Rahul Gandhi loves his dogs

The dogs of Congress “Prince” Rahul Gandhi are once again in the news. The Congress recently released a commemorative edition of the Nehru-Gandhi “family-owned” National Herald in Bengaluru as part of its re-launch. Vice President Hamid Ansari and Rahul “Baba” were present at the event where “India at Crossroads: 70 years of Independence” was released.

In a rare interview with editor-in-chief Neelabh Mishra, the Congress VP singled out unemployment and the steady exodus of people from rural areas to the cities as the biggest challenge.

But it was the interview’s “introduction” which apparently irritated Rahul and top party leaders, as “special attention” was also given to his two dogs. The party leadership was reminded of the “dogs controversy” that had occurred on the eve of the Assam Assembly elections earlier this year, when a prominent state party leader, Himanta Biswa Sarma had complained that Rahul was “more interested in playing with his dogs than listening to me about my ideas about how to win the elections”.

An upset Sarma later quit the Congress and joined hands with BJP chief Amit Shah to ensure the saffron party’s first victory in the state.

Sarma described Rahul as “arrogant” and someone who wanted a “servant-master” relationship. On this, Congress’ digital communication in charge had said, “You have to meet Rahul Gandhi’s dog, so cute, anyone would prefer playing with him than listening to Biswa Sarma.”

The new avatar of National Herald has “revived” attention to Rahul’s dogs in his first interview to the in-house newspaper. Read: “It was a hot May morning when the Congress Vice President invited us for a chat. We scrambled.

Photo Editor Pramod Pushkarna had just returned from his morning walk. Editorial colleague Vishwadeepak, a night bird, had just woken up. But we made it on time. At the appointed hour Rahul Gandhi walked in dressed in a casual off white shirt and blue jeans, followed by two playful canine companions, who sat down quietly at his feet as we began the conversation.

They would look up every now and then, demanding a pat or a light touch from him. He exuded warmth and playfulness, smile lighting up his face occasionally. But for the most duration he was thoughtful, replying to questions without hesitation and with a bluntness that caught us by surprise.”The National Herald was launched in Lucknow in 1938 by first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It closed in 2009 due to financial problems. The newspaper’s online edition has been functioning since November 2016 and is headed by Neelabh Mishra, former editor of Outlook (Hindi).

Many party leaders had complained to the high command, alleging his left leanings. His name was recommended by Suman Dubey, a veteran journalist and personal friend of the Gandhi family. Mishra’s appointment was justified on the eve of the UP Assembly elections on the plea that “a Brahmin will send a good message”.

On similar lines, the Congress had projected Delhi’s former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit as the party’s CM face for the state.The paper’s “re-launch” is being seen in the light of the cases in the court against the Gandhi family and top party leaders and investigations by various agencies.

The Congress is attempting to show that the paper is alive again as the BJP-ruled states of Haryana and Maharashtra have charged that the paper was allotted prime land by the Congress governments despite it being defunct.

Ram Nath Kovind

Elements of Hitchcock in Kovind selection

Alfred Hitchcock pioneered many elements of the suspense and psychological thriller genres. It seems Prime Minister Narendra Modi also fashions himself as a true student of Hitchcock. He always does the unexpected, ending high political dramas on the pattern of suspenseful thrillers of Hitchcock. Not many world leaders—at least, no one in India—has mastered the art of maintaining such a degree of suspense till the end. Once, a British film critic wrote that Hitchcock’s flair was “for narrative, withholding crucial information (from his characters and from the audience) and engaging the emotions of the audience like no one else”.

See the way a masterly trail was created. A three-member committee of top ministers—Rajnath Singh (Home), Arun Jaitley (Finance and Defence) and K. Venkaiah Naidu (Information and Broadcasting)—was set up to interact with the opposition leaders to create atmosphere for a unanimous candidate. Jaitley was abroad but the other two ministers went around and announced that the NDA would “unveil” its candidate on 23 June, a day before Modi’s departure to the United States to meet President Donald Trump. However, BJP chief Amit Shah declared Kovind’s name on 19 June. Once Kovind is settled at India’s most famous address on the Raisina Hill, all the top three posts will stand occupied by persons from the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, which sends the highest number of Lok Sabha MPs, who play—not always—an important role in choosing a Prime Minister. Modi is an MP from Varanasi, Rajnath is an MP from Lucknow, and the President-in-waiting (Kovind) hails from Kanpur Dehat. Modi will get the credit for giving India its second Dalit President, after K.R. Naraynan. Well, in the Presidential game, one must acknowledge, it was a Hitchcockian master stroke.

Kovind lived in simple colony

NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind is a man of few words. He has lived a modest life, within the parameters of his earnings as a Supreme Court and Delhi High Court advocate and later as a leader of the BJP Dalit Morcha. His entry into the BJP was in the early 1990s. He never showed off his clout as a politician when he was twice nominated to the Rajya Sabha, from 1994 to 2006.

Before that, he contested Assembly elections from Ghatampur and Bhognipur (both in UP), on a BJP ticket, but lost. Kovind, those days, lived in a humble accommodation in Kalyanpur on the outskirts of Kanpur. Currently, he has a house in Indira Nagar in Kanpur, and another in Lucknow.

Narendra Modi

Did Modi select Kovind in 2015?

It is being thought that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had more or less made up his mind about Ram Nath Kovind, when he picked him out of the blue to be made Bihar Governor in 2015. Perhaps, Modi wanted to groom him for the top post, as was done by first PM Jawaharlal Nehru in the case of Zakir Husain. Nehru had made Husain Bihar’s Governor on 6 July 1957, though he was reluctant to go to Patna Raj Bhawan. In May 1962, Husain straight became the Vice-President. Five years later, he walked into the Rashtrapati Bhawan as India’s third President. By that time, he was well-versed in the nitty-gritty of the Constitution and the Parliamentary system. Technically, Kovind is the “first sitting Governor of Bihar” who is headed to become India’s 14th President. That is why, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has come out openly in Kovind’s favour. Modi’s strategy has paid the NDA rich dividends.

People of Bogota, Colombia, do yoga on International Yoga Day on 21 June.

Yoga ambassador goes to South America

After Prime Minister Narandra Modi, if anyone else deserves praise for creating awareness about yoga globally, perhaps he is Delhi-born Benoy K. Behl (60), a film-maker, art-historian and photographer.

Behl and his colleague and partner Sujata Chatterji (52) were on a fascinating five-week mission in May and early June, shooting and documenting yoga and giving lectures in Brazil, Argentina and Colombia. His earlier film Yoga: The Divinity of Grace was shown in 20 countries by Indian embassies on 21 June 2017, the third International Yoga Day. Various exhibitions of Behl’s photographs that were showcased included a digital one, “Yoga: India’s Gift to the World” and a photographic exhibition “Ramayana: The Greatest Epic” (which was shot in 10 countries). “These days, science and spirituality have been separated. Yoga is the challenging study of consciousness, understanding one’s body, emotions and mind,” Behl told The Sunday Guardian. In Latin America, Behl was shooting for his new greatest epic documentary on Yoga in nine nations. He has already shot a large portion of it across India, the US, Japan, Germany, Bahamas and Vietnam.

Behl’s tour was supported by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations; Sunil Lal, India’s ambassador to Brazil; Monica Lanzetta, Colombian ambassador to India; the embassy of Argentina in New Delhi; and the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and Ashrams in Colombia. At Sao Paulo, Abhilasha Joshi, Consul General of India, helped in screenings of his film and digital exhibition on yoga. In Colombia, Prabhat Kumar, Indian ambassador, arranged Behl’s lectures. 

“Having researched and documented yoga around the globe,” claims Behl, “I found that it is being taken most seriously in South America.”In Medellin, Colombia, according to Behl, it was fascinating to see “free yoga classes” being offered in the Botanical Gardens by Atman Yoga (Sivananda Tradition), where 300 students come regularly. Yoga is also being taught at a home for elderly persons—the “oldest student” was a woman about to turn 100. The teacher, Carlos Dominguez (70), was in a perfect fit and “youthful shape”.In Colombia, the victims of armed conflict, former members of death squads, children from families disrupted by violence, prisoners, reforms facilities and schools are now practising yoga. Three well established Indian yoga institutions in South America are the Bihar School of Yoga, the Sivananda School of Yoga and the Art of Living. 

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