gfiles magazine

April 13, 2017

From the Editor

Gfiles has completed 10 years of publication. With this issue, we embark on our second decade. It is an achievement in which we take some measure of pride. gfiles has consistently given its readers reports that are neither so arcane as to be unintelligible to motivated readers, nor so condescending as to insult their intelligence. gfiles was founded on what we believe is a sound premise: Our founding Chief Editor Inderjit Badhwar wrote in the first editorial: “gfiles is more than an information vehicle.


Why did the 125-year-old Congress party get decimated to 44 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 parliamentary elections? It did not happen in a day. It has happened with the BJP also; it too faced a similar fate when it behaved the Congress way. Who ruled India during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee era? Only three people-wily Brijesh Mishra, Vajpayee’s adopted son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya and the late Pramod Mahajan. The BJP gave the slogan of “Shining India”; the voters knew who shone during those years and sent the BJP to oblivion. Whenever governments are governed through remote control, the political party and the government both collapse.

Time for Congress to stand up to Rahul

THESE days Congressmen use this famous advertising line to describe the state of affairs in their party. The reference is particularly to de facto Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, heir to the Nehru-Gandhi dynastic legacy. While Sonia Gandhi is still the Congress party president, she has for all practical purposes taken a back seat and given Rahul the party reins. Rahul and his brand of politics is seen to be elitist; he finds it difficult to connect with people (let alone with Congressmen). Rahul has the arrogance of an heir apparent, but the most damaging aspect of his politics is his dislike for politics and politicians.

Time for Rahul to go for a purge

PANDIT Dwarka Prasad Mishra, a two-term Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, who emerged as an effective power centre in New Delhi in the initial days of Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister (he brokered truce between her and Morarji Desai-making Desai agree to be Deputy PM; the truce was short-lived), once analysed for me and my deceased colleague Udayan Sharma the reason for the inefficacy of Congress in the initial days of Rajiv Gandhi as AICC general secretary.

Nitish or Mamata: Who’ll challenge Modi in 2019?

Narendra Modi has scripted a new narrative of politics that has stymied the opposition parties. Uttar Pradesh election results prove this. Opposition parties are finding it difficult to challenge Modi and his style of politics. As of now, 2019 Lok Sabha elections seem like a cakewalk for the BJP. Only two leaders in the opposition-Nitish Kumar or Mamata Banerjee-show some promise in making things difficult for the saffron party.

In defence of Rahul Gandhi

THIS is an odd time to spring to the defence of Rahul Gandhi. But when the whole nation is going gaga over the dawn of the Age of Yogis under the brahmachari Narendra Modi, perhaps a piece in defence of the young challenger may not be amiss. Rahul’s primary sin is that he was born in the Nehru-Gandhi family, the nearest equivalent to a Royal Family we have in India. Modi does not tire of boasting of his own superior credentials as the son of a chaiwala and poking fun at the shahzada.

A decade of paradoxes

IT was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair….” This part of the first line of A Tale of Two Cities by novelist Charles Dickens aptly captures the state of Indian business and economy in the past decade.

Writing for a decade… in vain?

FROM the second issue of gfiles, I have been writing in almost all issues, mainly on governance and civil services. I have lost count of the number of articles. But some of them stand out in my memory, particularly the two I wrote soon after Dr Manmohan Singh commenced his second tenure as Prime Minister in 2009 and another two soon after Narendra Modi became PM in 2014.

Single tax a utopian dream

THE advent of GST is a very significant and historic step in the field of indirect tax reforms in India. By amalgamating a large number of Central and State/UTs taxes into a single tax and allowing the set-off of prior-stage taxes, it would mitigate the ill effects of cascading taxation and pave the way for a common national market. There may also be revenue gain for the Centre and the UTs due to widening of the tax base, increase in trade volumes and improved tax compliance.

Reforming the Income-Tax Act

IN an era of voluntary compliance under the Income Tax Act, 1961, where nearly 99 per cent of income-tax returns are being accepted without any scrutiny, the tax law has to be simple, easily understandable and concise for compliance regarding disclosure of incomes and payment of tax. For this, the tax law, rules and returns, to be filed, need to have the above stated attributes. But, successive governments, including the present one, do not seem to believe in this thinking. Each year’s Finance Act add, modify and replace the sections of the IT Act in a big way as could be seen from the following numbers of clauses in the Finance Bills for the last four years.

Man of Ideas

THANKS to his height, Naresh Chandra Saxena, born in Bareilly, got a head start in school. When his father, Krishan Swaroop Saxena, a Class III State government employee, took Naresh for admission in a school, a primary teacher asked him to solve some simple math puzzles. “I was six year old. The teacher asked me to do some sums, which I did successfully. Then looking at my height, he told me to go and sit in class five,” Saxena (75 and about 6 feet 3 inches tall) recalls, disclosing how he never had to do first four primary classes.

In a sweet spot

THE market is witnessing an unprecedented bull run post the BJP coming to power in four of the five states that have gone to polls recently for the simple reason that investors have started presuming a big win for the BJP in the 2019 general elections. Also, by that time, the BJP is likely to cross yet another hurdle of having a clear majority in Rajya Sabha as well giving it the full freedom to go in for bolder and big ticket reforms. If at all the market witnesses any correction, it would be more due to global reasons than domestic ones. The bull run may otherwise continue uninterrupted despite the valuations looking a bit stretched and there being urgency for the earnings to catch up. The BSE Sensex is trading at a PE of 22.3x Fy17 and 18x FY18 earnings. The mid-cap index is currently at 30.2x and small cap index at whopping 64.5x

All for fair reporting

NEWS organisations earn extra revenue by organising conclaves: sponsors pour in money to get mileage with the VVIPs who grace these events. A handshake and a photo opportunity is perhaps supplemented with a chance to cozy up to the powers-that-be. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to preside over one such conclave of a leading media house, whose editor some decades back used to fancy himself to be the second-most important man in India after the Prime Minister. The news organisation’s TV channel had been supportive of the BJP in the UP elections but its print products, particularly the one printed on pink paper, had gone out of its way to boost the image of the Samajwadi Party and its young face Akhilesh Yadav. The group had been allotted prime land in the vicinity of Delhi for an enterprise by the SP regime. On the day of the conclave, which was billed as a Global Summit, the Prime Minister’s Office informed that Modi will not attend. Efforts were made to calm ruffled feathers but to no avail. Posters of PM at the venue were taken off and it was tersely announced that the main speaker has been changed. On learning of the PM’s ire, most officers and ruling party persona quietly left the venue. As did the sponsors. It so transpires that the media group was not entirely to blame for the pro-SP tilt. During the Mulayam-Akhilesh spat, apparently chagrined by the group’s Lucknow coverage, the then ruling party of UP had summoned the group’s top brass to the state capital and conveyed their displeasure. As prime land was at stake, a compromise was worked out. Some publicity posters were also printed at reasonable rates to cool down Samajwadi tempers. After the PM cried off from the Global Summit, the management of the media group went and shared the above circumstances. Amit Shah and Modi responded by telling the media group that fair reporting is media; manipulation and excuses of business are not good ethics.

Now, a Pranab Mukherjee Foundation

FORMER President of the US, Barack Obama, retired at the age of 55 years, the youngest president to retire at that age when the political life of many politicians starts. President of India Pranab Mukherjee will retire at the age of 82 in July 2017. Obama has launched So, why should Pranab lag behind? Friends of Pranab da are keen to launch a Pranab Mukherjee Foundation. This foundation is likely to be propagate and educate the future generations on the ideals for which Pranab Mukherjee stood in his long political career. The foundation will also have various fellowships, and undertake research on foreign policy, defence policy, energy policy–areas where Pranab Mukherjee devoted his entire life. Faculty will comprise professors and lecturers. Many industrialists and business houses have begun to contribute from their corporate social responsibility funds. It is learnt that Omita Paul will be Chief Executive Officer of the foundation. Venu Rajamony, currently Press Secretary to the President of India, a career diplomat, may also join the foundation.

No more corruption?

Nobody can claim in Haryana that he/she has bribed Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. His integrity and honesty is beyond reproach till now. It’s an excellent sign and warning to all that corruption ridden Haryana has got a Chief Minister who’s intentions are above question. But is the Haryana government following the dictum of its leader? Some say corruption has subsided in most offices. Ground reality indicates the opposite. The HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Authority) offices are full of corruption. Nobody can get their work done without greasing palms in Tehsils and Districts. The biggest victims are sometime Haryana government employees themselves. Of late, there is a new trend emerging from Haryana Police. Every week, Police Headquarters is releasing the transfer orders of minimum 200 constables. gfiles has analysed the transfer orders; it has been observed that constables who are serving on plum postings or in big cities are being transferred to the rural areas. On further investigation, it was found that there are no such instructions from the Chief Minister’s secretariat to transfer the force in such a way. Dr KP Singh, Director-General of Police, is a very strict and no-nonsense administrator. Then who is doing it. Manohar Lal Khattar has recently streamlined the teachers’ transfer system. It appears Khattar has to streamline the police and policing both.

More than meets the eye

The Union Territory of Daman, Diu and Dadra Nagar Haveli (DD&DNH) somehow manages to be always in the news for many reasons. First, it’s sandwiched between Maharashtra and Gujarat. Second, its administrator is autonomous and directly monitored by the Home Ministry. Third, Gujarat being a dry state, Daman, Diu becomes the marriage hub in the season and liquor flows like water. Fourth, it’s a politically volatile place. Fifth, it’s the hub of all kinds of smuggling activities. Some of Mumbai’s most powerful gangs operate from here. Most Joint Secretary rank officers are always ready to move to DD&DNH. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi quietly changed the administrative setup of DD& DNH. He appointed his trusted former home minister Praful Kodabhai Patel as its administrator and has done away with the appointment of an IAS officer. Then, SS Yadav, a 1995-batch IAS officer of the AGMUT cadre, was appointed as advisor to the administrator. How he got this plum posting is still a mystery. Yadav was the blue-eyed officer of former Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dixit. He has served as Secretary to Arvind Kejriwal too. Wait and watch DD & DNH carefully in the days to come.

Julania gets a free hand

Known for calling a spade a spade, Madhya Pradesh Additional Chief Secretary Radheshyam Julania seems in no mood to leave the State, though he was empanelled by the Centre for deputation in New Delhi last year. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, on his part, is also keen to retain this result-oreinted competent 1985-batch IAS officer till the assembly election due in December 2018. Their mutual bonding is so strong that the Chief Minister has sent signals to the bureaucracy to not mess with Julania. Defending this, Chouhan’s close aides point out how the IAS officer as principal secretary in the water resources department overhauled the irrigation system. His untiring work in the department helped Madhya Pradesh a great deal in winning the Krishi Karman award for best agricultural growth year after year in India. Last year, Julania was elevated as Chief Secretary and posted in Panchayat and Rural Development Department. The new portfolio provided him with opportunities to interact with subordinate IAS officers, particularly collectors, more regularly. And atleast half a dozen of them suffered from Julania’s tongue-lashing for laxity. His frequent videoconferencing with subordinates invariably resulted in at least a couple of lax officers being suspended on the spot. Julania’s first victim was controversial IAS officer Ramesh Thete, Secretary in the department. Thete even threatened to lodge an FIR against his boss and commit suicide. The Chief Minister then eased Thete out of the department. Thete’s replacement, Dipali Rastogi, refused to work under Julania. The government yielded to her request but did not shift Julania. Another IAS officer and Badwani Collector Tajasvi Nayak was publicly scolded by Julania during a departmental conference. Last month, Commissioner of Panchayati Raj, Santosh Mishra, was admitted to Bhopal’s Hamidia Hospital after suffering a mild attack following a clash with Julania. Bureaucratic circles were agog with speculation that this time round, the Chief Minister would take action against Julania. But the Chief Minister once again sided with Julania and shifted Mishra to the secretariat.

Recruitment is an issue…

The Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) has an uphill task as there are nearly 150 top ranking vacancies to be filled. The public sector head-hunter is working hard under the Chairmanship of Sanjay Kothari. The way the head-hunters work is becoming demanding day by day; insiders feel that there should be more board members to conduct the interview and select competent professionals. PESB has to fill as many 108 board level positions in a stipulated time-frame. Reportedly, out of these 108 posts, 32 are MD/CMD level posts and 76 are Director level posts. It may be noted that for want of revision and approval of revised criteria for board-level posts, PESB had stopped advertising vacancies after June 10, 2016 and took time till February 27, 2017 to come up with the first advertisement, i.e. for the post of MD, BPRL. Since February 27, PESB has advertised as many as 43 posts including 24 MD/CMD posts. The latest post advertised on March 31, 2017 is of Director (Project & Services) CONCOR. PESB is now busy preparing the ad for 8 more posts of MD/CMD and 52 posts of Director. The paradox in the whole process is that PESB is merely a recommending body; the actual selection is the job of concerned ministry and Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC). Even after the selection of the candidate, the file may be kept in the concerned ministry for months together as the ACC does not find the recommendation appropriate. A case in point is National Mineral Development Corporation where R Sridharan is holding charge as CMD for more than a year now.

Dark horse wins the race

YOGI Adityanath was a dark horse for UP Chief Ministership. It was all but decided that Manoj Sinha, Minister of State for Communications, would be the new Chief Minister of UP. Suddenly the rules of the game changed. For the first time, the BJP top leadership felt the heat of mandate. Union Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari had been given the responsibility for overseeing the selection of the Chief Minister. As usual, Gadkari took up ‘office’ in the five-star Taj Hotel. He reportedly even got 187 MLAs to sign their support for Sinha. Learning of this, Yogi rushed to Lucknow and he too put his “Dera” in the same hotel. It soon became clear that the Yogi pulled more weight. Home Minister Rajnath Singh was also monitoring developments; he immediately sent two of his closest aides to meet Yogi. Clearly, one Thakur was impressed by another Thakur when it was conveyed that the Chief Minister had to have saffron lineage. Amit Shah was in touch with Gadkari. A phone call was made to Manoj Sinha from Delhi, where he was informed that he was no longer in the race for the Chief Ministership. After this, Yogi got a call from Shah and was told to reach Delhi to meet him the moment he landed. Shah told him to meet Modi. By the time Yogi reached 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, Modi was about to leave for Uttarakhand to attend the oath-taking ceremony. It’s reported that the duo spoke for barely two minutes. Modi congratulated him and said: “I am giving you a huge responsibility.” With that, Modi headed off to Dehradun and the victorious Yogi to Lucknow.

No chai for Ambika

HAVE you seen the eighth wonder of the Congress Party? If not, then just visit 24 Akbar Road in New Delhi and meet Ambika Soni, a Rajya Sabha member. What is her role, what does she do, how has she successfully grabbed four times Rajya Sabha nomination from Punjab and Delhi. It is a matter of research to know that how Soni survived for almost four decades without any political base in the country. She is a national leader who has not won any Lok Sabha election so far. She messed up everything as a Minister for Information & Broadcasting as she was not aware about the intricate nature of the media. Her lifetime desire was to become Chief Minister of Punjab, so she keeps on hobnobbing in the politics of Punjab. She fought the Lok Sabha election from Anandpur Sahib in Punjab to establish her legitimacy but lost to Prem Singh Chandumajra in 2014. She met a very hard working Congress family during the election. She did not keep track with the family after the Parliamentary elections even though one of the family members keeps on meeting her in Delhi regularly. Recently, Soni had to visit Mohali during the Punjab assembly elections, so she telephoned the family and informed them that she would like to have tea with them as they stay in Mohali. Soni could not believe when the family refused to host tea party. They simply told her that they don’t want to meet her and offer a cup of tea. This is the stature of this national leader.