Swapan Dasgupta


Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist

The royal battle of political dynasties

There were many battles that were simultaneously being fought in Uttar Pradesh over the past three months. The first was in the constituencies between candidates for the privilege of becoming a Member of the Legislative Assembly. The second was between political parties over the right to form a government in Lucknow. The third was a battle between different claimants to the post of chief minister. Yet, for a large part of the outside world, it was the fourth contest that caught the imagination: an unstated battle royal between the heirs of two political dynasties.

Rahul now ready for the big fight

Elections are one occasion Indian politicians work hard, very hard. This month’s Uttar Pradesh Assembly election has witnessed the Gandhi-Vadra family doing their utmost to come to the aid of the party.
Sonia Gandhi, the matriarch, has played a largely symbolic role in this election, perhaps owing to her indifferent health and her known aversion to dust. But her absence has been duly compensated by the punishing schedule kept by Rahul Gandhi.

The new, but not great, Britain

Earlier this week, the British monarch celebrated the 60th anniversary of her reign.

Inhumanity in Norway

The establishment of an all-embracing “nanny state” has been a cause of concern to many sensible, right-thinking citizens of the European Union (EU). In Britain, to cite just one example, there is anger and exasperation over the way apprehended illegal immigrants have been able to avert deportation by falling back on the EU’s human rights legislation. The so-called right to family life has been successfully used by those who have broken the law to prevent constituent nations from acting against them. So absurd is the situation that illegal immigrants were even able to cite the ownership of a cat and membership of a local cricket team to earn for themselves the right to stay in a country where they had overstayed their welcome.

EC is democracy’s dull censor board

A recent assertion by Union law minister Salman Khurshid at an election meeting in his parliamentary constituency that the Congress was intent on enhancing the reserved quota for backward Muslims from

A game of thrones

The first thing that strikes me about the Lokpal Bill debates in Parliament this month and the discourses on the subject earlier this year is that the Congress has successfully managed to claw back some of its lost political ground. This may not be too apparent to social media enthusiasts or those who have unequivocally put their faith in Anna Hazare’s movement.

United we vote, divided let’s shop

In one of the few meaningful interventions on the state of the economy in this disrupted Winter Session of Parliament, Leader of Opposition (Rajya Sabha) Arun Jaitley imagined he put Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a spot by

History is ignored

The British Empire was above all a celebration of protocol and pageantry-what the historian David Cannadine has called “ornamentalism”. This would explain the somewhat perfunctory treatment meted out by King George V and Queen Mary to the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge of Penshurst, when he stepped on board the Medina in Bombay to welcome the only visit of a reigning King-Emperor to India on December 2, 1911. According to convention, the Viceroy of India was the direct representative of the Crown in India: he governed in the name of the King-Emperor. With the monarch now physically present in the Empire’s prize possession, the Viceroy was automatically relegated to the status of a mere Governor-General.

A house of mirrors

An unintended consequence of the disruption of the first quarter of the Winter Session of Parliament over the decision to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retailing is the growing support among the middle classes for a presidential system of government. The monotonously routine scenes of disruption and adjournments appear to have bred a mood of disgust about the efficacy, not of democracy but of democratic institutions. With India clamouring for both purposeful governance and accountability, it is becoming increasingly clear that India’s MPs lack the wherewithal to uphold lofty ideals.

A king’s ransom

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is an extremely cautious man — a reason why he has endured in the cut-throat world of public life for nearly three decades. Yet, for a brief moment last week he, very uncharacteristically, almost let his guard down. I say “almost” because, like a good politician, Dr Singh was careful enough to leave for himself an exit route.

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I want to begin with a little story that was told to me by a leading executive at Aptech. He was exercising in a gym with a lot of younger people.

Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen didn’t make the cut. Neither did Shaji Karun’s Piravi, which bagged 31 international awards.