Bless the couple

Surprise guests at Sharad yadav’s function

Last Sunday morning, a day before the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly election votes were counted, many politicians living in the Lutyens’ Zone were intrigued seeing a decorative door coming up at the entrance of 7, Tughlaq Road, the bungalow of Sharad Yadav, former JDU Rajya Sabha member. The mystery was solved when it was discovered that a wedding reception of the daughter of a Hindi daily’s owner-cum-editor would be taking place there around noon. Not many BJP leaders attended the reception as they felt that “our entry at Sharad Yadav’s house may send a wrong message”. Some were also reluctant to come as the editor is known to be openly gunning for the NDA government. However, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, J.P. Nadda and Manoj Sinha and veterans such as Murli Manohar Joshi and Shanta Kumar came to bless the couple.Around 3.30 pm, when most of the guests had gone, a group of eunuchs walked in, singing and dancing in their traditional style and gheraoed the newly married couple. After much persuasion by a senior journalist, they agreed to come out to bargain the huge money they were demanding. As the eunuchs were heading out, a mischievous journalist told them, “The bride’s ‘grandfather Sharadji’ is sitting in the lawns.” They all started running in that direction. At this stage, a plainclothes security man stopped them and asked them to leave.They did but not before collecting a good amount and speeding away in their shining car.

Let’s eat

Gujarati Snacks In Parliament’s Central Hall

“Madam, would you like to eat a Gujarati parantha?” a waiter asked a lady journalist in Parliament House’s Central Hall. This was the first day of the winter session, and also the day of Gujarat Assembly votes counting. A regular at the Central Hall, she asked, “What?” The waiter replied, “Thepla, it is a Gujarati fried parantha. There are also many more Gujarati snacks available.”Surprised, she asked “How come? Is it in anticipation of BJP’s victory?” He replied, “I don’t know about polls. We were asked to serve Gujarati snacks, besides other regular items, in this opening week of winter session.” But he then hastened to add that “Gujarati things won’t be available tomorrow.”

In a hushed tone, the waiter added that the Railway Ministry  had ordered that Gujarati snacks would be served in the Central Hall this week, and food items from different states would be served in the coming weeks.  “But the Lok Sabha Secretariat was upset as this arrangement had been made without their consent,” the waiter confided.“They ordered the cancellation of the Gujarati food fare from tomorrow.” The Railway catering is responsible for running Parliament House’s canteens and service in the Central Hall. But within Parliament House premises, nothing moves without Lok Sabha Secretariat’s permission. It is learnt that permission was then obtained, and the Gujarati snacks were back in service.

As food is not allowed to be cooked in pantries adjoining the Central Hall, the Railway catering outsourced items like Phafda, Bhakri, Phepla and Puran Poli from Gujarat Bhawan. The next state in line is said to be Jammu and Kashmir.

‘Great honour’

U.S. leaders help install Ghadar party’s plaque

During British rule in India, the Ghadar Party was founded by many Indian migrants, including Punjabi-Sikhs, in the USA and Canada with the aim to secure India’s independence. A plaque was dedicated to “the Ghadarites” at the centennial celebration of the party in Astoria, Oregon, in 2013. But it mysteriously disappeared on 23 October this year. A new plaque was installed some days ago, thanks to donations from American politicians and Indian NRI businessmen. It was installed by the City Council and then Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen in a park along the Columbia River, situated next to the Finnish Socialist Hall Site, where the historic meeting took place on 21 April 1913 When contacted, Karen Mellin, City Councilperson responsible for the 100-year commemoration of the Ghadar Movement in, said that the incident had shocked all those who had participated in the celebrations. When the police failed to crack the case, the former Mayor had ordered a new plaque. Donations came from him and Oregon Senator Betsy Johnson, Lovekesh Kumar, owner of a super mart in Warrenton, and Bahadur Singh, Lovekesh’s brother.“It is our privilege and a great honour to help recognise the workers who had inspired my motherland’s independence,” Bahadur Singh told this paper. “We are grateful to live in a community that recognises our ancestors’ freedom struggle,” adds Lovekesh.The plaque recognised the founders of the Indian liberation movement, who immigrated to Astoria from Eastern India, mostly as workers at the Hammond Mill in Alderbrook. A huge celebration was held to honour the legacy of these individuals during Ghadar Party’s centennial celebration, by installing the plaque at the site of where the movement was born.

Psychological games

Everything is fair in war

Over four decades after the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war, a “secret” has been declassified. It is related to the Tangail airdrop, an airborne operation launched by the 2nd battalion of the Indian Army’s Parachute Regiment on the night of 11 December 1971.

A smart psychological warfare game was played not by any Army unit, but the Ministry of Defence’s then Army Public Relations officer sitting in South Block. This was disclosed during the “Vijay Diwas” celebrations by the Army’s Eastern Command in Kolkata a few days ago.

It is reported that the Tangail airdrop and the subsequent capture of the Poongli Bridge had given the advancing Indian Army the manoeuvrability to side-step the strongly held Tongi-Dhaka Road to take the undefended Manikganj-Dhaka Road right up to the Mirpur Bridge at the gates of Dhaka.

At that time, Major General Inder Singh Gill was the Colonel of the Para Regiment. He met Ramamohan Rao, the MoD PRO in South Block before the airdrop, and asked him to ensure good publicity for the airdrop to demoralise the East Pakistani military establishment.

The Indian Army had no prior access to Tangail. So, the photographs of the airdrop could not have been arranged. The PRO Ramamohan Rao said he would ensure wide publicity. It occurred to Rao that he had been to Agra a year earlier to cover an exercise by the 50th Independent Para Brigade. He searched for these pictures and found one and had it released with the caption: “Troops of the Indian Para Brigade being airdropped over East Pakistan on December 11, 1971.” The 2nd Para Battalion, which was actually airdropped, could not have consisted more than 700 odd soldiers. A brigade, on the other hand, can have around 4,000-5,000 men.

The international media the next day carried the picture with the news that an entire Para Brigade was on its way to Dhaka. The rest is history. The Pakistani military commander in the East, Lieutenant General A.A.K. Niazi, surrendered with over 90,000 of his men. When a foreign journalist later asked Niazi about the sudden reason for his surrender, he pointed to a copy of the Times London, on his desk, carrying the “doctored picture” of the Tangail para drop. R.N. Kao, founder of the external espionage agency, RAW, was impressed by Rao’s out-of-box techniques and complimented him.

Modi factor

BJP leader got Gujarat poll prediction correct

When the Gujarat Assembly election results were announced, and the BJP got 99 seats, this writer was reminded of what a Delhi BJP leader, Dushyant Chopra (53) had said in mid-November: “The BJP may get 98 seats in Gujarat.” Chopra’s company, Drishtikone Media, is a new entrant in the field of political surveys and election management. A hardcore BJP man, he has served as a member of the national executive of the BJP youth wing and as member of the BJP’s central election management and logistic committee for a long time. He looked after the management of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Hologram Meetings” during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He has also taken an active part in BJP’s different state Assembly election campaigns.

In January, he formed a group of young professionals who were into political surveys. They jointly worked in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.

They carried out specific constituency surveys for several candidates belonging to different parties. “For Gujarat elections, we started our research work in August. As we had limited resources and no political backing, we started work with a team of 50 youngsters pursuing their mass communication courses from different institutions in Delhi,” says Chopra.

Five teams of 10 people each were made. Three teams concentrated in major cities like Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Bhavnagar and Rajkot, and two teams spread out in rural and tribal areas.

In September-November, these surveyors covered nearly 160 Assembly segments and met 77,000 people. “We discovered that the BJP was losing ground among Patels and the rural and tribal belts. But despite GST and demonetisation hardships, the urban Gujarati was backing Modi,” points out Chopra.

“We gave 98 seats to the BJP and 76 to 84 seats to the Congress in November’s last week,” says Chopra.

“It was only the Modi factor which saved the BJP from losing Gujarat,” says Chopra.

Man Mohan can be contacted at



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