Heads will roll after CWG, but whose? (Capital Buzz)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

NEW DELHI - Heads will roll for the Commonwealth Games mess - this is the talk in the capital’s political grapevine. But nobody knows for sure who will end up as the fall guys?

There are several hit lists doing the rounds, with Organising Committee chief Suresh Kalmadi topping most of the lists. He is the favourite scapegoat of the high-decibel TV channels too. Some excitable channels have already begun running headlines like “Kalmadi Out”.

But with the new exposure on inexcusable delays in the construction and poor upkeep of the Games Village, some say more heads are going to roll. If speculation in the Congress circles are to be believed, the high-command is unhappy with the performance of several leaders, including Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Sports Minister M.S. Gill and Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy, heads of local bodies and some of the bureaucrats who were entrusted with the job of overseeing venues in August.

Kalmadi won’t be alone at the execution, as an insider quipped.


Bad press stalks Games

With Commonwealth Games managers getting so much bad press, one would have thought they would put on their charming best to woo journalists. But they seem hell-bent on getting bad press.

What began as a ‘privileged’ ride for around 30 journalists ended up in howls of rage as they were stranded for more than an hour with no information on what to do, where to go. Around 250 buses drove from the Games Village to the stadium for a trial run on the newly constructed elevated road joining Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to the Games Village Friday.

A group of journalists, along with Delhi Minister of Public Works Raj Kumar Chauhan, took a ride on the new route. However, the scribes were in for a rude shock as the group, after reaching the stadium, realized that no arrangements were made for their return journey. Chauhan, on the other hand, gave some bytes and zipped away in his Tata Innova, leaving the journalists fuming.

Helpless, some called it the government’s ‘revenge’ for criticizing it while others termed it as another example of pathetic mismanagement plaguing the authorities. Ultimately, many of them took public transport as they sulked their way back to Sarai Kale Khan where their cabs and OB vans were parked.


Germans high on India

Who says India’s image is getting hit by shoddy, chaotic preparations for the Commonwealth Games? There may be sceptics galore, but Germany is not one of them.

Just when Australian Prime Minister Julian Gillard was telling Australians about security risk and Kiwis were said to be mulling pullout from the Games, German Industry Minister Rainer Bruederle was in the capital with an 80-strong delegation, comprising top corporate honchos and members of the German parliament. The enthusiasm about India and its projected emergence as an Asian power was palpable at a party the German embassy hosted for the visiting delegation. “Yes, India will pull it off, we have no doubt about it,” said a German politician, when asked about grim predictions for the forthcoming Games.

Over beer and kebabs, German businessmen were found gushing over the potential of the Indian economy and the surge in two-way investment in days to come. In 2008-09, German companies invested an all-time high of $629 million in India. Germany ranks 8th among foreign investors in India, with total investments of $3.5 billion since August 1991. Bilateral trade has exceeded 13 billion euros.


Games block ‘Dilli Chalo’ for Bihar polls

With 30,000 netas vying for party nominations for the 240-odd seats in the October-November Bihar assembly polls, the political grapevine has it that at least 200,000 people - aspirants, supporters and lobbyists - were planning to charge into Delhi pitching for their favourite candidates.

But the Games have come in the way of their Dilli Chalo plans. The party leaders were quick to cite high security drill at the time of the Games to deter enthusiasts from descending on the capital. Some of the party leaders have fobbed off their supporters with assurances about meeting in Patna. Already regional satraps like Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan have shifted their camp to the Bihar capital and are holding durbars and interviews in the state capital.


What about us, ask athletes.

Scandals, mud-slinging, security alerts, dengue scare. With less than a week to go for the Commonwealth Games, people are talking about everything except the sporting events and athletes, says a genuinely anguished P.T. Usha, India’s sprint queen.

Usha, who had recently attended a few international sports meets as a coach, says the Delhi Games are being discussed everywhere and by everyone, but for all the wrong reasons. She says people have been talking about corruption in the Games, delays in construction, allegedly scandalous hygiene conditions in the Village and even the mosquitoes waiting to inflict dengue on visiting athletes.

But sadly, she rues, there is little talk of sports as such. “After arriving in Delhi, let me hope we will see some good visuals of sportspersons and the genuine spirit of sports and games,” she says.


Ayodhya blues for Congress

The Congress appears relieved but not relaxed over the Supreme Court’s interim stay on the Allahabad High Court’s pronouncement of verdict in the title suit relating to the Ayodhya dispute. The powers that be would apparently like the decision to be postponed as far as possible so as to avoid dangerous religious and political polarization.

Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi has worked hard to raise the party’s profile in Uttar Pradesh and party leaders fear that much of it can be undone if parties, articulating particular solutions to the dispute, regain the spotlight again. With the Commonwealth Games right at the doors, civilian strife in Kashmir and floods unleashing destruction in several parts of the country, the government’s hands are full. Several high-profile visits, including that of US President Barack Obama, are also in the offing.

The Congress is keen that religious temperatures do not rise.


Status quoist Congress!

The Congress had a difficult time last week fending off questions on whether it was a status-quoist party after Prime Minister’s Media Advisor Harish Khare used the expression at a book release function.

Though Khare later clarified that he had made the remarks as a journalist in an academic discussion in the context of the Digvijay Singh government’s 10 years in Madhya Pradesh and that he regarded the Congress as the nation’s most enduring source of stability, the party was bombarded with questions.

Party leaders refused to even get into an informal discussion on the issue till a functionary came up with an ingenuous answer. He said that the Congress was a party of establishment, having ruled the country for almost 55 years, and any such party will be status quoist. “Being status quoist can also mean that we understand the country better than others,” he said.

Some leaders are said to be annoyed with gratuitous remarks and conveyed their distaste, saying the party did not have a role in Khare’s appointment. The media adviser perhaps needs an adviser!, quipped a politician.


Too busy to take call!

Busy sorting out last-minute glitches, Commonwealth Games officials these days have no time for other things.

During a launch ceremony of the air monitoring system for the Games at main venue Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium this week, officials of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) had a tough time finding the site for the ceremony as the Organising Committee (OC) officials were apparently too busy to help them out.

“We were made to enter the stadium from a back door and when they asked about the location of the ceremony OC officials did not help us,” said a ministry official. “The OC official told us that they had lots of work and had no time to tell us directions. This is ridiculous,” said the official who was accompanied by MoES secretary Shailesh Nayak. “Finally we managed to locate the place and the function was held,” he added.


Italians, Indians ‘bhai bhai’

The impressarios and managers of the Games, who are getting daily rap for delays and goof-ups, would surely love this Italian gentleman. Italians and Indians are alike, as both tend to finish their work in haste at the last moment, but still manage to pull off a decent job, said International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) chief Giovanni Bisignani.

“You see Indians and Italians are the same, but our last run is the fastest and we do it then. I hope so your last run is also successful, and anyone but India I feel can pull it off,” said Bisignani when asked about the negative impact a poorly held Commonwealth Games would have on visitors to India. “I hope it stops raining and you guys are able to pull off this miracle.” He was in the capital for an industry event this week.


Missing Bipasha

Bipasha Basu has been zipping and zooming in and out of Delhi very often. But all for work!

She attended the Vogue Fashion Night Out at the plush Emporio mall, followed by the launch of fashion store Vera Moda. She also graced the opening of American fashion store Forever 21 at newly developed Ambience Mall in Vasant Kunj - all of it in two weeks. Just when the capital’s glitterati were getting to see the dusky beauty, Bipasha decided to give them a skip. Those itching for a look of her at a promotional event for her next film “Aakrosh” were sorely disappointed. All the stars, including Ajay Devgn and Akshaye Khanna, were there, but Bipasha was nowhere to be seen.


Anything for aam admi

The Aam admi (common man) mantra is winning new devotees. “We want to serve the ‘aam aadami’ of India,” US ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer said at a recent voluntary service programme in a poor locality. Roemer, a former politician, is known for mixing with crowds and indulging in what many would call populist postures.

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