gfiles magazine

February 10, 2017

UP results “Reserved”

bjp and rss tussle

No, not another court verdict to reserve the UP election results. It is RSS again this time, repeating a Bihar. Two senior leaders of the RSS, Vaidya and Dattatreya Hosbole condemned the reservation policy in strong words at the Jaipur Literary Festival but quickly issued a clarification that the RSS is against reservation on religious basis. But the damage was done. BJP leaders went into a huddle and rushed to the RSS chief asking him to pull up the erring juniors, which he promptly refused. At one point, the BJP decided to use its social media network and innumerable trolls to ‘teach a lesson’ to the RSS. But the troll handlers developed cold feet, many of them owing allegiance to the parent body, forcing the BJP to abandon the plan. Vaidya, in his earlier avatar as chief of RSS Gujarat unit had stepped on Modi’s toes. That is the nearest he could go to Modi, who promptly got him kicked out of state politics. Smarting under this insult, Vaidya was waiting for the right moment to strike. He is said to have found a willing partner in Dattatreya Hosbole, the young ABVP activist, now holding a position in RSS. Hosbole who wanted to be the RSS pointsman for BJP was dropped at the last moment under Modi’s pressure, ostensibly to keep the ABVP out of political decision-making. Interestingly, it was ABVP activists who made Vajpayee’s life miserable with the help of RSS veteran Gurumrty, then Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) leader. In the bargain, one top Thakur leader is said to have squeezed the most out of the ticket distribution saying dalit and Muslim votes are as good as gone. And here one thought, the days of caste politics are over. Obviously not.

When daya is a kala

all eyes on tamil nadu

Dayanidhi and Kalanidhi Maran, sons of former DMK leader late Murosoli Maran, have been acquitted by the CBI court in the multi-crore Aircel-Maxis licence case. The court had summoned the accused after taking cognisance of the Enforcement Directorate’s charge sheet, saying there was “enough incriminating material” to proceed against them. Serious matter for a government that is determined to eradicate corruption, lock stock and barrel. But wait there’s more to the story. In May 2014, the CBI told the Supreme Court that there was difference of opinion between the CBI Director and the prosecution regarding filing of the chargesheet. On reference, the Attorney General said that there was enough evidence to prosecute. Since Modi did not require DMK support in Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha and also wanted to be on the right side of Amma Jayalalitha, it was expected that the Maran brothers would be back in Tihar jail, sooner or later. But in July 2014, Maxis Communications Berhad met and urged Finance Minister Arun Jaitley that the case against Maran brothers be treated in a fair manner, citing a contrary opinion by two retired judges of Supreme Court. After the Maxis-Jaitley meeting, the court deferred the pronouncement of orders on framing of charges to December. Lo and behold! The CBI court which was to frame charges against the former telecom minister, Dayanidhi, his wife Kaveri and his brother Kalanidhi however, found no grounds to proceed against Maran and the rest of the accused. To top it all, the court also cited the lack of evidence while passing the order. So no evidence, no intimidation, no corruption, no crime and no punishment. With Tamil Nadu political equations set to change in coming days, it appears that Modi and Jaitley are playing their cards right.

An emerging force

priyanka takes charge

Most activities of the Congress Party are these days centred around Priyanka Gandhi Vadra though the face of the party remains Rahul Gandhi. As Sonia Gandhi is not keeping well, she has delegated her powers to both son and daughter. Priyanka visits the Tuglaq Lane residence of Rahul Gandhi every day and monitors the activities of the assembly elections. The Congress’ Janavedna convention against demonetisation is said to have been her idea. She also monitored the preparations and was the last to leave the venue a day before the convention. Apparently, she also wrote the speech that Rahul delivered at the convention. It was again her suggestion to ally with the Samajwadi Party, and it was at her residence that Dimple and Akhilesh Yadav met Rahul over dinner.

Food for thought

the rise of shrikant Sharma

Shrikant Sharma is today the national secretary and media convener of the Bharatiya Janta Party. He has seen a meteoric rise in the party ever since Amit Shah became President. A friend of Finance Minister Arun Jaitely, Sharma is an old ABVP hand and was brought as Media Convener of the BJP’s Media Cell by the then party President Nitin Gadkari. He has never looked back since. Sharma was expecting to fight the 2014 Lok Sabha Election from Mathura and had lobbied hard for the same. But, somehow, Hema Malini got the ticket. After lot of hard work, he has finally got the ticket for Mathura assembly. How, one may ask. Clearly, politics has taught Sharma some tricks of the trade. The day Amit Shah joined as party president, Sharma got hold of him and created a space for himself in the inner ring of the party. It was not an easy job. Sharma found out that Amit Shah likes homemade food. Homemade food was a distant dream for Shah as he lives alone in Delhi, so Sharma came to his rescue. He made it a point that whenever Shah was in Delhi, he used to bring home cooked food prepared in desi ghee every time. The old cliché says a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Shrikant did the same and finally got the ticket from Mathura. 

New CEO for Prasar Bharati

Prasar Bharati, it appears, has turned into a dumping ground of all those who cannot be rehabilitated anywhere else. Shashi Vempaty was involved in the 272+ campaign for Narendra Modi and that is what made him a part-time Member of the Prasar Bharati Board first. No one has seen him contributing an iota till date and the nosedive the Prasar Bharati Board witnessed since its new look takes away all hopes. One learns that his taking over as the new CEO has the stamp of Keshav Kunj that seals every other notion. A reason cited for Vempaty’s induction is the failure of the Chairman in creating a strong public broadcaster as desired by the Government.

Media professionals are now questioning the government’s commitment to Prasar Bharati. The present Chairman with his limited understanding of the medium was found wanting on many issues. The way he sunk DD Kisan and allegedly drained public funds calls for serious investigation. Questions have already been raised on his abilities for launching a new channel for the North East.  The entire Board led by the Chairman are responsible for experimenting with public money. Furthermore, both the outgoing CEO and the Chairman have conducted official tours on frivolous grounds wasting lakhs of rupees while at the same time refusing to pay annual honorarium to staff members who continue to perform in such directionless circumstances citing financial crunch. More recently, the Board carried the entire management to Hyderabad for a dance recital by ABU despite the financial crunch. No wonder, one hears of many RTIs getting prepared and fresh legal battles seeking a refund of all frivolous expenditure.

Gokhale still in the running

The extension for Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar ends hopes for two senior-most IFS officers but Vijay Gokhale is still a contender to be the next foreign secretary. The Centre’s recent decision to give a one year-extension to Jaishankar, a 1977 batch IFS officer, beyond his two-year-long fixed term has raised many eyebrows. He was appointed in a not-so-smooth change of guard two years ago by curtailing the tenure of the then foreign secretary Sujatha Singh. But this extension means, diplomats such as Anil Wadhwa of 1979 batch and Sujata Mehta of 1980 batch will not get a chance now to be the Foreign Secretary. There were speculations that India’s Ambassador to China and 1981 batch IFS Vijay Gokhale would be brought in to replace Jaishankar, which would have meant Gokhale superseding a number of his seniors in the Foreign Service. Gokhale, who was the High Commissioner to Malaysia and the Ambassador to Germany before moving to China as India’s envoy, will retire only in January 2019, and hence, he is still a contender to be the foreign service’s top job unless the government decides to further amend the rules and gives yet another one-year-extension to Jaishankar beyond January 2018.

Awry timing

Former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan’s first response to demonetisation was: “I am not quite sure if what you meant is demonetise the old notes and introduce new notes instead. In the past demonetisation has been thought off as a way of getting black money out of circulation. Because people then have to come and say ‘how do I have this ten crores in cash sitting in my safe’ and they have to explain where they got the money from. It is often cited as a solution.

Unfortunately, my sense is the clever find ways around it.”  Rajan’s response was well thought out. Sources disclosed that Rajan did not agree with the idea of demonetisation even while serving as governor. And it is one of the reasons why Rajan had to go. But this is not news. The news is when did the printing of the new currency start. Twenty-one billion notes needed to be replaced, and the combined capacities of the two major printing press entities (one operated by the RBI, and one under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance) is around three billion notes per month, and that too with an increased number of working shifts. The bottom line-it would have taken six-to-seven months for the printing to be complete; to supply around Rs 9 lakh in new currency notes. Narendra Modi had a roadmap in his mind when he announced the Jan Dhan Yojana and the Voluntary Disclosure of Black Money Scheme. Currency printing could have started the moment the VDBM was announced but the bottleneck was Rajan. In the given scenario, Rajan had to be removed, and on August 20, 2016, Urjit Patel was brought in as the new governor. The printing began immediately with the signatures of Urjit Patel on the order but it was too late and the demand and supply gap was too high. The rest we know.

Perform or perish

Events of the last few days only confirm that civil servants, even senior ones, can be shown the door at any time. K Narasimha, a senior IAS officer of Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram and Union Territories (AGMUT) cadre, was recently told to pack his bags, citing non-performance. This came just a day after the government decided to sack two senior IPS officers-Rajkumar Dewangan of the Chhattisgarh cadre and Mayanksheel Chauhan of AGMUT cadre-after a departmental review. The NDA government had issued a notification in 2016, saying that it will assess the “performance of officers who have completed 30 years of services” in a departmental review. “Non-performing officers will be given compulsory retirement,” the government had said. Soon, the Centre had begun to take strict action against   “defaulting and non-performing revenue officials”. The news broke about the premature retirement of as many as 33 revenue officers, including seven from the coveted Indian Revenue Service, and also the dismissal of 72 others, including six from Group A service. It’s possibly for the first time that marching orders were given to such a large number of officers, that too in one go. What’s quite significant is that commissioner-ranked Income Tax officers also figured in the list of 33 who are “retired prematurely”. Earlier in January 2016, 11 Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Excise) officers were sent packing, as they were absent from office without authorisation for more than five years. Sources disclosed that the government is in the mood to take more stringent action against erring officers. It is learnt that North Block has prepared a list of 110 civil servants, who may get the marching orders any time. Meanwhile, the discussion point among the senior civil servants is that while sacking due to non-performance can be justified, where is the reward for those who perform extraordinarily.

Expanding the boundaries

Human beings have long attempted to tether, with all manner of pacifist philosophies, their innate longing to become much more than what they are right now. People have decreed that one should be desire-less, be content with what one has or what God has given one. But such philosophies have only worked for the sick and the aged. When one doesn’t have the energy to sit up in bed, it feels sensible to say, “What I have is enough. I want nothing more.” The minute a little more energy courses through you, you are once again ready for something more. 

Happy times to continue

The Union Budget 2017 can well be viewed as a positive budget for the markets for two simple reasons. One, it intends to give immense boost to the economy by propping up the much needed rural, agriculture and infrastructure sectors including giving a major boost to the housing sector by according small and affordable housing infrastructure status. Two, as against the projections made by most market pundits about the budget not likely to meet market expectations and most of the positives expected from the budget already being discounted

Upholder of uprightness

Within three months from March to May in 2008, three IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officers took voluntary retirement from service (VRS) in Uttar Pradesh. These included 1971-batch controversial IAS officer Neera Yadav and a year junior to her, UP Chief Secretary Prashanta Kumar Mishra. But the two took VRS for diametrically opposite reasons. Yadav took the VRS after being chargesheeted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a land scam and adjudged one of the three most corrupt officers by the UP IAS Association, while Mishra, a 1972-batch UP cadre IAS officer, known for being an upright officer, left the job within less than a year after being appointed Chief Secretary in the State due to his differences with then Chief Minister Mayawati over alleged corruption.

A miserable failure

It’s ironical that a book that aims to create a myth and living legend of an individual itself has seedlings, even large plants, which ultimately destroy the person. This is the tragedy, and also the crucial insight that a reader can draw from Shantanu Guha Ray’s unbelievably-dramatised book, The Target. It focuses on the “decimation of Jignesh Shah’s global empire, how he broke the market monopoly, and the price he paid”. Read between the lines, and the protagonist comes alive as exactly the opposite of what’s sought to be proved.

Jallikattu: It is for the bull not against it

A lot has been written and debated about Jallikattu over the past month. Demonstrations in Tamil Nadu in favour of the sport attracted not just national but international attention. However, most of the media and press compared Jallikattu with the Spanish bullfight, which is not true. The objective of Spanish bullfighting is to kill the bull. It is dangerous for the matadors, but more likely fatal for the bull.

Humble farmer’s rich friends

JP (Jai Pakash or Jaypee) Associates managing director Sunny Gaur, infrastructure doyen Dilip Suryavanshi, mining Baron Sanjay Pathak and coal trader brothers Satish and Manish Saraogi are billionaires of Madhya Pradesh. They are famous entrepreneurs in their own right. Sanjay Pathak is also a powerful minister in the State cabinet. But they have come to be known better in the State for their controversial association with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The Chief Minister, who, ironically, loves to wear his ‘humble farmer’ identity on his sleeves, has landed in a number of controversies for allegedly abusing his powers to help his rich friends prosper.

BUDGET 2017-18 : No carrots, only sticks

In the two days since the commencement of the Budget Session of Parliament on January 31, 2017, three important events followed in quick succession-President’s address to the joint sitting of two Houses of Parliament; placing of Economic Survey in Parliament; and, presentation of the Annual Budget for the year 2017-18. Important aspects from these events are, briefly, as follows.

Civil Services Booting out the incompetent?

In mid-January 2017, Chhattisgarh State Home department, complying with the order of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) dated January 5, gave compulsory retirement to Rajkumar Dewangan (IPS: 1992) in “public interest”. Reportedly, Dewangana, an IG rank officer, was facing a departmental enquiry in connection with a 1998 case of loot that took place during his tenure as superintendent of police in Janjgir-Champa district of the State. He was still continuing when the Centre decided to retire him compulsorily.

Coming to terms with Trump

When Barack Obama became President in 2009, one of the most important decisions in his first 100 days was probably the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to address the Great Recession. After much debate, the $787 billion ARRA bill-combining tax breaks with spending on infrastructure projects, extension of welfare benefits, and education, originally intended to be bipartisan-was passed by both the House and Senate on February 13, 2009. It was hailed as the first step to ‘We can do it-make America great again’.

Trump alters world view

Nothing happens overnight. Major global events are merely culmination of long-drawn-out geo-political processes. Even before Donald Trump had settled into the East Room of the White House, winds of global changes had begun to cause ripples in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans. India, Israel, and Europe had begun to experience the onset of the Third Jihad following the rise of the ISIS (the first being in the seventh century and the second being in the 16th century). At the same time, it’s also clear that the process of economic globalisation has come a full circle following the rise of nationalism worldwide, triggered chiefly by China stealing the jobs and profits worldwide and Islamic Jihad threatening the way of life of the free world.

Recognise the small entrepreneur

It is widely believed, and not without substance, that the recent large scale replacement of currency has caused avoidable distress to the small business man, micro and small entrepreneur and trader. The social and the mainstream media have been providing ample empirical evidence of the impact of the breakdown of cash transactions. It is also common knowledge that these small people contribute enormously to the production of consumer goods and providing a variety of services. Anecdotal evidence suggests that micro entrepreneurs have the resilience of rising from failures; failures do not deter them from starting a new business.

From the Editor

You win the presidency by connecting with the American people’s gut insecurities and aspirations. You win with a concept, said Thomas Friedman, an American journalist and three times Pulitzer Prize winner. Donald Trump, the 45th President of the US, added the element of hope-‘Making America great again’-and won the elections.