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The Nitish Kumar conundrum

Image result for nitish kumar and narendra modi

For many, the sudden demise of the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar on 26th of July came as a shock. For some others, it was a moment to pat themselves on their backs as they claim they predicted this would happen, but were only unsure ‘when’. Whatever side of the debate you are on, you cannot view this case in isolation. Why Nitish dumped Lalu and went back to good ol’ BJP is something that is a sum of many parts – the initial or the first part of it beginning from the Post Mortem analysis of the 2009 LokSabha elections.

 

BJP that had won 138 seats in 2004, sank further to get only 116,their lowest tally since 1989. Congress on the other hand improved dramatically from the 145 they had in 2004 to a respected 206, their highest since the 1991 polls. The BJP had a few good performing Chief Ministers in Raman Singh, SS Chauhan and Narendra Modi but their leadership at the Centre – Advani, MMJ, Naidu, Jaitley, S Swaraj were not able to win the confidence of voters. In short,they weren’t able to position themselves as someone better than the UPA.

It appeared as if BJP would more than a decade to recover and reach the lofty heights of 1998-99 – 182 seats again.

It is at this time that we hear about murmurs of BJP willing to give  CM Modi of Gujarat a shot at the top job in the next election, 2014. In a matter of few months, we reach 2010 the year that laid the foundation stone for the grave of INC, electorally. The Commonwealth scam and the 2G scam tainted the Congress heavily and at the same time , fuel prices and food prices were soaring to heights that were deemed unimaginable. (For reference, the price of a Masala Dosa at a popular eatery in Bangalore increased from 18 rupees at the time of 2009 election to 38 rupees by the time of 2014 election.)

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When upper Kosi swell causing millions of people to suffer in August 2010, Nitish displayed a cringeworthy behaviour- he refused a sum of Rs 5 crores and some relief material provided on humanitarian grounds by the Government of Gujarat. When campaigning picked up speed the following month for the elections in November, Nitish Kumar clearly told the BJP leadership that he would not allow Modi to come anywhere close to Bihar.

With a significant Muslim population, he believed that any leeway may cost him his Office. With no sway and command whatsoever, the BJP had to listen to Kumar. When the results came out after the Chhath Pooja ,it was a landslide- JDU and BJP had won 210+seats in the 243 member Assembly. Nitish was now in a position from where he could give diktats to the BJP President. The perception was that BJP was lucky to have a coalition partner like JDU as they enjoyed power in Bihar simply because of the kind Sushasan Babu.

Image result for anna hazare 2011

Image result for anna hazare 2011

 

2011 : The biggest story in Indian history from the year 2011 is not the World Cup victory but the Anna Hazare fever that gripped barely a week after the historic victory in Cricket. When the Dharnas and agitations were at their peak in the monsoon of 2011, we saw mass hysteria and never before seen visuals- people from all walks of life on the streets demanding tighter anti corruption laws and action against Government corruption. It was the time of the ascent of social media and smartphones. Arab spring had caught the imagination of people everywhere and it was surreal to believe that even people in India could mobilise themselves to make the apathetic Government take notice. Kejriwal and the AAP channelised this latent anger and went from being nobodies to CM in a matter of two years. Amit Shah reportedly stood amongst the crowd for days to gauge the mood and he came back to Modi saying there is no way UPA is going to survive this typhoon of a movement.

Image result for modi sadhbhavana mission

In September, Mr.Modi started something called the Sadbhavana Mission where he reached out to people from all sections of the society , particularly Muslims. It was apparent that Modi was eyeing a very big national role in 2014, perhaps even eyeing the office of the Prime Minister.

At this time every political party in realised that the UPA was heading to a severe drubbing in 2014. It was felt widely that Congress would lose about a half of the seats they held at the moment (206) when elections were due. In any case, the BJP needs close to 180 seats to be able to attract parties to form a Government, whereas the Congress may need only 130. But it seemed real that neither of the two would happen.

The SPs, the BSPs, the Communist parties were all beginning to smile. They dreamed of a 1996 scenario where the single largest party BJP won 161 seats and couldn’t form a coalition. In such a case, they all stood a chance to become PM, Finance Minister , Defence minister with the outside support of a Congress party that had only 100 seats.

“Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely” said Lord Acton in the 19th Century.

For a Nitish Kumar, who had absolute power in Bihar, it occurred that even he stood a chance to become the PM in case of a 1996 like scenario. He had no corruption allegation and was not deemed communal. He enjoyed support from the Muslims as well. Nitish felt that he had a résumé that would be hard to ignore in the ( now almost sure) event of a fractured verdict.

 

It is precisely the reason why Mulayam Singh Yadav refused to occupy the CMO in Lucknow after his handsome victory in 2012 March. He did not want to waste time handling daily administration of humongous state when he could wisely use that time furthering his contacts and chances of becoming PM in 1996, err sorry 2014 😉 Anyways there were going to be too many contenders- Maya, Jaya, Mamata, Navin, Naidu, himself and now even Nitish was slowly entering the ring and he had to work hard.

With BJP winning only 47/403 seats in the Assembly election in UP , by March 2012 it looked like the above picture- an India Today survey would be true.

Nitish kept telling the BJP leadership that his stand on Modi was non negotiable and he would walk out of the coalition with little consideration for his CM kursi. Apparently Nitin Gadkari kept telling him that Modi would not made the  PM candidate as the decision on such an important matter has to be unanimously agreed upon all the constituents of NDA and BJP would not shove its opinion down the throat of others.

December 2012 – The juggernaut continues: The Assembly election in Gujarat was predictable. I wonder why public funds were spent to know who would rule Gujarat for the next five years. BJP bagged 116/182.

I’d like to pause here to give you readers a break by mentioning the funniest joke uttered by a Congress politician ever.

“From 127in 2002 to  117 in  2007 to 116 in 2012 BJP is on a decline but Congress tally is only improving”. Wouldn’t it take another 50 years to bring the BJP below half mark level? This is the kind of echo chamber the congress lived in pre 2014.

At the beginning of this article I mentioned how after 2009 it seemed BJP had nowhere to go but to Modi. But it also seemed legit that Modi deliver Gujarat once again in 2012 to publicly acknowledge the fact. On his victory speech in Dec 2012, Modi began speaking in Hindi when the crowd kept chanting that he speak in Gujarati. “Ab meri bhaashan Hindi me sun ne ka aadat daaliye” he said with a grinning face. It was now official.

A few states like Himachal, Meghalaya and Karnataka went to the polls in the beginning of 2013 which all favoured Congress, but the rot and the public perception was so anti congress nationwide that even BJP never took the defeat seriously. “Jo Karnatak me jeetega woh Dilli me haarega” , said a BJP spokesperson on National TV brushing off the defeat in the only South Indian state where they had an MP/MLA.

With less than a year to go for the General Elections, BJP decided it was time to declare their choice for the PM ship- Narendra Damodardas Modi, CM of Gujarat for the past dozen years, a proven achiever with an enviable track record.

Nitish Kumar cut ties with the BJP, was immediately offered support by the RJD, Ind MLAs and the four Congress MLAs. JDU had ditched their coalition partner of 17 years for a reason that a man who couldn’t be nailed by a hostile opposition party in power is guilty according to some powerful Muslim leaders. Nobody from the leftist intelligentsia, liberal world outraged this illicit affair between JDU and RJD. So be it.

 

Image result for nitish laloo

The Mandal politics and the vast number of parties that it gave birth to ensured that since the 1984 election, no party could cross the majority mark on its own. Numerous parties with their own little gameplans and vote banks ensured that the mandate is always split and only a potpourri of parties could form the government. Till the results of the 2014 election, nobody thought that a single party to get majority on its own. The deliberations in BJP till the summer of 2013 was also that Narendra Modi will repel potential allies. Reams of papers were used to glorify the threat of Narendra Modi. Some writers masquerading as neutrals wrote that Modi isn’t the type to take counter views and arguments well and thus cannot carry a coalition that is almost a mandatory requirement to become the PM.

So from a situation where everyone including the media was sure that BJP wouldn’t shoot itself on the foot by naming Modi as PM candidate, we now have reached a stage where Modi is not the best fit for coalition politics.

2014 : After a year in election mode, finally we all vote and destiny played a cruel joke on the liberals. Modi was not required to show any coalition dharma or negotiating skills. The country had given power to one single party after three decades. It was hailed as one of the greatest election victories in India apart from 1977. BJP had swept the entire north indian belt. It had MPs in Arunachal, Andaman, Kanniyakumari, Ladakh and Bhuj.

Nitish’s JDU had won 2 seats. The same number of seats won by a certain Narendra Modi. A panic striken Nitish resigned as CM, put a Mahadalit Manjhi in his place and kept pondering over his Himalayan blunder.

2015 : The JDU, Congress and RJD aligned for the Assembly elections and won a handsome majority. Look how happy the liberals were .A convicted politician who was debarred from contesting elections and holding public office had become the de facto super CM by installing two of his sons in the Cabinet, one of them as a Dy.CM no less.

Even before the end of 2015 Nitish realized that old habits die hard. Tejashwi who was younger than his own son was bossing around him. The RJD thought JDU has burnt down it’s connecting bridge with the BJP by rubbing Modi and Shah the wrong way and hence JDU was at the mercy of RJD.

Nitish was rendered helpless when a convicted politician Shahabuddin was released from jail and he ridiculed Nitish saying the latter was a CM out of complicated circumstances. (paristhitiyon ke mukhyamantri)

Politics does create strange bedfellows but Nitish was too good a man to be in the company of the Lalu and his goondaraj for long.The JDU s tactical support to the Govt on many issues when the entire opposition was on the other side already gave hints that there was a thorn in the bed. Meanwhile Modi, the magician won state after state for the BJP. Maharashtra, Haryana, Assam, Jharkhand and to the horrors of the liberal Gods even stitched up a coalition in J&K.

The final nail in the coffin of the Mahagathbandhan- UP election Feb Mar 2017:

 

If studying electoral politics since 1989 has taught me, it is one thing- every party has a fixed number of seats that it will win even in a worst case scenario. In UP for example we can say that half of the 403 seats are safe seats. BSP and SP have about 60-65 safe seats. Congress has 25. BJP has about 50. Now the real battle is in only the remaining seats to see who gets how many. 2017 March is a watershed moment in Mandal politics of the Ganges plains. Congress was reduced to seven, BSP to 19 and SP to 47. The three parties couldn’t even hold on to half of their safe seats. BJP won everything fair and square including Amethi, Rae Bareilly.

Now this is a new realisation. With 19%Muslim population, UP couldn’t stop BJP from getting a 4/ 5 majority.

Although the results in Maharashtra Jharkhand Assam would have cleared his doubts, Nitish would have wanted a beta test result from UP- the cauldron that cooks up the national political scene.

That was the last straw. Nitish now knew that Modi could not be defeated by negative voting or communal vote blocks. On the home front, he was a cat on a hot tin roof.

Lalu was busy hatching plans to eradicate him from the CM chair in favour of his son. The RJD ministers routinely lent a deaf ear to Nitish and it was difficult to get through this quagmire.

He was suffering within, unable to handle the nonsense that was Mahagathbandhan. The tapes related to Tejashwis embezzlement is merely a tipping point.

Nitish had realised that Modi would be unstoppable in 2019 and he wouldnt even have the CM chair to cling on to if he continues with the RJD and the Congress.

There was no possibility of a repeat of 1996 in 2019 and even if there were , he would not get the support to become the PM.That’s it. Like the way some couples in Hollywood movies split up and date other people, only to realize how much they loved each other, a much wiser Nitish is back to the BJP camp lest he get caught in wilderness.

 

Concise Answers in one sentence:

1.Why did Nitish ditch BJP in 2013 ?

= To realise his dream of becoming the PM.

  1. Why did Nitish ditch Mahagathbandhan in 2017?

= To atleast remain as CM.

 

All the fancy words like development or secularism is just a neat way of pulling wool over our eyes.

 

To borrow a phrase from the 2015 James Bond movie spectre, Modi might tell Nitish : “ I am the author of your pain”.

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GST ke side effects

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Tax_Regime_in_India.png

But Where Are the Reforms?

These five words form a façade for the status quoist who firmly are not able to believe Modi can’t reform.

The Hedge Maze of in the picture has collapsed and replaced by Goods and Services Tax. It is has just opened an avenue where things are streamline. Frm 1/7/2017 when India celebrated Chartered Accountant Day. Irony just found an account entry.
In many of the initiatives (reforms?) that Modi Gov has taken there is one common idea. The idea is reforms address multiple issue at once. Death and taxes are inevitable, but Death doesn’t come twice. The are other jokes on taxes are on these Link 1 and Link 2 . Often Tax code is complicated because Gov is running companies and financial institutions and it provides a bulwark if not short cuts for taxes. In case of India, where one percent people pay income tax, indirect tax become crucial for government to raise revenues.

Tax Regime is single point focus of corporate strategy. A change in indirect taxes will surely have a ripple effect across the board. A lot of paper work (time, effort, etc) was wasted often to skirt this tax issue. Then there were court cases between Gov and Gov departments, Gov department vs Gov companies, Companies and Companies, Individuals and companies and variants of various stake holders. The cutting down of the tree as indicated in the two figurines is best understood by someone who must report to more than two bosses. It is nightmare. The capital that locked up in these cases and arbitration would probably thin down going forward.
On one hand, the companies now must gear up to study and improve their strategies and go lean, meanwhile the Gov too will have to up ante in their side. This makes the system a touch less opaque. It means government will beat around the bush a little less, the tax credit and tax collected will have to be computed “real time”. Here real time means end of the month as compared to end of n th financial year.

I happen to ask my accounts boss, “Sir how does GST affect us?
He replied, “Now only two taxes instead of 17!”
I asked “” Sir how does it help our sector of business?”
He answered, “Monthly tax credits instead of once in five years”

Often in India, companies wanting to operate in more than one region, use to carefully study taxes in different region before expanding to other regions. A whole setup was often created (again paperwork) often at the cost of productivity. I guess with collapse in Indirect taxes at least the decision to expand will take less time, setting up of business, generation of products (here products are good and services both). This will have huge impact on logistics to start with. One can imagine the effect of production and productivity when the time take for goods going to neighbouring state and their payments happen in couple of days rather than a week.
The ripple effect will be for all to see by Diwali.

Why Diwali?

Diwali is yearly Quantitative Easing of India economy only weddings season comes close often these two overlaps. Dhanteras falls on 108 days after GST was launched, in current Financial Year it is the end of the first quarter. By the end of second quarter, the impact of rains and hence scenario of agriculture would be known. In next three weeks, Quantitative Easing would hit the markets. It is enough time for everyone to understand how the system works, probably the calculations would be ready by now. On 1 of August preliminary data would confirm this hypothesis.

To summarize, Side Effects of GST

Lesser Paperwork (Redtape)
Decrease in Ji Hazoori of Departments.
Ease of Filing Taxes.
Quicker, earlier and timely Tax Credit.
Quicker Cash Flow.
Quicker Asset Turnover.
Quicker realization of bills.
Quicker settlement cycle from Inquiry to Billing to Tax.
Blow to Parchi/Farji Bills.

On Gov front
Quicker Tax collection.
Online verification.
Quicker revenue settlement with states.
Reduction in time cycle for settlement on taxes.

Now Onus on Tax Inspector to be accountable and not brood sitting on a china egg.
No duplicate on desk one triplicate on desk two, blue form red form and green note.

Modi in Israel

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Two quick points:

1 Modi would be the first Indian PM ever to visit Israel on a state visit.

2 Modi the then CM of Gujarat has already visited Israel.

So, its first visit for Indian PM but not the first official trip of Israel for the man. In what was the once the colonized sphere between at Atlantic coast of Africa to Sea of Philippines, today only Israel and India remain true functional democratic republics since the 1960s.

India-Israel Gov to Gov relations have been a puzzle. I guess we had a Pakistan Embassy in India before we had an Israeli embassy here in India. A small consulate in Mumbai was considered after weighing options for years before 1953. India didn’t want to disturb Arab Block by being friends of Israel. I wonder what was the circumstances prevailing then Kashmir et al, looking back it was myopic.

But, Hey Secularism prevailed, no? Never mind it will be first visit by Indian PM to Israel.

As a free independent country believing in unity in diversity and following ethos, recognizing Israel only in Sep 1950 was like a black mark. However, top Israeli officials have met different PMs and Presidents in eras gone by but PM Modi going out on a state visit to Israel without meeting Palestine official is a departure from status quo. Indian policy on Israel has swayed between cryptography and fuzzy logic.

The world now sees Middle East with scepticism and alarm as Wahabi Salafi Islam is now a pandemic and keeps adding to systemic risk to global economy. The European Continent has seen two bitter world wars but since then EU is a now a reality with common set of rules, laws, currency etc. Arab world however doesn’t see eye to eye with anyone. Irony is most of them have more things in common but their world is in a flux never to coalesce. The social set up is in shamble. For some reason don’t think there is not end to strife in the region in near or distant future.

Israeli had to fight its way to sustenance with tooth and nail. Their relations with “Arab World” seems to sway between boil and turmoil. Historically, Muslims and Jews both traders had a long business association. Israel was always the Promised Land while Palestinians also lay claimed but their claim was as water tight as Duryodhana’s claim to throne in Mahabharata. The question to be asked now is who is Dhritrashtra and who is Shakuni? Topic for another day after lots of reading.

Indian Israeli bilateral relationship on first instance seem to be based on defence deals only, but I guess there is more to it. Gems and Jewellery. Times of India once printed a series named “Antwerp Diaries” on how Diamond Jewellers (most located at Varachcha Road) Surat displaced Jew monopoly of 950 years on diamonds in less than 50 years. Gems and Jewellery is one of the top two items traded. Agriculture specifically irrigation is another major area of mutual cooperation. Israeli specialize in drip irrigation. There is lot of scope for cooperation in irrigation field.

Fisheries is probably another sector we should have a commercially viable partnership with them. The more we study the contours of Indian Israeli partnership the more avenues for cooperation would open. The challenge is to study these avenues which are not often discussed, tourism, banking, education, plastics, software, pharmaceuticals.

The fact is Israel trip in not immediately after 26 May 2014 shows a very calibrated approach of Modi Gov. PM Modis trip is preceded by Home Minister, Mr Rajnath Singh on Nov 2014, President Pranab Mukherjee visit where he also addressed the Knesset in Oct 2015, followed visit of Foreign Minister Ms Sushma Swaraj. Israeli President Mr Rueven Rivlin was on one week visit in Nov last year. This also includes Navy chief visiting Israel. It seems lot of ground work has been covered in previous years before PM Modi lands in Jerusalem. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu considers PM Modi as a special friend they have met on sidelines of UNO. PM Netanyahu will be accompanying him to many functions. It would be interesting to know if a section of media/society will upload their prescriptions and bills for antacid consumed in next 72 hours.

One can expect high voltage speech from PM Modi. His speeches are always for a wider audience, not just those who are physically present. His speeches would be analyse in real time basis. Many of Modi programs (reforms?) are announced in Speeches abroad. His speech either in the formal set up of Gov to Gov meet or when he meets Indian diaspora would be no less. He has much to show, GST would be highlighted again. Then terrorism (remember 26/11?) will obviously find more than mention more than once in his speech. His visit is also not just about discussing bilateral issues, lot of multi-lateral issues would be discussed if not sealed. It will be interesting to see, who will accompany PM Modi on this trip and what kind of deals are initiated on business front.

There are high expectations of him delivering a roaring speech which will hopefully underline the importance and success of this visit.

Modi in Trumps America

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Modi shall travel to US again,  later this weekend. His friendship with former US President Mr Barack Obama, is well documented. He has already traveled four times to US, met President Obama 8 on various occasions, state visit and summits also hosted President Obama during India’s Republic Day. He visited the White House and addressed the US Congress/Legislature, along with engaging with think tanks, Senators,  and that epic speech in Madison Square Garden during his previous four tours.

As trade and partnership strengthens between India  and US in terms of US Dollars, there is a possible reset if not renewal in ties. Mr Donald Trump is now the President of US. In their previous six months, both have more than just exchanged pleasantries on more than a few occasions.

Modi – Trump the case of perfect Anti-thesis.

Modi and Trump are near anti thesis to each other in terms on the personalities and how they have led their lives. Modi has been an avowed bachelor. He had a very humble background. He wanted to be monk in his youth.  He wears his RSS identity on his sleeve. He has been in active politics for more than three decades in the same political outfit. He was a rank outsider when he was elected to head State Gov of Gujarat. He won three elections there, he changed the face of Gujarat. He announced his candidature as PM and toured length and breadth of the country during the elections. It was an exhaustive campaign. He lead BJP to a historic mandate. BJP consolidated to a first single party majority first time in 30 years.

The US President, Mr Donald Trump is one of the few world leaders, elder to PM Modi. President Trump is infact the oldest President of USA to be elected to office. He and Ms. Clinton looked to have a close race but by the time counting of votes was complete, Trump lead Republican Party to 9 state governors, majority of senators and won US presidency for GOP. Trump is anti-thesis to Modi in a sense that he was born in a business family of America’s Financial Capital, New York, his father was into real estate business. He has married more than once. He was a real estate magnate, the host of a very popular TV show Apprentice, he has written books and settled commercial law suits. He has gone boom to bust to boom. He has operated casinos, airlines, hotels, beauty pageants and know keep the nuclear button under his thumb. His party affinity has changed more than twice. He was never elected to a public office before being elected for Presidency. Trumps shoots from his lip. Modi is tight lipped about the unrelenting criticism heaped on him. Trump is at best a loose cannon when it comes to exchanging barbs with Media. Modis response are measured and does n’t waver too much,  with President Trump … better sense may prevail.

When the world’s largest and the most powerful democracy meet this time to reset relations between respective Head of the Gov.  The corner stone of PM Modi’s foreign policy is India being a billion people, trillion-dollar economy, clocking highest growth rates in the world headed by a stable Gov. A trillion-dollar economy clocking 7% and more with opportunities galore in food, clothing, shelter and everything in between that mind can imagine. It is this proposition and projection that India is a willing partnership in development and progress and not pleading for monetary aid or alms. In short Gov is open for business.

Search for common ground.

Being in to business President  Trump has a nose for setting up a deal. When votes were being counted in USA for 45 President on 8 Nov 2016 at the same time, PM Modi declared large denomination notes as null and void, which was one of the most vigorous shake up of the Indias financial systems. The system was being burdened by excessive cash major chunk of which was unaccounted Rs 500 was one of the most counterfeit unit of Indian currency. PM Modi and President Trump are seen as disruptors – though nature, extent and direction of disruption is still to be agree upon.

When PM Modi and President Trump do meet, trade, investment, defence, jobs, visas would be some of the catch words. PM Modi is likely to meet more people in the Business-Bureaucracy circles of American Gov and this trip may not be about big public speeches a la Madison Square Garden. PM Modi would pull all stops to sell GST, Start Up and Skill India, Technology, Health, Education etc. The trip would be also about sizing up the changes and how to deal with them after President Trump took charge. Trump would be doing the same. Modi seems to have positioned himself well with systemic risks that world faces – Terrorism and Climate change. Both these factors Terrorism and Climate change warrants US India partnership on one to one basis, also warrants both working in tandem in multinational fora to address these issues. While PM Modis has been consistent in his stance viz a vis Islamic terror even before 9/11. The world now acknowledges that India has been bearing waxing-waning threats of Islamic terror and it’s not a localised law and order issue. The problem is International Islamic terror has moral support from various states in our region.

One knows that one dead fish spoils the pond.

Europe in particular finds itself on the receiving end of these Terror attacks though similar attacks in Asia and Africa may not draw as much either attention or condemnation.

This from Wikipedia “As of 2017, the Republican Party is documented as being at its strongest position politically since 1928. In addition to holding the Presidency (via Trump and Vice President Mike Pence), the Republicans control the 115th United States Congress, having majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The party also holds a majority of governorships (33/50) and state legislatures (full control of 32/50, split control of six others.”

Step back and re-asses agree on a way forward.

This tour may not see emotionally charged public rallies. It is hopefully that something concrete may come out of these meetings. PM Modi and Trump will meet again in G-20 in Germany two weeks later for G-20 Sumit. However, this is opportunity for both leaders to asses and express their respective wish lists, consolidate and expand whatever has worked out successfully. Discuss issues that are agreeable and address issues that can be worked upon. Indian diaspora obviously has their bit to do, as it is a key part of this engagement. Over the past couple of decades slowly but surely equation have changed and India and American set up are nearly forced to work together, this factor however is not likely to weaken or diminish any time soon.

Single fare double journey.

Modi mantra of single ticket double journey sees him visiting Portugal on 24 June and on 27 June and US visit sandwiched between these two trips, he will be in the Netherlands (and Portugal) for a working visit. These two countries are art of London Club aka Nuclear Supplier Group. There would be some discussion as NSG plenary probably anytime soon. China an authority in nuclear proliferation is block India’s entry and will continue to obstruct India’s entry in the London Club. However, seems PM Modi will continue to keep trying and rallying support for India’s entry.

Modi has already made trips to Germany, Russia, France in the last month and likely that NSG would have been raised by India and sought opinion and support for India’s entry.

Bahubali, the conclusion, a spectacular visual treat

Image result for Bahubali

After the spectacular success of the first version, expectations have soared on the sequel, more so because the release of second version got delayed by a year in comparison to the initial plan. Such high expectations is a double edged sword, because the audiences most of the times watch a movie and judge it based on the expectations and not on absolute basis. So with all the hype, expectations which got built up for 2 years since the release of 1st version, Rajamouli had to deliver a stellar show! and boy – hasn’t he delivered an amazing spectacle, a magnum opus that would make Indian cinema proud.

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The movie starts with the process of coronation of Bahubali as the king of Mahishmathi, who is sent into the Mahishmathi kingdom to go to different places to see and understand the problems of people which would give him the exposure needed to take charge of ruling the kingdom. As he travels across, he gets in touch with Devasena – princess of the adjacent kingdom of Kunthala. Bahubali falls in love with Devasena and joins her team by pretending as innocent normal person who needs work along with Kattappa. Then the story goes on with Bhallala Deva getting coronated as the king, Amarendra Bahubali getting killed, then his Son Mahendra Bahubali (Sivudu in the first version) coming back to take revenge on Bhallala Deva for the death of his father . Beyond that I don’t want to give the story away fully, and play spoiler for people who are yet to watch the movie. Of course the much awaited question for the last two years “why kattappa killed Bahubali” gets answered in this. As with all Rajamouli’s movies, here too there is a strong backdrop of emotions and loyalty.

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Few scenes stand out for the scale, imagination and the stunning visuals – coronation of Bhallala Deva as king – those 15 minutes right before the interval are breathtaking. The reverberating Sankskrit chants, exhibition of forces of the kingdom, the chariot that carries Bhallala Deva – the whole process of coronation gives one goosebumps.

The other sequence which exhibits the genius of Rajamouli and the team is the whole fighting sequence between Bahubali and Bhallala Deva at the climax. As per the reports, around 30 crores have been spent on the climax scenes and one could see the grandeur, effort on the screen. One get engrossed into watching these scenes forgetting what is happening around.

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Of course the traditional hindu stuff catches one’s eye – the song of Devasena on Krishna was shot with heart touching precision, devotion. The scene where in one of the fighting scenes – Bahubali applies Siva bhasma on his injuries would impress the devotees of Siva (applying bhasma as it has been told during ancient times has a medicinal value to cure injuries).  It has of course touched a raw never with the secular brigade that hates the mention of anything Hindu, but they don’t deserve any more attention here.

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Coming to the main characters, Prabhas and Rana as Bahubali and Bhallala Deva are mighty impressive with their performances. One could see on the screen the hard work they have put in, in maintaining their physic over such a long periods of time. Ramya Krishna as Sivagami, Anukshka as Devasena have given very strong performances, have more to do in this movie compared to the first version. Sathyaraj as Kattappa too is very impressive.

The background music along with songs are of top quality, Keeravani has done an outstanding job. Though compared to the first version – the songs fall just a bit short of expectations but that is more than compensated by the background music. VFX effects which have been worked upon by 30 odd studios across the world that came together, makes the visual experience – a once in a lifetime one.

The other thing that stands out in this movie is – usually it is difficult for a sequel to come out better than the first version. But here, one can clearly see that based on the feedback on the first version Rajamouli has tried incorporating the required changes. Few romantic scenes between Sivudu (the Bahubali character in first version) and Avanthika (role played by Tamannah) haven’t gone down well, and some portion of the first half was slightly a bit of a drag in the first version. But in this “Bahubali the conclusion” Rajamouli pulled off almost a flaw-less show.

One can’t help but imagine how it would be if a movie like this can be made on our epics like Maha Bharatha. This movie caught up the imagination so much that people have started making requests on social media to Rajamouli to make movies on our epics, history. It is very rare for a movie to take so many people spellbound.

The move has already collected more than 500 crores worldwide, as per the latest information – it is breaking all the records in the Hindi version too. The most striking number is it has collected 39 crores which is the highest collection on a Monday for a Hindi film, the second best is Krrish with 29 crores. With this momentum, it is poised to break all records in the history of Indian cinema. For a regional movie, this is a monumental achievement. Bahubali has broken the barriers and the notion that regional movies are “small”. The standards set by this will be difficult to break, it will no doubt make the other high profile film makers sit up and notice. A professional achievement like this should be celebrated, there should be no place for cynicism.

Assembly Elections March 17

by

Manipur, Goa, Punjab, Uttara Khand and Uttar Pradesh are five states that went to polls in Feb-Mar 2017 and election results are expected on 11 march 2017. These are first elections after demonitization announced little after 8 PM on 8 Nov 2016. I have tabulated previous results of Punjab, Uttara khand and Uttar Pradesh.

Indian elections are simple in a sense, everyone who is above 18 years of age is eligible to vote for a candidate of a party, the candidate with most votes is the winner, the party with most winning candidates close to or greater that 50% of assembly strength + one seat is invited to form the government by the Governor of that state.

Anyone with fleeting interest in numbers should find elections fun to follow, lot of frenzy is thrown up in the air. However, this simplistic looking system of elections throws up more and more intrigue as you dig deep. Patterns emerge and variables that drive these elections began to indicate the motive forces that help us understand evolution of society. Democracy however may throw different results, sometimes very bizarre but strength is in accepting the, as they are and probably when the dust settled down, learn a few lessons and prepare for a struggle for next elections.

PM Modi has requested many to ponder upon simultaneous elections for assembly and Lok Sabha, there would be merits – cost effectiveness, demerits – no prolonged discussion based on test of Modi, no rambling etc from News Studios and OpEds.

Punjab Seat Share

Seats 117 13 117 13 117 13 117
Seat Share 2002 2004 2007 2009 2012 2014 2017
SAD 44 4 54 3 (29)
BJP 19 1 12 16
Cong 48 8 46 37
AAP 0 0 33
Other 5 0 5 2

Punjab Vote Share

Turnout  65.14 75.45 68 78.2 70.68 75
Vote Share 2002 2004 2007 2009 2012 2014 2017
SAD 37.9 33.85 34.59 20.3
BJP 8.68 10.06 7.15 8.70
Cong 40.9 45.23 39.92 33.1
AAP 0 0 0 30.4
Other 13.33 10.86 7.13 7.5

Uttara khand Seat Share

Seats 70 5 70 5 70 5 70
Seat Share 2002 2004 2007 2009 2012 2014 2017
BJP 19 3 35 0 31 5 (63)
BSP 7 0 8 0 3 0(7)
Cong 36 1 21 5 32
UKD 4 0 3 1
Others 4 1 3

Uttarakhand Vote Share

Turnout 54.3 63.1 53.3 67.22 61.6 65.64
Vote Share 2002 2004 2007 2009 2012 2014 2017
BJP 25.45 40.98 31.9 33.8 33.13 55
BSP 10.93 7.93 11.76 15.4 12.9
Cong 26.91 38.31 23.59 43.14 33.79 34
UKD 5.49 5.49 1.93
Others 31 12.4 NA 7.3 24.8

Uttar Pradesh Seat Share

Seats 403.00 80.00 403.00 80.00 403.00 80.00 403
Seat Share 2002 2004 2007 2009 2012 2014 2017
BJP 88.00 10.00 51.00 10.00 47.00 71.00
BSP 98.00 19.00 206.00 20.00 80.00 0.00
Cong 25.00 9.00 22.00 21.00 28.00 2.00
SP 143.00 35.00 97.00 23.00 224.00 5.00
Others 49.00 7.00 27.00 6.00 24.00 3.00

Uttar Pradesh Vote Share

Turnout 46.45 59.5 58.35
Vote Share 2002 2004 2007 2009 2012 2014 2017
BJP 20.08 22.17 16.97 17.50 15.00 42.63
BSP 23.06 24.67 30.43 27.42 25.91 19.77
Cong 8.96 12.04 8.61 18.25 11.65 7.53
SP 25.37 26.74 25.43 23.26 29.13 23.35
Others 22.53 14.38 18.56 13.57 18.31 6.72

How will the table get stacked up, we would know before 11 of March ends!

This is my attempt to crunch numbers a little better, understand the dynamics of economics (Roti-Kapda-Makan) and demographics (age, gender, average income) etc need to be balanced beyond rhetoric of inflammatory speeches and camera and mics zooming in and out and how and who does “market segmentation” better i.e. customise election campaign for that block, district, constituency, state etc.

The Thumb rules.

This is not in particular in the very order. I am trying to gauge possible outcomes of vote share based on past data. All the states will be evaluated on the basis of these following assumptions.

A party or a group with largest vote share will get maximum seats.

A sweep is a sweep only if it sustains in the next state/general elections.

Increased voter turnout is first indication of incumbent being voted out of power.

Leadership is the key. For e.g. in UP, before Modi was declared PM candidate BJP vote share was reduced from 22% to 16%. Under Modi it sky rockets to 42%. This is safe enough to conclude that Modi was that regional leader with little or no influence outside the state he was governing.

BJP winning 71+2 seats out of 80 was tsuNaMo which we may never see ever again in history of electioneering of this country. You could count number of non BJP winners in one hand after the results were decalared. The impact in Uttar Khand was similar.

Here are my calculations for possible vote share and seats

Party Vote Share Seats
UP=403 BJP 35.05 226
BSP 23.55 86
Cong 9.31 19
SP 21.03 59
Others 11.00 13
Punjab=117 SAD 22.37 13
BJP 8.67 7
Cong 37.37 69
APP 21.71 23
Others 9.88 5
UK=70 BJP 49.51 48
BSP 4.78 2
Cong 30.29 15
UKD 1.04 1
Others 14.38 4

 

 

Ratha Saptami

In my post on Basant Panchami, I had mentioned about how it kickstarts the festival cycle in Magh, which ends with Holi. Basant Panchami is followed next by Ratha Saptami, which as the name indicates falls on the 7th day of Magha Shukla Paksha( the bright phase). It symbolizes Surya symbolically turning his chariot drawn by seven horses towards the Northern Hemisphere, marking the transition from the Southern one. It also marks the birth of Surya, and is celebrated as Surya Jayanti.  In a way it marks the beginning of the harvest season and is an auspicious moment for farmers.

Historically speaking Sun Worship is rooted in most ancient civilizations. The Sun believed to be the giver of life, energy on earth was revered and worshiped in various forms.  One of the most sacred mantras of Hinduism, the Gayatri Mantra was dedicated to Savitr, the Sun deity. As per Hindu tradition, Gayatri is believed to be an aspect of Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Parvati combined together, and one of the main forms of Adi Shakti. Her 5 heads represent the Vedas of ancient Aryans and the Almighty himself. She is one of Brahma’s consorts, and is believed to be the source of all his energy which helps in creation.  The mantra is named after Gayatri, as it consists of 3 padas of 8 syllables, having 24 syllables in each stanza. The Sanskrit word for song or hymn is Gayatra, and Gayatri is the  feminine form of it.

ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः ।

तत्स॑वि॒तुर्वरेण्यं॒

भर्गो॑ दे॒वस्य॑ धीमहि ।

धियो॒ यो नः॑ प्रचो॒दया॑त् ॥

om bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ

tát savitúr váreṇ(i)yaṃ

bhárgo devásya dhīmahi

dhíyo yó naḥ prachodayāt

“We meditate on the glory of that Being who has produced this universe; may He enlighten our minds” – Swami Vivekananda.

Savitr was one of the Vedic deities, and one of the Adityas, so called as they were believed to be the sons of Aditi. Celebrated in 11 hymns of the Rig Veda, he is sometimes associated with Surya, other times distinct. Generally considered as the divine influence of the Sun, it is believed he represents the sun before sunrise and after that it is Surya. Post the Vedic period though Savitr was not present, though invoked in the Gayatri Mantra often.

Symbolically speaking Ratha Saptami represents Surya turning his chariot or Ratha, drawn by 7 horses with Aruna as the charioteer towards the Northern Hemisphere. These 7 horses are also said to represent the seven days of the week, while the chariot has 12 wheels, representing the 12 signs of the zodiac and considered one full year. Ratha Saptami seeks the spread of cosmic energy and light from Surya. It is believed that Surya was born on this date to Sage Kashyap and Aditi, and hence is also marked as Surya Jayanti. It is also said that Bheeshma passed away on this day.

Rituals

Generally people take a bath in the river or sea, invoking Surya, and holding several Ekka leaves on their heads. Argyam, holding water in the palms is offered to Surya, in order to invoke his benevolence. These Ekka leaves are also called as Arka in Kannada, Jilledu in Telugu, Erruku in Tamil. And they are to Surya what the Tulsi leaves are to Vishnu. The shape of the plant is believed to represent Surya, and 7 leaves are placed on body during the bath-one on head, two on the shoulders, two on the knees, two on the feet.

It also involves doing a Puja with the Naivedhyam offered to him, along with flowers and fruits. The most commonly offered prayer is the Aditya Hrudayam,  a devotional hymn recited to Rama by Rishi Agastya, on the eve of the great battle with Ravana, along with the Gayatri Mantra. People in Mysore, Melkote carry the sacred Surya Mandala, icon of the God. Ratha Saptami is also an important festival in most Vaishnavite temples like those of Srirangam, Tirumala, Srirangapatnam, Melkote, as Surya is believed to be another aspect of Vishnu.  In Tirumala in fact Ratha Saptami is believed to be a Mini Brahmotsavam, where Malayappa Swamy is carried around the Mada streets in a procession along with Sridevi and Bhudevi.

Surya

One of the oldest deities in the Vedic tradition, he is mentioned in the Rig Veda as dispeller of darkness, one who empowers knowledge, good and all life. The Vedas specify Surya to be Prakriti the creator of the material universe, while in the Brahmanas, he is invoked along with Agni. In the great epics, Surya is the father of Sugriva, and the mentor of Hanuman in the Ramayana, while Ram claims descent from him, the Suryavansha Kshatriyas. In the Mahabharat, he is reverentially called at the beginning eye of the universe, soul of all existence, origin of all life, goal of the Samkhyas and Yogis, and symbolism for freedom and spiritual emancipation. Karna is the son of Surya, and is also gifted the impregnable Kavach by him, as well as the Kundalas.

Traditionally Surya is represented as a shining efflugence on a chariot driven by 7 horses, which are named after the seven meters of Vedanga- Gayatri, Brihati, Ushnih, Jagati, Trishtubha, Anushtubha and Pankti. His charioteer is Aruna, while the two female deities who flank him are Usha, the Goddess of Dawn and Pratyusha.

One of the most famous Sun Temples is that of Konark in Odisha, on this auspicious occasion do check out my write up on it here

https://historyunderyourfeet.wordpress.com/2005/07/22/konark-a-trip-back-in-time/

 

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