Wednesday, June 21, 2017

NDA vs UPA

In a democracy, comparison between different parties or alliances in government at different times is inevitable and also useful. UPA was in power for 10 years; the present NDA has been governing for the past 3 years.

There are some obvious differences like surfeit of scams during UPA times and initiation of inflammatory issues when NDA is in power. Beyond the obvious, there is one basic difference which may decide if NDA will be voted back to power in the next general elections.

UPA was shrewd (?) or pragmatic (?) or indifferent enough not to attempt any experiment, call it reform or not, that would require widespread co-operation from the public. UPA's major achievement as its leaders are fond of saying was introduction of Right to Information Act. A crucial measure, no doubt, but it was easy to implement and nobody was adversely affected at least initially. When difficulties started, many subterfuges emerged heralding adoption of various dilatory tactics. RTI did not require people's forbearance for its successful implementation.

NDA however has charted a different course. It has embarked on two major missions which require(d) total and unflinching readiness on the part of people to take suffering in their stride. Objectives of Demonetisation were hazy but the problems it created for the people were tangible and crystal-clear. It is a tribute to Modi's shrewdness that he could not only weather this self-created storm but could successfully project it as a mission against all evils, be they terrorism, black money or inflation.

GST is the next big experiment that is bound to create a lot of teething problems. Its introduction is certainly called for. One does not know if UPA deftly avoided belling the cat though it made a lot of noise about it. No doubt, Modi strongly opposed GST when he was a chief minister. If GST is implemented without snafu, Modi will be a little more sure of retaining power post 2019. Would he have the nerve to come up with one more major experiment before 2019?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Changing times

There was a time when people had utmost faith in banks. It was not unusual for people to seek advice from their bankers how to invest their hard earned money. Any money kept with banks was deemed to be 100% safe.

Post 2007, things have changed drastically. It has become difficult to distinguish between bankers and politicians in terms of their trust-worthiness. Frauds committed by and on banks have become one too many.

I am tempted to write this because today when I saw a headline in NYTimes "DealBook: Barclays Charged with Fraud", I was least interested in reading the details. I was only wondering 'What is new in a bank committing a fraud?'

Would banks ever regain their credibility?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Ram Nath Kovind

Barring unforeseen events, Mr.Ram Nath Kovind will be our next President. Little known outside BJP (in fact, little known in BJP also), he is presently the Governor of Bihar. A non-controversial politician (oxymoronish?), he was a member of Rajya Sabha for twelve years.

He was practising law in Delhi. He dutifully handled cases of the marginalised sections. Obviously, he is not greedy for money. He is a dalit and he continues to evince interest in the welfare of dalits unlike many dalit leaders who care little for other dalits once they become rich and powerful.

It is evident that Kovind is not in any way unfit to be our President. BJP and Modi could of course have chosen a better candidate. But, politics being what it is today, we ought to be happy that they have not selected a worse candidate. He will be the second dalit to be our President. K.R.Narayanan was the first. KRN and  RNK share an interesting anagrammatic relationship.

Yet another terror attack

The incident at the Finsbury Park mosque in London in which one Muslim worshipper was killed and several wounded shows that terrorists of different hues are becoming active. This is an ominous sign that things are going out of control.

Terrorism by or against Muslims deserves strongest condemnation. This is no time for political correctness. Police should handle all such incidents with maximum seriousness, bring culprits to book and release their investigative reports for public understanding. Any person preaching violence has to be immediately arrested, Right to freedom of speech is not a licence to provoke hatred among people.

It is particularly sad that London is becoming a hotbed of terrorism. Does it mean that the salad bowl approach to immigration is failing?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Letter from a concerned reader"

One Mr.J.Mathrubootham who identifies himself only as a retired senior executive of a nationalised bank writes a weekly column in The Hindu. It appears in the Sunday Magazine section.

Titled "Letter from a concerned reader", this column justly trivialises what we normally (mis)take as important issues. The writer expresses his humorous thoughts conversationally and interestingly. Inclusion of this weekly contribution is a pleasant surprise from The Hindu which is normally associated with sedate seriousness and staid statements.

This is a double surprise because bankers are considered to be too serious to be concerned with lighter moments of life and flippant observations on those moments.








Saturday, June 17, 2017

Who is our next President?

It may be difficult to get a President like Dr.Radhakrishnan or Dr.Zakir Hussain, both eminent educationists. But does that mean that we need to accept a mediocre person who is least unacceptable to various political divisions?

A person like E.Sreedharan, the Metro Man, is the need of the hour. He is known for honesty, hard work and purposeful action. An equally good choice would be M.S.Swaminathan, the renowned agricultural scientist. Prime Minister Modi has a panache for springing surprises. This time he must also ensure that the presidential nominee is capable of acting without political fear or favour. He or she must also be knowledgeable about duties and responsibility of the First Citizen of the country.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

PNB's uniqueness

I worked in Punjab National Bank for 21 years. It is not surprising therefore that any news about PNB interests me. It is the only bank in India whose Chairman and CEO (Managing Director) both have the same name: Sunil Mehta. This peculiarity may occur in family-owned companies. This does not seem to be the case in any non-family owned company in India.

The Chairman had earlier worked with Citibank and AIG. The MD came to PNB via Allahabad Bank and Corporation Bank. Placing both of them in the same bank is an interesting experiment.

PNB which was once considered a robust bank has fallen on difficult days. It has skipped dividend for the past two years. It's anybody's guess when its fortunes will revive.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Theresa May and Narendra Modi

Theresa May seems to have bungled in calling elections early. Her blunder regarding 'dementia tax' has cost her heavily. Perhaps, she could not have foreseen all this.

There are interesting parallels between May and Modi. Both rely heavily on a small set of advisers. Both keep an uneasy distance from their party leaders and parliamentarians. Even while conducting meetings with legislators, these two leaders do not get too close to their party men. Modi gets physically closer only with foreign leaders. This aspect of Modi has started attracting media attention. May and Modi are right of centre economically.

There is one stark difference though. Modi relishes addressing humongously large gatherings which is not May's cup of tea.

Modi excels when in crisis. His handling of repercussions of demonetisation is still fresh in our memory. Will Theresa May excel similarly now that her party has lost majority and Brexit negotiations are round the corner?

AI apologises to Governor

An international flight of Air India was delayed for take-off by two hours in Kozhicode. This is hardly any news. The Governor Justice Sadasivam of Kerala was travelling by that flight.

Newspapers have reported that Air India apologised to the Governor for the delay in departure. This delay was caused by the delay in an incoming flight. Apology has to be tendered to all passengers. Why should AI apologise only to one passenger ? Is India a feudal state?

Monday, June 05, 2017

Evolution of a WhatsApper

It seems impossible today to live without WhatsApp facility. All users of WhatsApp are not alike in the way they use this facility.

Any WhatsApp user evolves over a period of time. Following stages of evolution are noteworthy.

Stage 1: When we are initiated into WhatsApp usage, we only read others' postings on WhatsApp. We do not dare to start posting rightaway.

Stage 2: Once we develop a taste for this facility, we begin to post information and our views. Frequency of postings increases as we become more addicted.

Stage 3: Then we reach a situation when we stop reading postings of others. Instead we forward postings in other groups in our group without knowing or caring to know who was the author in the first place.

Stage 4: We have now graduated to a level wherein we are not expected to read any postings. We end up forwarding others' postings in the same group. Now users in Stage 1 start wondering how they are coming across the same message again and again.

Stage 5: When our evolution is complete, we start forwarding the messages we had earlier forwarded in the same group.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Terror attack in London

It is tragic that that terror events are becoming more frequent. Saturday's attack in London Bridge and Borough Market are absolutely shocking.

Politicians in U.K. have reacted sensibly. Read what Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Labour Party, has said:

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “We are all shocked and horrified by the brutal attacks in London. My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have died and the many who have been injured. Today, we will all grieve for their loss.
“I would like to thank the police and emergency services for their bravery and professionalism in acting to save lives and deal with these appalling acts of terrorism, as well as NHS staff and members of the public who sought to protect others.
“The Labour party will be suspending national campaigning until this evening, after consultations with other parties, as a mark of respect for those who have died and suffered injury.
“Those who wish to harm our people, divide our communities and attack our democracy will not succeed. We will stand together to defend our common values of solidarity, humanity and justice, and will not allow terrorists to derail our democratic process.”

This opposition leader has not taken advantage of the terror attack to undermine the chances of the ruling party in the ensuing General Election. Can we ever expect such maturity from our political parties? Unfortunately, in India every calamity is an opportunity to embarrass the government of the day. It may be offensive, but true, that the British took away political decency with them when they departed from India.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Counter-terrorism is not terrorism

There is a lot of hullabaloo over a soldier of the Indian army tying a stonepelter in the bonnet of his vehicle with a view to ensuring safe passage for officials on poll duty. The army is facing a tough situation when it is called upon to maintain law and order which the terrorists are on a crusade to destroy.

An army man cannot be denied the right to protect himself and law-abiding citizens. If agitators can pelt stones and subject soldiers to all kinds of insults, the army cannot turn pacific. So-called liberal media will be well advised to shed its misplaced empathy for those out to terrorise the nation. It is not expected of the media to align itself with terrorists.

Lord Ganapathi and Sage Vyasa

Lord Brahma was sought by Sage Vyasa to suggest how to convert his thoughts which formed the Mahabharata into writing. Brahma told him to approach Lord Ganapathi whose blessings are sought for any new venture.

Vyasa prayed to Ganapathi who consented to write the entire epic for Vyasa subject to one condition. Vyasa should narrate without interruption so that Ganapathi would never need to wait. Lord Ganapathi was a speed writer. So Vyasa planned a ruse and requested the Lord he must write any verse only after understanding it. Ganapathi agreed.

Whenever Vyasa needed rest, he would come up with a verse difficult to comprehend. Thus, Vyasa would gain some breathing time. There are 8,800 such difficult verses which even today pose a challenge to scholars for interpretation.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Justices Katju and Karnan

Any comparison between Justice Karnan and Justice Katju is likely to be dismissed in limine as absurd. But there is a stark similarity between the two.

Both have an obsessive longing to be noticed by the public. Just like a child would throw a tantrum just to attract the attention of its parents, these honourable judges come up with bizarre statements which cannot be ignored by the public.

There is of course a noticeable difference. Katju's legal acumen is far sharper. So he tends to raise subtle points of law, give them a twist and await people's anger or approbation. Karnan unfortunately seems to be deficient in legal expertise and therefore adopts a different course. He raises issues of probity of individual judges and tries to draw the attention of PM or the President.

There may be truth in Karnan's allegations but he is unable to follow it up properly like the Bhushans because of his legal knowledge deficit. The attention-seeking behaviour of both of them, though infantile, provides huge entertainment.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Aadhaar

BJP has not crowned itself with glory in the issue relating to aadhaar. While in opposition, BJP was anti-aadhaar. In power, they are its crusaders.

On one hand, the government makes PAN Card invalid if it is not linked to aadhaar by June 30th. On the other hand, they also claim June 30 is not a deadline. The Supreme Court has repeatedly expressed its view that aadhaar should not be mandatory till the pending case is disposed of. Government does not seem to care.

Poor people cannot avail social subsidies in the absence of aadhaar number. But aadhaar is not compulsory. Strange are the utterances of the government.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Triple Talaq

The Supreme Court is now hearing various legal luminaries on legality or otherwise of the Islamic practice of triple talaq. The central question is whether it is a religious practice and if so is it an essential religious practice.

Kapil Sibal is bending over backwards to prove that it is both. The argument as reported in The Hindu runs on these lines:

"Triple talaq is a matter of faith for Muslims similar to how it is a matter of faith for Hindus that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Why is the Centre so keen to raise doubts about the constitutional morality of Muslims' faith in the 1400-year-old practice of triple talaq when no such doubts have been raised about the Hindus' faith that Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram? Who is the government to say that triple talaq, evolved through social and family norms, is “un-Islamic”? senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for AIMPLB, asked a five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar."

It is absurd to equate a matter of belief with a matter of practice. The belief that someone was born in a place does not jeopardise anyone. But a practice that impinges on one's right is capable of landing a person in deep trouble. Triple talaq is something that is practised and some claim that it is unilaterally deleterious to the interests of affected women. It is accepted that it is not the only way of divorce. Therefore, if the court is convinced that it is repugnant to gender-justice, it has to be outlawed.

Kapil Sibal further argues:
"“For example, the husband is cruel and a drunk. The woman is fed up and wants instant triple talaq, but the husband refuses it to torture her further. She has no money to go to the courts. She is left to live her life in utter despair. If the society intervenes and her husband gives her instant talaq, you will call it illegal. So, there are many complexities, which the Supreme Court cannot go into in a matter of just six days. Personal law relates to personal relationships,” he argued."

This is where the learned advocate really bends over backwards. In the process he gives an incredible and utterly unlikely example. When we try to take care of an extremely unlikely event like the far-fetched example provided by Sibal, we are likely to sacrifice the interests of a preponderant majority and this is what happens here.
In any bilateral relationship such as marriage, conferment of right to one party and not to the other party is prima facie perverted and cannot claim legal protection.


Chidambarams in the dock

BJP has sounded the political bugle for the 2019 general elections. Chidambarams and Lalus are easy targets to ignite people's misgivings about UPA.

It is not unusual for sons to tarnish the image of their father. This is exactly what Karti Chidambaram has been doing for a long time. If Modi's government has not taken punitive action against Karthi for three long years, there must be some deliberate purpose behind this. The government is interested not in punishing the culprits but only wants to utilise the shenanigans of these culprits to shower electoral advantage on BJP.

This may be good politics. But it is bad governance. It is an open secret that Karti Chidambaram was a power-broker when his father was the Finance Minister. Chidambaram should not have allowed his fatherly affection to blind his eyes to his son's activities.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

China's OBOR project

China has launched an extremely ambitious infrastructure project costing $ 1 trillion over 4 years spanning 60 countries. This 'One Belt One Road' project is expected to employ millions of Chinese labourers in multiple countries.

China has figured that that it is sitting on the infra tiger and it cannot afford to get off lest its unemployment problem should go out of hand. This biggest infrastructure project ever attempted will certainly pose expected and unexpected problems. If China were a democracy, this would not have taken off.

This is an opportunity for China to offload a part of its huge forex kitty. In the process, many Asian and African countries are also forced to spend large sums of money. Social friction in many nations will be unavoidable. It will be interesting to watch how China executes this massive project.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Impeach Justice Karnan

Justice Karnan has crossed all limits in his egregious insubordination to the Supreme Court. The Hon.Judge is evading arrest ordered by the apex court.
The judge has taken the view that only Parliament can discipline him. This is an opportunity for our worthy parliamentarians to show their solidarity with the judiciary by commencing impeachment proceedings and conclude expeditiously. Will they?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Impossible trinity

Actor Stephen Fry was asked what he might say to God at the gates of heaven. He replied, "I'd say , bone cancer in children? How dare you create a world to which there is such misery that is not our fault? It's not right.It's utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain?" (quoted from Economic Times, May 11th).

Thirukkural says in chapter 107, stanza 2: "If God has ordained that someone should beg for his living, let Him not exist."

Both Fry and Thiruvalluvar are not atheists, otherwise they would not refer to God. So, any theist will be pained by existence of pervasive and inexplicable injustice. Since God by definition is all-knowing and all-powerful,we expect that He would not let anybody suffer without reason. But in many cases, we are unable to find the reason. This dilemma can be solved in one of two ways. One, we may turn atheistic. Two, we may accept there are reasons unknown to us.

Since most of us would like to retain our faith in God, the second option needs to be explored. If a child is born physically challenged, we may rationalise it saying that it is a consequence of bad deeds in an earlier birth. This leads us to believe in rebirths. If we have faith in God and are puzzled by apparent injustice, the missing element that solves the puzzle is 'rebirth'.

It is therefore reasonable to conclude that 1)faith in God, 2)expectation of justice and 3)disbelief in rebirth cannot all of them exist together simultaneously.

Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor is furious that Arnab Goswami is trying to nail him in the case of unnatural death of his wife, Sunanda Pushkar. From day one, it was evident to everyone who looked at the chronology of events and how political pressure was used to obfuscate the facts that it was a murder, plain and simple.

It is despicable that the police instead of doing their job of investigating played a pliable role. The new tapes put out by Arnab's Republic need to be analysed by the police without any bias if truth is really to be discovered.

Tharoor's conduct in the incident has created a lot of suspicion. Following three tweets from him are only to be expected. He is trying to save his skin. What is the police waiting for? Tharoor claims he has nothing to hide from the police. He has already destroyed any evidence that may implicate him.

"1.Exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations&outright lies being broadcast by an unprincipled showman masquerading as a journalst

2.A so-called journalist comes w/an agenda2disrupt the rest of the media in order to create attention for his channel. Not interested in truth
3.Pathetic2see the depths2which some will sink2attract TRPs. I have nothing to hide from the police&the courts but nothing to say2such people."

Monday, May 08, 2017

Macron as French President

Emmanuel Macron will be the President of France from May 14th. Marine Le Pen has been comprehensively defeated and world markets are feeling relieved.

Macron was a socialist and then an independent before he formed his own party in 2016. He was the Finance and Economy minister for a couple of years. Le Pen is relatively more experienced in politics having been in the party started by her father for a longer time. She is anti-immigration and pro-nationalist. Her anti-Euro views are too outspoken.

Despite France's uneasy relationship with immigrants and violent encounters with terrorists, the voters have balked at voting to power Le Pen known for rabble-rousing speeches against foreigners. This means that EU and Euro will be intact at least for some more time and also that terrorists will not come under extreme pressure.

It is too early to celebrate Macron's success. It remains to be seen whether it is success for France also. Though only 39 years old, Macron has the advantage of being advised by his elderly wife who is 24 years older and is an experienced teacher of literature. Being callow in politics, there is a distinct possibility that he may prove to be France's Arvind Kejriwal. The French may repent that.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Is Indian politics irredeemable?

Indians have a lot to worry about. Not a day passes without some terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir. The Maoists keep quiet for a long time and then suddenly butcher scores of policemen as if they have to make up for their long inactivity. Actually they are spending their inactive times planning what bloodshed to commit next and how. Drought is staring at us in many parts of south India.

On top of all these miseries, our politics continues to be murky. Lalu Prasad is commanded by a criminal cooling his heels in prison regarding how to manage the police. The 'honest' chief-minister Arvind Kejriwal is alleged to have taken a bribe of Rs.2 crore. This, even if true, is only a pittance by current standards. Election Commission is sought to be bribed for favourable allotment of election symbol. The price was stated to be Rs.50 crore.

Indians would certainly assert that politicians are the least trust-worthy among all professionals. How long are we to put up with this mockery?

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Is Justice Karnan all sound and fury?

Justice Karnan and the Supreme Court are obviously on an undesirable collision course. In an uneven trial of strength such as this, the individual cannot but lose. Karnan has made it appear as if this is a casteist issue which is unfortunate. Among other acts, the judge has written to PM and others quoting "corrupt practices" of twenty judges. This is an issue which should have attracted enquiry from the powers that be. Sadly, this has been lost sight of.


The honourable judge has also named a High Court judge who is alleged to have misbehaved with an intern. This again is a serious issue that merits an enquiry. If these allegations are found to be false, action must be taken against Justice Karnan. If the charges are true, the criminal judges need to be dealt with firmly.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Justice Karnan

On March 10th, in ' SC versus SC', the following was suggested:

"The Supreme Court is agitated that he had chosen to disobey its orders to appear before the court for causing contempt of court. It will be more appropriate to subject him to psychological examination to know if any deep-rooted anxiety is plaguing him. It is worth introducing psychological tests for would-be judges."

It is better late than never that the Supreme Court has now ordered medical examination of Justice Karnan. Karnan is an exemplary character in the Mahabharata. We may wonder how a person with such a glorious name can behave like this. Sometimes the initials are more suggestive. C.S.Karnan wants to turn the Supreme Court (SC) upside down or to reverse its progress. (I am suggesting this in jest knowing fully well that if I am serious about this, I would need to be medically examined !)

Justice Karnan is capable of creating more entertainment. One is reminded of Mr.B.C.Ganguly , former Chairman of Railway Board, who was throwing a  tantrum because of which he had to be dismissed in 1971. He refused to leave a railway bogie in which he had undertaken a tour. We have waited for 46 years for the next part of entertainment from a non-political authority. What is worrying however is that we do not know whether Justice Karnan is an aberration or simply representative of present judiciary. While hoping that it is the former, the Supreme Court and the Collegium owe it to the Constitution that it does not become the latter.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Feminine Justice

Something exceptionally coincidental has occurred in the field of Indian judiciary. The three oldest High Courts namely Calcutta, Bombay and Madras are now headed by female chief judges. So also is the Delhi High Court.

Dr.Manjula Chellur is the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court. The next senior-most judge also is a lady. The Calcutta High Court is headed by Ms.Nishita Nirmal Mhatre. Ms.Indira Banerjee adorns the post in the Madras High Court and Ms. Gita Mittal in Delhi.

All these are eminent judges and are not beneficiaries of chivalry. It is believed that females are less corrupt. It is therefore possible that Indian judiciary is becoming more honest.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Mental Healthcare Bill

It is reported that the Lok Sabha discussed the captioned bill for as long as five hours without any interruption and finally passed the bill. It is encouraging to note that our parliamentarians are capable of meaningful debate without being sidetracked. The Bill is significant because it addresses the usually neglected needs of those unfortunate persons who become victims of much-misunderstood emotional disturbance. The Bill sends the right signal to society.

Cynics however may argue that Lok Sabha took interest in the Bill because the parliamentarians themselves are the most adversely affected by mental disorders! Even so, it is welcome that our MPs have done something useful to society.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Cricket and politics

Some cricket enthusiasts look askance at the victory of Indian team over Australia in the cricket test match played recently. They pooh-pooh India's win as one facilitated by intentionally prepared turning pitch. This is not cricket, according to them. Their contention is that cricket has to be played on a fast-paced pitch only. They do not recognise the fact that as per globally accepted cricket rules, the home team has the right to decide on the kind of pitch to be prepared, the only rider being that it has to be playable.

Some of these critics take exception to Virat Kohli's men getting aggressive. They forget that the Aussies are the originators of sledging and therefore it is par for the Indian team to be on the offensive. Their argument is that the gentleman's game should remain as such. Their blinkers can spot the deviations of the Indian team only. In brief, different rules apply to different teams.

A similar drama is being played out in the political arena also. Self-styled secularists question the credentials of Yogi Adityanath to become the chief minister of the most populous state in India. They ask, what has democracy come to? It matters little for them that Adityanath is the most popular BJP leader in U P and this party has won a humongous majority in the polls. If this is not democracy, it is difficult to fathom what is. The next argument is that he spews venom against a minority community.

On becoming the chief minister, Yogi Adityanath assured that he would faithfully serve all sections of people. Critics wonder how a leopard can change its spots. Whenever a jailed terrorist tenders a half-apology, the same critics want the terrorist to be released for has he not turned over a new leaf? So, you should trust a terrorist but you cannot trust the chief minister because the latter is calling your electoral bluff.

Rules framed by the spurious secularists are funny. If you pamper a community for garnering votes, you are deemed secular. If you dare to demand equality of all, you are a rabid communalist. If you plead for disintegration of the country, we will appreciate your parrhesia. If you speak against blatant discrimination, you will be accused of misusing freedom of speech.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Yogi Adityanath

Yogi Adityanath, nee Ajay Singh Bisht is the new chief minister of U P. Yogi literally means 'one who unites'. In a spiritual sense, yogi unites the jivaatma with the paramaatma. Adityanath, arguably the most popular BJP leader in U P, did unite voters with the party. The question now is would he unite the people with the government.

Paradoxically most of his statements in the past have been more divisive than unifying. Positions of political power are known to change people. It is moot if Yogi Adityanath would become a more mellowed person on becoming the chief minister of the largest state in India. Hopefully his incorruptibility would not change.

Narendra Modi is known to take big risks. Choice of the new chief minister is a typical manifestation of that trait of the prime minister. If Adityanath delivers good governance, it would go a long way in ensuring Modi's return to power in 2019. If he only follows the likes of Mayawati and Akhilesh without focusing on development, he will end up uniting the opposition parties against the BJP. Time will tell.

Monday, March 13, 2017

P.Chidambaram's objectivity

Mr.P.Chidambaram delivered the first annual lecture of The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy on March 13th. Introducing him, Mr.N.Ravi of The Hindu said that Chidambaram was as objective as a parliamentarian in opposition could be.

Chidambaram proved Ravi wrong. Even limited objectivity of an opposition politician does not require one to twist facts and manufacture innuendo which the former minister did.

Trying to prove that the present government is not scam-free, he referred to easy availability of newly printed Rs.2,000 notes with relatives of ex-chief secretary of Tamil Nadu and some engineers in Karnataka as a scam. This is the result of venality of some bank officials and is not a scam of the government. (He also referred to Vyapam scam.) If he feels compelled to call the uneven availability of Rs.2,000 as a scam, it is an admission  that there is hardly any large scale bribery a la 2G or coal allocation.

He accused the government of not knowing how to deal with NPAs. Harsh measures, according to him, will only terrorise bank officials to avoid lending.  He did not feel it necessary to admit that the previous government was complicit in generation of huge NPAs. Was he hinting that bank officials were not the cause for bad loans which were encouraged by politicians and therefore the government ought to be soft on them?

He twisted facts when he said that Raghuram Rajan did not advocate harsh steps for recovery of bad loans. In fact, Rajan was acting tough (and rightly so) which angered the powerful borrowers who were happy to see his exit.

Chidambaram revealed that Rajan was against demonetisation and therefore he was sacked. An objective person will not elevate an assumption to the level of fact. He could have qualified it as a guess.

He referred to BJP not proposing any Muslim as its candidate in U.P. and compared it with exclusion of women, SCs etc. He could have avoided the comparison because BJP nominated the maximum number of women candidates and was not behind other parties in nomination of SCs, OBCs and MBCs. Whereas other parties betrayed their communalism by choosing too many Muslim candidates, BJP betrayed its communalism the opposite way. It ill-behoves a Congress leader to accuse another party of communalism since the Congress has always treated Muslims as a vote bank. Certainly it did not suit Chidambaram's agenda to accept that BJP was the least casteist party in the U P elections.

He asserted that none of the stated objectives of demonetisation was either achieved or likely to be achieved. He conveniently ignored the fact many have deposited high denomination notes which attract nearly 50% tax plus 25% interest-free deposit. These are the money which were earlier hidden and tax-evaded and which are now brought into mainstream. A former Finance Minister is expected to be more objective.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Massive mandate for Modi


Modi continues to be a popular leader. His sincerity and commitment are not questioned even by the opposition. At the national level, he towers over all other netas. His eloquence is unmatched. The only doubt prior to elections was 'would all these qualities matter in a state election?'

Ultimately they mattered because other parties committed many mistakes. 

1) Samajwadi Party imploded thanks to the family fight between Mulayam and Akhilesh. Akhilesh is the son of Mulayam's first wife. The second wife might have caused the estrangement between the father and son. Second-tier leaders in SP started taking sides and the party was vertically split.

 2) Akhilesh's association with Congress created further belligerence from the father who was supported by Amar Singh , a Narada-type character who fishes in troubled waters.

 3) Rahul Gandhi completely relied on Prashant Kishor, a strategist who is credited with shaping BJP victory in 2014 and JD victory in Bihar in 2016. This was resented by Congressmen in U P . Contrarily, Capt.Amarinder Singh of Congress shunned Kishor in Punjab.

 4) Mayawati started wooing Muslim votes away from S P and Congress. Muslim votes got split to the advantage of BJP.

 5) Some Muslim women voted for BJP, the only party that openly opposed triple talaq.

 6) Priyanka Gandhi, the look-alike of Indira Gandhi, could not campaign because her son met with an accident and she was taking care of him.

 7) Anti-incumbency also played its part. Akhilesh's government was at best patchy. Goondagiri was not controlled. Father and son split is rumoured to have been an artificial attempt to isolate the Akhilesh faction from thugs but the public saw through the gimmick.

8) BJP promised loan waiver for agriculturists.

So, in retrospect, the massive mandate for BJP is not surprising. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Electoral Math

5 + 2 =7 is arithmetic.

5+ 2 = 9 is synergy.

5 + 2 =3 is Congress.

Anti-incumbency and pro-Modi

Election results indicate that voters are keen to vote out the governing parties in the hope that others would do a better job. So, SP is out in UP, Congress in Uttarakhand, and SAD in Punjab (not so sad!). BJP is struggling in Goa and Congress in Manipur.

What does anti-incumbency mean? Are the incumbent ministries not doing well or are the voters' expectations too high? It is probably a combination of both.

BJP's extraordinary performance in UP is certainly the result of the Modi magic. His indefatigable energy and effective communication could not be matched by his opponents. He takes risks and gets rewarded in adequate measure. His demonetisation move was perhaps a shot in the dark with unforeseeable consequences. Even when things were not working well, he was able to keep the inconvenienced people in his side. That is a clear mark of leadership: Do not hesitate to take risk and even if things don't pan out well, limit the damages and focus on the plus points.

Friday, March 10, 2017

SC versus SC

The Supreme Court has issued an arrest warrant against Justice Karnan of the Calcutta High Court. The honourable judge has accused the Supreme Court of acting against him because he belongs to Scheduled Caste.

Justice Karnan is due to retire on June 30th. Towards retirement, he is becoming more trenchant in his criticism of judiciary and fellow judges. His behaviour is very unusual. There are apparently no charges of corruption against him. This needs to be borne in mind because some people when accused of bribery etc. may attribute the allegations to communal factors.

The Supreme Court is agitated that he had chosen to disobey its orders to appear before the court for causing contempt of court. It will be more appropriate to subject him to psychological examination to know if any deep-rooted anxiety is plaguing him. It is worth introducing psychological tests for would-be judges.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

U P Elections

Trying to predict the results of U P elections is crazy. But it is crazier to pretend that one can avoid the urge to predict. It appears that all three major contestants namely BJP, SP and BSP have chances, at least theoretical, of being the largest single party, if not the party with majority of seats.

BJP's electioneering revolved around Narendra Modi. Ever indefatigable, he spent three days in Varanasi itself. Was he nervous that BJP was trailing? Did he want to ensure a higher proportion of victory for his party? Did he want to protect his territory, Varanasi, even if the party were to lose in other parts of the state? Perhaps only the prime minister knows.

Akhilesh Yadav rebelled against his father and the latter's supporters ahead of the elections. Nobody knows if it was a true rebellion or only a histrionic stunt in an attempt to temporarily distance himself and his group from the criminal cabal that brought disrepute to Samajwadi Party. Given the circumstances, the chief minister seems to have administered the state fairly well.

Mayawati had to face the departure of some second line leaders from her party on the eve of the elections. She has not antagonised any community in the recent past and hopes to benefit from the disgruntled elements in BJP and SP and also from possible strategic shifts from the voter base of BJP and SP.

If BJP forms the ministry, the state can look forward to favourable treatment from the centre. If SP triumphs, it will signal emergence of Akhilesh Yadav as a national substitute for Modi. If Mayawati wins, she can look forward to quietus on hostile actions from CBI and ED.

Let us wait and see.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Power or soft drinks?

Trade-offs are inevitable whenever factors of production are in short supply. Because the same factor of production can be used for making different items, we have to decide which items are to be produced.

Summer of 2017 is predicted to be sizzlingly hot. Water has already become scarce in many parts of Tamil Nadu. A petition was filed in the Madras High Court that in view of water famine the co-packers of PepsiCo and Coca-Cola must not be allowed to draw water from the Tamirabarani river. The court in all its majesty has held that the soft drink co-packers cannot be denied water supply. These packers together consume nearly 15 lakh litres of water every day.

At the same time, the Tuticorin Thermal Power Station is already partially closed because of paucity of water. Stoppage of entire power production is imminent if adequate water is not made available. It would make economic and ethical sense to prioritise consumption of water by farmers and electricity producers over consumption by co-packers of soft drinks.


Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Chile as a model for development?


Chile does not make as much news as another South American country namely Brazil. Though Chile is much smaller than Brazil, Chile is performing better under many economic parameters. One distinguishing feature of Chile is its rapid development in terms of reducing absolute poverty. Yet, in the process relative poverty has become more acute.

The Economist sums it up beautifully:

"Chile is in many ways the most modern country in South America. Its institutions function reasonably well, its educational standards are among the highest and its levels of crime and corruption are among the lowest. Yet that has not brought equality. Although poverty has fallen sharply, income distribution is more skewed in Chile than in any other member of the OECD, a club of mainly rich countries (though not unusually so for Latin America). Just 5% of Chileans regard the distribution of income as “fair” or “very fair”, the lowest share in Latin America, says LatinobarĂ³metro. “It’s precisely because Chileans can see how wealthy their country is—from the Porsches and Maseratis in the streets of some areas—that they’re so angry about how that wealth is shared out,” says Marta Lagos of LatinobarĂ³metro."

Widening inequality may be unfair. But if it becomes unavoidable while pushing for the humanitarian cause of tackling absolute poverty, should we not say, "so be it"?

Oscars for audience?

What if Oscar Awards are introduced for audience also?

Best supporting audience Award goes to Tamil Nadu public for scoring 10 out of 10 for gullibility.

Best critical audience Award is bagged by the Congress party for picking non-existing holes.

Best creative audience Award is for Narendra Modi for inventing a dialogue missed by the story-writer.

Overall best audience Award goes to Rahul Gandhi.

Oops! There is a mix-up. Rahul Gandhi was never in the audience. The overall winner will be announced later.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Jayalalithaa: an enigma?

Jayalalithaa had claimed many times that she wanted to be a lawyer. Her mother forced her to be an actress. Jayalalithaa never wanted to be a politician. MGR compelled her to enter politics. In her entire life, she was what she did not want to be.

There was no pattern to her actions either. She propped up a ministry at the centre and then destabilised it. She supported some central governments and opposed some. Nobody could read her mind. Perhaps she herself couldn't.

She opened many liquor shops. In her final days, she ordered closure of a few. Her order was not executed during her life. She selected a few deserving persons to become MPs and MLAs. She chose many riff-raff elements also. She banished some undesirable elements from her party. At the same time, she consorted with the most undesirable of all.

She was apparently authoritarian, but was controlled by others. Now the chief minister says he is only ensuring Jaya-raj in the state. Edappadi Palaniswamy can do anything and yet claim he is following the Jayalalithaa path (of course under the guidance of Sasikala) since Jayalalithaa was a bundle of contradictions.

Like her life, her death also was planned by somebody else.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Bedlam in Tamil Nadu Assembly

Saturday, February 18th witnessed a physical show of strength by the principal opposition, the DMK. The finale was reached when the Speaker was manhandled and his table split into modular pieces. This unwelcome scene was seen by the public on various TV channels.

Only Jaya TV was permitted by the Assembly to videograph the proceedings. This politically slanted permission ensured that only selected excerpts were available for other channels. Journalists inside the Assembly were not enabled even to hear the Assembly proceedings. AIADMK legislators who were earlier confined in resorts near Mamallapuram were not allowed to move from their seats till the day's proceedings were over. Food and soft drinks of their choice were served to them in their seats. How legislator-friendly!

It was clear that the chief minister wanted to prove his majority at the earliest lest the AIADMK MLAs should realise the political depravity of the chief minister reporting to a convict lodged in a jail.

Who is responsible for the violence in the House? Counterfactually, the Governor could have demanded the release of captive legislators ahead of the House proceedings. He could have asked the CM to test his strength after 10 days and within 15 days. The speaker could have allowed secret voting. He could also have allowed the media the freedom to cover the proceedings. Such transparency would have made the DMK members think twice before pouncing on the Speaker. DMK MLAs could have conducted themselves with dignity. The CM could have announced that he would act independently and would not be remotely controlled.

Bedlam has two meanings. It is a scene of uproar and confusion. It also means an institution for the care of mentally ill people. We now know what the TN Assembly is.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Perception about India

Charles Munger is a friend and associate of Warren Buffett. His words are listened to with great respect just like those of the latter. Recently, he made a scathing attack on Indian model of development while addressing the annual meeting of  Daily Journal Corp. The relevant excerpt is given below. (as noted by Adam Blum)

On Li Kuan Yew and comparison to India : “That’s a very intelligent question and not saying others weren’t – Yew was the best nation builder who ever lived. He took a Malarial swamp with no resources surrounded by a bunch of Muslims who hated him and literally spat out Singapore because they didn’t want the place. There were no assets and tons of corruption. And Yew created modern Singapore. No one has had success like it so fast. He gets a lot of credit for creating modern China. They saw that and said ‘the hell with this. We don’t care if the cat is black or white, we just care that it catches mice.’ Deng Xiaoping copied Yew. I have two busts of someone else in my house - Yew and Ben Franklin. Now, I would rather work with the Chinese than the Indians. The caste system, the overcrowding, there in India. It’s hard to get anything done, and they have taken the worst aspects of democracy that Yew avoided. India is a fabulous people, but the system of poverty and corruption and the crazy democratic thing where anyone who screams can stop all progress – it mires them. The steel giant Posco takes lousy iron and coal and uses it as an input - a province in India had a bunch of lousy iron and coal and agreed to supply Posco, and the contract was canceled because people protested and were screaming in the streets. India is grossly defective, because they took the worst aspects of our culture, allowing a bunch of idiots to scream and stop everything. And they copied it - Malaysia and China and Singapore would’ve done the Posco deal. India forged its own chains and put them on themselves.”

For comprehensive notes, please use the link http://www.valuewalk.com/2017/02/charlie-munger-speaks-2017-daily-journal-annual-meeting-long-notes-full-video/?all=1


Kind Attention: Tamil Nadu MLAs

Tamil Nadu Governor must insist that the following judgment by Justice Amitava Roy in the Disproportionate Assets case must be read out (alongwith Tamil translation) in the Assembly tomorrow before voting is held.

J U D G M E N T
Amitava Roy, J.
A few disquieting thoughts that have lingered and
languished in distressed silence in mentation demand
expression at the parting with a pulpit touch. Hence, this
supplement.

2. The attendant facts and circumstances encountered as
above, demonstrate a deep rooted conspiratorial design to amass
vast assets without any compunction and hold the same
through shell entities to cover up the sinister trail of such illicit
acquisitions and deceive and delude the process of law. Novelty
in the outrages and the magnitude of the nefarious gains as
demonstrated by the revelations in the case are, to say the least,
startling.

3. A growing impression in contemporary existence seems
to acknowledge, the all pervading pestilent presence of
corruption almost in every walk of life, as if to rest reconciled to
the octopoid stranglehold of this malaise with helpless awe. The
common day experiences indeed do introduce one with unfailing
regularity, the variegated cancerous concoctions of corruption
with fearless impunity gnawing into the frame and fabric of the
nation’s essentia. Emboldened by the lucrative yields of such
malignant materialism, the perpetrators of this malady have
tightened their noose on the societal psyche. Individual and
collective pursuits with curative interventions at all levels are
thus indispensable to deliver the civil order from the
asphyxiating snare of this escalating venality.

4. In the above alarming backdrop of coeval actuality,
judicial adjudication of a charge based on an anti-corruption law
motivated by the impelling necessities of time, has to be
informed with the desired responsibility and the legislative vision
therefor. Any interpretation of the provisions of such law has to
be essentially purposive, in furtherance of its mission and not in
retrogression thereof. Innovative nuances of evidential
inadequacies, processual infirmities and interpretational
subtleties, artfully advanced in defence, otherwise intangible and
inconsequential, ought to be conscientiously cast aside with
moral maturity and singular sensitivity to uphold the statutory
sanctity, lest the coveted cause of justice is a causality.

5. Corruption is a vice of insatiable avarice for selfaggrandizement
by the unscrupulous, taking unfair advantage of
their power and authority and those in public office also, in
breach of the institutional norms, mostly backed by minatory
loyalists. Both the corrupt and the corrupter are indictable and
answerable to the society and the country as a whole. This is
more particularly in re the peoples’ representatives in public life
committed by the oath of the office to dedicate oneself to the
unqualified welfare of the laity, by faithfully and conscientiously
discharging their duties attached thereto in accordance with the
Constitution, free from fear or favour or affection or ill-will. A
self-serving conduct in defiance of such solemn undertaking in
infringement of the community’s confidence reposed in them is
therefore a betrayal of the promise of allegiance to the
Constitution and a condemnable sacrilege. Not only such a
character is an anathema to the preambulor promise of justice,
liberty, equality, fraternal dignity, unity and integrity of the
country, which expectantly ought to animate the life and spirit of
every citizen of this country, but also is an unpardonable
onslaught on the constitutional religion that forms the bedrock
of our democratic polity.

6. This pernicious menace stemming from moral
debasement of the culpables, apart from destroying the sinews
of the nation’s structural and moral set-up, forges an unfair
advantage of the dishonest over the principled, widening as well
the divide between the haves and have nots. Not only this has a
demoralising bearing on those who are ethical, honest, upright
and enterprising, it is visibly antithetical to the quintessential
spirit of the fundamental duty of every citizen to strive towards
excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity to
raise the nation to higher levels of endeavour and achievement.
This virulent affliction triggers an imbalance in the society’s
existential stratas and stalls constructive progress in the overall
well-being of the nation, besides disrupting its dynamics of fiscal
governance. It encourages defiance of the rule of law and the
propensities for easy materialistic harvests, whereby the
society’s soul stands defiled, devalued and denigrated.

7. Such is the militant dominance of this sprawling evil,
that majority of the sensible, rational and discreet constituents
of the society imbued with moral values and groomed with
disciplinal ethos find themselves in minority, besides estranged
and resigned by practical compulsions and are left dejected and
disillusioned. A collective, committed and courageous
turnaround is thus the present day imperative to free the civil
order from the suffocative throttle of this deadly affliction.

8. Every citizen has to be a partner in this sacrosanct
mission, if we aspire for a stable, just and ideal social order as
envisioned by our forefathers and fondly cherished by the
numerous self-effacing crusaders of a free and independent
Bharat, pledging their countless sacrifices and selfless
commitments for such cause.
............................................J.
(AMITAVA ROY)
NEW DELHI;

FEBRUARY 14, 2017

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sasikala's supreme sacrifice

It is easy to say that Sasikala expedited Jayalalithaa's death in order to misappropriate her wealth. Only she knows that it was only to ensure that JJ would not be jailed again. Sasikala recently disclosed a secret much against her own wishes. When JJ was pushed out of MGR's hearse, it was Sasikala who physically caught her so that she would not fall down. There are so many other secrets which go to prove Sasikala's great qualities.

Supreme Court refers to 'conspiracy' among JJ, Sasikala and the latter's relatives. It was not conspiracy. It was actually 'satsangh'. Though JJ and Sasikala were not relatives, they stayed together in Poes Garden only to ensure that they would together constantly be engaged in Mammon-worship. Did not Mahatma Gandhi say 'Work is Worship' ? Similarly, worship is work.

Sasikala has always borne the cross for JJ. She knew that if the chief minister had properties in her own name, it would become easy for the unknowing public to accuse JJ of corruption. So, she made JJ transfer her properties in her (Sasikala's) favour. Can one think of a more sublime sacrifice?

Sasikala always cares for state's interests. That is the reason why she wanted SC to give her four weeks time to go to prison. She wanted to bring back stability to state politics. But SC  has treated her just like a criminal and declined her reasonable request without understanding that she was pleading for state and not for herself.

However, Sasikala will not give up her struggle to serve the state through her party. She has wasted no time in making TTV Dinakaran, her nephew, the Deputy General Secretary of AIADMK. When JJ sacked him from the party because of his criminal activities, Sasikala did not interfere at all. In the changed circumstances, she is ready to do even what she would not have done if JJ were around. All this is done only for the welfare of the party and greater welfare of the state. If this incidentally suits her interest, we must not misinterpret the action as if it is motivated by self-interest. She is too broadminded to treat herself as different from the party or the state.

Venkatesan is another relative of Sasikala who was banished from the party for the innocent mistake of indulging in criminal activity. Sasikala knows when to empower him. She very well knows that the interests of the party and therefore the state are too sacrosanct to be left at the mercy of non-relatives. Let us not misread this as nepotism and trivialise her noble instincts.

She does not trust non-relatives not because she is paranoid. None of the non-relatives have proved themselves to be worthy of her trust. In the meanwhile, Natarajan , Sasikala's spouse, has verified all medical records of JJ and has secured the needed corrections at Apollo Hospital. He is fit to be discharged from the hospital where he was earlier admitted for breathing trouble.