My evening mehfil was in full swing. About a dozen men and women, with tongues loosened with liberal helpings of alcoholic beverages. It
consisted of a retired Ambassador who keeps a sharp eye on political developments, a niece-in-law who is a sabjantiwali with an uncanny knack of predicting future events. A lady neighbour who is on first- name terms with the Prime Minister’s family, a few ministers of his Cabinet and detests those who don’t approve of them. And a couple of senior journalists. It was a lively assemblage till suddenly everyone fell silent — a veritable nightmare for any host. To break the deafening silence I blurted out: “Who do you think will be our next President? Kalam is due to retire in three months.”
The mehfil came to life again. Names of possible successors were tossed around: Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Karan Singh, Amartya Sen, Inder Gujral, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Veerappa Moily, Anthony, Gopal Gandhi, Manmohan Singh — Abdul Kalam for a second term. As expected, all deny harbouring such ambtions: that is the done thing till it happens. The only exeception was Amitabh Bachchan whose name suddenly made the headlines, as did his strong denial of harbouring any such ambition. In any event if Indians were asked whether they would like to become Rashtrapatis or Amitabh Bachchans, nine out of ten would opt for becoming the star of all stars.
Shekhawat: Plus points — imposing presence, good record of even-handed treatment of Opposition parties. Minus points — RSS and Sangh Parivar affiliations.
Amartya Sen: Plus points — eminent economist, Nobel Laureate, author of Argumentative Indians. It is time we had a Bengali President, we have never had one. Minus points — divorced, remarried, re-divorced, now married to a foreign lady. These things still matter in our conformist society.
Gopal Gandhi: Plus points — carried the halo of being Bapu Gandhi’s grandson; good record as a diplomat and author; good performance as Governor of West Bengal. Minus points — not old enough to be President; may become the Vice President before getting the top job.
Karan Singh: Plus points —scholarly, good speaker, pleasant presence, experience of governance and ministerial responsibilities; charming lady wife. Minus points — conscious of his Hindu Rajput lineage; subscribes to superstitious beliefs, self-promoting.
Veerappa Moily (This one was put up by sabjantiwali, who was willing to take any bet on his success.): Plus points — Scheduled Caste, Southerner, much experience of politics, winning manners. Minus points — once involved in a political scam.
Inder Gujral: Plus points — former minister, former ambassador, former Prime Minister, smooth talker. Minus points — not likely to get much support from poli-tical parties.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee: Plus points — former Prime Minister, good orator, though a Sangh icon, not bigoted, pleasant company. Minus points — not in good shape, walks like a robot; takes long pauses in speeches; may not want the job.
Manmohan Singh: Plus points — distinguished academic record, vast experience of administration, economics and finance; good performance as Prime Minister; unquestioned integrity; ability to persuade others to his point of view. Above all, humility. Minus points — may want to retire from politics to return to the groves of academia. In any event, there is little reason for him to swap Prime Ministership for Presidentship while he is still in the PM’s chair.
Abdul Kalam: Plus points — distinguished scientist, Bharat Ratna, the only Rashtrapati to have built up an all-India constituency for himself during his tenure as President. Minus points — one slip about agreeing to impose President’s Rule in Bihar; willing to run for a second term only if asked by all parties to do so, which is unlikely.
A Paradise, that’s Delhi
Humpty Dumpty, hocus pocus, hurly burly
If there is a paradise on earth, it is Delhi
Full of people, overflowing
Markets onto the road going
Full of fumes, full of gases
Full of ultra modern asses
Full of shining, made-up faces
Full of heart and cancer cases
Car and truck and motorcycle
Full of vehicle on the vehicle
Full of jolting, full of stoking
Full of lanes and bylanes choking
Full of housing haywire going
Full of sewage into Jamuna
Full of callous indifference
Full of pastures fast receding
Full of power, and still power crisis
Full of smoothly rising prices
Full of girth and grime and mirth
Our Delhi is a paradise on earth.
(Courtesy: Kuldip Salil, Delhi)
Santa: Banta, Indian cricket team plays better in second innings than in the first innings. Banta: Santa, why don’t the Indian cricket team play the second innings first ?
(Contributed by Vikram Singh, New Delhi)