CPI(M)’s Third Alternative: The Right Idea, But the Wrong People?

The CPI(M) has mooted the idea of third alternative outside of the Congress and the BJP. At first it sounded like yet another pre-election gimmick. However, Sitaram Yechuri of the CPI(M) Politburo has clarified with some interesting points.

“Our stand is non-Congress and anti-BJP. Elaborating on third alternative, he said this would be formed based on three policies — opposing communalism, opposing “anti-people content of economic reforms” and opposing all efforts to make India a subordinate ally of US imperialism.

“This is not merely an electoral front. Differences between a front and alternative is that the former is a cut and paste job for elections. We are working on an alternative, which is for the long term and is built on a policy framework,” he said.

On the one hand it is admirable that a much needed third-force is being considered based on ideology rather a politics of opportunism. But the reality that such a credible force can be put together with the CPI(M) (of all parties) at the helm seems unlikely for many reasons.

  • Barring Kerala and West Bengal, the CPI(M) hardly has a strong presence in the rest of the country to lead such a force. The electorate in Kerala has consistently favored the opposition in every election. Going by this the CPI(M) in Kerala will probably be on its way out in the time for the next polls.
  • The ideology behind the third front is primarily a communist agenda. Its hard to see how the other non-BJP, non-Congress forces would primarily subscribe to a communist agenda (apart from the anti-communalism stand).
  • Sooner or later the CPI(M) will have to resort to a”cut and paste” operation of political opportunists merely to make the numbers in time for the polls. A delicate balance between cut and paste and an ideology based third force is hard to accomplish without a stronger country-wide presence (aprt from the two states).
  • With the BJP to the far right (despite Mr. Advani’s best efforts to draw it to the center), and the Congress on the left of center (or wherever Rahul Gandhi plans to take it!), a far Left alternative appears unlikely to gain momentum no matter how well intentioned unless the CPI(M) intends to move more to the center of the political spectrum.

Lastly, it begs the question as to why the CPI(M) has chosen to embark on this third front after being part of the UPA for the last four years.

Chennai Test: SA vs India

After four days and over 1000 runs being scored, and a bunch of records being broken, the Chennai Test seems destined to end in a draw. A century in both innings by Amla, another score in the 90s by McKenzie and a few more wickets for Kumble, and a boring draw is all that remains (I am trying my hand at the prediction game to add some excitement to this Test!:-).

A Disgraceful Pitch

The South African team is composed four excellent fast bowlers and one mediocre spinner. The Indian team on the other hand has three very capable spinners. In this circumstances, playing on a home ground it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the most sensible thing to do at least for the first Test was to prepare a turning track. Instead, the Chennai pitch was a perfect example of a Test cricket-killer. The stadium was far from full and if more pitches of this nature are served up, Test cricket in India is in for some serious setbacks from a spectator interest point of view. Someone has to take responsibility for this disgraceful pitch.

Viru Strikes, Again

Virendar Sehwag is the perfect “hit or miss, all or nothing” player. When he hits, he hits big. When he misses he can be quite a disappointment. But two triple hundreds is no mean task. The man was at the top of his game and completely overshadowed every other batsman in the Test match. Not to take away any credit from the man for his outstanding performance, but clearly Test cricket suits his aggressive style. The speed at which he scores the runs at the top of the order can change the complexion of the game. In fact, after he was out India struggled and lost the initiative and hence the ability to gain the upper hand. India would do well to retain him in the Test team for the foreseeable future. At the same time, his form in Tests must not be misconstrued as a sign of ODI form. He has been given way too many chances in ODIs and his selection in the ODI team based on track record remains highly questionable.

Dravid, Solid and Reliable As Always

Rahul Dravid continues to be the best bet when it comes to consistency, solidity and reliability. On a dead pitch like this on, there was no way Dravid was going to pass up on an opportunity to work his way back to form. He ground his way to a century meanwhile crossing the 10,000 Test run mark. Hats off to him for his continued consistency. Critics would argue that he slowed the run rate. But as a counter point one could easily argue that had he not scored as much as he did, India might not have taken the lead. In fact, if the intent was to up the ante, the Indian captain could have very well sent in Dhoni at number three. The very fact that there was no change in the batting order is an indication that the Indian captain preferred a “safety first” approach.

VVS and Ganguly Should Swap Positions

It is sad to see VVS having to play with the tail. He is such a free stroking batsman that big blows don’t come come naturally to him. He seems to lack the savvy required when it comes to scoring with the tail at the other end, something Saurav Ganguly might be far more adept at doing. VVS must be sent higher up the order, ahead of Ganguly at a minimum.

Is RP Singh Still Injured?

RP Singh’s performance in this Test match has been very disappointing. After a good tour of Australia, it is hard to imagine how poorly he has performed here. It sure seems like a bowler returning before he was fully fit. India would be more than happy to have Ishant Sharma back for the second Test. Hopefully, his recovery is for real and not another sham.

Ten Tips To Be Better Prepared For Life-threatening Emergencies

10. Make sure you and your spouse share phone numbers of close family members and friends in your cell phone contact list.

09. It is a good idea to enable both your cell phones to make international calls especially if you have immediate relatives overseas. This service is turned off by default on most phones in the US.

08. When you go to the emergency room there is no needs to take clothes along because if you are admitted they’ll ask you to change to hospital attire.

07. If you are admitted to the ICU in all probability it is very serious. The doctors never tell the patients how serious they are to avoid setting off a panic/anxiety attack. Also, they don’t call the family until it gets very critical.

06. Use email to communicate with friends and family about the progress of the sick person. Phone calls can be hard to handle during such crisis. Besides, hospitals insist on limiting the use of cell phones.

05. Too many friends showing up at the hospital (no matter how well-intentioned) is not of much help especially if they are not good at handling crisis situations themselves. It is a delicate balance between providing much needed moral support and becoming an overhead yourself! Besides, only immediate family are allowed to see the patient.

04. If you are self-employed it is a good idea to get some decent insurance (don’t cut corners on the premiums) especially if you are over the age of 35. You might think that you are healthy and barely visit the Dr. but when a big emergency strikes, medical costs in the US are so outrageous you could be completely wiped out.

03. Always have a family friend (or have alternate arrangements in place) who can pick up and drop off the kids at school (or other classes). You might need to do some paper work at school (depending on the school) to make this possible. Also, kids are not allowed in the hospital. So if you take them there they will have to remain in the lobby!

02. When you are feeling really sick, don’t hesitate to go to the emergency room. Most of us think of it as a “big pain” to go there. But its better to be safe than sorry.

01. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams off” — Don’t hesitate to reach out and seek the prayers of friends and family.

Note: All of the above are relevant in the US and based on unfortunate personal experiences of mine. Depending on where you live you might need to tweak these appropriately to your environment. The reality is that emergencies strike everywhere and at anytime and it doesn’t hurt to be at least aware if not prepared.

The Sad Case of Dinesh Karthik

Dinesh Karthik broke into the national cricket scene (after his heroics at the under-19 level) when he engineered a win for India in a T20 game against South Africa. Suddenly he was an all purpose cricketer. Before even he realized he was India’s opening batsmen in Tests despite the fact that he was never a regular opener even for his home state of Tamil Nadu! However, he had a good tour as opener in both against Bangladesh and England. But a poor series against Pakistan in India. Unfortunately for him, Rahul Dravid (who showed more faith in him than any other captain) suddenly stepped aside from both Test and ODIs.

Test Cricket

A change in leadership in both forms of the game brought new challenges for the young man. In Tests Kumble did not have the same level of confidence in him as his predecessor. Kumble preferred a regular opener like Wasim Jaffer as first choice. Next, he preferred a wild card in Virender Sehwag. And as a third resort he preferred Irfan Pathan! Going by this, it is more than likely that if Sehwag or Jaffer were to fail, in all probability Kumble would prefer a regular opener such as Aakash Chopra or Gautam Gambhir. In short, Dinesh Karthik’s days as an opener are pretty much over. His only hope of playing Test cricket is if Dhoni were injured. Given the amount of cricket that Dhoni plays these days the likelihood of this possibility is pretty high.

The biggest piece of bad news is that India promoted someone to the Test opener level when they didn’t really belong there in the first place. Karthik is a classic utility cricketer (an amazing talent capable of adapting very well to pretty much any situation) suited to the ODI and T20 formats and to a lesser extent in Tests. He makes a good keeper and valuable lower order batsman in Tests at best.

The ODIs and T20s

Dinesh Karthik’s prospects in these forms of the game dimmed significantly with the rise of MS Dhoni. With Dhoni as captain a second wicket keeper getting a break in the playing eleven is next to impossible. Karthik got a chance in the T20 match in Australia in which he failed. With that his hopes of getting a break in the ODIs in Australia further vanished. When Yuvraj was injured Dhoni chose to experiment with a “fresh off the plane” Manoj Tiwari despite the fact that Karthik had been in Australia for over a month and had a lot more exposure to the conditions. Besides an in form Suresh Raina was still cooling his heals looking for a return to the ODI team.

In short, the only way Karthik can make it to the playing eleven in T20s or ODIs is if Dhoni were not playing. With Dhoni as captain, this scenario is highly unlikely unless he were injured. In this scenario, Karthik could soon find himself out of the T20 and/or ODI teams despite the fact that his skills are best suited to these forms of the game.

For the moment, Karthik’s best bet is to continue to perform at every stage both as a keeper and as a batsmen. His performance in the IPL for instance will be key for his future prospects despite the fact that it is of T20 format. The other possibility is that Dhoni himself and the Board might mutually decide to use Dhoni selectively in order to prolong his career and keep him injury free. In which case, Karthik should get the odd chance from time to time until another young keeper stakes his claim to the spot.

Barack Obama on Race


Another brilliant speech by Barack Obama. Once again, Obama showed that he could use his oratorical skills to communicate and reach out to people across ethnic and racial lines.

It is impressive how he addressed the raging Rev White controversy by condemning his words, yet explaining his closeness to the man. A sure sign of honesty and self-confidence in a politician.

He has proven his ability to respond and indulge in “damage control” in a more than conventional way. This will be put to test more than ever where he to become the Democratic candidate. However, he first he has to translate this oratorical skill to primary victories in non-caucus states and gain the nomination.

Overall his speech was nicely blended with his pet themes of unity and change. An impressive piece of speech writing and as always, superbly delivered.

Click here for a full text of the speech.

Top 10 Signs you suffered food poisoning at a Chinese Restaurant

10. You are panting for breath in the ICU but going “Hoo Naan, Hoo Naan”

09. You remember being Client #9 (oops, table #9) but are wondering how you became victim #1.

08. While in the ICU you recall seeing your grandma who died 25 years back pacing up and down your ancestral home but instead of the customary chant of “Rama, Rama” you hear her saying “Mapo Tofu”.

07. You are bewildered to read a front page report in the NY Times where the Bush Govt. accuses the Al-Qaida for food poisoning cases in the Chinese restaurants in the US.

06. Your 55-year old sweet Filipino nurse in the hospital keeps telling you “Sir, your Mapo Tofu breakfast is ready. You can have Mongolian chicken for lunch!”

05. The dreaded 3 am phone call comes not to the white house but to your house and your spouse has to answer, there is no right or wrong answer and Dr. at the other end simply says “We are not sure we can!”.

04. You see these strange visions of John McCain dancing around a fire with Ronald Reagan gesturing to you and saying “My friend, come join the Reagan Revolution we can kick some Chinese ass but you ain’t getting universal healthcare”

03. You are watching the Obama girl but she is singing in Chinese!

02. You see Shahrukh Khan dancing around on a cricket pitch filled with rupee notes and signs for the IPL but strangely enough he suddenly stops and says in his characteristic style, “Chi–Chi-Chi-neeeese food ka-ka-kaaa jawaab nahin!”

01. You are convinced that Tom Friedman’s flat world actually means you could go to any part of the world eat Chinese food and find yourself flat on your back in the Emergency Room (ER) fighting for your life.