Tag Archives: Modi

Circa 2019?

It is already May 2017 and exactly 3 years in to the new regime. Another 2 years to go when the country will be ready again to witness the ritual of selecting the Government at the centre. Whether BJP and Modi was able to fulfil the promises that they had made to the larger public or whether it was just a seasoned politician canvassing or perhaps was it bluster of an extremely confident and knowledgable man, it is a point that was being, is being and will be debated. Another important aspect that will come up for discussion in the various debates in numerous channels will be – Will he get the mandate in 2019? It is anybody’s call but there is something that has a good chance of happening, which is well within the Government’s purview if not the outcome of the elections i.e. when the elections are called. There is a good chance that it will not be a 2019 mandate but more of a May-August 2018 mandate. In all probability, BJP might look to advance the elections by a good 9-12 months. Why would BJP do such a thing? Why advance the elections by a good year or so? More so, when there has been a recent example of what happened to Theresa May and her party’s poor performance at the hustings?
First and foremost, the polity in India is such that whenever the incumbent is looking to get re-elected, it necessarily tends to fall in the abyss of appeasement. It is a foregone conclusion that the Government in power is expected to bring out doles in the form of tax sops, subsidies, loan waivers, favourable policies etc in order to woo the larger public. In effect, the Government in power gets transformed to lame duck, by default, for the last year, running up towards the elections. Knowing Modi and his aversion for benefit-spraying he will look to pre-empt this idea of being a lame duck. Modi comes across a person who doesn’t believe in being passive with issues and looks to take problems head on. Additionally, it just doesn’t suit the personality of a no-nonsense strong leadership to recede being in a lame-duck environment. Thus, by advancing the elections by a good year and by springing a surprise on everybody, he and others in the Government will be able to do their job.
There is another upshot of this idea. It is a clear as daylight that the opposition doesn’t stand a chance in the General Elections, if they fight separately. If the opposition were to fight under separate banners, it is without doubt BJP’s elections to lose. But, if the opposition were to unite under a single banner, then there is a good chance they might put up a stiff resistance to the BJP juggernaut never mind the thought of who will head the Government, if at all and when they are likely to get a majority. This ‘bringing together’ of the opposition would require a lot of prep-work, as there are some very many egotistical, fief-holders in the fray, who just cannot stand each other i.e. Congress can’t stand AAP, BSP and SP can’t see eye to eye and Trinamool and CPI will necessarily look to be on the opposite sides of the political spectrum. Thus, to bring such diverse and diametrically opposite personalities together will require a fair bit of time. A lot of time would be required perhaps to firm up the PM candidate – Will Rahul Gandhi fit the bill? If somebody else gets more seats then will Congress have the upper hand? So on and so forth. Alternatively, it works in BJP’s favour if the opposition remains opposed to each other. The opposition fights against each other, the votes get divided and BJP candidate goes through. By advancing the elections, BJP would again pre-empt this possibility. When the opposition is still sussing each other out – perhaps a year earlier to May 2019 – to form coalitions, BJP might just drop the General Elections bomb. The kind of personalities, acrimony and issues that the opposition has within itself would be difficult to overcome in a short span of time.
Lastly but definitely not the least of the reasons is that whenever a Government is looking to get re-elected, it tends to get on the defensive. So, if an incumbent is looking to get re-elected close to the re-election date i.e. May 2019, the narrative that the opposition tends to arrange is that of – What has the government done? Has the common man’s life improved? Are the citizens better of? Consequently, the narrative from the incumbent is in the defensive tone i.e. looking to answer most of the questions that are put through. But if an elected incumbent is looking to advance the election, it somehow is able to set a narrative around which the election can be fought. An assertive narrative of accomplishments, issues management, non-corruption etc can be arranged which then the opposition will have to counter. It is clearly pre-empting and turning the tables, so to speak in the narrative that gets out to the common man. It also tends to put the incumbent or perhaps creates a perception of the incumbent on a sure footing. A view that the incumbent can express is that why would they advance if they were so afraid to lose the elections. The act would also burnish the leadership qualities of Modi as an assured and a confident leader.
So perhaps, instead of a Circa 2019, it would well be a 2018 General Elections year.

Act II – Money Legally Laundered – Distribution of Wealth

So this is a corollary to the earlier post ‘ Money Legally Laundered’.

So what will the Government of India do with the such a big booty that they have received due to the stashed black money that would be extinguished (in all probability we are looking at a figure of around 3 lac crores).

The best scenario that comes to mind and am quite sure more than a few of experts are also thinking on those lines – remit the amount directly to the bank accounts of the poor. This is truly the plank on which Modi had fought the General Elections in 2014 – the fact that there is so much of black money sloshing around in the system and if he comes to power, each Indian will have around 15,000 in his bank account. Well, now is the time to put one’s mouth where the money is, literally speaking.

Without doubt that was the reason why every poor person in the country was made to open Jan Dhan Accounts, perhaps this was the idea to crimp the rich off his black money and seed it to the Jan Dhan Accounts.

So as of 9th November 2016, there are near about 25,51,16,805 Jan Dhan Accounts that have been opened (according the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana website). Assuming that the Government gets a windfall of 3 lac crore (notwithstanding how does RBI transfer the amount to Government’s Statement of Accounts) it is highly likely that Narendra Modi is looking to seed each of these Jan Dhan Accounts with this windfall booty.

It is a great opportunity for him to walk his talk and put in some amount in to each of these Jan Dhan Accounts. Depending upon the amount that doesn’t come back to the system and needs to be extinguished, it is a goodish chance that a lion share of the amount, roughly around 2.5 lac crores, will be legally laundered and deposited in these accounts (round about 10,000 per account).

That is truly the levelling the playing field and being the consummate Robin Hood – pinching the rich and distributing in to the poor – the proverbial distribution of wealth, tried numerous times but hitherto never truly brought in to action ever.

Money Legally Laundered

November 8th, roughly around 8 pm, the Indian PM Narendra Modi is addressing the nation via the electronic media. The conversation is veering towards a general statement with the tone and manner of fighting corruption and the black money and bringing transparency in to the system. Most of us will admit that we have heard Mr. Modi speak about this and we are kind of used to the drift of the address – general statement, a bit of banality and nothing in specific. But then those statements were building up to the operative theme of his address – Rs. 500/Rs. 1,000 would cease to be legal tender from November 9th 12.00 am onwards. There were just 4 hours given to anybody who was a somebody to do what he can choose to.

These two currencies are estimated to make up about 85% of the entire cash in the system amounting to around 15 lac crores. By abolishing them, Mr. Modi had sucked out bulk of the cash from the system and the black marketeers or cash hoarders were left to fend for their ill-gotten wealth. It is estimated that in those 4 hours (so to speak) the amount of gold (jewellery or units) sold was much higher than what was sold on Dhanteras 2016. The ‘so to speak’ is essential since there would have been more than a few jewellers who would have sold their wares by back-dating the invoices. Now there have been numerous articles in the newspapers saying that this demonetisation is not going to help much since everybody who is anybody and has a stash of black money doesn’t necessarily keep it in paper. He invariably looks to hedge and pick up either real estate, foreign currency or gold. This might be true but then there is strong complementary benefit of demonetisation even though we are not able to get our hands on the supposed black money hoarders or their ‘invested’ stash. The biggest complementary benefit that would accrue to India is that the cash has come back home to issuer i.e. the money – black or white has come back to the system.

That is one hell of a complementary benefit for the action. Perhaps, the complementary benefit was the main reason why the action was taken in the first place. The Modi Government is well aware of the wherewithal of the black money hoarders and the ingenuity and ‘jugaad’ with which they would hanker to save their ill-gotten cash. So the main objective would never have been to net these black marketeers but to net the cash that is swishing around outside the formal system. So even if a black money hoarder bought gold on the 8th of November, the jeweller who chose to sell him will have to declare the money, since him not choosing to do so makes the cash he holds invalid and illegal and so is the case with a real estate developer. Let all and sundry accept the ‘illegal’ tender after the 8th of November, but it has to somewhere surface in the system in one form or the other or else it is just worthless piece of paper. It is a foregone conclusion that the Income Tax for the quarter till December is going to see a serious bump up.

Perhaps the black marketeer feels that he doesn’t want to buy gold and then look to carry the commodity on him (adding another dimension that will be discussed a bit later). He is confident enough to game the system and deposit the cash in the bank – either via money mules, mother/daughter deposit, extra sales in the on-going financial year or Jan Dhan Accounts – yet the complementary benefit holds true. The amount that was hitherto out of the formal system has come back to it. It is another issue whether the money was unaccounted for and the Government has the option of hounding the person and hauling him on live coals if he is detected. So, if we take a very conservative estimate of 20% being the unaccounted money (some experts estimate it to as big as 35-40%) of the total amount of 15 lac crores held in 500/1000 notes then we are looking at a figure of some where close to 3 lac crores. 3 lac crores or about more than 50% of the fiscal deficit of India for FY 2016-2017. There are a whole host of attendant benefits – the Government will have to borrow less thus not crowding out the private sector, has the wriggle room to spend more and to add to it there is the strong possibility of the banks reducing interest rates due to they being flush with money. Let us not even dwell on the fact that the liability side of RBI will be extinguished proportional to the amount of cash not returning back to the system and an equal amount could be transferred to the reserves and thus adding a hefty dividend to the Government. There are various opinions on the do’s and dont’s or the modality of this transaction and the most vociferous of that lot is a former FM who is supposedly trying to bring the negative view of other world central bankers if such a transaction were to take place. Anyways it is again a foregone conclusion that the Government of the day is going to use this bonanza to reduce it’s fiscal deficit – no two ways about it. There might be any form of balance sheet trickery or statement of accounts skull duggery that could be employed but the Government is going to take that money under its fold – let all economists or finance ministers or eminent personnel wail and cry foul as much as they want.

One more upshot of all this is and it is clear that the Government will not stop at this. There is more to follow. It is going to be a pincer attack on the black money – in all forms. There is going to be a crackdown on benami property transactions – it is already being touted as the next move by the PM. There is another aspect that is yet unfurled but could be in the offing. The Government in due course will come out with a notification that it will be mandatory to operate the bank lockers in the presence of a revenue officer or an IT person. There is a goodish chance that this will come out post 30th December when every body has had the chance of changing, depositing the old legal tender. Perhaps, a bit later around February/March 2017, when most of them have been lulled in to no action on the bank lockers front. All the black money that has been used to buy gold or has been bought up until now has to be accounted for somehow and that is the other dimension in purchasing gold that was spoken about earlier. A certain leeway on the amount of gold that a person holds would be allowed and for the rest, receipts and the income trail would be expected.

Thus, the black money crackdown is expected to come half circle i.e. cash, real estate and gold. The other half is of course the political funding that is hitherto unscrubbed and untouched. The PM did mention about state funding of elections but then it is to be seen if and ever such a move would take place.

General Elections Plausible Outcomes

The mega show for the country i.e. the General Elections is in its final phase with the various parties batting hard in the final slog overs. The BJP with its prime ministerial candidate clearly has its noses in the front where as the Congress is reduced to has been. Perhaps and as many opinion polls predict, the Grand Old Party is going to have a hard time notching up even a 3-figure mark. All said and done these elections saw fiercely fought, no-holds barred, un-civilized words and even un-civilizing narratives. It was as if everything goes to get to 272.

But one has to admit that these elections were not like the previous elections ever. The magnitude, scale, narrative etc was distinct from other elections but then there are certain other aspects that clearly differentiate these elections from the ones that were fought before. There are certain outcomes/ideas that one notices that could portray the way the Indian political scene would be governed in the years to come.

Outcome 1: Clearly, BJP sought to establish these elections in the presidential format rather than the current parliamentary system that India has. It clearly pitched the strong, decisive and proven leadership of Narendra Modi against the oft-vacillating, somewhat pusillanimous and un-charismatic leadership of either Manmohan Singh or Rahul Gandhi. It is yet to be seen whether this strategy would pay dividends to BJP or not but it sure is evident that a presidential format strategy lends itself a wonderful opportunity to create a strong and credible narrative. On any given issue any political party is a function of the average viz. say on issue of corruption, any political party does include a person who is highly corrupt and along with includes a person who is highly incorruptible. The perception on that issue about the party generally hovers around the average. Thus the clear way forward is to subdue the people with wayward intentions and highlight the people with superior objectives. Thus when Modi says that for every button that you bleep against the lotus – the vote would directly come to me, the party is seriously trying to de-emphasize the negative aspects and personalities in the BJP and highlight the aura around one personality (necessarily the glaring difference between the singular and the plural). Going forward, one feels that to ask vote for an average i.e. a party is going to be much more difficult as compared to an ideal i.e. a person. Hence, chances are the presidential format for a parliamentary election would be the way ahead

Outcome 2: The Indian political scene is closely mirroring a developed democracy where in there are 2-3 principal parties going at each other in the General Elections. Most others are a part of one combine or the other. At the centre there is either a NDA or a UPA which generally forms the Government with the BJP or Congress being the principal party in the combine. The direction taken by the combine would be necessarily governed by the principal parties. The regional parties will tend to take sides and be part of either of the combine. To that extent, the Third Front is clearly a still-born concept

Outcome 3: BJP has a clear strong association of a Hindu-based party with a centre-right approach. Similarly, there is a clear vacuum in the political system for a similar such approach but with a strong association of a minority-based party. Most ‘secular’ parties – be it the Congress or the regional parties – which espouse the needs of the minorities, have been indulging in a rights-based approach. There have been dole-outs, subsidies and reservations but never ever the narrative arranged is the complete over-haul and development of the community. Perhaps, the rights-based approach works favorably for the ‘secular’ parties as a vote-bank politics but then the community as a whole receives very little. Gandhijji had once said that it doesn’t much matter to a person whether he genuflects before Mother Mary or Mother Kali as long as one of these helps him douse the ambers in his stomach. When the narrative changes to roti-rozgaar-kapda-makaan-shiksha surely the intolerant view about religion is bound to take a backseat. Just like nature, politics also abhors a vacuum and surely this space would see a fill-up

Outcome 4: It appears that the biggest loss in these elections would not be for the Congress (though chances are they wouldn’t even cross the 3-digit mark). In terms of the opportunity loss, one senses that the biggest would land at the door-step of Aam Aadmi Party. Just about a few months back the party which was the toast of the ‘aam aadmi’ so to speak has been summarily rejected and castigated by the same people. It appears that the AAP is bound to be restricted to at the maximum single-digit number in the Lok Sabha. Post the debacle in the General Elections and the ascent of Narendra Modi to 7 Race Course Road and more importantly the brouhaha in the Delhi Assembly if one were to extrapolate the results to the Delhi Vidhan Sabha elections (probably could be conducted in October/November 2014) BJP is most likely to get majority. If Narendra Modi would live up to its promise and oft-repeated one-liner ‘mein khata bhi nahi nah mein khaane deta hoon’ then in about half a decade’s time the raison d’être for AAP would be completely negated at least at the national level. Then there is a good chance of AAP to go through a thorough churning and most probably completely disband or reduce to a has-been on the fringes of the political scene restricted to a state or two. All of this if AAP chooses not to re-invent itself

Outcome 5: If the Grand Old Party is reduced to its worst ever performance (which is quite likely) then there is going to be a fierce round of blame storming. The family will desperately try to ring-fence and absolve itself of the blame though it would be extremely difficult and unnatural. There is a good chance that the party rank and file would bay for blood and Rahul Gandhi, logically would be the sacrificial lamb. Chances are that he wouldn’t also become the leader of opposition. Post this, if the family still would be looking to keep the fief then it is imperative that Priyanka is immediately pushed up the ladder or else there is bound to be an ambitious up-start who would claim the position. Contrarily, if the family is somehow able to ring-fence itself and absolve Rahul Gandhi of the blame then there is a high probability of a clear split in the Congress. There are very many ambitious and charismatic young leaders in the Congress who sense a de-facto glass-ceiling and hence would like to break away and form a small fief of their own. Being under an in-effective, unproven and more importantly failed leader would definitely bar them from giving wings to their ambition

Modi Antsy-sm

A e-mail response to an article by Shekhar Gupta (Editor-in-Chief, Indian Express). Have re-presented the mail as is here:


 

For quite some time now, I have been giving a very serious thought to an often unexpressed fact – a morbid reluctance to Modi (hatred comes across to me as a very strong word and hence the word ‘morbid reluctance’). These are some observations on my part. I am a complete outsider sitting pretty far away from the humdrum of politics in Delhi (am in Mumbai) and just an avid follower and reader of the Indian political scene. Hence I am not privy to any information so what I put across might come across as just a bit fictional and over the top but nevertheless here it goes.

  1. Congress and BJP have been at each other for quite some time (since BJP emerged as a force to reckon with post Ayodhya Ram Temple strategy) and rightly so since they are opposing parties and also since they represent opposing thought processes (wont use the word ideologies since I sincerely feel Congress doesn’t have one and BJP has its moorings in one but does vacillate). But never ever have we seen the narrative between the two so sharp and acrid. Somehow I get a feeling that the mere mention and sight of Modi makes the Congress absolutely antsy
  2. Moreover, I feel is that antsy-ness (if I may use the term) is specifically related to the family and somehow the family has been able to percolate and distill it down to its close and loyal associates who then flow it much further down the rank. Additionally, if that antsy-ness is not displayed by all and sundry in full force then lo and behold the political career of the defaulting Congressman would careen downhill and hence the sharp tirade from all quarters towards Modi. The more vituperative the comments the deeper the loyalty ‘expressed’ towards the family
  3. Why then such antsy-ness towards Modi? I feel Modi as an idea is what makes the family squirm. He has a strong perception of being a no-nonsense getter, brutally incorruptible, breaking old shackles and old cozy relationships to get the job done, rustic, being abnormally nationalistic and so supremely confident that he has the gall to show a middle-finger to anybody (Indian or otherwise) who doubts his vision. Perhaps, Modi represents the complete anti-thesis of the dynasty, the perfect anti-thesis of what the family stands for. Modi stands for self-made whereas the family stands for a silver-spooned lineage on a platter, he stands for a rustic, grass-roots person where as the family is perceived to be ensconced in its high citadel, he is seen as once poor yet driven who had to strive at every step of his life whereas the family generally had it pretty easy where in it didn’t even have to move a muscle to get things done. There is a clear, striking distinction between the two – a distinction of entitlement – one deserved the other inherited. Moreover, the kind of support, allegiance and favor Modi is receiving from the country – urban, rural alike, the family might just be afraid to look at the writing on the wall and sulking at the change of guard. Modi in a way is not just talking about ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ but about ‘Gandhi-mukt Bharat’ where the family is rendered irrelevant and ineffective not only in the country but more importantly in the Congress
  4. Another aspect that I observe is that there have been innumerous riots that have happened in India (am not even for a moment condoning it and asking for business as usual), a number of them under Congress’ watch, most notably 1984. A simple Wikipedia page would tell us that there have been innumerable such communal conflagration across the country since 1947 – useless to get in to that. Why is then Congress fixated on Godhra 2002? Is it then that there are no issues that they can rake up against Modi? Or are they trying to make the Muslims ‘understand’ the fear of Modi and thus make them vote en-bloc for Congress? Isn’t a counter-polarization a counter-strategy? At the outset the handicap is only 15%, but the advantage a whopping 85%. Or is the Congress trying to belittle and morally assault Modi by reminding him about Godhra over and over again? Perhaps they feel that the person can be broken down by a persistent and stinging moral assault day in day out
  5. There is the behavior of one more group I find very intriguing. The intelligentsia. They are going completely gung-ho about the country’s non-communal status, its secular fabric the ‘Indian-ness’ etc going the Ganges way i.e. in dirt, if Modi becomes the PM. I feel Swapan Dasgupta made a brilliant point in his article in TOI (6th April edition) when he said that maybe the intelligentsia is a bit afraid that the ‘outsider’ tag that Modi brings along with him would seriously alter the relationships in Delhi. The cozy clique that the babudom, editors, newsmen and the legislators had created and nurtured for so long is in for a rude shock. The ‘I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine’ syndrome is going to meet an abrupt end when Modi unveils his sharp claws
  6. Also, I really would like to understand as a fly-on-the-wall as to what exactly the Muslim voter is thinking. It is a foregone conclusion that theirs is a negative vote rather than a positive one i.e. s/he votes to defeat the BJP rather than look to win a SP/Congress candidate. So whoever is supposedly best placed to defeat the BJP candidate would be voted for. The sad part of this is that a negative vote is necessarily never going to make things better. I guess it started out as a positive vote for SP, BSP, RJD, Congress but then later converted in to a negative one post the ‘promised backlash’ if BJP was voted in to power. It is imperative for the community to understand that even after 60 years and voting (positive or a negative one) primarily for an anti-BJP party why are they still lacking in most social parameters i.e. education, enrolment, jobs, security, overall well-being etc. This fear and supposed protection vote that the anti-BJP party claim precludes them from feverishly acting on the social parameters of the community and assimilating them in the mainstream. It is obvious that if the mind is pre-occupied with security fears and existential issues where then would be the mental space and bandwidth to focus on the day-to-day travails of roti-rozgaar-kapda-makaan-shiksha. Why is the narrative arranged for them always on the brink of a morbid and unnatural fear related to their religion and the idea of joining the mainstream never arises? I believe the onus squarely would lie on the liberal, educated and sentient people in the community. The community needs to understand and inherently believe that this is nothing but the path of diminishing returns. It is turning in to a self-fulfilling prophecy where in the community claims of being socially outcast is being re-asserted time and again by the un-willingness of the community to assimilate itself in to the mainstream much to the delight and glee of the anti-BJP party
  7. Lastly, I feel Modi is a very smart chap. There is no hope in hell that he believes that he can continue with the majoritarian view-point, if he has any. This is but likely the view that ‘khaane ke daat kuch aur dikhane ke kuch aur’. BJP might push for counter-polarization as a strategy but surely that wouldn’t be the game going forward. It is just not possible for the country to clock 8-10% GDP growth with the 15% handicap being ghettoized. At this point of time he has plucked on the mantra of ‘hope’. A hope for development, a hope for jobs, security, water, electricity, infrastructure etc. A narrative which is definitely going to energize and enthuse the voters. A narrative which necessarily has a corollary of the misrule of the UPA and the scam-a-day Government that has reined upon us