India’s tryst with destiny

Just about a week for those magic machines to tell us where India is headed- decisively or otherwise..

While the growth story of our nation shall continue, whether or not Mr Modi is back to power, yet a GDP growth or any fiscal deficit number is never a reflection of how great a nation is, or how great a nation would be.

In terms of the GDP numbers, India would grow irrespective, and in fact -inspite, of certain political dispensations at centre. That’s because of a strong and, maybe good-maybe bad, robust bureaucracy. However, growth numbers in this century are far too integrated with the global developments than they ever were. Trump’s eureka moments and Eurozone hiccups have far more impact on domestic numbers that they ever did.

While fiscal strength and vital metrics are integral to how great a nation shapes up to be, yet almost all great nations and civilizations have looked much beyond that.

For India, completing 75 years of freedom soon, that moment is now as it chooses its next leadership.

Mr Modi’s first term was characterized by foremost, inculcating a sense of respect for the office of the Prime Minister of the nation. For almost 30 years, ever since Mrs Indira Gandhi- office of the Prime Minister had been a pushover, marred repeatedly by compromise candidates to serve the interests of coalition politics –‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’. Barring a few exceptions, for most part of the last three decades, India was led by governments bereft of any political ideologies.

First thing which Mr Modi did, was to- decisively, change the way a ‘leadership starved’ nation looked at this office. Office of the Prime Minister -now-led-from the front. Be it not just a ‘proactive’, but rather- an ‘aggressive’ foreign policy, marked by the boldness of giving Israel its due recognition for always standing by and for- India. Or for that matter, confronting Chinese aggressions with an ‘eyeball to eyeball’ contact on the eastern borders. Mr Modi’s 1st term started with doing the unthinkable and with Balakot ‘cross border’ and not a ‘cross LOC’ strike, ended the term by yet again, doing the unthinkable-an ‘Indian’ military aggression. India was no longer a pushover. Mr Modi had changed the narrative.

There were several more landmark initiatives which characterized this term, implementation of GST, Ujjwala, Power sector reforms, Ayush … et al.

However, the big bold decision which he took was, right or wrong -only time would tell, demonetization. In a matter of a few hours, Mr Modi changed the terms of engagement with the parallel economy in India. For the first time ever- globally, an exercise at this scale effecting almost a 1.3 billion population was attempted and a massive, humongous exercise of remonetization was well completed in the following months. A big bold move. Mr Modi had just done the unthinkable, yet again.

While the jury is still out and it would sure be a few years until Mr Modi is proven right- or if you will – wrong, yet nobody would ever contest that he had just ‘hugely impacted’ if not changed, the way business in India was conducted. Then came the GST. While there were initial hiccups, yet they are almost integral to any structural reform at such a big scale. With GST now beginning to being streamlined with collections of almost Rs 1.3 lac crores in April, and mostly, running almost seamlessly, the twin impact of demonetization and GST could, and I stick my neck out for that- bring, for a nation of 1.3 billion people- the unthinkable- a double digit GDP growth – whenever global tailwinds gain momentum.

Next, and again doing another unthinkable- not just Swacch Bharat, but boldly putting -ending open defecation- on national priority of world’s largest democracy, Mr Modi tried to first publicly acknowledge and then, address the issue which effected hundreds of millions of women in rural India. Once again, an immensely humiliating, yet a so-called acceptable way of life for women in rural India was discussed openly and has been impacted significantly.

While most of these reforms have gained tremendous traction, inspite of the incredible red-tape, our nation has long been characterized by- yet for a country of India’s size, most of these initiatives would possibly see full fruition in the next couple of years – and not the endless decades, which we have been used to..

But of course, there would be hits and misses. Perhaps Mr Modi could have done more regarding the ‘messaging’ of secularism, perhaps he could have done more on ‘farm distress’, perhaps more on ‘job losses’ and perhaps much more on many other things. However, whether he did more or not on these- only time would tell.

Legacy issues deeply ingrained into our system cannot all, be corrected in a stroke. While there is a clear political will and purpose, yet even at its fastest, systemic issues for a country of 1.3 b, having become a part of the ‘chalta hai’ culture through these 60 years, may take more time to correct.

Though I am not a psephologist, yet going by media reports and discussions with friends, family and colleagues across the country, Mr Modi, generally – could be expected to be the Prime Minister yet again. Several political pundits indicating a number for the ruling alliance between 290 to 330, which is a good enough majority.

So, assuming Mr Modi will get another term & I would again stick my neck out, that the agenda he pursued singularly during his first term, may not necessarily make it to his foremost priority and correctly so. While of course, economic prosperity is central for any dispensation and that he would absolutely ensure that every initiative taken during his first term sees proper fruition- yet his focus- and perhaps, India’s best chance, would be for Mr Modi to resurrect India’s pride and address definitive contentious issues – our nation has shied away from ever taking up in the past.

With no key state elections coming up immediately hereafter, I would believe and hope to see Mr Modi’s version 2. Armed with a confidence of successfully leading this country, I wish Mr Modi now incessantly pursues the three key agenda items of the BJP integral to the well-being of our nation- Uniform civil code, Article 370 and bring to a close the ever ‘perceived to be’ divisive Temple issue by building it.

While the oft-quoted Kashmiri pandit issue – having been reduced to a mere symbolism – should’ve have been taken up and addressed by successive regimes, yet the violence in West Bengal illustrates that we are close to reliving it there, with the state continuing to perpetually practice a ‘fabric changing’ politics of appeasement, at the cost of our nation. Western UP being another case in point. More than ever before, India desperately needs a Uniform code for its citizens.

While there will be an immediate political fallout and collateral damage in the form of Mr Nitish Kumar withdrawing support, yet a rediscovered camaraderie with Shiv Sena and a possible Rajya Sabha majority in the coming times, may just see Mr Modi bring to fore a continuous big, bold and audacious reformation of India and see it through.

Assuming its Mr Modi for this term- with an extremely unlikely 3rd term for this dispensation- irrespective of the stark contrast between a maverick leader and an utterly disgusting opposition we have – this is indeed India’s best chance ever to possibly address glaring omissions of the past…

May 23rd is now just a couple of weeks away… While the world will not collapse and India would continue to march ahead- even if Mr Modi isn’t back on 7, Lok Kalyan Marg – yet our nation may just lose the most incredible opportunity ever, of its true tryst with destiny.

Legacies of ABV and Modi

While the world is still reflecting on Vajpayee’s legacy- between my travels- I couldn’t stop myself from comparing the legacy left behind by ABV and the huge impact BJP’s second prime minister, Mr Modi has been busy creating.

ABV was absolutely, most certainly, the tallest statesman Indian politics ever saw. (Pic courtesy Zee News) Far more than Nehru, who was labelled one – by British leftovers and could never get anything done. Whenever I try to dig in to look at Nehru’s achievements, I struggle, because almost always, all good works done during his tenure, were those by stalwarts like Sardar Patel, who disagreed with him rather openly. So many books, auto bios of leaders of that era discuss candidly that had it not been for Patel, India would not have been what it is today. While a unified India’s was Sardar’s gift to us, Nehru left us a messed-up Kashmir, the way it is today. Anyways, so much about Nehru, because this post is not about him…

I am pretty sure that this post is going to be ripped apart like my post on Tendulkar, disagreeing hugely on Bharat Ratna having been conferred on him, which I still believe, very much belittled the highest civilian honour of our nation, having been bereft of true sporting heroes.

Prior to the Modi era; and I guess during Manmohan Singh’s fully wasted decade (I still struggle to list 10 key game-changing takeaways), Bal Thackeray, once said, ‘India has never had a Prime Minister since 1984’. Couldn’t agree more with the Shiv Sena tiger. What marked Indira Gandhi’s terms was a clear, firm decision making. Right or wrong, is a completely different discussion.

Politics, has two kinds of leaders. All lead. Only a few motivate. Notwithstanding the fact that there are and would always be corrupt, black sheep in politics of any country, the basic foundation of politics has been and would be -service to human civility. With this in mind, we have had several leaders who stood tall, Sardar Patel, Bose, Jagjivan Ram, Ambedkar and even, if I may say, even lesser mortals and crusaders like Anna Hazare, who lost the narrative enroute. All meant really good.

Though it may not be fully inappropriate to compare the leadership styles of ABV and NM, yet since I have no leanings for any office, I can take liberties to be politically incorrect.

What prompted me to write this was when I watching discussions on a couple of channels, just after ABV’s news came in. As if this was the opportunity, the politically irrelevant Shouries and likes were waiting for. Rather than the discussion being the works and legacy of ABV, it drifted to an implied ABV Vs NM debate, which was very appalling. Rather than celebrating the life and works of ABV, connotation of the debate quickly drifted to belittling Modi.

That compelled me to truly ponder about the legacy these two stalwarts of our era have left, or are leaving for us. For me, ABV was a terrific orator, a great leader, statesman, poet par excellence, level headed individual and certainly a maverick. Also he was a ‘perceived’ secularist, with an accommodative outlook which made him more acceptable to a dappled opposition, just because they knew that ABV will not, disruptively, ever want to rock the boat. Thats’ where I think Modi is in the process of leaving behind a legacy that is unparalleled in its own way and would always be remembered.

That ABV may, or may not have been the first choice for PM nominee of the parent political cadre is just one part. Contributions of LK Advani and Joshi, though they were blind sighted by love of the chair later, were possibly far more than that of ABV for BJP led NDA to have had a shot at being in the pole position. Vajpayee having been as a known moderate was far more acceptable to the allies who knew it would be easier for them to work with the so-called ‘politically untouchable’ BJP under ABV’s leadership, rather than working with an Advani-Joshi’s nationalistic BJP headship. BJP, left with no choice, had to give in, to arrest the rut our nation was in, back in 1999.

BJP won the 1999 election primarily because Indian electorate was just too tired of the offendingly, embarrassing political games which were being played for our country’s top leadership, which allowed for sub-par leaders like Devegowda to be our Prime Minister.

However, I think it was ABV who lost the 2003 election, more than the BJP. It was on account of multitude of factors. One, public memory is truly short and all good works done by ABV were quickly offset by just one erratic season of rains. Inspite of the known chair obsession, aging Advani and Joshi, star campaigners were on their way out and ABV never really wanted to push for another term and did not care about truly nurturing the second line then. Onion prices helped the opposition more than they could have imagined and the Sangh cadre was anyways not a big admirer of ABV as he was, just ideal compromise candidate. While Pokhran 2 and the massive road networks are ABV’s legacy, yet Advani and General Khanduri had key roles to play.

And then 10 years went by, with almost no real public memories of the decade 2004-14. I struggle to recall any truly impactful or game changing strides our country took during this regime. What Dr Singh never realised was that in a country of 1.2 billion people, with almost half living under poverty lines, an incremental 6-7% growth, is simply NOT an acceptable solution. 2004 came and 2014 went by. As quietly as Dr Manmohan Singh.

And that’s where Modi, even though on the back of very low baselines set by Dr MS, provided hope. And he still does, hugely.

Rather than just tweaking a policy or two, here and there, Modi was willing to ruffle the feathers, both within the party and with the electorate. Importantly, he was willing to rock the boat- with the bureaucracy, as well. He also realizes that inspite of the best of intentions and efforts, he may or may not get another term. So this was, possibly, his only chance. He understood that for a 1.3 b populace now, incremental advances just wouldn’t work. Only disruptions would.

At a personal level and in my line of work, I have had a chance to engage very closely with two ministries and I must say, that the change is not just palpable, the change is stark, and, an in-your-face transformation. From that ‘Chalta Hai’ attitude in most ministries to, let’s get this done, is very contrasting and refreshing. Modi certainly has a gift of choosing the right guys- mostly.

And then he brought in game changers like Jan Dhan, Ujjwala, Mudra and more recently the National Health Mission. Changed terms of engagements with an imposing China, stood up to the US in key issues like climate change, reached out to almost entire globe. And playing a huge political gamble, he brought in demonetization and finally the GST. Whether these were successful, only time will tell. However, it is undisputable that no one- but Modi, had the audacity of bringing these disruptions in…

Like, for any leader, there will be hits and misses. While I believe, Modi has been truly phenomenal, yet so much more could have done for the agronomy. Increasing farming MSP really, isn’t a solution, increasing per hectare productivity- disruptively- is. Modi possibly missed a boat here. So much more could also have been done on arresting the build of this misleading Hindu intolerance narrative. Disruptive reforms in education was another area which never received his attention in the way it should have. Wrong people were put on the job. But come to think of it. Just fours years… He certainly, needs more time…

Meanwhile, for #Mandate2019, just a few months away, the stinking opposition narrative, already is ‘Anyone BUT Modi’. Funnily, these are the same people who are seemingly celebrating ABV and spurning Modi in the same breath.

So much so that Mayawati is agreeable to work with Mulayam, Mamta with Congress and the Congress with Left. All realize that it’s now or never. Systemic political corruption is going down. NGOs are being audited. Shell companies are being struck off. Political coffers are drying up fast, very fast.

Finally, to conclude, its unfair to compare ABV to Modi. While as a stateman, ABV ruled the roost, was an Orator par-excellence, and like the opposition, I thoroughly adored his speeches.

Though, as a PM and one who truly leads, Modi motivates, his speeches may not be as pleasing as ABV, but motivate hugely. While Vajpayee’s leadership primed up the self-belief in BJP cadre that the party could rule for 5 years, I personally am convinced that Modi will lead India to its rightful place in the global order.

We are fortunate to have been living in an era which saw statesmanship of Vajpayee and stellar, decisive leadership of Modi, heralding us into the new India – we, hopefully, would see by the 75th year of our independence…!

#RIPVajpayee #Mandate2019 #TravelMusings #MyTwoCents #Modi #LongRead

Is our justice delivery system, itself becoming the biggest violator of human rights???

With about 3 Crore cases pending in various courts of the country, why can’t our country engage an IT firm like TCS or an Infosys to do a 90-day, time bound, rigorous all India exercise, across all courts and prepare a consolidated database? A huge proportion of these cases have been pending for more than 10 years. Even if the courts had convicted the undertrials, the punishment would have been less than that anyways.

Can’t this database help government to sort such cases and, by an act of Parliament, drop these cases, release the undertrials and clear a huge backlog?

Judicial reforms really need to be Mr Modi’s next BIG step. Judicial apathy, for whatever reasons, has been significantly responsible for institutionalizing corruption in our country. Lower courts are often taken for granted, frivolous cases filed, dates after dates after dates become the norm with a complete disdain and making a mockery of the system.

While the Hon’ble SC, State High Courts and the District Courts have been pushing hard, with the best of efforts, to get over the years of backlog, yet the fact remains that Justice delayed is justice denied.

Is our system itself becoming the biggest violator of human rights???

#JudicialVacancies #NextBigDisruption #JudicialReforms #MoreCourts #MoreJudges #MyTwoCents

Historic verdict, not just for the state of Uttar Pradesh, but, for the Republic of India…

On May 26, 2014, India rebooted with a new OS. Today, less than three years later, armed with this historic electoral mandate, it just upgraded its OS. Bugs hampering performance of the system were addressed. Finally, we would have an upper house, which would not be able to block every single reform on flimsiest of pretexts. Notably, a 300+ number indicates, a portion of Muslims having voted for BJP as well..

 

This also underlines the fact that a Prime Minister, while secularly running a nation, fully and equitably respecting each religion, can unabashedly practice his own beliefs and does not necessarily need to wear a skull cap, just to satisfy a TRP hungry media…

 

This, unprecedented mandate was just what India was looking for… Finally, before India enters the general election year, it now prepares to handle an emboldened #NaMo , who would surely bring in many more #DisruptiveChanges in the next 15 odd months, move to a cruise mode and pursue nation’s growth agenda relentlessly…

 

This verdict is historic not just for the state of Uttar Pradesh, but, for the republic of India…

#Verdict2017

Judicial Reforms..ever on agenda??

Wondering as to why talks of Judicial reforms never gain steam.. Supreme Court’s recent judgement on delay in trial being a ground for leniency in punishment, followed by the acquittal of RG killers are both disappointing..

With the our judicial system being one of the tardiest ones around, criminals would now find ever better hope of getting away with just anything.. Knowing fully well that even the first court of law would take at least a decade to pass any kind of judgement… and then, such flawed rulings would always come to their rescue..

More than 2.8 Crore cases are pending in lower courts, with an average case taking as long as 15 years to get past the first judicial layer.. This period increases much more once litigants challenge the verdict in the HC and then in the Supreme Court.

Also, pondering about the career options for many of our political class, who have scores of cases pending against them. If our system could be quick and robust enough mandating lower courts to dispose of cases within, say two years, and the High and Supreme Court , say 6 months each.. how efficient, transparent and cleaner the system would be, when an individual risking contribution to any felonious activity would have sword by his neck… Wonder if we would really need any Lokpal then.??

Well.. knowing our dynastic political class, no wonder, this may never get to be higher up on their agendas..

Where’s the due diligence??

Just like we do our due diligence and look at the track record of an individual, before we place our trust in him, isn’t it amusing that some of us are willing to gamble our nation’s future to someone who just shouts out loud?? It is no news to my friends that I do not like Arvind Kejriwal’s style of politics promoting anarchy. This certainly, is no revolution. A myopic drive, on way to lose all sheen post the general elections, very reminiscent of the VP Singh era..

While I have no allegiances to any political group, yet the fact remains that when I look at my options in terms of who would I like to see as the PM and lead my country, I really, am unable to see beyond Modi.. Those being overly critical of him or his party and have the audacity to compare him to Kejriwal and his party to the BJP, are simply unable to appreciate so many things..

1) Namo is into his fourth term, voted back with an even greater mandate each time… Is it that the 6 crore people of Gujarat are insane?? Or have they simply been voting for good, clean governance??

2) Similarly, governments in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, voted back again.. and of course unprecedented Rajasthan tally..

3) The kind of work done during Atal Bihari’s regime during 1999-2004, has been unparalleled.., whether it was India getting into the nuclear club or the tremendous amount of work done for the Highways.. (Wiki : The UPA Government on July 1, 2013 accepted before Supreme Court that NDA National Democratic Alliance Government lead by Vajpayee has developed half the roads in last 32 years in their 5 year term)..

4) @ Dipin..sorry that I saw your post late.. BJP has always advocated smaller states for better governance. In fact, Uttarakhand, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand were all carved out during Atal Bihari’s term.. Telangana is going to be good for the region and so is Vidarbha, if that is ever taken up by the political establishment.. Of course, I am not bringing up the uniform civil code here..

5) Political Parties are based on ideologies which (should), generally, contain inclusive development, good governance, willingness to serve the people and certainly- lead the nation.. Those critical of RSS have probably never had any understanding of its core ideology of sustained, selfless service to the nation..

It is indeed sad to see intelligent, well-read people of today falling prey to politics of sensationalism, cynicism. At some point, we need to look beyond finding a conspiracy theory in every story and appreciate the fact that established stalwarts who restarted the anti-corruption crusade, Anna Hazare and Kiran Bedi, have all snapped ties with AK. In fact rewarding those went who against the law of the land and did not pay electric bills, will only institutionalize anarchy and lawlessness..
And of course, AK’s press-famous FIR against GOI and RIL regarding the gas price hike.. For once we’ve got to move away from the politics of subsidies, appeasement.. Indian Industries using gas have been importing LNG consignments costing as much as $15-18/mmbtu.. But for gas prices in the US, international LNG prices are in that range.. In the US, the prices are much lower at around $5- 6/ mmbtu, but that is because of a the gas glut they are in, on account of the Shale Gas boom.. A free market, US encouraged investments into Shale Gas exploration- a high risk, very capital intensive venture. No government has the kind of money which goes into on shore/ off shore exploration and if it is not attractive to the private sector, nobody would invest and hence there would be no gas.. Our power plants would continue to be starved of gas and stay shut, effectively depriving over 300 million people of any electricity..

Finally, cutting the long story short and probably needless to reiterate .. that future of our Nation, today, is indeed Modi.. There is no better alternative…he may not be ‘the’ solution to all our country’s woes, yet undoubtedly is the most capable person to lead our nation..

Bharat Ratna for Tendulkar??

Tendulkar should not have been conferred the ‘Bharat Ratna’, particularly at a point when he was barely done with his playing career… While he, surely has been a great sporting hero and certainly an exemplary youth icon, yet the timing of this showcases brazen political opportunism from a failed government, on its last breath-desperately struggling for ways to connect with the masses, particularly the youth. This also so much belittles the stellar contribution of the many many freedom fighters, leaders of change, industrialists the nation has had…Wonder if Sachin’s contribution to the nation has been more than or even close to that of the likes of Ratan Tata, Azim Premji, NRN Murthy…who created millions of jobs… Or even close to several national heroes who, selflessly laid down their lives during the course of the making of our nation….pity that the government chose to award Bharat Ratna to Sachin, rather than even consider declaring Bhagat Singh a martyr…,such a pity.. Bharat Ratna, would never invoke that pride…ever again

Don’t wanna vote, sorry no rights..!!

Strongly feel that access to benefits provided by the state, including the fundamental rights, should be linked to exercise of right to vote by the citizen!! Appalling to see so many around, disregarding the importance for us to cast our votes!! For those in armed forces, living abroad or not stationed in their hometowns, Aadhar and NPR linkages should allow them to cast votes electronically!! Wish Supreme Court takes suo moto cognizance of this and makes voting mandatory to follow up on its directive to provide ‘None of the above’ option on the voting machines…

Nation’s best bet??

If Namo’s Bhopal rally is a sign of things to come, wouldn’t be surprised if NDA gets close to 300.. Mandate 2009 wasn’t won by UPA, in fact gifted to them by the opposition- marred by clash of personalities and self interests..Since that is, likely, out of the way now, a nation deprived of an inspiring leader, sees hope..Also interesting to read Karat’s comments..well indicating that there may not be any real third front! Good for the nation..Always believed that a key issue plaguing our country is the mushroom growth of regional parties and satraps resulting in continual appeasement of vote banks for petty, directionless, very short term gains- all at the cost of the Nation.. Also believe that while Congress is singularly responsible for the ‘holistic rot’ of the nation we see today- yet getting so called ‘crusaders’ like Kejriwals, who myopically talk of trashing the complete system- certainly not the solution..and would probably make it much worse.. While corruption is not a peripheral but the central issue which needs to be addressed immediately, yet focussing only on punitive action rather than addressing the breeding grounds of corruption, is a recipe to create yet another ineffective institution.. Meanwhile, Anna, while a great crusader, is NOT a leader and hence has wisely stayed away from active politics. Also a pity that our nation, has systemically, always been deprived of a selfless ‘Leader’ ‘Bose’ to lead us..and for more than half a century, we institutionalised ‘monarchy’ with the generational rule of a family… However, with NaMo, suddenly so much to look forward to for the nation now, with a leader who is inspiring, inculcates pride, has showcased ‘growth for all’ with no selective appeasement, epitomises hope and works with a vision…Not surprisingly May 2014 seems so far away..He may or may not be able to fix everything, but is certainly our Nation’s very best bet and its only hope..!