Swapan Dasgupta


Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist

Wise men’s folly

For a long time, until voter identity cards became an obligatory feature of elections, horror stories of electoral malpractice were routinely heard in West Bengal. There were instances of entire mohallas being excluded from electoral rolls; there were tales of non-Left parties being prevented from stationing polling agents; and, finally, there was an epidemic of organised impersonation.

Warning bells

If the United Democratic Front had won the Assembly election in Kerala a little more convincingly, a beleaguered Congress Party at the Centre would have been justified in projecting the results of the five state Assembly elections as a morale booster. Unfortunately for the harried Manmohan Singh government, that was not to be.

Pak apocalypse when?

When he made his momentous broadcast at 11 am on September 3, 1939, to announce that Germany had not replied to the ultimatum served on it and that “consequently, Great Britain and Germany were at war”, Neville Chamberlain didn’t quite rise to the occasion. A character in Alan Bennett’s Forty Years On is recorded as remarking

Rekindling romance

Sometime in the late-1970s, I read a tribute to one of the iconic Communist intellectuals of West Bengal — an academic who shaped many impressionable minds during his long tenure at Kolkata’s Presidency College. As evidence of his determined attachment to the then undivided Communist Party, the article narrated an anecdote dating back to the late-1940s centred on P.C. Joshi, a former party general secretary.

Paying for the past

Every clever politician is only too aware that a clever diversion is a wonderful way to shift attention from the issue at hand. Earlier this week, on his first visit to Pakistan after assuming office, British Prime Minister David Cameron craftily exploited the huge reservoir of “anti-imperialist” sentiment in the subcontinent. Speaking to students of the Islamabad Institute of Technology, no relation to the IITs across the border, he was asked what role the United Kingdom should play in resolving the Indo-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir. “

Curious case of cables

One of the delightful gifts I gave myself last Christmas was a curious collection of diplomatic despatches. Parting Shots is a collection of what its editor Matthew Parris has called “an extraordinary beast”, the Valedictory Despatch of an envoy before he retired to walk the Labrador on the South Downs. The valedictories (as they were called) weren’t just a confidential report to the minister or permanent secretary; convention deemed that they also be circulated to colleagues in the diplomatic service.

The swing state of Pak

The wave of concern over the deteriorating situation in Pakistan nudges me into invoking an impish letter to the Spectator magazine published last month. In his brief communication, one Andrew Macdonald from London observed that the unrest in Egypt reminded him of what a “splendidly right-of-centre academic” at Reading University once told him: “You know, Mr Macdonald, there is no advertisement for colonial government like post-colonial government”.

Legally speaking

There was something eerily predictable about the reactions to February 22 special court verdict on the gruesome Godhra killings of February 26, 2002 — the incident that triggered the equally horrible communal riots in Gujarat.

Melting pot menu

Two years ago, I was invited to a seminar at a grand Cambridge college. As is customary on these occasions, the seminar was to conclude with a formal dinner that sounded promising. Curiously, just before dinner I was discreetly told by a co-participant to “tank up” at an improvised “control room”. Apparently, some participants had

Literary noises

There were just two complaints I had of the Jaipur Literature Festival where I spent three very fulfilling days this week.

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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.