Editorial / Umpire is always right
The imperfect mirror
The Telegraph Diary
Letters to the editor

A cricket captain not only leads the team but also sets an example for his teammates to follow. Sourav Ganguly, captain of the Indian team, is setting an extremely bad example by his behaviour on the field. This is his second suspension after he became captain. He was also suspended once when he was an ordinary player. He has, thus, been suspended three times since April 1998. On every occasion, the reason for the suspension has been the same: his inability to accept a decision that he thought was unfair. It is becoming clear that he refuses to learn from his past mistakes. One of the first things that a cricketer learns is that the umpire’s decision is final. Without this principle, it would be impossible to run a game of cricket or any game for that matter. Umpires are human and are liable to make mistakes. But any cricketer worth his salt knows that mistakes cancel themselves out in a playing career. A show of dissent against an umpire shows a complete lack of manners and an absence of sportsmanship. Also, such a gesture of dissent is utterly futile since it achieves nothing. Ganguly made it a point to tell the umpire, the other day, that he had actually played the ball when he was given out leg before wicket. Will he also tell the umpire when he has nicked the ball for a catch and is given not out? Ganguly is not a walker, that is he does not walk when he knows he is out without waiting for the umpire’s decision. He stands his ground. He should have the decency to accept “not out’’ and “out’’ with equal equanimity. If he cannot, he should stop calling himself a cricketer and bid farewell to all forms of sport.

There is a peculiar argument being heard in India against Ganguly’s suspension. It says that other players, especially white ones, get away with far worse than Ganguly’s show of dissent against an umpire. Thus, it is being said, the punishment against Ganguly is harsh and is tinged by racism. If, indeed, match referees are being inconsistent in the handing out of punishments, then, that needs to be addressed immediately, and the Board of Control for Cricket in India should take up the matter immediately. But this cannot be used to condone what Ganguly has done and has done more than once. Ganguly has violated a fundamental principle. This has nothing to do with the fairness or otherwise of the concerned match referee. There are fora in which a captain or a manager can express his views on umpires and match referees. The playing arena is not such a forum. In fact, it is the last place in which such views should be articulated.

Ganguly is having a very poor time with the bat and as captain. Lack of success is perhaps provoking perverse behaviour. If this conclusion is true then it speaks of Ganguly’s inability to take pressure. Neither the pressures of failure nor the pressures of captaincy can excuse his bad behaviour. As an experienced cricketer, he cannot afford to overlook the simple truth that the game of cricket is far more important than his own performance. In the last decade, cricket has undergone an enormous amount of change and not all of it has been in concordance with the classical spirit of the game. Shows of dissent against the umpire point to the complete destruction of cricket. That is why Ganguly deserves to be punished and made an example of. It is also the onus of those who run cricket to ensure that similar offenders receive the severest of reprimands. Cricket has too distinguished a lineage to be vandalized by loutish and irresponsible behaviour.


In most modern societies sovereign power is given effect through the principle of representation. In modern states, the people are constituted as a corporate body through their representatives. Power in society is organized and apportioned through representation. Representation is the principal mechanism of both constituting authority and exercising control. A state is, properly speaking, our own, when we can shape it through our representatives.

The most significant of modern political conflicts have involved issues of representation. India is no exception. Our most contentious political moments have turned on questions of representation. Who is to be represented? Individuals or groups? What kinds of unity can a polity possess which takes groups as the unit of representation? How can representation be made more effective? What counts as legitimate representation?

Arguably, the intractability of some of these questions formed the essential prelude to Partition. The differences between the Muslim League and the Congress, to a significant degree, turned on the nature and scope of representation. The Congress and the League differed over who could legitimately represent Muslims, the strength of Muslim representation at the Centre, minority representation at the provinces. Partition was a result of the failure to come to a negotiated settlement over the terms of representation.

After independence, there was an attempt to settle the question of representation through a simple formula. India adopted a first-past-the-post electoral system with representatives to be elected on a territorial basis. Constituencies were to be delimited in such a way that, barring a few exceptions, they were, within states, of roughly equal strength. But the inadequacy of this system was partially acknowledged even at independence. It was clear that the first-past-the-post, territorially based system would not, by itself, either apportion power fairly, or facilitate the incorporation of marginalized groups like the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

The reservation of seats that resulted as a consequence was an uneasy attempt to combine two radically different principles of representation. Reservation was an attempt to get the kind of outcomes that one might get from a system of proportional representation out of a territorially based system. This fundamental tension made the controversy over the rotation of constituencies even more intractable. While there is much to be said both for and against the rotation of reserved constituencies, no resolution of this question can be entirely satisfactory within the present framework, because any solution would violate the logic of territorially based representation in some way or the other. The uneasiness with this outcome was reflected in the fact that this compromise was presented as a temporary modus vivendi.

In the last five decades this system of representation has come under increasing strain for two reasons. The first is that there is increasing dissatisfaction with the fact that the territorially based system of representation does not produce outcomes that mirror significant divisions within society. While scheduled castes have become significant political actors, they have not yet been fully empowered; Muslims and women are vastly underrepresented in legislatures. The cumulative impact has been a greater legitimacy for the state mandating proportional outcomes within the current framework.

Reservation for scheduled castes and tribes will now be a more or less permanent feature of our system of representation. While the women’s reservations bill has been stalled in Parliament, in part because it exacerbates the tension already implicit in reservation for scheduled castes and tribes , between territorial and proportional principles, the general idea that there should be some form of state mandated distribution of representation mirroring social cleavages has gained greater ground and has been implemented at panchayat and municipal levels.

This is not the occasion to discuss the merits of such proposals. But one thing is clear: in the coming years we may have to rethink the happy assumption with which we have been operating that proportional and territorial principles of representation can be easily reconciled within the current framework.

The second set of pressures on the territorial system of representation is demographic. Not only has the average number of electors per constituency almost doubled from six lakh to twelve lakh since delimitation of constituencies were frozen by the 42nd constitutional amendment in the late Seventies, there are serious imbalances in the system of representation. The size of constituencies varies considerably within states; reserved constituencies have been somewhat arbitrarily assigned and the urban voters are considerably underrepresented. Some of these variations can be easily remedied.

The forthcoming 91st constitutional amendment bill, which will enable a fresh delimitation of constituencies to be undertaken for the first time in 25 years, may be able to address some of these imbalances. But even the terms of this exercise are more limited than is warranted by the logic of territorially based system of representation. It does not reapportion the number of seats between states anew based on the latest census. If the apportionment were carried out, estimates are that the North would gain 15 Lok Sabha seats at the expense of the South.

The stated rationale for not apportioning seats between states is this. Giving the North 15 extra seats is in effect penalizing the South for better achieving development and population control targets. On this view, extra seats to the North would act as a disincentive for the pursuit of population control targets. As a piece of causal analysis, this claim is beside the point. It is hard to imagine a minor redistribution of seats having a major impact on population policy.

The real issue is that by freezing the apportionment of seats till 2026, the nature of Indian federalism is being redefined. For the first time, the idea is coming to be accepted that the number of seats that a state gets should not be a simple function of their demography. In effect the representative strength of different states should be weighted. In most federal systems, like the United States, for instance, second chambers like the senate are used to give smaller states greater weight.

But since, under our parliamentary conventions, the Rajya Sabha is relatively weak, the second chamber is unlikely to be an effective mechanism for altering the weight different states have. Although one can argue that the current freeze on the numbers of representatives from each state should continue, it ought to be recognized that this freeze is using the territorially based system of representation for purposes for which it was not designed: weighing the apportionment of power between states.

The emerging tensions between incompatible principles of representations, and the cumulative pressures of demography will, in the coming decades require us to rethink many assumptions about how our system of representation is organized. The stakes in the politics of representation are high because representation combines two objectives. It is not only a mechanism for exercising power over government, but also a means of defining collective identities.

Devolution and decentralization are only a small facet of the debate over representation. Given the complex divisions within Indian society and the fragmentation of our party system, any easy resolution might not be possible. Some of the tensions highlighted above could be mitigated through two mechanisms. First, actual political mobilization and active civic participation might achieve more effective empowerment than simply having the state mandate more and more features of proportional representation. It may be more important to prise open party structures than to mandate new rules of representation.

And the state, for its part, could lessen the urgency with which arguments for proportional representation are made, by more effectively securing the freedom and interests of those groups that feel marginalized. While there is some hope that a new delimitation commission may correct some of the glaring incongruities of the current system, it is unlikely to lay debates over representation to rest. It is more likely that we will muddle through this crisis of representation much as we have up till now, through adhoccery. Let us just hope some of this adhoccery is inspired.

The author is professor of philosophy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi



Marital status quo

Romancing the sanyasin. One doesn’t quite know who actually had this terrible idea. But early last week, a famous television channel in India was seen confidently beaming a story about the allegedly secret marriage of the Union sports minister, Uma Bharti, with her reportedly longtime beau, K Govindacharya. While the news broke and the media jammed her telephones, Bharti was away from New Delhi. The first thing that greeted her at the airport were bouquets from a ministerial colleague who wished her “Happy marriage”. Puzzled, Bharti moved on, only to be swamped by reporters in the lounge who wanted her to speak to them about her newfound bliss. The livid mantri shot back, “Joota maroongi jisne aisa kaha” (I’ll beat up whoever said that with my slipper). Bharti immediately got in touch with her party and a media-savvy minister of her party took charge of salvaging Bharti’s reputation, interrupting his Thai dinner. The CEO of the TV channel was contacted and threatened with a huge libel suit till he promised amends. Next thing you know, the channel was telecasting denials and apologies for the story every hour for the rest of the day. The minister was satisfied, so was the sanyasin. One however doesn’t know if it was enough to appease the suspected other half, Govindacharya that is, who has really taken sanyas from all the limelight.

Case of mistaken identity

One other thing has come to light recently because of which there are now red faces in the Congress — the recent goof- up by the otherwise suave and efficient AICC general secretary, Kamal Nath. The colour started changing when the Samajwadi Party leader, Amar Singh, received a fax from Nath which listed the details of the Congress president’s visit to Gujarat. The fax asked Amar to make the fight for secularism a grand success. The SP leader couldn’t make head or tail of the missive till it dawned on him that it was a bad case of mistaken identity. The fax, instead of landing at the table of Amar Singh Chowdhury, the man in charge of madam’s Gujarat-darshan, had found its way into the Samajwadi Party office. Amar Singh answered the fax saying that he had no intention of disrupting Sonia’s crusade against communalism, and made sure that his reply reached madam and not her gen-sec. Was it to say Kamal is not as smart as Amar?

Forget them not

Let not bygones be bygones so soon. So here’s more on the Musharrafs. Apparently, the reason the Agra summit failed was not because of the obstinacy of the general, but the forgetfulness of his lady. For a wish to be fulfilled at the shrine of Salim Chisti, a chaddar bought with one own’s money has to be presented. Begum Sehba did wish for the success of the summit, honestly, but she had to place a borrowed chaddar because she had left behind her own. Another crumb. The Pakistan camp has reportedly left behind the gifts given to the Musharrafs on security grounds. Probably, the Musharrafs would be insecure with an MF Husain in Pakistan.

Searching for a miracle

Congress prospects in Uttar Pradesh continue to be bleak. Naturally, Diggy Raja, who has been give charge of the election and whose political fortunes have been at a low for quite some time now, has had to seek the “hand of god”. Digvijay Singh reportedly visited Vrindavan, Mathura, a few days back and completed his 24 kos around the Giriraj hill on foot. The feat left Diggy extremely tired, but it was the possibility of a divine intervention in the UP polls that kept him going. It is said that the mythical Krishna had once lifted the hills on his index finger. It remains to be seen if Sonia Gandhi’s Krishna can salvage the fortunes of the Congress in the Kurukshetra that is UP. Meanwhile, Congress pundits have already predicted the party’s win in Uttaranchal and defeat in the Hindi heartland. So Krishna wouldn’t be able to save much then.

Suspended animation

The circus as usual. A suspenders-wearing senior official at the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, known for his habit of buttering up the mayor, Subrata Mukherjee, got close to being publicly humiliated. He stepped on the toes of Pradip Ghosh, believed to be the mayor-in-waiting, when he overturned a decision taken by Ghosh in the holy name of Mukherjee. Ghosh stormed into the room of the official, hurled a few choice invectives in choicest Bengali, and threatened to call him “suspenderswallah” in public. When our poor official took his sorry tale to his dear boss, Mukherjee, aware of the stuff Ghosh is made of, busied himself with some “urgent work”.

Doing their business

Business of America is business. When the US assistant secretary of state, Christina Rocca, was in Delhi a few days back, she is supposed to have repeatedly told her interlocutors that unless they got that “five letter word out of your way, you cannot expect foreign investment to flow into India”. If you are suspicious of what that could have meant, try thinking Enron, the US multinational locked in a battle of wits with the Indian government. With the giant multinational country on its side, it might even win the case.

Footnote / Touch and don’t let him go

The undisputed king of all woods. If Bollywood has made it clear, it was Tollywood’s turn to make it clearer. So at the recent Bengal Film Journalists’ Association awards ceremony, Bengal lay prostrate at the feet of Hrithik Roshan. If it was amusing to see the print and electronic media trip over one another to capture the event, the press behaving like members of the Hrithik fan club of whom it condescendingly talks about, it was even more amusing to watch Bengal’s stars trying to get cosy with Roshan. One of them, a veteran Tollywood star, was seen directing Hrithik what to do on stage, where to stand, which way to look and which way to wave till the young man snapped at him, saying he knew what he was supposed to do. Another Tollywood starlet, who managed to beat her brigade at the “touch Hrithik” game, was heard saying unabashedly that “Hrithik is Hrithik” and that she wouldn’t let anyone touch for at least a week the same hand with which she had shaken Roshan’s hand. Will there be a temple for him as well?    


Playing in a different court

Sir — When was the last time we saw Anna Kournikova hit the headlines because of her tennis? When she is not splashed all over the front page for marrying ice-hockey players (picture on page 1, July 24), she is starring in fitness videos. Of what interest are her amours to the tennis-lover when her on-court achievements are confined to second-round or third-round defeats in most tournaments? There are several shortcuts to the limelight, but few to a berth in the tennis hall of fame. This is just another way of saying that there won’t be a place for her there. Unless the people sitting in judgment are men mesmerized by the length of her legs and the brevity of her skirts.

Yours faithfully,
Sanchita Sengupta, Hooghly

Out of track

Sir — It is unwise to expect India under Atal Bihari Vajpayee to heed to the importance of multi-track diplomacy, as rightly pointed out by Sudipta Bhattacharjee (“All the roads that lead to peace”, July 19). There are no signs of articulated governance so far, despite ceaseless propaganda about Vajpayee’s abilities. The interlocutors appointed by the Centre are no more than pawns meant to keep an eye over the “virgin” territories where the Bharatiya Janata Party could set its foot.

L.K. Advani and his party has so far taken great trouble to justify the Babri Masjid demolition, their opposition to religious conversion and so on instead of addressing the more serious issues like insurgency and secessionism in different parts of the country. It is evident that the “Hindu” government does not give half as much importance to the predominantly Christian Northeast as they do to the cowbelt states.

So only ad hoc measures are taken for the region. The best example of this is that our pro-active home minister went on a foreign trip while Manipur was ablaze, but hastened back home at the whiff of a political crisis in Tamil Nadu.

Yours faithfully,
Aditya P. Chatterjee, via email

Sir — Sudipta Bhattacharjee’s suggestions of using multi-track diplomacy in the Northeast will be helpful, if heeded, in solving the imbroglio in Manipur.

New Delhi must have realized by now that buying peace in Nagaland at the cost of peace in Manipur has landed it in a Catch-22 situation.The Centre should not have taken people’s acceptance of the ceasefire agreement for granted. It has created a rupture in the peaceful Naga-Meitei relations.

The Meiteis welcome the Naga peace agreement, but not on the soil of Manipur. For the Manipuris, several past governments have assured them protection of their territory. But this time, the Manipuris feel betrayed. There can be no solution except a total withdrawal of the ceasefire from the soil of Manipur.

Yours faithfully,
Jatra Mairembam, Imphal

Rescue job

Sir — Following the economic liberalization of India, it was first Harshad Mehta, then Ketan Parekh, and now P.S. Subramanyam of the Unit Trust of India who have betrayed the trust of small investors. The first two have not been punished so far. Even public sector banks like the Industrial Development Bank of India, which had sold its share for Rs 135, has its share-value hovering around Rs 20. Mismanagement, the lack of accountability and the political will to control irregularities are common to all these cases. Appropriate punishment for such culprits is the only way to save the people from these economic sharks.

Yours faithfully,
M. Akhtar, via email

Sir — The monsoon session of Parliament is going to witness an uproar from the opposition. The last few months have been particularly shaky for the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government and its prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who has been busy fighting one crisis after another. The Tehelka affair, followed by the mayhem in Manipur, the Tamil Nadu crisis, the Ketan Parekh and the UTI scandals have all been egg on the face for the government.

Besides, all attempts to buy peace with Pakistan have failed and the opposition is bound to rake up that as well.The ruling party, busy with its efforts to stay in power, cannot steer the nation on the path of progress or rescue the economy from the doldrums.

Yours faithfully,
H.S. Chawla, Haldia

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