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Back to ‘lamppost politics’

The Indian electorate’s tryst with cyclical elections invented a phenomenon called ‘lamppost elections’. Implicit in this formulation was the notion that the people would elect a minion against a titan if they decide to do so. Irrespective of the stature of a leader in front, even a lamppost can be a victor.   Of late this lamppost syndrome is forgot

Yogi Adityanath and the law of karma

Ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, a BJP poster made news for showing Yogi Adityanath riding a tiger and other parties’ leaders riding a donkey each. Yogi’s fondness for tigers is well known, but in hindsight, the chief minister seems to be riding a metaphorical tiger – and does not know how to get off its back. The tiger here is the utter disregard for rule of law

Quantum urbanism in action: To protect earth, rethink waste

How can Quantum Urbanism help us rethink waste? It is as much a question as it is an open invitation to explore our relationship with waste and how deeply wedded that relationship is to systems thinking and everything else that comes bundled with it.    Simply put, Quantum Urbanism is a way of reconfiguring urban life at the level of each individual’s s

MP assembly polls: Of frogs, scales and upper caste equations

Driving down from Indore to Bhopal, my driver Roop Singh gave me a lesson in sociology and politics when I asked him about the elections. The lesson I learnt from Roop Singh was quite instructive in understanding the post-poll scenario. “You see, sir, upper castes are like frogs in a taraju (scale), and each of them jumps habitually to disturb the scale,” he said while talki

The Master Sahib effect

During his stint as BJP general secretary (organisation) and in-charge of Madhya Pradesh affairs in the late 1990s, Narendra Modi had acquired a new nickname. He was called “master sahib”, because of his persuasive way of running the party’s organisation and reshuffling the support base.   Of course, in 1998, Madhya Pradesh emerged as a strong ba

Why the bureaucracy needs to re-learn to work

“You will soon be talking to a new foreign secretary,” said prime minister Rajiv Gandhi announcing the sacking of the incumbent at a televised press conference in 1986. Foreign secretary AP Venkateswaran was a distinguished diplomat with 36 years’ service but was not getting along with Gandhi on various issues. Hence the swift and clinical retribution. Venkateswaran resigned

MP voters want to bake bread on the other side

Sharp, funny, vicious and raucous as the political discourse is on social media, it is no match for rural India`s pithy street wisdom. A few kilometres away from the Datia constituency in a rural setting, a villager gives me a taste of this when I enquire about which way the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha election is headed. “Roti dono taraf se senkna chahiye. Ek taraf jyada senkne se jal ja

MP assembly polls: Closed sugar mills spell trouble for Shivraj Chouhan

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is in the reckoning for a record fourth term in office. In the middle of his hectic campaigning, it will do him good to snatch a few hours of rest to watch Saudagar, a 1973 Bollywood movie starring Amitabh Bachchan. Saudagar is a great story around the issue of making jaggery. A widow, played by Nutan, is skilled in m

Language Bar

I heard this interesting anecdote from a dear colleague in Lucknow, late Tahir Abbas. His father had attended a meeting addressed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Lucknow before Partition and returned quite dismayed at the great leader’s anglophile conduct. But the maulvis who attended the conference were quite impressed and heard saying, “Mian, Angrez bhi aisi angrezi nahi bol paate (Ev

Here and now: Life lessons from Adi Shankara

The mind often goes blank – no thoughts, no sense of self. This does not last long; we ‘wake’ up and get back into the normal mode with the first-person-singular in the role of protagonist, thinking of the past or the future, planning, fantasising, imagining dialogues. Or the incessant background noise in the head, if nothing else. That blank state, the one without the weight

Nature vs. human nature

A shocking sight greets the visitor in Rishikesh: At the main ghat, the Ganga spans no more than 10 feet with less than a foot in depth. A larger stream, though, flows on the other side, in full spate, but a sizeable island of sand and stones lies between the that Ganga and the ghat. It was not many years ago that a pilgrim would prefer Triveni Ghat in Rishikesh over Har-ki-Paudi in Haridwar

With Sardar statue, Modi builds a legacy and dwarfs Congress too

Before he laid the foundation for the world’s tallest statue of India’s first deputy prime minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, on October 31, 2013, Narendra Modi (then chief minister of Gujarat), used to keep a small-scale prototype of the proposed statue on the desk in his office. When hosting foreign dignitaries in the office, he would spend considerable time in explaining the sig

The making of the Banana Republic

 In political discourse, the term ‘Banana Republic’ defines a state with a high degree of political instability, societal violence and oppressive inequality. American author O Henry, describing the central American country of Honduras in his ‘Cabbages and Kings’, coined the phrase and it stuck. It gained currency in India in the mid-1980s, when some commentators jok

CBI chief’s delusions of grandeur harmed the agency

Tumse pehle jo shakhs yahan takht-nashin tha Usko bhi apne khuda hone pe itna hi yakeen tha (The man who sat on this throne before you was equally convinced of being God)   Urdu couplets often have a unique way expressing baser human impulses. This particular couplet quite aptly describes the persona of CBI director Alok Verma who

A Triumfant meet

Prime minister Modi and president Putin’s meeting at the 19th Indo-Russian summit in New Delhi on October 5 has set a new pace for a ‘special and privileged strategic partnership’ between the two nations. This has come in the aftermath of the Modi-Putin informal meeting at Sochi on May 21. With the 19th summit, India and Russia have eventually inked an agreement over lethal

Migrants at a crossroads

For the past fortnight, Gujarat has witnessed an exodus of migrants from Hindi-speaking states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The migrants, mostly of the labouring classes, have been attacked by locals after a 14-month old girl was raped, allegedly by a Bihari whom the police have arrested. The rape survivor is from the Thakor community, an OBC group which has in recent decades gained a great de

#MeTooMuch?

The long-awaited arrival of #MeToo in India has received two kinds of receptions: cathartic yet celebratory cacophony and uncomfortable silence. The first comes from most working women and many men – on Twitter mostly. The second stems from many men and some women – in most newspapers so far. (Must be modesty; they prefer not to talk about themselves.)  

Gandhi@150: St Gandhi in Orwell’s maze of reflections

Forget sainthood. Mahatma Gandhi has been put through the whole gamut of deification. From lurid calendar and poster art to austere and sublime works by great artists, every genre has painted a halo around him. There are images of him blessing the nation. He is depicted in the dashavatar of Lord Vishnu as the ninth avatar, a place otherwise given to Lord Buddha. There is even a calendar art p

An eye on AI

Google Assistant, Rekognition and Tay. All these, often seen in news, have a common thread – they are powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Only difference is that while some have been in news for right reasons, some others have made it to the headlines for all the wrong reasons. For instance, Google Assistant is an AI assistant that connects with several devices. Other companies are n

Data-powered economy

1.33 billion. Let that large number sink in. That number is nearly 18 percent of the total global population, and almost the number of people estimated to currently reside in the republic of India, one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies. These 1.33 billion people are spread across an area of more than 3.28 million square kilometres, speak 22 major languages in over 1,600

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