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After Katju, the...
A colleague asked me a fortnight ago if I knew what had happened to Justice Katju. He had been uncharacteristically silent for the past six months. Was he ill? Had he suffered some family misfortune? Well, Justice Katju is alive, well and, as is his wont, making news. But first a cautionary tale. One afternoon I had gone to see A.B. Vajpayee when he was prime minister, and he was looking glum, not his jovial self. I asked him why. He told me, “After you, Jayalalitha is coming.” He said every time she came she brought a long list of names of bureaucrats, judges, I-T officers she wanted promoted or transferred. Mr Vajpayee said he quietly put the list in his pocket and did whatever he could. Justice Katju’s disclosures are shocking. Happily, they have now been confirmed. The unctuous ex-law minister H.R. Bhardwaj has been caught fair and square. No one will shed a tear at his discomfiture. Former PM Manmohan Singh’s motivations, while indefensible, make sense in view of keeping his government in power. All this, incidentally, is not presented as any justification for what he did.
However, Justice Katju, who is posing many questions, needs to answer a few himself. Why did he wait nine years before going public? Was he, as Fali Nariman suggests, looking for “cheap publicity”? Or was he trying to ingratiate himself with prime minister Narendra Modi, whom he had earlier called Hitler. Justice Katju claims judicial “discipline” prevented him from going public with the information earlier. Ram Jethmalani and Soli Sorabjee counter that, considering the import of the information, he should have resigned as a judge in the national interest to reveal what he has revealed now. Better late than never, says Katju. It is a good answer, but only half an answer.
The silly season for the media in Britain arrives in August. With parliament in recess and the entire cabinet on holiday, there is scarcity of genuine news. As a result, the media highlights stories of a 70-year-old couple arrested for making love in a mini van. If we go by the furore caused by the Ved Prakash Vaidik-Hafiz Saeed interview in Lahore, the silly season seems to have hit our shores too. I also know Mr Vaidik. He is a harmless fellow who floats around the India International Centre accosting people, just as the Ancient Mariner, regaling them with details of his fine deeds. Vaidik has been accused of several crimes and misdemeanours: name-dropping, pretending to be close to Narendra Modi, international mediator, South Asia expert, publicity hound, etc, etc. Are these ‘crimes’ so despicable? Half of Lutyens’ Delhi specialises in them. Come to think of it, all the busybodies denouncing poor Vaidik, indeed demanding he be charged with sedition, are bigger name-droppers and publicity hounds than him. Meeting and interviewing Hafiz Saeed should get him the Ramnath Goenka Award, while RAW should be debriefing him to get vital dope about Saeed’s frame of mind and living environment. Next time I meet Vaidik at the IIC, I will invite him for tea and a hot vegetarian samosa.
Get the Brits on
I never thought it would happen. Harsha Bhogle has met his match. Sitting in the commentary box at Lord’s was a person even more talkative, banal and irritating than our lovable Harsha. And the person happened to be a lady, so I better not write anything sexist. Her name is Isa Guha, which means she has a Bengali father. Why Star Sports hired her will remain a mystery. Ms Guha has an accent which I found impossible to comprehend and her voice is loud and screechy. She makes Harsha sound like an angel. One other grouse. Why is the commentary team full of our own boys? We get enough of Dravid, Ganguly, Manjrekar, Harsha Bhogle doing domestic matches. When an Indian team tours England, one looks forward to the views of Nasser Hussain, David Lloyd, Michael Atherton, Ian Botham. The usual practice used to be to invite one Indian commentator to join the team. Why has that practice been stopped? Finally, what a sight for sore eyes! India has beaten foreign teams at home and overseas mainly because of its spinners. Seeing Ishant Sharma bouncing out top English players with short-pitched stuff and five fielders around the bat, gladdened my heart. Can you imagine: India’s victory at Lord’s was made possible by two medium fast pacers!
A hectic search is on to locate the PM’s tailor/designer. Mr Modi’s Nehru jacket on his trip to Brazil was impeccably stitched and cut. I wonder what the RSS thinks about this pracharak’s wardrobe. I understand Mr Bhagwat is the owner of just two dhotis, which he washes himself, and in case of tear, repairs them himself too!
I enjoyed Bob Willis’s remark that there are more hookers in the English cricket team than in Soho.
Vinod Mehta is editorial chairman, Outlook, and its founding editor-in-chief; E-mail your diarist: vmehta [AT] outlookindia [DOT] com