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

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.

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

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,

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.

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.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Decoding the judgment

A few minutes after the Yamagandam ended on Tuesday, February 14th the Supreme Court reversed the blatantly wrong judgment of the Karnataka HC and upheld the bold and righteous verdict of the trial judge, d'Cunha.

Is this a cause for celebration or sober introspection? The judgment shows up the following saddening aspects of our polity:

1) Jayalalithaa who ruled Tamil Nadu for more than a decade has been pronounced corrupt by the highest court since she was the main accused in various charges. It may be culturally incorrect to blame the dead, but facts are bitter. Corruption may not dilute one's charisma in a democracy.

2) Justice will be delivered, but only ultimately. We may have to be patient for more than two decades.

3) A dishonest judge can easily torpedo justice through deceptive reasoning, however flimsy it may be. Even faulty arithmetic is a useful tool for venal judges. Will the HC judge who blundered so infamously and cocked a snook at justice be ever brought to book?

4) If justice is so shifty even in such an open and shut case, how do we get relief in so many other cases where the culprits act more cleverly and cover their tracks dexterously?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

TN Governor's inaction

Constitutional purism demands that the Governor call the leader of the majority party to form the government. Sasikala gave a list of 130 MLAs supporting her and sought to be invited to form the government. Panneerselvam could not claim majority support and only sought to withdraw his resignation which had already been accepted. What the governor should have done in this situation is a no-brainer. There is no question that he has violated the letter of the law. By continuing to delay his decision, the governor has only made us believe that something other than simple law is agitating his mind.

Though we are not privy to the conversations of the governor with the two leaders, it is possible to guess that OPS has informed the governor that he was forced to submit his resignation under duress and that many MLAs are kept in captivity by Sasikala. It is also possible that the governor could not discount this argument.

There is obviously a clash between letter of law and ethical consideration in this case. It is not uncommon for letter of law to get diluted by circumstantial evidence to the contrary. Further, coercion (assuming that OPS was indeed coerced  and MLAs are indeed kept in captivity) would have negated Sasikala's democratic rights.

Purpose of law is to deliver justice. If the purist adherence to legal requirements was likely to lead to an unjust solution, the governor would be bound more by ethical requirement than by legal constraint. Of course, it is for the governor to inform the court what really happened , when the matter inevitably gets dragged to the court in case Sasikala does not become the chief minister.

When law and ethics point in the same direction, the end result is justice. When there is a conflict between the two, the decision-maker may play it safe by sticking to the letter of law or may stick his neck out by seeking to prioritise ethics over law. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

NRN vs Vishal Sikka: Possessive promoter vs Pragmatic professional?

Corporate Boardroom battles are becoming more common these days in India too. Ratan Tata has succeeded in ejecting Cyrus Mistry from all Tata companies with a speed atypical of sedate Tatas. The Parsi community is no doubt aghast. But Ratan Tata is unable to let the Tata companies get on with their job without singing his glory at frequent intervals. Simply stated, he continues to be possessive about what he considers to be his legacy.

N.R.Narayana Murthy is playing Ratan Tata in Infosys. When Cyrus Mistry was anointed chief of Tata Sons, Ratan Tata was effusive in his praise for the former's sagacity. Similarly, NRN was unabashed in showering encomium on Vishal Sikka when the latter took over the reins at Infosys. The lovefest has proved to be short-lived. NRN is upset over Sikka's disregard for Infosys' penchant for 'corporate governance' just like Ratan Tata was angered by Mistry's unconcern for 'Tata culture.'

NRN has told The Economic Times that large severance payments to departing employees (particularly ex-CFO Rajiv Bansal) perhaps constitute 'hush money'. He wonders if the company is suppressing some information harmful to the company. He also doubts the Board's compliance with its fiduciary responsibility. Pretty strong words indeed.

Murthy has sought some changes in the Board. He wants the Chairman, Seshasayee to admit his and Board's mistake in allowing large severance payments, to 'show contrition' for the same and get back to the straight and narrow path of corporate governance. He has once again expressed his oft-stated corporate governance mantra: "When in doubt, disclose. Let good news take the stairs and bad news the escalator."

He has also bemoaned the disparity (2000 : 1) in remuneration to CEO and entry-level software engineer in Infosys. It is anybody's guess how long Vishal Sikka will stick to Infosys. The company has issued a statement confirming the Board's full confidence in the leadership of Seshasayee and Sikka. Employees of Infosys are overwhelmingly supportive of Murthy just as the Tata employees are in favour of Ratan Tata.

It now appears that the promoters are more against Seshasayee than Sikka. What could be the reason? Sikka bows down to NRN and touches his feet in typical north Indian style. Seshasayee does not do this.

Mohandas Pai says there must be a TV channel discussion between NRN and Seshasayee where NRN will raise questions to be answered by Seshasayee. According to Pai, this is what transparency is about. He has mistaken public trial for transparency.

Balakrishnan , another promoter, wants Seshasayee to resign forthwith. Pai regrets that neither he nor Balakrishnan was paid severance payment when they resigned as CFO and therefore where is the need to pay Rajiv Bansal ? (In other words, the promoters expect the professionals to continue to do what the promoters did. Where then is the need for professionalisation?) He has criticised Seshasayee's argument that the severance money is a protection against Bansal exploiting the information about Infosys by joining competitors.(Seshasayee should have been more diplomatic and obfuscatory.)

There is a risk that overly possessive promoters may end up as demoters of their own creation. NRN cannot simultaneously claim credit for 'walking away' from his company and still keep frustrating his successor. He cannot have the cake and eat it too.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Chaos in Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu Governor is under a severe test. Ch.Vidyasagar Rao who is now the Governor of both Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu is known for speedy response. But the convoluted political happenings in TN force him to adopt a cautious approach. He accepted the resignation of OPS with celerity, but got bogged down when Sasikala staked her claim to chief ministership.

Legal, political and moral issues are intertwined in the ongoing drama. The governor cannot refuse to entertain the claim of the leader having the support of a majority of MLAs namely Sasikala. However, he cannot be hustled to agree to a particular day for administration of oath. Now that the chief minister, OPS has rebelled against Sasikala, the governor is expected to take into consideration a larger political picture apart from Sasikala's claim of support of overwhelming majority of ADMK MLAs.

In such political muddy waters, legal issues start attracting special attention. Hence, the governor now cannot escape factoring the impending SC judgment while arriving at a decision. It is tempting to blame Vidyasagar Rao for the delay in acceding to Sasikala's request to be sworn in. Recent events have justified the cautious approach of the governor.

It is now Sasikala vs OPS. OPS is bound to lose in this battle since very few MLAs will be ready to take the risk of losing the remaining four years of power. Supporting Sasikala or surrendering to her unethical ways will be more rewarding to the AIADMK MLAs than yielding to conscience (?) and bolstering OPS.

Panneerselvam 'unburdened' his conscience at the Jaya memorial yester-night. Though it contained elements of histrionics, OPS has enough decency left in him for this action to look credible in the public eye. But the battle has to be fought in the Assembly where conscience and ethics appear to be irrelevant.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Chinnamma becomes periamma

OPS has again resigned, now paving the way for Sasikala. AIADMK has innovated the post of PICM, permanent interim chief minister. O.Panneerselvam fits the position to a T.

OPS may again be forced to become CM as and when Chinnamma is convicted in any of the many criminal cases pending against her. Many have questioned her fitness to become Chief Minister. She has criminal cases not only against her, but against all members of her family. If this is not qualification enough, what is?

Sasikala has promised to fulfil Jayalalithaa's dreams. "I am under compulsion to fulfil the dreams of our Amma." That is why she sacked the former secretaries who were advising Jayalalithaa.

Jaya never gave any position to Sasikala. In order to complete the task which Jaya could not do, Sasikala has taken up both General Secretaryship of the party and Chief Ministership. Jaya's soul would be mightily pleased.

If any straightforward judge convicts Sasikala, the entire state will rise in protest against the injustice. Will any judge dare to risk such disorder in society?

Sonia Gandhi made the supreme sacrifice of denying herself prime-ministership and preferred to act through the proxy Manmohan Singh. Sasikala makes the even more supreme sacrifice of coming out in the open to enrich the Mannargudi Mafia. Historians will keep wondering whose sacrifice is more praise-worthy.

There are striking similarities between Soniaji and Sasikala. Both started their working life in entertainment-related activities. Both became prominent by their association with outstanding leaders. In both cases, the leaders did not want to assign any political / public role to their associates. Both suffer from the pangs of duty to serve others !

Sonia could not become PM perhaps because of her non-Indian origin. Chinnamma is however not deterred by her possible conviction by courts.

Friday, February 03, 2017


The Budget 2017-18 presented on February 1 is essentially an interim budget. GST will not be in place before July 1st. Impact of demonetisation is not yet clear. Unclear past and uncertain future have made the budget more unrealistic than usual. Under these trying circumstances, the Finance Minister has done his best. One should pity the FM. It is like blindfolding a person, keeping him in an unknown place and asking him which direction he wants to take.

India is suffering from three critical deficits: jobs, ethical behaviour and innovation. The budget seeks to enable creation of more jobs through greater spending on infrastructure and giving tax concessions to MSMEs which are the major fountain of jobs. It is unrealistic to expect the FM declare how many jobs will be created in the process. Number of new jobs will depend on where we are in the continuum between jobless growth and job-oriented growth.

Black money partially reflects our low regard for ethical behaviour. In the absence of immediate and stringent punishment for unethical behaviour, tax-compliance is unlikely to improve even if tax rates are brought down substantially. Allowing Vijay Mallya to emigrate and disallowing charge-sheeting of Marans are indicative of our tolerance for unethical behaviour. Government may plead its helplessness since there was no look-out notice for Mallya and the special CBI judge may blame the ineptness of prosecutors, but the fact remains that decriminalisation of our society is not in our priority list.

Encouragement of innovation like R & D has not attracted FM's myopic attention. Growth can be sustained only through incentivised innovation.

Economic twin-deficits of Fiscal Deficit and Current Account Deficit are fairly under control. They may go for a toss in case oil prices head north. FRBM Act originally contemplated bringing the Revenue Deficit to zero. It is unlikely to happen any time soon. This means the government is borrowing funds to pay salaries and interest on loans. Revenue Deficit reflects only recklessness past and present.

Government is likely to present another budget while introducing GST. That will test FM's acumen much more.

One of the TV channels interviewed Jim O'Neill, the creator of acronym BRIC, around 1 p.m. (IST) on the budget day, that is around 7-30 a.m. in London where he was. He might have just then woken up. Asked for his impressions about the budget, he said "nothing spectacular about it . Nothing very bad either." I suppose that applies to any budget.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Marans' discharge: political perfidy or judicial jeopardy ?

A special court has held that there is no sufficient proof to frame charges against the Marans in the notorious Aircel-Maxis deal case.

O.P.Saini, the special judge, has categorically held : "I am satisfied that the entire case is based on a misreading of the official files, contradictory statements of the witnesses as well as speculations and surmises of Sri.C.Sivasankaran. I have no hesitation in recording that no prima facie case warranting framing of charge against any of the accused is made out. Accordingly, all accused stand discharged."

This is a slap on the face to prosecuting agency and also the government. This case was assumed to be an incontrovertible proof of nepotism and crony capitalism of the UPA government headed by Manmohan Singh. Enforcement Directorate is likely to appeal against the discharge.

Circumstantially it appeared to the general public that sequence of events was proof positive that Dayanidhi Maran, the then Telecom Minister was helping his brother's business and that quid pro quo between Marans and Maxis was self-evident.

Politicians as a class have a fraternal relationship among themselves and therefore they do not want any of their ilk to get jailed. BJP will go 'thus far and no further' in their judicial battle against their political adversaries. ED or for that matter any investigating agency is packed with accommodative officials by the party in power. Judiciary looks for unassailable evidence even to file charge sheets. The end result is that politicians who are probably crooks known for their unethical conduct escape from the proverbial long arm of the law. The public knows that absence of legally acceptable evidence of guilt is not evidence of absence of guilt.