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Open Defiance Once Again By G23: Can Gandhis Rein In Dissenters?

After receiving drubbing in the recently held five assembly elections, the dissenting group, G-23 within the Congress party, has once again become active. Its member, the Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal fired the first salvo; so did others targeting the Gandhi family — Sonia, Rahul, Priyanka — and their man Friday, KC Venugopal, Congress General Secretary (Organization). The G23 group’s main contention is to have an elected president instead of a nominated one. Seeing the built-up and media coverage, the Congress Working Committee held a Zoom meeting on May 10 with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot parroting, “How can we hold elections during Covid?” Interestingly, Ghulam Nabi Azad supported Gehlot. So, for now the problem has been laid to rest. Sonia Gandhi will continue as CWC President. According to an insider, they were sure about the outcome of CWC meeting. Now, they will hold secret parleys to mount pressure for an elected president. Among them there is a consensus to project the candidature of Shashi Tharoor for President’s post. Tharoor has a strong CV. The insider is at pain to point out that they are not against the Gandhis per se but want to protect the legacy of Congress so that they can bounce back under new leadership. The question is will the Gandhis listen?

Lessons Learnt: Rajini And Kamal To Focus On The Reel World

There is a silver lining to be sighted even in poll defeat. Cinema fans are thrilled that two big stars of the silver screen have been denied a place in Tamil Nadu’s star-studded politics. While Rajinikanth left even before a single vote was cast, the thespian Kamal Haasan faces the same fate as Sivaji Ganesan in failing badly at the polls. Both matinee stars can now concentrate their energies on acting in the autumn of their film careers. Kamal Haasan’s party, formed in 2018, is facing an existential crisis after being wiped out electorally — 2.5% vote share and 0 seats — in the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls. Kamal, at a loose end after the poll crash, confided to friends that he is free to pursue all his film projects while he intends to keep one eye on his political presence with statements on issues. Rajini, advised by the Marans to resist pressure from Delhi to take on a political avatar, will be acting in more Sun Films ventures after Annatthe. Kamal has Project 232, Indian 2 and Thalaivan Irukkindran to finish as well think of unfinished projects like Madhuranagayam which caused such a stir that even the British Queen visited the set. The one certainty to emerge from 2021 TN polls is that the cinema stars are totally free to act full time.
scam 92

How OTT Superstars Are Changing The Rules Of The Game

Sacred Games apart, the actor who, arguably set the OTT platform on fire is Pratik Gandhi with his 10-part web series Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story. Its signature tune went viral. So much so that Abhishek Bachchan’s movie The Big Bull evoked very poor response. Other actors making waves in the OTT world are: Jaideep Ahlawat, Abhishek Banerjee, Divyendu Sharma, Shobhita Dhulipala, Arjun Mathur and Amit Sial. As for film stars’ OTT entry, Abhishek, Saif Ali Khan, Amit Sadh, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Manoj Bajpayee, among others, could not attain the success of Pratik Gandhi or Jaideep Alhawat (Paatal Lok). During the first lockdown, the big screen stars and filmmakers resisted OTT release. Looking at the performance of films like Laxxmi, Coolie and Gulabo Sitabo, the OTT was labelled a dumping ground for films that would have failed at the box office. But, realizing that OTT is here to stay, the film makers are now sending Press Releases that mentions TRP ratings besides box office figures. Effectively, this TRP will measure Akshay Kumar or Pratik Gandhi by the same yardstick – pointing to a new litmus test for the concept of Superstars. OTT is a medium dominated by actors and not superstars. With OTT gaining currency even big ticket stars like Hrithik Roshan and Shahid Kapoor are getting ready to make digital debut. Salman Khan is also releasing his movie Radhe on OTT platform. OTT is the new way of life.

Hamara Bajaj Seeks Care For MSMEs Amid Covid Re-Lockdown

While talking to the media, the 54-year-old Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto, never minces words nor ducks issues. He, like his father Rahul Bajaj, calls a spade a spade. He has been consistently opposing lockdown from Day One. So when Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray imposed second lockdown on April 14, Bajaj was his usual self, critical.   “Why everybody keeps looking at BSE and NSE but not MSMEs,” he asks, explaining that a company like Bajaj Auto can take care of its people but the small businesses will be hit even more harder this time he told news channel India Today. Bajaj Auto is a cash-rich company with over Rs 20,000 crore in reserves. Even if the company makes nothing, sells nothing then the standstill cost – salaries & wages — for the company works out to Rs 750 crore per annum. With Rs 20,000 crore reserves and non-operating income, he can take care of his company’s employees even if the company, hypothetically, is shut for the next 30 years. How many CEOs in the country can make that kind of bold statement? Well, it takes a Hamara Bajaj to talk for Hum Sab.

Durga, The Positive Force Behind Stalin

It was undoubtedly one of the most dignified and significant swearing in ceremonies of any Government in Tamil Nadu. But amidst the solemn dignity of a historical event, it was Durga Stalin, the Chief Minister MK Stalin’s better half, who quietly cornered the focus. As her husband took the oath, she shed tears, wiped away quickly from her masked face. And why not? He had waited in the wings for 10 years. Durga was married in 1975 into this politically strong milieu, lived in a bustling joint family in that iconic Gopalapuram house, as the daughter-in-law of Kalaignar and his wife, Dayalu Ammal. Only when Stalin moved into the Chennai mayor’s chair, could Durga could set up her own home, run her nuclear family to bring up her daughter Senthamarai and son, Udhayanidhi. She recollects without a trace of self-consciousness that they were like any other household. Stalin helped the kids with their homework, getting them ready for school. Durga would fret and lose her cool if the kids grades suffered. Stalin was and still is Mr Cool, the Cucumber. They loved watching every Tamil movie released, opting for the late-night show. What is most striking is her unfailing faith in religion, in contrast to the public stance of a self-styled atheist family. She has visited many temples and performed several religious rituals for her husband’s success. Religion and faith have been her mainstay.

BJP Does Balancing Act In Assam, Rewards Poster Boy Himanta Sarma

BJP has stepped one step backward and opted for a former Congressman turned the party’s poster boy, Himanta Biswa Sarma, for the Chief Minister’s post in Assam, over giving second term to Sarbananda Sonowal. BJP’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was clearly against Sarma’s anointment but BJP had no choice in a serious bid to avoid a rebellion from Sarma who enjoys clout among the newly elected legislators. Due to strong claims made by Sarma on CM’s post, BJP did not project Sonowal or him or any other leader as party’s CM candidate in the run up to the assembly elections. Instead, BJP took cautious decision to reach out to the Assam people on the development and welfare plank while deftly handling the CAA and NCR issues and hitting out at the Congress promoted MahaJyot alliance, led by leaders like AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal, seen by many as the allies of the illegal immigrants. Sarma is widely lauded for his effective management of Covid-19 as the State’s Health Minister; as well as for his intuitive leadership that has helped the BJP win assembly elections in 2016 and 2021. According to some observers, he will have to skilfully handle the CAA and NCR matters even though the Congress led front failed to mobilize the voters on this tricky issue. On the other hand, Sonowal, who gracefully signed off as Assam Chief Minister, having completed the full five-year term since 2016, has declined a Union cabinet post. He had earlier served as the Union Minister of Sports & Youth Affairs (2014-16) – and is now seeking to stay back in Assam.

Giant Killer Suvendu Adhikari Bags A Bigger Role In W Bengal

BJP, after its failure to unseat the Trinamool Congress Supremo Mamata Banerjee in the high-octane West Bengal elections, decided to do course correction. Reward and recognize people even if they had joined BJP recently. There was intense lobbying within BJP and RSS for electing the Leader Of Opposition. But finally, Modi-Shah duo decided in favour of the giant killer Suvendu Adhikari who had defeated Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram as promised. Adhikari’s presence inside the Assembly as Leader of Opposition is bound to give heebie-jeebies to TMC leaders, especially Didi. He will be a constant reminder of her defeat. Maybe that seems to be BJP’s strategy. Three other names doing the rounds were that of the party’s state president Dilip Ghosh, Mukul Roy and Ashok Lahiri. RSS had made a strong case for the economist Lahiri. According to RSS insiders, even though BJP’s number has grown from 3 to 77 but winning the election and forming the government after five years largely depends on the kind of role the Leader of Opposition plays. RSS therefore hinted that aggressive posturing won’t do party any good. They should succeed in reaching out to all sections by effectively selling an alternate development agenda by questioning TMC. RSS, it is learnt, does not want BJP to repeat its mistake of targeting Didi personally.

Photo : BCCI

Can Mithali Raj Surpass Sandhya Agarwal's Test Aggregate?

Mithali Raj has been a champion batter in ODI cricket and the face of Indian women’s cricket for over two decades. Well into her 39th year, the diminutive right-hander has been in ODI cricket for 21-plus years, having made her debut on June 26, 1999 and making it memorable with an unbeaten 114 against Ireland at Milton Keynes. Currently she is at top of the heap with a world record 7,098 runs in 214 matches. While the doughty batter’s ODI record will be difficult to go down, Mithali, who has played 10 Tests from 2002 to 2014 and scored 663 runs at 51, would find it tough to surpass Sandhya Agarwal’s high aggregate of 1,110 runs in 13 Tests at 50.45, which is an Indian women’s record. India is scheduled to play a one-off Test against England in the harbour town of Bristol from June 16 and it would be beyond Mithali’s capacity to cover the 447 run gap. With a majority of the ICC full members focussed on white-ball cricket to popularise the game, the multi-day Test cricket is seldom featured except for the one-off Ashes Test between the women teams of England and Australia. The Indian women have played 36 Tests, won five, lost 6 and drew 25. Three of the five wins came in the last three — two against England at Taunton in 2006 and at Wormsley in 2014, and against South Africa at Mysore, also in 2014. Mithali carved out a 214 at Taunton in her first Test appearance in England and has scored 402 runs in four Test matches there. She is 38 runs short of Shubhangi Kulkarni’s 700. “Sandhya was a solid batter whereas Mithali is a solid and stylish batter,” said Shubhangi.

Rewind 2005: Advani and Vajpayee at a rally in Mumbai

How Vajpayee-Advani Jugalbandi Created A Saffron Wave

In Pakistan it is said history begins at midnight 14 August 1947. Vinay Sitapati’s book Jugalbandi: The BJP Before Modi suggests a similar trajectory for the ruling party’s amnesia today for anything that came before; however a long time ago In a polity far away there was Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani, a world away from today’s ruling jugalbandi. The word itself suggests an equal music but it is rarely so. From distinctly diverse backgrounds: Advani fluent in English, Vajpayee a poet in his native tongue. Organiser and Orator. Unique skill sets that created their own niches in the party. The book dutifully chronicles their early encounters with each other as RSS workers and Advani’s unwitting part in derailing Atalji’s bete noire Balraj Madhok. Vajpayee the first time MP and Advani his dutiful backroom boy to how they matured into a champion duo with one leading and the other happy in a subservient part by turns. Alas while the friendship endures Advani is not a part of Vajpayee’s Camelot which slowly takes shape after his move to Delhi and his reconnecting with Rajkumari Kaul his college sweetheart.  The lady’s influence cannot be discounted; She provides him with conversation, confidence and a convivial environment for his meetings and confabulations. Advani is conspicuously absent from these now dominated by  Brajesh Mishra and Ranjan Bhattacharya, the Kaul’s son in law and husband of Vajpayee’s pet adopted daughter. Advani’s sunset years have been less painless, his standing in the party he nurtured itself in doubt. In the end the epitaph from Amit Shah was “They were afraid to fly the flag of Hindutva fully”.


Technology Cannot Disrupt Original Content Provider: Short Post Editor

They say time flies. How true!  Today is our #SecondAnniversary. Two years back at the height of Covid-19 Pandemic when lockdown was the way of life we took a leap of faith and launched Short Post (Jan 28, 2021), the first-of-its-kind website in the country that focuses on Authentic Gossip. The Oxymoron is deliberate. Well, the response has been quite encouraging. That’s what has kept us going. Till date we have posted close to 2000 stories in the areas of Politics, Business, Entertainment and Sports. Each insightful story of around 225 words has been contributed by Senior Editors. There is a sense of satisfaction of creating a new segment in the market – authentic gossip — and in the process creating a brand (in a limited sense), creating demand (readers) and creating supply (writers). Well known advertisers — IDFC FIRST Bank, ICICI Lombard – supported us.  And that really boosted our confidence. Thank you!

So here we are raring to go.  But, when I look at the media landscape the disruption is indeed fast and furious. Technology is playing a very big role in how content will be consumed. In the past, we have seen how social media has disrupted the media world. Now, everybody is saying the same thing about ChatGPT. It has reached 1 million users in five days. Its scorching pace of growth is indeed frightening and will disrupt the media industry big time. My limited argument is can it do investigative stories, write gossip items using the digital world ecosystem. Unlikely. Clearly, the original content has to be created first — only then can ChatGPT do the magic. That’s what we promise to do – focus on original content.

Before I sign off, I am reminded of an old advertisement of the early sixties: “Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars. So we try harder”. Likewise I can say, we are two years old and we are trying even harder to be relevant to you readers.