An open letter to Manmohan singh

An open letter to Manmohan singh

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Dear Manmohan Singh,

Or should I say Mr. Ex-Prime Minister Sir!

Congratulations for your 10 year stint at PMO. Congratulations for bringing in some reforms like Right to Information, Right to Employment, Right to Food, Land Acquisition Bill and much debated LokPal Bill for which you’ll never get the credit though. But above all, congratulations for the end of your exile. Congratulations for having some peace.

I can definitely say that I am not the only one who thinks so, given what opposition leader Mr. Arun Jaitley said, “personal integrity was always above board”, “Prime Minister goes out with dignity and grace. He will remain an elder statesman and a man of credibility to guide the nation”. Truly, this can’t be denied.

Surrounded by corrupt ministers, vested with a limited power and lifting the burden of a damn-so-smart prince, your inability to speak on important issues is the only thing the masses of the nation noticed. It can’t be blamed because staying meek for 10 long years was way too much for the country. “Hazaron jawabo se achchi hai khamoshi meri, na jaane kitne sawalo ki aabru rakhe. (My silence is better than a thousand answers, it keeps intact the honour of innumerable questions).”, explains your take on this as well. Your decision of not rocking the Congress boat actually made you a scapegoat and now, you will be blamed for everything that went wrong because Congress has got a long list of people to take credit for everything good ever happened.

You are the best Finance Minister India ever had. Transforming Indian economy from a slow moving snail to a roaring lion, coming up with new economic policy, making sure that it gets implemented is something we all agree with.

When it comes to your stretch as Prime Minister of the nation, though media has said enough about it and a lot of cartoons have already been published but let me differ from that a bit. It was indeed a period which India will look back as a golden era. And I have my reasons for that. At the time of economic crisis, when banks were failing within a single day, India continued to grow above 7% and became the third largest economy on PPP basis.

Rightly said by Obama, you were distinguished, decent and dedicated! You were often criticized for being reticent, perhaps in the times that we live in, being seen and heard has become more important than the act of doing things itself. A standing ovation and emotional farewells from your staff is proof of that.

A personification of humility! A paragon of grace! Someone to look up to!  An exceptional economist! A scholarly thinker! You have served the nation well sir!

Thanks for everything!

 

Brand Modi

Brand Modi

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Contemplating Modi through Marketing Lens

What similarities can you find in odds like Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Shahrukh Khan and Narendra Modi. It’s true that all of them are masters of their respective fields but they share something else in common as well. They are the marketing geniuses of modern era. Adapting out of the box methodologies to market their brands or marketing themselves is something they all have mastered. Leading from the front is Narendra  Modi. Recent popularity gained by him amongst the Indian youth is the outcome of various marketing tactics adopted by Modi, be it the use of social media, mass media, attacking the competition or targeting the youth. His sucess in Gujarat can be explained by his regressive ideology but his fame outside the state is an upshot of his brilliant marketing of Brand NaMo or Brand Modi.

Social Media Mammoth

The self proclaimed youth icon has utilized the potential of social media better than any other. He knows how to make the most of social media and today’s youth is all about social media. Youtube videos, facebook pages, twitter account, conducting webinars or advertising on different websites, Modi has exploited each channel of social media to lure the youngsters with his aggressive marketing techniques while setting up Brand Modi. One can see the tagline ‘Do you want your country to be MODI-fied?’ flashing on the side of their desktop screens. These links are redirected to the website ‘narendramodi.in’ where he boasts about how he alone has led to development of state.

The Halo Effect of Brand Modi

It is quite evident that Modi has created a Halo effect over BJP. He found out the leadership vacuum, projected himself possible solution with the help of business tycoons and marketed himself brilliantly inside and outside BJP as the only alternative to fill the chasm. His website considers BJP as a keyword only and it is hard to find the policies of the national party on the website of their Prime Ministerial candidate. He went against the old communal ways of BJP by adopting tagline of ‘Toilets first, Temples later’.

NaMo vs RaGa

One more aspect of the marketing techniques used by Modi is comparative advertizing which has turned out to be a huge advantage for him. He attacked the opposition directly on most of the occasions on the grounds of corruption, policy paralysis, growth or any other agenda which magnetizes the attention of the youth. Attacking the potential candidate of Congress for Prime Minister, he left no stone unturned while ‘assaulting’ him. Narendra Modi started the trend and others followed. He portrayed Rahul Gandhi as a dumb leader and soon there was a buzz. Troll market got a new topic, jokes expanded to a new dimension and websites like rahulgandhiachievements.com showing a clean slate and pappupedia.com popped up within no time. Modi always talks of modernization without westernization. It’s left on others to decide whether western refers to western nations or Sonia Gandhi!

Behind the Curtains

Success story of establishing Brand Modi can be attributed to his PR team as well. The ad firm Grey Worldwide, which began the rescue operation for Modi after 2002 riots, came up with the concept of Vibrant Gujarat for the tourism department, was given a wider and more ambitious brief – to convert the state into an investor summit.
Post Grey, Apco Worldwide was hired by Modi which has a better team consisting former senators from Republican and Democratic parties working with it. The firm has a distinction of taking contracts of boosting images of leaders who fell out of favor of their followers and it worked out for Modi as well.

Targeting college students and restless youth of country and positioning himself as the only cure of policy paralysis has been a successful strategy for Modi so far. He has been able to gain the interest of tech savvy youth of the nation but it will be interesting to see whether he is able to capitalize it or not. Nevertheless, Brand Modi has been established big time and the chants of ‘NaMo Namah’ will get louder as time proceeds.

China’s String of Pearls

China’s String of Pearls

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In China, pearls symbolize ‘genius in obscurity’ and that is the cornerstone for ‘String of Pearls’ as touted by a US researcher – an intelligent strategy by China to box up India in South Asia. This strategy is designed to bolster China’s energy security, negate US influence in the region, and empower overseas bonding ties with diverse countries such as Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. It is a network of naval bases encircling India from the sea and cramping its maritime aspirations.

China’s Malacca dilemma

China’s excessive dependence on the Strait of Malacca led to building of roads and railways into Central Asia for importing Hydrocarbons from the Middle East. This is evident from the construction of parts of the Karakoram highway in southwestern China and northern Pakistan. The action has been condemned strongly by India’s incumbent officers. Though a little late but India has finally felt the power of the Dragon, “New Delhi must accept the reality of the Chinese presence in many sectors previously considered as India’s exclusive domain” admitted Salman Khurshid, Indian Ministry of foreign affairs.

Chinese Investments aren’t just constellation of trade linkages. They are visibly geared towards improvising maritime transport infrastructure but bears great resemblance to a noose woven to encircle and constrict our nation within its own backyard

The ‘Pearls’

The firming up of ties with the south Asian countries has led to joint port construction or enlargement of deals such as with Pakistan at Gwadar, where Chinese companies have poured at least $15 billion (for GWADAR to become new DUBAI). It seems that they have faith in Pakistan’s military ability to look out for their interests. Another bead needed by China is  Hambantoota in Sri Lanka. Here it benefits from non military facilities in a ‘friendly’ country for the transits of its imports and exports. Other pearls are Bangladesh at Chittagong with which it aims to replace Singapore port and Myanmar at Sittwe.

Prophecy

Naval analyst Zhang Ming recently proclaimed that the Islands of Andaman and Nicobar could be used as a metal chain to block Chinese access to the Strait of Malacca. Sustaining and reinforcing Indian maritime diplomacy in the Indian Ocean region could be another step to tackle the Janus-Faced strategic pearls.

19th century strategic thinker Mahan had prophesized that the future of world in 21st century would be decided on the waters of the Indian Ocean. India’s expansion of its maritime power and its inroads in the Indian Ocean region now deserve introspection.

Number of analysts have also drawn attention to the similarities of nationalism, between the rise of Modern China and rise of Wilhelmine Germany in the late 19th century as it is augmenting rapidly into a global system. The Chinese Military is a powerful political player like Germany. Chinese regime is trying to hold on to political power even as it unleashes forces in society that make its control increasingly shaky, so let us see when the World War III commences!!!

Heading Towards a Hung Parliament!

Heading Towards a Hung Parliament!

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A hung Parliament is one in which no party or coalition has an overall majority, which means that no coalition is able to attain half the number of total seats in the parliament which is often referred to as Magic number. In case of India, if UPA, NDA or the third front are not able to attain 272 seats in the upcoming elections, then it will lead to the situation of hung parliament.

The parliamentary system has suffered a rapid decline mainly owing to efforts on the part of our politicians to subvert the system in the name of democracy. Mushrooming of political parties has also resulted in a large scale erosion of political values owing to growth in electoral malpractices. Emergence of regional parties and multi-party system at the centre further in fumigate the problem. These developments are not good either for our democracy or for our growth and development.

Country hasn’t come out of its leadership crisis yet and considering the current scenario, it seems very difficult that any coalition (let alone any single party) will be able to gain majority at the centre. With Nitish still having firm stand against Modi, despite the loud ‘NaMo Namah’ chanting in BJP, they haven’t been able to nominate Modi as their Prime Ministerial candidate. On the other hand, anti-incumbency, inflation and ever increasing corruption in the country have made it difficult for Congress to regain power and run the country for another 5 years. Stand of SP and BSP is always hard to predict but this time they have decided not to play the role of (just) king-makers and both Mulayam and Mayawati are eyeing on Delhi to be their next destination. Even Jayalalithaa is not far behind. The only outcome possible from this situation seems to be a hung parliament.

Power in Hands of Pranab Da!!!

In case of hung parliament, power lies in the hands of President of the country, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee. He has the right to invite party of his choice to form the government at the center level. The person who had always dreamt of becoming the Prime Minister of the country can get a chance to play an even bigger role. If Congress tags itself as the Pandavas of Indian political Mahabharata, then Pranab da was definitely Lord Krishna for them and finally he may get chance to prove his worth.

Both the major political parties of the nation are aware of the fact that it will be hard for them or their alliance to reach the magic number in the parliament and hence, they can be seen flattering the President. Each policy of UPA is being passed only after consultation with him. Don’t you think it is too much power already in his hands who is often considered to be rubber stamp in our nation? Moreover, Modi who lashes out his anger on all the leaders of UPA never gets tired of praising the old man in his speeches. Both parties realize how important role he can play if none of them is able to get the majority. With just one year left for the elections, it will be interesting to see what new emerges out of Indian politics and how it shapes up.

A Bumpy Ride for FDI

A Bumpy Ride for FDI

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Indian politics and media in the latter half of 2012 put FDI in retail on center stage. The reasons were quite vivid. In a show of audacity, the United Progressive Alliance government has decided to further open up the retail trade sector to foreign investment. Foreign investors will be permitted to enter the hitherto prohibited multi-brand retail segment and hold equity of up to 51 per cent in the units established. Other sectors to open up FDI in India are Aviation, Pharmaceuticals, Insurance and Pension.

Two sides of the coin

Facing the threat of having its credit rating downgraded to junk, the Indian government has been running out of time to show it is serious about fixing an economy that has been hard-hit by a global economic crisis and political gridlock at home. Finally, despite all the opposition and without having the consensus of alliance, UPA opened up the gates for the foreign companies in a desperate attempt to save the sinking economy. This move is nothing short of a declaration that UPA would proceed with implementing its agenda of economic reform, irrespective of whether there is majority support for, let alone a consensus on, that agenda.

The claims that FDI will bring in loads of employment and solidify the looming economy are contrary to the fact that the immediate and direct effect of FDI would be a significant loss of employment in the small and unorganised retail trade which would be displaced by the big retail firms. Prices paid to and returns earned by small suppliers, especially in agriculture, would be depressed because a few oligopolistic buyers dominate the retail trade. Moreover, once the retail trade is concentrated in a few firms, retail margins would rise, with implications for prices paid by the consumer, especially in years when domestic supply falls short.

Even if the postulations made by the UPA government turn out to be true, as vivid from the fact that India’s foreign direct investment inflows grew by over 65% year-on-year to $1.94 billion in October, according to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), yet the scenario won’t turn around overnight.

Hurdles in the way

The decision of implementing the FDI has been left to the states and most of the states have already rejected the concept as whole. Due to such strong opposition, most of the organizations have decided to wait till the clouds of mystification disperse and the scenario becomes clear for investment.  Even after the state’s blessings, which is unlikely to happen in most of the cases, large retailers would need to acquire large swathes of land in prime areas, which is a monumental task. Secondly, companies like Walmart are able to reap supply-chain efficiencies in the U.S. because of a strong infrastructure. The same thing can’t be said of India. Thirdly, taking into account that Indian consumer is a very complex persona, organized retail seems to be a small fish that would neither threaten the livelihoods of “kirana” shops, as portrayed by the Opposition, nor restore the financial health of the nation, as hoped by the government.

The road for FDI turned out to be quite a rough one in India. Whether it was inside the parliament or outside it, the issue turned out to be a centre stage for all the controversies. The step to let FDI in multi-brand retail didn’t go down well with Opposition parties and erstwhile UPA ally Trinamool Congress, which decided to withdraw support from the government over the issue and others, including hike in diesel prices. The issue stalled proceedings of Parliament till the government agreed to a voting on allowing of FDI in multi-brand retail that it managed to win, thanks to the abstention of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.

Just when the government thought it was done with the issue, Wal-Mart’s disclosure in the US that it spent close to $ 25 million since 2008 on its various lobbying activities, including on issues related to “Enhanced market access for Investment in India”, created furor again. The company, however, stressed that it did not pay bribes to anyone in India. It was IKEA that made news continuously in the single-brand segment. The Scandinavian retailer wanted the government to relax the clause for mandatory sourcing of 30 per cent from MSMEs. After months of dialogue, the government relented and relaxed it for single brand segment which seems to be a favor done to IKEA.

On one side exist the exaggerated claims made by the government that FDI will be beneficial for the economy as well as common man and on the other side stands the small retailer who is genuinely worried about his livelihood supported by the opposition. Now that the foreign retailer have been granted a foothold in the market, only time will tell if the arrival will kill the neighborhood kirana stores or they will co-exist.

Hear No Evil

Hear No Evil

Hear No Evil

The Right to Freedom in Article 19 of the Indian Constitution guarantees Freedom of Speech and Expression to each individual stating that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” India is a home for many different communities and religions. Indian Population is poly-genetic and is an amazing amalgamation of various races and cultures. Learning different values, following different cultures, living in different scenarios leads to difference in opinions and beliefs amongst various societies. Yet, India has given each one of them a stage to express their emotions.

But using this freedom of speech to realize the political motives and supporting separatist movements is precarious for a secular state. In such an incident, Akbaruddin Owaisi crossed all the lines with the pure poison he served up in his speech at Adilabad on 24th December 2012. Akbaruddin Owaisi is floor leader of All India Majlis-e Ittihad al-Muslimin in Andhra Pradesh and MLA of Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly. Owaisi has got a past record of making inflammatory speeches. In 2007, he threatened to kill Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen. On 24th December 2012, while addressing a rally of about twenty five thousand people, he criticized the police force of India and called them impotent and raged all the Muslim community against the Hindus.

However, Mr. Owaisi is not the first person to thumb his nose at the laws of the land through hate-filled utterances. In India, Hindutva and Islamist leaders and activists have often mobilized men and materials through inflammatory hate speeches. Rival religious extremists survive by feeding off each other. VHP leader Praveen Togadia, the late Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, and BJP leader Varun Gandhi are prominent among the many in the Hindutva parivar to have made hate speeches. The law enforcing authorities prefer not to touch these extremists citing that their organizations will unleash violence in the event of an arrest. As a result, these hate speeches become a never ending phenomenon endangering the secularism of our nation.

Mahatma Gandhi used three monkeys to spread his message of  ‘See no Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil’ and if someone is using these speeches as a tool of accomplishing political motives than its our duty that we act against such instances. Examples are required to be made of starting from Owaisi himself. Civil society needs to make it clear that those who incite hatred and violence against people on the basis of their religion or any other identity ought to be punished one way or another. If the police or courts won’t prosecute, convict and send them to jail, such would-be ‘leaders’ must be boycotted socially and politically. One should give zero leverage to all opportunist ‘leaders’ who love exploiting religion for political ends. Only harsh actions can curtail these speeches and the time is quite right to begin with.

Indian Leadership Crisis

Indian Leadership Crisis

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Year 2002 – Dr APJ Abdul Kalam , former Indian President envisioned India as a Developed Nation by the year 2020. The whole country was celebrating , people were excited to be a part of fore coming transition , youth motivated enough to start planning and aligning their vision with that of their nation.

Year 2013 – 10 years since Vision 2020 was announced and there is no sign of its subsistence. Our government is lost in corruption and opposition in washout of the parliament sessions and the common man? Well, we have nothing to look forward to for we haven’t seen a vision since 2002. That year , a man gave us hope and pride and motivated us to give our best, to make gold out of sand and now the government is completely oblivious to it.

Our leaders haven’t even given us a vision in the past decade that is as compelling or at least worth remembering. Dr. Manmohan Singh , a man everyone looks up to has been a constant shame. Our vision is lost in politics and our pseudo leaders in corruption. Prime Minister’s speech on 15th Aug is something everyone eagerly waits for, but since Dr. Manmohan Singh it has been worth a miss. No doubt he is the man behind various 1991 reforms, but is he a right Prime Ministerial candidate? On issues of national importance when everyone is glued to television to listen what our leaders have to say, we have been constantly disappointed; sometimes by the manner of speeches and sometimes by its matter.

A nation without a leader is a nation without a future. Do we forget this while casting our votes or we are amongst the ones who don’t even get off our beds on days of election, rejoicing a national holiday. But is it our fault exactly? We have likes of Manmohan Singh , Sonia Gandhi , L K Advani as PM prospects. These candidates are either tainted or simply not suitable to lead a developing nation. We definitely don’t want a leader who keeps mum or is involved in religious riots or corruption as our Prime Minister.

We are a country with ample of natural resources, good core competency and great talent, a nation with the largest population of youth for the coming years. Given the right opportunities, motivation and a leader with right vision, Vision 2020 might look like an achievable goal. But ‘A leader with Right Vision’ , is there even a slightest possibility?