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Is Prashant Kishor An Ideology-Neutral Strategist?

With election fever rising, poll strategist Prashant Kishor seems to be the man of the moment. Already three major political parties -– Trinamool in West Bengal, DMK in Tamil Nadu, and Congress in Punjab have signed him up. Looks like political parties woo him before they woo the voters. This is the first time Kishor has three states on his worktable. And he has already given his verdict: DMK led by MK Stalin would return to power in TN and Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal. More. He has dared to stick his neck out by saying BJP would not cross 100 seats in W Bengal.  So one has to wait till May 2 for the final result.  But in the past he has had a good strike rate. He shot into the limelight by ensuring Narendra Modi became the Chief Minister of Gujarat for the third time. Post that he worked closely with the BJP for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. His string of success includes the unprecedented victory of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi for the second time; the YCR Congress win in Andhra Pradesh, and Nitin Kumar’s JDU in Bihar. But, he miserably failed his client –the Congress in Uttar Pradesh’s Assembly poll in 2017. It won only 7 seats against BJP’s 300 plus. Be that as it may, the Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has accorded him a cabinet rank. A lot is indeed riding on him. The moot point is with such diverse clients does it make him ideologically neutral or is he nursing a political ambition? It may be recalled he did take a political plunge when he joined the JDU in Bihar but it proved to be a short-lived honeymoon.

The Murkier, Curiouser World Of Tamil Nadu Politics

Like Alice In Wonderland, the Tamil Nadu politics seems to be getting curiouser and curiouser. It all started with Superstar Rajnikant throwing in the towel thereby dashing BJP’s hopes of making significant impact in the upcoming Assembly polls. For MK Stalin of DMK, this announcement was music to ears. But the news of VK Sasikala or ‘Chinamma’, confidante of the late J Jayalalithaa, former Chief Minister, saw both the ruling party AIADMK and the DMK pull a long face. She came out of Bangalore jail after serving four-year term, and entered the fray .So much so, Chinamma was prevented by the very people who prostrated before her from going anywhere near Jayalalithaa’s Samadhi at Marina Beach. At the same time, to keep her in good humour mediators have been holding talks with her nephew TTV Dinakaran to work out a possible merger of his party AMMK with the AIADMK so that they can fight the common enemy DMK. But in a new political twist, Chinamma dropped a bomb, announcing to stay away from politics. The DMK and the Congress spokespersons on the TV channels are saying she must have been pressurized by the BJP! Apparently, local BJP leaders have welcomed the move. In the fast changing political contours, is it advantage AIADMK? Does DMK stand a better chance minus Chinamma?  And where does Kamal Hasaan’s party Makkal Needhi Maiam figure?

Revisiting Private Placement Scam

In the mid-eighties and early nineties, the Indian promoters literally made hay in the absence of a market regulator, according to the Mumbai-based brokerage firm Altina Securities. The modus operandi was simple: raise money via private placement. To illustrate, if Company X had a post-issue capital of Rs 100 lakh, the break-up was: promoters Rs 40 lakh and public Rs 60 lakh. Many promoters – just before the IPO – privately placed nearly 75% of their holdings. Thus, Post IPO, the Rs 100 lakh equity base would be: Promoters Rs10 lakh, Private Placement Rs 30 lakh & Public Rs 60 lakh. There have been instances where the fly-by-night promoters received kickbacks for the project. This effectively reduced their skin in the game.  Little wonder many companies which resorted to this route have vanished, leaving the small investors high and dry. Some of the vanishing companies are: Bonanza Pharma, Atash Industries, Amrut Industries, UCL Plastics, Rasik Plast, Indiana Diary. Senthur Shoes, Printed Circuit Board, Alsa Marine and Premier Housing.
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Sushant Singh Rajput: Keeps Trending On Twitter

It appears that no death — be it that of Mahatma Gandhi, John F Kennedy, John Lennon or Lady Diana — has been as hysterically covered that too non-stop for over 100 days by the Indian media as that of Bollywood star Sushant Singh Rajput who died under mysterious circumstance on June 14, 2020. The CBI has been on the job but their findings are yet to be made public. The glimmer of hope came in December 2020 when the CBI, in response to a letter written by the BJP’s Rajya Sabha member Dr Subramanian Swamy to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The CBI is conducting investigation in a thorough and professional manner using latest scientific techniques. During investigation, all aspects are being looked at and no aspect has been ruled out as on date,” Dr Swamy was informed. Meanwhile, the diehard fans of Sushant are keeping the issue alive by posting relentlessly on Twitter: it was trending at #7 with 129,000 tweets on 3 March 2021.

“Murgers” Is Back On The Media Beat

Popularly known as “Murgers”, the Dubai-based Brian Murgatroyd has been with the touring England side from the second Test in Chennai.  The 53-year-old British national has been with cricket boards of Australia and England as media officer of their respective teams. He has also served the International Cricket Council for a number of years.  “This is my second stint with the England cricket team. I think the final Test of the India-England series in Ahmedabad is the 199th I have attended in a working capacity in 31 years,” said  Murgatroyd who, when in Mumbai, likes to have  a good fill of Sitafal ice cream (Custard Apple) at Rustomji’s on Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate.  Murgatroyd has been a broadcaster, writer and media manager of England and also Australia in the era of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting. He has also written six books.  “It’s been a wonderful experience, making friends in the sport that have endured and given me memories that will last for the rest of my life.”  For the BCCI and Indian cricket teams, the media work is being carried out efficiently by Moulin Parikh and Anand Subramanian.

Vajpayee Years: An Insider’s Account

Post retirement there is a tendency among most bureaucrats to pen a book of their years in the government job. The latest to join the writers’ hall of fame is Shakti Sinha, an IAS officer who served as private secretary to the late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. His book Vajpayee: The Years That Changed India provides an insider’s account of Vajpayee days as prime minister.  He says whenever there were any crisis or controversies, Vajpayee never blamed the Opposition. People do not know how difficult it was for him to form a government in 1998 and run it. Vajpayee held the post of the prime minister for three non-consecutive terms in 1996, 1998-99, and from 1999-2004. Despite numerous political difficulties, he took important decisions like going nuclear and, paradoxically, extending a hand of friendship to Pakistan. The book highlights how resolutely Vajpayee defended India when the Kargil war broke out. And yet how his government was denied a second term.

A Shot In The Arm For Achhe Din?

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi receiving his first dose of vaccine, not only the inoculation drive against Covid-19 — but also the nation’s recovery prospects got a fresh shot in the arm. The investors now foresee acceleration in the drive to subdue the virus – which should free up all critical sectors. Moody’s has revised India’s GDP projections for FY22 upwards to 13.7% (from 10.8% estimated earlier) while the IMF has projected 11.5% (up from 8.8%). Despite Covid-19 stress, the GST collections for past five consecutive months have exceeded over Rs 1 lakh crore – including Rs 1.13 lakh crore in Feb 2021, up 7% versus Feb 2020. The state-wise GST growth is led by big states – Gujarat (up 14%), Tamil Nadu 9%, Maharashtra 2%, and Karnataka 2%. The recovery is attributed to a resilient farm economy as well as an impressive manufacturing performance with the Purchasing Managers’ Index hitting 57.5% in Feb. With vaccination drive in full swing, the services sector and the MSMEs should also bounce back. Meanwhile, the Central and the state governments should focus on reforms and relief on four fronts: 1) Employment generation; 2) an empowered antitrust watchdog to track corporate dominance in key businesses, including farming; 3) better industrial relations amid Kolar violence (at Apple iPhone plant); and 4) better outcomes from the Bad Bank (with the creditors identifying corporate loans of over Rs 1.45 lakh crore).


Technology Cannot Disrupt Original Content Provider: Short Post Editor

They say time flies. How true!  Today is our #SecondAnniversary. Two years back at the height of Covid-19 Pandemic when lockdown was the way of life we took a leap of faith and launched Short Post (Jan 28, 2021), the first-of-its-kind website in the country that focuses on Authentic Gossip. The Oxymoron is deliberate. Well, the response has been quite encouraging. That’s what has kept us going. Till date we have posted close to 2000 stories in the areas of Politics, Business, Entertainment and Sports. Each insightful story of around 225 words has been contributed by Senior Editors. There is a sense of satisfaction of creating a new segment in the market – authentic gossip — and in the process creating a brand (in a limited sense), creating demand (readers) and creating supply (writers). Well known advertisers — IDFC FIRST Bank, ICICI Lombard – supported us.  And that really boosted our confidence. Thank you!

So here we are raring to go.  But, when I look at the media landscape the disruption is indeed fast and furious. Technology is playing a very big role in how content will be consumed. In the past, we have seen how social media has disrupted the media world. Now, everybody is saying the same thing about ChatGPT. It has reached 1 million users in five days. Its scorching pace of growth is indeed frightening and will disrupt the media industry big time. My limited argument is can it do investigative stories, write gossip items using the digital world ecosystem. Unlikely. Clearly, the original content has to be created first — only then can ChatGPT do the magic. That’s what we promise to do – focus on original content.

Before I sign off, I am reminded of an old advertisement of the early sixties: “Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars. So we try harder”. Likewise I can say, we are two years old and we are trying even harder to be relevant to you readers.