Posts Tagged ‘Suresh Kalmadi’

The ruling dispensation has managed to give Pune a bad name again. If Suresh Kalmadi’s shenanigans in the Commonwealth Games scam, bomb blasts, arrests of terrorists, attacks against students from other states, were not enough to embarrass Puneities, along comes the latest – the great election scam.

For the past decade the ruling party’s politicians have taken the citizens of Pune for a ride and the latest incident should be the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back. One look at Pune’s newspapers today will give you the answer. Hundreds of thousands of voters found their names missing from the Pune parliamentary constituency list – in some cases, entire housing societies. And surprisingly, all these names were from areas predominantly known for their mass non-Congress vote banks. And was all this only because the candidate from the ruling party was terrified of losing the election?

The Times of India on Friday quoted the Pune Police Commissioner Satish Mathur as saying that between one and two lakh citizens were left stranded on Election Day, and even he could not vote! I personally know of voters who found their names missing and dutifully filled in the documents again and again, to still find their names missing from the final list when they went to vote. I also know of people living in Dahanukar Colony who complained over and over again to the officials concerned, about this anomaly, but their pleas were conveniently ignored. It’s pretty obvious now, why this was done. My wife submitted her documents and photograph from one constituency but her name was missing from the rolls. She found her name in another constituency! And law abiding citizens that they are, they took it on the chin and quietly went home. Had this been Bihar or Uttar Pradesh, some of these leaders and officials would have been dragged out on the streets and beaten black and blue!

I wouldn’t just call it an act of incompetence, but a deliberate attempt to subvert the only democratic practice the people have left to teach politicians a lesson. That BJP candidate Anil Shirole is planning a hunger strike to protest the mass deletions of voters’ names is an indication of who is behind the huge scam. Journalist and activist Vinita Deshmukh has filed an RTI in this regard and is also leading a protest in front of the collectorate. Shwetank Upadhyaya has stated on Facebook that “names of selected people” have been deleted from the voters’ list… “76,000 estimated voters from Kothrud alone.” If true, it is the biggest act of election fraud witnessed in the city.

Some friends of my wife told her how supporters of a party came to their home in Yerawada, with voting slips neatly folded with a thousand rupee note inside. One had also read how teachers of a particular educational institution belonging to a State minister were nabbed while they were distributing money to voters. Nothing new there, but still…

I was also told by journalist friend that the local administration turned around and asked the angry politicians and voters why they did not ensure that names were there. I know for a fact that many did and were assured there names would be on the list on election day. But that still begs the question, ‘why were over a lakh of voters deleted from the list?’. One also heard that a large number of AAP donors found their names missing.

The other issue is one of redrawing the boundaries of the constituency. Why, for example, is Hadapsar Assembly constituency moved to Shirur? What earthly reason do I have to suddenly vote for some candidate in Shirur, who I have never heard of, when I have lived all my life in Pune? Did the candidates who were contesting from Shirur even bother to visit my area to see how it was doing, or will they do so in the next five years? All these months we had been bombarded with messages to vote for Kadam, Ware, Shirole and Paigude. On voting day I looked at the EVM to discover that none of the above was on the list and some totally strange names were there instead, who I didn’t really know but was forced to vote for.

Shockingly, I found my name on the voters list in both Shirur and Pune constituencies, while my wife found her name in Wanowrie and not in Hadapsar, where we now live! I thought the whole point of the exercise was to vote for a candidate of MY CHOICE and not who the administration decides will be my candidate at the eleventh hour. So some candidate benefited from one vote which he wasn’t expecting, while I am, literally, forced to vote for a candidate who I don’t know from Adam, and will probably never see or will never be able to approach for the next five years.


I guess fate has a strange way of turning you away from something when it knows it’s going against your conscience. At least mine did. Election Day is the best day for this conscience thing to show its true colours. Do I vote for the candidate who I think is most eligible or the party which the rest of the country, my wife and son believe is going to sweep the polls? That is what went through my mind as I stepped into the polling booth.

When I left home my wife warned me to vote for the candidate who her entire family was supposedly voting for, in the Lok Sabha constituency. She couldn’t vote because despite all her efforts the EC refused to register her as a voter along with me – or so she thought!

I looked up the list of candidates on the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), when I was in the polling booth. Flustered, I looked down the list, then I looked up, and down again. I couldn’t find the bugger’s name anywhere. Then I looked for the party symbol and couldn’t find that either. By then I was grinning and the lady sitting across the booth was staring at me suspiciously. My eyes then went to the top of the EVM, read the name of the constituency and I almost burst out laughing. THIS WAS NOT THE CONSTITUENCY I HAD BEEN VOTING FROM FOR THE PAST SO MANY TERMS!!

The Election Commission had moved me and (I am sure) quite a few others to another constituency and I hadn’t a frigging idea who the contestants were initially. Then I read the names carefully, and decided I might as well follow my conscience. I pressed the button for the party instead of the candidate and walked away, satisfied that I had voted as per my conscience and not because people were hounding me to do so for someone!

I, then, tweeted my experience about the change in constituency and imagine my shock, when a former colleague from the newspaper I worked with until recently, called to say that he read my tweet and did some investigating, only to find that I was registered as a voter in my old constituency as well. I asked him to check if my wife was a voter there and he said she was. So she rushed off to vote for the candidate of her choice from a constituency where she longer resided! So we are happy that we both voted for a party of our choice!

What I noticed was the sparse number of voters at both places. That is surprising considering all the hoopla about the so called wave. Closing voting figures show a little above 54vper cent polling in the city, which is quite dismal. I guess, Punekars deserve the crap they get from the politicians. There’s no point moaning about the terrible infrastructure, crappy transport system haphazard constructions, water supply etc etc if we don’t tell politicians on the one day that we get, that non-performers won’t get a second chance.

All this also makes me think why the Election Commission can’t do efficiently, the one job they are supposed to do, every five years. As the screen shots will show, I seem to have two fathers!


I don’t know what mother would have had to say to this, had she been alive today. I am sure it would have been something very sarcastic. And all I asked for was a change of address in my voter details!

voter icard details1

Someone informed me on twitter that a friend of his applied for Voter ID Card 6 times – he now has 12 cards that cannot be cancelled. And another student said she had been married off! Thank God we don’t have elections every four years. Otherwise the Election Commission might find me another family and a new identity!

The last time, I remember voting for Suresh Kalmadi because I thought he would do something for the city. He did in the initial years. Then he gave Pune something called the BRTS which made worse the already messed up transport system in the city and then gave the nation the Commonwealth Games that messed up his political career. So I’ve always felt that Kalmadi betrayed the trust we imposed in him. This time I guess if things end up in a mess, I won’t have a guilty conscience because I have nothing to do with the constituency I have been shoved into!

According to Wikipedia “A protest is an expression of objection, by words or by actions, to particular events, policies or situations. Protests can take numerous forms, from individual statements to mass demonstrations.
Where protests are part of a systematic and peaceful campaign to achieve a particular objective, and involve the use of pressure as well as persuasion, they go beyond mere protest and may be better described as cases of civil resistance or nonviolent resistance.”

So which one of the definitions would best fit what happened in Delhi and other parts of the country today? And why did the UPA Government react in the only way it knows – with brute force? Because someone, in this case, a septuagenarian, had the guts to stand up and ask the government some very uncomfortable questions and demand accountability? What did he do wrong?

The UPA’s rabid reaction didn’t surprise me at all. Right from the time of the dictatorial India Gandhi, the Congress has never been known to tolerate dissent, be it from their party or from the people. And what happened today in Delhi and the rest of the country have only confirmed this view.

What I’ve also been hearing lately is that while Anna Hazare’s demands are justified, his methods are wrong. I beg to differ. If a worker doesn’t like his job he has two options – swallow the crap and continue to work, or protest. Which of these is the wrong method and which the right one and at which point of time do we decide which form of protest to adopt?

So, since Hazare or his fellow protestors aren’t employed by the government of India, they chose the last option of peaceful protest, which is their fundamental right, according to the Constitution. And then they never threatened violence nor did they ask people to resort to it. So what was the government worried about? I guess Messrs Singh, Chidambaram and the rest believed they could do to Hazare, what they did to Ramdev. Unfortunately for them, Hazare is not Ramdev. He doesn’t have an ashram built with dubious wealth and he wasn’t going to flee the place dressed in a salwar kameez!

I’ve also heard quite a few people say that he should contest an election, be a part of the system and then usher in change. I beg to differ, again.

Since 1947, elected representatives have always taken a solemn oath to serve the people, the country and the flag. Till around 1960 that is what they did. After that things went steadily downhill. Now the 542-odd MPs are doing everything to subvert the very process, they have sworn to protect. So let’s forget about being a part of the so called system. It hasn’t worked in decades and even two dozen Anna Hazares will fail to bring about an improvement in a system that is rotten to the core.

And then, it wasn’t as if Hazare and his group just got up on August 16 morning and decided to launch an agitation. They had gone through all the due democratic processes, like discussions, meetings etc and only after the government threw out their recommendations that they decided on this form of protest. All they wanted from the government were answers and a commitment. Answers to why it was unable to control corruption; Whether the people who were being accused of corruption were questioned about the source of the ill-gotten wealth; to explain who were the Indians with foreign bank accounts; how much was the figure supposedly stashed away in foreign banks; demand accountability with regard to the Jan Lokpal Bill.

For all these questions, they got no answers. On the contrary, the defiant government built a protective wall of silence, and selectively released information that did not, in any way incriminate itself – till the courts stepped in and asked the government to clean up its act. Even then the government refused to cooperate – till the courts again stepped in. Only then did they get moving and put people like A Raja and Suresh Kalmadi behind bars.

One may agree or disagree with Hazare and his ways. But one cannot disagree that it was brought on by the attitude of this government, which has been one of total condescension against any form of criticism. As if they believe they are answerable to no one – not even the courts. What is shocking is the sanctimonious blabbering of Chidambaram, Tewari, Sibal and Co. about disturbing the peace, breaking the law etc. Could they tell us how they allowed Mamata to sit in protest against the Singur land acquisition? Wasn’t that against the law?

This agitation and the government’s ham-handed response has proved to the people of this country that it’s time for this ineffectual government led by an ineffectual prime minister to pack its bags and look for alternate employment.

Nice guys don’t make good prime ministers – Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh are good examples of this. Would the Bofors deal have dragged Rajiv down if he had been careful about what his ministers and bureaucrats were up to? And Manmohan Singh?

To me the Prime Minister, more and more, is beginning to resemble a cross between Roman Emperor Nero and the fictional character Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau. On the one hand his government is in trouble and he fiddles, while on the other just like the comic French detective, he stumbles from one controversy to another, completely oblivious to the mess he leaves behind.

Honesty and decency are not enough to run a country of one billion people when one is dealing, day in and day out, with a bunch of crooks masquerading as honest politicians. Efficiency, competence and ruthlessness are also mandatory requirements and the PM seems to be way off the mark with these attributes.

He and his government are blundering along from one disaster to another, with the latest one being the Nira Radia phone tapping scandal involving a couple of media personalities and the names of industry stalwarts being dragged in. But we don’t hear anything from the man himself, while his office tells the media that he is clean and doing the best he can!

We hear that the PM is just a rubber stamp, and that the real power lies elsewhere – which may be true to some extent, but I don’t think that’s the case when it comes to the running of ministries. Had that been so, Singh would have quit a long time back. He’s too decent a bloke to allow himself to be led around by a chain and leash by the Gandhi family. Some politicians in the chain-and-leash category spring to mind – Giani Zail Singh, DK. Borooah, V.C. Shukla, R.K. Dhawan, S.S. Ray, H.K.L. Bhagat, M.L. Fotedar and Sitaram Kesri – but Manmohan Singh?

It just seems Singh is totally ineffectual and prefers to do nothing as his ministers and his allies, use their proximity to either Sonia or their own party chiefs and run riot. Raja is a good example. He used his proximity to DMK supremo Karunanidhi to loot the ex-chequer, secure in the knowledge that he could always hide behind the Tamil patriarch’s dhoti, in case the government decided to ask him uncomfortable questions.

Drawing parallels with the Raja case, if you see a man about to steal something or in an extreme case jump in front of a running train, what would you do? Politely tell him not to, or physically stop him from doing so? Was the written nudge to Raja enough? Shouldn’t he have stopped the former telecom minister, before things got out of hand? If Singh’s office says Raja was told to revamp the bidding process, it also means Singh knew all the facts. And if that be the case, the guy is an accomplice and guilty as hell along with his former minister.

More importantly, did the PM need to wait so long before asking Raja to quit? Strangely, this has been the case in every controversy this government has been involved in. Take the case of Tharoor and his tweets, the Commonwealth Games fiasco or even the Adarsh scam. In all these cases, the PM allowed things to drift till they reached a stage where he had to step in douse the flames. And is the Prime Minister a fire fighter or worse, a hostage negotiator, that he stalls for time, till the commandos reach the place and neutralise the criminal?

Now, even the Supreme Court is asking the PM the same question that we are. Let’s wait for the answer when Attorney General GE Vahanvati represents the P in the Supreme Court and, hopefully, clears the air.

In the meantime, step aside Chief Inspector Jack Clouseau, you’ve got competition!

Now that Suresh Kalmadi’s goose is all but cooked, here’s a question I would like to ask Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sports Minister MS Gill. What were they doing talking through their respective butts these past few years, when they should have been getting off it and getting the job done? Why didn’t they stop Kalmadi from spreading the ‘Wealth’ around when they had the time and the authority? I guess the inclination was missing.

You can blame Kalmadi all you want for this Commonwealth Games disaster, but is he alone responsible? Shouldn’t this have been the direct responsibility of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his various ministries? After all, this entire exercise involves a lot of government departments not just one, so why did they all sit back and allow one man to run riot?

This isn’t the Pune Festival we are talking about, where there are bullock cart races organised in the suburbs. This is the Commonwealth Games where so many countries of the world would be participating – even if they were mostly a bunch of second-rung athletes from a lot of inconsequential countries who were coming along for the ride.

Why did the Prime Minister wait till two months before the CWG to kick Kalmadi’s ass – figuratively speaking. If the mild-mannered Sardar could have done that literally and liberally, the country wouldn’t be in the mess it is at present. Why I say this is because it is hard to believe that the prime minister was unaware of the fact that Kalmadi and his cohorts were engaging in large-scale corruption. When the rest of the country knew it, how is it that he didn’t? He is either totally incompetent or couldn’t care less. If anyone should take moral responsibility for this gargantuan disaster it is the Prime Minister.

And then there are enough powerful politicians with an axe to grind with Kalmadi, ready to jump on the anti-CWG bandwagon. I am sure they’re all sitting back and chortling at the disgraceful events that are unfolding in Delhi at present. That politics was being played out over the Games was obvious to anyone who understood an iota about politics and political happenings. This entire exercise was one of Congress+Kalmadi versus the Rest and the Rest was winning from Day One, because an inept government with an ineffectual leader allowed things to go adrift.

Strangely enough the media has been writing and speaking about all that was wrong with the organisation of the Commonwealth Games from the beginning. So how is it that the government didn’t think it was worth acting upon? And tragically this has been the case with every political event in the country. There is a tendency to let things drift until it reaches a point of no return. While that says a lot about the country’s politicians, it also speaks a lot about the so-called power of the media!

There is a lesson in this for all those who believe that it is always the media’s job to “do something.” What were the people doing when this charade was being played out over all these years? Did we (and I include myself) file a public interest litigation against Kalmadi or the IOA or did they launch a campaign which would force the government to step in. The answer is a big NO. So let’s not rage against the system that we are a part of and have done nothing to change.

We know that once the Games are over (assuming that they will be held), there will be a massive cover up. Kalmadi will obviously be the fall guy and face a temporary banishment. Everyone will congratulate each other for ‘punishing’ the guilty and things then will return to normal. This is how things have turned out on every occasion earlier – be it in sports or politics. What’s the guarantee it won’t happen again? Can you blame the citizen for becoming a cynic?

A student of mine asked me earlier whether we should just sit back and accept it when we know the country is being screwed by the politicians. We can vote out the corrupt or turn to the judiciary. We can cast our vote every few years and hope that the man or woman we send to Delhi will make our lives better. But even then there is no guarantee, because we aren’t really sure that the person we choose to represent us will ensure for us a better life.

And then there is the judiciary, which we always thought would come to the rescue of the common man. But look at what happened in a northern state. The Chief Justice met the Chief Minister and soon after the judge looking into corruption cases against her is divested off the case! Then some former law minister says that more than half of the judges are corrupt. So who do you turn to?

Sometime in the late 1980s the owner of the paper I worked with, said something that has stuck in my head ever since. His managers were showing him the new office we would soon be moving into. The building belonged to him and the interiors were being done up to accommodate a newspaper office.

One of the managers, while showing him the panelling, electrical fittings and wiring, complained that the contractor was making money. The owner asked whether the contractor was doing sub-standard work and was told that it wasn’t the case. His reply: If he’s doing a good job, let him take his cut! What he actually said was, “Itne bade samudra se agar koi do lota paani nikkal le, to kya farak pdta hai.”

I guess the Commonwealth Games or for that matter any international event, always faces similar issues. Don’t get me wrong. I am neither endorsing the Commonwealth Games nor the corruption scandals that are being unearthed every day. To get screwed for almost Rs 35,000-50,000 crore (if a news magazine is to be believed) by corrupt officials and politicians, for organising an event of no consequence, is a colossal wastage of public money and a matter for the CBI and chartered accountants – post the event.

In normal circumstances any sports event that is organised anywhere in the world is done with the intention of making money. Unfortunately in India, with the exception of cricket, any event staged is done more to promote certain individuals or sports bodies rather than making money or promoting talent.

The other issue (again this is my personal view) is the man himself – Indian Olympic Association Chief, Suresh Kalmadi. He evokes extreme views. There are some who swear by his organisational abilities and there are others who believe he rides roughshod over dissent and has little patience for people who don’t see eye to eye with him. He comes across as abrasive, bordering on the rude. A lot of people (read politicians) don’t like to be dismissed in a manner Kalmadi usually reserves for people who, he believes, are interfering with his ‘mission’ – be it the BRTS, the Commonwealth Youth Games or now the Commonwealth Games itself.

The man obviously sees for himself a bigger role in the scheme of things – like becoming the IOC chief sometime in the future. And there’s no better platform than the Commonwealth Games to make that point. Then there is also the fact that Kalmadi is a Congressman, so there is no dearth of people of all hues and political affiliations taking pot shots at him. Criticism from the media or sportspersons is understandable to a certain extent, but when it comes from politicians – some of who have no connection to sport – it does make one wonder whether there’s more to it than meets the eye.

But having said all this, now that we are into this neck deep, let’s get on with the Games. It would be a terrible loss of face for the country if it were to be called off now. We can calculate the costs; deal with all the corruption, nepotism, politicking and mudslinging later. Whether the system is competent enough to deal with it, is an issue the people need to debate and force the government’s hand if they find investigations being sidetracked. But that is our problem and not that of the rest of the world. Why should we wash our dirty linen in public? What are we telling the world? That we are a country of pimps, freeloaders, shady businessmen, crooked politicians and greedy officials who are in it together to screw the country.

Personally, I think those issues can wait, till we get this damn thing over with.