A new school
The stars seem to be conspiring against Mulayam Singh Yadav for some time now. As if being ditched by his closest aide was not enough, the former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh had to deal with losing a party veteran, Janeshwar Mishra, soon afterwards. And now, cracks have started appearing in the Muslim Yadav base, the Samajwadi Party’s stronghold. Although the Muslims had begun to desert Mulayam since last year, on the eve of the Lok Sabha polls, the defection of the Yadavs has added insult to injury. Even the family bahu, Dimple Yadav, could not retrieve Ferozabad, which, psephologists say, reflects the extent of the Yadav rebellion. Although the Kamarias, a sub-caste of the Yadavs, continue to support Mulayam, the Ghosis have disowned the aged leader for having ruined the education system, and thus the future of their youth, by spreading hatred against English. Amar Singh, on the other hand, has been heaping praise on English medium schools, where he sent his own children, in public. That doesn’t look like sheer coincidence.
Meanwhile, Amar Singh and his former mentor continue to be at loggerheads. Both Mulayam and his ex-protégé seem to be courting all those Samajwadi members who had left in a huff, resenting Amar’s meteoric rise. Amar is reported to have contacted Amitabh Adhar, Kiranmoy Nanda, Raghu Thakur and Salim Sherwani, requesting each of them for a private meeting. He is not only ready to apologize but also willing to explain that their departure from the party had less to do with his own machinations than with Mulayam’s wishes. Mulayam, on the other hand, is keen to win over these former colleagues in his fight against Amar. All this has left the ex-leaders in a fix. So they are wisely meeting up in Delhi to decide on the most sensible course of action.
There is never a dull moment in the Sangh parivar. In Uttar Pradesh, an ideologue of the organization has urged school students not to sing, “Dedi humein azadi bina khadak bina dhal, Sabarmati ke sant tune kar diya kamal” (You gave us freedom without shield and sword. O saint of Sabarmati you have worked wonders). Immortalized by Asha Bhonsle, this lyric by Kavi Pradeep was set to music by Hemanta Kumar for the film, Jagriti (1954), and offered as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. Apparently, the song belittles Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh and others who had led the armed struggle against the British.
The Union minister for steel, Virbhadra Singh, is an innocent soul. The former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh was blissfully unaware of the controversy surrounding Sonia Gandhi and her membership of the Press Club of India. So when a delegation of office-bearers from the press club called on Singh, he quickly signed up as a member of the press corps. He even went a step ahead by suggesting ways in which the club could overcome financial and administrative difficulties. Only months later did a Congress general secretary call up Singh, advising him to give up his membership. As a Union minister, he was told, he would be far better off staying away from the club, which had prompted Sonia Gandhi to resign as a member. Last heard, Singh is yet to quit the institution.
The arrival of a new president of the Bharatiya Janata Party has not set many hearts racing — at least not with excitement. And now it appears that Nitin Gadkari’s hidden talent, whatever be it, is surely not public speaking. He is already boring audiences with one-liners in each and every rally he attends. Recently, at a seminar organized by Kashmiri Pandits, many were surprised to find him falling woefully short in content and trying badly to make up by elaborating on his pet topic, ‘performance audit’. Gadkari’s colleagues listened to it yet again with a look of sullen politeness on their faces, but the aam admi is known to be less patient, and certainly less forgiving.
At the recent Jaipur Literature Festival, Javed Akhtar defied Steve Coll’s theory that Osama bin Laden was still alive. But if bin Laden is really dead, as Akhtar believes him to be, then what is Barack Obama doing keeping it a secret, especially when his ratings are at an all time low?
Contest with caution
Will Ghulam Nabi Azad go the Salman Khurshid way? The Union health minister is in the fray to contest a high-profile election as chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University. The AMU establishment has fielded the incumbent chancellor and former Supreme Court chief justice, A.H. Ahmadi. Both sides are lobbying hard to win the post, which has symbolic value but is considered highly prestigious.
Last year, Khurshid had thrown himself in a similar contest at New Delhi’s Indian Islamic Culture Centre. However, the Oxford trained lawyer suffered a humiliating defeat, losing to an insignificant player, thanks to the solidarity of the Left and Right Muslim intelligentsia against him. Soon after, Khurshid’s fortunes turned when he won a Lok Sabha seat and with it a berth in the Union cabinet. So will Khurshid now send a word of caution to Azad, who is about to accept a similar challenge? Given the hostility between the two in the Congress, that seems highly unlikely.