(Published in Sify.com, on December 23, 2011, retrieved from http://www.sify.com/news/the-year-in-political-gaffes-imagegallery-national-lmxxNidghid.html)
(Photo Courtesy: Sify.com. Unauthorised reproduction of this image is prohibited.)
(Photo Courtesy: Sify.com. Unauthorised reproduction of this image is prohibited.)
Shashi Tharoor finally learnt that the Tweeple’s average vocabulary is so challenged that every unfamiliar word he uses will entail weeks of explanation.
Varun Gandhi disappeared from television screens, and the most noise he made was to offer to present the Jan Lokpal Bill as a Member’s Bill in Parliament.
And as the country’s perceived official controversy-courters spent their 2011 in peace, several others rushed in to take their places, collapsed in a tumble and shoved their feet into their mouths over and over again.
The usual suspects made the cut, but so did some very reticent and circumspect individuals, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
So, here are the top political gaffes in India, from 2011!
Barely a week into the New Year, and around the time the media was wearing out the 1,7,6 and 0 keys, Kapil Sibal came out with a gem – he said there was no loss to the exchequer, no policy flaw, and that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai had done “grave injustice” to the 2G issue, and that his calculations were “utterly erroneous”. He went on to accuse the previous NDA government of causing a loss of Rs 1,50,000 crore instead.
The CAG rebutted the argument, the Supreme Court took Sibal to task, the media strung him up by the thumbs, and then he backtracked. He protested that he had said the CAG was right in finding that Raja had not implemented the First-Come-First-Served (FCFS) policy correctly, and then claimed that television has given rise to “instant coffee journalism” and that what he said had not been reported correctly.
“I said that the FCFS policy bundled the licence with 4 megahertz of spectrum. In other words, anyone who got a licence got 4.4 megahertz of spectrum free. That was the policy since 2003. Raja followed that policy. But you can’t have a FCFS policy and an auction. He’s been prosecuted for that. Please understand what I said.”
Umm, Mr. Sibal, we’re even more confused. But does your new media-gagging policy allow our website to say that?
Stuck between Portugal and Pakistan
Next month, Minister of Foreign Affairs S M Krishna stunned the world – literally. On February 11, 2011, at the United Nations Security Council meet, he contrived to mix up his papers, and read out two paragraphs from the speech of Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado before he realised this wasn’t what he was supposed to be saying.
Later in the year, he would make an even more embarrassing mistake. Responding to a question in the Rajya Sabha, about the release of the wheelchair-bound Pakistani virologist Dr Mohammad Khalil Chisti, who is serving out a sentence for murder in Ajmer, Krishna assumed Chisti was an Indian being held in a Pakistani prison.
Even as the Centre was in consultations with Rajasthan about Chisti, Krishna calmly said Pakistan would have to consider the request on humanitarian grounds and take a lenient view, and that India would pursue this. He precluded all likelihood of a pedal-back by saying, “The question raised is with reference to a particular person who is detained in Pakistan.”
Finally, the Prime Minister intervened and took up the question.
In Defence of Osama
Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh ought to have learnt from the furore over his 2010 remark that late ATS chief and Mumbai terror victim Hemant Karkare had received threats for investigating the role of Hindu outfits in terror incidents.
Or, he ought to have learnt from the repercussions of his questioning the credibility of then Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde.
But he still went and rained on his party’s...err...party. While world leaders were expressing relief over the death of Osama Bin Laden, he announced during a book release that OBL should have been buried in line with the customs of his faith.
The Congress tried its best to dissociate itself from his remarks, but the Opposition and media pounced on them as usual.
Of Begging, Bodies and Rape
Rahul Gandhi went to Uttar Pradesh several times this year. And following in the footsteps of his political mentor Digvijay Singh, he practically conducted a rodeo in a China shop.
In May, Rahul came back from a tour and marched straight into a meeting with Manmohan Singh, claiming women had been raped and farmers murdered. He also alleged that huge heaps of ash containing burnt corpses had been found in villages where farmers were holding agitations for higher compensation for land acquisition. He even came up with a number – 74 heaps of ash. He offered to provide pictures.
But when an angry UP Chief Minister Mayawati demanded proof, none was forthcoming.
Gandhi Juniormost returned to UP towards the end of the year, and managed to offend several sparring groups with a single remark – on November 14, while kick-starting the campaign with a rally in Phulpur, he said, “How long will you beg in Maharashtra (for work)? How long will you work as labourer in Punjab?”
Not only did this not sit well with the Shiv Sena, who sued him for defamation, but it rubbed the people of UP the wrong way too – especially as he was addressing those people who had not left the state for Maharashtra and Punjab. Oops.
Inflation Rise: Let Them Eat Cake?
Well, that’s what the Planning Commission thinks.
As the rate of food inflation set new records in the first few months of the year, the body headed by Manmohan Singh and Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia decided to put an optimistic, if bizarre, spin on the issue.
Apparently, the imbalance between demand and supply that was driving up the prices of food products was caused by people eating more food than they had ever eaten.
No one analysed that for a while, because they were busy picking their jaws off the floor. Or, who knows, they could have been stuffing those with cake.
The PM Diaries Tick Off Neighbours
Off the record, he said, and then Manmohan Singh went on to tell news editors in late June, “We must reckon that at least 25 percent of the population of Bangladesh swear by the Jamaat-ul-Islami and they are very anti-Indian, and they are in the clutches, many times, of the ISI (of Pakistan).” His office posted the transcript online.
Worse, it kept it there for more than 30 hours.
India’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh Rajit Mitter was summoned by the government in Dhaka to explain the remarks, which preceded a three-day visit to the country by Foreign Minister S M Krishna, which itself was a preparatory one for Singh’s planned trip to Bangladesh.
The Ministry of External Affairs apologised, and said the remarks were “not intended to be judgmental”, and added that the “Prime Minister and his Government and the people of India have the greatest affection for the people of Bangladesh and hold our relations with Bangladesh to be of the highest importance.”
Bangladesh foreign minister Dipu Moni glossed over the faux pas during Krishna’s visit, saying, “Such type of mistakes do happen. There is no scope for any misunderstanding now.”
The remarks that were not removed in the same transcript included one on the “hotheads” in the Sri Lankan population, and candid views on Pakistan and China.
Anna-lyse This: ‘Ek Hi Maara?’
Et tu, Gandhian?
Yes, the man in white, the Millennium Gandhi, septuagenarian Anna Hazare went and put his foot in it.
Asked for his reaction to Delhi-based youth Harvinder Singh slapping Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, he grinned, “ek hi maara?” (Just one slap?)
That, coming from an ahimsa-preaching anti-corruption figurehead, sent shockwaves across the nation.
Hazare went into damage control mode – or thought he did – by writing a not-too-gracious blog on it: “For the betterment of the society and the country, I have used strong words many times in the past. Just One Slap? – I admit that I committed violence when I said that. But for the betterment of society, I do not consider this violence as wrong”, he posted.
That didn’t do much to cool tempers.
Pawar responded with, “In the recent past, Shri Hazare by supporting the physical assault on me at a public function has given a new definition to the concept of Gandhism and non-violence”.