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Sep 16, 2019-Monday



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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Malavika’s Mumbaistan: The Cat among the Pigeons

When Baru tweeted a broadside at the UPA in general, and the Congress in particular, it did not pass without comment.

mumbai Updated: Aug 31, 2018 00:55 IST
Malavika Sangghvi
Malavika Sangghvi
Hindustan Times
Sanjaya Baru
Sanjaya Baru(HT Photo)

Being the kind of person he is, erstwhile editor, one-time PM press aide, policy wonk and man about Delhi, Dr Sanjaya Baru is not one to use his words loosely. And so, yesterday, when he tweeted a broadside at the UPA in general, and the Congress in particular, it did not pass without comment. “Time for media & pundits to call a spade a spade - Rahul Gandhi is not Prime Minister material. All the enthu PR is of no use,” he’d said, at a time when the Congress President is just about ready to get into second gear, on what looks like an uphill drive to 2019, and requires all the hosannas available. But, it was Baru’s second point that was of interest to many. “Of non-BJP leaders, only Sharad Pawar is PM material,” he’d said, once again putting the focus on Pawar’s much-heralded prime ministerial capabilities and the possibility of him, someday, attaining the job many believe he was born to do. Had Baru introduced his name into the public imagination simply as theoretical argument? And, would the Maratha strongman, now approaching 80, even be interested in such a challenging position? When he had hosted a dinner in Pune a few weeks ago, the senior politician had appeared gracious and laidback as he spoke with wit and warmth. Next month will see him once again take the stage. This time, to preside over the launch of the book ‘Remembering Rajni’, a compilation of essays spearheaded by Rajni Patel’s wife and former Sheriff, Bakul Patel, in tribute of the late barrister and intellectual, who’d been the all-powerful BRCC chief during the seventies. And, with chief guest said to be Dr Pranab Mukherjee, and the likes of Ram Jethmalani and Dr Farooq Abdullah on the dais, Pawar would undoubtedly, once again prove that when it came to political acumen and leadership qualities, his credentials were impeccable. So, was Baru’s singling out Pawar’s name in his diatribe significant? Or would Pawar remain the best PM, India never had? As expected, having put the cat among the pigeons, when we asked him, the wily Baru replied with a, “I have nothing more to add,” and ended his response with a smiley.

True Lies
The corporate grapevine has been jangling feverishly, ever since the story of a leading industrialist’s wife herself, the daughter of a top Mumbai industrial clan, went to a police station recently, in her hometown of Ahmedabad, to complain about harassment from her husband. That the husband runs one of the country’s leading companies and is considered something of a visionary in his field, only adds to the consternation amongst the couple’s wide circle of friends and associates. “Apparently, the husband has been suffering from acute paranoia for some years now,” they say, “brought on by some astrologer-type telling him that he’d meet an untimely end. Ever since this, his behaviour has gotten increasingly weirder, and stories abound of how he surrounded himself with body guards and had employed a taster to sample his food before he ate it, were well known,” said a source from the city. “This must have led to his wife’s harassment and subsequent complaint at the police station.”

Interestingly, the lady, an alumni from an Ivy League American University, is described as ‘elegant and reserved and the last person, who’d seek unwanted publicity of this kind.’ Which is why, the corporate grapevine has been buzzing with talk, of how her clan, a family of old money industrialists from Maharashtra, is going to respond to her humiliation.

“Revealed: Melania Trump replaced by a wax model.”
-Reports on social media yesterday

But, how can anyone tell?

Whacko Jacko

Michael Jackson in Mumbai in 1996 with Raj Thackeray (extreme right).
Michael Jackson in Mumbai in 1996 with Raj Thackeray (extreme right). ( File Photo )

August 29 would have been the late Michael Jackson’s 60th birthday had he lived, and we could not help thinking back on the time, when his performance in Mumbai, in 1996, had made headlines. For those who were not around at that time, it would be hard to convey the sense of excitement and breaking new ground that the gloved one’s visit created. For one, until then, India had hardly seen a tour of that dimension, entailing planeloads of equipment and entourage; then of course, there was the political angle with the visit being given the sanction of none other than Shiv Sena founder, the late Bal Thackeray himself (Jackson had dropped in to pay homage to the demagogue, as soon as he’d landed at Mumbai airport and had famously asked to visit the loo!). But for us, nothing had defined the King of Pop as much as his leaving. Editing a daily supplement at that time, we had been tipped off that the mega star had left behind a ‘message’ for his fans, somewhere in his hotel room. Rather than lose time and ask why he’d do such a thing, and not choose a far easier way to get his message across, like mentioning it to the press (duh!), we had rushed over and with the agency of the hotel’s top management, had the room stripped and searched from celling to floor, only to find lo and behold – Whacko Jacko had indeed secreted a secret message in his loopy scrawl on the pillowcase hidden under his mattress! To cut a long story short, the pillowcase with Jackson’s heartfelt message had made it to the front page the next day and the item was duly auctioned for charity and purchased by a very rich diamond merchant and that’s the last we’d ever heard of it! Which brings us to the point: why on earth did Jackson go through the motions of hiding such a message and then having it discovered? As we were saying, August 29 would have been Michael Jackson’s 60th birthday, and perhaps, if he had reached that solemn age, he would have in retrospect called the entire exercise somewhat childish. But then, perhaps not! Some people never grow up. Michael Jackson was one of them.

First Published: Aug 31, 2018 00:55 IST