India’s daughter looks to conquer All England


By T S Sudhir
 
“Himmat se khelo, jeetoge” (Play courageously and you will win) is an advice Dr Harvir Singh usually gives to his daughter, before she embarks on her international tournaments. `Grit’ in any case, is like the middle name of his daughter, who goes by the name Saina Nehwal, the number 3 women singles player in the world of badminton. 
 
That native wisdom delivered in chaste Haryanvi Hindi has played its part in propelling Saina into the finals of the All-England championship in Birmingham, UK. Perhaps that simple advice is all you need in between the cacophony of racquets hitting the shuttles on practise courts in foreign land and the steady advice from the coach, “hit deep, rush to the net, prolong the rallies, kill shuttle”. “Papa, don’t preach” is not a line Saina Nehwal ever says.
 
Back home in Hyderabad, Harvir Singh believes that Saina vanquishing Wang Yihan, her nemesis in many tournaments since the junior world cup in South Korea in 2006, is a good sign. Before All-England, Yihan held a 8-1 record against Saina. “She has always got the better of Saina. The win over Yihan will do Saina’s self-confidence a world of good,” he says. 
 
After defeating Yihan to enter the semi-finals, Saina climbed another summit on March 7, becoming the first Indian woman to reach the finals of this prestigious event, a title considered on par with the world championship. If she wins the finals today against world champion Carolina Marin of Spain, Saina will end a 14 year vanvaas (exile) from the All-England podium. Her former guru, Pullela Gopichand was the last Indian to win the title in 2001, the first being Prakash Padukone in 1980. 
 
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It will be an important title to win for Saina, who with her 3-0 record against Marin, will fancy her chances. Since she split with Gopi last year and moved to Bengaluru to train with former national champion Vimal Kumar, there have been doubts expressed if it was a sensible move. Gopichand’s academy in Hyderabad is India’s premier badminton gurukul, whose conveyer belt has produced several world beaters in the last decade. Saina’s decision was dictated by the fact that Gopi has only 24 hours on his watch and with many players demanding his attention and time, she felt the need for a coach who would be focused solely on improving her game. 
 
In hindsight, this has proven a masterstroke. Gopi had done something similar during his playing days, shifting from coach S M Arif in Hyderabad to Bengaluru to train under Ganguly Prasad. Perhaps history has its way of making a point. 
 
In 2001, Gopi had followed a familiar pattern through All-England which included eating roti, tandoori chicken and dal everyday at the same restaurant, listening only to M S Subbulakshmi’s Bhaja Govindam and Vishnu Sahasranamam on his walkman and staying away from reading newspapers or calling folks back home in India. Saina is in the same mould, whose world is the badminton court. 
 
Saina who faltered in the semis at the All-England in 2010 and 2013, would reckon this is her best chance to win the title. She is a big match player who will be inspired by the boisterous Indian crowd that will root for her in the arena. Gopichand’s triumph inspired an entire generation of youngsters to take to badminton. Saina’s feat will have a multiplier effect. 
 
The last week has seen a furious debate in the country over the ban on `India’s daughter’, produced by BBC. Today the world will watch as another one of India’s daughters lets her racquet do the talking in Britain.
 
(T S Sudhir is the author of Saina Nehwal’s biography, published in July 2012)
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`Modi’ vs `Modi’ in Sri Lanka


By T S Sudhir in Colombo
I was in Sri Lanka on holiday in the last week of December. At a fair distance from work and the Indian political discourse. Or so I thought. On December 31, when I was in Sigiriya, a good 170 km from capital Colombo, I received this text message on my temporary Sri Lanka number.
`Sirisena copied Modi’s clothes and actions. Copied Mahinda’s budget. Now copied Mahinda’s website mahinda2015.com. Choice is yours. Visionary leader or puppet?’
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Narendra Modi, I realised, is pretty much a factor in the high stakes presidential contest on January 8. Because Maithripala Sirisena, the combined opposition candidate does wear Modi-ism on his sleeve literally, the Modi jacket a permanent fixture in his wardrobe.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa who would have thought Modi was on his side, when he wished him good luck for the electoral contest at the SAARC conclave in Kathmandu, also does a Modi on his cutouts, banners and posters that are all over Lanka. His bright shirts and animated pose, a match for the bright kurtas and jackets Modi showcased during his election campaign in India.
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“He is like the King,” said our tour guide sarcastically, referring to Rajapaksa. “Look at how he poses for the photographs.” The Lankan President, indeed, stresses his macho image, buttressed by the manner in which his Army annihiliated the LTTE, killing Tiger V Prabhakaran in 2009. That remains to date, Rajapaksa’s biggest achievement from the Sinhalese point of view, an indication of his ability to take the enemy head on, planning. A la 56 inch chest.
That chest however, has shrunk a bit now, with Sirisena, who was till November 2014, Sri Lanka’s Health minister and the general secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (the party Rajapaksa heads) doing a Trojan Horse to Rajapaksa. A contest is very much on now.
But it is not just the sartorial aspect that `Modi-fies’ the Rajapaksa vs Sirisena contest. Both candidates belong to the Island nation’s ethnic majority and the minority Tamils and Muslims look at both of them with more than a touch of suspicion. More so, Rajapaksa, given his regime’s “human rights record vis-a-vis Tamils and religious violence targeting Muslims.” Since Sirisena was part of Rajapaksa’ dispensation till two months back, he cannot absolve himself of the same taint though he would hope that former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and former PM Ranil Wickremasinghe’s company would soften the anti-minorities feeling.
And much like the Indian elections of 2014, corruption is at the heart of the Lankan Presidential battle. Rajapaksa clearly believes that the family that governs together, stays together. So his two brothers run the Defence and Economic ministries, a third brother is the Speaker and son Namal an MP and widely believed to being groomed to take over from dad Rajapaksa. Nepotism is definitely an issue for the people in the urban pockets of Lanka and Sirisena, son of a World War II hero and the challenger to the throne, will hope that the voters reject the first family’s rule on Thursday.
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Is `Clean India’ drive really working?


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By T S Sudhir
I was at the Sangeet crossroads in Secunderabad at 430 pm on Saturday, November 8. The light had turned red and I was on my bike, behind this car. 15 seconds into the wait, was thrown out this plate and napkin after what must have been a tasty chaat. But Prime minister Narendra Modi’s Clean India campaign or not, I have always found littering public places revolting. I took a photograph of the episode and then told the girl sitting on the back seat that what she did was not right. She glared angrily and then reluctantly said sorry. I requested her to pick it up. She shook her head to indicate no.
I wanted to ask her if she would do the same in Singapore but the light turned green and the traffic moved on. But her father was clearly livid at what they must have perceived as an “insult” and kept honking behind me incessantly perhaps to let loose a few abuses. In my book, he was indulging in yet another uncivilian act – of contributing to noise pollution.
Since October 2, we have seen many celebrities indulging in farcical photo-ops, to earn a commendatory tweet from the PM and he has obliged as well. Look at how Hema Malini and Prakash Javdekar are cleaning an already clean place. But nothing will make India a clean place unless we move away from celebrityhood and make Clean India campaign a `in your face’ drive. Instal mini garbage bins in every nook and corner so that there is no excuse to litter the streets. Name and shame people who do so in public.
We owe it to ourselves to keep our public spaces clean.
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Vrindavan: BJP MP from Mathura actress Hema Malini participates in Clean India Campaign in Vrindavan on Nov 7, 2014. (Photo: IANS)
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Siddaramaiah steals the show in Karnataka’s electoral theatre


By T S Sudhir
Score : Siddaramaiah 2.5, Yeddyurappa 0.5
If you wonder what I am talking about, it is real score card after the byelections to three seats in the Karnataka assembly. The results announced today saw the Congress winning two and the BJP one seat. But what was more significant is that not only did the Congress snatch Bellary Rural, one of the BJP citadels but also made BS Yeddyurappa miss a few heartbeats as his son B Y Raghavendra laboured to a 6430 votes facile victory. Hence the Karnataka CM’s score of 2.5.
What does the verdict mean for the BJP? For public consumption, unhappy faces. But given the fact that the BJP in Karnataka is a house divided, much like the Congress, how you read the result depends on which camp you belong to. In fact, there are quite a few happy faces, who see in the Bellary result a ray of hope. Because finally, the seat has been to an extent, been purged of the vice-like grip of the Reddy brothers – the power behind B Sriramulu, who had vacated the seat after he won the Bellary Lok Sabha seat in May 2014. So now the original BJP cadre can hope to make some inroads into Bellary. The fact that Obelesh, a trusted lieutenant of Sriramulu, lost from Bellary – that too by a margin of 33000 votes – showed the fear factor was not at play either.
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Yeddyurappa, the newly crowned national vice-president of the BJP, would have hoped for a better display in his new avatar. His son scraped through but compared to dad’s 24000 votes margin as a KJP candidate in May 2013, this was a poor consolation triumph. In fact, the view in Bangalore is that if the Congress camp had displayed better hunting skills in Shikaripura, it could have reduced Raghavendra to a prey. In the end, despite winning, Raghavendra was found complaining about how the official machinery had been misused by the Congress. And dad Yeddyurappa floated the familiar conspiracy theory of Congress-JD(S) matchfixing.
But it is not to say that BSY is a spent force. As the state’s foremost Lingayat leader, Yeddyurappa is the community and BJP’s tallest leader. He would need to introspect if his pocket borough of Shimoga is being eroded and whether his DNA does not enjoy the same kind of mass support that he does. He realises that many in his own party would be happy over the narrow margin of victory and the shrewd politician that he is, he would need to learn his lessons from the verdict.
The man who would gain in strength is Siddaramaiah, who can now be expected to be more assertive both vis-a-vis leaders within the Karnataka Congress and the High command. His detractors would have to press the mute button for some time at least now. A weak 24, Akbar Road works to the CM’s advantage and he can use it to ward off pressure tactics of a G Parameshwara, the KPCC president, who wants to be deputy CM, home minister and also control Bangalore. But now with a 2-1 verdict under his belt, Siddaramaiah will not allow any such three-in-one desires of Parameshwara to take root at the Vidhana Soudha.
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For long, Siddaramaiah has been pilloried as an outsider to the Congress, seen with suspicion, asked to prove his loyalty all the time. His latest assertion that he will attend a function with PM Modi, as per protocol, is indicative of the fact that he will be his own man. But at the same time, like what is expected of a good Congressman, he gave the credit for today’s victory to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi along with the party workers and the government programmes. He knows you do not need to pay tax for lip service.
More than anything, the Karnataka verdict proved three things. One, that the Lok Sabha victory (17/28 seats) was largely due to Narendra Modi. Which is why a wily Ananth Kumar reduced the Ananth Kumar vs Nandan Nilekani contest in Bangalore (South) to a Nilekani vs Modi battle.
Two, the voter is extremely smart and politically savvy. He seems to be fairly happy with the performance of the state government in its first year and wants good governance for the next four years. Three, the BJP has a lot of work to do in Karnataka if it wants to re-enter its gateway to south India in 2018.
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Door-to-door EVM next?


By T S Sudhir
 
At 6:15 pm, when K Chandrasekhar Rao addressed the media to claim the Telangana household survey was a resounding success, the Telangana chief minister claimed over 90 per cent had taken part in the survey. And that by the time, the curtains were down between 7-8 pm, it would be tantalisingly close to 100 per cent. With no agency to dispute the accuracy of the figures, one has no option but to take the sarkaari word as the gospel truth.
 
If what KCR is saying is indeed true, then this should be adopted as the template to conduct elections in India. After all, KCR has just shown that he is the Chief Election Commissioner India never had. (KCR seen in pic taking part in the survey)
 
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Just imagine, shutting down all of India for one day, a true Bharat Bandh, the kind our Communist friends can only dream of enforcing. All schools, colleges, offices, shops, factories shut for the day. Stop all buses, trains and aircraft. Stop even pizza delivery boys and vegetable vendors. Impose a one-day house arrest for every citizen above 18 years of age and do a door-to-door EVM yatra. The largest ever yatra of its kind in the world.
 
`India votes’. And this time, India would be at home, doing so, quite literally. And the voting percentage will zoom much beyond the pathetic 60s it records in most constituencies at the moment. 
 
Imagine Twitter timelines and Facebook profiles full to the brim with selfies and group pictures with the EVM officials. Something you cannot do inside the polling booths.
 
And what’s more, the prospect of getting an extra day off work is huge. Just like in Telangana, where August 20 has been declared a public holiday. Yo ! 
 
The Telangana survey exercise has caused much envy and heartburn in other parts of India. No, not about the benefits that most who are surveyed are unlikely to get but about getting a government-sponsored day off. India’s youngest state is indeed showing the way. 
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August 19, the day Telangana will be under `house arrest’


By T S Sudhir
“Don’t spread rumours and panic,” K Chandrasekhar Rao gently admonished the media, asking them not to do anything to dissuade people of Telangana from taking part in the August 19 intensive household survey. (Read previous blog by T S Sudhir here)
On his part, the Telangana chief minister is leaving nothing to chance. Short of calling it house arrest, the government won’t make it easy for you to stir out of home. No bus, no auto will ply in the ten districts of the state, all government and private offices will be closed. So will be commercial establishments and educational institutions. Four crore Telanganites have been asked to be at home.
My colleague, a native of Telangana has a genuine concern and something that reflects the doubts over data privacy. “Should I declare my property details or not? If I do not declare the land I have in my village, isn’t it quite possible that it will be grabbed and because I did not declare it in the survey, the government of Telangana will tell me it is no longer yours,” is his dilemma. 
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Though the column that would have revealed nativity has now been removed, after much public outrage, doubts persist that identifying the settlers (people from Andhra Pradesh) in Telangana is the prime objective. But fear not, because that cannot be identified with this survey. The Telugu Desam is however, doing its bit of mischief by leaking a video of someone who is identified as the PRO to the Telangana CM, who makes outrageous claims that settlers will be thrown out of Telangana after this survey.
The Telangana government has now said that taking part in the survey is optional and KCR has also clarified that revealing bank account numbers is optional. But what about lakhs of people, who fear they will be targeted if they do not reveal all information. Plus there is no guarantee of data privacy. When an unauthorised employee in the bank where you hold an account can unethically peep into your bank account and ask you the reason you have parked your funds there and suggest other financial options, where is the guarantee that only a few officers in responsible positions will have access to personal information about you.
Defenders of the Telangana government argue why this outrage was not there when Aadhaar demanded your bank account number. It wasn’t there for the simple reason that there was a clear linkage that was sought to be established between LPG reimbursement and Aadhaar card. The TRS government so far at least, has not spoken about any such financial linkage. Also if that was indeed the reason to demand bank account number, one account number would have sufficed, why ask for all of them. No one in the establishment has answered these queries satisfactorily.
P.S. The next time, you get a telemarketing call, asking you if you will like to buy a second AC, since you have only one, you know where they have got that info from. Or if you get a telemarketing call, suggesting better quality food for your dog, you know you are barking up the right tree.
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Singham (and the flying Scorpios) returns !


By T S Sudhir
 
“Audience knows what to expect from a Rohit Shetty film and they will come,” said director Rohit Shetty, vanity dripping, on one of the TV channels promoting his film `Singham Returns’. It is a return of Scorpios flying in the air, a Rohit Shetty trademark, machine guns blaring and enough brawn display. Compared to his earlier films, there is a bit of a script though Shetty does not believe in cinema being about a gripping plot. The story of Ajay Devgn as a DCP trying to clear the name of his honest junior is a case so transparent because the name of the villain is so clearly written on the ambulance, the scene of the crime. Yawn!
 
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No wonder, Devgn who has essayed brilliant roles in Gangajal and Apharan, looks stiff bored with Singham’s return. Bored both with dealing with a caricature of a villain played by Amole Gupte and romancing a screechy, forever hungry Kareena Kapoor. Wish Kareena had shown more hunger and demanded more meat in her role from Shetty.
 
The moral of the story : Fake encounters are the way out since the system cannot deal with the criminals the legal way. The `bump them off’ practise is treated in a cavalier manner at the end when the journalist – a Barkha Dutt lookalike – says indulgently to Devgn that “Oh, you won’t change”. And this is the message of the film, that Devgn believes women and children also relate to.
 
The music of the film is so pathetic that you keep looking at your watch for the songs to end. And I marvel at the audacity of Yo Yo Honey Singh to call himself a singer, if his song that comes at the end of the movie, is anything to go by.
 
Only two things stand out amidst a sea of mediocrity. Daya (of CID frame) being asked to break a door like he does in CID – a line that invited guffaws in the theatre – and two, a fiesty lady who challenges Devgn to teach the villains a lesson instead of beating to pulp her son who took money for voting for a corrupt candidate in the election. 
 
And I still do not know, which IPS officer will stand before the CM with his top shirt button open like a roadside loafer. Even if the CM – who reminds you of a stiff Prithviraj Chavan – comes across as an ineffective politician. What a way to waste a powerhouse of talent like Mahesh Manjrekar.
 
`Singham Returns’ is not a remake of `Singam 2′ starring Suriya in Tamil. Even that sequel to the first `Singam’ paled in comparison but atleast Suriya displayed more style that Devgn does not. Save that shot of Devgn flying horizontally in the air to save Daya from getting. The best – and in fact, the only stand out action shot – in the film. 
 
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