Ringing out the old and ringing in the new has its pitfalls and promises. As 2014 segues into 2015, some of the triumphs and tragedies will be headlines in the chronicles of history and some will just be footnotes. Some would change the path India will tread, like Narendra Modi, the nation’s beacon of hope after a decade of aimless governance. Some like Omar Abdullah humiliated his own promise with indifference and inaction. There are bureaucrats who will make a difference in education, doctors who explore new horizons of compassion, and writers and artists who will make the firmament of the coming year bright with epiphanies. Then there are the politicians whose venality brought them low, babus who misused their power and yielded to corruption, artists whose creative juices dried up, but they cling to past laurels and sportsmen who relive the glory of days past. But in this collage of heroes and fallen angels, the shadows of disappointments and deceptions are erased by the gilded future that awaits us all.
Because he is Narendra Modi’s alter ego who pulled off spectacular victories in Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand Assembly polls, with the BJP garnering its biggest ever tally in J&K. The Prime Minister depends on him to deliver all other states going for the polls over the next four years, too. Shah was made President of the BJP after the party won the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The next big challenge for the man whom Modi calls the “captain of the team” is winning the Uttar Pradesh state polls in 2016, since he was instrumental in capturing 71 seats, of the total 80, for the BJP in
Uttar Pradesh—the highest number of MPs the party has ever got in the state—by using social media effectively from his Lucknow war room and choosing surprise candidates.
Like in UP, his style of coordinating and maintaining rapport with the RSS and grassroots workers paid off in the Maharashtra and Haryana elections. In Maharashtra, his eyeball-to-eyeball stance cowed belligerent ally Shiv Sena to toe the BJP line.
Did You Know?
Amit Shah was born in Bombay into a wealthy business family and has a degree in biochemistry. He also worked as a stockbroker.
Winning South India for BJP.
Congress’ Southern Hope
Because he is Karnataka’s Teflon chief minister who enjoys the total trust of his party high command and is the only Congress CM who rules with an absolute majority at a time when the party has been decimated in South India. The party brass in Delhi is depending on him to revive the Congress’ fortunes. Karnataka has the highest number of MPs (nine) vis-a-vis other Congress-ruled states. Despite his ongoing battle with critics including Dr G Parameshwara, the powerful Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president who demanded his removal, he is still going strong. Siddaramaiah says, “Who said I have emerged strong. I’m just doing my job.’’ A former JD(U) leader, he quickly climbed the ladder as the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly and later emerged as the face of the party in the Assembly polls. Siddaramaiah, belonging to the Kuruba caste, represents the third largest vote bank in the state after Lingayats and Vokkaligas. He projected himself as a champion of backward classes and created a vote bank of his own under the nonpolitical banner Ahinda—an acronym of minorities, backward classes and Dalits. Siddaramaiah is the first CM of the state to take the oath in an open stadium attended by over 50,000 people. Within minutes after assuming office, he announced a string of populist programmes like `1 for a kilogram of rice, waiver of loans of SC/STs, minorities and backward classes and interest on housing loans. The CM, who plans to retire from electoral politics at the end of his tenure, is confident that the Congress will return to power in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Because as Union HRD Minister, she took on the Leftist education caucus that had dominated Indian education, and made it nationalist with emphasis on Indian culture. She gave Rahul Gandhi a run for his votes, and made her political mark by taking on the Congress vice-president in his own constituency. She refused to be cowed down by criticism for the move to replace German from the CBSE optional languages list with Sanskrit midway and for not having enough qualifications to be the education minister. She is pressing for “My Home India” by promoting better cultural and political integration of the Northeast with the rest of the country. Under her directions, the ‘Know Your College Portal’ will help students make informed choices, having uploaded around 2,00,000 hours of lectures on various subjects to help students. She has emphasised skill development in higher education and is pushing for choice-based credit system in Indian universities.
Because the young Congress politician and former Minister of State for Corporate Affairs in the UPA government is the face of his party in Rajasthan where it was decimated by the BJP in 2014 by the charismatic Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
His mandate from the Congress and its High Command is to rebuild the party in the state from scratch. Under him, as the Rajasthan state chief, the party won three out of four by-elections in the state in September. Pilot launched a membership campaign on August 20, the birth anniversary of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, to revive the party’s sagging morale in districts, followed by villages and tehsils later this year.
The youngest MP in the last Lok Sabha, Pilot was ranked by surveys as the top performer in Parliament. At 26, Pilot was a Member of the Lok Sabha’s Standing Committee on Home Affairs and Member of the Consultative Committee in the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
The Comrade of Camaraderie
Because if he plays his cards well, Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) politburo member and leader of party in Parliament, is likely to be the next general secretary of CPI(M), outsmarting Prakash Karat whose plan is to keep the seat warm for wife Brinda Karat—the first Communist dynasty in India if that happens. Not that it is a coveted post given the poll performance of CPI(M) in the recent past, but the Stephanian ideologue’s affable style and accessibility compared to the aloof Karat would help in revitalising cadres to boost the fortunes of his fading, though still relevant, party. A passionate parliamentarian, the comrade with a delightful turn of phrase will be heightening the decibels of debate against the Modi government in the Budget session. After his recent sleight of hand at the last CPI(M) Central Committee meeting where he upstaged the political document prepared by Karat and pinned the blame for the party’s pathetic plight squarely on his foe’s head, Yechury should be able to silence his critics within the party who doubt his “too liberal a lifestyle’’. If he makes it to the top post, his mettle will be sorely tested to retain his current reputation as the insider-outsider whose rapport with MPs of all parties is legendary.
Because the 49-year-old RSS pracharak has weathered criticism within the Sangh Parivar successfully and emerged as BJP President Amit Shah’s pivotal man after his success as his boss’s aide in the 2014 Uttar Pradesh polls. He has earned the trust of tech-savvy Narendra Modi for using the social media and the electronic gadgets effectively. After playing a key role in Modi’s successful visits to the US, Australia and Fiji, the next item on this foreign policy maven’s agenda is to make his leader’s London show at ‘Wembley Stadium’ equally dramatic, if not more. He is tasked with improving party-to-party relations between the Chinese Communist Party and BJP because he is considered its foremost expert on China and Modi depends on not just the MEA’s, but also on Madhav’s expertise in charting India’s policy towards its largest neighbour. Another destination Madhav has earned airmiles to is Tel Aviv, where through the New Delhi-based think tank, Vivekanand International Foundation, he has connected the Modi government with the Israelis.
Madhav is also the Prime Minister’s global ambassador at large, with the mandate to make disparate factions of the Indian disapora, stakeholders in the Prime Minister’s vision of a modern India.
After his success in engaging with Muslims in the Kashmir Valley, the former electrical engineer from Andhra Pradesh will be the BJP’s minority interface in Jammu and Kashmir.
Madhav represents the modern face of the Sangh, with his excellent command over English, engaging effortlessly with youth leaders and diplomats from all over the world. His relationship with the English media is cordial, and he has even edited a Telugu weekly. He is known as the techman in the BJP; always seen with the latest smartphone, iPad, laptop or any other new gadget, sometimes even before they have hit the shops, according to wags.
Because as Finance Secretary, this 1978 Rajasthan cadre IAS officer will play a key role in crafting Budget 2015 besides formulating a new economic policy for the NDA government. Previously highly critical of the UPA government’s policies, Mehrishi is likely to duplicate his successful drive as Rajasthan chief secretary to deliver services in India’s villages and bring in the efficiency of government spending. His mandate would be to work on capital markets reform to bringing in FDI. He is expected to strengthen Modi’s vision of decomplicating governance and overhaul the public food distribution system. Mehrishi is known for his hands-on approach; during his Rajasthan tenure, the 59-year-old superbabu would go accompanied by his senior officers to rural areas and give solutions to the villagers’ problems on the spot. He could bring in his tried-and-tested radical reform policies into the ministry by pushing health care through transport connectivity rather than building more rural health care centres where doctors were usually absent.
Power at the Core
Because the Vice-Chairman of GVK Power & Infrastructure Ltd has laid out grand plans to fix the country’s worsening power crisis. The 51-year-old intends to generate up to 12,000 MW power by 2016-17, including 7,500 MW thermal power. While power producers are hit by rising coal import costs, Reddy aims to cash in on the company’s prized acquisition—Hancock Coal in Australia, the GVK Group’s biggest overseas acquisition and the most promising project to look out for in 2015. The Hancock coal mine, according to Reddy, will increase GVK’s power production with an assured in-house raw material supply. In the past, this second generation entrepreneur led the group’s airports business, the revenue of which grew from `595.52 crore in 2011-12 to `2,182 crore in 2013-14. A multitasker with multiple key roles in 18 group subsidiaries, he was instrumental in changing the face of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, considered the most challenging airport modernisation projects. Moving on, he has set his eyes on Kempegowda International airport, Bengaluru, as a gateway to south India.
King of Bestsellers
Because the bestselling author, who kicked in the era of mythological fiction in India, is working on another historical thriller slated for release in August 2015. “My forthcoming novel Sialkot Saga is about a business dynasty. The story is set in Sialkot—modern-day Pakistan—in 1947,” says Sanghi. He is also busy scripting his third novel The Krishna Key into a series of TV episodes. The Mumbai-based author also added an international bestseller to his oeuvre this year. His fourth novel Private India written in collaboration with American novelist James Patterson not only sold over 50,000 copies in India in just five months, but also made it to the bestseller charts in the UK and US. “What is even more heartening is that it dominated the UK’s The Sunday Times bestseller list for several weeks and is now on The New York Times bestseller list too,” says the author. Patterson’s Private series is about an international detective bureau Private, with the books in the series co-authored by writers from different countries where a particular book is set. What’s more. Sanghi, who is also a businessman, found time to pen a non-fiction book, 13 Steps to Bloody Good Luck, as well this year.
Because the super spy got a second lease of life after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister, giving the intelligence genius vast powers to oversee national security. The former director of Intelligence Bureau even decided the VVIP visitors’ list for the grand swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan on May 26. Later, the post of National Security Advisor came naturally to Doval, for operating in shades of grey is his forte. In his prime, he worked for years as an operative imbedded in Pakistan, running agents. Doval has been able to successfully pair with Modi just as Amit Shah is hyphenated with the PM. The success of Modi-Doval team’s new Kashmir policy was evident when, in a coup of sorts, the PM spent Diwali in Srinagar. Doval is said to have carefully crafted the ‘Act East Policy’, bringing India’s neighbours closer while maintaining a global super power image in the West. The duo has strengthened US-India security cooperation. According to a senior officer, there is a sudden overflow of intel from the US. Besides, the sustained offensive on the international border and LoC to counter Pakistan’s frequent ceasefire violations is just a glimpse of Doval’s new doctrine to keep robust ties with the neighbours, while never being on the backfoot as a cornered peacemonger. Though he would like to invest in peace, Doval is not shy about taking strong action against rogue states threatening India’s security.
Sachin Bansal and Binny bansal
Cartful of Cash
Because their venture Flipkart has turned into one of the biggest success stories in the e-commerce industry. An online marketplace, it is the first Internet company in India inching towards the $100-billion mark. Seven years since it started selling books online, the company has managed to rake in private funding of around $2.5 billion, which includes $700 million raised in December 2014 alone. The Bengaluru-headquartered company has even attempted to take on American e-commerce giant Amazon. Flipkart’s $1-billion private fund-raising in July had seen Amazon counter it with a $2-billion investment. Flipkart (incorporated in Singapore) has filed with ACRA Singapore for conversion to a public company. From handing out bookmarks advertising their company outside a bookstore in Bengaluru, the two-man team boasts of running a company that has over 20,000 employees and 26 million registered users clocking over eight million daily visits. Flipkart delivers over five million shipments per month. It has even signed the biggest commercial real estate deal in India for 3.24 million sq ft of office space with an annual rent of `300 crore in Bengaluru. Despite the ‘Big Billion Day’ sale fiasco, its popularity has only risen in recent times. In 10 hours, the company sold $100 million worth of goods.
Can and Able Healer
Because as a pranic healer for 18 years, Sangeeta Prabhakar hopes to bring a pranic healer in every household, claiming that she has helped people cleanse their ‘chakras’ through meditation and tap into cosmic energy to revitalise their bodies. After she was cured of asthma through pranic healing, Sangeeta decided to take it up as a medium to help people get rid of their physical and emotional ailments through prana (energy). A student of Master Choa Kok Sui, Sangeeta organised a three-hour mass meditation programme called ‘Energize Chennai’ on March 19, 2014 in Chennai, drawing 325 participants who meditated for a cleaner and greener city. With a second edition on cards in 2015, targeting 2,000 participants, Sangeeta also plans to bring to fruition her master’s vision of having a pranic healer in every home. “While a pranic healer in a family will help tranquilise physical and emotional turmoils of its members, Arhatic yoga by a thousand people will bring about a huge downpour of cosmic energy that would infuse people with sensitivity and empathy for fellow creatures,” says the managing trustee of MCKS Yoga Vidya Pranic Healing Foundation Trust, Tamil Nadu. The healer hopes to bring more people, especially those in powerful positions, under the canopy of pranic healing in 2015 as their services will reach out to a larger population, bringing about a greater change. Something like a ripple effect.
Queen of Quirks
Because the 27-year-old product designer from NID is on a mission to change the perception of design and will be taking her creations to India Art Fair in Delhi in February and then to New York in May. “I hopefully will launch in Europe as well,” she says. Lekha prefers not to view everyday objects as simply functional, but would rather reimagine them as surprisingly quirky art and design elements for daily use. She retails through her firm Ajji, an odd product company which she launched last year. Lekha has lost count of the exhibitions she participated in this year. “I exhibited my works such as the atomic magnetic cubes at a big design fest. Then, I had another one in New York. I generally design things with a twist, which creates a window of opportunities in the market,” she says. With a 10-member team, she is currently working on a monumental floating installation. “The installation is a 150 ft high and 12 ft wide helium balloon. It resembles a light sculpture more like the moon,” she says.
Box Office Daughter
Because with three back-to-back hits, numerous endorsements and two viral videos, Alia Bhatt has got Anurag Kashyap’s Shandaar lined up as her next film. The daughter of famous parents, Mahesh Bhatt and Soni Razdan, Alia started out in a glitzy and glamorous role in Student of the Year only to prove that she hasn’t inherited the acting genes for nothing by coming up with a whopper of a performance in Highway. The actor was quoted as saying, “Highway changed my perspective to life. Prior to it I felt empty, not in a shallow way, but as a person.” The cute as a button actress soon metamorphosed from the de-glam Veera to feisty Ananya in 2 States to a more passionate Kavya in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya. Right now, the 21-year-old seems to be riding the hit film parade, with all her films clicking at the box office. That says it all, doesn’t it?
Her Champion on Wheels
Because as a campaigner to stop harassment of women in public transport, 30-year-old Zeeshan Mohammed from Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh has reached out to over 2,000 autorickshaw drivers in Lucknow to make their vehicles a safe mode of transport for women. Currently, Safe Safar, which is a full-time programme run by Zeeshan’s NGO Yeh Ek Soch, persuades autorickshaw drivers to stop playing pulsating music and to remove obscene pictures from their vehicles besides sensitising them on women’s safety. “To help spread the word among more women, we have recently given visiting cards to our team of drivers,” says Zeeshan, who wants to convert this project into a business model. “We plan to have our own fleet of autorickshaws which would provide round-the-clock service to women in the city. The autos will be equipped with modern technology like alarms for protection of passengers,” he adds. Zeeshan is currently working on a dozen other projects, including running a school for impoverished children and a youth development programme.
Flops Of The Year
Defeated by Himself
Because under the aloof Abdullah scion, who preferred Cartier watches and Salvatore Ferragamo loafers over the discomfort of engaging with the people unlike his father used to, the National Conference plunged to its lowest electoral level ever. The ousted chief minister even lost from Sonawar, one of the two seats he had contested. As a young leader who seemed the hope for a new Kashmir after assuming office in 2009 at 39, he descended into a paranoid politician, distant from the bureaucracy and his own party colleagues. He was unable to contain militancy and terror attacks. The desperate Abdullah’s stand on AFSPA boomeranged and separatists blasted him for being unable to stand up against the Centre. The callous mismangement of the devastating September floods doomed his government even before the polls. NC’s coalition partner Congress also decided to go it alone in the elections. His inability to contain corruption in his governent made him look like a weak puppet.
Victim of Ambition
Because 2014 was the year of doom for Nitish Kumar. The signs of decline were already visible when the once-heavyweight people’s CM who won a landslide victory in 2010 quit office after his party was swept away by the Modi wave. His feeble excuses and tawdry policing on the Patna bomb blasts during Modi’s rally made him look suspiciously vulnerable. His once popular yatras that evoked tremendous people’s connect were beset with intense protests that often led to violent confrontations between the cops and the people. Once, policemen even took off their clothes to protest non-payment of salaries. Kumar’s decision to part ways with the BJP, its ally of 17 years, after Narendra Modi’s anointment as the BJP’s PM candidate was the last step in this ambitious Bihari babu’s slide to despair. His flirtation with the Congress and Lalu Prasad against whom he fought bitter political battles backfired. Lalu joked: “What can I do when my younger brother came to sit in my lap? How can I throw him out?” While the change in political strategy was considered a survival tactic, Kumar acknowledged he was out of touch with reality. After handpicked CM Jitan Ram Manjhi refused to play his puppet, a nightmare awaits the discredited saviour of Bihar whose development initiatives had made him the darling of the masses.
Commie in the Red
Because as CPI(M) general secretary, Prakash Karat may be remembered as the man who presided over the party’s decline with his rigid Stalinistic stance towards reform and dissent. When the affable comrade took charge in 2004, the Left forces had 62 seats—its highest haul ever. Now, as he is stepping down, the CPI(M) is staring at the possibility of losing its national party status since it has just nine MPs. Under him, the party was wiped out in West Bengal after 34 years of Left rule. For the CPI(M)’s near-collapse, many blame Karat’s series of miscalculations including the withdrawal of support to UPA I over the nuclear deal with the US, his ‘third alternative’ move, and the expulsion of former Speaker Somnath Chatterjee from the party. However, lack of theoretical understanding is something nobody will accuse this MSc degree holder from the University of Edinburgh who wrote his thesis on ‘Language and politics in modern India’, of. But his limitation is that he is deemed just a Leftist intellectual strong on theory but with zero understanding of real politics. When Karat openly admitted that the Indian Left was historically wrong in writing off the institution of caste, many saw it as a course correction from the party which has no lower caste leader in its decision-making bodies. Compared to Sitaram Yechury, his possible successor, Karat is a novice in the rough and tumble of real politics. “Karat’s decision to withdraw support to UPA over an issue which had no resonance with the common voters exposed his lack of understanding of the way real politics works. Yechury would never have done that,’’ said a Left intellectual close to both Karat and Yechury. Yechury’s success in making the central committee revise Karat’s official draft resolution on tactical consensus was a masterstroke that diminished Karat’s stature further. The legacy Karat is likely to hand over to Yechury next year is a wilted organisation riddled with political and ideological uncertainties.
Dayanidhi and Kalanithi Maran
Eclipsed and Ejected
Because Kalanithi and Dayanidhi—once celebrated as young and successful billionnaire-class entrepreneurs from the south—have had a year they would love to forget but possibly can’t. It is not easy to get over the struggle their airline, SpiceJet, went through towards the later half of 2014. And it certainly is not possible to drown in New Year celebrations due to the tightening CBI probe on the 2G spectrum scam that has reached their doorsteps. Trouble also seems to be mounting for former telecom minister Dayanidhi with the CBI questioning him in the case related to alleged allocation of over 300 BSNL high-speed phone lines at his Chennai residence. The promoters of Sun Group, a company that started with a magazine and now owns a media empire that covers the whole spectrum from content generation till the last mile of distribution besides interest in aviation and film industry, are now facing the toughest challenge in their career after the CBI named them in the chargesheet in the Aircel-Maxis deal case. According to the probe agency, Dayanidhi as telecom minister in the UPA I allegedly arm-twisted a Chennai-based entrepreneur into selling his stakes in Aircel to Malaysian giant Maxis, which in turn ‘invested’ money in the firms owned by Kalanithi. Soon, it was the turn of the Enforcement Directorate to pay a visit to the brothers with some questions under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act. It is never denied that being the sons of late Murasoli Maran, the nephew and chief aide of DMK president M Karunanidhi, has benefitted their business empire immensely. However, as they realise now, reeling under pressure from the Union and state governments at once, one more unforgiving than the other, this political connection is a twin-edged sword. With each development in the cases against them came a blow in stock market, taking the group’s overall value down by several notches. It is not clear whether the grandnephews of famous rationalist, patriarch Karunanidhi, are believers of numerology. But 2014 won’t give them any pleasant memories for years to come.
Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti
Because the saffron-clad sanyasin, the minister of state for food processing industries in the NDA government and the MP from Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh, embarrassed the government for using expletives during a campaign speech in outer Delhi. She called voters to choose between “Ramzadon and har**zadon.”
She had said, “Aapko tay karna hai ki Dilli mein sarkar Ramzadon ki banegi ya har**zadon ki. Yeh aapka faisla hai (you have to decide whether Delhi will get a government of Ram’s progeny or of those born illegitimately)”. She had also declared that everyone in India was originally a child of Rama and those who belong to other religions are converts from Hindusim.
Jyoti had to apologise in Parliament afterwards under pressure from within her own party as well as the Opposition. It gave anti-BJP parties a plank to accuse the saffron party of pushing extreme Hindutva at the cost of Prime Minister
Narendra Modi’s development and governance agenda.
For the first time, PM Modi was seen on the defensive, expressing “strong disapproval” while dismissing her as a “village woman” who was not aware of the implications of her speech.
Though the sadhvi was asked to keep a low profile by the BJP, she was allowed to continue campaigning at ‘nukkad sabhas’ in the rural areas of Delhi as she speaks the rustic
language of the sizeable lower class and caste immigrant population who inhabit these areas.
Jyoti, who is a contemporary of firebrand sanyasin Rithambara, has made such incendiary remarks in the past as well, like in Lucknow earlier this year.
God’s Own Devil
Because the 63-year-old godman defied High Court summons to appear before it for allegedly interfering in the judicial proceedings, precipitating a tragic confrontation between the police and followers resulting in the deaths of six people, mainly women and children.
Seventy civilians and 110 cops were injured in the operation to arrest Rampal that cost the Haryana government `26.5 crore. The siege lasted nearly two weeks with 104 weapons, including rifles, revolvers, air guns, spray guns and 130 cartridges, being recovered from the Satlok Ashram in Barwala. Two bulletproof jackets, 61 petrol bombs, over 5,632 lathis, 285 helmets, 35 plastic shields, gun powder, bags containing dangerous chemical pouches and spirit were recovered from the ashram premises which was barricaded to prevent cops from entering to arrest Rampal.
More than a thousand young men, who called themselves Baba’s ‘commandos’, stood on the roofs of the ashram with rifles, firing on policemen, throwing petrol bombs, acid, chemical bags and stones. Rampal is in jail now for the alleged murder of five women and a child, who died of blunt trauma injuries.
Vice admiral Shekhar Sinha
Seaman at Sea
Because as the head of the Mumbai-based Western Naval Command, Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha’s command and control failed to keep a check on the series of accidents involving warships under his watch. The spate of naval mishaps, the worst being the fire that destroyed naval submarine INS Sindhurakshak in which 18 sailors died, led to the departure of then navy chief Admiral
D K Joshi, who quit taking moral responsibility. The spate of naval accidents were denting the image of the Indian Navy as A K Antony, then the defence minister, chided the force “not to fritter away” such expensive national resources. Sinha claimed that he took action against the erring officials under his command. “The Chief of a Naval Command does not sail a ship and I took action against erring officials responsible for mishaps, ” he said. A naval officer with an engineering background, the mariner from Patna had commanded key warships during his over three decades of service in the navy. But he had to leave the force before he completed his tenure after his junior officer R K Dhowan was appointed as navy chief, ignoring Sinha’s seniority. The major accidents that happened under Sinha’s watch included the sinking of INS Sindhurakshak on August 14, 2013, INS Talwar slamming into a fishing trawler on December 23, 2013, INS Betwa that ran aground on January 4, and INS Sindhuratna mishap on February 26, 2014, that killed two naval officers.
Because the former finance secretary and media darling was transferred by the NDA government twice within a fortnight. Even before he could take charge as tourism secretary, he was shifted to the Ministry of Minority Affairs on October 15, on the same day former colleague and former revenue secretary Rajiv Takru was moved to minority affairs. Former finance minister P Chidambaram had appointed both the officers. For Mayaram, a 1979 Rajasthan cadre IAS officer, it was especially ignominious since retirement was just a few months away. Sources say he was replaced from the tourism ministry as the government found a “more suitable choice” in L K Panwar, a 1979-batch IAS officer—again from Rajasthan. Mayaram’s colleagues refer to his present perch as an “insignificant outpost”. It is little comfort to him that he was among the 20 secretaries who were also transferred on the same day. “This has become routine. A new dispensation always prefers a new team,” a former colleague of Mayaram said.
Because BJP president Amit Shah dropped Varun Gandhi, two-time MP from Sultanpur,
Uttar Pradesh, as general secretary without giving any specific reason for removing him from the national executive. Party sources said it is ostensibly because of PM Narendra Modi’s policy against nepotism since Varun’s mother Maneka is a minister in the NDA government. She had suggested that the only way to improve conditions in Uttar Pradesh is to make her 34-year-old son the chief minister. The BJP president was so incensed that he immediately drove down to Maneka’s house and asked her not to make such comments without the party having taken a decision first. Varun’s gaffe to reporters that one of Modi’s rallies in Uttar Pradesh was ‘okay’ and that only 50,000 people had attended, when the party claimed that two lakh supporters had gathered, boomeranged badly against the MP.
Because he was transferred out of the finance ministry even as the new NDA government’s first budget was being finalised, that too on a Saturday when the government officers are officially on leave. No official is removed from the FinMin while the budget is in the making. From being the Revenue Secretary, handpicked by Finance Minister of the time, P Chidambaram, the 1979-batch IAS officer of Gujarat cadre has been shunted out twice to different perches by the new dispensation. Sources say the reason for this was his perceived “proximity to some Congress leaders” and that “the PM was not favourably disposed towards him”. Ministry scuttlebutt says he had an uneasy relationship with the Prime Minister, when Modi was the Gujarat chief minister. He had differences with General V K Singh, the Minister of State in-charge of developing the Northeast. One of the first directives that Modi had given was that the ministers and bureaucrats will have to work together like a team. Takru was the first to go, followed by the General who too was taken off DONER (Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region) in the November 9 reshuffle. Takru, much like Arvind Mayaram who was transferred twice within a fortnight, has ended up in the Ministry of Minority Affairs. He is currently the secretary of the National Commission on Minorities.
Saif ali khan
Not So Happy an Ending
Because, even the film’s title—Happy Ending—was an unhappy affirmation that couldn’t bring the Chhote Nawab’s wobbling career back on track. Audiences probably sensed a certain déjà vu about Saif Ali Khan’s most recent film and gave it a thumbs-down. Only when he sticks to goofy irreverence does Saif come up tops as in Go Goa Gone, though he got knocked around a bit for turning filmmaker with this particular movie. Saif insists that the film made money as he did not pay himself. At least he had not lost his legendary sense of humour. Only when he traded his suave brand of fun for total buffoonery did Saif once again come a cropper as was the case with his triple role in Sajid Khan’s 2014 debacle Humshakals. An ‘Angoor’ a day will keep the Humshakals away! Maybe the decline set in when Saif tried to be an on-screen Salman Khan in Bullett Raja. Earlier, he did himself no favours by acting as a desi Bond, handing over Agent Vinod into the hands of ‘realistic’ director Sriram Raghavan and the film’s fate was both ‘shaken and stirred’ at the box office. Cocktail and Race 2 put the brakes on the slide, though Deepika Padukone did steal the show in the former and Race 2’s success was masterminded greatly by the Burmawallahs. Sure, Saif is having a rough ride now, but it would be foolhardy to say its curtains for his career. Directors Sujoy Ghosh and Reema Kagti’s films in which he stars next may well give the ‘langda’ the leg-up he deserves.
Because it might take Vidya Balan another Dirty Picture or Kahaani to win back the audience, for the actress who broke the glass ceiling in Bollywood (she’s been dubbed ‘female hero’) has been having a particularly lackluster year or two. Think of it as a playful joke, as on the heels of Ghanchakkar last year in which she played a boisterous and plump Punjabi housewife, came Shaadi Ke Side Effects opposite Farhan Akhtar in 2014. Though it did average business, the film was criticised for having a story that is written solely from the male perspective and a narrative that hits speed breakers ample times. With a vengeance, Vidya Balan made a return to female-centric roles in Samar Shaikh’s Bobby Jasoos. To add spark and authenticity to her role of Bobby, a 30-year-old aspiring detective, Balan not only perfected the Hyderabadi lingo but also donned six different disguises in the film. But for all that, the National Award-winning actress was handicapped by a wishy-washy script. But picture abhi baaki hai mere dost. The beauteous Balan hopes she will recover lost ground with her next film, Humari Adhuri Kahaani.
S K Jain
Banker of Bribes
Because Syndicate Bank’s alluring slogan ‘faithful and friendly’ took a serious beating when a bribe-for-loan scam hit the public sector bank in August. S K Jain, Chairman and Managing Director of the Manipal (Karnataka)-based bank, was arrested in August by CBI for allegedly taking `50 lakh as a payoff to sanction a loan to a private company. He was sacked in September following the disclosure of one of the biggest banking scandals in India. It has opened a Pandora’s box indicating bigger scams. During his arrest, the CBI claimed to have recovered `21 lakh in cash, gold worth `1.68 crore and fixed deposits amounting to `63 lakh from his home. Jain was also charged with enhancing the credit limits of a few other companies in violation of banking rules. Over and above the `50 lakh bribe, CBI sources say he may have favoured many other companies and received crores under the table. Jain’s appointment too is under the CBI scanner as he was reportedly promoted out of turn—he was one of the youngest CMDs of a PSU bank. However, Jain—who is facing another bribery case—and five others were granted bail by the Delhi High Court after the CBI failed to chargesheet them within the stipulated 60-day period.
Missing the Target
Because the ace shooter missed a place in the 10-metre air rifle shooting squad and subsequently couldn’t participate in the event at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. A neck injury soon after the 2012 London Olympics forced him to take a break. His right index finger too had turned numb, something that was a matter of concern. “At the time, I had doubts whether I would get back the same feeling in that finger since shooting depends on how you command and control the index finger,” Narang said. The 31-year-old marksman also missed out on an Olympic quota berth by a whisker at the World Championships in September. Then, in the Nationals, he failed to bag a medal after finishing an agonising fourth. Narang, however, was the toast of the nation, along with the revelatory Jitu Rai, just four months ago when he clinched two medals—silver in 50-metre rifle prone and bronze in 50-metre rifle 3 positions—at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. But compared to his quadruple-gold booty in the New Delhi edition in 2010, this time’s haul looked less alluring. Maybe he just needs a little shot of luck to make a comeback.
The Modi Moment
Prime Minister Narendra Modi received a rousing welcome from thousands of Indian-Americans in September on his first trip to to the US after leading the BJP, in a spectacular electoral victory, to its first parliamentary majority in three decades.
Volunteers and Armymen rescue flood affected people in Srinagar. An unprecedented flood submerged better part of the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir causing an unmitigable trail of death and devastation in September.