Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Sampark for Samarthan is a unique, out of the box initiative to reach out to Masses

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

Recently, BJP President Mr. Amit Shah drove to former Army Chief General Dalbir Singh’s house, and later tweeted that he met him as part of a new initiative “Sampark for Samarthan”. A booklet listing the achievements of the Modi government in the past 4 years was presented to him. Shri Amit Shah later tweeted about his meetings with Kapil Dev, and then with Ratan Tata and Madhuri Dixit in Mumbai.
Controversial journalist Barkha Dutt wrote something to effect of why the former Army Chief should have refused to the BJP President. Since I am blocked by her and haven’t read any articles by her in recent times, I didn’t give much of an importance to her rant.
There was some outrage beginning on social media that Amit Shah is wasting time in meeting these people. Personally, I didn’t also follow this initiative much, until I saw Defense Minister Ms. Nirmala Seetharaman tweet about her meeting with Dr. S S Badrinath, Chairman, Sankara Nethralay as part of the #SamparkForSamarthan. It was then that I came to know that this is not some ordinary initiative, and the party is indeed serious about it. And only then did I get to know that BJP President did announce about this initiative that party leaders will go and meet 4000 eminent people from various fields and explain to them what this government has achieved.
Following the hashtag has been a very good learning experience for me – because I have come to know about some real achievers in various fields. Over the past ~20 days, the wider variety of achievers that the leaders of various hues in BJP have met is extremely impressive! Surgeons, Scientists, Academicians, sportspersons, industrialists, social workers, authors, former judges, journalists, former army men, former bureaucrats – #SamparkForSamarthan has shown us the importance the government (and the party) is giving to the unknown achievers of this country (Unknown to the media that is!).  
For example, Shri Sambit Patra has been meeting doctors and surgeons in various hospitals to explain the achievement of 4 years  of the Modi government. Has anyone ever thought before of going and meeting doctors and surgeons and engage in a discussion with them on policy? Perhaps after politicians, doctors are the next group that interact with a wide variety of people every single day! Is this perhaps the first time that this group has been engaged at this level?
Meeting achievers is not the only unique part of this initiative – ministers and senior leaders are going to the achievers’ homes & offices, instead of the other way around! This is perhaps the first time that this sort of an engagement is happening, where politicians are visiting the houses of achievers to engage with them on policy. And that’s why this initiative is a very significant one in our political history too.
Take this example of Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad going and meeting the founder of Super30, Shri Anand Kumar. Whilst the opposition is still grappling with merely congratulating him, here we have a government who is going all out to engage him with policy. Or this example of Shri J.P.Nadda meetingPadmaShri Dr. Kshama Metre.
The unique things don’t stop here – the meetings are not restricted to those who have shown an inclination to the present government only! Achievers, irrespective of their political inclinations, are being met. For example, musician Vishal Dadlani’s views on the BJP are quite well known – yet an attempt is being made to meet with such folks and explain the achievements.
The initiative is not restricted to New Delhi alone. Nor is it restricted to just the metros! We already have seen many tweets on meetings that range from bank managers in rural areas to sportspersons in the Northeast to heads of various religious institutions (In the true secular spirit and like the warped spirit of the opposition!).
It was also heartening to see senior leaders reach out to sports achievers ranging from Kapil Dev to Milkha Singh to Gopichand to VVS Laxman to Ms. Nishita Chakraborty – the engagement with the sport community has never been this stronger before I believer.
The list of people is obviously very long and one can go on and on detailing them, but following the #SamparkForSamarthan hashtag will give a peep into the various unknown achievers of India. Initiatives like this also expose the limited world view of the English media and perhaps the perennial outragers on the social media. While they remain fixated with just a couple of meetings with people they don’t like, they simply are missing the ground level connect the #SamparkForSamarthan initiative is making!
PS: The information in this booklet can be found on this detailed and user friendly website – www.48months.mygov.in

Urban Naxal Launch in Hyderabad and journey of Indic Book Club

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

Going by few past experiences, when I first got to know that Vivek Agnihotri’s Urban Naxals was being released in Hyderabad, I thought about 40-50 people will turn up for the book launch. The book launch was being hosted by the Indic Academy in collaboration with Pragna Bharati. The event was scheduled to start at 6pm. I reached the venue at around 5pm to volunteer for any help. We were setting up tables, and the tea/snacks vendor came in and said, I have an order for 100 people. I smiled, and thought to myself, each person is going to have a LOT of tea and coffee today!
Participants started trickling in from 5:30 onwards. As the queue was getting bigger to enter names into the register, we had to have a second register to allow people to enter their details. The Chief Guests of the event were two distinguished and highly accomplished individuals – Dr. K. Aravinda Rao (Former SP of Warangal, IG of Greyhounds, & DGP of AP) and Padma Shri T. Hanuman Chowdary.
At about 6:15pm, I finally went inside the hall. The hall was already bubbling with multiple discussions of the participants. There were at least 200 participants who had turned up on time for this book launch event! After the necessary introductions were made, and the distinguished guests were called on stage, another young man was invited to sing Vande Mataram. Till date, I have never heard the full Vande Mataram song. Wrong statement - Till date, I didn’t know Vande Mataram was longer than what we traditionally hear! The pleasant rendition of the entire song is something I will remember for a very long time.
Shri Hanuman Chowdary was the first speaker. By the time he started speaking, the entire hall was full (about 300 people easily!). He was also surprised to see so many new, and more importantly, so many young faces! Coming from him, whose organization Pragna Bharati has organized many such events, it was really an exceptional feeling! Why am I stressing so much on these attendance numbers?
Because I still remember that day, about 4 years back, when about 20 people turned up for a similar event by the Indic Academy. We dispensed with the traditional seating arrangement of that hall, made it a round table discussion, and we intently listened to and learned from the likes of Shri Hanuman Chowdary and others.
Because I remember the day of launching of Hyderabad chapter of Indic Book Club where about 20 of us assembled in a house and listened to and learned from the likes of Vamsee Juluri and others. With this history in mind, to see an auditorium full of enthusiastic young minds, eagerly waiting to listen on a topic like “Urban Naxals” was nothing short of exhilarating!
Undoubtedly, Dr. K. Aravinda Rao is exceptionally qualified to speak on Naxalism and the dangers that they pose to the society. We heard some good snippets from him on how the Naxals have infiltrated the society. He gave a couple of instances of how the Naxals misused the Peace Talks offer given by the then CM of AP – YSR. He also gave us the line of the evening – “I will recommend this book to every parent who has a college going kid”. Coming from such an experienced man, one could understand the gravity of the problem and what can be done to combat the problem. Every time we hear him, there is something new that we always learn.
Vivek Agnihotri went over the details of how the book came about, and his experiences. His messaging was also simple – grab every opportunity you get to spread your message; grab every opportunity to discuss and debate; if you can go and change the perception of even 1 person, you have done a good job! Until someone announced that since we are nearing 9pm, the program had to be halted, we didn’t even realize that we already spent 2 ½ hours listening to four different speakers!
There was another event scheduled for the next day. Vivek Agnihotri would read out from his book and open the floor for discussions. This time I was yet again sure that about 40 people will turn up! Not only did more than 100 people turn up, the audience intently listened to the book reading for an hour, and then participated in a very healthy discussion!
Indic Book Club and Indic Academy began as the idea and passion of one man, who followed it up in an exemplary manner. The way IBC and IA grew over the years is a text book example of how to build an organization and a long-lasting ecosystem. Today, Indic Academy has chapters across multiple cities worldwide and arranges great workshops and book launches, again worldwide! One may or may not like all the books shared by IA or written by IA members – but every single one of them is open for debate and discussion- unlike the Leftist ecosystem. In these days where a gathering of 10 JNU leftists has 50 cameras covering them, I thought these events are the ones worth covering in detail. But then another thought came to mind – why do we need their approval?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Subdued Acknowledgement of newly released Growth Rate in Liberal Media shows their deep-seated Bias

The following article was written for MyIndMakers. Pasting it here for reference. 
Some tweets stay in your mind for a long time. One such tweet was by the Deputy National Editor of The Hindu, in October 2017.
This was the day the Prime Minister gave a speech on economy, in which he also mentioned that the RBI predicted a growth of 7.7% and Srinivasan went berserk on this timeline. Not knowing what to do, he accused all those who the PM follows as “buffoons & bigots”. Of course, in the isolated world of English media, buffoonery and bigotry don’t count as abuse or trolling. The “buffoons & bigots” tried to explain some logical points to him, but to no avail.  
Q4 results were released in March 2018, and India achieved a growth rate of 7.7% in the last quarter of FY 2017. And this sparked off a celebration amongst all the “buffoons and bigots”! What does Srini feel about this? We don’t know, because he hasn’t tweeted his opinion as vociferously when the Growth rate was 5.6%. However, since he is Deputy National Editor of The Hindu, am assuming he has considerable influence on the editorial content of the paper. So let’s take a look at what The Hindu told us, after we achieved the growth of 7.7%.
Mixed growth signals! Why? Because this might come with “inflation risks”. The editorial list 13, yes thirteen different areas where growth was seen. Private consumption and government expenditure apparently came down. But apparently there is a “sobering thought” here:
A sobering thought here is that the very same growth momentum is likely to spur price pressures across the economy that, combined with the bullish trend in global oil, could fan faster inflation. 
I am not an economist. Today’s inflation is ~3.8%. How bad will the increase be even if it increased? Why is The Hindu so concerned about this risk? Is it so significant that it had to title it’s editorial as “Mixed Growth”? We don’t get any answers for those queries in their editorial.
In their editorial on September 1st, 2017, when the 5.6% growth number came out, they concluded thus:
The Finance Minister has his task cut out: to find ways to restore momentum before the tailwinds of low inflation and affordable energy prices start reversing direction.
With the latest number, has the Finance Minister managed to reach the expectations of The Hindu? Why doesn’t the latest editorial not say a word about the Finance minister?
Let’s leave The Hindu for a while. Our memory is not so short to remember the utter chaos the English media created when the 5.6% number came out. Doomsday was predicted. PM Modi was insulted saying that he is uneducated and the awesome economist, Dr.Man Mohan Singh wouldn’t have let this happen. Numbers were thrown around at will. This noise warranted a detailed response from the Prime Minister. And then folks like Srini went berserk with that speech too.
Watch English media today. The high growth rate is not even a topic of discussion. It’s as if the high growth rate is a normal thing to happen and this government had nothing to do with it. They need to reflect why they find it so difficult to cover positive news. But we are asking too much from them!
For any problem area in the past 1.5 years, the English media pinned it onto Demonetization and GST. Isn’t it an astounding achievement that just within 8 months of bringing in GST, many issues related to GST have been resolved? Two big disruptions within a span of 9 months (Nov 2016 to July 2017), and we are already back on track with respect to growth of the economy. The subdued celebrations in the English media is only reflective of their inclination to cover and debate only negative news.

Sermoniser-in-chief, Rajdeep Sardesai, amusingly asks fellow journalists to ‘save integrity’

The following article was written for OpIndia.com - pasting it here for reference.

Page 3 news is typically referred in a derogatory manner because it majorly consists of gossip or absurd news items. The Hindu so far has been an exception to Page 3 culture. Until today, when they came very close to becoming a Page 3 tabloid! Because of this news literally on Page 3!
I couldn’t stop laughing looking at the headline – of all people, Rajdeep asking others to save integrity! However, the headline is not the only hilarious thing in that article. Rajdeep Sardesai, the Senior Journalist with India Today who is known to do fluff interviews of Mamata Banerjee, Sonia Gandhi and the Yadavs and who once proudly proclaimed that he is anti-national, has once again managed to expose his own hypocrisy. I would like to, therefore, discuss Rajdeep’s thoughts
He said the cheapest way of broadcasting news is to hold debates in studios.
Dear reader, do you know what Rajdeep does every single day? At 9 PM, on India Today, he holds a debate. So, by his own definition, every single day he practices the “cheapest way of broadcasting”. Every single day. And yet here he is, delivering sermons at the Press Club of Hyderabad!
Mr Sardesai said news should focus on education, health, environment, science and technology.
Rajdeep Sardesai has been in this business for a very very long time. He has been the Editor-in-Chief of CNN-IBN for a few years too. This means he had the considerable clout to focus on “education, health, environment, science and technology”Would he be willing to accept a simple challenge, and give us details of shows he has hosted on the above topics? Or what percentage of time did CNN-IBN spend on these topics, when he at the helm?
A couple of years back, he got a chance to interview the HRD minister of the country. He went so unprepared and got badgered by the minister, that this interview will be taught at journalism schools on how not to conduct an interview! My point is that when the opportunity threw up to talk about “education”, he screws up badly. And yet here he is, delivering sermons at the Press Club of Hyderabad!
Journalists should be objective, but presently journalists are being asked to take sides, Mr Sardesai said.
This is a serious allegation. Who has “asked” journalists to take sides?! People have only asked them to openly tell whose side they are taking. What irks people is that Rajdeep (and his friends) don’t come out openly and say that they take sides! They live in this make-believe world that they are the most “objective” people on this planet. All you need to do is watch Rajdeep’s show for a week to understand the hypocrisy in his statement. And yet here he is, delivering sermons at the Press Club of Hyderabad.
Mr Sardesai said, “We have to change what is considered news. Even good news is news. We should help build a better India”.
Boy o boy, what a realization this has been! We must again go back to the basic question – how many of his debates are centred around “good news”? How many shows has he conducted around “good news”. How much has he contributed to “a better India”? Why can’t he take the lead and start using his broadcasting slot for “good news”? If he thinks TRPs won’t come, why can’t he send one tweet a day, write one blog a week, do one video a month on some “good news”? Instead of showing the way, here he is, delivering sermons at the Press Club of Hyderabad.
Journalism in the Country faces several challenges including corrupt content, misuse of technology, lack of credibility and faulty business model of news production apart from lacking journalists with integrity”, Mr Sardesai pointed out
That’s quite a loaded statement! The first example that comes to mind when “misuse of technology” is mentioned, is how Sagarika Ghose faked an entire interview with Sri Sri (& Rajdeep was editor in chief at that time). “Lack of credibility” will arise if you openly lie about being beaten up, when the truth is that it was you beat up people. Normal citizens like me will see “corrupt content”, when you get a chance to interview Sonia Gandhi and ask her about Indira Gandhi’s role in the kitchen.
These are just recent examples. We can go back to the cash for votes days too, but I don’t want to delve any further. Sermoniser-in-chief, Rajdeep Sardesai, is simply awesome at giving advise but ranks very poor when it comes to following them. Page 3 seems to have been the apt place to place this news!

Monday, May 28, 2018

If these are the bitter pills that the middle class is being forced to swallow, someone really needs to explain to us why they are “bitter” in the first place

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

Ever since the TDP has moved out of the NDA, most of the telugu media has toed the line of the TDP unflinchingly. Any statistics or arguments by the BJP have been drowned in the noise of the TV debates and half-baked articles.
Today, the largest circulated telugu newspaper (and also the 9th largest circulated paper in the country), Eenadu, published an exhaustive op-ed , that screamed – “Bitter Pill for the Middle Class”.
We are told that the author Dr. Kalluri Siva Reddy is a “Expert in Finance”. I was curious to see what arguments the “expert” was making to bolster this claim on “bitter pill”. Let me summarize the bullet points, in the order that he has mentioned. The text in quotes is what is mentioned in the article, and my comments are next to it.
1.      “GDP Growth rate is 7.3% over the past 4 years.” - This is good, right? We are one of the fastest growing economies in the world – how exactly is this a bitter pill?
2.      “Industrial Growth Rate is not 7% though, but “only” 4%.” What is the link between the two? There is no mention of which industrial growth rate is being referred here. Or what is the historical data for this? Has this been 4% all along, or it was very high earlier and it came down now?
3.      “Inflation has come down from 9.4% to 3.6%” – Someone needs to explain why oh why this is a bitter pill for the middle class?
4.      “Home loan rates have come down, enabling the fulfilment of middle class dreams of buying an affordable house” – Someone needs to explain why the fulfilment of a dream is a bitter pill for the middle class?
5.      “FDI Inflows have increased” – This is good right? This is definitely not a bitter pill right?
6.      “Current Account Deficit has reduced from 4.8% to 2%.” – Again, can some expert please tell how this is a bitter pill?
7.      “Jan Dhan Accounts have been opened and INR 81,203 crores have come into the banking system”. Opening of accounts, depositing of money directly into the beneficiary accounts – how exactly is it a bitter pill?
8.      “Growth rate of deposits is the lowest since 1963” – Am unable to understand the link of this data point to the bitter pill for middle class. Would really love for the “expert” to elaborate on this further.
9.      “Subsidy on Gas cylinders was slowly removed from 2014 onwards. An increase of 4 rupees per month was implemented” – Finally the bitter pill! I believe the subsidy still exists for BPL families but the rate is still high (subject to being corrected). There have been multiple reforms on the LPG front, but one can agree on this front – some subsidy for those BPL families which got benefitted in the Ujjwala scheme is desirable. For those who can afford it, we need to congratulate all those who participated in the #GiveItUp campaign!
10.   “Crude Oil rates have come down, but petrol prices haven’t come down. Central govt earned INR 2.42 lakh crores through excise duties.”Yes, that money has been spent judiciously to ensure the 1st eight “bitter pills” happen! This money has been spent on infrastructure projects across the country. 42% of what the central government earns goes to the states. In addition to this, the state governments also impose taxes, so it is really surprising to me why “experts in finance” don’t ask for state governments to reduce taxes?
11.   “Demonetization hurt the middle class” – The fall back argument of everyone who don’t have anything else to argue!
12.   “Reduction in budget allocation for education”. How is this a bitter pill for the middle class? Let me tell you what is a bitter pill for the middle class – high fees in private schools. Do you know who can help control this? State governments. Not Narendra Modi, but state governments. Like the TDP government in AP can do this. But no one will write that, for obvious reasons.
The power of the media is simply astonishing. A headline that is in direct contrast to the content of the article. A headline that will conveniently spread the propaganda of the opposition parties. If these are the bitter pills that the middle class is being forced to swallow, someone really needs to explain to us why they are “bitter” in the first place!

But for social media, ‘The Hindu’ would have whitewashed the Bengal Panchayat poll violence

The following article was written for OpIndia. Pasting it here for reference:

Thank God for Social media! Otherwise, this is what I would have read in the Kolkata section of The Hindu and believed it:
This news item was updated on the morning of May 14th. Curiously, there is an update in the “other states” section of the paper, in the afternoon of May 14th.

The morning update mentions only sporadic violence and doesn’t tell us about any deaths that have happened before May 14th. If there were no social media, I would just think that there were some clashes in which few got injured.
The afternoon update, however, tells us this:
Entire election process marked by violence: more than 20 persons were killed and with Monday’s killings, the death toll has crossed 30
Whoa! More than 20 persons were killed *before* May 14th, and The Hindu found it fit to classify it as merely “Sporadic”. With 12 more people dead, the situation has merely graduated to “grim”. 32 deaths till the afternoon of May 14th, and the situation is just “grim”. Well, this language is perhaps in line with what Derek O’Brien has already professed in his now infamous tweet:
The benchmark is 40 deaths in 2003 when the Left Front is ruling. And because that benchmark hasn’t been breached yet, perhaps The Hindu was ok to classify the deaths of 32 people as “grim”. But come results day, the situation was no longer “grim”. A report was published on May 17th, and guess what – there is NO mention of any “grim” violence. In fact, there is NO mention of even “sporadic violence”.
The table also tells us that nearly 18,000 seats went uncontested. But the report doesn’t tell us anything about those seats. Now I am confused thoroughly. Did 32 people really die? Are those deaths so insignificant for this newspaper that they don’t even find a passing mention?
The next news on Mamata Banerjee is her comments on the Karnataka politics, and I had to wait for 4 more days to read an editorial that screamed:
“Grim” situation has now become “high cost”. Trinamool’s sweep has come at a high cost it seems. After 235 words in a 502-word editorial, we are slowly told this:
Around 50 people were killed; the security provided for the election was clearly insufficient, and lumpen elements had a free run.
Whoa! We started the week with “sporadic violence”. We went to 32 deaths in no time. And then after a week, we are told that “around 50 people were killed”? Does this mean people were killed *after* the elections were over too? Or does this mean The Hindu is just recalibrating its numbers? 50 deaths are also greater than the 40 deaths that occurred in the 2003 polls, that Derek O’Brien called as “normal”. But then The Hindu has a different story to tell us:
But the kind of ferocity of the violence before and during last week’s poll has not been seen since the Left Front was ousted after 34 years in power in 2011. 
Now, this made me even more curious. Because this line meant that the violence before 2011 was much higher, when the harbinger of peace, the Left parties were ruling the state! In the previous elections of 2008, 2003 etc, there was actually no social media (or it was in its budding stages). A quick google search yielded this article of The Hindu that said 14 people were killed in the 2003 violence in West Bengal. Not 40 as Derek O’Brien claimed. About 3 weeks after this article, we are told in an Op-Ed in the same newspaper, The Hindu that according to another newspaper (phew!) Anand Bazaar, 47 people were killed! Why is it so difficult to get an official version of the numbers? A 2008 report in Times of India tells us that 30 people were killed in Panchayat violence in 2008, “making it the bloodiest in Bengal’s history, surpassing even the 2003 death count.
Here is the summary:
1. A 2003 Op-Ed in The Hindu claims, with 47 deaths that “The recent elections surpassed all State records in violence, killings, coercion, intimidation and terror tactics.”
2. A 2008 news report in The Times of India states that the 2008 elections, with 30 deaths are the “bloodiest in Bengal’s history, surpassing even the 2003 death count.”
We have all seen how the English media brigade has hyped up cases of “intolerance”, exaggerated instances of “attacks”, and has been subdued when actual violence and murders have taken place in states ruled by parties other than the BJP. Even the latest editorial in The Hindu seeks to do an equal-equal argument by saying that “The TMC and the BJP accuse each other of fomenting the violence.”
This is the same media that loses no time in seeking explanations from the Prime Minister himself, for every small statement made by ward members of BJP also. This is the same media that is now calling the violence in West Bengal as a “no holds barred tactics” by Mamata Banerjee. This is the same media that chooses what numbers to publish when it comes to deaths.
Like I said at the beginning – Thank God for Social Media!

Till Ego does them Part- United in Defeat

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

 Rahul Gandhi tweeted a picture of him (above)  with other leaders and used the hashtag #UnitedInVictory. The astounding irony of the picture and hashtag was just too hard to miss. Many leaders attended the swearing in ceremony of H.D.Kumaraswamy. But not all of them are in this picture! Since this is the picture which was posted along with the hashtag, #UnitedInVictory, one is left wondering - who exactly is a victor in this picture?
D.Raja, who hasn’t won an election ever? V. Narayanaswamy, who didn’t contest the Puducherry elections but went on to become the CM? Mayawati, who hasn’t tasted any electoral success in the past 6 years? Sitaram Yechury, who personally hasn’t won an election ever, and whose party recently lost their last bastion – Tripura? Kumaraswamy, whose party stood third, and yet went on to become the CM? Ajit Singh, who? Did we already forget the drubbing Akhilesh Yadav received? Rahul Gandhi – under whose leadership, the Congress party has lost election after election after election?
The real story lies in not who is in the picture, but who isn’t! Outgoing Karnataka CM, Siddaramiah isn’t. AP CM Chandrababu Naidu attended the event, and is not seen in the picture. WB CM Mamata Banerjee who attended the event, is not seen in the picture. Telangana CM though invited, didn’t come to the event, because he doesn’t want to be seen with Congress. He visited Bengaluru the day before to congratulate JD(S) though. Odisha CM doesn’t want to be seen with both Congress and BJP, so he didn’t even attend the event.
The point being that the real victors in their respective strongholds, in the 2014 or later elections are not seen in this picture! Every single leader who has lost at the hustings, have come together to create a claim an imaginary victory, and are being liberally aided by friendly English media.
KCR wanted to create a regional party front that will not care about either the Congress or the BJP. He has made very harsh comments about both the parties when he announced his intentions to go into national politics, asexplained here in an earlier article. To this effect, he went about meeting many regional party leaders – Mamta Banerjee, M.K.Stalin, H.D.Kumaraswamy, Akhilesh Yadav, and Naveen Patnaik. Not even one of them have bought into his idea of not relying on Congress. Almost everyone has said that it is impossible to beat the BJP without the support of Congress – so KCR is currently is facing a dilemma on how to proceed further with his idea.
Meanwhile, Chandrababu Naidu keeps getting propped up. He was seen with the Congress party leaders yesterday. Obviously, he is open to taking their support (a la United Front effort), but is severely limited by the number of seats he can win. The strongest electoral leader of them all – Mamata Banerjee – is mum on her plans.
Meanwhile, so called analysts are trying to add up vote percentages of different parties and trying to sound intelligent by suggesting a simple solution – all these parties enter pre-poll alliances. Wouldn’t it be nice fun to watch Cong-Left form an alliance in Bengal but fight against each other in Kerala or to watch Rahul wage a war against corruption by allying with Lalu’s party?
Those who are “#UnitedInVictory”, what exact value are they bringing to the table? Those who are “#UnitedInVictory” are united only because of hatred towards one man – Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  Like a friend pointed out to me, the last time such a conglomeration happened was here, and we all know what happened since!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

15th Finance Commission should not be viewed as Southern vs Northern States

The following has been written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

Last week, the Finance Ministers of Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, along with the Chief Minister of Puducherry met. The purpose of the meeting was apparently to highlight how the “South Indian” states are going to lose a lot of money because of the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission (FC).
The entire English media went berserk on this “South Indian” conference. They didn’t tell you that Telangana and Tamil Nadu did not send their representatives to this meeting. Have you seen a single article, anywhere in the English media, trying to analyse why only 3 out of the 5 southern states were part of this meeting?
Kerala is ruled by the Communists, Karnataka and Puducherry by the Congress, and AP by TDP which has been going hammer and tongs against Modi. Not a single article that talks about the political color of this meeting! Come to think of it, Telangana and Tamil Nadu are also ruled by parties that are *not part* of the ruling coalition at the center. What then explains this skewed representation?
What was the purpose of the meeting? Political parties ruling these states make this claim that they are exceptionally performing states and are at a great disadvantage if the 15th FC is asked to consider 2011 census as their basis for tax devolution. The claims are based on ill-informed articles in the English media, because the terms of reference of the 15th FC make it absolutely clear that performing states will be incentivized. These lies have been highlighted in an earlier article here.
However, this has not stopped the media from continuing to spread mis-information on the 15th FC. Caught lying on the performance based parameters, they have now picked up on the “constitutional propriety” of some of the terms! Let’s take, for example, the lead article in The Hindu couple of days back.
The author of the article is a member of the 14th FC. And makes some really contradicting arguments.
·        “..from the perspective of economic objectives, there is no justification in using 1971 population data as a factor in the horizontal distribution of funds.”
·        “The ToR for the present Commission (15th FC) could have been silent on which population figures should be used and avoided a controversy
There is no justification, but the solution to a perfectly justified change is being silent? I am perplexed at this kind of recommendation coming from a member of the 14th FC! Modi government is perhaps the first government that is being castigated for doing the right thing! We move on to the next big point of contention according to this article:
·        Never before in the history of the country has a Finance Commission been asked to review the recommendations of the previous Commission on the grounds that it gave “substantially enhanced devolution”.
What exactly is the problem here? If the criteria of “never before” has to be applied for everything that we want to do, how can we even see any progress? Since the author is a member of the 14th FC, should we also then point out that “never before” has any FC proposed a 10% increase in the funds that state will get? Should they not have stopped from making such a recommendation then?
The rhetoric continues, with the following argument:
·        Asking the Commission to take into account the performances in implementation of various Central schemes is equally contentious
Why does he find this contentious? No concrete answers are given for this question – just some rhetoric on fiscal federal fabric, etc!
Just couple of days earlier, The Hindu had an editorial  that screamed a strong headline – “Divided we Fall”! It doesn’t mention who is creating this divide. Substantial space is dedicated to the PM’s clarification to this controversy, and not to actually who and how this all started. Just one line – “ but framing the issue as a southern vs northern States debate is not constructive. 
Did the ecosystem realize that this is not constructive because their lies were called out? Did they suddenly realise that if they are infact performing states, then they will be actually incentivized? And therefore, now are falling back to other frivolous arguments, like the following
And the Centre’s attempt to increase its share from the divisible pool of resources from the present 58% is something that should concern all States, whether populous or not.
Here is the Gazette Notification. Here is an open challenge to The Hindu to point out where exactly is the centre making this attempt?! Amongst other things that the the 15th FC is tasked to consider, it has to also take the following into consideration.
The impact on the fiscal situation of the Union Government of substantially enhanced tax devolution to States following recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission
I simply fail to understand the controversy and interpretations around this. There has been a huge increase in the devolution to the states, and it will obviously impact the centre’s finances. What exactly is wrong in studying that impact? If we go by how our media wants to generate controversies, then the central government should merely keep quiet on anything it wants to study!
Another editorial in Business Standard made the exact same points on April 12th. Picked up again by The Hindu’s editorial desk on April 14th. And further propagated in an op-ed article on April 16th! If there is anything we have to learn from this controversy, it is the amazing cohesion with which the ecosystem functions. A lie started by The Wire, led to a meeting of Finance Ministers of 3 states and CM of a UT. With the lie now busted, the ecosystem has moved on to the next lie, as if the first one didn’t even occur!
Amidst all this, it was very disappointing to see the centre’s lethargic response to this. Especially, when they have themselves drafted a very good ToR for the 15th FC.

We have had a good laugh and enough fun at Rahul Gandhi’s expense, but it is now time that we question his incoherence and ignorance

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

In almost every Indian school that we study in, the story of Gandhi’s three monkeys is drilled into our minds. “See no evil, hear no evil, Speak no evil”. Ask any school going kid, and he/she will tell you this without ever needing to refer to their notes.
If you were to write a speech for a political leader and ask him/her to refer to this story, it should suffice that you write – “Refer to Gandhi’s three monkeys”. In 2015, Rahul Gandhi gave a speech in the Lok Sabha. He referred to his speech and read out “Bura mat dekho”. He then said, “The second monkey used to say” and then sees his notes again and reads out “Bura mat suno”. And repeats this sequence for “Bura mat bolo”.
Don’t believe me? In this speech here, please refer from 0:56 onwards, and notice how he had to refer to his notes to even read out the simplest of lines, that almost every school going kid in India is familiar with. His speech sheet went viral then too – notice how the monkey quotes are written in red ink too.
Why am I bringing out an old 2015 video today? Because that incident is not an isolated one. His non-serious preparation into serious political and policy related speeches are such an embarrassment and need to be highlighted at every possible instance. Rahul Gandhi’s recent gaffes during Karnataka elections have created significant news on the social media and the regional media but hardly created a ripple in the English media. This would have been fine, if Amit Shah’s recent gaffe referring to Yeddyurappa instead of Siddaramaiah, didn’t go viral. The entire hierarchy of Congress, beginning with Rahul Gandhi shared it on his twitter account, and the English media happily lapped it up, to create an equal-equal debate between Amit Shah and Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi’s first gaffe (in Karnataka) was when he made a vain attempt to quote the great Kannada poet – Shri Basavanna. Rahul begins with “Basa… Basavaji ne kaha tha”. And goes on to recite a poem that took people a while to understand what was going on. However, the most shocking of his gaffes came when he failed miserably to even pronounce, Bharat Ratna, Shri M. Visvesvaraya’s name. Take a look at this video to see how he struggles and makes no attempts to even apologize for this gaffe.
If an Amit Shah or a Narendra Modi or a Yogi Adityanath committed this gaffe, the entire hierarchy of Congress and the English media would have gone to town, on how this is an insult to the Kannadigas and how  BJP is imposing Hindi everywhere.
Rahul Gandhi’s gaffes are therefore not an exception. They are a rule. The gaffes aren’t limited to mere pronunciation errors. They extend to even comprehension problems. Rahul Gandhi has even equated every person with the surname Modi to be corrupt. He has told us that for every single selfie you take, a person in China gets a job! Yep, he really did that, *and* he has been seen taking selfies ever since, after that statement!
Earlier, the answer to any question was “Women Empowerment”. These days, the answer to any question is “Demonetization and GST”. Is this what we really want to hear? Is this what the English media and the ecosystem is trying to thrust on us? Is it not time for us to take a step back and realize that behind all those memes and videos mocking him as Pappu, lies a dark reality – that he is the President of the Congress party; that he has near no clue on any of the topics he is asked to speak about ; that this strategy of imposing his raw thoughts on this nation is actually dangerous to the nation; and that he might get to a position where he will decide upon the future course of policy of our country. 
I kept on wondering – if Amit Shah’s gaffe is news everywhere, then why is Sonia Gandhi’s “Rajineeti ki balatkaar” not significant news to be covered? If Amit Shah’s gaffe is news everywhere, then why is Rahul Gandhi’s Vish…raya gaffe not news anywhere? If every single mannerism of the President of the BJP is news everywhere, then why is the same yardstick not applied to the President of the Congress?
We’ve had a good laugh and enough fun at Rahul Gandhi’s expense, but it is now time that we take his incoherence seriously. It is now time we seriously hold Rahul Gandhi responsible for his irresponsibility.