visiting the land of all-MERSi-full camels and people who act all-too-familiar with the camels.This is just like SARS which came from close proximity of humans to pig/birds in China.

Actually there are no known cures for MERS…..yet, so a complete travel ban is warranted. As if one needed an excuse for not visiting Saudi Arabia.

Saudi health authorities announced on Saturday two new
deaths from the MERS coronavirus, raising to 109 the number of fatalities since
the disease appeared in the kingdom in September 2012. 

A 25-year-old man has
died in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah and a woman of 69, who suffered from
tuberculosis and anaemia, died in Mecca, also western Saudi Arabia, the health
ministry said. At the same time, 35 new cases of the severe respiratory disease
have been recorded, raising the number of sufferers in the Gulf state over the
past two years to 396,
the world’s highest tally. 
Yesterday, US health
officials said the first case of MERS has been confirmed in the United States.
person infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is
a health care provider who had travelled to Riyadh for work, they said. 
last week, Egypt recorded its first infection after a person who arrived from Saudi
Arabia tested positive. 
Public concern in Saudi Arabia over the spread of MERS
has mounted after the resignation of at least four doctors
at Jeddah’s King
Fahd Hospital who refused to treat patients for fear of infection. 
research has suggested that camels are a likely source of the virus. 
considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the Sars virus that
erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.
are no vaccines or antiviral treatments for MERS, a disease with a mortality
rate of more than 40 per cent that experts are still struggling to understand.

Along a stretch of rust-belt suburbia in Indiana, the Community
Hospital in Munster
now claims the dubious distinction of being the
first U.S. facility to admit a patient with the deadly Middle East
Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

U.S. state and federal health officials confirmed the first American
case of the virus on Friday. The patient, a male healthcare worker, had
travelled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and began exhibiting symptoms upon
his return to the United States, they said.

Separately, Saudi officials on Saturday said the rate of infections
was on the rise in the country, where MERS was first discovered in 2012.
The total number of cases in the kingdom is 396, of whom more than a
quarter have died.

The MERS patient had traveled via a British Airways flight on April
24 from Riyadh to London, changing planes at Heathrow airport to fly to
Chicago. From there, he boarded a bus to Indiana. Munster, which is
close to Indiana’s border with Illinois, is about a 45-minute drive from
downtown Chicago.

Health officials in Britain were contacting any passengers who may
have sat next to the patient. U.S. health authorities stressed the case
represents a very low risk to the public.

But concerns remain, given how little is know about the way MERS is
spread, other than it can be transmitted between people who are in close
contact. That has made healthcare workers particularly susceptible to
falling ill with the MERS virus, for which there is no treatment.

But citing “an abundance of caution,” Indiana health officials urged
people who had visited the hospital’s Emergency Department between 6:30
p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on April 28,
the night the MERS patient was admitted,
to watch for symptoms such as cough, fever and shortness of breath.



Army in Bodo-land (31 dead, 1000x flee homes)

This is indeed one amazingly diverse country, in Kashmir the army protects Hindu pilgrims from being murdered by Punjabi jihadists and in Axom the army protects Bangladeshi migrants from getting killed by Bodo millitants.

The problem supposedly is that muslim migrants voted for the non-Bodo candidate and the attacks on the family of four year old Taslima Khatun and others are to ensure that people will not repeat the same “mistake” again. But here is a larger question: if these people are truly migrants, who issued voting cards for them? All parties have taken advantage of the plight of migrants, they get ration cards etc in return for the promise of votes. And one day the “natives” decide that enough is enough and go for the kill. This is sadly the story of the North-East.

It is also important to remember that this picture has acquired an unnecessary religious color (in the press and by the politicians). In Tripura it is the Hindu Bangladeshis who have displaced tribals from their land and are facing attacks in response (though not on the scale in Axom).

Modi is on record stating that after the elections all Bangladeshis must pack up and leave. All secular politicians from Omar Abdullah to Mamata Banerjee are (justifiably) outraged. But ultimately this wedge issue will work in the same way as all others- unite non-muslims against muslims. The polarization also works in both directions, muslims in Mumbai feel free to run riot out of sympathy with their Bangladeshi compatriots. And we are back to having the army protect the Taslima Khatuns from terrorists everywhere.
Bodoland People’s Front leader said, “Everything was fine till April 23.
We were assured that we would get about 80% Muslim votes in the third
phase of the Lok Sabha elections in Kokrajhar on April 24.
But all
Muslim votes went in favour of Naba Kumar Sarania alias Heera Sarania.”

Sarania, a reformed ULFA militant, was supported by non-Bodos, who are
opposed to the creation of Bodoland state as demanded by Bodo groups. 

India deployed
troops Assam on Saturday after 31 Muslims were gunned down in three days
of what police said were attacks by tribal militants who resent the
presence of immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

The unrest in the tea-growing
state comes towards the end of a marathon election across India that has
heightened ethnic and religious divisions and which the Hindu
nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looks set to win.

forces found the bodies of nine people with bullet wounds on Saturday,
six of them women and children, the third day of violence that police
have blamed on Bodo tribesmen attacking Muslim settlers as punishment
for opposing their candidate in the election to the Indian parliament.

Bodo people are followers of the local Bathouist religion.

are scared to live in our village, unless security is provided by the
government,” said Anwar Islam, a Muslim who had come to buy food in
Barama, a town about 30 km (20 miles) from the villages in the Baksa
district where the violence erupted on Thursday and Friday.

said men armed with rifles had come to his village, Masalpur, on
bicycles and had then fired indiscriminately and set huts on fire.

representatives say many of the Muslims in Assam are illegal immigrants
from Bangladesh who encroach on ancestral Bodo lands. In 2012, clashes
erupted in which dozens of people were killed and 400,000 fled their

candidates, including the BJP’s Narendra Modi, the front-runner for
prime minister, have been calling for tighter border controls.

Modi said last week that
illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in the nearby state of West Bengal
should have their “bags packed” in case he came to power, accusing the
state government of being too soft.

should have been more responsible in his utterances,”
said Sabyasachi
Basu Roy Chowdhury, a political science professor at Rabindra Bharati
University in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal.
words can be very damaging since, even if we consider that Bangladeshis
are living here illegally, there is a question of human rights too.”

in convoys of trucks mounted with rifles were patrolling on Saturday in
Baksa district, where some of the attacks took place.

covered with white sheets were laid out in a row at a police outpost on
the edge of Barama for identification by relatives.

Muslims were staying together in big groups, villagers visiting the
market in Barama said. Security forces found three children hiding in
forests near the border with China.

Bodo region faces what residents say is a tight race between a Bodo and
a non-tribal candidate. A policeman was killed during the voting when
the region went to the polls on April 24.



“Are you Priyanka?”

Priyanka Robert Vadra is the first beti (and sister of local MP, the first beta) and the voters dont even know who she is and what she looks like. The ultimate low-information voter, or is it? If a VIP constituency lacks power after 65 years of independence it will not come as a surprise that voters remain indifferent to VIP appeal.

We are ambivalent about the overall outcome in this general elections but not so about specific cases. It is our fervent wish that in the coming ballot in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi (INC) loses from Amethi, and so does Sonia Gandhi (INC- Rae Bareilly), Varun Gandhi (BJP- Sultanpur) and Narendra Modi (BJP- Varanasi). This is the only time the voters can deliver a bloody nose and it is high time they do so in a very powerful and symbolic manner.
the Ramlila grounds in Nasirabad, the weekly vegetable market is on.
Clad in sneakers, salwar-kurta and a BJP cap, Anu Chaudhary, the state
chief of BJP’s women’s unit in Haryana, distributes campaign material
and pamphlets to vegetable vendors. “You have a right to development. If
Amethi is a VIP constituency, question the vote-seekers on how your
lives have improved,” she says. People hear her out. Then someone asks,
“Are you Priyanka?”

Hours later with a generator powering the
mike, in the same grounds, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra talks about the Gandhis
bringing electricity to Amethi. The mike fails several times and people
complain. “In this area, electricity supply is nearly non-existent.
She’s talking about educational institutions but we do not have an
inter-college,” Mohd Iqbal, a fruit vendor said. Priyanka acknowledges
that there are complaints but says it was the opposition that foiled
attempts to bring power.

In Gauriganj, the headquarters of
Amethi district, senior administrative officials are discussing the
latest entrant into Amethi’s political fray, BJP’s Smriti Irani. At
least a few times, she is referred to as Tulsi, TV’s most popular bahu, a
role Irani played about eight years ago before she entered politics.

“Her arrival created quite a stir in the initial days. As a celebrity, she drew large crowds,” says one of them. Traveling more than 200km every day, Irani has stationed herself in
Amethi since early April and plans to stay till May 7, polling day.

With the help of the Sangh Parivar, Irani has begun sharing space with
Priyanka in drawing room discussions over politics. Nudging the real
contestant – Rahul Gandhi – out of the picture, people say Amethi’s 2014
electoral battle is all about the real beti versus the reel bahu.

The beti invokes all that the first family has done for the people of
Amethi in the many decades it has ruled; the bahu harps on everything
else they could have done, but didn’t.
Both are using more than just
celebrity-hood and charm to strengthen their election campaigns. In
Irani’s case, she has craftily kept the old Jan Sangh hands close,
knowing they can help her build her base. In a more personal gesture,
Irani applies tilak to every supporter who goes out campaigning for her.
Anu Chaudhary, the Haryana unit volunteer, said, “Our focus is on
making personal contact with people. We’re touching villages the Gandhis
have not visited even once in all these years.”

As Irani goes
on a mission to bring down a 40-year dynastic rule, Priyanka is hard at
work trying to fortify it. Spending 15 hours daily campaigning, she’s
been on door-to-door visits, addressed corner meetings and made
unscheduled halts at villages.