Delhi Belly – The Weekly Gripe [1]

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I guess the BJP is entitled to its moment of glory after winning Assam but it shouldn’t get carried away. After all it did miserably in the other four states: the argument that it “established its presence” in these states doesn’t really mean anything in a first past the post system. In Tamil Nadu it didn’t even open its account. Nor is it entitled to cock too many snooks at the Congress in these five states: it won 63 seats compared to the Congress’s 115. The fact is that it does well only if its a two-way contest with the Congress; wherever regional parties are added major players it comes a cropper. This is going to be its major challenge in the next two years. It therefore needs to evolve a vision beyond the “Congress mukt Bharat” because if it simply succeeds in replacing the Congress with the Mamtas, Jayalalithas, Mayawatis and Kejriwals that won’t do it much good, will it?
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The NOTA (None Of The Above) option appears to be finally coming into its own. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections NOTA was 1.1% of the total votes cast: in these Assembly elections the figure went up to 1.5%. In Bengal NOTA was the fourth choice of the voters, behind TMC, Left + Congress and BJP! The total number of NOTA votes cast was 17.26 lakhs: if the same percentage was applied to the entire country it would come to 12 million voters! – that’s equivalent to eight Parliamentary seats. If such a large number of voters feel that the candidates put up by political parties are not worth voting for, it certainly doesn’t say much about the quality of the candidates or even their parties. Its time they started paying some attention to this indicator of a flailing democratic process.
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Its time to apply Mr. Kejriwal’s Odd-Even formula to Mount Everest, given the heavy traffic up there. Reports indicate that 289 climbers have taken permits for this season, and in just four days (till 16th May) as many as 88 of them have summitted ! Nowadays there are so many climbers jostling for space that “traffic jams” of upto two hours occur regularly at the point known as Hillary’s Step just below the summit. Its easier to climb Everest these days than it is to climb the landfill at Khichripur in Delhi. The plain fact is that if you have enough greenbacks the Sherpas will put you atop the peak, dead, alive or comatose. It costs about 50000 US dollars and the Sherpas do all the rest: prepare a path through the Khumbu ice-fall, bridge the crevasses, cut steps on the South col, and stretch guide ropes all along the way; thereafter you can sleepwalk your way to the summit. Summiting Everest is no longer either an adventure or a challenge, its just s selfie moment for those who have the moolah.
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General VK Singh, the MOS for External Affairs (how does Sushma Swaraj put up with him?) is the final proof that selection to top posts in the Army is flawed. As if he has not already done enough to expose his regressive and antiquated mindset he has once again started the road renaming drama by demanding that New Delhi’s Akbar Road be renamed as Maharana Pratap road. Someone should inform him that we already have a major road named after this very genuine warrior in Karol Bagh, and Delhi’s main ISBT is also named after him. I am happy (as no doubt all right thinking citizens are) that Mr. Venkaih Naidu has quashed the General’s ersatz patriotism by stating that this is not on the govt’s agenda. But I would like to ask a different question on road namings: why must we name our roads only after public figures such as politicians, film stars or sportsmen? I have nothing against their success in their respective fields, but is mere material success to be venerated in this manner? These are personal successes at the end of the day, motivated by personal ambition (all that bit about “playing for the country” or “contributing to the country’s development” is generally crap, with a very few exceptions) and the hunger for fame or gain. How about commemorating the qualities that really count – compassion, the indomitable spirit of man, courage in the face of fear, the defiance of odds ? How about saluting and honouring these demonstrated qualities in the ORDINARY citizen, not a page three celebrity? Three such persons come to mind immediately. Neerja Bhanot, the PanAm air-hostess who died three days before her 23rd birthday in a hijack at Karachi, having saved 300 passengers from almost certain death. Manjunath, the IOC engineer shot in UP because he spurned the bribes and threats of the oil mafia. Dashrath Manjhi the impoverished mountain man of Bihar who carved out an 11 mile road through rocks with his bare hands in ten years, something which the full might of the state had not been able to do in fifty.
Should we not be celebrating the peerless fortitude, indomitability and character of these nondescript individuals who have done more to elevate the human spirit than all politicians and celebrities put together? Can we name a road or two after them also, please?

Avay Shukla retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains. He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla. He used to play golf at one time but has now run out of balls. He blogs at http://avayshukla.blogspot.in/

1 Comment

  • But of course, Sandip, for the true mountaineer Everest will always be a challenge and climbing it a formidable feat. My take was a tongue-in cheek one, directed at the ” commercial” climbers, whose numbers seem to be increasing.

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