Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Andhra Pradesh gave NDA a chance in 2014, Has NDA lived up to it?

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

Recently, C-Voter in association with the Republic TV channel has published results of a survey. In this, they have predicted that if elections were to be held today, the NDA would return to power with 335 seats in the Lok Sabha!
What has caught my attention is the BJP’s loss/gain in the two southern states – Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. We will cover some details regarding Andhra Pradesh in this article, and Telangana in another.
C-Voter has predicted that of the 25 seats in Andhra Pradesh, the NDA will win 12 seats and the YSRCP will win 13 seats. This is a loss of 5 seats from 2014.
There have been many TV debates in the Telugu channels based on this survey, because this is the first time anyone has shown a lead to the opposition YSRCP. Almost every debate over the past 3.5 years have always focused on how close both YSRCP and TDP are always in terms of the vote share – and therefore very difficult to project the number of seats anyone would win. An assembly by-election recently and some local body elections have shown that TDP is still very much in control.
However, the survey results that indicate reduced numbers in the Lok Sabha seats is primarily because the people of Andhra Pradesh are angry with Modi’s government. But why are people so angry?
The hastened bifurcation process that the UPA Government completed in the fag-end of their tenure has left Andhra Pradesh in tatters. For any contentious thing, the only solution they gave was that it can be decided in the next 10 years (common capital, common entrance exams, common High Court etc).
Due to this hastened process, the people of Andhra Pradesh felt cheated, and to assuage their feelings, some key promises were made in the Act – studying the feasibility of establishing a new railway zone; Hyderabad as common capital for 10 years; establishing of national institutions(educational, health, industries); funding entirely the Polavaram irrigation project, etc. 
But the biggest of all the demands was granting of a special category status. And this was not included in the Bill that was passed in the Lok Sabha. And since the support of BJP was required to pass this in the Rajya Sabha, the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, made a statement on the floor of the house that the Central Government would grant this status.
Venkaiah Naidu had also vociferously argued that the status should be granted for 10 years and not five. Given the urgency with which the UPA was rushing through the Act, it didn’t want to go to the Lok Sabha again. The BJP also agreed to this compromise of not including this in the act, but taking the Prime Minister’s word at face value. 
However, after coming to power, the NDA Government has shown a lot of reluctance in granting this status to Andhra Pradesh, while it has shown due diligence on various aspects of the bifurcation Act. This has become a rallying point for the opposition parties in the State, especially the badly damaged Congress!
The Modi government, mainly through Venkaiah Naidu, has communicated time and again that with new taxation systems in place, and with existing procedures that need to be followed for granting of special status to a state – it is not possible to grant a special status to AP. Instead, Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu, literally held a midnight press conference, to give the state almost all benefits that will accrue to it, in case a special status was granted.
This has cut very little ice with the people. All they want is – AP must be given special status because this was what was promised before the elections. Any package under the guise of nomenclature is not acceptable. Frequent statements by bureaucrats saying that AP doesn’t need special status further angers the people of the state here (a recent statement by the NITI Aayog vice chairman has kicked up another storm!)
A new Railway zone to Vizag is another prominent demand, and is yet to be fulfilled. Congress promised only a feasibility study for a new zone. The people have assumed this means the BJP government will give a railway zone to AP. No one knows what the status of this feasibility study is. A railway zone brings along with a plethora of opportunities, and the central government has been woeful in its communication strategy regarding the same.
The Polavaram irrigation project is a lifeline to the state of AP. And as with any big project, is taking a very long time to build. The Centre has agreed to fund the project in its entirety, and in a unique decision, has also given the responsibility of constructing this to the State government itself. The targeted date for completion was 2018. Recently, the state government received a notice seeking the stoppage of tenders’ process because of some anomalies detected! All hell broke loose yet again – the Center is against AP; the Center doesn’t want the project to finish etc – all kinds of arguments flew around. It took multiple meetings between Nitin Gadkari and the state ministers, one meeting between Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari; one meeting between Chandrababu Naidu and Nitin Gadkari, to remove this new hurdle!
The details of this or any such issue have become irrelevant. It really didn’t matter if the AP government was flouting any rule or not – all it mattered was that the Modi government stopped Polavaram project for nearly 50 days!
Venkaiah Naidu was seen as the only saving grace. He was seen as the man fighting for AP, and whatever is due to the state. His elevation to the Vice President of the country was also seen as a demotion through promotion by many in AP. People and media have criticized Modi for removing Venkaiah from a position of power! We have elaborated more on this argument, in an earlier article on MyInd Makers here.
The BJP is thus badly losing the perception battle in the state. In fact there is sympathy towards Chandrababu Naidu for waging a ‘losing battle’ with the Center. I believe the 12 seats projection by the C-Voter survey is primarily towards TDP. And I also believe that as of today, this will not translate into a defeat for the TDP in the assembly elections – because there BJP is a marginal player and only the TDP and YSRCP will fight it out (with film star Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena all set to play spoilsport in splitting up these votes).
Electorally, the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana hold out immense promise for BJP’s growth, provided they put in some dedicated efforts to remove these perceptions and revive their functioning. Amit Shah and Narendra Modi need no lessons on electoral management, but if they want their party to grow like it did in Karnataka, what is currently being done by their state units is certainly not enough.

It is TRS all the way in Telangana.

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

Recently, C-Voter in association with the Republic TV channel published results of a survey. In this, they have predicted that if elections were to be held today, the NDA would return to power with 335 seats in the Lok Sabha!
What has caught my attention is the BJP’s loss/gain in the two southern states – Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. We will cover some details regarding Telangana in this article, and the details regarding Andhra Pradesh were covered here.
C-Voter has predicted that of the 17 seats in Telangana, the NDA will win 3 seats, the Congress will win 2 seats, and the TRS will win 12 seats. The local BJP unit has expressed joy that their seat tally will go up from 1 to 3. Actually, the NDA tally of 2 in 2014 is because TDP won 1 seat and BJP won 1. Today, the TDP has all but become extinct, which basically is indicating that the BJP will gain 2 more seats in Telangana!
This has also pleasantly surprised telugu media analysts and perhaps the party cadre too! Before getting into some arguments, it is important to recollect some numbers:
After the 2014 elections, MLAs from every single political party, barring the BJP and MIM have joined the TRS.
  • Congress won 21 seats, and is now left with 13 MLAs only.
  • TDP won 15 seats, and is now left with 3 MLAs only.
  • BSP won 2 seats, and immediately merged with TRS.
  • YSRCP won 3 and has merged with the TRS within a year.
  • MIM won 7 fighting against TRS, and immediately after election has befriended TRS.
  • BJP won 5 seats, and *is the only party* whose MLAs haven’t jumped the ship. And continues to be a major opposition party.

During the 2014 elections, there was a lot of heartburn amongst BJP supporters that the TDP got more seats in the alliance. Despite contesting ~45 seats, the BJP ended up winning only 5. Though the TDP won 15 seats, today it has only 3 MLAs left. And the handful of those leaders left in the TDP also fight amongst them regularly! 
Basically this means – the BJP has now become the senior partner of the BJP-TDP coalition in Telangana! This is in stark contrast to their marginal role in the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh. That is the major USP of the BJP - the lure of power hasn’t affected them and they are the senior partner of the coalition now. Their last electoral victory was when they won a MLC seat for graduates, back in 2015. The loss even jolted KCR back then. However, the coalition faced a major loss in the GHMC elections held in 2016. Out of the nearly 150 seats, the BJP won 4 and the TDP won just one seat!
This GHMC election result must have been a wakeup call to the BJP – for majority it’s MLAs are from the Hyderabad region. They have shown little or no interest in furthering Modi’s flagship programs like Swachh Bharat. There is a lot of activity when central leaders come visiting, but post those visits, the activity comes down drastically! The pace at which the state unit operates is in stark contrast to how the Central unit operates!
The projected gain in seats therefore has come as a surprise! The reasons might be varied – perhaps some ground work that is happening away from the glare of the media has resulted in this. Perhaps the voters have seen how Modi has helped the state government despite TRS being in opposition. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how the state unit of the BJP will take this forward.
The other key aspect of the survey is how TRS still has near absolute control in the state. KCR is seen as a man on mission – primarily focusing on water related projects. Mission Bhagiratha aims at supplying drinking water via taps to every home. There are multiple irrigation projects that are going on in the state. Many lakes and ponds have been revived in the state. The state now doesn’t face any power related problems. KCR announces sops to almost every community and religion in the state. Perhaps a continuity in 2019 is also necessary, so that these projects reach their logical conclusion.
The bonhomie that he enjoys with Modi has led some to speculate that the TRS and BJP might align in the assembly elections. However, if this were to happen, the BJP will be relegated to another minor partner. Especially in a state where they can have better foothold than Andhra Pradesh!
It is an uphill task to defeat TRS in 2019. In all probability, unless something drastically goes bad, the TRS will return to power in 2019. The Congress is making a lot of noise in the media, and is more visible than the BJP when to comes to critiquing the government. However illogical their claims are, they make a good pomp and show around it (with power point presentations etc!). If despite all this, the projected seat share is only 2 seats, it is perhaps time for Congress to reflect (oops, Did I just ask Congress to reflect?!) upon it’s strategies!
Electorally, the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana hold out immense promise for BJP’s growth, provided they put in some dedicated efforts to remove these perceptions and revive their functioning. Amit Shah and Narendra Modi need no lessons on electoral management, but if they want their party to grow like it did in Karnataka, what is currently being done by their state units is certainly not enough.

The Modi Interviews- After 3.5 years, the PM continues to be on track but the usual suspects continue to whine

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

The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, recently gave two interviews – one to Zee News and the other to Times Now. The usual suspects made the usual complaints, the best being that no “newsworthy points” have been made! The opening question by the Times Now team was:
Prime Minister ji how would you look back on the three and a half years of your term in office. So much has happened. What all have you achieved and how much is left.”
The usual suspects even had a problem with this!  They complain that this was a soft question. Perhaps the team should have started with “Mr. Modi, why haven’t you resigned yet?”. The cabal would have cheered the interviewer and made him the new hero on the block!
Since they think that no “newsworthy points” have been made, let’s first look at the all the areas that have been touched upon, in these two interviews.
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Agriculture
  • Growth Rates
  • Jobs
  • GST
  • Electoral reforms (Specifically, simultaneous elections)
  • Demonetization
  • Politics of Congress Mukt Bharat
  • Budget
  • Upcoming Davos trip
  • Welfare schemes
One of the most fervent criticisms of this government, by the opposition and the English media, have been that jobs are not being created. Rahul Gandhi is touring the world telling every possible person that there are no jobs being created in India. These assertions were based on just one data point. The Prime Minister was posed this question in both the interviews, and he gave a detailed answer in both.
He first touched upon the highly successful MUDRA yojana. He told us that nearly 9 crore loans have been disbursed in the past 2.5 years of this scheme. These loans are provided for small entrepreneurs, who in turn also provide employment to other folks. This scheme has opened up wide range of possibilities for those who wish to have their own small business units and further also provide employment. The 2016-2017 yearly report tells us that in two years, 7.46 crore loan accounts have been serviced and INR 3.18 lakh crores was disbursed. If this is not job creation, then what is? No wonder the doomsday scenario of no jobs is only felt amongst the 4 walls of the Congress party and sections of the English media!
Prime Minister also mentioned the recent IIM study that has projected very good job growth figures based on entries made into the EPF system, especially amongst those aged 18-25 years. Needless to say, there is high probability that this is the first job of this age group and therefore further cementing the belief that the doomsday scenario is felt only amongst those four walls!
The standard criticism of GST was also posed to the Prime Minister. He, yet again, has eloquently explained the thinking behind GST, giving credit to all the political parties and state governments, telling us how the GST council has adapted well to the feedback that kept coming in, informing us that nothing is set in stone and that any new big change will have to undergo these transformations! That such a big transformative step was billed cheaply as “Gabbar Singh Tax” by the hope of the English media, reflects more on his understanding than the GST Council! Every single of the 24 GST Council meetings have taken unanimous decision. Yep, unanimous decisions. In today’s divided polity, if we fail to see this stupendous achievement of our policy makers, we are doing to injustice to ourselves!
Oh wait, here’s a “newsworthy point. The Prime Minister has also given further clarity on what his clarion call – “Congress Mukt Bharat” meant. The typical bad things that we talk about our polity – casteism, communalism, nepotism, dynasty, corruption, treachery etc. – all these have percolated into our polity while Congress was overseeing. We need to get rid of these, in order to achieve a true Congress Mukt Bharat. The Prime Minister in fact exhorted the Congress itself to become Congress Mukt! That’s a good headline I suppose – “Congress itself should become Congress Mukt!”. I’d urge you to listen his response to this question (if that’s not possible, please do read that response).
The BJP has been on the forefront in trying to debate the topic of simultaneous elections. The PM has yet again elucidated in nice detail why he and his party thinks this is an idea whose time has come. He has spoken about the various logistics and financial burdens of having elections so frequently. This topic needs more debate, and fine tuning. It is infact high time we come out of these quarterly electoral cycles currently prevalent in the country!  
The Prime Minister, through his responses, has shown to us the focus of his government is solely on development and they will explore various options under different departments to make this possible. His detailed answers on problems faced in agriculture also tell us how seized he is about issues that matter. I still remember the interview in which a Union Minister was talking about how Neem coated Urea has stopped the pilferage of Urea, and Rajdeep Sardesai cut him short to ask – “Are you a suit-boot ki sarkar”! No wonder the usual suspects didn’t find these interviews “newsworthy”!
Even on the other topics, the Prime Minister spoke with clarity and passion, repeatedly reminding us that he and his government will do everything possible that will benefit India, at various forums. This government has been very open to feedback and has on multiple occasions incorporated these points too. Even in these interviews, the PM has touched upon how the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana hasn’t met the success he wanted it to. In Modi, we have a government that constantly listens to people and doesn’t hesitate to take decisions that will benefit the country. The usual suspects may continue to whine!  

If the ‘harsh language’ law is to be enforced, many ruling party leaders including Telangana CM will be the first in line!

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

Recently, we came to know that the Telangana government led by Honorable Mr. K. Chandrashekhar Rao, is proposing to make usage of “harsh language” as a cognizable offence. The government can investigate you for using “harsh language” without permission from the courts, and this perhaps will also include you being in jail for using “harsh language”.
One might naturally be wondering what constitutes “harsh language”. Perhaps language like – “Even if blood flows on the streets of Hyderabad, we will never allow the construction of Hyderabad Metro”? This is a statement made by Mr. K. Chandrashekar Rao. It’s another matter that he along with PM Modi recently inaugurated a 32km stretch of the Metro Line.
Or perhaps language like – “If any media writes against Telangana and it’s culture, we will break their necks and bury them 10km deep”? This is a statement made by Mr. K. Chandrashekhar Rao, as Chief Minister of Telangana. Will this be considered as “harsh language” enough? Or will this be considered “harsh language” in response to “harsh language” used by sections of the media?
Or perhaps language like – “Which bastard policeman told you to get me here”? In the heat of the Telangana movement back in 2011, Mr. K. Taraka Rama Rao, son of KCR and then MLA, has posed this question twice. He is now a minister in Telangana cabinet, and has also apologized for his outburst that day. However, am a little curious – given today’s proposed law, will an apology be enough for the police not to go forward with arresting for “harsh language”?
Or perhaps language like – “Arey Stephen Ravindra, useless fellow”? This language was used by Mr. T. Harish Rao. He is KCR’s nephew, and now the irrigation minister in KCR’s cabinet. He is receiving fulsome praise for his work in Irrigation (much of it is well deserved, by the way!). However, if this same law existed back in 2013, would Harish Rao be able to become a minister today? Perhaps it is time for some reflection?
Actually, let’s go back even a bit. Mr. Harish Rao not only used “harsh language”, but even beat up an officer in the Andhra Bhavan in Delhi. Nothing happened to Mr. Harish Rao after that. In fact he is now a cabinet minister in Telangana. We don’t even how the psyche of the poor officer has been after that ugly violent incident. What an irony that today, the government Mr. Harish Rao is part of, is proposing prosecution merely for using “harsh language”.
However, what prompted this law now? I think, perhaps the recent war of words between a minister and a Congress MLA led to this situation. Mr. Revanth Reddy, who recently jumped from TDP to Congress, is known to use strong and at times abusive language. Last December, responding to a war of words, he went off script and started addressing the minister with an unparliamentary word. While these have become a huge debating point in regional media shows, one has to really wonder if calling someone a bad word really warrants a jail term?
Leave aside the politicians – how can this law be applied towards the common people? Tomorrow, if someone criticizes KCR and or any minister for say 30 minutes, can this law be applied on them? If someone compares any of the office bearers to exhibiting dictatorial behavior, would the “harsh language” law come into force? If someone criticizes the government body for lax responses (and this can be a pretty common scenario), and expresses frustration, will the “harsh language” law come into force?
It is really unfortunate that not enough debate has happened on the passage of this law. We often hear debates about free speech and intolerance. If this law is not about trampling one’s free speech, then what is? If this law is not about intolerant to criticism, then what is?
While writing this article, I have taken many precautions to avoid using any kind of “harsh language”, except for citing a few references of what can be construed as “harsh language”. Am hoping this article will not land me into trouble.

Roger Federer does it again!

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

The 2009 Australian Open Finals match is etched in my memory.
I am a Roger Federer Bhakt. It was already devastating to see him lose the Wimbledon Finals to Nadal in 2008. I was pretty sure that Roger Federer will extract his revenge in 2009 Australian Open. Nadal had to go through a grueling five hour long five setter in the Semi-final, whilst Federer had a pretty easy outing a day before. I estimated that Nadal will be tired and Federer will win this Finals in 4 sets.
And the unthinkable happened. Federer lost to Nadal in 5 sets. When it was time for him to speak after receiving the runners up trophy, he just couldn’t. He couldn’t speak because he couldn’t hold back his tears. He wept and wept. He did come back to speak, but that memory of him not able to control his tears stayed with us. The back to back losses to Nadal in finals has hurt a lot. I was devastated too, and took a long walk that evening to regain composure (Yep, I was that kind of a bhakt then!).
Fast forward to the year 2018. Australian Open Finals. This time Federer won and did speak, but again could not control back his tears, and this time I am sure many bhakts kept wondering how life has come a real full circle to Roger Federer.
That day, he was attempting to win a record equaling 14th Grand Slam. Today,he has won his 20th Grand Slam title. That day, he couldn’t equal a record. Today, he has created a record that will be very difficult for someone to touch.  That day, none of us would have imagined that today, he would go through another grueling 2 weeks of tennis, watch many of the other seeded players either lose or retire, fight another five-setter and lift his 20th Grand Slam title. Today is as emotional as it was that day.
As a matter of fact, the 2017 Australian Open final was the actual revenge extraction match! However, neither did Federer get so emotional nor did the bhakts like me! We were undoubtedly very happy, thrilled and on top of the world that Federer finally won his last hurrah, in style! We all believed this was the fairy tale ending all of us were waiting desperately for, and destiny made sure it was perfect!
He then pulled out of the French Open, further confirming our doubts that his last hurrah has happened. And then Wimbledon began. Over two magical weeks at Wimbledon, Roger Federer, without dropping a single set in the entire tournament, went on to win the title for the record 8th time, and we all simply ran out of words! We were extremely thrilled that he won 19 Grand Slams, is out of the reach of all his contemporaries and it’s another fairy tale ending that he won the last of his Grand Slams on his favorite surface – Grass, at his favorite venue – the Wimbledon.
In fact when Federer won the 2009 Wimbledon tournament and beat Pete Sampras’s record of 14 Grand Slam titles, Sampras was present in the court. He spoke to the Press later, and estimated that Federer will go on to win 17 or 18 Grand Slams. I was amused at his under estimation and thought to myself, what is he saying?! In this form, 20 is easily achievable in 2-3 years only, given that he already has 15. But then, Pete Sampras was almost right! I felt stupid for doubting Pete’s estimates back then! Federer’s last Grand Slam was in 2012. Though he was reaching the semifinals and finals till 2016, he was losing those matches. Until the revival happened in 2017.
A lot of adjectives have been used to describe Federer’s game. Graceful and Majestic immediately come to mind. Skillful beauty comes to mind. Controlled aggression comes to the mind. Tactical planning comes to mind. I can go on and on, but there aren’t words left anymore to describe what he has achieved and how he has made people feel about his game. There are of course too many matches and too many shots in his armor, to pick out the best. However, to me his backhanded shot that zoomed past Nadal, when Nadal was on Championship point in Wimbledon 2008, simply stands out. It still is baffling to me as to how such a graceful, majestic, skillful, tactical and aggressive shot could have been hit, in such an immense high pressure situation! It just baffles me.
We would be doing grave injustice to ourselves if we don’t learn to inculcate such discipline and self-belief in ourselves. We would be doing grave injustice to ourselves if we don’t learn to inculcate his passion and commitment, into the things we do in our lives. We may not achieve record breaking things like he did, but we sure will achieve more than what we wanted to. Thank you for everything, Roger Federer. Thank you.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Why did Media ignore Rahul Gandhi’s first speech outside India as Congress President?

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

I was curious as to why the English media ecosystem was ignoring Rahul Gandhi’s first speech outside the country as Congress President. He delivered this speech in Bahrain. Apart from a cursory mention, none of the usual suspects were lavishing him with praise. None of them went berserk, like they went during his earlier outing. The only reason I can think of is the speech was *so* bad that it had to be ignored,
So I finally garnered the courage to hear his speech in entirety, and yet again I was flummoxed at the gross incompetence of Rahul Gandhi and the sheer incoherence in his thoughts. As much as I feel like ignoring it, it is important that we bring out this incoherence to the larger audience.
He begins with a small story about his Chemistry teacher who was from Bahrain. And how she talked about how she never felt discriminated in Bahrain despite being an Indian. And then he poses his standard question of “Does everyone understand Hindi? Otherwise I can translate parts of my speech into English too”!
Moving on, he then tells us a story from UP. And he translates every Hindi sentence into English. The gist of the “story” is this: A woman in UP asked him to help remove a IPC 302 cases against her husband. He asked her if the husband committed the crime. She said yes, he did. Then Rahul asked what can I possible do? She then said, “what is the use of you politicians”.
It’s still the beginning of the speech, but one already begins to wonder what exactly is Rahul Gandhi’s point in telling this “story”. Looks like Rahul’s speech writers were also confused at this point of time to correlate the next part of his speech to this part. And they come up with an ingenious plan! Here is the text of how Rahul linked the two parts.
The lady asked me two questions:
1.      What we politicians are doing?
2.      What *the* politician was doing there?  
And these are the two questions I want to answer here:
1.      Why am I here?
2.      What am I trying to achieve?
Phew! I mean, he had to all the way to Bahrain to answer two questions that a lady asked him in UP many years ago? Such incoherence in Rahul Gandhi’s speeches is not something new. Almost every single speech of his is like this – and is typically lapped up the English media in our country as something revolutionary.
Rahul Gandhi then continues with the flow. “This time I am here to tell you what you mean to your country. That you are important. To tell you that there is a serious problem at home.”
Serious problem at home”, Mr. Rahul Gandhi? Because you are losing election after election? Because your thoughts don’t resonate with the voters in India? Why are you so keen to go abroad and talk about problems at your home?
The next few minutes of his speech read just like a campaign speech against India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. He brings in the Independence struggle (incomprehensible what that struggle has to do with Bahrain!), and goes on to proclaim that “India today is free, but is under threat”.
Tells an outright lie that “Judges handling sensitive cases die mysteriously”. It is amazing how the English media ecosystem feeds him all these inputs, and equally amazing is how he gets away scot free!  He goes on to tell the audience that “What China does in two days, India takes one year.”
I find this love towards China a little disturbing. When the Doklam crisis was ongoing, Rahul Gandhi chose to meet representatives of the Chinese government and no one from the Indian government. At every possible instance, he praises the Chinese government and demeans the Indian government. He is talking as if 4 years back India was on par with China, and there has been a sudden dip in India’s performance post 2014.
Rahul Gandhi and his ancestors ruled India, and kept it backward while China surged ahead. So, while Rahul rues about the lack of “world class educational institutions” in India, it is a scathing commentary on his own family’s rule. I wonder why he keeps thinking that the people of India can’t see this through.
After a few minutes of ranting and bad mouthing the BJP government, he suddenly starts extolling the *entire* diaspora community for sending in a large remittances back to India! And then spends a couple of minutes thanking the *entire* diaspora community for their service to India
And then he ends with – “I have not come here to tell you anything really. No. I have come here to ask for your help. We need you to help us fight these forces of anger and hatred. We need you just as we needed you and our ancestors needed you in 1947
The speech began with “I am here to tell you that you are important”. It ended with “I have not come here to tell you anything.” The speech strangely makes multiple references to the Independence struggle! The speech makes no mention of how Rahul Gandhi seeks to tap their “help to fight these forces”.
Typically, keynote speakers spend anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes to talk to their audience. Unless of course time is a severe restriction. Rahul Gandhi’s speech was roughly 15 minutes long. Is it because he actually had no content to talk about, except rehash his recent Gujarat election speeches? Please do notice how the entire ecosystem downplayed this speech – it is because the speech was actually THAT bad.
This speech is as bad as any other speech he has delivered on foreign lands. Whilst the ecosystem went out of its way to hype his Berkeley speech I would urge you to listen to both of his speeches and decide for yourself if there is any difference between the two speeches!  
PS: Notice how he disparages and takes pride in UP’s backwardness. “Some years ago, I was travelling in UP. Dusty Roads.” “In UP you have to be suspicious, so I got suspicious.” This romanticizing of backwardness is well past its sell by date. Hopefully Rahul Gandhi will move past this!

Don’t worry NYT, our Economy is doing way better than your failing editorial standards

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

This seems to be the season of predicting how India is doomed to fail in 2018. Earlier this month, controversial historian Ramachandra Guha made a similar prediction. The New York Times did not want to be seen as falling behind in joining this bandwagon, so they came up a longish article titled– “India’s Economic Woes Are Piercing Modi’s Aura of Invulnerability”
And one of their first analysis is the following:
Just about all economists agree that two of the prime minister’s biggest policy gambles — abruptly voiding most of the nation’s currency and then, less than a year later, imposing a sweeping new sales tax — have slowed India’s meteoric growth.
Read the last line again – “Imposing a sweeping new sales tax”! First of all, GST is not a sales tax. GST stands for Goods and Services Tax. It is baffling how the New York Times could merrily classify this as a sales tax.
Second of all, this “new sales tax” was never “imposed”. This has been decided and implemented by the GST Council – which includes governments of all states and the central government. And therefore, by extension, includes almost all major political parties in India (In this context, unfortunately I have to bracket AAP also as a major party).  A total of 23 meetings of the council have happened so far. All decisions of the meetings have been unanimous. Yes, unanimous. And yet miraculously, the New York Times wants to call this as an “imposition”.
The typical sweeping generalization has been the hallmark of the liberal gang from a long time. NYT attributes the observations to “Just about all economists”. Now, what kind of quantification is this? Just so that we don’t have to worry too much about this quantification, the NYT provides us an answer in the very next paragraph:
Things have been worsening, worsening, worsening,” said Himanshu, an economics professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, who uses only one name.”
There you go. The professor who uses only one name is our data point. The professor from the nearest accessible university, JNU, is our data point to arrive at the conclusion that a “sweeping sales tax” has been “imposed” on the country! And before we forget, “things are worsening, worsening, worsening”.
The next paragraph is even more baffling. Because one would expect a follow up to how “things are worsening, worsening, worsening”.
Still, the economy here is far from failing. The stock market continues to soar, major rail, road and port projects are unfolding across the country, and foreign investors poured $25.4 billion into India from April to September, up 17 percent from the period in 2016.
The government on Friday predicted that the country’s gross domestic product would grow by 6.5 percent in the 2017-18 financial year. While that is the lowest number the country has seen in four years, India’s economy is one that most countries would love to have.
Now I am slightly flummoxed. Is our economy doing terrible or well? If “India’s economy is one that most countries would love to have”, then why this scaremongering of “economic woes”. If the “economic woes” are indeed worse and real, then why would most countries “love to have” our economy?!
Unsure of how to continue the article further, the NYT immediately falls back on another standard argument.
But it does not feel that way to the huge number of Indians negatively affected by Mr. Modi’s policies, and the grumbles are growing. So are social tensions, especially those that divide Hindus from Muslims, and upper caste from lower caste.
Again, no quantification on “Huge number of Indians”. A mere opinion, perhaps based on interactions with some JNU students? So they move to their next best bet – the Gujarat elections!
Even in Gujarat, the state considered the strongest of Mr. Modi’s strongholds, where people have been cheering his rise for the past 20 years and line up in dusty fields by the thousands just to catch a glimpse of his saffron scarf and groomed white beard, many feel betrayed.”
I often wonder the need for so much prose, when things can be told in simple terms too! But then we digress. Here’s more:
“In December, in an election that the entire country was watching because it was seen as a referendum on Mr. Modi’s governance, Gujarati voters elected a new State Assembly. Mr. Modi’s party maintained its majority but lost 16 seats.
No mention of the victory in Himachal. Or of the 49% vote garnered. Or of the fact that a majority was “maintained” even after being in power for 22 years. A couple of responses by those who were not happy with Modi were printed; some examples from Surat were given but no mention was made of the fact that the BJP swept the elections in Surat. The piece then enters the GST territory (and here the correct abbreviation is given!), and the all too familiar complaints are again repeated. Yet no mention of the facts that many of these complaints (rate changes, process headaches, GSTN etc) were acted upon; many of the suggestions were incorporated; and the feedback process is robust and continuous (Details of all GST council meetings can be found here).
The article ended as pompously as it started.
“If economic maneuverability is limited,” said Ashutosh Varshney, a political-science professor and India specialist at Brown University, “then the communal card, the Hindu-Muslim card, is a massive political temptation.”
What or who exactly is a “India specialist”. Is that even a title? But hold on though, because in the next para, NYT gives an even better title to Pakistan.
One example was Mr. Modi’s accusations that opposition leaders were in cahoots with Pakistan, India’s rival and a nation with a strong Islamic identity, after some opposition leaders met some Pakistani officials at a recent social event.
Oh boy – Pakistan is merely a “nation with a strong Islamic Identity” it seems. Perhaps they should rename their country to “Strong Islamic Republic of Pakistan” then?
Is this rebuttal trying to deny the fact that there are no problems with the economy? Of course not! Which economy does not have a problem? Certain indices have gone down and certain indices have gone up (for example, as indicated in the NYT article itself!) – if I write a glowing article based on only the many rising indices not mentioned in the NYT article too, the liberal cabal will pounce on me saying that I am repeating the “India Shining” campaign.
The dip in the GDP growth rate is real. No one, including the Prime Minister, has denied this fact. The outlook of growth is also real. Something that doomsayers wouldn’t like to acknowledge. One of the doomsayers is a deputy editor of The Hindu and his lies have been exposed before. In 2008, the GDP growth rate fell down to 3.9% – do you folks recollect so much of negativity floating around. In 2012, GDP was 5.5% (fell from 10% in 2010) – do you folks recollect so much of negativity then?

It is one thing to express concern regarding setbacks and giving relevant feedback. It is a totally different thing to predict gloom and doom for the country, based on limited understanding and worse, lies.

Co-operative Federalism has helped both the newly formed states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to overcome a severe Power Crisis

The following article was published in MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference. 

On January 1st, 2018 – the Telangana government put out a front page ad in all newspapers.
The Telangana government has now promised 24*7 free power supply to the agriculture sector. There was some text that accompanied the ad too:
At the time if state formation, the state had to confront severe power crisis, 2 day power holiday to industry, 6-8 hours power cut to all categories of consumers, and erratic 6 hour supply to the farmers
The numbers in the above statement are completely true. At the time of splitting the state, the united AP was under a severe power crisis. The then Congress government did very little to mitigate this crisis. I wrote an article back in 2011, pointing out the woeful condition of power in our state then. When Sonia’s Congress was at the helm of affairs, the following statements were issued by the relevant authorities:
"The AP Transco and the distribution companies have decided to continue the present 12-hour power cut (6 a.m. to 6 p.m) in rural areas till the middle of next year..."
"AP Transco CMD Ajay Jain said the cut now would be implemented for two hours in Hyderabad and other such cities; four hours in district headquarters; six hours in municipalities and; eight hours in mandals"
"If any village gets supply for one or two hours during daytime now, it may be by mistake of the field staff."
So there we were – no power to villages during the day time (back in 2011), and completely erratic power supply to other parts of the state. By 2013, the power cut timings increased by a further 2 hours per day!
In addition to this, another surcharge was imposed on domestic consumers. It was called Fuel Surcharge adjustment. Distribution companies transferred the burden they incurred in 2009-2010, to the hapless consumers in 2013! I had shown some bills in this article here, where the energy charges were Rs. 500/-, and fuel charges were Rs. 1100/-!
How Co-operative Federalism helped both the newly formed Telangana and Andhra Pradesh overcome this crisis?
My intention is not to explain the technical details, because frankly I am not very familiar with those numbers. My intention is also not to discuss the merits or demerits of 24*7 free power. My intention is to highlight the transformation. My intention is to showcase, how as a common man, I see relief in not having to worry about power cuts anymore. As a tax payer and end-user, my only expectation is to have uninterrupted power supply. And we couldn’t even dream in 2014, that by 2017, both the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh states will become power surplus states!
AP is ruled by NDA only, but Telangana is ruled by TRS, which is an opposition party to the BJP! Yet, the center did not show any discrimination in helping out both the states. Before anybody jumps at me to show some proof, I would urge you to listen to this speech of Chief Minister KCR talking about all the help received from the center. From 14:08 in this video, CM has clearly acknowledged how Piyush Goal has helped in overcoming this crisis by 2016 itself.
This is not to give entire credit to the Modi government alone. This is to give credit to the maturity of both the central and governments of the two states. This is to give credit to their focus on improving the life of people, irrespective of who is in power. If this is not true co-operative federalism, then what is? If this does not amount to putting politics aside for a larger purpose, then what is?
Today, people of both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh don’t worry anymore about scheduled long power cuts. Both states have become power surplus, during the reforms of the past 3 years. Both states are also top users of Solar Power. Both states have signed up into the UDAY project that is aimed at covering up the losses of the distribution companies. Like I said earlier, there is enough literature available online, to explain the nitty gritty of this transformation – and as is evident, a large part of it is due to awesome co-operative federalism.
Amidst all this, what is the Congress reduced to? They called for a press conference yesterday , credited Sonia Gandhi and Dr. Manmohan Singh, and asked the following (paraphrasing for better readability):
  1. “There are 25 power surplus states in the country. What is special about Telangana?” – this is an awesome way of putting forward the argument that the power situation in the entire country has drastically improved!
  2. “Similar was the case in most states and this was due to the vision of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.” – yeah right, people so believe this to be true!
  3. “Sonia Gandhi had allotted Sileru Project to Telangana and also a power project to be built by NTPC realizing the shortage when the State was formed but TRS could not retain Sileru project due its inefficiency.” – Sonia Gandhi has allotted? Oops!
  4. It is a matter of time before government increases power tariffs!
They are merely hoping that people will forget the burden imposed upon them by Sonia Gandhi’s Congress. Chandrababu Naidu has thrown a challenge that he will reduce the power tariffs soon – that’s how confident they seem to be!
Power Sector reforms are going to be one of the many long lasting impactful reforms ushered in by the Modi government in tandem with all the states of the country. Looking forward for more such reforms in the true co-operative federalism spirit!