Her honesty may not be in doubt, but her intolerance is certainly putting a question mark against her ability to administer with calm and grace. It is also irking the majority, because the levels of intolerance are going only one way—downhill. Teachers to farmers, politicians to officials, students and now even journalists, have become Mamata Banerjee’s target of ire. Her zero tolerance on retail in FDI led to a hasty pulling of the plug on the UPA. It did not topple the Government, upsetting Banerjee’s calculation and frustrating her no ends. That cup of frustration is now filled to the brim, and spilling over. She has set limits on freedom of expression when it concerns common citizens, but when it comes to her own conduct, limits are easily crossed. The latest has been to threaten Kolkata officials accompanying her to an event with public flogging as her car failed to arrive on time at the exit gate. A couple of days later she wanted to slap a journalist or two for asking uncomfortable questions. A chief minister who is busy threatening to flog, slap, arrest and topple isn’t exactly inspiring a state that is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda and his lofty ideals with much fervor. Nor is she sending pleasant signals to those who trusted her with their precious vote. Writer Ruchir Joshi famously remarked on television that Mamata is “not entirely mad, she is highly intelligent, she does have these rushes of blood.” It is time for an image makeover for Banerjee.
A man can change. When Afzal Guru was arrested in December 2001, within days of the attack on Parliament, by a crack squad of Delhi Police, he had appeared an intolerant, rigid and cruel human being who had wanted to hurt India at all costs. In an interview that he gave in police custody to the editor of this publication (who was then with the India Today Group) he appeared totally unconcerned by the enormity of the crime that he had helped plan and execute. It came as no surprise that he was held guilty and sentenced to death first by the trial court, and subsequently by the High Court and Supreme Court. During his days inside Tihar Jail, as he awaited the result of his family’s mercy petition, he transformed into a pious man, at ease with himself, and speaking about higher things of life with the jail staff. He devoured zealously all spiritual literature that came his way, and mastered the art of self-reflection. A certain calmness had descended on him, according to jail insiders. He wished those he met well, and on a regular basis expressed his desire to die rather than rot in prison. Perhaps he’d understood the futility of having planned a cowardly attack that turned out to be meaningless in the end. Even on the morning that he was taken to the gallows, he wished all those around him a good life. And then his own life ended as swiftly as he had plotted the end for others.
It is strange to see the way Indian cricket is being run. The Vice President of the cement firm owned by the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India is also the captain of the Indian cricket team. He is also the captain of the IPL team owned by the same cement firm. It is a disturbing sign to say the least. The BCCI president is someone who should not only be impartial, but also seen to be highly impartial and above favouritism. Recently former selector Mohinder Amarnath created a bit of a storm within the cricketing establishment by saying that Indian cricket captain M.S. Dhoni was saved from losing India’s Test captaincy after humiliating 0-4 defeats in Test matches against England (in England) and Australia (in Australia) because the Board president had overruled the decision of the selection committee. Amarnath wouldn’t have spoken out so strongly without reason, he has been known for straight talk right from his cricket playing days. There is, after all, no smoke without fire. For N. Srinivasan, the Board president, to have offered the job of Vice President of the cement firm to Dhoni last month, and for Dhoni to have accepted it, does not seem right. Can Dhoni ever be replaced as captain of India’s Test team so long as Srinivasan is BCCI president?
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