Game of chess?


“A perfect script,” commented a film critic, watching the fast moving developments in Patna and New Delhi on the small screen, regarding the sudden resignation of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his bouncing back in the saddle within 24 hours as a six-time CM. “It is a thriller.”

His colleague, a chess player, felt that in the whole suspenseful game “Nitish Babu turned out to be a pawn.” In his opinion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi must be a good chess player.

Although no one can fault Nitish for taking a tough stand against the “corrupt family” of Lalu Prasad Yadav, his opponents in political circles are surprised with the way he has gone back to the BJP. Only time will tell whether Nitish has used the BJP or the lotus followers have succeeded in making him look like a turncoat.

The timing is highly significant. For past some months, Bihar’s Modi (Sushil Kumar, who was the Deputy CM when the BJP was in alliance with the JDU), began making public, confidential documents related to various alleged scams associated with the members of Lalu’s family.

Then PM Modi picked Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind to be the Presidential candidate. Immediately, Nitish extended his party’s support, sending shockwaves through the opposition quarters. And within half-an-hour of Nitish’s resignation on Wednesday, PM Modi tweeted, congratulating him for joining the brigade fighting against the corruption. Nitish thanked him instantly. The message was loud and clear.

It seems that the groundwork for all the high political drama was in preparation for months. This writer suspected that something was cooking between Nitish and BJP when a JDU Member of Parliament told him three months ago that two BJP MPs from Bihar had telephoned him to say that they had done a survey which showed that “Nitish Babu’s graph was rising”.

Social media is full of references to Nitish. One WhatsApp message advised: “Before you quit your job, always ensure that you have your next job in hand. Be in touch with your previous employers also.” Another one on “Launching CM portability” said: “Your CM will be the same, only service provider has been changed.” 

‘Proclaimed offender’?


Hectic efforts are on in Haryana’s major town Rohtak to ensure that yoga guru and corporate honcho Baba Ramdev is not declared a “proclaimed offender” by a local court for his remark about “beheading” those who do not want to chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. After all, Ramdev is the brand ambassador of the Haryana government. A local “math” is also trying to defuse the situation. But, we are told, Ramdev is not bothered at all. A criminal case was registered against him in the Rohtak court over his remark at a “Sadbhavna Sammelan” last year. The sammelan was called to promote peace in the city that witnessed violence during the Jat quota stir.  Law seems to be taking its own course. He faces the prospect of being declared a “proclaimed offender” by the court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Harish Goyal, who, on 2 March had issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him. Ramdev has not made an appearance in court so far. And, it seems, he has no intention to do so on the next date of the hearing. The case against Ramdev was registered on a complaint filed by a senior Congress leader and former Haryana minister, Subhash Batra.

Dark and illegal


Indian narcotics control authorities are excited with the recent shutting down of AlphaBay, the largest global online dark market, by the Americans. India’s Narcotics Control Bureau chief Rajendra Pal Singh, an Uttar Pradesh cadre IPS officer, recently went to Hanoi to attend a major conference to evaluate the current scene.

Of late, the Vietnamese drug criminals are active on the route touching India. Early this year, three Vietnamese nationals, including a 36-year-old woman, were arrested in Delhi and three kilograms of cocaine and 450 grams of methaqualone, valued at over Rs 21 crore in the international market, were seized from their possession.

At the Hanoi conference, international drug control authorities’ representatives, including the Americans and the Thai, discussed the current illegal narcotics trade and various smuggling routes, including dark websites.

AlphaBay was used by hundreds of thousands of people to buy and sell illegal goods and services 

AlphaBay was a major source of Fentanyl and heroin linked to overdose deaths, and was used by hundreds of thousands of people to buy and sell illegal goods and services anonymously over the internet across the world, including India. To nab AlphaBay, the Americans were helped by Thailand, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Canada, Britain, France and the European law enforcement agency Europol.

On 5 July, Alexandre Cazes, aka Alpha02 and Admin, 25, a Canadian citizen residing in Thailand, was arrested by the Thai authorities on behalf of the US, for his role as the creator and administrator of AlphaBay. On 12 July, Cazes apparently took his own life while in custody in Thailand. With online e-commerce booming in India, dark websites are threatening to emerge here too.

The Gandhi story


“Oh, how come you are a Gandhi?” asked Congress’ prince Rahul Gandhi.

The Congress vice-president was amused to meet a young Muslim boy (now 33 years old) during the party’s “Aam Admi Ka Sipahi’ training and orientation programme in Hyderabad in 2008. The boy was earlier “elected” in the internal polls of the Indian Youth Congress, which were organised to catch young talent. The scheme was Rahul’s brainwave.

Coming from a farmer’s family of Chamaparan, from where Mahatma Gandhi had launched her Satyagraha movement, the youth had told Rahul, “Sir, my name is Shuja Gandhi.” And this had amused the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family. “Are you from Gujarat?” Rahul had asked him.

This writer was also intrigued when he met Shuja at the Congress headquarters the other day. He told us what he had told Rahul Gandhi: that his full name was Md. Shujaullah Khan, but he writes “Shuja Gandhi”, and that he belonged to Bihar. He said that he had acquired the “Gandhi” tag when he was in school in Aligarh in 1993-98. “My fellow students used to call me ‘Gandhi’ as they said that I, because of my thick spectacles, reminded them of Mahatma Gandhi. Over the years, I humbly accepted this as my surname. Now, I am known as Shuja Gandhi everywhere, including my native place,” the young “party recruit” said. He did BSc from the Bihar University in 2002-2005.

Shuja Gandhi recalls that Rahul had chuckled after hearing his “Gandhi story” and wished him all the best with a broad smile. Shuja met Rahul five-six times after that; the last meeting was in 2016. He was in Delhi a few days ago, trying to meet Rahul. Shuja was born in a family of freedom fighters, who stood shoulder to shoulder with giants in the heartlands of Champaran. Shuja’s native place is Kesaria, a small town in East Champaran. His father’s uncle Md. Hedaytuallh Khan was the president of the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee in 1992-92 and earlier Speaker of the State Assembly in 1989-90. His father Md. Zafarullah Khan was a local panchayat leader in Kesaria, East Champaran. “Though now I am a social and political worker of the Congress, I remain a farmer at heart,” he points out.

Shuja has now been in active politics for 12 years. He has worked in Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, Karnataka and Nagaland. He has also served as the Secretary of the Bihar Congress. “Seeing my dedication, I have been given an opportunity to work at the cradle of Congress’ bastion—Rae Bareli and Amethi,” said Shuja. “This year, I have established the Champaran Foundation on completion of Bapu’s 100 years of Champaran Satyagrah,” he added. He is working on a project to open libraries in Bihar’s rural areas. His livelihood depends on cultivation and rent from a few shops in his ancestral place. “Of course,” he said, “I love being a Gandhi.”

Coming alive, again


Last Sunday, a passionate group of people assembled at IPSAA Care Centre in Gurugram to remember yesteryears’ iconic actress Madhubala. A housewife, Sabita Upadhyaya—a Hindustani classical singer—in her melodious voice and three young singers, including her son Sahil, were entertaining the audience, singing top numbers from Madhubala’s popular films. In between, some experts, including the 76-year-old Kamlesh Kumar Kohli, the spirit behind the show, were narrating the stories of Madhubala’s short 36-year lifespan.  They did not know that within a few days their heartthrob would be chosen to “come alive once again” at the Madame Tussauds wax museum, which is scheduled to open this year where till recently one of the capital’s oldest cinema houses, Regal, stood in Connaught Place.

Arguably the most beautiful actress to ever grace the Indian screen, Madhubala was born on Valentine’s Day in 1933. Sadly, plagued by a persistent heart disease that confined her to bed for almost nine torturous years, she died on 23 February 1969, nine days after her 36th birthday. By then, she had made over 70 movies, and to this day remains one of the most enduring legends of Indian cinema. She was married to legendary singer Kishore Kumar.

Madhubala’s wax figure will be styled based on her iconic character Anarkali, a slave girl in Emperor Akbar’s durbar, from the classic film Mughal-e-Azam (1960).

Madhubala’s beauty was recognised globally when she was featured in one of the popular American magazines, Theatre Arts, in 1952. To honour her, a commemorative postage stamp was issued by the Indian Post in 2008.

“We were thrilled when we heard the news that a wax figure of this lovely lady will be on display at Madame Tussauds,” said Kohli, a big name in the capital’s cultural scene. “She was the daughter of Delhi,” said Kohli. Other Bollywood stars whose wax figures will come up for display at the museum include Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, along with singers Shreya Ghoshal and Asha Bhonsle.

The idea to pay tribute to the beauty queen Madhubala was born during a casual talk between Kohli and his friends associated with art and culture and cinema. Kohli’s organisation, “Impresario Asia”—one of the most active cultural bodies in the capital—has been doing pioneering work in the field of performing arts for over two decades.

Man Mohan can be contacted at 





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