Kiran and his lameduck government

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By T S Sudhir
The divide in Andhra Pradesh never looked more stark. The state assembly on Monday witnessed the strange sight of the ministers storming the well of the House. What’s worse, these ministers from the Telangana region were protesting against their own boss – chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, who on Saturday had asked the assembly speaker N Manohar for permission to move a resolution seeking to reject the state Reorganisation Bill sent by the President to the House.
If you needed any more proof that the government in Andhra Pradesh is a lameduck government, you need not look beyond the state assembly. Cabinet ministers conveniently forgot that they have taken oath under the Constitution to serve the state of Andhra Pradesh, not a specific region. If Kiran Reddy is at fault, so are his colleagues from all three regions.
Deputy chief minister Damodar Rajanarasimha asked for the dismissal of the chief minister. Sitting at his home in Banjara Hills, he told me that he and other Telangana MLAs have no faith in Reddy’s leadership and that he must go. Rajanarasimha, who would be a contender for the top job, is predicting major political action in the next week. He and Reddy have not spoken to each other for the last six months, an indication of how deeply divided the state already is.
Rajanarasimha’s demand was echoed by other MLAs from the Telangana region. Former Congressman, who is now an MLA on the Telangana Rashtra Samiti ticket, J Krishna Rao said, “He has to say sorry to the House, he has to take back the resolution and then he has to step down.”
kiran cricket
Panchayati Raj minister Jana Reddy wrote identical letters to the Governor, Assembly speaker and Chairman of the Legislative Council, pointing out that the state cabinet has never discussed moving such a resolution and therefore the demand ought to be rejected forthwith.
Former speaker of the Andhra Pradesh assembly K R Suresh Reddy also wrote to his successor, arguing that timing of the resolution is “suspicious” and that Manohar should reject the notice given by the CM. “The Leader of the House along with the Speaker is responsible to ensure smooth conduct of business. But here the CM, by this action, has thrown the House into pandemonium at a time, when such important debate is being conducted on an important issue,” said Suresh Reddy.
Under the rules, any member can move a resolution under Rule 77. “I myself have done so. I therefore cannot question the CM’s right to do so. But whether he can do so as the Leader of the House which means the leader of the government, is questionable,” said Jayaprakash Narayan, Loksatta party president and MLA.
But it is not as if Kiran Reddy is short of support. The Seemandhra lobby of 175 MLAs is backing his move, cutting across party lines. YSR Congress and Telugu Desam have already backed a move to move a resolution in favour of united Andhra Pradesh. The strategy to force voting is to show to the world that numerically speaking, those demanding division of Andhra Pradesh are not in a majority and therefore New Delhi’s unilateral decision to bifurcate the state cannot be entertained.
The state assembly has time till January 30 to discuss the Bill and return it to the President. Given the acrimony and the divide, it is highly unlikely that the House will see any meaningful debate this week. 

She would have been Mother India

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By Uma Sudhir
Some news reports make you feel ashamed and guilty, wrench at your heart. And leave you wondering how any of this is going to change. From where do we begin.
A 12-year-old child committed suicide in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh because she was disappointed and heartbroken that her parents did not buy her a pair of silver anklets that she so deeply desired.
Anusha had wanted to dress up as Mother India for Republic Day celebrations at her school. She asked her father for a new dress, a lehenga and half saree, and a pair of silver anklets to go with it. The father, Gogurat Lachchu, a cotton farmer who worked as labourer along with her mother round the year to feed his family, told her he couldn’t afford to buy her the dress and anklets as of now. The mother, not wanting to disappoint the child, bought her daughter bangles and a pair of slippers. After the parents left for work, the child bolted the door of their house from the inside and hanged to death.

A child who had ironically wanted to be Mother India but ended up killing herself. Is this what we are promising young India? That in this society, if you belong to the most vulnerable and deprived sections, you don’t have a right to dream. You must give up on your right to demand and enjoy even small joys. Opportunity is not yours for the taking.

Anusha’s teachers say she was easily one of the most brilliant students in the school. Always first in class, she was also very good at sport. She had only recently won three medals in kabbadi and carrom just the other day. They say she was a well-behaved, well-adjusted child who was the pride of the school. How come such a child did something as shocking as this, was the question everyone was asking.
In the urban, more well-off world, parents are often told, don’t buy everything your child asks for. Don’t give in to every whim and demand. He or she is unable to take rejection, a `no’, or a failure and fails to develop the coping skills.
I would have thought Anusha, even at her young age, would have seen enough deprivation not to give up because she could not have a pair of silver anklets. Must be so heartbreaking for her parents to think, that they couldn’t fulfil a small desire of their child, and lost the child forever. I can’t help feeling the sadness and pain as a parent myself. There is a even a streak of anger for what the young girl chose to do. May be she was forced to realise and accept realities that the child in her did not want to confront and live with.
So easy to blame it on poverty, rural distress, agricultural crisis and a host of reasons that can’t directly point at us in any way. So we can be free of any responsibility or guilt.
The larger takeaway for me from this story was not only that a child full of potential has been lost in such unfortunate, tragic circumstances. It is also important to realise that it is as criminal to kill childhood joys as it is for the child herself to die. All of us have a responsibility towards the children of our world to ensure their little joys don’t die a premature death. In our own little ways, can’t each one of us take the responsibility of one little dream?


Padma Bhushan for Guru Gopichand

By T S Sudhir
“More than the news of the Padma Bhushan being conferred on him, Gopi is more delighted that Saina and Sindhu have entered the finals of the Syed Modi India Grand Prix Gold Badminton tournament,” said Subbaravamma, mother of National Badminton coach Pullela Gopichand.
That in a nutshell sums up Gopichand and his devotion to his craft. In fact, when P V Sindhu won the bronze medal at the World Badminton championship in August last year and comparisons with London Olympic Games bronze medallist Saina Nehwal began in right earnest, Gopichand said that his dream is to see his best two students in the final of a tournament because that will assure India of a gold and a silver. “We should look at them as Saina and Sindhu, not Saina versus Sindhu,” he had said.
Pullella Gopichand guiding Saina Nehwal .Photo/P.Anil kumar
In Lucknow for the India Grand Prix, Gopichand may well think Lady Luck has really smiled on him, with this double whammy. “I am happy and thrilled. It is recognition for what I have done for badminton in India, it will motivate to work more hard to make India a badminton powerhouse,” he said.
What makes this year’s Padma awards list even more special for Gopi is that well-known orthopaedic surgeon Dr Ashok Rajgopal, who perfomed three surgeries on the badminton player’s knee and a torn cartilage between 1994 and 1998 after his terrible accident during a doubles match on court, has also been awarded the Padma Shri. After ensuring Gopichand was once again fit to play, Dr Rajgopal had waived his fee and instead asked for an All-England Badminton championship trophy, saying “that will be my fee”. Gopichand ensured the doctor’s `fee’ was paid in 2001, when he won the title at Birmingham.
With the Padma Bhushan now, Gopichand becomes one of the most decorated sportspersons in India having been awarded the Rajiv Khel Ratna award, Padma Shri, Arjuna Award and Dronacharya award. 


Why Salman Khan is not `Wanted’ by the Owaisis

By T S Sudhir
Move over Salman Rushdie, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) has a new Salman to practise darts on. Salman Khan aka Sallu Bhai.
Ever since Salman Khan kept his commitment to indulge in kite-flying with Narendra Modi and what’s worse, called him a “good man”, the party from Hyderabad has been seething with anger. Little surprise considering Modi is all negative for the Owaisi brothers – Asaduddin and Akbaruddin.
But what’s surprising is that the MIM has chosen to risk asking its followers not to watch `Jai Ho’ that releases this Friday, considering Salman is like God to many youth from the Old city area, who copy his physique, mannerisms and hairstyle. MIM now wants them to change their approach to Salman Khan – from `Maine Pyar Kiya’ to `Maine Pyaar kyon kiya’.
At a public meeting four days back, party president and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi was all fire and brimstone. Targeting the actor with choice expletives, Owaisi dismissed him as a mere “nachle gaane wala actor”. Asking the audience not to watch his “behudapana”, Owaisi said, “Naam Salman rakhne se koyi Salman nahi ban jaata, Salman to Rushdie bhi hai.”
The BJP’s Venkaiah Naidu has dismissed Owaisi’s outburst as a matter of no consequence, accusing him of suffering from Modi-phobia. It indeed does seem surprising that the Owaisis would get so perturbed and worked up over a mere endorsement of Modi by an actor. Are the Owaisis so insecure in their citadel of the Old city area of Hyderabad that they think that a certificate from Salman Khan to Modi would be enough for the BJP to make significant inroads? 
It was also surprising to see the elder Owaisi borrow a leaf out of his younger brother Akbaruddin’s book, in terms of style and rhetoric. Remember, a year ago, Owaisi junior had got into trouble with his alleged communal remarks that were seen as damaging communal harmony. For someone who otherwise stresses on development agenda in his constituency, Asaduddin Owaisi’s vitriol seemed out of sync.
That Salman did not bother to temper his positive remarks about Modi has irked the MIM leaders even more. He made the point in a TV interview that if Modi has been acquitted by the courts, why should he say sorry. That’s a position unacceptable to the MIM. The party decided subsequently that it will not speak on the issue, since that will be akin to giving Salman Khan more publicity, something its leaders decided he did not deserve.
Asaduddin Owaisi explained that even if it had been any other actor, he would have reacted the same way, since Modi is anathema. “It did not have to do with his being a Muslim,” he said. Owaisi described Modi as a “kaatil” and “zaalim” in his speech, an attempt clearly to polarise the Muslim vote in Hyderabad against the BJP’s Hindutva brigade. The response to `Jai Ho’ over the weekend will show how much the Dabangg star is Wanted by his Hyderabadi fan and whether they make a distinction between real and reel life.

ANR is no more. RIP

By T S Sudhir

“Are you Mr Nageswara Rao?” the caller at the other end had enquired.
“Mr Ahmed from the Ministry of Home would like to speak to you, Sir.”
This was on January 25, 2011 when Akkineni Nageswara Rao was shooting for `Sri Rama Rajyam’ in Alwal on the outskirts of Hyderabad. ANR was playing the role of Valmiki and at that precise moment, was discussing the Lava-Kusa scene with director Bapu. 
“The government of India has conferred on you the Padma Vibhushan. Are you willing to accept it Sir,” said the official.
anr with bsr
As ANR recounted this conversation to me a couple of days later at his home in Jubilee Hills in Hyderabad, I noticed his expressive face. Even when he spoke casually, the natural actor in him emoted through his eyes, the famous manner of his raising his eyebrow and moving his facial muscles.
ANR admitted the honour was completely unexpected and therefore the excitement was far more than in 1968, when he received the Padma Shri and 1988, when he was honoured with the Padma Bhushan or the Dada Saheb Phalke Award a couple of years later.
“I was happy. I am not a hypocrite to say I wasn’t. I called up my wife, who was obviously happy to hear the news. I told her to inform the kids and continued with my work on location. And lest the crew assume that I would take the next day off to meet those who will come to congratulate me, I told them that I will report on sets the next morning,” said ANR that day.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet and interview ANR on several occasions. Very conscious of his status as the patriarch of the Telugu film industry family, ANR however was choosy about what kind of work he sought. Both during his years at the top and after he had stopped being the hero of the film. And he retained his sense of humour intact while explaining why he did not want to do guest roles.
“I do not want to lose my old fans. Like your mother and your grandmother. Because today’s character aren’t characters. The talent is there but the quality of scripts isn’t up to the mark. In comparision, we had better opportunities,” he explained. 
ANR’s middle name was discipline. That is one facet of his character those who worked with him in his 250-odd films, remember the most about him.
But ANR was not in the habit of going down memory lane, catching any of his old classics on TV or DVD.
“I don’t because I do not enjoy watching any of my films,” he would say. “My mind invariably goes back to the shooting of that particular movie, remembering each single detail. How that scene or song was shot, what discussions we had, how we differed with the director etc etc.”
And then ANR had rewound to a particular film shooting where a song was being picturised on him and Vanishree on the sands by the River Godavari one afternoon in the month of May. “The sun was at its peak, the sand was burning hot, you couldn’t stand for a moment, it was as if the skin was peeling off. Atleast I had my wig, but what about Vanishree. We finally saved our feet by covering it with the tapes that came along with the film reels. Anytime I see that song, I remember all this,” he chuckled.
ANR’s `Sri Ramadasu’ in 2006 saw his sharing screen space with son Nagarjuna. “Sri Ramadasu was just nine days of work for me. But it was a vital role. ANR was noticed. That is very important.”
His fans got a rude shock when his family announced in October 2013 that ANR was suffering from cancer. But the thespian did not want his family to be gloomy and wanted everyone to go about their work like usual. 
“It is a boon that I got cancer at this age. Even the cancer cells will be aged,” he had said then. Pointing out that he had undergone a heart surgery, he said doctors had said he will live only for 14 years after that, a prophecy that proved incorrect. “The record for long living in my family is 96 years. I want to cross that age limit and set a new milestone. If your blessings are with me, I will live for 100 years,” he had said.
In fact, he was busy working on `Manam’ in which his co-stars were Nagarjuna and grandson Naga Chaitanya. When the filmmaker had approached Nagarjuna about casting for the film and asked him if ANR will agree, the son had told him, “Ask Dad. If he accepts, we can.” ANR told me that he is very uncompromising when it comes to the quality of the script. “Like they say `Paat ki pallavi mukhyam, film ki climax mukhyam,” he explained.
ANR’s early years and difficult childhood is well-chronicled. He began acting at a young age and over a period of time, became one of the foremost actors of Telugu cinema. Moving from folklore to socials to being the romantic hero.
“When Devadasu was offered to me, I was tense because people doubted if a folklore actor can play Devdas. K L Saigal’s Devdas was a reference point and since everyone was making me feel unfit for the role, I asked if I could see it. “Why should you see it. Saigal was a singer, you are an actor”, was the retort I got. So I prepared very well for the role and after the film’s release, no one had any doubt about my ability to play such a difficult character.”
ANR and N T Rama Rao, the other thespian of Telugu cinema, acted together in 50 films. 
“By the time, he came into films, I was already a very popular actor. His acting style was different from mine. I admire his talent but thought he was artificial in social movies. His personality and laughter was more suited for mythological roles, where he was brilliant.”
Was there any sense of competition? “No, our fields were quite clearly demarcated. I was more the romantic hero while his forte was the mythological.”
For a man his age, ANR was fit and agile. “I don’t do any yoga. The kind of dances we did for singing duets were a good enough exercise,” he would joke.
“I was my mother’s ninth child and she fed me milk till I was five years old. I always thank my mother for that as I believe it is because of that that I never get a headache.” Which is why, ANR points out, he insisted that his daughters and daughters-in-law too did the same with his grandchildren.
ANR leaves behind a family of 23 members, to who he always said only one thing : `Be Happy. Because happiness makes me happier.’
Thankyou ANR garu, for giving a lot of happiness to millions of your fans. You will be missed. 

Nothing khaas about such aam aadmi

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By T S Sudhir
Senior journalist Pritish Nandy tweeted over the weekend : “Every interview with @ArvindKejriwal aired gets AAP a whole bunch of new followers.” May I add that everytime Yogendra Yadav – who I respect immensely – in his extremely measured tone and polite language, gives a print or a television interview, a whole lot of Indians would think, this guy deserves my support.
But bring in another journalist, Ashutosh, a new entrant into AAP into the picture and you would want to say “AAP to aise na the”. Everytime he makes an appearance on TV as AAP’s official spokesperson, the same bunch of new followers, I seriously suspect, want to press `Exit’. 
Agreed that the Aam Aadmi Party’s operational style is very in the face. Aggressive. Confrontationist. No-holds barred. But all this while, we, the Aam Aadmi of India, were also led to believe that the `A’ in AAP means Aam. If `A’ is to stand for Arrogance, then I might as well go with the tried-and-tested Congress and BJP leaders, who at least do not make a pretence of being any different.
AAP is clearly a party in a hurry. Kejriwal admits so as well. But the hurry does not seem to be so much to bring better governance to Delhi – savour Kejriwal’s “Sarkaar kisse bachani hai’‘ line (Who wants to save our government?) to both Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai in interviews over the weekend – but to gain enough traction in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. Kejriwal and company certainly realise that the polls present an opportunity to make it a BJP versus AAP battle, given the dismal state of the Congress. Even if the situation on the ground does not quite bear that out – the AAP is a non-entity in most states of India – the strategy seems to be to occupy the mindspace of the voter in a manner so intense, that AAP is seen as the X-factor in several contests.
Ideally, a party with 28 MLAs in a city assembly should not count for much. Does anyone care for one state parties that exist in India? But given the `Delhi is India’ syndrome that the Delhi-based `national’ media suffers from, anything that is spoken in Indraprastha translates into an `India Speaks’ across television channels, helping AAP get magnified several times over. It is again because of the media exposure that AAP’s membership drive got several thousands lining up to register themselves as members of the organisation.
Desh me aandhi chal rahi hai (there is a storm blowing across the country),” says Kejriwal. Indeed. But does he realise that the duststorm is throwing mud into AAP’s own house and Kejriwal will have to soon wield the broom to clean up his own stable.
AAP has for long suffered from the fixation of labelling anyone who is critical of its ways, as dishonest and corrupt. Ashutosh takes the umbrage a notch lower by claiming on national television that Kiran Bedi should be taught a lesson. Why? Because she bats for Modi and is critical of Kejriwal’s ways (she was defining anarchist when Ashutosh made the comment). As laughable as it may sound, even Arnab Goswami had to ask Ashutosh to be “tolerant”.
Last week, Mani Shankar Aiyer was disgusting with his “Modi can open a tea stall at the AICC session” remark and Subramaniam Swamy called Rahul Gandhi a “buddhu”. Ashutosh looks set to be the AAP version of the two leaders, unleashing his brand of verbal anarchy. Clearly, not only does AAP aim to punch above its weight but also sledge its way through the Indian Political League.

Gudsa Usendi is dead. GVK Prasad speaks

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By T S Sudhir
“I hope you will top up my prepaid card if I run out of charge,” said Gudsa Usendi and laughed when I asked for his mobile number. I understood what he was trying to say. This former spokesperson of the outlawed Maoists, who surrendered to the Andhra Pradesh police on January 7, was referring to a conversation a couple of years ago when he had called to share some information from inside the forests.
“My phone does not have charge so can you call me back,” he had said then. An amused me had expressed my surprise in my blog that a person who was the voice of India’s “biggest internal security threat” did not even have adequate balance in his cellphone SIM. Usendi obviously had read whatever was written about him.
Today when I met him, his first request was not to be called Usendi. “I am G V K Prasad,” he said softly, with a demeanor and body language so unaggressive, that this once dreaded Maoist could easily pass off as a college professor.
With Santosh Markam, his live-in partner, by his side, the 46-year-old rubbished the Union government’s propaganda about the Maoists. “It is an exaggeration to call it the biggest internal security threat. The very fact that Raman Singh came back to power and there was heavy polling in Chhattisgarh despite our boycott call is evidence that Maoists hardly hold that kind of sway over the people,” he reasoned. 
By any standards, Prasad was a big catch for the Andhra Pradesh police. Now the more difficult job is to keep him safe. But Prasad shrugs off a possible threat to his life by his former friends. But he cannot be so sure given that Maoists are clearly unnerved by his surrender and one of his ex-colleagues Ramanna released an audio tape, criticising his move and casting aspersions on his character.
Prasad was the one who communicated with the world after the Darbha Ghati massacre in which 26 people, most of them Congress leaders, were killed in May last year. “Once you are in the party, you have to defend whatever the party does. But I was totally against the killing of people like PCC chief Nandkumar Patel,” he explained. On being asked if there was any truth to the rumours about Congress leaders like Ajit Jogi passing on information to the Maoists about the movement of the convoy, Prasad denied any such collaboration.
“It will be difficult for the Maoists to move into more areas. I am not saying Maoist activity will be completely finished but in ten years, it won’t be anything like what it is today,” said Prasad, clearly disillusioned with the way of his former organisation. 
A staunch Telangana supporter, he is still mulling what to do. How well he is able to get back into the mainstream, will be a test both for police and civil society as well as surrendered Maoists like Prasad. India will be watching.