Karunanidhi was a political patriarch who reigned an illustrious era and shaped the Dravidian movement. He left behind a big void.
Visionary and sagacious he may have been but perhaps DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi, with his characteristic art of understatement, hadn’t quite envisioned the vacuum he would leave behind. “If one Karunanidhi goes, a hundred Karunanidhis would be born,” he had said. The assumption that his words would be enough to encode his DNA was utopian to say the least. For none have that calling and the commitment to chase it. He was the last man standing of an illustrious peerage of leaders who shaped the Dravidian movement, perhaps not as bright with magnetism as mentor Annadurai, his friend-turned foe MG Ramachandran, his nemesis J Jayalalitha, but solidly weaving a more realistic organisational matrix of cadres. In channelising a movement that single-handedly took on casteism, centrism and propagated federalism and the pride of origin, he created a template for a Tamil Nadu that still holds its own, a self-respecting entity that has managed to tame the swamp of aggressive north Indian politics. In that respect, he will always be the strongman of a system that, now devoid of its personality cult, is yet to fall to Machiavellian moves of the nationalist parties. That legacy deservedly goes to the Kalaignar. Few know that he led a language agitation that galloped into a movement against the imposition of a monoistic idea of India through the use of heartland Hindi. In that sense, he birthed the cultural idea of regionalism as an essential expression of India’s plurality and secularism. Often pioneers are forgotten because the models they initiate become the mainstay of a governance system that is followed by everybody. As chief minister, Karunanidhi codified social welfare policies that have impacted even Central schemes like reservation quotas for the backward, creating a public transport infrastructure and taking the primary school network to every village. He created the first student division of the Dravidian movement, encouraging students to be stakeholders in realpolitik and prioritising technology in the knowledge economy much before any leader. DMK was the only ruling party that opposed the Emergency and was dismissed. This standalone spirit explains the tidal wave of ordinary people who waited teary-eyed at his funeral. For he exemplified jan dharma and stood as its primary gatekeeper, sustaining his connect through generations of supporters and the oppressed by writing columns, elucidating his bold stand on issues. Even as a script writer, he turned his films into vehicles of a grand vision.
But Kalaignar will always be remembered for his masterstrokes as a politician, stitching up alliances and breaking them, seemingly opportunistic. For though he rallied for autonomy of States and prevented the Centre from encroaching on federal territory, that did not stop him from aligning with his tormentor Congress or the ideologically dissimilar BJP at the national level. He realised that with power-sharing, he could not only negotiate better resource flow to the state but also keep his chips relevant in the coalition games. Of course, that edge was quickly lost as corruption allegations clouded his family, something he was accused of prioritising in his last years. But they rarely touched his aura. Neither did son Stalin have an easy favoured spot, he had to earn his stripes. That speaks a lot about a man who is more a concept than a physical entity, dominant enough to get a hyperbole of eulogies.
Courtesy: The Pioneer
Dreaming and Doing:
How does a young kid, one of six siblings, born in a lower income family in Vadnagar, Gujarat, schooled in a government school, working in his free time to supplement parental income, find the motivation to develop, upgrade his knowledge, learn multiple languages, to emerge as one India’s greatest orators and a two term Prime Minister. Let’s look at his unique journey.
Young Narendra after completing his schooling, left home on a path of self discovery, traversing the Himalayas and other parts of India, spending time at various missions imbibing the teachings of Swami Vivekanand and understanding different cultures. He returned to Ahmedabad and at the ripe age of 17 joined the RSS. Married at an early age he explained to his spouse that his life was dedicated to the nation, and they lived separately thereafter. His sheer hard work, executing assignments without ever complaining, endeared him to his mentors leading him to be made the youngest ever Pracharak for the city of Ahmedabad at the age of 24. He learnt to lead, and work with elders. In 1987, the RSS felt that he had the ability to contribute to the political space, and assigned him to the BJP as General Secretary for Gujarat.
The emergence of a Challenger:
He was a key organiser in the long marches and rath yatras of party doyens Dr. Joshi and Mr. Advani. In the 1995 state elections in Gujarat, as the chief strategist he brought the party victory. In 1996 he was moved by the party as the State head for Haryana, and then in time was given charge of Himachal and J&K also. In 1998 he became the General Secretary Organisation of the BJP and held the post till October 2001, when he was sent to Gujarat as Chief Minister. Gujarat had been struck by a disastrous earthquake in Jan 2001, leaving over 2 lacs dead and Bhuj totally devastated, and relief work was languishing.
Becoming Chief Minister at the age of 52, and having barely settled into the role, catastrophe struck. On 27/2/2002 a train carrying returning Kar Sevaks from Ayodhya had a bogy torched at Godhra leading to 59 charred bodies. This triggered a violent state wide carnage and the state administration and police was overwhelmed for 3 long days and nights with over 2000 dead, and multiple properties gutted. This event was subject to multiple state and centre led enquiry commissions, a Supreme Court monitored Special Investigation, and subsequent prosecution and convictions over the next fifteen years, but Narendra Modi was absolved by the courts of any negligence or wrongdoing.
This singular event changed CM Modi’s attitude and narrative. He transformed the state bureaucracy by empowering officials and plunging into the reconstruction of Bhuj in record time as his redemption. He pushed Gujarat towards rapid industrialization, agricultural growth and rural infrastructural development. Gujarat’s PSU’s were revived and made profitable. New ports, power projects-thermal, solar and wind were set up. A sleepy state became food surplus,
and challenged Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu in industrialization. A new breed of politician had emerged, one who was administratively competent, had people connect, empathized with the poor, and wanted development of the state as his new identity. He demonstrated the trait of finding the best quality resource, absorbing and learning rapidly across a spectrum of subjects, putting in 16 hour days, and creating a breed of bureaucrats and politicians who could keep pace with him.
The mandarins within the congress identified the long term challenger very early, and used legal, administrative and extra-constitutional means to hound him. They used their loyal media cohorts to keep raising the Godhra riots , globally identify him as a right wing pariah, got his travel visa blocked in a few major countries, and set the NGO armies to tie him down in litigation. Little did they know the resolve of the man. Whilst they understood power, he was a master of oratory and people connect. He converted Sonia Gandhi’s vicious personal attacks like “maut ka saudagar” into attacks on Gujarati Asmita, uniting a global Gujarati diaspora in supporting him. It was truly a David mocking Goliath with an arrogant “bring it on” attitude. He was re-elected CM for three successive terms, setting a precedent in the BJP that administratively competent people should lead states.
This rise to becoming the Prime Ministerial face not an easy one. He had to take on his mentor Lal Krishan Advani, the man responsible for having resurrected the party along with Mr. Vajpayee when it faced political oblivion in 1984 winning only two seats in parliament. Mr. Advani had stood with him in 2002, in the process politically emasculating his friend of five decades. However Mr. Advani had lost the 2009 election to Dr. Manmohan Singh, and was now in his mid eighties. In the Goa conclave in 2013, younger leaders like Manohar Parrikar and Arun Jaitley who had been his strategist for the three Gujarat elections and the Godhra litigations endorsed him, and with cadres sensing potential victory pushed his candidature through.
The Congress led UPA had won 2009 on the back of Dr. Manmohan Singh’s tough stand on the nuclear deal with the USA. Thereafter Sonia Gandhi led National Advisory Council took over the reigns of the country, and we witnessed a wave of nepotism, crony capitalism, loot of national resources, defence needs being ignored, surge in terrorism, and ceding of territory to China. CM Modi led consistent verbal attacks on PM Manmohan Singh for abdicating his duty, who by his silence conceded defeat in the eyes of the public. The shadow PM Modi in 2013 put together a war room with talent sourced globally. Many retired and serving bureaucrats now came out of the closet sensing a major change. A nation buffeted by scams, frauds, incompetence and indifference gave the BJP the numbers to cross the line on its own. The hopes of Modi challengers were over, and a new era in Indian politics began.
Victory in 2014 had been credited to the pull effect of Narendra Modi, but victory at the polls comes from a powerful organizational machinery that delivers consistently in getting committed voters to polling stations. The man who delivered on the ground was his “strike force” from Gujarat, the “chanakya” Amit Shah, tasked with taking on a formidable challenge of Samajwadi and BSP stronghold in Uttar Pradesh and its 80 seats in the Lok sabha. The rout of every other party was so unprecedented that the BJP swept 73 seats and even won in muslim dominated areas. With such a performance the anointment of Amit Shah as party President was a formality. Mr. Modi now had control of the government and the party.
PM Modi 1.0:
PM Modi once again had a baptism by fire. He realized that the coffers were empty, the bureaucracy was used to being a power centre, many had benefited from the previous regime, and were major roadblocks to his plans. New Delhi was dominated by power brokers with deep roots and deeper pockets. He needed something to give him momentum and needed it fast. Dr.Manmohan Singh had conceived the underlying concept of what has become the “JanDhan AAdhar Mobile aka” JAM trinity, brought Nandan Nilekani from Infosys to deliver the creation of a national IT backbone on which multiple applications could reside. Unfortunately he did not display the spine to overrule the likes of Mr. Chidambaram who ostensibly stymied and delayed the project even though the project would save Rs.40000 crores annually. PM Modi took less than 24 hours to issue the administrative orders to get the process moving.
The rest is history. Within 6 months the largest global “financial inclusion” program was implemented by making the Nationalised Banks open 33 crores new bank accounts for the poor who had never entered the portals of a bank earlier. A nationwide exercise to issue Aadhar a de-facto national identity card to every citizen was completed. Citizens already had mobile phones. By linking all three, we had the perfect delivery platform for any Direct Benefit Transfer System. Emboldened by the early success, he implemented the Ujjwala Yojna by providing a free first cylinder and subsidized subsequent ones to 6 crore village homes-50% of them were SC/ST. He created a national furore by addressing the issue of open defecation and had over 9 crores new toilets constructed. Infrastructure sector logjams had a crisis with banks facing nearly Rs.4 lac crores of NPA’s from incomplete projects. He gave Mr. Nitin Gadkari a free hand to resolve and build. Within six months the former party president had all projects moving, and
his ministry delivered the construction of roads at 27 Km per day compared to 12 Km in the UPA period. Mr. Modi’s most ambitious project was Aayushman Bharat, a health insurance scheme which covers 50 crores people and provides free hospitalization. Never before was this scale of social security been contemplated or seen even in China the world’s poster boy.
Faced with the unique challenge of the Nationalised Banking sector collapsing with over Rs.11 lac crores of NPA’s thanks to fiscal profligacy of 10 years of UPA. The government had to find 2 lac crores to fund capital requirements of banks. It also needed a legal framework which would enforce accountability and change of management. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy code implemented in 2016 is path breaking in this regard.
Mr. Modi’s government was fiscally responsible, the deficits reduced consistently and yet massive social welfare and social security projects were executed. Where did the money come from? An absolute no brainer-the brave also need their share of luck. Global oil prices collapsed. Duties collected by the UPA varied between Rs. 3-5 a litre, but the NDA did not pass on the price reduction to the consumer. Duties today are nearly Rs.30 per litre. This oil revenue
largesse and plugging the leakages has been the mainstay of government finances. Very early in his term the PM realized that India’s global image had taken a severe beating, and needed work. The PM travelled relentlessly, rallying the Indian community, having their travel pinpricks resolved, created a feeling of confidence and positivity. He engaged world leaders and built relationships. India’s stature with the polity of nations rose as he used Trade & Market Access in a highly transactional world. FDI flows to India started rising, and the government focused on improving our ranking from 140+ in ease of doing business to reaching 60+ by the end of the first term.
There were two actions taken by the PM in the country’s long term interest which could be termed controversial in timing and implementation. The first was the “demonetization” of currency. In an attempt to curb black money or the parallel economy, the government overnight abolished Rs.500 and 1000 currency notes, ostensibly 99 % of notes in circulation by value. Overnight the SME sector collapsed as working capital cycles of these businesses broke.
Real estate transactions stopped.The RBI/Bank’s slow execution increased the misery of citizens. Yet 70% of India who had never seen or held such notes exulted. They had found a champion who could stick it to the rich. The political dividend was huge and the BJP won a landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh India’s largest state.
The second was the implementation of GST. The need for “one nation one tax” has been a no brainer, but no one had the political will to finally implement it. The discussions and resolution of issues with states amicably and unanimously was perhaps Arun Jaitley’s swan song. However the hurry to implement without fully testing the system, resolving all Information Technology issues for once showed gaps in project management. This is probably where the PM erred in trusting his friend and lost oversight on a flagship project. Coming immediately on the back of
demonetization, it set back India’s SME sector totally and led to consolidation in favour of large industry. A decade from today, history will credit Mr. Modi for having the stature and political will to implement a path breaking legislation which is good for India, and was one more of Dr. Manmohan Singh’s conceived but incomplete agendas.
Every Indian PM has the romanticised notion of resolving issues with our rogue neighbor, and PM Modi was no exception. Yet one rebuff was enough for him to recalibrate and change strategy. When Pakistani terrorists killed 17 sleeping unarmed soldiers in an army camp in Uri, the army was given a free hand to cross into Pakistan and in a daring surgical strike the army killed 65+ to send a clear message that rules of engagement had changed. When Pakistan erred by using a suicide bomber to kill 40 CRPF men in Pulwama, another first was initiated and the
Indian Airforce hit a terrorist camp in Balakote which media claimed killed nearly 300. These two raised PM Modi’s stature as the second Iron Man of India with the masses.
PM Rajiv Gandhi had under pressure from Muslim men in his close circles which included MJ Akbar had reversed the Supreme Court decision on Triple Talaq in parliament in 1986, a cross the Congress carries to this date. PM Modi instructed the law ministry to throw its weight behind a fresh case in the Supreme Court on the same subject, and in a landmark judgement the court has held Triple Talaq illegal, and corrected the wrong done in Parliament in 1986.This was delivering justice to all muslim women in India.
Delivering safety to citizens of India was a key poll plank, and The NSA Mr. Doval was tasked with this, a task he has performed admirably. Working closely with the Defence Chiefs, the critical backlog in our defense arsenal is being filled very quickly. Terrorist activity is now localized in the Kashmir valley, being specifically targeted with many leaders eliminated. There has been a perceptible improvement in India’s relations with Middle East nations to the chagrin of Pakistan, that they get negligible backing in Islamic nations now. The PM also gets the credit for successfully resolving the 43 year injustice to Armed Forces on “one rank one pay”. This sent a very strong signal that the government is sensitive to men in uniform and would overrule the civil services in such matters.
The economy remained a challenge during Mr. Modi’s entire first term. Capital formation was at an all time low due to huge capacity expansions in the preceding decade. The services sector was growing with productivity improvements and incremental job creation was dropping. The economy could be dubbed to be moving in a phase of jobless growth. The government knew that something out of the box was needed. They conceived the Mudra scheme which would give uncollateralized loans to self-employed entrepreneurs upto Rs. 1 lac, so that they could have adequate working capital and grow, perhaps employ one/two helpers each. Over the 5 year term nearly 3.7 crores people were funded. This provided a critical mass of economic activity generation at the bottom of the pyramid. Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, a program to complete 1.5 crore dwelling units by providing assistance to weaker sections was a resounding success with great last mile delivery.
In 2018 the global economy started slowing down, foreign trade started contracting, the BJP lost three state elections in a row in MP, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh where they had incumbent governments. The entire opposition tried coming together as one force to take on the BJP directly or tactically. The BJP faced the scenario of going into elections in 2019 with declining growth rates, high fuel prices, and a globally orchestrated attack on being anti-secular. They structured a strategy which would focus on demonstrated delivery of welfare schemes, India’s security and defence, and the government’s integrity. The opposition fell in the trap of attacking Mr. Modi personally, and the more vicious the attack, the stronger the backlash from the poorer sections across the country. They could identify with the theme of a poor man’s son being attacked by vested classes, because he stood up to their plunder. The landslide victory was now credited to one person only-Narendra Modi. Like it or not, such is his personal
charisma and credibility.
PM Modi 2.0
The second term started with the government focusing on correcting pending historical errors. The first act was to abolish Article 370 which gave special status to J&K, and make it “one country, one law, one constitution”. It signaled to Pakistan and the world that we intend to take POK back sooner than later. Excluding China and Pakistan the world accepted it as an internal reorganization in India. The government then brought in the Citizenship Amendment Act to provide all non muslims of Indian origin who emigrated to India under duress post independence till 2014 with citizenship rights. Kapil Sibal admitted in parliament that the Act takes away no one’s citizenship.
The government moved to appoint a Chief of Defense Staff in General Bipin Rawat to improve co-ordination between all wings of the armed forces and development of combined sectoral strategies. This was a much needed structure and had been delayed by decades. Modi watchers were expecting the next step to be the introduction of the Uniform Civil Code to correct another Nehruvian blunder in the mid 1950’s when he had unanimous parliamentary support but recanted. But then early this year Covid 19 struck and Chinese belligerence to divert world attention from their culpability has changed priorities.
Covid 19 has resulted in a global economic meltdown with over one crore people infected worldwide. All countries responded with their own versions of lockdowns to prevent/slowdown community spread. India’s shutdown with 70 percent of the population having staying power of less than one week, has been really challenging. The PM has addressed the nation frequently keeping the morale of people up. By extending the free food security for over 800 million poor till the end of November 2020; the PM has recognized that COVID battles are not going away in a hurry and empty stomachs must be taken care of. This social welfare program entails providing free food-grains to 2.5 times the USA’s population for 8 months.
In his latest address to the nation, the PM delivered a firm reprimand to sections of society who have let their guard down on social distancing, wearing masks, and hygiene thereby triggering a fresh wave of infections. Implied was that penalties for non-compliance would come from administrative actions. Recognizing that there is no fiscal headroom to alleviate the honest tax-paying middle class, the PM publicly acknowledged his gratitude to them and the farmers for being the backbone to survive this challenge. He also announced the proposed implementation of a one nation ration card, which would be portable across members of a family unit in multiple locations. This is a clear preparatory signal for bringing migrant workers back to work areas and mitigating the hardship they faced in April/May. It is also a signal to Industry to get its game plan in place before November so that the economy could get back on the rails fast.
In the interim, there is clear engagement by the PM in launching short term employment generation programs in rural areas to ensure that buying power is created, and people are not sitting idle. Unemployment numbers as per CEI fell from 26% to 8.5% in May. So while the PM is personally the face for employment and welfare of the poor, he has let the Finance Minister front end SME and large industry issues.
The face-off with the Chinese in Galwan valley which resulted in 20 Indians and over forty Chinese soldiers dead has crossed another red line. These are the first casualties in fifty years. By taking on the Chinese head-on and helped by the bravery of the Indian Army, the PM has grabbed the opportunity of occupying the global leadership vacuum caused by China’s belligerence. India now is positioned as a key member of the Quad (USA, Japan, Australia, China) and last month become a member of the G10. In his address to the nation honouring our fallen braves in Galwan, the PM was actually addressing the world audiences telling them that the invincibility myth of the People’s Liberation Army had been busted. The contrast in behavior of PM Modi and his Chinese counterpart is truly contrasting. The PM courageously flew to Laddakh with the CDS to honour the fallen army-men and bolster morale of troops who are doing duty in that terrain. His counterpart has not even acknowledged the deaths of his soldiers, and is not visible at a time when his country is being ravaged by floods.
This week India banned 59 Chinese owned telecom Apps on grounds of national security risks and sent global shock waves. Overnight Chinese companies lost 1 Billion Indian subscribers, approximately 30% of their global users. The knock to their business models and valuations is significant. It will also embolden all COVID affected countries to make China hurt if they follow India’s lead. India’s State governments are contributing their bit to add to the pressure by cancelling all infrastructure contracts awarded to Chinese companies. The center has joined the USA led move to eliminate Chinese equipment from the future Telecom and Power sector.
Despite the country facing a health, economic, and defense challenges simultaneously, the Central Government has brilliantly positioned itself as a mature, unflappable leadership, which responds to its critics with equanimity. When Delhi CM Kejriwal raised the red flag on COVID going out of control in his domain, the Home Minister quietly stepped in to provide infrastructure and operational support with no politicisation. The AAP who have drubbed the BJP at the hustings twice in a row, and has been their virulent critic, is quietly sharing and ceding the stage to them. Similarly, on the Chinese face-off, all attacks by the Congress have been totally ignored, pushing the grand old party to desperation, and now often making a mockery of themselves. It reached a stage when Congress allies like Sharad Pawar and Mayawati have snubbed them. In Bihar, a besieged Lalu Yadav trying to provide a challenge to the Nitish/ Modi juggernaut is distraught that the glory earned by the Bihar regiment has been insulted by his alliance partner, and till now the PM has not fired a salvo, which comes election season could be an erupting volcano.
In the midst of all the action The “make in India” and “localization” themes, attracting relocating supply chains to India need attention. We need inter-ministerial task forces with specific, measurable, time-bound objectives of getting at least 300 companies moving out of China to India. Every major leader gets into a comfort zone out of his/her language, exposure and experience, but the PM is in this new term broad-basing his key talent resources beyond his home state, a very welcome development. The untimely demise of both Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj have left a serious vacuum in the BJP, and the PM will need to nurture youngsters to step up.
The PM is nearing seventy, and 65% of our population is below the age of 35 and communicating with them needs a prominent presence on Social Media platforms with a stated public position on multiple issues. It is also a medium which is unforgiving in terms of error or attacks by trolls. Coming from a generation that did not have computers or internet in their adaptive years, he has proved he is a constant learner. The fact that youngsters turn out andvote for him massively signifies that he has mastered their psyche and connects successfully. It would not be out of place to accept that the PM has a presence that would make any global statesman envious.
With great power and popularity come very heightened expectations. Mr. Modi communicates an image of impeccable personal integrity, demonstrated consistent hard work, a man who is action oriented, a fantastic negotiator, and one who has a mailed fist in a velvet glove. He loves the big stage, loves to win, give him a platform and an audience and you see the Pied Piper at work. What this image masks successfully is also a master strategist who is incredibly detailed both in planning and execution, and the next few months will tell how PM Modi and India’s second “tryst with destiny” moment plays out. Disclaimer: I am not a member of any political party. The views expressed are personal. I am a stakeholder in my country, and I exercise my constitutional right to vote.
Sanjit Paul Singh
Managing Partner, S&S Associates
Just Modi-bashing is not enough to get votes. Rahul should be able to convince the people that he will be the better alternative
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi turned 50 last week and celebrated his birthday quietly in view of the Coronavirus outbreak. His father Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister of the country at the age of 40.
Rahul, too, could have become the Prime Minister in 2009 when the Congress Party returned to power or at least a Cabinet Minister during the ten years of the UPA’s rule from 2004 -2014.
However, Rahul had his own ideas of leadership. At the swearing-in ceremony in 2009, I asked him why he did not become a Minister and his reply was, “I don’t want to do ten things at a time. I want to do only one thing at a time.” Now, Rahul’s loyalists are getting impatient to bring him back as the party chief. Nobody knows why he resigned last year after the Lok Sabha poll results or why he is coming back as the Congress president. It is pertinent to note that though not holding any office, it is Rahul who is fighting from the front on behalf of the Congress Party, though Sonia Gandhi too, is writing letters and participating in meetings with the political leaders and the Prime Minister.
The indications of Rahul’s return as the party chief were clear at last week’s meeting of the party’s top policy-making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, where there was a clash between the old guard and Rahul. The power struggle was visible when Rahul was critical of the old guard for not supporting him in his campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi either now or earlier during the 2019 poll campaign.
The old guard is wary of personal attacks against Modi as they feel that the negative campaign against the Prime Minister will not work. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, a known Sonia loyalist, was the one who raised the issue in the CWC meeting and the “Rahul lao” chorus began soon after. One of them even suggested that a virtual meeting should be organised to bring Rahul back as the chief of the party.
Rahul 2.0 will see a new brand of the Gandhi scion. From the “angry young man” of the earlier days, Rahul 2.0 will be seen as a mature and effective leader, who alone can take on Prime Minister Modi.
Rahul is being projected as an intellectual who can hold his own with global experts and economists. His conversations with experts like former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan, Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee and former US diplomat Nicholas Burns were meant to convey that. Rahul has also been engaging the media as was evident by the three free-wheeling press conferences he held in recent weeks.
Rahul also launched his own Telegram channel this week. The main purpose of this exercise was to connect with the voters directly. It is available on the messaging app and has so far about 3,500 subscribers. This is a novel experiment as it gives the public access to his views directly. Though he came late to the social media game as compared to the BJP, he has been catching up fast in the last two years. He has 14.9 million followers on twitter and over a million on instagram. His YouTube channel has 3.1 lakh subscribers.
His strategists must have thought it is time for a new brand of Rahul. He can no longer be called a young man as he is 50 now. Hence, the time has come to project him as a mature leader, who has a worldview. Even the BJP no longer calls Rahul the demeaning names given to him earlier and is engaging with him politically, though it is still ridiculing him often.
However, undaunted by the jibes, the new avatar of Rahul has been raising pertinent issues like Modi’s handling of the Chinese incursions, the failing economy and the hiccups in the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic on behalf of the Congress and tweets about these issues almost daily.
Rahul strategists would like him to shed the image of a dynast and a privileged man. Instead they want him to be seen as the alternative to Modi. But before that happens, Rahul must first revive the party from the grassroots level.
He should promote the second rung leaders in the Congress and appoint the right man for the right job. He must listen to the voices of experience within the party. Second, he should also try to emerge as a successful Opposition leader and unite the till-now scattered Opposition. Right now it is Sonia Gandhi who is doing that job, but she has not been very successful at it as the regional satraps are all going their own way. Third, and most importantly, the Congress party needs to find a new narrative. Sonia Gandhi was successful because she thought of the “aam aadmi (common man)” slogan in 2004, which clicked well with the electorate. Just Modi-bashing is not enough to get votes. Rahul should be able to convince the people that he will be the better alternative to Modi.
He got everything in politics on a silver plate. He had the family name. He was young and presentable and had good opportunities in politics. He reached the top position in the party.
Now he should not miss a second chance if he comes back as the party chief. A wise leader would grab the opportunities given to him and Rahul missed many of them in the past. Hopefully Rahul 2.0 will not miss any of them.
(Writer: Kalyani Shankar; Courtesy: The Pioneer)
Many major disasters could have been avoided if a whistleblower had been listened to
Gaurav Taneja is a popular YouTuber but he also happens to be a pilot with Air Asia, India. In a recent video, he alleged that the airline indulges in some practices that he believes compromises passenger safety in order to save some fuel. As a result of this, he has been suspended from his job. Now, Taneja could very well be wrong. If it is found out that he cried wolf, his career in aviation could be sunk at a very young age and few airlines would hire him. That said, it is good that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation is investigating his claims. While the airline has defended itself by saying that what its pilots are doing is an approved procedure, the manufacturer of the aircraft used, Airbus Industrie, has not made any clarifications so far.
While it is not uncommon for whistleblowers to go to the public at large with their complaints, it is important that the regulators investigate each and every issue that is brought up, involving the safety of the passengers. Far too often, whistleblowers are ignored or run down by organisations for their complaints. In aviation, passenger safety is paramount. If something untoward were to happen and it was to emerge that a whistleblower did raise red flags earlier, the regulator would be on the hook. Such an investigation may or may not require massive resources. Indeed, in this case, a few clarifications from the manufacturer should suffice and it might well turn out that Taneja’s worries were unfounded. But that does not mean that they should be ignored. Rightly so, aviation is one of the most safety-conscious industries in the world. It has a strict layer of protocols. Further, to train to become a commercial pilot is an expensive and extensive undertaking. An air crash is more often than not a failure of man, not the machine. Incorrect or unsafe procedures are human errors. In order to save money on fuel and tyres, airlines should not play with people’s lives. A thorough investigation must be conducted and concluded promptly.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
Life lessons from a person, who wears many a hat at the same time.
Vidhya Tiwari, Pageant Ambassador for SAVVY Mrs India, Director & Editor-In-Chief of TROFII, India’s only dedicated Food & Night- life Magazine, and Co-founder of ORO BLANCO (a makeover studio), is a self-proclaimed workaholic.
Her inclination was towards Law but on her father’s insistence she enrolled into Fashion Design and has never looked back since. From being a novice fashionista to becoming a professional she continued working in the fashion industry as a freelance Designer and Stylist for Femina. Working with Femina opened up avenues for her, with numerous shows and pageants, including the Citadel Extravaganza and another one that she calls as one of her favorite moments in her career, which was the show she organised for international Fashion Designer, Eva Danielle, in Pune (2013).
The year 2014 sprinkled some star- dust on her when she received a call from the Czar of the glamour world, Mr Nari Hira appointing her as the Editor of CITADEL magazine (from the stables of MAGNA Publishing)! Being her first ever job on the pay roll, as she had never worked in a corporate environment ever before, her apprehension were put to rest with the warmth and understanding be- stowed upon her, especially by her publisher Proneeta Hira! Sharing a great rap- port with the MAGNA Mumbai team she learnt the ropes of marketing under the guidance of Mr Ashok Dhamankar (Marketing Director, Magna Publishing).
Being the Editor of CITADEL a life- style magazine, she learnt a lot on the job, especially the shift from Fashion to Food. As along with fashion articles she also had to do articles on decor and food! It was an easy jump for her, as in her own words she says, “I am from the live to eat category of people.” Known for her passionate food blogging, she has a loyal following on Instagram & Facebook. A gourmet herself, she’s known to be a great judge of good food and good taste.
The fine point in food for her was when the International Chain Hyatt recognised her talent and invited her as a Judge for the Hyatt Culinary Challenge 2015, at the Hyatt Regency in Mumbai! And her position as a connoisseur was cemented with a second invitation from the Hyatt group when she was invited second year in a row as a judge for the Hyatt Culinary Challenge 2016, this time at the Hyatt, Pune. A foodie at heart this Vegetarian workaholic, says she’s still trying to reach her potential, juggling different work profiles and trying to create a unique place for herself. That’s what led her to spearhead TROFII (Food & Nightlife Magazine) as an Editor and Director.
She also is a partner with a consulting firm, from food, to fashion, to beauty to branding and publicity, you name it and they have a solution! Being a people’s person, she feels Branding & PR are an extension of her creative side. When taking up a brand or person for brand building and PR, the only vision they carry is of their client being in a happy space, that’s our ultimate reward. She says, “if we give our best, and our clients are happy they will bring us more clients in return, which is exactly what happens with us, our recommendations are so strong, that first timers always turn to retainers!”
Having worked on numerous fashion shows as a Fashion Designer and stylist, she has also, helped groom the contestants of Radio Mirchi Queen Bee, RSI May Queen, Pune Club May Queen and the CITADEL Mr & Miss Pune. Her judging skills too have often been put to test, being invited to as jury member for numerous shows, from, Miss Pune to Mrs Maharashtra to Mrs India, to Mrs India Globe! Vidhya takes her duty as a judge very seriously and encourages Men and Women from all walks of life achieve their goals, “whether it be a Fashion Show, a Beauty Pageant or a Cookery Show or the show of life! Each one needs to reach their true potential but for that you must first believe you have it,” she says!
Driven by a strong belief that “style is our most engaging narrative to the world”, style is an art and art is every- where and in everything. There is an artist locked-up in each one of us, but some never find the key, and some never find the door.” Every venture she steps in is an essential one for her and she believes in offering her best. She looks at life and feels lucky, saying, “I think I’ve always been at the right place at the right time. Also, being brutally honest, that’s always worked for me. When I talk business, I talk business, there’s no beating around the bush. your time is the most important. Respect yourself. No one is as important as you are. If you put yourself first, if you are happy with everything around you, only then will you be able to make other people happy. So, choose yourself respect, honor and happiness above all else.
In her words, “I also feel we should never complicate your life, whether personal or professional. Keep it simple and straight. Speaking your heart and being honest is the key”. A devout believer in the Almighty, she feels, and keeps the positivity alive. Be true to yourself in all that you do. The best way to live life is to be true to yourself. Never give up, never lose faith. Faith can move mountains; faith can work wonders. Have faith in yourself and above all have faith in God. God’s love is Endless, and He never fails you, NEVER. Like Hellen Keller very truly said, “A bend in the road is not the end of the road…Unless you fail to make the turn.” So, surrender to Him and all else will follow.
By Anshuman Dogra: For Opinion Express News Services.
Vadhan is a prolific reader who turned to writing a few years ago. His first published book is Shatru, a prequel to his yet unpublished fantasy Series. Shatru sets the stage for a tale based on Indian mythology in which the universe is at risk from a primordial evil leaping through time continuum’s.
His second book, Agniputr: When Agni First Spoke, is hailed as one of the best multi-genre thrillers by some of India’s leading national newspapers, literary platforms, critics and top-end bloggers. Agniputr threads through fantasy, science, law, politics and philosophy to deliver an edge-of-the-seat entertainer. Vadhan is a lawyer by qualification and Director responsible for regulatory risk practice in the world’s largest professional services firm.
Here is the Q&A’s for Vadhan’s interview.
Why do you think there is an increasing lack of faith in law? even the highest court faces a lack of trust.
Firstly, thank you for giving me the opportunity to voice my views. In my opinion this is a very sensitive question. There is no substance to establish that we have lost faith in law. In fact, there is a lot of cleaning up that has happened in the last 5 years. There is a lot of transparency introduced into the public systems that was lacking earlier.
What is law? It is best described as societal guidelines to ensure common good. There are two sides to it, implementation of law and compliance with the law. A citizen’s minimum guarantee to a democratic society is compliance with the law. When there is defiance to the law of the land it will cause unrest. Every country in the world is only as good as its laws and compliance with it. In fact, in the recent past, the highest court of the land has been proactive and has stepped in several times in interpreting as well as providing clarity on compliance with the law. The root cause really is the attitude of certain sections, be it the effluent or the politically motivated, which intends to misinterpret the law to give it a wrong color coding to suit their own ends and to mislead the gullible common man.
Secondly, it is important for people not to think they are above the law. No one is really above the law. A democratic society functions are based on strong fundamentals enforced by institutions. For instance, the last word in investigation is the CBI. The quality of work of the NHAI is another example. ISRO and the tremendous work it has done till now instills faith in it. That is known as institutionalizing the principles of democracy. It is important to restore faith in public institutions. If we don’t, the alternative is harnessing and unleashing power. While institutions follow processes, power is unfettered and functions based on the impact of backlash if it is questioned. As a democratic country, we must work towards building our institutions and running the country based on the fundamental pillars of those institutions.
Does fear of God have to play a positive or a negative role in the ability to establish order of law?
In a country that believes in a divine largess and the positive nature of divinity, Fear of God is a deterrent against misuse of power. Is it really effective? I leave the question open. There are God men and people of influence who have used the divine largess to profit and control the mind of people to do their bidding. In our own culture as also that of others, people who sinned are known to face the wrath of God. Hence, logically such sinners must have fear of God. The surmise of my book, ‘Fear of God’ is to reinstate faith in law.
Your book fear of God high- lights this aspect of growing vigilantism. Does it in some way justify it with someone taking law in their own hands to bring justice?
Let me make it clear. Fear of God does not encourage vigilantism. Vigilantism can be defined a violent reaction to societal injustice and dysfunctional law. Ours is a country abiding by the rule of law. We have a justice delivery system. Is it the best? No. Not yet. But we are getting there faster than we can imagine.
The protagonist of my book insists that one has to be obey the law to be protected by it. If one breaks the law, one must be answerable to it. If you consider yourself to be above the law then there is only fear of God. There- fore, there is attack on corruption and the corrupted. The book only encourages obedience to the law. Do we need Fear of God to ensure that obedience? Defiance to the law will destroy civil society. Cheating the public exchequer, abusing public funds for private gains, using public institutions for personal purposes, not delivering public services, corrupting democratic institutions, these are signs of defiance to the law. The purpose of ‘Fear of God’ in the book is to remove the decay. The book doesn’t set out to propagate vigilantism. In fact it implores to obey the law. First and foremost it is a book of fiction; it is a thriller and an entertainer. If there is a lesson to be learnt (which is entirely up to the reader), it is that above every- thing else is law and obedience to it is the bedrock on which democratic society rests. If you think you are above the law, then there is only Fear of God!
There is a general sense of mistrust among people, lack of trust in authority, the government, each other. what do you think is the reason behind it?
I would peg the general sense of mistrust, if at all, that the people may have on the lost years of independent India when a despotic few controlled the way in which people felt or thought. I would blame it on manipulative coalition politics that forgot its mandate (if it had any at all) and lived for itself rather than the people who delivered a fractured and confused vote. I would blame it on those square kegs that tried to plug round holes. Gaining back the trust of the people inflicted with the injury by such manipulative few is a task. In the last few years, I have only seen a growing respect for the country, a growing sense of unity and dignity for everything Indian and for India.
“The protagonist of my book insists that one has to be obey the law to be protected by it. If one breaks the law, one must be answerable to it. If you consider yourself to be above the law then there is only fear of God.”
Last many months have continued to see people taking law in their own hands. More recently with lockdown situation, there have been such episodes. what do you think is the reason?
Firstly, the average Indian, whether educated or otherwise, is a person who wants to grow in life. I believe that is the mental makeup of an Indian today. Therefore, those who are ‘taking law into their own hands’ are those few who think they are entitled to more than the average Indian. That is my honest opinion. What gives them the right to such entitlement is not something altogether clear. When a policeman stopped a crowd from entering a marketplace without proper passes during COVID- 19 lock down in Patiala, they chopped of his hand! People attack doctors who are the front line soldiers in the battle against a global pandemic. These are signs of entitlement. ‘How dare you work on a COVID patient and step into my locality?’ These are signs of people who think they are above the law. To generalise it would not only be unfair to the average Indian, it would be criminal. When successive governments in the past have given in to influential lobbyists to secure the rights of the few to the detriment of many, for such ‘entitled’ individuals to come to terms with the fact that they are not ‘entitled’ any- more is a difficult task. We can only offer them pity. Not even sympathy.
Your book is going to be made into a movie. how do you perceive this new rush or need for books to be made into series or movies?
Well, look at it this way. There is a ready made script right there, already in the public domain and appreciated by people who would love to see it adapted into a movie or a web series. There is already an established connect with the viewers that the film maker can use. So, why not? Movies were always made from adaptations of the books. As the number of readers have gone up, an author’s name and adaptation from a book renders a greater leverage to the film maker and more acceptance from the viewing public. It is a step in the right direction. Changing a book to a movie involves a lot of creative work of script writers, novelists and film makers. I see good times ahead.
In conclusion, I request all of my readers out there to be safe, stay home and stay healthy. Relaxation of lock down conditions is not a ticket to roam around freely. Use it judiciously, for your own safety and for the safety of those who love you.
Inputs from OECEL News Bureau..
What’s next for the NC chief, who still has a psychological hold on the people? Can he still be an asset?
The Government has finally realised that its single-minded Kashmir policy, the one it has been ramming hard without factoring in local contexts and complexities, is costing it international acceptability. So even while it convinced the world about changing the status of Jammu and Kashmir as an internal and sovereign matter and as a larger counter-terrorism initiative, its civil lockdown of the Valley ate into its credibility. But what made India look like an unfair oppressor was the arrest of democratically-elected leaders, with a decided pro-India tilt, and labelling them as enemies of the State overnight. Worse, they were considered as good as “terrorists” and booked under draconian laws, nullifying any interlocutory scope that they could have offered with Kashmir’s civil society and citizenry even in a changed scenario. The growing anxieties about human rights curbs in the Valley despite a largely incident-free record, both in the European Union (EU) and the US, and an interventionist push from US President Donald Trump, have finally forced the Government to yield some ground. So it has released former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference (NC) leader Farooq Abdullah after seven months of captivity. And it is likely that it may release others over a period of time. The Government also has self-serving motives. For some time, it has been trying to restore a semblance of normalcy by conducting panchayat and local-level polls, hoping to build a new narrative ground up, albeit with candidates friendly to it. As another round of panchayat polls is scheduled for March, officials elected a year ago, most of whom were walkover wins, fear to move out of Srinagar hotels, simply because they contested against local will. Such was the boycott then that over 12,000 panchayat seats continue to be vacant. This round, too, could collapse as panchayats have made it clear that any electoral process would have to be preceded by the release of jailed NC and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leaders. This has completely blasted holes in the BJP’s attempt to rebuild a grassroots matrix or carry out its much-touted development agenda, something it thought would be a cakewalk in the absence of traditional politicians. It has failed to raise an alternative political front and, therefore, needs to create a political climate first. The NC and PDP would still be needed for that purpose. The BJP may have encouraged the formation of the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP), drawing rejects from the PDP and NC, under the stewardship of ex-PDP Minister Altaf Bukhari, but it cannot generate reassurance, least of all credibility, driven as it is by self-serving transactional politics than ideology. The Government would still find it easier to deal with old faithfuls than new aspirants. Perhaps, it is to craft an environment of fairplay that Abdullah has been released. The JKAP may have been formed but needs time to develop a cadre base, something which is still concentrated around the NC and the PDP. Question is will the NC now be used as a polarity to justify the politics of the JKAP or be used to build new bridges? After being treated so unjustly for siding with New Delhi throughout his career, Dr Abdullah has refused to comment on political matters till all leaders are released.
In fact, he may use this unwanted alienation to his advantage and be of some relevance. For at the moment, he hardly has any asset value. For the normal Kashmiri, he is a recipient of much of their hatred and abuse. They believe he shortchanged them by choosing a secular and democratic India and lost Article 370. Now, not only that is gone, the former State has been reduced to a Union Territory. So Kashmiris are questioning his family legacy. For New Delhi, he may have been the moderate face that’s not needed in changed times, given the endorsement of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status both at home and the world. Therefore, Abdullah’s inescapable need to question the abrogation of Article 370 and appear an activist Kashmiri is more than an irritant, it is an obstacle in the new narrative. His suggestions of a negotiated autonomy for the two sides of Kashmir and converting the LoC into a soft border for trade and commerce to flourish seem impractical when all talk is about righting historical wrongs and reclaiming territories in that context, rather than addressing current realities. Yet one must remember his worth through the decades of conflict. He acted as a filter and as Chief Minister did manage to keep militancy in check, give some semblance of credibility to the election process and had a pan-India acceptability as a regional voice. For Abdullah may be a spent force, but people, who have invested in the idea of India at his call, will only see this as betrayal and recede into separatist ways. Simply for that reason, he still has worth and the emotion of his people. It is through him that the Government can let people speak and be heard. Without it, there can be no reconciliation. And the Government’s intent would always seem doubtful to the world.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
The Cong is hoping that the gambit of putting her in a Central role will hold out some hope of reviving the party
There may be a host of recommendations for the Congress to revive itself and capitalise on its pan-India matrix as a cohesive Opposition force. But there’s nobody to accept them. There may be umpteen calls to restore inner-party democracy by holding organisational elections and choosing capable leaders and its president based on cadre choices. But there’s nobody to “bell the cat” as one of its own self-deprecating leaders said. There may be articulate and activist young leaders, who have sought to shine their light for a 2.0 recast but have been fobbed off by old hawks who fear their irrelevance, even if that applies to holding on to the crumbs of a fast disintegrating party. There may be seasoned leaders with wise words of wisdom that run in different directions, justifying them as inner party democratic dialogues although the world sees them as terrible infighting. There’s the old matriarch, who is still keeping it together, the Gandhi tag the party’s brand adhesive that’s as scapegoating for party leaders in failure as grandstanding in success. But Sonia Gandhi doesn’t know how to pass it on to her offspring. Reconciling some issues and the generational divide, infusing fresh breath energy with his band of followers was son Rahul, reluctant yet stubborn, a cocktail that’s more implosive than explosive. Then there is Priyanka Gandhi, the more willing and capable scion with some strike capabilities, who could have been the galvaniser had not her brahmastra potential been wasted by benching her. So the Congress is tempted to play its last family card to mend the party by assigning her a Central role now rather than waiting for the next round of parliamentary elections. As 51 Rajya Sabha seats will be falling vacant in April, of which eight are from the three party-ruled States, there’s a growing clamour to elect her to the Rajya Sabha.
Can this reset the Congress’ narrative indeed? On the face of it, she has not been able to sway the Lok Sabha verdict even though she was made party general-secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP). In fact, the Gandhis lost the home bastion of Amethi, too. Beyond some crowd-pleasing speeches, dramatic optics with the boatmen of Varanasi and campaign colour, Priyanka was compromised by an organisational matrix that had been floundering in the face of the BJP’s phalanx. She herself admitted as much. And although she is probably the only politician other than Modi who can produce a mass resonance, she has two handicaps — the people’s rejection of the politics of entitlement and a disconnect with the grassroots. Which is why one must credit her with not abandoning UP even after the Lok Sabha debacle while her brother chose exile. She worked the ground unlike her brother, who chose to be a disembodied conscience. She has been taking up the cudgels on behalf of the dispossessed tribals in Sonbhadra, praying with Dalits and has been visiting the anti-citizenship law protesters at the receiving end of police brutality. She has also been articulating her positions on national issues rather vociferously on social media. There is a rooted realism to her brother’s exalted escapism, one that is now translating into huge crowd turnouts at her roadshow to the utter discomfort of caste-based parties, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Not only has she lived down her tag, her political sensibilities are primed and she has based herself in Lucknow with diligence of purpose. But the real problem is how she negotiates the tricky territory between her and Rahul camp followers and obviates criticism that by getting elected to the Rajya Sabha, the Gandhis would ensure family representation in each House and were just living out their timelines as legislators. But Priyanka could make herself heard that much more nationally as a parliamentarian and counter the BJP’s oratory and propaganda. Comparisons are being drawn about how her grandmother Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1966 as a Rajya Sabha member. However, the context was different as Indira had the Congress as the dominant political party ruling in most States and at the Centre. That position has been wrested by the BJP today, leaving Priyanka with virtually no enablers. She has a classic glass cliff situation; she could emerge in her own right if she manages to bring the Congress out of the ventilator or she could be condemned for inefficiencies if she fails. Besides, she has a better connect with and a sensibility to deal with both senior and junior leaders, who are claiming fiefdoms of importance and fighting each other, be it Milind Deora, Ajay Maken, Pawan Khera, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Kamal Nath or Jyotiraditya Scindia. She could still be the balancer and end the confusion at least. But how would she avoid her Achilles’ heel, businessman-husband Robert Vadra, who is entangled in vigilance probes? If she manages the political dissociation from personal, perhaps she could still get the party back on keel.
(Courtesy: Editorial – The Pioneer)
Nobel laureate and an authority on sustainable development and climate change, RK Pachauri has set the template for our continuity in climate-challenged times. A long-time columnist of The Pioneer, here are extracts from some of his recommendations made in these pages. We will miss him
RK Pachauri, former Chairman of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), who passed away on February 13, was India’s pre-eminent expert on sustainable development, climate change and environment. He received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for raising awareness on the issue. During his eminent career, he also served as a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change that was constituted in 2007. India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change was finalised in 2008 under his advice and he was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2001 and Padma Vibhushan in 2008, the country’s third and second-highest civilian awards, respectively.
Pachauri assumed responsibilities as TERI’s Chief Executive in 1981 and led the institute for more than three decades. He had become synonymous with TERI before he demitted office as the Executive Vice-Chairman in March 2016. One of his flagship projects, Lighting a Billion Lives, that began with distributing solar-powered lamps to rural homes in remote parts of the country that did not have access to grid electricity, resulted in lighting homes in 12 countries. Pachauri was a regular contributor to The Pioneer and here are a few excerpts of his articles that we are publishing as a tribute to the environmental crusader:
Blowing in the wind: (Published January 8)
Wind energy can not only help achieve a sustainable future but also meet economic and social objectives. India must make the best use of this opportunity. Recent developments, with the US having targetted an Iranian General located in Baghdad, would lead to a hardening of global oil prices. There is a valid fear that any further escalation of conflict in the Middle-East could lead to further price increases, which would impact unfavourably on India’s already unsatisfactory rate of economic growth. Earlier concerns related to energy security and the objectives of bringing about energy independence appear to have been given low priority as a result of a glut in the global oil market in recent years. At the same time, the negative externalities of coal production and consumption remain understated, with an expansion of supply, essentially to maintain coal as the major fuel for power generation in this country. There is a need, therefore, to articulate a long-term renewable energy strategy, which would also meet the objectives of the Government’s “Make in India” initiative. Wind energy developments will be an excellent candidate not only for India to achieve a sustainable energy scenario in the future but also as a means to meet a large range of economic and social objectives. It is inevitable that the world would move away from fossil fuels largely for mitigation of carbon dioxide emissions, which are resulting in climate change world over. Hence, there would be a growing demand and a major market opportunity for nations, which innovate and produce equipment for harnessing renewable sources of energy. India has a growing opportunity to play a role in this market.
Preventable reality: (Published January 22)
The comprehensive listing of threats that can emerge this year, published by the Astana Club, is specific to Eurasian countries but has lessons for the entire world. With respect to climate change, we need to come up with scenarios on how we may be able to bring about a transition from fossil fuels to low carbon sources of energy. Far more immediate is the issue of impacts of climate change, which would pose increasing risks across the globe. Projections of extreme events, which the IPCC had clearly brought out 11 years ago, is the increase in intensity and frequency of disasters and extreme events. A typical but unfortunate example of this is provided by the raging forest fires, which recently affected several parts of Australia, followed immediately by extreme precipitation events which led to flooding and excessive damage. All in all, it is important that the Astana Club has come up with a comprehensive listing of threats, which can emerge during 2020 and, therefore, extending into this decade as a whole. Kazakhstan and several Eurasian countries may lie beyond the Himalayan range but in terms of proximity, they are in some cases very close to us in terms of geographical distance. India should, perhaps, engage far more closely with countries of the region and exercise its soft power, including the flow of knowledge, education and research on issues that have a bearing on the region. The threats for Eurasia apply equally to India as well.
Anatomy of a heat shield: (Published January 21, 2019)
The impact of climate change would leave a large part of the population vulnerable in India. It needs to develop its industrial strengths in a technology of the future. It is important to remember that for India as a society, the impacts of climate change would leave a large part of the population vulnerable. If global action is neglected, in which India has high stakes, then we cannot blame others as a nation, which many developed countries have been responsible for as a measure of neglect for much too long. In particular, quite apart from the economic merits of large-scale renewable energy production, which the Government of India has now committed itself to, what is perhaps of even greater priority is to electrify those villages which are as yet un-electrified, and which may have major constraints in supply of grid based power. The TERI launched a major programme in 2008 called “Lighting a Billion Lives,” which focussed on the provision of lighting in the homes of these villages, using renewable energy, mainly through supply of PV based power. India had a great opportunity to not only complete this task within its own borders, but perhaps make the experience available to homes in Africa and other parts of the developing world. There is, of course, a significant benefit in exploiting economies of scale both through an approach such as the programme on “Lighting a Billion Lives” as well as large-scale supply of grid-based power using renewables.
India can become a leader in mitigation of emissions of GHGs and set a path for growth with significantly low carbon emissions. It may thus develop its industrial strengths in a technology of the future, with significant commercial benefits and reach across other regions of the world. This, of course, would also have major implications for action at the global level for meeting the provisions of the Paris agreement and maintaining the limit of 1.5 °C.
In the worst of times: (Published April 3, 2019)
It is necessary for national governments to put in place safety measures so that vulnerable sections can be protected from the ill-effects of a downturn in economic activity. When Charles Dickens wrote the following lines for his epic creation, A Tale of Two Cities, he obviously gave expression to the state of society as it existed in that period: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…”. If the same author were to write similar lines today, it is likely that he would drop the words “best of times”, given the extent of uncertainty and the lack of “feel good” that we see before us. Perhaps every generation feels some helplessness at what they perceive as the decline in standards, opportunities — and most importantly, hope — in comparison with yesteryear. Yet, today, the confusion that defines global affairs and the state of the world seems more compelling in mapping the human condition as, say, in comparison with what existed just a few years ago. The global economy has reached unprecedented levels, which should normally have resulted in the elimination of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and a reduction in inequalities but the growing difference between the richest members of society and those at the bottom rung has never been sharper than it is today.
Leaders with hubris: (Published April 17, 2019)
A large number of leaders, both at the global and the national levels, today appear to be victims of self-pride when they should be more humble and modest personalities. The question is whether these leaders are seen by their followers as larger than life and measuring up to the dimensions of a superman, to be idealised and admired by them. It is hoped that distinguished leaders in the future would show a certain level of humility and shed the hubris that they appear to have acquired in recent years. It is relevant to recall that the brightest scientist in history Albert Einstein is reported to have said, “I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.” Could it, therefore, be that those leaders with hubris lack an intellectual understanding of their own being and most certainly that of nature, which takes the form of remoteness from reality and basic humility? We urgently need leaders in this mould before those with hubris can impose untold harm on society and distort the finest attributes of human nature. But in recent times, leaders with hubris have strutted the stage in the US, the UK, the Philippines, Indonesia and many other countries. Will they be succeeded by more humble and modest personalities?
The desecration of democracy: (Published January 21, 2019)
The gun control issue and opposition to restrictions on tobacco use are symptomatic of how democracy is being desecrated by abandoning our responsibilities towards the welfare of the people. As the world’s largest democracy, it is important for India to learn the lessons from the flaws and distortions of other countries, such as the US, or else we would also become major desecraters of democracy with devastating consequences. The one ray of light which appears now is the enormous effort being made by the youth of the school in Parkland, Florida, where a shooting spree took place. It is particularly important that they use their moral power to not only influence the state legislature and the Governor of Florida, but also create public opinion for action to introduce gun control. It is important that on all such issues, whether it is banning of tobacco consumption or action to deal with climate change, youth power should come to the fore. It is after all their future which is at serious risk, and clearly it is for them to take leadership, as indeed they are doing with the authorities in Florida. If the current tragedy leads to youth succeeding in imposition of gun control, then perhaps such carnage won’t happen.
(Writer: RK Pachauri; Courtesy: The Pioneer)
Year 2014 saw a changing phase in India’s political history. Fol- lowing that there have been a great revolutions in the central and the state governments of the nation. The shift in the politics was well received across the nation but for Karnataka. While BJP swept the nation through its saffron flag, Karnataka as a state couldn’t come in terms with the existing BJP team, instead two parties (JDS and Congress) came to coalition to lead the state as joint affairs. MR. Siddaramaiah and Mr. Kumar Swamy who were fighting the tug-of-war for CM managed to rub shoulders together in forming what’s called “Hung Government” in the 15th assembly elections. This defiance against the BJP costed them the power itself when the public disowned their rule and eventually B.S. Yeddyurappa became the chosen CM for the State of Karnataka.
Whilst the happenings ever since 2014, Karnataka has seen major deviations from progression. The state that was once known as the silicon hub of the nation turned into a politically wretch. Bangalore (Bengaluru) turned into a political slugfest for few weeks and hence the “hung Government” came to an end with B.E. Yeddyurappa as its current CM.
In all this unrest, there has been a void in the minds of citizens caught between too much information or too many confusions. However, the intellectual strata Bangaloreans’ missed the “progressive state” brand that was associated with the State (especially Bangalore) ever since the dawn of 2000. This reminds us of the technology and the innovation that set its foot in the then developing-metro Bangalore. Until then the last known recall as a reformist and revolutionary Chief Minister of Karnataka was Mr. S M Krishna (Somahalli Mallaiah Krishna) ; a lawyer by profession and a staunch politician started his political career in 1962 (Praja Socialist Party).
SM Krishna hails from Somanahalli in Mandya district the heart bed of Cauvery studied in the United States, graduating from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and The George Washington University law School in Washington D.C, where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He was locally called as the “Oxford Krishna” for his academic achievement. SM Krishna belonged to the very popular community in Karnataka, especially from the Mandya region- The Vokkaligas. This community is not just considered as the prime sect but also are the most contributors in Karnataka Politics to this date. SM Krishna played a key role reconciling Praja Socialist Party with the Indian National Congress . This turned his political career and gave him the requisite to cover the political mileage. He joined the congress party post the coalition and server as the minister of state for industry under Indira Gandhi and ministry of state for finance under the able guidance of Rajiv Gandhi. He then served as the speaker of “Karnataka Legislative Assembly” before he adorned to be the deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka under M. Veerappa Moily.
SM Krishna was popular for his diplomatic yet astute businessman approach. He moved with a sway that wooed the locals for his intelligence and wit. He too was considered at par with the then CM of neighboring state Mr. Chandrababu Naidu and thus found his niche in implementing new technology and cutting-edge innovative solution in Karnataka, Bangalore. While he honored the position as president of Karnataka Pradesh congress committee, it is heard that SM Krishna kept his circle closed and in best of Bangalore classes. He was an open- minded administrator with a vision for the state, hence he is also known as the visionary CM in the state. He would always accompany himself with Bangalore’s best businessmen, educated clout and pool of well-educated and exposed civil service seniors as advisors. Thus, he got the brains and the bastion to lead the party and won the assembly elections in 1999 and went on to become the favorite Chief Minister of Karnataka state until 2004. To this day, SM Krishna’s key impetus comes from these hand-picked advisors, communities and solicitors. His drive as the chief minister was technology and it is his commitment towards technology that marks his uniqueness. He is considered as the tech-icon of the country to have implemented state-of-the-art civil infrastructure in terms of building sub-ways, flyovers, cable bridges etc. He was instrumental in enabling IT infrastructure in the state, IT biggies such as Infosys and Wipro, biotechnology giant such as BioCon and Indian Institute of Science- flourished under his administration. He was backed by the best in class intellectuals who not just assisted SM Krishna in achieving his vision but also backed him in his economic affairs, thus Bangalore became one of the major contributors to country’s GDP through IT and Bio- technology.
The main declarations behind the fiscalised development model were the increase of growth rate and re- structuring of public finance. These declarations should not be considered as means for only economic restructuring rather they have been designed with an agenda to ‘redefine the role of the State’. The portion of public expenditure in GSDP got reduced from 23•3 % to 19•45?tween the year of 2002 – 03 and 2013 – 14 BE (Gayithri 2014). The decreased public expenditure indicates reducing role of the State especially in the organization of public systems. Karnataka jumped into e-governance bandwagon to ensure effective service delivery. It is one of the most progressive states in utilizing the benefit of ICT (Information Communication Technology). It established a computer center way back in 1971 to computerize govt. departments. various e-governance schemes have been introduced to make information accessible to the people and increase efficiency of the govt. works. Bhoomi (land records), Khajane (treasury system), Kaveri (land registration), Mahiti Centre (IT Kiosks) are few of the exam- ples of successful e-governance projects (KDR, 2007).
Furthering his career from being the CM he served the nation under various administrative roles. He moved on to become the Governor of Maharashtra (2004 to 2008), before he returned to his homeland and participate in active state politics. However, upon his successful entry in Rajya Sabha he was drawn as Union Cabinet Minis- ter of External Affairs in the Council of Ministers under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 22 May 2009 until October 2012. He represented India as Foreign minister and visited Israel on a two day in 2012. The Israeli PM deemed this visit by Krishna a historical step forward in developing the relations between the two nations.
Samuel C. Rajiv is Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, New Delhi wrote “EAM S.M. Krishna’s visit to Israel, marked by both positive atmospherics and substance, was an important political effort on the part of the two governments to further consolidate the burgeoning bilateral relations, which stands on three pegs—economic, defense, and people-to- people contacts. Among the deliverable achieved during the visit include the signing of an extradition treaty and India agreeing to the Israeli proposal for opening a Consulate in the hi-tech hub of Bengaluru. High-level political and strategic engagement as exemplified by Mr. Krishna’s visit is essential to better understand each other’s concerns regarding difficult foreign policy issues as well as conserve the momentum in the bilateral ties for mutual benefit.”
He is considered as the tech-icon of the country to have implemented state-of-the-art civil infrastructure in terms of building sub-ways, flyovers, cable bridges etc. He was instrumental in enabling IT infrastructure in the state, IT biggies such as Infosys and Wipro, biotechnology giant such as BioCon and Indian Institute of Science flourished under his administration.
SM Krishna’s reforms- The chief minister has created many such task forces to help him in the state’s governance. BMP officials say the fund-based accounting system has several benefits-like access to accurate, fast and timely information with an ability to administer the development works efficiently. “The reforms have brought clarity and professionalism within the organization. The successful implementation of the fund-based accounting system would not have been possible without the comprehensive partnership of the task force headed by Mr. Nandan Nilekani.” It included process mapping, designing of appropriate accounting policies and procedures, streamlining relationship with banks through memoranda of understanding, software development and deployment
Power reforms- ESCOMS
State government project to segregate electricity load in rural areas to agricultural and non-agricultural consumers, in order to supply 24 hours electricity to rural households and small industries, while monitoring quality supply to irrigation pump sets. The Government of Karnataka approved the implementation of the project in two phases, at the total costs of ` 2,123 crore with 40% equity and 60% to be borrowed as loan by the ESCOMs (GoK, 2016)
Digitization of land records (BHOOMI)
A flagship project of Karnataka State Government is a Land Records management system. The project was inaugurated in the year 2000. Under this project, all the manual RTCs which prevailed at the time of data entry were digitized and made available to the citizen through Kiosk Centers. All the ownership or any other changes in the RTCs are carried out through mutation as per KLR Act using the Land Records data- base. Bhoomi back offices have been set up at all taluks of the state. In each of these centers LR Kiosk & Application Kiosk have also been setup. India’s largest e-governance program has received worldwide acclaim. The online delivery of land titles under the Bhoomi program was chosen for a Commonwealth award in September 2002 in Glasgow, UK, from among Common- wealth’s 54 member states. Shri Krishna is the architect of the program. Bhoomi project has also impressed the United Nations Development Program which is keen to replicate it in other developing countries.
A ten-point reform program
Mr. Krishna, from the very beginning of his tenure, tried to create a public debate on fiscal policy; he launched a 10-point reform program in March 2000 to promote all round development of the state (Box 11.1). The reforms are aimed to create necessary conditions for the eradication of poverty through economic growth with equity (Khuntia, 2003)
Private Sector Development
The third mechanism is a tactical strategy adopted to develop private sec- tor in place of public sector. This component was instrumental in closing/merging the state-run PSUs and promotes deregulation of business. The decision was taken “that investment in Public Sector Enterprises should be restricted to strategic sectors or sectors of social concern and that Government need not continue to involve itself in production of consumer products and marketing enterprises, particularly if they are not generating profits (World Bank, 2001, Annex E, p.2)”. A reasoned argument was that priority of investment needs to be changed from public sector to social sector as per the policies of economic liberalization. As a part of private sector involvement strategy in public systems, the Krishna govt. constituted altogether ten Task Forces to invite suggestions of non-govt. entities in health, education, Information technology and biotechnology, infrastructure etc. BATF (Bangalore Area Task Force) was particularly important in initiating private sector-led solutions for Bangalore Municipal Corporation (World Bank, 2001). various were taken up to systematically reduce budgetary support for public enterprises by disinvesting and restructuring. Schemes like voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) were adopted to downscale the work- force (GOK Finance MTFP, 2002).
The new system (Bangalore Area Task Force) leaves no scope for corruption. It recognizes the complexity of various functions of local bodies (social, enterprise, commercial, fiduciary). The new accounting system lends itself to record the financial transactions under these categories accurately. With the implementation of the fund-based ac- counting system, BMP becomes the first civic agency in the country to adopt the state-of-the-art accounting and finanrefocus the BDA. Apart from distributing house sites and plots for civic amenities, the BDA is also building several state-of-the-art flyovers, knocking off illegal buildings, auctioning recovered properties and transforming its image of a dead organization. It is now one of the few government bodies that have won national fame. BDA is a statutory body which is a cash rich agency and perhaps the only of its kind to be listed on the National Stock Exchange.
It is to be noted that this mechanism is related to governance management still encapsulated under the economic reform scheme. The governance reform has been separately going on in sector- specific areas, such as health service, transport, panchayat raj (local governing bodies) etc. and these were few of the most important reforms in Karnataka. Governance reform has been initiated based on two strategic decisions. The first one is to rationalize (or limit) the state’s role to deal only with the “most critical public goods and services” that private market is incapable of supplying effectively. Second one is to strengthen the role of the state by increasing its effectiveness, transparency and account- ability (World Bank, 2001, Annex D, p.1).
The main aim behind this mechanism was to strengthen the government bureaucracy for advancing fiscal reform and transform public services (limited to basic needs) to become more account- able. He promised to provide the people of Karnataka with a transparent, responsible, responsive and decentralized government. The political adherence to reform is evident with the introduction of new institutional mechanisms for managing infrastructure better. The government also declared that it was committed to offer good governance to the people of Karnataka. Hence, public dialogue was complemented by legislative action and administrative measures. The government tried to take people into confidence to make them accept the path of reform by creating a public debate and democratizing the in- formation regarding the fiscal position of the state.
Fiscal and Public Expenditure Reform
“Chief Minister S M Krishna, who held the Finance portfolio, presented the medium-term fiscal plan for the coming five years … rationalize and target subsides, enhance efficiency and accountability in public spending and stabilize debt, Krishna said”
Karnataka Economic Restructuring Loan 1 (KERL 1) by the World Bank was the first in its kind where the state got a one-tranche (one-time) operational assistance for the fiscal year of 2000 It was a conditional assistance based on the four specific mechanisms to restructure the entire economy. The assistance was divided in half loan (INR 3594.75 Cr./USD75 million) and half credit (INR 3594.75 Cr. /USD75 million) form. (1) The mechanisms focused on fiscal and public expenditure reforms, administrative reforms, private sector development, and poverty and human development monitoring (World Bank, 2002). The Second Karnataka Economic Restructuring Loan 2 (KERL 2) was also made in line with the KERL 1 to advance the same mechanisms for reform. KERL 2 assistance was also equally shared between loan (INR 2283 Cr. / USD 50 million) and credit (INR. 2283Cr. / USD 50 million) support from the Bank for the fiscal year of 2001 – 2002 (World Bank, 2003). World Bank-guided economic re- form interrupted the legacy of state’s politics-driven planning The Bank, already a party to the Union govt. for state level reform for long, has a theory behind the state level economic re- structuring. Below is the Bank’s model of fiscalised development in Karnataka which the state has been following since the beginning of 2000. Karnataka received the biggest venture capital funding in biotechnology among all Indian states, observes Entrepreneur of the year award winner Kiran Majumdar Shaw, who is also chairperson of the CII Biotech committee and the Karnataka Vision Group.
SM Krishna’s Government does not view development as something that should be confined to urban centers like Bangalore. Under his guidance some dead agencies have sprung to life. A few years ago, a former state Government report had recommended that the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) be closed following an internal suggestion by a top bureaucrat.
Decentralization of governance: Decentralization is also acknowledged in the World Development Re- port, 2000/2001 as a pro-poor solution to alleviate poverty fiscalised development model certainly uses the state’s decentralized orientation of governance to execute various sector-specific reforms. The decentralization component of the administration is used to suffice the purpose of political intervention as well as economic restructuring. This is an important move to set Taluk as a nodal point for development which recognizes the structure of decentralization as well as the viability of grassroots-based development politics. Decentralization is used as a political choice for development practices,i.e. equity (one of the two components of Karnataka Model of Development), the World Bank’s model has used decentralization as a tactical choice to expedite the reform process. The presence of decentralization component in the Karnataka development model convinces scholars to argue that Karnataka development model is derived from the “Mysore Model”. The foresightedness of the Mysore Modernity (led by Wodeyars and their Dewans) in early twentieth century paved the way for building many academic institutions to generate skilled human resources in science and engineering and that eventually helped in developing a temperament for scientific and technological innovation. Bengaluru’s emergence as an IT capital of India is a result of these historical proceedings (Kadekodi, Kanbur and Rao, 2008). The fundamental difference between these two models is while Mysore modernity was a state-led development, the modern Karnataka’s development model is a state-supported, private cap- ital-led development. This difference raises question on various governance reforms to know how the state is acting as a facilitator to advance private capital led development.
Poverty Reduction and Human Development Monitoring
The last mechanism is poverty reduction and human development monitoring. This is in-fact the mechanism to measure the impact of the performance done by the above mentioned three interlinked mechanisms. This mechanism helps in establishing Poverty and Human Development Monitoring System by institutionalizing the Human Development Report and enhancing the state’s statistical management capacity. The mechanism holds the theoretical relation of the three former mechanisms. In third mechanism, the tactical alliance with the private sector has been tried to fill the gap in financing (created through fiscal reform) and right-size as well as deunionize the workforce (administrative reform). The main assumption behind the private sector development is that private investment leads to high growth, leading to massive job creation and that ultimately reduce the burden of poverty and thus improve the social indicators. The fourth mechanism is envisaged to capture the success of the very theory propounded by the World Bank; high growth will reduce poverty and improve social indicators. The state govt. echoes the same to accelerate the theory.
Transparency: The govt. has tried to establish transparency by simplifying the filing system,computerization of accounting works, streamlining of tax and license systems, introducing single window system for investment stimulus (procedures) and setting-up of regulatory authority (regulations) within the government system with an aim to simplify the administrative works and limiting the corruption (KDR, 2007). Similarly, these procedures and regulations were backed by the legislative actions. The Second Karnataka Economic Re- structuring Loan report acknowledges the importance of legislative backing for reforms in India.
Accountability: Corruption is a persistent crisis in Karnataka’s governance management and that always affects the service delivery negatively. The reform period-initiated number of measures to curb corruption. Empowerment of Lokayukta, implementation of Citizens’ Charters, initiation of social audit in rural and urban local bodies, public hearing (water adalat) and on- line complain registry are some of the reform measures Karnataka has adopt- ed to make public service accountable (KDR, 2007).
The ‘Reformed’ Model of Development
The reform has changed the philosophy of the state polity, anatomy of the economic structure and orientation of the governance management. This reform is celebrated as Karnataka Model of Development which professes that technology-led (mostly Information and Biotechnology) growth combined with decentralized governance can address the challenge of achieving “growth tempered with equity” (Kadekodi, Kanbur and Rao, 2008, p. 17). This model is crafted as ‘growth with social justice’ by the state. It is acknowledged by the state leadership that growth alone cannot ensure equitable distribution of income and other resources (HPCCI, 2002, chapter – 34). Hence, the model mixed the assurance of equity with the prospect of growth to pronounce as a macro-economic statement. Karnataka has altogether made seven laws to fulfil the transparency crteria of reform. Electricity Reform Act, Anti-Power-Theft Act, Transparency in Public Procurement Act, Ceiling on Govt. Guarantees Act, Fiscal Responsibility Act and Industry.
All this and more would not have been possible but for the pro-active supportive role of the Government headed by the scholar-turned-statesman chief minister. Shri Krishna’s image as a tech- savvy chief minister only helped boost the already strong tech presence in his state. Even top industry titans from the world like Intel CEO Craig Barett and GE Chairman Jack Welch, who were in Bangalore to open technology centres of their respective companies, have been wonder-struck by the industrial climate in the state. Most of the cutting-edge technology takes place in this part of the country. The Karnataka capital generates bigger software exports than any other Indian city.
To this day, SM Krishna is considered Karnataka’s ideal Chief Minister. His efforts to uplift the minority community, develop employment opportunities, enable low budget housing solutions through BDA (Bangalore Development Authority), IT and Bio-Tech industry zones, SEZs, State civil infra- structure, Agriculture, Power and the
list goes on. Despite several challenges posed to the chief minister, Karnataka continues to be the flagship of development in the fields of information technology (IT) and biotechnology (BT) in India. Some of the world’s biggest leaders have made Bangalore a must-stop on their India itinerary. From global leaders like China premier Zhu Rongji and Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair to industry captains like General Electric Chairman Jack Welch, Intel CEO Craig Barett and media mogul Rupert Murdoch. In August 2000, the prime minister of Japan, Mr. Yoshiro Mori, was in Bangalore to hold discussions with Shri Krishna on bridging the digital divide. This was the first visit by a Japanese prime minister to India in 10 years. Shri Krishna invited big Japanese infotech companies to set up shop in his state. Some Bangalore companies like Wipro already have a presence in Japan.
SM Krishna believes in all-round development of Karnataka. “Bangalore is the showcase of development as the capital but we have to create many more Bangalores throughout the state. I am the chief minister of the entire state and I want to have all around development,” says he. His resolve is to ensure that Karnataka has a GDP growth of 8-9 per cent, much higher than the national average. Boosting hopes is the Planning Commission’s observation that Karnataka is poised to be a major performer during the next five years and its GRO is expected to grow at 10 per cent. Two years ago (2000) when the state hosted the Global Investors Meet in Bangalore, investments poured in. The meet attracted more than 250 projects with a total investment of Rs 27,000 crore. over time, Karnataka has attracted nearly Rs 50,000 crore in investments which is a major achievement. The Global Investors Meet and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Partnership Summit held in Bangalore drew some of India’s top industry captains and these spurred investments flowing into Karnataka.
Karnataka’s CEO as he likes to call himself, has been accessible to public and their grievances over emails;more than 300 e-mails every day. A special management information system in the chief minister’s office, directly under the charge of an IAS officer, ensures that all the mails find responses from the chief minister. Clearly, Shri Krishna likes to keep in touch with the common man and there are no restrictions in reach- ing him.
Q: Why you did not consider taxing rural incomes and reductions to the subsidies on electric- ity?
A: They (especially the rural elector- ate which decides elections) would never forgive me and I would be finished. Ref: Pani N. Public Affairs Centre (2004) A Report Card on Bhoomi| Kiosks: A User Assessment of the Computerized Land Records System in Karnataka
His open mindedness, humble attitude and willing to adopt and try various schemes and methods for better governance and improved lifestyle has earmarked Bangalore and the state of Karnataka on the global map.To this extent, he is remembered as the most effective, efficient, intelligent, astute, statesman like administrator.
An able chief minister such as him- self had to withdraw from congress due to lack of like-mindedness and appreciation to leadership; he joins Bhartiya Janata Party to resume politics. However, there had been discerning interest after the financial issues and troubles and eventual death of his son-in-law Siddharth (Founder of Café coffee day). It is during these politically hard times for the State that the ministers of the hung government were finding resort from him, perhaps! Also, a prolonged personal solidarity from politics and issues concerning his son-in-law’s death might have troubled the aged Mr. SM Krishna. We as Kannadigas would like to ask the government to seek his advice and perhaps put the state governance in order.
Karnataka CM S.M. Krishna tops charts consistently- the conclusions suggest a marked continuity with Karnataka’s S.M. Krishna topping the charts consistently. An assessment of what does and doesn’t make the state leaders tick with voters
A suave administrator and a firm believer in teamwork, his modern outlook, openness and accessibility have helped put the sheen back on Karnataka’s image.Call it Krishna and the art of political consciousness. For he has a Zen like approach to his job – a calm and a detachment that are reassuring. He doesn’t sound embarrassed about admitting that he enjoys the good things of life.
(Writer: Shakila Makandar, Principle Correspondent Opinion Express)
The former President renews hope for democracy by encouraging civil society protesters
Citizen Pranab Mukherjee has as usual listened to the voice of his conscience and restored faith in our democratic renewal as a nation. So on a day that India slipped 10 ranks in the 2019 Democracy Index to the 51st position, its lowest since 2006, the former President came out strongly in favour of peaceful protests across the country, emphasising that they would keep the institution alive and well. Stressing that the present wave of civil society campaigns would deepen the nation’s democratic roots, Mukherjee took a veiled dig at the Government and said that Indian democracy had been tested time and again but had come through regardless. Coming from Mukherjee, who has been feted as a Bharat Ratna by the Modi regime and who was even invited by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to address its session, it shows his public morality would not be beholden to political trade-offs. Of course, even as President, he didn’t mince words, decrying cow vigilantism, lynchings and curbs on free speech. The significance of his nomenclature as “Citizen Mukherjee” was not lost on anyone, particularly at a time when the BJP Governments at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh (UP) had been facing flak for their autocratic ways in executing power. Though he did not make an all-out statement in favour of the anti-CAA protests, his comments were seen as an indirect validation of the protesters — especially the students who have borne the brunt of the establishment’s wrath — and a much-needed salve on the bruised spirit of the nation.
Meanwhile, the protests against the Act, that is largely seen as divisive, discriminatory and unconstitutional, continue unabated and have acquired a momentum of their own, forcing politicians to follow them for a change. The social spectrum widens every day. Right from Bollywood actors like Deepika Padukone and former Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Najeeb Jung to students’ organisations, lawyers, doctors, academicians, housewives, the Mayor of Maharashtra’s Malegaon Municipal Corporation, Dalits and the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, a representative cross-section has joined the cause. By lending weight to a people’s movement, Mukherjee has encouraged us into demanding answers. All things considered, these protests now show that the arrogance of the Government of the day has boomeranged on itself and powers that be don’t quite know how to handle such spontaneous combustion.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)