Writing On Wall


Tomorrow the Presidential race between two Dalit candidates will end. A total of 776 Members of Parliament from both the Houses and 4,120 MLAs would cast their secret vote. But the writing on the wall is absolutely clear, as the NDA’s Ram Nath Kovind (71) is far ahead of his rival of the “united opposition”, Meira Kumar (72), Congress leader and India’s first woman Lok Sabha Speaker. Kovind is a former two-time BJP Rajya Sabha member.

Meira’s father was a well-known Dalit icon, Babu Jagjivan Ram, who was the Deputy Prime Minister in the Janata government. She has lived a highly comfortable and sophisticated life. She studied in best missionary schools and top colleges, worked as an IAS officer and served as a diplomat in many diplomatic missions abroad, before joining politics. In comparison, Kovind is a low-profile BJP leader, who practised as a lawyer in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, before joining politics. At one time, he lived in a rented accommodation in an unauthorised colony in his native place, Kanpur.

The Sunday Guardian noticed that the excitement was only among the politicians despite the fact that the outcome is known to everyone. We scanned letters sent by readers to different newspapers to fathom the common man’s interest. “Hypocrisy on display!” a reader, Mumukshu K. Thakur from Chamba wrote in a letter to the editor of a northern state newspaper. “A Dalit President? What hypocrisy is on display by all the political parties. Leaving aside raising slogans in favour of Dalits and all other neglected and exploited sections of the society, which party has done anything substantial and sufficient for the cause of Dalit masses?” he asks.

Another reader, Shadi Lal, says that the Presidential election has been reduced to almost a panchayat poll, where nominees, accompanied by a coterie of ministers in one case and opposition leaders in another have to undertake election campaigns all across the country when the outcome is clear to one and all. “Why spend so much money and energy in such pursuits? It is wasteful expenditure, to say the least.”

Kovind’s campaigners have maintained that he is soft-spoken and low-profile while “Meira is an elite”

TSG Impact


In this column on 9 July, we wrote that whenever a new government comes to power in Lucknow, the bureaucracy behaves like a chameleon. Babus change the colour of schemes to show unwarranted support to the ruling party’s official colours. And since the day the BJP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had come to power, the bureaucracy had gone all out for the display of saffron colour at official events and in interior decorations; babus seems to be inspired by his saffron robes. Officially, there were no instructions from the Chief Minister.

The very next day on 10 July, the Chief Minister’s principal secretary, S.P. Goel wrote to all branches of the state administration conveying Yogi’s “unhappiness over the use of a particular colour and special arrangements being made during his tour functions”.

Goel says that the red carpet is laid and a particular colour’s towels and other things are displayed during the CM’s official visits. He has conveyed that the CM has given clear instructions that no special arrangements should be made during his tours. “There should be no dikhawat and inconvenience to general public should be avoided.”

Since the day the BJP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had come to power, the bureaucracy had gone all out for the display of saffron colour at official events and in interior decorations; babus seems to be inspired by his saffron robes. Officially, there were no instructions.

Senior officials had pointed out the cases of the CM’s visit to the houses of martyred jawans in Devaria and Gorakhpur. The local administration “temporarily” installed sofa sets and air-conditioners there and red carpets were rolled out for him. “The CM has expressed his unhappiness over such things and that he wants that such frivolous acts should not be repeated,” he has said.

By issuing clear instructions that “a particular colour” should not be used and no red carpet be rolled out for him, Yogi Adityanath has set a fine example.

Mutual Understanding


BJP and Congress leaders rarely miss the opportunity to indulge in blame games. But at a seminar on “whether the present civic administration of Delhi fulfils the aspirations of people”, Vijender Gupta (BJP), Leader of the Opposition in the Delhi Assembly, and Ajay Maken, president of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, discussed this important issue frankly, admitting their parties’ mistakes.

In a lighter vein, Maken even said, “See, today we are sitting together in the Jawaharlal Nehru National Youth Centre located at Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg.”

The seminar was organised by the Citizen’s Council Delhi. Former BJP MLA Mewa Ram Arya, who presided, and former BJP MLA and the Council’s Convenor Prof P.K. Chandla said that the civic administration had failed totally to fulfil people’s aspirations.

Vijender Gupta said that about 70% people were living in “unorganised areas” and the national capital was heading to become “a big slum, instead of being a smart city”. The bureaucracy was a stumbling block in providing the right kind of facilities for people’s welfare and that the DDA was not in a position to provide affordable housing.

Maken said that the reality was that no state government was in favour of giving powers to the civic bodies, even if both were ruled by the same political party. “Over the years, successive Delhi governments have taken away lots of functions and responsibilities from the civic bodies,” added Maken, commenting that he was not a great supporter of the trifurcation of the MCD in 2012.

Omesh Saigal, former chief secretary with the Delhi Government, suggested the creation of a “Mayor in Council” for all the three MCDs. A veteran journalist, Dilbar Gothi, who has covered the city affairs for decades, said that before the trifurcation of the MCD, the unified civic body’s total budget was Rs 6,600 crore. Now, all the three MCDs’ budget was Rs 15,000 crore. “We have three mayors, three standing committees, three commissioners and three secretariats. This is creating confusion. For example, each MCD has a different rate of property tax.”

All the speakers said that the three MCDs should be made self-reliant instead of “begging” for funds from the state government. Besides an elected government, Delhi has five different civic bodies, which include three municipal corporations, the NDMC and the Delhi Cantonment Board. There is a lot of overlapping in their functioning.

‘Gandhian Tag’?


You may call it strange twists of life. The united opposition has fielded Gopal Krishna Devdas Gandhi (71) —grandson of Mahatma Gandhi—for the prestigious post of Vice President. Once, he had served (1985-1987) as the secretary to the Vice President R. Venkataraman. And he worked as joint secretary to the President when Venkataraman moved to the Rashtrapati Bhawan (1987-1992). It would not have then occurred at all to this former Tamil Nadu cadre 1968 batch IAS officer that one day he would be contesting the Vice President’s election. The Congress and many opposition parties, including CPM, had earlier considered him for the Presidential race. But the NDA’s decision to field a Dalit, Ram Nath Kovind, forced them to go for Meira Kumar.

Kovind was the Governor of Bihar, when he was chosen by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the NDA candidate for the Presidential election. Gandhi is also an ex-Governor; he served as the 22nd Governor of West Bengal, from 2004 to 2009.

In political circles, it is being asked whether 18 opposition parties have picked up Gopal Krishna as their candidate merely because he carries the Gandhi tag. His opponents, especially from the BJP, are amusing themselves by asking whether Gandhi is also a “chatur Bania”. They have picked up a leaf from the recent comment by the BJP chief Amit Shah that “Mahatma Gandhi was a chatur Bania”. This had triggered sharp criticism from various quarters. Some BJP leaders have offered that “chatur” in Gujarat means an “intelligent person” and so it is a “compliment”.

The opposition’s Gandhi is surely an intelligent man. A product of St Stephen’s College, Gandhi had served as a high commissioner to South Africa and Sri Lanka among other administrative and diplomatic posts.

While his paternal grandfather was Mahatma Gandhi, his maternal grandfather was C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji), India’s last Governor-General. He is the son of Devadas Gandhi and Lakshmi Gandhi. Gopal Krishna Gandhi is the younger brother of Rajmohan Gandhi and the late Ramchandra Gandhi, and Tara Bhattacharjee (Gandhi), all of whom are distinguished in their own right.

As Gandhi lives in Chennai, the opposition parties believe that this establishes him as “a candidate from the South”. They think that Gandhi’s Chennai connection will not go unnoticed in the AIADMK camp, though it is aligned with the NDA.

Cutting across the party lines, Gandhi enjoys a good image. He is a prolific columnist and author. He is known for his frank views. While delivering the second Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer lecture in Thiruvananthapuram, in the wake of the ruling on national anthem, Gandhi had said: “I love my national anthem. It is among the greatest anthems in the world. And I will sing it with full heart…but to be asked to sing it under an order is to turn the passionate hymn into a humdrum chant of official lining.”

Militarily Noteworthy


In Chandigarh, a team of 10 youngsters, including a husband and wife, from diverse fields is quietly busy since 2015 preparing the country’s martial history. They are focusing on the north-west and the north-east of the country.

Called “battlefield archaeologists”, they resigned from their well-paid jobs in management, engineering, information technology, economics, humanities and psychology to take up this interesting research assignment, a first of its kind. They were hired on a three-year contract.

Their workplace is Punjab’s Directorate of Defence Services Welfare. They have been scanning reams of researches and interviewing people to compile the country’s military history since the ancient times. Their main focus is on those bygone eras that shaped and rewrote the subcontinent’s history.

The idea to write an “authentic military history” was born in March 2015 when information was required for the Punjab State War Heroes Memorial and Museum project at Amritsar. The museum complex was inaugurated in October 2016. Guided by their coordinator, Major General (Retired) Raj Mehta, AVSM, VSM, the team members recently made a presentation on various aspects before Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, a known military historian.

Amarinder Singh recently unveiled his latest book, The 36th Sikhs in the Tirah Campaign 1897-98: Saragarhi and the defence of the Samana forts. The book is a befitting tribute to one of the bravest last stands of the world, which was fought in the rugged terrain of Saragarhi in the North West Frontier Province, now in Pakistan, where 22 men battled 8,000 Afridi tribals. They fought bravely for seven hours, killing 200 Afghans and injuring 600, before breathing their last.

One of the “battlefield archaeologists” said, “It is fascinating to research the battles that the Sikhs under Maharaja Ranjit Singh fought and they were probably the only ones to conquer Afghanistan.” Maj Gen Mehta, an armoured officer, told The Sunday Guardian that the team’s research captures everything that is militarily noteworthy, from the Harappan civilisation, early Persian campaigns, Alexander’s invasion and right up to the present day.

Man Mohan can be contacted at rovingeditor@gmail.com

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