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Showing posts from July, 2012

Comrade Shahid Siddiqui

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By Rajiv Shah
That’s how we used to call him. Comrade Shahid Siddiqui. It was the first half of 1970s. He was studying political science in Delhi College, while I was doing English honours in Kirorimal College in Delhi University campus. We used to look upon him as a future Marxist theoretician, someone who would, some day, replace EMS Namboodiripad. He used to talk like a Toofan mail – his style hasn’t changed even now. It terribly impressed me. He was our “leader” in the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), student wing of the CPI(M). I was his cadre, trying to understand what all he and other comrades had to say about a red revolution knocking at India’s doorsteps. He would take our study circles, teach us about pros and cons of Mahatma Gandhi. I remember how, sitting at his residence in Nizamuddin area, he told me to read EMS’s “Gandhi and the Ism”, adding a bit of his own interpretation. “In political science, Gandhi is an anarchist”, he declared. I wasn’t convinced, but didn’t c…

Modi’s Nehruvian games

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By Rajiv Shah
A few days back, I had the pleasure of discussing with one of the top Gujarat bureaucrats, who loves to remain faceless, in detail, about one of the most controversial acquisitions Gujarat government has been trying to clinch – gas network of Gujarat Gas Co Ltd, a subsidiary of the top MNC, British Gas, operating in south Gujarat. With a net worth of around Rs 4,500 crore, Gujarat Gas supplies around 3 million standard cubic meters per day of gas to lakhs of households and enterprises in and around three cities, Surat, Ankaleshwar and Bharuch. Known for his expertise in finance, I asked this bureaucrat pointblank: “Why do you at all want to acquire Gujarat Gas? Don’t you think that you are moving away from the established norm of what many believe should be an ideal state policy – of shedding economic activity and concentrate, instead, on social sector, in which Gujarat still lags? Why not, instead, allow a private player to clinch the deal?”
The acquisition move had alr…

Vibrant Gujarat trips or tourism junkets?

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By Rajiv Shah
The other day, I was sitting quiet in my verandah, sipping morning tea, scanning emails. And, suddenly, my good old friend Neeraj Nanda came on chat. Right now, Neeraj edits a periodical, South Asia Times, in Melbourne, and runs a news portal, mainly targeting Indians in Australia. We know each other since our college days in Delhi University in 1970s. Neeraj, who migrated with his family to Australia decades ago after working in several papers in Delhi, wanted to eagerly tell me something about Gujarat, and as usual I was rather keen. “It’s about a roadshow your state delegation held in Melbourne. I got an invitation, decided to go, and took along with me a Gujarati trader friend and an activist from Labor Party of Australia”, he told me, and my eagerness increased: “Who led the delegation?”
Neeraj replied “it was some Dash”, and I immediately identified the bureaucrat -- principal secretary, water resources, Gujarat government, HK Dash. An amenable babu, he led one of …

The indispensable Bhai

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By Rajiv Shah
He created flutter in May 2004. Attending a rebel BJP meet at a farm house off Gandhinagar, Purshottam Solanki, popularly Bhai among his supporters, called Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi "Hitler". Ironically, even today, Bhai claims he hasn't changed his views. Only, at that time he was on the side of those in the BJP who believed Modi was a bad guy. But now he is with those who say there is no alternative to Modi. A junior minister in the Modi government, I decided to call on Bhai a few days back at his residence in Sector 20 in Gandhinagar. The Gujarat High Court had just directed the state government to decide on sanctioning Bhai's prosecution for his alleged involvement in Rs 400 crore fishing contract scam. I talked to him about the scam. He, obviously, denied any involvement. Then I decided to remind him what had declared once, standing next to Modi's bête noire ex-CM Keshubhai Patel - that Modi was Hitler.
"What do you have to say …