off the record

Poverty and politics

We can only guess what was the urgency for Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia to declare poverty data at this point in time, when the government is struggling hard to fight out anti-incumbency in the coming polls. Everyone can see how Sonia Gandhi oversaw the implementation of the Food Security Bill. A few more schemes are in the offing.

Maybe his intention was to remind  the government that the poor have lost their edge in electoral politics due to a steep fall in their number.

But it took the politics by storm. The capital which displays power and wealth in all  possible ways suddenly got wrapped in poverty. BJP leaders were admirably quick in pointing out the fallacy. They know better than anyone else that Indians enjoy being called poor. They had tried on ‘signing India’ and lost badly. The realisation made them to talk about Arjun Sengupta’s report this time which puts figures of the poor at 78 per cent of the population.

Leaders like Raj Babbar fared miserably on the front and ultimately had to backtrack from their positions. But, very few know that many in the Congress were happy over the failure of these guys in keeping up the standard of high spokesmanship. Politics always remains poor in its content!

Anil Sinha, New Delhi

Appeasing god and godmen

Ever since the ghost of the fodder scam has returned to haunt the RJD president Lalu Prasad, the ‘cornered’ leader has been religiously appeasing god and godmen. Last week, after he got a partial relief from the Supreme Court in the case, he went to Mirzapur in eastern UP to seek the blessings of tantric guru Pagla Baba.

“Baba knows of the attacks I am facing. He has blessed me and said that nothing untoward will happen to me,” said Lalu and performed puja at the ashram for over two hours. The maverick leader also made Baba bless his wife,  Rabri Devi, over a mobile phone.

The road to overt religiosity by Lalu is quite a climbdown by a man who vehemently opposed ritualistic practices when he donned the mantle of chief minister of Bihar in 1990.

Before visiting Pagla Baba’s ashram, Lalu visited Shiridi in Maharashtra to seek the blessings of Sai Baba. He also went to Nasik, the seat of ‘jyotirlinga’, and then to Shani temple.

Prior to that he had performed rudra-abhishek at the Baba Hariharnath temple in Vaishali, hoping against hope that god and godmen will help him wrest the citadel he lost in 2005.

Abhay Kumar, Patna

Cornering the market

Travelling by public transport isn't exactly a dreamy feeling, but there are always those moments that, although they are few and far between, can lighten up one's day.

Sample this experience yours truly had the other day.

All the seats in this bus were just about taken, and I had had a rotund gentleman sitting next to me. Just as the bus passed under the bridge near Bangalore Cantonment railway station, this gentleman got up and pasted something just above the window next to me, all in one swift motion. Curious, I looked up and found the sticker to proclaim the efficacy of treatment offered by some doctor for diseases that many still consider taboo.

A few mintues later, one of the the gentlemen sitting behind us approached Mr Rotund, asking where his office was, and how much he charged for putting up stickers. Apparently, he needed those services.

Imagine all our surprise when Mr Rotund questioned back: “Who has [the name of one of those 'taboo' diseases]?” He had clearly misheard.

Taken aback, the man behind us repeated his question in a louder voice. It was Mr Rotund's turn to be taken aback.

After a few seconds of staring with bewilderment and ill-concealed embarrassment, he replied, “Actually, I am the doctor mentioned in that sticker.”

Arkadev Ghoshal, Bangalore

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