Anurag Thakur

Lutyens Media is drummer boy for Rahul Gandhi

It’s without bitterness or rancour that I point out how the rotten media—both Indian and Western—keeps the “Dead Man Walking,” that is, Indian National Congress.

Vir Sanghvi, out from the edit pages of Hindustan Times for nearly a decade after the Radia Tapes leaks, is back strategically ahead of the 2019 Elections. On Friday, he warned BJP it has a “fight on its hands,” since “Rahul Gandhi has grown in confidence.” The first time Sanghvi’s political pen is unfrozen in a decade, it flows in obeisance. To take a hint from his own Brunch column, it’s in “rude taste.’

The last we saw of the child-boy Rahul on national screen was during the “hug debate” in Parliament last Friday. He had a dark visage, stung by the rebuke of generally mild Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan, followed by BJP’s Anurag Thakur ripping open his Rafale lies in front of the nation.

Yet the same newspaper, only a couple of days before, was showcasing Shekhar Gupta almost celebrating the “Bofors moment” of BJP on Rafale. Now Shekhar isn’t shy on Congress or slinking type—remember how he made light of “pimping-for-Congress” remark of Arvind Kejriwal? So boldly Shekhar has gone ahead and penned another piece close on its heels—and you’ve guessed it right: “He (Rahul) has risen in stature as a pre-eminent leader of opposition.”

The next name which came almost instinctively to my mind was Barkha Dutt. Why? Because she links with Sanghvi as one who was badly stung by Radia Tapes leaks; and with Shekhar as a columnist in his venture to which once she briefly was a partner.

Barkha these days is usually found parked in Washington Post. She found Rahul Gandhi winner all over on “Hug Day” in front of the nation: “He won the headlines…he won the talking points.’

If Barkha is around can Sagarika Ghose be behind? She is used to being called a Gandhi loyalist. Her first sentence in Times of India on Rahul-hug is: “(it) has  stunned the government and left the Prime Minister looking thunderstruck.” Her husband, Rajdeep Sardesai, was far more nuanced but still couldn’t resist stating: “Pappu can hug saala.”

None of them realize that if there is one definitive moment which has sealed Rahul Gandhi’s fate in the eyes of the nation (as well in the eyes of other prospective allies) it is this “hug moment.” He looked kiddish, impulsive—first asking Modi to get up from his seat and when the wily Prime Minister didn’t oblige—throwing himself at him like a sack. He then allowed himself to be called back by PM; to be patted; and sent hurtling back to his seat. It was not a “winner” but a very “poor optics” beamed to millions. He became a laughing stock and sealed his fate with his own act.

And so have these court-jesters who masquerade as journalists. Remember the words most of them had to say about “Hugplomacy” of Modi: if you believed them or their Western ilks, Modi had made himself a laughing stock in front of world leaders.

Read BBC (“he has become a caricature of himself”); Washington Post (Modi an awkward hugger); Quartz (penchant for bear hugs) or news outlets closer home, unfailingly you’d find Modi plastered to the wall for offering warm hugs to fellow statesmen and leaders. But when Rahul Gandhi does so, all of these pen-pushers can’t stop gushing in admiration. The same Congress which ridiculed Modi and his hug on a youtube video, now has posters where Rahul’s hug has all but saved humanity. I mean how ludicrous could it get???

Indian Cricket needs politicians and here’s why!

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Some solutions are worse than problems.

A thief with a criminal backlog was sentenced to seven years in prison for a $3.99 bag in California and it cost the taxpayers upwards of $50,000 to keep him there.

In Vietnam, the French colonial rulers decided cash rewards in exchange for rat tails. Only, the rat population multiplied as rat-catchers took the tails but freed the rats to procreate and produce more off-springs, and thus more tails.

Once during the British Raj, so big was the number of cobras in the Capital Delhi that a reward was offered for every one dead cobra. All it did was that people began breeding cobras in bigger numbers for bigger rewards. When a wiser British government woke up to the situation and scrapped the rewards, the cobra-owners released the venomous creatures and the Capital had double of its numbers.

The Odd-Even scheme to reduce air pollution is similarly unlikely to work for people in cities won’t bat an eyelid in buying another car and you would have more four-wheelers on the streets and thus more poison in the air than before.

Quick fixes don’t work and can go horribly wrong. One such mess has been created by Supreme Court through its appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) to govern cricket in India.

We have a situation where those entrusted with administering the game have no experience of it and who, in turn, are reliant on those who can administer but are better served by a delayed solution.

We thus have game’s ownership without answerability in the hands of a few—the very crisis of transparency and accountability, checks and balances which Supreme Court sought to address in its landmark judgment last year.

In these columns, you have read enough about the blunders and double standards of CoA but do dread the hyenas who are moving in now that the lion has a mouth-clap and his claws are in wraps.

You have the instance of International Cricket Council (ICC), not long ago a stooge of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), vowing to take away the 2021 Champions’ Trophy from India, and possibly 2023 World Cup, if it can’t secure tax-free events from the Indian government. No less, it also wants the deducted tax of 2016 World Cup restored in its coffers!!!

Supreme Court has opened the sluice gates for official break-up of the game in this country. The Law Commission has moved in with its recommendations that BCCI be made a “public body”, open to questions from the public under the Right to Information Act (RTI).

Bravo! So you could thus soon question why Virat Kohli  chose to bat first in the recent Wanderers’ Test. Or why the combine of Ganguly-Tendulkar-Laxman chose Kumble over Shastri when the latter was delivering gold by tons as India coach.

Once the BCCI’s status as private entity—under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act—goes, BCCI would be subject to harassment and blackmail from all quarters.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has imposed a penalty of Rs 52.25 crores on BCCI for its anti-competitive conduct of denying access to the market for organization of professional domestic cricket leagues. The standard contract with any broadcaster, to protect its investment, has turned into a penalty for the BCCI.

Supreme Court had intervened after match-fixing scandal hit the IPL fields three seasons ago. The new administrators seem singularly ill-equipped to prevent a repeat—its’ anti-corruption unit chief Neeraj Kumar, former Delhi Police commissioner, doubts his bosses’ resolve to root out corruption. Neeraj Kumar is now set to retire on March 31, 2018 just a week before IPL gets going. All it seems is an invitation to scandals.

Cricket in India could only be run with a powerful figure as its head. Or the horses would bolt. You need close to 50 permissions to host a public event. You have situations where linesmen could hold up a day-night game with power cuts if extorted free passes don’t reach them.

We have our noses screwed on politicians in the game. But they have been great helmsmen in steering the ship at various dangerous bends in the river.  In 2011 World Cup, Sharad Pawar could clear the decks for the Wankhede Stadium when it was battling against a PIL and many such impediments.

Ditto his intervention in tax-cuts for the same event. Under him, BCCI once contributed Rs 50 crores to the Olympic fund. And Rs 12.5 crores to the football federation.

But for NKP Salve, the 1987 World Cup would’ve been a non-starter. Jagmohan Dalmiya and Inderjit Singh Bindra are credited with commercializing cricket in India but the real driving force was Madhavrao Scindia.

Dharmashala today is known more for its cricket stadium than for Dalai Lama. Private airlines (Spice Jet) have more daily flights than Air India for the destination. It’s firmly now on tourism’s map. In 2000, when Anurag Thakur took control of Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) all it had was a room, a table and a steel almirah. In a dozen and half years, the state now has four state-of-the-art cricket stadiums. The beauty of stadium in Bilaspur, running alongside a lake, would take your breath away. It’s the only association which has a five-star hotel (“The Pavillion”) of its own.

Another BJP MP Gokaraju Ganga Raju, and his services to Andhra cricket, could run into pages. In order to ensure that girls are encouraged to take up the game by their parents, hostels and scholarships are provided to them.  In every district of the state!

It’s all very well to suggest that the game must be run as a corporate, professional entity but it’s not produced by a mere wave of hands. Whereas a professional would retire for the day at 5 p.m, countless those—like one Bhatia in Nadaun Stadium, Hamirpur—work round the clock out of loyalty to their politician-lords.

Mere rubbishing the politicians is to deny them their dues. The fanciful corporate structure of an England or Australia is immeasurably more difficult in a bigger and more complex India.

As said, some solutions are worse than problems. Indian cricket, presently on auto mode, is hanging by the edge of a cliff. Everybody seems to have a say, nobody appears in control. Supreme Court would do well to reinstate those men behind the steering wheels who could reverse the mistake and drive Indian cricket to safety.