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Indraprastha

Virendra Kapoor is a political commentator based in Delhi
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IIC votes for change, cap on stent prices and Arun Jaitley's mobility

WE KNOW BY experience that the best and the brightest do not always make winning candidates for elective posts. Be it a national or a provincial legislature or a management body of a premier institution with an electoral college, it is rare for the most qualified to overcome the challenge from the ordinary and the less-than-ordinary. Professional accomplishments seem to matter less than other factors, mostly unspeakable. The recent biennial election in the India International Centre (IIC), the supposed intellectual and cultural hub next to the historic Lodhi Gardens, starkly brought out the flaws inherent in a democratic system of governance—though no better alternative can be found to represent the will of the people. For the election of a trustee and two members of the managing committee, several candidates featured on the ballot. On the first reading, we believed that Ashis Nandy, the well-known public intellectual, would be a shoo-in. His professional profile matched to a T the kind of member the founding charter envisaged for the IIC to admit in its precincts. But in an institution which claims to be teeming with senior high court and Supreme Court judges, top bureaucrats and diplomats, former and serving ministers, senior lawyers and journalists, it was a sorry comment that Nandy barely made with a hair’s breadth of a solitary vote. And that too strongly disputed by the runner-up who complained publicly of ‘fudging’ by the top IIC honcho in order to diddle him of a certain victory. The loser protested that his three votes were arbitrarily voided in order to declare Nandy the winner. Now the defeated candidate has threatened to approach the court, but he is unlikely to get any relief. Nandy’s election is now a done deal but the thinnest possible margin of his win against someone who is far removed from the matters of intellect and scholarship raises questions about the voting preferences of members and their ability to choose the best possible candidate for a two-year term as a trustee of the IIC. Likewise, the election for the managing committee saw at least one below-par candidate win rather comfortably.

PRICES OF CORONARY stents were capped through an official fiat some time ago. This was a welcome move, though the manufacturers, suppliers and hospitals were far from happy. Now, if you believe that the cap on stent prices would have automatically slashed the costs of a heart surgery, you would be totally wrong. Trust us to game the system—any system. We are all Indians, you see. I mention this on the basis of a first-hand account I heard from a close friend. He was admitted to a major South Delhi hospital for the insertion of a lone stent in one of his clogged arteries. Three days later, he was released. But not before he had paid up in toto the Rs 3-lakh-plus bill the hospital had presented him. Yes, the stent cost only a little over Rs 30,000. But the extras, including doctor’s fees, room rent, nursing costs, medicines, etcetera, all totalled up to over Rs 3 lakh. This is more or less the same amount when each stent costs thrice the regulated price. So what is the point? Simple. We are incorrigible—hum sudhrenge nahi (We won’t improve). How can anyone blame politicians for this kind of broad daylight larceny?

EVER SINCE HE became a full-time politician, this is the first election when Arun Jaitley has been obliged to stay put in Delhi. He has just recovered from his twin traumas of a kidney transplant and sarcoma, a soft tissue cancer. Though doctors are satisfied with his recovery, as a matter of abundant caution they have imposed restrictions on his movement. Which means he avoids public engagements as far as possible and shuns hand and body contact even with close friends and associates. Yet, he continues to be involved fully in the BJP’s electioneering, reporting dutifully at the party headquarters in the afternoons to interact with colleagues and media. Before attending to his ministerial duties at the North Block, often early in the morning, he dictates his blogs and comments on the day’s major political stories. Sometimes he makes time to comment on a breaking story emerging from the opposition quarters during the day so that the BJP response is available alongside the rivals’ main headline- making news. Meanwhile, on the rare occasion when he does attend a public function it leads to curious situations. While acquaintances and strangers alike come forward to greet, Jaitley necessarily keeps his hand close to himself, mumbling softly that he is not allowed to come in bodily contact on medical grounds.

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