(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Sanjay Raut. Wait, wait. This isn’t a voice which you are hearing from behind Kangana Ranaut’s skirt. This man can fill up your nostrils all on his own. He is always in your face like the ones who knock at your car panels on red lights. Ranaut is only the latest excuse.
Raut is a leashed presence at the feet, a prototype all leaders keep only to be released in time. Some act suave, like Pavan Varma and Derek O’ Brien and some are cast in his inimitable mould such as Azam Khan and Sanjay Singh, if you may. Congress has too many which this piece is too short to do justice to. So, Randeep Surjewalas and Navjot Sidhus and Digvijay Singhs could relax.
There was a time when Sanjay Raut wanted to bar Muslims from voting in elections. He came around to stand with them on anti-CAA plank, chumming up to Jamaat-e-Islamic Hind. This change was overnight. It swung with equations of his Shiv Sena vis-à-vis BJP. He once bloated on the upcoming Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial site on the Arabian Sea. He is now drawing daggers at Rani Lakshmi Bai, i.e Kangana Ranaut in a filmi avatar.
So who is the real Sanjay Raut? Nobody. He is just a muckracker in the journalistic tradition of our times. He edits his party’s paper, Saamana, and takes credit for writing a biopic on Balasaheb and would be mistaken as erudite by somebody living in North Pole. Well, after all he has been an “elder” in Rajya Sabha for three terms now. But his calling card, as you would’ve guessed by now, is baring his teeth when his masters want him to.
So, it’s with him now on Kangana Ranaut. It was good he affixed “ladki” with his “haramkhor” adjective. Or somebody would’ve thought he was in a self-appraisal mode. I mean thrice a national award winner, four times of Filmfare, all by the age of 30, doesn’t quite fit the definition of a “haramkhor.”
As you would’ve guessed, the gender-warriors in our newspapers have ducked into their gutters. All your Shobhaa Dees, Mahua Moitras, Priyanka Gandhis, Brinda Karats who bristle at slights on the fairer sex are silent. And we are talking of no ordinary woman here. It’s a prized actress who is picking up the cudgels against the patriarchal Bollywood. Who wants to clean up the filmi stable of drugs and Dubai mafia. Who wants to offer a tomorrow of safety and respect and dignity to a newcomer who is arriving at VT station from Asansol. Who doesn’t want them to meet the fate of a Sushant Singh Rajput. That their young eyes with dreams aren’t closed forever. A woman who is risking her life, lighting a matchstick on her own career, who if she was to venture into Mumbai today would have an idea how a PoK must feel like.
But not a word from our pen-pushers. Not a clap for the triumph of talent over entitlement. She is not a “Shero” to Barkha Dutt. Nor she is a Safoora Zargar who gets a cry of outrage from Shekhar Gupta’s ThePrint. A Sagarika Ghose brings out international law in defence of Safoora. A Rajdeep Sardesai tears his heart out on a pregnant woman in jail. Somebody calls Ishrat Jahan a daughter of our own land. Never mind one is charged with inciting riots and the other with a plot to assassinate a chief minister.
Our Bollywood bimbos now can’t find the placard in support of their gender. Against one of their own who they can’t match in range in this lifetime. Why bother if there are couches perfumed for their hinterland preys, ringed by leering louts? That youngsters are no better than playthings for those who happen to be their dads?
All of them—these starlets, muckraking journalists, political clowns—are toxics in our life. They don’t allow us to smell a rose; inhale a breeze, whistle a tune. Once in a while, somebody stands up risking everything one has. And she is “haramkhor” to them.
Aren’t we sick, folks?
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has put Prashant Kishor on her burning deck. Everyone connected with the Trinamool Congress (TMC)—EVERYONE—would listen to the master poll strategist behind closed doors of Kolkata’s Nazrul Mancha auditorium on Thursday.
Just imagine: “Didi”, that giant slayer of Left in Bengal, would be all ears to a man who has lived fewer years than she has spent in politics. Not just she but all her generals—young or old, fair or dark, rural or urban—would look to know about their own Bengal from a man who wouldn’t move in Kolkata without a GPS. None of them is mindful that he, being a member of JD(U), is part of NDA-2 and thus from the enemy’s ranks. Who said politicians are cynical?
Mamata, like all of us, is beholden to Kishor’s track record. He drew Narendra Modi’s 2014 poll strategy and within six months had helped Nitish Kumar beat back the new Prime Minister from the gates of Bihar. He turned around Congress’ fortunes in Punjab as he has now done with YS Jaganmohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, taking care of upstarts (Arvind Kejriwal) and seasoned (Chandrababu Naidu) as hounds do, completely impartial to their prey. There of course is Congress and Shame of UP in 2017 but this can wait.
We are all beholden to this spectacle where politicians, with all their hubris and enmity, treachery and ruthlessness, sit on stools like lions do to the crack of this ringmaster’s whip, tail between their legs. This ringmaster had never walked into a (political) circus before, was pathetic as a student, a poor reader of books, a self-confessed black sheep of the family, never stuck to a job yet now has these political animals on a leash.
And he does it on his own terms. He would only deal with the bosses—not even Amit Shah—and everyone must submit to his charter, no questions asked. He is least enamoured of any politician and could walk out of a room without as much as even a goodbye. He calls out his own party head Nitish Kumar for not seeking a fresh mandate after dumping Lallu Yadav. He helped Capt Amrinder Singh only because he didn’t like Arvind Kejriwal mocking him in press. He would help Uddhav Thackeray and his Shiv Sena only if he is assured the security of migrant north Indians in the state of Maharashtra. He once didn’t answer the calls of DMK as he didn’t of political parties in Kerala.
It would surprise many to know that Prashant Kishor is almost disdainful of our governing class which includes both politicians and bureaucrats. It interests him little that he is snapped with high and mighty; that he is entrusted with hundreds of crores to put his plan in motion; that unlimited power could be his mistress.
What then drives this man?
We would have to go back to 2011 when a paper of his on malnutrition caught the eye of Modi’s government in Gujarat. He was invited to visit the state and correct his impression. One day, he contributed to a speech of Modi; another day he drew a sense of a data and soon he was drawn into the inner circle. 2014 polls beckoned, he drew up a charter, and if you have heard of “Chai pe Charcha,” credit our man for it.
He left Modi because he wanted his dream of CAG (Citizens for Accountable Governance) to happen overnight. This CAG has now metamorphosed into I-PAC (Indian Political Action Committee). It’s this I-PAC which is key to understanding our man.
Prashant Kishor is troubled by the fact that only 7-odd per cent in India’s parliament are below 40. Almost 70 per cent of this small percentage belongs to political dynasties. This leaves only 2-3 per cent of bold and beautiful to chart their own cut. He is upset that a health secretary, previously in transport and due to be a telecom secretary tomorrow, could decide on technical matters and overrule professionals who have spent a lifetime in mastering the issue. He credits five biggest reforms of independent India– food (M.S.Swaminathan), milk (Verghese Kurien), telecom (Sam Pitroda), space (Vikram Sarabhai) and atomic energy (APJ Abdul Kalam)—to the men who were not part of governance or bureaucracy.
I-PAC is one that dream where Prashant Kishor wants to draw tens of thousands of India’s young and competent , train them to take over panchayats, parishads, mahapalikas of the country, practically draw a parallel political ecosystem and transform India. It made him impatient with Modi; it makes him dismissive of coterie—“Can’t be mindful of what the ecosystem thinks about me”—and it made him reject Rahul Gandhi post-2017 UP debacle.
The UP debacle still singes Kishor. He had drawn up a 14-point charter for Congress but only two were implemented—Sonia Gandhi launching the campaign from Varanasi; and Rahul Gandhi’s yatra from Deoria to Delhi on farmers’ loan-waiver issue. “I have no option but to accept the blame since I didn’t quit on not being followed,” remembered Kishor in an interview. He feels let down when politicians use his charter but don’t implement them when in power.
There are all telltale signs that Kishor wouldn’t do politicians’ bidding any longer. He would remain with JD (U) because he wants Bihar to be a top state on all indicators of progress. Personally, Nitish Kumar has afforded him the freedom to nurture his I-PAC and make Bihar his political laboratory. So what accounts for his present engagement with Mamata Banerjee?
In all likelihood, Kishor might have been “loaned” by Nitish Kumar so as to send a not-so-veiled a message to Modi on denial of ministerial berths in the Union Cabinet. If Kishor could stop BJP’s juggernaut, it could lead to new alignments in Indian politics. It might allow Nitish Kumar to project himself as an alternative to Modi in 2024 polls.
In the last month or so, West Bengal has thrown up two rising political stars. New MP Nusrat Jahan, with her oath in the Parliament and participation in Jagannath rathyatra, has caught the eye even of Hindus. Then there is rabid Mahua Moitra who is lip-syncing Mamata Banerjee and appealing to Muslim and “pseudo-sickulars” of the country. Both, without doubt, are acting on Prashant Kishor’s script.
How BJP would love to eavesdrop on the closed-door auditorium on Thursday.