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Looking back at 2012

Posted on Dec 28, 05:54PM | IBNS

As curtains ring down on 2012, TWF correspondent Supriyo Hazra takes a look back into different months of the year to pick the issues that captivated the country's attention.

Indian politics

Elections and winners:
Several Indian states, including politically crucial Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, went for Assembly Election in 2012, setting the tone for the 2014 General Elections.

Uttar Pradesh: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was the star of the 2012 assembly polls having led a 224 seat victory of the Samajwadi Party in the 403 member assembly, ousting the Mayawati government and also negating the effect of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the state.
Gujarat: Living up to all expectations and beating all hurdles, Narendra Modi won a sweeping victory in Gujarat with the BJP bagging 115 of the 182 seats while Congress followed as a distant second with 61 seats, a performance poorer than its last show in 2007 though it increased the tally by one seat.

Himachal Pradesh: Congress leader Virbhadra Singh took oath as the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh for the sixth time as the party under his leadership sailed back to power in the hill state.

Punjab: Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) supremo Parkash Singh Badal, who led his party in alliance with the BJP to a big election victory, became the chief minister of Punjab for the second consecutive term after the ruling alliance of SAD-BJP returned to power in Punjab by winning 68 seats in the 117 member assembly and creating history of sorts by becoming an alliance that was for the first time in 40 years voted back to power for a second consecutive term in the state.

Uttarakhand: The state witnessed a remarkable battle as the BJP (31 seats) and the Congress (32 seats) were almost neck and neck in the 70-assembly seat state. Vijay Bahuguna of Congress was sworn in as the Chief Minister.

Manipur: The Congress returned to power in Manipur, a state wracked by insurgency and economic blockades, under the leadership of chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh.
The Congress won 42 of the total 60 seats while Trinamool Congress won seven seats.

Goa: As highly anticipated, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)-Mahrashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) combine formed the government in Goa after marking a historic win by securing 21 seats in the 40-member assembly house. Manohar Parrikar was sworn in as the chief minister.

BJP suffers jolt:

Former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa formally launched his new outfit- Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) after shattering his 40-year-old relationship with the BJP this year. He also resigned from the Karnataka Assembly..
It was a year that BJP president Nitin Gadkari would like to erase from his political career after he was attacked not just by political rivals but also from within his party for his alleged business malpractices. Senior party leaders including Ram Jethmalani, Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha demanded his resignation.

Despite protests and rebellion, the party backed its president and urged its members not to go public views that can hurt the image of the party.

Aam Aadmi's Kejriwal:

Since 2011, veteran social activist Anna Hazare and his former colleague Arvind Kejriwal were seen working hand in hand to put pressure on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to bring a strong anti-graft Lokpal Bill. But in mid-2012 both the leaders parted ways and 'old' Team Anna got disbanded. The long alliance was cut short when Anna refused to support Kejriwal's political ambitions.

Nearly two months after parting with Kejriwal, Anna announced his new core team in November while promising to give Indian political scene a makeover, Kejriwal launched his own political party and named it 'Aam Aadmi Party'.

Kejriwal stirred a storm in the political galaxy as he started levelling corruption charges against several top brass quite regularly. In his series of allegations, Kejriwal's target was Congress president Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra. Kejriwal "exposed" nexus between Vadra and the Haryana government and real-estate firm DLF. Kejriwal then targeted BJP president Nitin Gadkari and "exposed" a nexus between the political leader and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ruling the coalition government in Maharashtra.

The social activist turned activist fought a pitched political battle against External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid over charges of embezzlement brought against the Congress leader's charity trust.

Kejriwal also targeted industrialists Mukesh and Anil Ambani, Jet Airways owner Naresh Goyal and Congress MP Annu Tandon, in his series of high profile corruption and financial impropriety 'exposes' and accused them of holding Swiss bank accounts with black money deposits.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) architect did not spare Narendra Modi ahead of the assembly polls in the state, alleging that Modi favoured Adani group by manipulating bids on power purchase and also bought peace with Congress and judiciary on the acts by doling out sops in forms of lands.

UPA's FDI bouncer

In September India threw open its doors to more foreign investment in retail, aviation and broadcast sectors, while also announcing disinvestment in four state-run industries in moves that were long seen as critical to revive flagging growth and confidence in Asia's third-biggest economy.

The reforms, came just a day after the government also announced cut to its fuel subsidy bill by announcing hikes in diesel prices and a limit to the number of subsidised LPG cylinders sold to households, were met a huge political backlash.

However, the move hurt the government as the relationship between West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's TMC and the UPA touched its lowest point and Mamata withdrew support to the latter over its recent economic reforms, including FDI in multi-brand retail, hike in diesel price and cap on subsidy in LPG cylinders.

In December, the UPA government won on the vote in Parliament on allowing 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail in both the houses.

Coal taint:

After CWG and 2G scams, the UPA government faced another major embarrassment in 2012 when the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report pointed finger at the loss-making coal block allocations when the portfolio was held by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The report by the CAG said 25 private companies received benefits of around Rs 1.86 lakh crore through coal block allocations in various states. The reports mounted pressure on the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress-led UPA government that is already reeling under allegations of corruption scandals. India's main opposition slammed the government over the issue and paralyzed the Parliament during its Monsoon Session.

Away from corruption, Manmohan Singh faced another embarrassing moment when Time magazine in a cover story earlier this year called him an underachiever in its edition for Asia.


Ajmal Kasab hanged

Ending a four-year-long judicial process, Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, lone surviving terrorist of the 26/11 Mumbai attack in 2008, was hanged at Pune's Yerawada Jail in November, four days before the fourth anniversary of the audacious strike from Pakistan-based terror groups that left 166 people dead and over 300 wounded.

India otherwise witnessed a relatively peaceful year so far terror attacks are concerned despite a series of bomb blasts in Pune


Fire at Mumbai Mantralaya

One of the most secured buildings of Mumbai, the imposing state secretariat, known as Mantralaya, was up in flames on Thursday afternoon, killing at least five people and triggering a massive evacuation, including of Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. At least 16 people were also injured while nearly 3000 people had to rush out of the building or be evacuated as Navy choppers hovered in the sky blackened by a thick plume of black smoke billowing out of the Mantralaya where the fire first started in the fourth floor.

Crime, violence and social churning:

Assam violence:

Assam's ethnic violence between the Bodos and Muslim settlers roiled the Northeast and also impacted life across Indian cities over backlash. More than 30,000 people hailing from the northeast fled Bangaluru alone besides other cities in south and western India such as Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad after reports and rumours of imminent attacks on them circulated stemming from the ethnic violence in Assam. The exodus was sparked after at least 78 people were killed in the Assam violence between Bodos and Muslim settlers since July and countless were rendered homeless and sheltered in relief camps. The Indian government banned bulk Short Message Service (SMS) and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) across the country for several days in the wake of mass exodus. The death toll rose further and people in the regions are still scarred and suffering from the ethnic violence.

India, no country for women?

While the nation reacts with collective outrage against the horrific gangrape and brutalization of a young paramedic student in New Delhi, the year itself is one that witnessed some of the shocking attacks on women by sexual predators and insensitive reactons. The Arab Spring like protests on the streets of New Delhi by students, men and women braving police batons, water cannons and teargasing also sent a strong message to the administration on the need to wake up and move.

The Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government and the police were under pressure with a number of rape cases reported from across the state in 2012, with the most shocking being the Park Street rape case since it happened right in the heart of the city's entertainment zone. The 37-year-old mother of two, belonging to the Anglo-Indian community, complained that she was sexually assaulted at gunpoint inside a moving car.

What sparked more anger was when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called it a fabricated incident to malign her government and later, the woman police officer who successfully cracked the case was transferred to another post.

Several rape cases were reported from north Indian city of Haryana, embarrassing Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led state government.

The mob molestation of a woman in Guwahati in July also left the nation shocked which was done full public view after she purportedly got into a scuffle outside a pub. Video clips of a nearly 30-minute-long ordeal filmed by a local news channel went viral on YouTube sparking a national outcry. Eleven men were convicted later in the case.

The dark day:

Asia's third largest economy grappled with an unprecedented power grid failure for two consecutive days plunging half the nation - 19 states- in complete darkness, halting hundreds of trains, stranding miners, blacking out traffic signals and even affecting supply to hospitals. About half of the 1.2 billion people in India were affected by the July 31 as three grids tripped after alleged overdrawing of power by some states.

Italian shooting row:

A shooting incident in the high seas sparked a major diplomatic row between India and Italy over the arrests of two Italian marines who gunned down two Indian fishermen mistaking them as sea pirates in February. By a ruling of the Kerala High Court the Italians could not move out of Kochi. The marines were, however, allowed two weeks' Christmas leave to visit home despite protests in Kerala.


A Bengali in Rashtrapati Bhavan:

Congress leader, chief trouble shooter and former union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee , whom many called the best Prime Minister India never had, became the 13th President of India after a series of political calculations between parties ahead of the crucial polls. Mukherjee defeated rival Purno A Sangma by a huge margin in the Presidential election.

VK Singh's age controversy:

Ex- Indian Army chief General V K Singh, in an unprecedented move, took the government to Supreme Court over the controversy related to his age and retirement after his statutory complaint before defence minister A K Antony with his demand was rejected. Singh claimed that his year of birth is 1951 and not 1950 as recorded by the Ministry of Defence, saying that the error cropped up due to a clerk who had listed his age as 16 instead of 15 in the Union Public Services (UPSC) examination form for National Defence Academy. Singh later withdrew the petition against the government in connection with his age row. The Supreme Court disposed of his petition and it directed Singh to accept May 10, 1950 as his date of birth. Post retirement, V K Singh joined the anti-corruption protest of Anna Hazare and his India Against Corruption.

Tata, bye bye:

Ending his 50-year run in one of India's best-known business conglomerate, Ratan Tata retired as chairman of the Tata Group on Dec 28, paving the way for 44-year-old Cyrus P. Mistry to step in his shoes. Tata headed the group for 21 years and transformed it from a business house to a global brand with high-profile acquisitions abroad and net worth of over USD 100 billion. The focus is now on Mistry. A Director of Tata Sons since 2006, Mistry was appointed Deputy Chairman of Tata Sons in November 2011. Mistry is the youngest son of Irish construction magnate Pallonji Mistry. Mistry will be the sixth chairman of the group and the second not named Tata after Sir Nowroji Saklatvala. Apart from the Tata Group, Mistry also serves as a director on the board of several other firms, including Shapoorji Pallonji and Co., Forbes Gokak, Afcons Infrastructure and United Motors (India).


Bollywood: Of comebacks and weddings

Ending her long disappearance from Bollywood, Sridevi made a comeback with English Vinglish. The film revolved around housewife Shashi Godbole, played by Sridevi, who enrolled in an English language course during a visit to New York so that she could escape the humiliation at home from family for her poor English language skills. Sridevi's performance did not fail to draw her fans attentions as the film was quite successful in dragging movie buffs towards theaters. And surely, Sridevi made a grand comeback.

It was also a year of wedding bells ringing for two beautiful Bollywood ladies.

Vidya Balan, who continued to reign as the supreme 'queen' of Bollywood with her 'Kahaani' forcing Indian audience to fall in love with the actress once again, got married in December. She tied the nuptial knots with UTV Motion Pictures head Siddharth Roy Kapur in a low key ceremony attended by their core group of friends.

Kareena Kapoor, who has a moderate year film release success, finally tied the knots with Saif Ali Khan.
In 2012, the enigmatic Bollywood diva Rekha also became a nominated Rajya Sabha member.


Golden retirements, a combeack and Olympic glory

The big names of Indian cricket, including Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, announced their retirements from international cricket, leaving a deep void and a golden legacy in the world of cricket. And at the end of the year came the big announcement of Sachin Tendulkar to call it quits in the ODI format of the game. Tendulkar made the announcement minutes before the selectors announced the team for the limited overs series against Pakistan starting Dec 25. Tendulkar's decision was surprising and yet on expected lines since he was battling with form. This is also the year when Sachin Tendulkar created history as he along with Rekha became a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha.

The year also witnessed the indomitable spirit of Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh, who battled with cancer and returned to cricket and showed good performance for the country in several series including the ICC World T20. He also played for India in the recently concluded Test series against England. When a tumour was first detected in October last year it was thought to be non-malignant, but later malignancy was detected and the player was taken to US for treatment. The news of Yuvraj's illness triggered shock and sadness among his countless fans, but support started pouring in and the man himself returned to don Indian jerseys again.

Indian Badminton star Saina Nehwal shined on the court in 2012 and won several titles including the Bronze medal at the London Olympics. Apart from the Bronze medal at 2012 London Games, Saina clinched the Indonesia Open Super Series Premier, Denmark Open Super Series Premier, Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold and the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold this year.

India within its standard put up a comparatively better show at the London Olympics this year which was again dominated by the US and China. India ended up collecting six medals comprising two silvers and four bronzes which is the highest number of medals earned from a single Olympic games so far.
In London 2012 after shooter Gagan Narang started the medal hunt wining a bronze in 10 m Air Rifle for men his compatriot Vijay Kumar buttressed the number winning a silver in 50 m rapid fire pistol. Thereafter shuttler Saina Nehwa, boxer Mary Kom and grappler Yuogeswar Dutt collected a bronze each while Beijing bronze medalist Sushil Kumar achieved a rare feat among the Indians by winning silver in 66 kg category wrestling on the concluding day.

Indian hockey team gave its worst performance in Olympics so far losing all their matches and finished 12th out of the 12 teams who took part in this meet.

It was also a year of shame for Indian sports. Hitting Indian sporting world hard, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended Indian Olympic Association (IOA) as the latter failed to host its elections in an independent fashion. What does the ban mean? Well, it means an effective end to IOC funds for IOA and barring any Indian athlete from competing in Olympics under the tricolor. No Indian official can attend Olympic meetings either.

The World This Year:

US shootings

Mindless shootings in United States continued. From movie theatre to gurdwara to school campus, United States lived with the horrific impact of its gun culture.

A masked gunman barged into a movie theatre and shot dead 12 people after blinding the audience throwing smoke bombs during the premiere show of last released Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, at Aurora on the outskirts of Denver in Colorado in July. More than 50 people were injured in the incident. The gunman was identified as 24-year-old James Eagan Holmes.

On Aug 5, a mass shooting took place at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, with a single gunman killing six people and wounded four others. The gunman, Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist, shot several people of the Sikh faith at the temple, and also a police officer.

But for the US the worst was yet to come. In the worst school campus shooting of the country, at least 26 people, including 20 children, were shot and killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut by a gunman on Dec 14. The heavily armed gunman, identified as Adam Lanza was carrying several weapons and wore a bullet proof vest; he also killed himself.

Barack Obama re-elected as the US President:

President Barack Obama won the US presidential poll earning a second term in White House in one of the most tightly fought contests America ever witnessed. Obama defeated Republican contender Mitt Romney to return to power. "This happened because of you," an emotional Obama said after his win. He also said that the best is yet to come from him for Americans.

Egypt approves new constitution:

The heady days of the Arab Spring uprising in 2011 have unexpectedly spawned more unrest, now against President Mohammed Morsi.

The new disputed draft constitution had deeply divided Egypt, with supporters of Morsi backing the new document, and mainly liberal opponents decrying it. Violent street clashes between Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood supporters and the opposition occurred in the country ahead of the voting.

Negating opposition allegations of polling fraud, the Election Commission of Egypt announced that the new constitution was passed as approximately 63.8 percent voters supported it in the two-stage referendum. Around 36.2 percent voters voted against it.

Meanwhile a court in Cairo sentenced former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to life imprisonment in 2012 after it convicted him of playing an active role in the murder of protesters during the uprising that had resulted in the fall of his regime.

Syria bloodbath

The Syrian civil war, also referred to as the Syrian uprising, continues as an ongoing armed conflict between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad's Ba'ath Party and those opposed to it.

The conflict began with nationwide demonstrations coinciding with the Arab Spring with protesters demanding Assad's ouster. The Syrian Army was deployed to quell the uprising, and soldiers were ordered to open fire on demonstrators.

After months of military siege, the protesters evolved into armed rebellion which also includes defected soldiers. However, the rebels have remained fractured, without organized leadership.

The Arab League, USA, European Union, Arab Gulf States and other countries have condemned the use of violence against the protesters.

According to various sources, between 45,050 and 57,745 people have been killed, of which about half were civilians, but also including 23,530-25,325 armed combatants. By October 2012, up to 28,000 people had been reported missing, including civilians forcibly abducted by government troops or security forces. According to the UN, about 1.2 million Syrians have been displaced within the country.

Royal pregnancy and a tragedy:

Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife of British throne's successor Prince Williams, is expecting. The revelation came this December, ending speculations of months over a possible royal pregnancy.

But the news of royal pregnancy was followed by a tragedy as well when an Indian- origin nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, apparently killed herself after falling prey to a prank call involving Middleton. After convincing 46-year-old Saldanha, who answered the prank call at the London hospital, two Australian RJs tricked the nurse into disclosing details of Kate, who had been admitted with acute morning sickness. The call was broadcast in Australia and consequently, it went viral. Since then ,the RJs have been removed, they have publicly apologised and the broadcasting company offered a considerable amount of money to Saldanha's family as compensation but the larger question of invasion of privacy in this tell-all age remains and has led to intense public debate.