At the Chennai railway station, you see stacks of books of a popular series titled, How To Learn In 30 Days. The instant expertise offered includes everything under the sun, from cooking, to playing the guitar, speaking English, ballroom dancing and sewing your own clothes. Social media is now filled with photographs of actor Kamal Haasan with a copy of a book in Tamil titled, How To Learn To Be A Chief Minister in 30 days. The photo parody is meant to mock Haasan’s sudden entry into politics. While Tamil actors such as Vijayakanth are into politics, and many including Rajinikanth have hinted at political ambitions, Haasan, whose film career is waning, had never previously shown any such interest. But in the political vacuum after Jayalalithaa’s death and the rise of his popularity after anchoring the Big Boss show, Haasan is now thinking of floating his own party. If he does so, he will find an ally in the DMK — both share similar agnostic views.
Evoking the gods
Rahul Gandhi’s recent Gujarat visit was carefully planned as a pilgrimage to all the important shrines in the state. His campaign tour included a stopover at the Dwarkadhish temple, which is of particular significance to all Vaishnavites, particularly the Ahir community, who are the counterparts of north India’s Yadavs. Another shrine on the Congress vice-president’s itinerary was Chamunda Mata, built to honour a revered goddess of Saurashtra. Kolis, who are OBCs, and form 22% of Saurashtra’s population, are devotees of the goddess. Rahul prayed to the Khodiyar Mata at Khodal Dham in Kagvad, a religious centre of the powerful Patel community. It was built by Leuva Patels, who form some 15% of the population. Rahul paid homage at Jalaram Bapa at Virpur, considered the cultural and religious centre of Lohanas and the trader communities. Finally, he attended an aarti for a Navratri garba to attract youth voters. The only snag in Rahul’s temple trip was that the organisers forgot to brief him properly on how to conduct himself at Hindu shrines. Rahul appeared a little awkward and out of place.
Trump not in loop?
Kenneth Juster has still to take charge as US ambassador to India. But the American Embassy in Delhi has taken up the cudgels on behalf of the Indian media. The US Embassy seldom refers to internal issues in its press statements, but recently, it condemned the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh and commended those fighting for press freedom in difficult times. When Hindustan Times editor Bobby Ghosh lost his job last month, the US Chargé d’Affaires put out a statement on Twitter stating that she had met Ghosh, a US citizen, two days earlier and described him as a great journalist. The sentiments expressed by the US embassy in support of Indian journalists is appreciated by the Indian press, but whether US President Donald Trump, a known baiter of the media, would approve is a different matter.
Digvijaya Singh began a six-month-long Narmada Parikrama from September 30, Dussehra, accompanied by his wife Amrita Rai. Singh has claimed his yatra is strictly for spiritual and religious reasons. Others see a political motive since the Congress general secretary will be passing through some 110 Assembly constituencies in Madhya Pradesh, and another 20 in Gujarat, which goes to the polls by the year-end. Some family members have yet another explanation. They claim that the yatra was one way that Digvijaya avoided visiting his home town Raghogarh on Dussehra, when the entire princely clan would have assembled. Ever since Digvijaya got married for the second time, there has been considerable heartburn among his Rajput family. His offspring, particularly his son Jaivardhan Singh, an MLA, are still not reconciled to Digvijaya’s marriage. So much so that Digvijaya cannot stay at his own MP’s quarters in Delhi. Nor has he visited Bhopal since his marriage.
The three service chiefs are reportedly unhappy because the new defence minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, summons them every day for a meeting. No previous defence minister had followed this routine. It is believed that Sitharaman was asked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to meet the heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force regularly for three months so as to get a better understanding of the country’s defence preparedness and border security. Already, Sitharaman has visited seven forward areas in six states. Since taking over her new assignment, Sitharaman spends five hours daily on briefings and an additional eight to 10 hours studying defence documents.