Much has been made of a CD allegedly produced under the BJP'sdirection for distribution amidst the Uttar Pradesh directorate. The BJP had all but disowned it. The Hindu (April 7) gave excerpts from the transcript of the VCD'scontents which have been damned by the Congress as arousing anti-Muslim sentiments and dear Shri V.P.Singh has called on the Election Commission to ban the BJP.
Wait for the next big fight. Elections are on. And it is then that the worst in all parties come to the fore. In his editorial column in The Tribune (March 29) H.K. Dua writes: ?Most political parties are busy in petty pursuits even at the cost of wider national interests. In the no-holds-barred power rush, acrimony, bitterness and personal party interests have takenover from the need for a dialogue on the evolution of a national consensus and policies.?
Shri Dua is an optimist. He says?and his cry is in the wilderness?solemnly. ?Serious issues concerning Kashmir, foreign policy, economic reforms, secularism and plural society, criminalisation of politics and electoral reforms are crying for national consensus. No one in the government or in the Opposition is thinking of taking any initiative to evolve one.? They wouldn'tbe politicians if they would, would they?
The Star News-Nielsen exit poll for the first phase of polls for 62 seats in Uttar Pradesh legislative elections has predicted major setbacks for the SP and relative gains for the BSP and the BJP?the latter notwithstanding the VCD. On the other hand, the NDTV?IMRB exit polls see a close electoral fight between the BSP and SP with the BJP+ moving to the third position. Of course, only the first phase of the elections have been checked out in the exit poll and there is still a long way to go. The general feeling is that there is a distinct possibility of a ?badly-hung Assembly? with no party likely to get more than one third of the seats in the House.
According to the NDTV+IMRB seat projection, the SP will get between 120 to 130 seats, the BSP between 125 to 135 seats, the BJP+ between 80 and 90 seats and the Congress between 40 and 50. The Star News+ AC Nielsen projection gives SP 103 seats, the BSP 135 seats, the BJP 99 seats, the Congress 28 seats and others 38 seats. What is relevant is that the Congress in all exit polls comes out fourth, Rahul Gandhi notwithstanding.
A good analysis of the situation in Uttar Pradesh appeared in The Hindu in an article by Vidya Subramaniam. As she rightly noted, a ?tectonic shift? has transformed the poll landscape in Uttar Pradesh? with the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party representing soaring subaltern ambitions, racing past the status quoist BJP. It is now government by OBC?no less. But Mayawati is clever by half. She has been inviting Brahmins to join her ranks and indeed promising not to discriminate against them. Would she, one wonders, give up reservations if she comes to power? The BSP'sBrahmin jodo abhiyan is an experiment without precedent, but apparently it is easier for Brahmins to join hands with the so-called lower castes than with the OBCs represented by the Samajwadi Party. One can only wait and see.
But one of the best stories to appear in the first week of April was the one that appeared in The Indian Express (April 6). The Indian Express in many ways is an extraordinary paper. It does not just cover news. On the other hand, it makes news. There is, in Karnataka, a famous temple in a place called Kateel. A Roman Catholic, described as a happy-go-lucky NRI, Ronald Colaco, visited it on April 5, when the temple was celebrating Brahmakaloshatsava after a long gap and presented the temple authorities a cheque for Rs 5 lakh, to everyone's astonishment. Then it turned out that Colaco'sfirst act of charity was in 1991 when he donated a similar big amount for the construction of a Venkataramanaswamy temple in north Bangalore. This is any day more vital news than Aishwarya Rai'smarriage. Colaco incidentally, had donated cash to eight other temples in Devanahalli. This is true secularism of the highest order. But not other paper picked the story or sought to interview Colaco. To an Express query he would only say that his ?community? is proud of his generosity towards temples. As he out it: ?I believe in such activities because they promote communal harmony and ensure peaceful co-existence among people of other faiths.? If this is not news, what is?
Poor Shashi Tharoor. He should have checked out with our womenfolk before commenting on why they don'twear saris these days. The man is innocent. Call it naivety. Moving around in India for a few days he began to notice that fewer and fewer women were wearing saris these days.
In his innocence he wrote a piece for The Times of India (March 25) saying that ?it was actually a great pity?, since ?one of the remarkable aspects of Indian modernity has always been its unwillingness to disown the past?. Obviously he had no contact with Indian women for over a decade and a half. If he had, he would have learnt that a sari is definitely a ?No?No? among today'swomen of all ages and all classes. If you ask them why they don'twear a sari, their immediate response would be: ?Why don'tyou were a dhoti?? End of the discussion.
Tharoor believes that ?youth clearly has something to do with it?. He also claimed that ?today'sgeneration of Indian women seem to associate the garment (sari) with an earlier era, a more traditional time when women did not compete on equal terms in a man'sworld.? The dear man paid for his innocence. He did not realise that today'sIndian women are different from women of a generation past.
In the course of a week, he wrote in his next column in The Times of India (April 8) ?practically every woman in India with access to a keyboard rose up to deliver the equivalent of a smack across the face with the wet end of a pallu.? He is lucky he got away so easily. Meekly he has apologised?yes, apologised?for his point of view if it has offended any of his female readers. One suspects that by mid-century all those ikat, Chanderi, Puneri and Conjeevaram saris would be out of fashion and we will have only young girls wearing dirty pants below their navels to show how modern they are. Stay away from India, Tharoorbhai. This country is not for you. And don'tpublicly plead for the cause of sari. Say sorry. May be, if you are wise, you?ll quietly okay salwar khameez. And be assured, that may well turn out to be the international dress for women. Wanna take a bet?