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Photo : BCCI

Can India's Batters Avoid The Airy-Fairy Shots?

Can some of the frontline batters of the Indian cricket team eschew playing the aerial shots in the remaining three Tests of the series against England? The ill-timed shots have caused their doom in recent times. There is no gainsaying the fact that the days of stonewalling are a thing of the past, one that would bring boredom during the six-hour action every day causing drawn results. The scoring rate, even on the not-so-perfect batting strips, has risen with England’s batters averaging 3.92 an over in the first two Tests in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam as against India’s 3.27 an over. Thanks to Yashasvi Jaiswal’s 209 India reached 396 in the first innings of the second Test in Visakhapatnam; a score 40 runs short of the first innings In Hyderabad where the total was 436 but which could have been upwards of 550 if only India’s top five were thoughtful in shot selection.  Both Test matches did not go beyond the fourth day and hopefully, India’s batters will respond appropriately to Head Coach Rahul Dravid’s observation that decision-making on the issue of shot selection is crucial to piling up runs, especially in the first innings. So can the big batters of India’s top and middle order cut out the frills of hitting airy-fairy shots that they did in the first innings in Hyderabad?  Ground shots yield good returns, food for thought for the lines of Sharma & company.

Bitter Divorce Battle May Derail Odia Actor Anubhav Mohanty’s Political Career, BJD Hunts For Names

For Odia actor and Biju Janata Dal Lok Sabha MP Anubhav Mohanty the divorce battle with his actress wife Varsha Priyadarshini which has been getting uglier by the day, has reasons to smile. The Odisha High Court has declined Varsha’s petition to restrain media from accepting Anubhav’s video targeting her. So Anubhav is going full steam to project his side of the story. But, this domestic battle could derail his political career. The Odia actor who defeated BJP’s Baijayant (Jay) Panda in 2019 from Kendrapada’s constituency standing may not get the 2024 BJD ticket, party insiders. They are looking at alternative names to replace Anubhav because of the negative publicity he has received over his divorce battle. Sources say Anubhav has been left out of BJD’s recently held state campaigner list and this clearly indicates BJD’s thinking. Some time back BJD’s Cuttack district unit head Debasish Samantaray said “Parliamentarians should not wash dirty linen in public …they need to keep their image intact”. Names that are doing the rounds to replace Anubhav are: Mission Shakti Head Sujata Kartikeyan; wife of 5T Secretary V K Pandian as a possibility; Odisha energy minister Pratap Keshari Deb and Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak could also be a possibility. Looks like Anubhav Mohanty may not get the Lok Sabha ticket and will now have to focus on his film career.

Fire In The Building Run, Run, Run – Authorities, Developers Shrug Off Responsibility As Residents Face the Music

Six people in Mumbai lost their lives in three major incidents of fire in high risers this year. This is a burning issue in the city that has some of the tallest buildings, and more coming up. The fire brigade is unable to reach heights beyond 30 floors as it has ladders that can reach only uptil 90 metres, but that has not stopped the authorities in giving permissions for buildings that are 50-stories plus. Housing activists like Chandrashekhar Prabhu question how the fire brigade could pass the buck on to residents rather than take responsibility for fire safety. Fire brigade is putting the onus on residents to install and ensure proper maintenance of fire safety measures, and get safety audits done bi-annually. For instance, all high-rise buildings have been asked to install smoke detectors and fire alarms. Apparently, it has sent notices to 327 buildings for not maintaining proper fire safety measures. Can the city’s fire brigade get into pointing fingers at individual residents and the managing committee of the society each time there is a fire at a high-rise? Instead of the blame game or passing the buck approach should not all the stakeholders – state government, BMC, developers – find a lasting solution. Shouldn’t the state develop a fire-fighting system for high risers before giving green signal to construction of tall structures?

All Eyes On BCCI After Kohli Stirs Up A Hornet’s Nest

Virat Kohli has put the cat among the pigeons by his unambiguous utterances at the customary pre-departure (to South Africa) interaction with the media that there has been no communication from the BCCI that he should not step down from the India Twenty20 captaincy. More than a decade into international cricket and for a good eight years as captain, Kohli has phenomenal numbers across all formats playing 446 matches in Tests, ODIs and Twenty20 and scored 23197 runs, all that has made him the superstar of Indian and World cricket. He has achieved almost everything in his long career and at 33 is a family man. He appeared not to be talking through his hat or making off the cuff statements, while directing an oblique reference to the BCCI president Sourav Ganguly who had gone public saying that he had told Kohli not to give up the Twenty20 captaincy. Kohli dubbed such reports has inaccurate, not credible, and another report about him asking the BCCI to rest him for the ODI series in South Africa, a lie. Kohli has thus ensured that the ball is in the BCCI court. The question is whether the BCCI Secretary Jay Shah was in the know of any conversation between Ganguly and Kohli. The BCCI has to make a clean breast of the L’affaire Kohli T20 captaincy issue.

Durga Stalin For Kashi Darshan! To Pray For Son's Elevation As Dy CM!

On December 13, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor at Varanasi and offered puja at the temple complex. The entire ceremony was telecast live on all the news channels, courtesy of the Doordarshan. Many had questioned the live telecast of a religious programme done by the Prime Minister, particularly by the national public broadcaster. Liberals were upset that the corridor itself was being made using ‘tax payers’ money’ by a government of a ‘secular nation’. Nonetheless, the live-streaming of the event had left many Indians across the country quite impressed. Notably, one such person is Durga Stalin, wife of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin. She was so impressed with the idea of a re-developed Kashi temple that she is apparently planning to make a quick visit to Varanasi for darshan. Chennai police is expected to recce the holy city for the VIP visit. Though married into the DMK first family which is committed to the party’s ideology of atheism, Durga is a devout, practising Hindu, who patronises temples. She had visited Kashi to perform the last rites of her late father-in-law M Karunanidhi in 2018. Her urgency to visit Kashi and offer prayers is being linked to a renewed push to elevate their son Udayanidhi as deputy CM. As a mother, Durga must be wishing an auspicious start in office for her son.
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Photo : Twitter

IPS Transfer Case Gets Curiouser As Former Maharashtra Chief Secretary Lobs Ball In CBI Chief’s Court

Former Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte, now a principal advisor to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, has deftly lobbed the ball in the court of CBI chief Subodh Jaiswal in the curious case of IPS transfers unearthed by erstwhile state intelligence department head Rashmi Shukla.  A senior secretariat official said Kunte, recorded his statement before the Enforcement Directorate and placed on record actions taken by him as then additional chief secretary (home) of Maharashtra. Then Director-General of police, Subhodh Jaiswal (now CBI chief) had written to Kunte following Shukla’s expose using eavesdropped conversations that indicated money exchanged hands for effecting IPS postings. Kunte clearly stated his position as home secretary and clarified, “The DG (Jaiswal) had raised two to three concerns regarding the IPS transfers (15 in all) and immediately the Chief Minister froze all the transfers. Once the cited concerns were addressed the transfers (remaining 12) were effected while three in respect of which Jaiswal expressed concerns were canceled,” the secretariat official told Short Post. Meanwhile, Shulka (on deputation in Hyderabad) is yet to appear before the Maharashtra cyber cell regarding the leakage of a pen drive containing conversations she is alleged to have eavesdropped upon following which the allegations of IPS transfers for cash were made.

Spotlight On PM Modi’s Sikh Outreach & Surprise Farm Laws’ Repeal

It is on the occasion of Gurpurab – the birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev – that Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to break the impasse by repealing three farm laws. Modi’s surprising climbdown on farm reforms acknowledges that the farm protests were not only hurting BJP’s prospects in poll-bound states but were also causing unintentional, deep divide in the society. During his earlier outreach to Sikhs (February 2021), Modi offered the nation’s gratitude: “What have they not done for this country? Whatever respect we give them will always be less.” At Rajya Sabha came his call to stand with the Sikhs: “We must not forget what happened with Punjab. It suffered the most during the Partition 1947. It cried the most during the 1984 riots.” The new farm laws – despite being transformative – had stirred passions with the most vocal resistance coming from Punjab and adjoining geographies that gave Green Revolution. The PM’s fresh outreach must be welcomed: The Sikh families not only contribute disproportionately to the farming sector but also send the bravest of warriors to the defence forces. It may be recalled that it was the failure of the then government to manage the Punjab agrarian alienation which eventually led to a violent separatist movement, followed by a series of tragic consequences: Operation Bluestar, assassination of PM Indira Gandhi, and anti-Sikh riots in 1984.

Mumbai’s Top Five Realty Players To Join Hands For MHADA’s Biggest Redevelopment Project

Mumbai’s top five realty players may come together to redevelop 6.2 million sqft in to house 5,300 tenants at Motilal Nagar in Goregaon West, according to a leading real estate website, Squarefeatindia. This is one of the biggest redevelopment projects of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), a nodal agency that focuses on affordable housing in the state.  According to the website on November 15, a pre-bid meeting was held between the five realty players and MHADA team at its headquarters in Bandra. All the five players have evinced interest to develop this huge parcel of land.  All the five real estate companies which participated are major players in the country and have capabilities to execute large scale projects. One player is involved in redeveloping BDD Chawls in Worli, the other is a front runner for the Dharavi redevelopment project while the third player has been doing MHADA’s affordable housing projects for years now. The deadline to complete the project is 84 months after the players win the bid. The technical bid will open on December 14.

Photo : Twitter

Stalin’s Emergency Handling Of Chennai Floods Is In Sharp Contrast To Jayalalithaa’s Style

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister visiting rain-affected areas of Chennai after an extreme rainfall event last Sunday was not mere tokenism. He spent hours together over three days surveying areas under water, overseeing the distribution of relief and attending endless meetings on monsoon preparedness while fulfilling duties associated with normal CEOs of States. If there was a message in Stalin’s sustained supervision of relief measures it may have had to do with what happened to Chennai in 2015 when its wettest ever time came about in 36-hours with a perfect storm dumping 50 cms of water. The average of 20 cms that the city received overnight in 2021 was not as phenomenal but it caused nearly as much damage. What had made 2015 rain so catastrophic was the uncontrolled release of over 100,000 cusecs of water from a city reservoir in Chembarambakkam, flooding the Adyar river and causing immense loss of life and property. This had come about because desperate water managers had not been able to get through to Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who was not 100% well at the time and was prone to sleeping it off in her Poes Garden residence. Stalin, a fit 67-year-old with a healthy lifestyle, would like to show that his antenna is up and is always available for duty.
khushinagar airport

Swanky Kushinagar Airport A Big Boost To UP’s Buddhist Tourism

In a major boost to UP tourism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to open Kushinagar International Airport on October 20. Kushinagar is of significance to Buddhists all over the world as it is here that Lord Buddha is believed to have attained Mahaparinirvana after his death (2500 BE). It is famous for the Reclining Buddha image inside the Parinirvana Stupa. Prime Minister will participate in an event, organized to mark Abhidhamma Day. The day symbolises the end of three-month rainy retreat – Varshavaas or Vassa – for the Buddhist Monks, during which they stay at one place in vihara & monastery and pray.  The event will also be attended by eminent Monks from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, South Korea, Nepal, Bhutan and Cambodia, as well as Ambassadors of various countries. The inauguration of Kushinagar International Airport will be marked by the landing of flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka. Led by Namal Rajapaksa, son of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Lankan delegation of over 100 Buddhist monks and dignitaries, including the 12-member Holy Relic entourage, is bringing the Holy Buddha Relics for Exposition. Built at an estimated cost of Rs 260 crore, the Kushinagar International Airport will facilitate domestic and international pilgrims to visit the Mahaparinirvana-sthal of Lord Buddha. The airport will also serve nearby districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Rising Shareholder Activism Keeping Promoters On The Hook

Shareholder activism has been gaining currency and managements have to think twice before proposing resolutions to be approved and voted by shareholders. SEBI is also ensuring that it becomes difficult for promoters to push anything just because of their majority stake. For every negative vote, you now need three positive votes to approve the resolution. In some cases, the promoter is not allowed to vote and the minority shareholders decide the outcome. Readers would recall that Eicher Motor shareholders rejected a pay hike to Sidharth Lal, its MD & CEO. Similarly, IDFC shareholders rejected the reappointment of Vinod Rai as independent director. In the case of Zee Entertainment, two directors stepped down on the eve of the AGM as proxy advisors had asked the shareholders to vote them out. Meanwhile, the company which announced a non-binding agreement sale to Sony Entertainment has been directed by NCLT Mumbai bench to consider shareholder Invesco’s request for EGM to oust MD Punit Goenka. Jindal Steel & Power wants its shareholders to approve payment of one-time remuneration to its four independent directors. Proxy holders are advising shareholders to oppose the same as it violates terms of an independent director. Further an investor has rejected the reappointment of Shallu Jindal, wife of Naveen Jindal and a director on the board of the company for nine years. Indeed, it is a tough time for promoters.

Kolkata Tycoon Harshvardhan Neotia Buys Mumbai Property At Worli Raheja Artesia

The 60-storeyed Raheja Artesia tower located at Mumbai’s tony address Worli Sea Face developed by K Raheja Corp seems to be attracting who’s who of the corporate world. The latest to join the list of illustrious buyers is the Kolkata-based industrialist Harshavardhan Neotia of AmbujaNeotia Group, according to Square Feat India, a leading real estate news website. Neotia, who is responsible for landmark projects in and around Kolkata, has, along with his daughter Paroma, bought 3,064 square ft property along with three car parks for Rs 23.89 crore. This project has been attracting any number of HNI buyers. HDFC Securities MD & CEO Dhiraj Relli and wife Archana forked out Rs 30.31 crore to buy an apartment. HDFC’s MD & CEO Keki Mistry paid Rs 41.23 crore and Smita D Parekh, wife of HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh, paid Rs 50 crore. What makes it very reassuring for buyers is that the developer of this prestigious property, Raheja’s family, have bought three duplexes comprising 18 flats and 42 car parking spaces for Rs 427.81 crore. Effectively, Chandru Raheja, Chairman of K Raheja and his two sons Ravi and Neel, have bought five floors between them.
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Trend Reversal: NRIs Investing In Realty For Self-Use Vs Reselling

The general perception is that NRIs buy properties in India more for investment and less for self-use.  Not anymore, according to Square Feat India, a leading website focusing on India’s real estate sector. In a significant trend reversal post-Covid-19, a much higher percentage of NRI respondents in the latest CII-ANAROCK Consumer Sentiment survey are scouting for properties for self-use, notes the portal. At least 53% of NRI respondents who will buy properties in India in the coming months buy for end-use, 47% for investment for investment. The pre-Covid survey in H1 2019 put this figure at 32% for self-use and 68% for investment. So what’s changing this trend? One major factor influencing this change is that many NRIs are keen to return to India amid the pandemic uncertainties and dwindling job prospects globally. Interestingly, the website says the top seven cities – Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai, MMR, NCR, Hyderabad and Kolkata — are where the NRIs are mainly focused. Here once again 48% of NRIs preferred 3BHKs, 28% 2BHKs while 24% preferred 4BHKs. That NRIs are coming back and buying properties certainly augurs well for the country’s real estate sector badly hit by Covid-19.

Markets Momentum To Continue Till March 2022: A Balasubramanian

India’s stock markets are on a roll and will continue to keep the current momentum at least till March next year, with sprouts of recovery being visible in line with accelerated vaccination drive; and as fears of the pandemic have begun to subside. An expected rise in the government spending will also give a fillip to the capital good stocks further, says Aditya Birla Sun Life Asset Management Company Managing Director and CEO A Balasubramanian to The number of Initial Public Offering (IPO) launches would also continue to maintain the pace with several “robust” companies willing to test the primary market. According to Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC, India’s fourth-largest money manager, information technology is the best sector in the current context with pharmaceuticals and capital goods quite close to it in terms of real returns. Bala, as he is fondly known in the industry, also expects a consolidation in the fast-moving consumer goods space. The market should remain “well-supported” in the coming months, driven by buoyant demand for Indian assets from international investors. The government would also shift its stimulus packages (which now completely focuses on end consumers and social causes) to core sector and infrastructure spending, and engaging the private sector more closely, he added. The Third Wave of pandemic, if it comes, would be the parting wave both for the markets and the general economy at large.
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Dr Swamy: No Political Parties Have Condemned The Genocide In J&K

Two years ago, on August 5, 2019, the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a bold decision to revoke Article 370 that granted special status to J&K. As expected, two well-entrenched political parties/ families of J&K – National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party raised hue and cry and not surprisingly Pakistan also joined the chorus. But Modi soldiered on. Now, the government is talking about holding elections and restoring statehood status for J&K, among other things. But the moot point is: When will you allow the five lakh Kashmiris driven out by ethnic cleansing to return? That’s the question BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Dr Subramanian Swamy asked Hasnain Masoodi of National Conference at NewsX Roundtable Debate. Dr Swamy said that post 370 the situation at the ground level has improved but the local leaders (read pro Islamists) have not expressed any apology nor regret over the biggest genocide. “Five lakh Hindus were driven out and nobody from the valley has shown any sympathy.” He called for a new strategy: Modi government should seek the withdrawal of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s petition that sought UN intervention in Kashmir. He added: the petition is illegal as it has been filed by Nehru without cabinet approval. And his parting shot was that the all-party meeting on J&K chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi could have been avoided.

Supreme Court Pulls Up Serial Litigant Advocate ML Sharma In Pegasus Case

Seems like this Delhi-based advocate Manohar Lal Sharma loves to court controversy. He picks up controversial cases and files Public Interest Litigations (PIL) in the Supreme Court. He hit the national headlines when he appeared as a defence lawyer for one of the accused in 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case. According to, a leading legal news portal, the Supreme Court on Thursday (August 5) pulled up serial litigant Advocate ML Sharma over the PIL filed by him seeking probe into the Pegasus snooping controversy. “Mr Sharma, except newspaper cuttings, what is there in your petition? What purpose you have filed the petition for? You want us to collect the material and argue your case? This is not the way of filing a PIL. We also read newspapers,” CJI expressed displeasure at his PIL. This is not the first time Sharma is being hauled up by the Apex Court. In August 2019, he got slap on his wrist for filing a shoddy petition challenging the August 5 Presidential Order on Article 370 on the very next day of its issuance. Likewise in May 2015, SC asked why he should not be debarred from filing and/or canvassing any Public Interest Litigation on account of the “irresponsible and scandalous allegations levelled by him” against the members of Parliament. He later apologised and was allowed to file PILs with certain checks.

Aug 16: 75th Anniversary of Great Calcutta Killings Vs TMC’s Khela Hobe Divas

August 16, 1946 is mourned by millions as a day of catastrophe: Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s call for Direct Action Day in Kolkata – with the threat of ‘We shall have India divided or India destroyed’ – led to mind-numbing slaughters as bazars and homes were torched, thousands massacred. The carnage also broke the resolve of the secular leaders, who decided to buy peace by conceding to Jinnah’s demand. According to Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins: “Mountbatten was haunted by the spectre of Direct Action Day staged in Calcutta in 1946 by the Moslem League in which 26,000 Hindus were killed in 72 hours.” The consequence of the Great Calcutta Killings should have been the arrest and trial of the perpetrators, but it ended up rewarding them: talks accelerated for the creation of West and East Pakistan, which became a nightmarish reality a year later August 14, 1947. Against this traumatic background, West Bengal’s ruling party Trinamool Congress’ idea to celebrate Khela Hobe Divas on Aug 16 is being decried as not only insensitive but also an insult to the memory of those butchered in the savage killings. For BJP Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, “Khela Hobe’ was never a poll bugle: it was always a veiled call to the cadres for unleashing stone age barbarism.” TMC has dismissed the public opprobrium as an attempt to spread hatred.

50th Anniversary Of The Bengali Hindu Genocide: Cry, The Beloved Country

I rise in sad remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the Bengali Hindu Genocide,” Sheila Jackson Lee, U.S. Democratic Congresswoman, offered her prayers in the House of Representatives, putting spotlight on Pakistani Army’s 10-month reign of terror known as Operation Searchlight (started on March 25, 1971) when “2 to 3 million people were killed, over 200,000 women raped in organized rape camps, and over 10 million people displaced, most finding refuge in India.” In remembrance of the Bengali Hindu Genocide victims, Tulsi Gabbard, former U.S Congresswoman and 2020 Presidential candidate, quoted U.S Senator Ted Kennedy: “Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops. Systematically slaughtered.” She added: “The Islamist persecution of Hindus and other religious minorities in Bangladesh didn’t end with Bangladesh’s Independence. That campaign continues to this day with horrific targeted attacks, murders, homes being burned down and families who continue to be forced to flee.” For many, this campaign has now reached West Bengal. The extent of the bloodlust unleashed after TMC’s spectacular poll victory over BJP has left pro-Hindu voices seething in despair. The NHRC is appalled to discover “a pernicious politico-bureaucratic-criminal nexus” behind 29 murder, 12 rape, and 940 cases of loot and arson during May 2 to June 20. The Calcutta High Court will hear the matter on August 2.

Dalai Lama’s Tibet Dreams Rested On Lal Bahadur Shastri’s Return From Tashkent

It is the mystery of the century. The disappearance of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and death of Lal Bahadur Shastri. Reams and reams have been written on the subject but still there is no finality. The latest book His Holiness The Fourteenth Dalai Lama: An Illustrated Biography written by Dalai Lama’s trusted companion and aide for over four decades, Tenzin Geyche Tethong, touches on a subject that Indians have been seeking an answer – death of Shastri. The book throws light on Shastri’s equation with the Dalai Lama. According to RSS mouthpiece Organiser, which has exclusive access to this chapter in its latest edition, writes: “On an early day of January 1966, the Dalai Lama received a message from WD Shakabpa, his representative in New Delhi, which carried the news which he has been longing to hear since the day he had entered India in 1959 after his 17-day long daring escape from the guns of Chinese Army in Tibet. Shakabpa informed the Dalai Lama that “the Indian government was prepared to recognize the Tibetan government in exile and that he would receive a definite answer once the Prime Minister (Lal Bahadur Shastri) returned from Tashkent.” Unfortunately, Shastri, according to reports, died of a heart attack in Tashkent. But, this biography published by Roli Books, will once again stir debate about Shastri’s death and the hand behind it.

Sharad Pawar Keeps Guessing Game Going On His Future Role

That Sharad Pawar nursed the ambition of becoming prime minister is public knowledge. Perhaps, that may be one of the reasons, he quit Congress, and set up the Nationalist Congress Party in 1999 along with PA Sangma. Analysts feel he could have well become one had Dr Manmohan Singh not backed out from joining the NCP. The 80-year-old Maratha strongman, revered and feared, loves to keep everyone guessing about his next move. He foxed everybody when he met poll strategist Prashant Kishor three times within a fortnight. And quickly denied he was forming a Third Front. It may be recalled that the run-up to meeting Kishor was preceded by Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut mooting the idea that Pawar should be the next UPA leader. In his 60 years of political career, Pawar is not known to give formal interviews or quotes to the Press. But, ever since the formation of Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government, he has been talking to media frequently. He went into a silence zone for a long period, post his reported meeting with Amit Shah in Ahmedabad in March 2021 even though MVA infighting was out in the open. Now, he has formally told the media that he will not contest 2022 Presidential elections or become PM face in 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Now, everybody is stumped!

A Tale Of Two Prime Ministers

‘Can We Do Another 1991’ – This is the latest from Business India (July 12-25, 2021). The cover story compares former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh with the current prime minister Narendra Modi. The magazine says, “Given the abnormal times, comparisons about economic performance of successive prime ministers are odious. Like Singh, Modi is having his share of troubles not entirely of his own making. If Singh had to battle the domino effect of the global financial meltdown, Modi has to cope with the pandemic’s dark shadow since last year.” Still, let’s see in brief how the comparison works. On the face of it, there is little doubt that Modi as a PM has been running a tighter ship than what Singh did in terms of governance. This is mostly because of his centralised form of governance and lack of any extra-constitutional power interfering in his work. Yet, Singh stands tall over Modi as a reformer. The BJP-led dispensation has been no match for Singh as finance minister in the Narasimha Rao government in anchoring far-reaching structural reforms that invigorated the economy. Modi’s reforms like demonetisation and a hastily stitched GST have caused major disruptions in the informal sector. He has been forced to keep the farm reform laws in abeyance because of farmers’ protests and the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code because of the pandemic.

Work-From-Home, Fear Of Third Wave Hits Mumbai’s Lease Rent Segment

The pandemic is playing havoc in the real estate segment, at least where rental deals are concerned.  According to, a leading real estate website, rental deals in Mumbai has seen a sharp fall of 39% in the first quarter of this year. In April-June 2019, the number of registered rental deals was 69,536 against 42,468 in April-June 2021. Yashika Rohiira of Karma Realtors, talking to the website, attributes this sharp fall to Covid-19. With pandemic, most people have returned to their homes. Be it college students or even those who work in the city hail from different parts of the country. With the threat of third wave looming large no one sees either colleges or workplaces opening up too soon. Hence, there is not much desire for people to come back and rent the places.  Even in upscale places like Bandra or South Mumbai, where foreign nationals generally rent properties, there has been a lull as many have gone back to their countries and work-from-home culture has set in. Rohiira feels with the danger of third wave looming large the rental market of Mumbai will continue to suffer for some more time.

Modi Once Again Proves That The Buck Stops With Him

At the boardroom or playground, the captain’s writ runs large. So, it is no different in the political arena. Nobody respects or admires an indecisive leader. A case in point is the former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is different. He seems to have taken a leaf out of the U.S. President Harry S Truman’s frequently used phrase “the buck stops here.” To ensure that he is always on the top of the situation, everything is routed through the Prime Minister’s Office. So what’s wrong? But, this prime ministerial centric government seems to be getting everybody’s goat. Why?  During UPA I and II everything was routed via Sonia Gandhi’s office. Then everything was centralised with one family; the so called ‘concerned citizens’ did not have any objections. In the corporate world, the shareholders hold Mark Zuckerberg, Mukesh Ambani or Warren Buffett accountable. The buck stops with the CEO. Accountability and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. Are opposition or some of the BJP leaders unhappy with the centralisation of power because they are not able to game the system? Modi seems unperturbed with this surround sound and his latest cabinet reshuffle clearly points out that he means business. For now, this powerful well-oiled coterie, basically Modi haters, have to twiddle their thumbs because their social media efforts to denigrate  him has come to nought.

Modi Once Again Proves That The Buck Stops With Him

At the boardroom or playground, the captain’s writ runs large. So, it is no different in the political arena. Nobody respects or admires an indecisive leader. A case in point is the former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is different. He seems to have taken a leaf out of the U.S. President Harry S Truman’s frequently used phrase “the buck stops here.” To ensure that he is always on the top of the situation, everything is routed through the Prime Minister’s Office. So what’s wrong? But, this prime ministerial centric government seems to be getting everybody’s goat. Why?  During UPA I and II everything was routed via Sonia Gandhi’s office. Then everything was centralised with one family; the so called ‘concerned citizens’ did not have any objections. In the corporate world, the shareholders hold Mark Zuckerberg, Mukesh Ambani or Warren Buffett accountable. The buck stops with the CEO. Accountability and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. Are opposition or some of the BJP leaders unhappy with the centralisation of power because they are not able to game the system? Modi seems unperturbed with this surround sound and his latest cabinet reshuffle clearly points out that he means business. The report cards of the ministries and ministers were the deciding factor. Twelve ministers who did not score passing marks were dropped while seven who came out with flying colours were promoted. Besides, 36 new faces or future leaders were inducted. For now, this powerful well-oiled coterie, basically Modi haters, comprising journalists, politicians, bureaucrats, academicians, historians, actors and authors have to twiddle their thumbs because their social media efforts to denigrate him has come to nought. But, they are no quitters. To keep the ember burning they are now heavily tweeting and retweeting about grammatically incorrect language of the new health minister.  Still living the Raj days!

Mumbai’s Film City To Invest Rs 392 Cr On Latest Technology

Dadasaheb Phalke Chitra Nagari, famously known as the Film City, is getting ready for a makeover in phases. This integrated film studio complex, spread over 520 acres, is located in Mumbai’s western suburb at Goregaon East. It has over 42 outdoor shooting locations and 16 studios of various sizes. Now, the latest news is that Maharashtra Film, Stage & Cultural Development Corporation (MFSCDC) is keen to equip the Film City with technologically advanced infrastructure. According to – a leading real estate website, MFSCDC intends to undertake the development of 22 acres of the Film City via the PPP route. It will develop sound stages, post production facilities, and related infrastructure. It has invited Expression of Interest and the cost envisaged is around Rs 391.6 crore. With big demand coming from commercial cinema, TV and now OTT, most state governments see business opportunities in creating a hub for film shooting. It may be recalled that UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath met with several leading Bollywood bigwigs when he was in Mumbai a few months back, inviting them to shoot in UP. Perhaps not wishing to lose out business to other states, the Maharashtra government is going all out to ensure that the Film City is equipped with latest state-of-art technology that makes life easier for film makers. About time too.

Inset : Pramod Mittal

Balasore Alloy Reports Sick After Brash Billionaire Pramod Mittal’s Bankruptcy – What Next?

His rise was meteoric, so was his downfall. Rapid. Billionaire Pramod Mittal (65), the younger stepbrother of steel tycoon LN Mittal, who reportedly spent $82 million for his daughter’s marriage, is bankrupt. He has lost everything from coast to coast — business empires in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Africa, Philippines. Ditto: India. His steel business Ispat Steel was sold to Sajjan Jindal controlled JSW in 2010. The only saving grace was the Orissa-based Balasore Alloys, earlier Ispat Alloys. This listed company, with captive mines, is one of the largest manufacturers and suppliers of high carbon ferrochrome. Now, this cash rich company too has turned sick. The plants have been shuttered close to a year with hundreds of workers, employees, vendors, banks and utilities not paid. Reportedly, some of the top brass including finance director, company secretary, and independent directors have resigned over non-payment of dues and fees. People close to the company say this plant, a legacy of Pramod’s father Mohan Lal Mittal, will require a fund infusion of Rs 1,000 crore to start operations. Analysts are surprised that at a time when commodity cycle is on upswing how come this company has turned sick? For now Balasore Alloys future hangs in a balance –waiting for knights in steely armour.

Photo: Fotocorp

Bollywood Stars Continue To Invest In Real Estate

The year 2021 continues with Bollywood heavy weights staying bullish on real estate market. The latest one, according to a leading real estate website, is popular Bollywood star Ajay Devgan has purchased a bungalow measuring 474.4 sqm located at Kapol CHS, JVPD, in Mumbai’s Juhu for Rs 47.5 crore. Devgan paid stamp duty of Rs 2.37 crore and availed a bank loan of Rs 18.75 crore. Earlier, Big B paid Rs 31 crore for a duplex in Andheri. Last year we saw big investments in the real estate space by nine top Bollywood producers, directors, and actors. Bhushan Kumar of T Series fame paid a whopping Rs 167.5 crore for 6,700 sqft villa at Vasanta Theosophical CHS in Juhu. While Hrithik Roshan bought three floors measuring 38,000 sqft for Rs 97.50 crore on Juhu-Versova link road. Late Sridevi’s daughter Janhvi Kapoor paid Rs 39 crore for a flat in Juhu while Alia Bhatt paid Rs 32 crore for a flat in Bandra’s Pali Hill. Adman turned director R Balki, bought two flats worth Rs 24 crore in Bandra.


Question Mark Over Future Of Real Estate After Lockdown 2

Just when the real estate sector was picking across the country, the second wave has hit the sector really hard. In Mumbai, the scene is looking bleak. According to, a leading real estate website, “property sales in Mumbai in May 2021 saw a 50% dip to 5,360 units from 10,135 units in April.” The reason for this fall is the withdrawal of incentives by the Maharashtra government. It may be recalled that during the first lockdown – in August 2020 – the Maharashtra government had slashed stamp duty to 2% from 5%. This had a salutary effect on property sales.  Besides, new sales, It is learnt, many investors who bought flats and had not registered took advantage of this low rate and got their properties registered. Thus, between September 2020 and March 2021, property registrations were brisk. In December 2020, property sale-registration peaked at 19,581 units — 204% jump over December 2019. Citing this example, the industry’s apex body, CREDAI-MCHI, has dashed off three letters to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, urging him to once again reduce stamp duty to 2%. The other setback to builders is that nearly 4.22 lakh homes, across the top seven cities, which were expected to be completed by December 2021, will be delayed due to disruptions in supply chain.  Add to this, work from home culture is hitting sale of commercial premises and leases. According to, “There are 7,400 Office Leases, spanning approximately 90 million sqft which will come up for renewals in 2021 across Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Gurugram and Noida.” But real estate agents are not bullish about renewal possibilities.

Ravi, Neel and Chandru Raheja

Mumbai Worli’s Rs 427-Cr Artesia Deal Sees Luxury Realty Buying Within The Raheja Family

It is one of the big ticket real estate deals in recent times, says – a leading real estate website. “Three duplexes, spread over five floors comprising 18 flats and 42 car parking spaces, were sold for Rs 427.81 crore.” The 60-storeyed Raheja Artesia located at Mumbai’s tony address Worli Sea Face is a project of K Raheja Corp. And interestingly, buyers are from the developer’s family. Chandru Raheja, Chairman of K Raheja and his two sons Ravi and Neel, have bought five floors between them. Thus, the duplex on 41st and 42nd floors measuring 2,079 square metres (sqm) costing Rs 143.63 crore will be occupied by second son Neel and his wife Jaya Raheja. The duplex on 42nd and 43rd floor spread over 1,989.71 sqm costing Rs 137.78 crore will be occupied by Chandru and his wife Jyoti Raheja. While the eldest son Ravi and his wife Sumati who paid Rs 146.40 crore will occupy 44th and 45th floors measuring 2,138.23 sqm. Effectively, the three families between them will be occupying 66,811 sqft. Each duplex comes with 14 car parking. This project has been attracting any number of HNI buyers, especially from the HDFC Group. HDFC Securities MD & CEO Dhiraj Relli and wife Archana forked out Rs 30.31 crore to buy an apartment. HDFC’s MD & CEO Keki Mistry paid Rs 41.23 crore and Smita D Parekh, wife of HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh, paid Rs 50 crore.

Who Benefits From Keeping Sushant Singh Rajput Legacy Alive?

For nearly a year, Sushant Singh Rajput’s name has been trending on Twitter. But, on May 31, 2021 the hashtag #SUSHANT YOU WILL WIN was trending at #1 spot with over 93,400 Tweets. It is understandable. His first death anniversary is just a fortnight away on June 14. The successful Bollywood star died young and that too under mysterious circumstances. His death has indeed devastated millions of his fans and that perhaps explains why he keeps trending for a year now. He is a rare phenomenon. It appears that no death — be it that of Mahatma Gandhi, John F Kennedy, John Lennon or Lady Diana — has been in the news for nearly a year now. And like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose whose disappearance has intrigued a whole generation, so is the case with Sushant Singh’s death. The investigating agencies must answer one simple question: was Sushant Singh Rajput murdered or forced to commit suicide? Till a satisfactory answer emerges, rumour mills will keep doing overtime. Yes, there was a glimmer of hope 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 said: “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.” Since then, there has been a deafening silence. Come to think of it, some of the most complex cases have been solved in double quick time. Take for instance, the case of the rogue cop Sachin Vaze, who was dismissed from the service for his alleged involvement in planting bomb near Antilia, home to the industrialist Mukesh Ambani. The investigating agency within a fortnight said, Vaze was involved in the murder of businessman Mansukh Hiren – this murder was earlier communicated as a case of suicide! So, the question everybody is asking, why is this case dragging endlessly? Who benefits from keeping Sushant Singh...
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Why BJP Did Not Win West Bengal Elections As Expected?

For any political party growing from 3 to 77 seats is a big achievement. Not for BJP. It was hoping to form the government by winning over 200 seats in West Bengal 2021 Assembly Elections. But in the end Mamata Banerjee’s party Trinamool Congress won 211 seats. Now, everybody is doing soul searching – BJP, political analysts, bookies, journalists, pollsters. But, the real answer has come from a karyakarta Sourav Chakraborty (@Mahakal_k_Bhakt). In his 10-part tweet to PM @narendramodi and HM @AmitShah he has lucidly explained the reasons for BJP’s failure. He says everybody is blaming Bengali Hindus for not voting for BJP. But the ground reality is totally different. Some of his reasons are: 1. Many of their karyakartas were ex-CPI-M, who joined BJP only to save themselves from TMC but did not accept BJP’s ideology. They made BJP’s ground organisation weak in many constituencies. 2. Welcoming and promoting TMC leaders and ignoring its own dedicated karyakartas. 3. Ignoring Hindutva for Muslim votes. 4. Ignoring the warning of RSS by taking corrupt politicians from TMC and compromising with party’s idealogy. 5. No CM face in front of Mamata. 6. Scam in MLA ticket distribution. 7. Congress and CPIM aligned with TMC to stop BJP. And finally poor management of polling and counting agents. Clearly, you don’t need to be masters in political science to read the writing on the wall. Political strategist Prashant Kishor saw it long back but a confident BJP did not take him seriously.

Hamara Bajaj Seeks Care For MSMEs Amid Covid Re-Lockdown

While talking to the media, the 54-year-old Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto, never minces words nor ducks issues. He, like his father Rahul Bajaj, calls a spade a spade. He has been consistently opposing lockdown from Day One. So when Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray imposed second lockdown on April 14, Bajaj was his usual self, critical.   “Why everybody keeps looking at BSE and NSE but not MSMEs,” he asks, explaining that a company like Bajaj Auto can take care of its people but the small businesses will be hit even more harder this time he told news channel India Today. Bajaj Auto is a cash-rich company with over Rs 20,000 crore in reserves. Even if the company makes nothing, sells nothing then the standstill cost – salaries & wages — for the company works out to Rs 750 crore per annum. With Rs 20,000 crore reserves and non-operating income, he can take care of his company’s employees even if the company, hypothetically, is shut for the next 30 years. How many CEOs in the country can make that kind of bold statement? Well, it takes a Hamara Bajaj to talk for Hum Sab.

BJP Does Balancing Act In Assam, Rewards Poster Boy Himanta Sarma

BJP has stepped one step backward and opted for a former Congressman turned the party’s poster boy, Himanta Biswa Sarma, for the Chief Minister’s post in Assam, over giving second term to Sarbananda Sonowal. BJP’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was clearly against Sarma’s anointment but BJP had no choice in a serious bid to avoid a rebellion from Sarma who enjoys clout among the newly elected legislators. Due to strong claims made by Sarma on CM’s post, BJP did not project Sonowal or him or any other leader as party’s CM candidate in the run up to the assembly elections. Instead, BJP took cautious decision to reach out to the Assam people on the development and welfare plank while deftly handling the CAA and NCR issues and hitting out at the Congress promoted MahaJyot alliance, led by leaders like AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal, seen by many as the allies of the illegal immigrants. Sarma is widely lauded for his effective management of Covid-19 as the State’s Health Minister; as well as for his intuitive leadership that has helped the BJP win assembly elections in 2016 and 2021. According to some observers, he will have to skilfully handle the CAA and NCR matters even though the Congress led front failed to mobilize the voters on this tricky issue. On the other hand, Sonowal, who gracefully signed off as Assam Chief Minister, having completed the full five-year term since 2016, has declined a Union cabinet post. He had earlier served as the Union Minister of Sports & Youth Affairs (2014-16) – and is now seeking to stay back in Assam.


Is Kissa Kursi Ka Driving Sidhu Towards AAP, Ditch Captain?

Cricketer turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu has launched a tirade against his own party’s government in Punjab. He is demanding a fair investigation by a new SIT into a sacrilege case and has also accused the state Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, of colluding with the Shiromani Akali Dal that was in power then. The case refers to the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib by miscreants and the subsequent police shooting on those protesting the desecration. There are other Congress leaders Sunil Jakhar and Hinder Randhawa who are also upset. But the insiders suggest that the Punjab farmers are not happy with the state leadership and it would affect the party’s prospects in the coming state elections. The farmers seem to be tilting towards the AAP party in Punjab. The grapevine indicates that AAP party leadership is considering Sidhu as its next CM candidate in Punjab and Bhagwant Maan, AAP MP has consented for the same. No wonder Captain Singh has already roped in Prashant Kishor to strategize to overcome anti-incumbency factor, farmer’s negative sentiments and work for his return to power! But Kishor after steering Mamata Banerjee and MK Stalin to victory has quit the election management business. It needs to be seen whether he will fulfil the contract with Captain. Sidhu joined BJP in 2004 and won two assembly elections from Amritsar. In April 2016 BJP nominated him to Rajya Sabha but he was disillusioned with BJP and resigned in July 2016. In 2017 he joined the Indian National Congress.

The Guessing Game Continues In Maharashtra…

The guessing game ‘will it or won’t it survive’ continues in Maharashtra.  The twitterati is on overdrive, “Wait for June”, their tweets say. But, everybody from political analysts to man on the street, are saying that the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) cart is being pulled in different directions by the three parties – Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress. Everyday there is some proof of that. A case in point being Maharashtra’s Cabinet Minister Nawab Malik hogging publicity by saying that the State will provide free vaccines for people in the 18-45-year age bracket. Congress party was peeved. Its leader and state Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat said the decision on a free vaccine should be announced by the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Likewise, Aaditya Thackeray had tweeted: “The Govt of Maharashtra has decided to vaccinate its citizens free of cost….” Realising he had jumped the gun, he deleted his tweet quickly. On the other front, Sharad Pawar, who has been vocal and active since the formation of the MVA government, has been maintaining studied silence for the last one month on various events that has engulfed the state – Vazegate, Lockdown and CBI raids on former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh. One reason could be his health problem. He was flitting in and out of Breach Candy hospital. Be that as it may but political observers are reading too much into his so-called meeting with Amit Shah in Ahmedabad in March. Political observers say that the Congress and the NCP are quietly going about building their party’s image. On the other side, former Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis is in full flow; doing everything to ensure he is back in the CM’s saddle. Hope it is not the case of Waiting for Godot!

FM Ke Pati Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai?

Speculation is rife in the Capital over the outburst of political economist Parakala Prabhakar, the husband of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. In his weekly Blog Midweek Matters on YouTube, Prabhakar has openly attacked the Modi government for its handling of the second wave of Covid-19.  In his 15-minute video, Prabhakar used strong words to express his anguish and criticize the Modi government. With this video circulating on social media and stories being written in newspapers, rumour mills are doing overtime whether Sitharaman will meet the same fate as that of Jayant Sinha, son of former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha. It may be recalled that Yashwant Sinha was critical of the Modi government as he felt sidelined in the party. His father’s constant outbursts at Modi saw Jayant Sinha who was holding the prestigious Minister Of State for Finance portfolio being shunted to Civil Aviation ministry in 2016. Even though he won 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Hazaribagh with a record margin yet Jayant Sinha failed to find a berth in the cabinet. Some people are asking why Prabhakar chose to attack PM via social media when he through his wife has got direct access to PM. Meanwhile, the Capital grapevine is buzzing about an imminent cabinet reshuffle some times in May

BJD MP Gets Free Advice From Netizens On His Vaccine Appeal to Corporates

The post on LinkedIn by Biju Janata Dal Rajya Sabha MP Amar Patnaik has come in for harsh criticism. Patnaik in his post wrote: “I appeal to top wealthy Indians/ Companies! Can you shoulder the burden of vaccinating at least 25% of Indians as part of your duty to Motherland? In fact, some of you can do from only one year of profits! If there was ever a time to give back, its NOW! I am sure your shareholders would agree.” He may not have expected this kind of outburst. There were 1,119 likes but 238 scathing comments. Most of the comments asked Patnaik why he was only singling out the business community! Corporate India was already paying taxes and some of them were giving tons of oxygen free besides contributing to PM Cares Fund. Why are you begging someone else to do it? It is the job of the government to do it when you have the infrastructure, resources and capital. One common question raised by most of them was what about ‘corrupt’ politicians and bureaucrats who have crores stashed abroad? Their net worth would be equally high, they hinted. In essence, the message was loud and clear: Charity begins at home. First appeal to fellow politicians before asking others to chip in. Quite.

Why Sachin Vaze, Indrani Mukherjee Got Caught?

The short answer is: they were over confident that they would be able to manage the environment (read politicians, police). That in essence is the story of all the three law breakers — Big Bull Harshad Mehta, INX Media promoter Indrani Mukherjea and rogue cop Sachin Vaze. Indrani Mukerjea, the main accused in the alleged murder of her daughter Sheena Bora made the cardinal mistake of coming back from London. She was perhaps cocky that no harm would come to her as she had friends in high places. Remember music composer duo Nadeem-Shravan? Well, Nadeem Akhtar Saifi fled the country in 1997 when his name was linked to the murder of T Series founder Gulshan Kumar. He continues to stay in London. Similarly, encounter specialist Vaze seems to have blessings at all the levels. For somebody who was seven notches below, in terms of ranking, he could walk in and out of the Police Commissioner’s Office at will. No questions asked! When BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis was seeking a probe into La Affaire Vaze, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray defended him on the floor of the House saying Vaze was No Osama Bin Laden. It is this kind of support that saw Vaze cooking up charges and exploiting people in Mumbai. Republic TV, hounded by Vaze at the behest of his political masters, is bringing to light the nexus between politicians-police that would put any thriller in the shade. In the case of Big Bull, he was a publicity hound and did not lose any opportunity to flaunt his wealth. He came under everybody’s radar for not only his crazy valuations of scrips like ACC, Karnataka Ball Bearing but also driving around in a Lexus. The entire staff of the State Bank of India at Nariman Point came down to see his car when Mehta, at the height of the scam, went to meet the chairman. Finally, he was caught and died in a jail.

TMC Or BJP: What’s Kolkata’s Betting Market Prediction?

Gambling syndicates in Kolkata are offering bets on the results of 2021 West Bengal Legislative Assembly elections, including picking the winners of 294 seats.  The official results will be out on May 2. So, who will form the next government? How many seats will the TMC win? Will the BJP improve its tally? You get some answers from the bookies, based on their projections, as on April 12: BJP may win 154-156 seats, while TMC may bag 116-118 seats and the balance by other political parties. The going rate is even money, that is, 1:1, for both TMC and BJP. BJP is clearly the favourite as of now. Bookies are paying Rs 1.20 for WB Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who is contesting from Nandigram and Rs 0.40 (40 paise) for BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, Didi’s confidante-turned-adversary.  Higher rate indicates lower winning probability while lower rate indicates higher winning probability. A month ago, before elections began, the bookies were paying Rs 0.40 for Didi and  Adhikari. After the first phase, the rates for both Mamata Banerjee and BJP were Rs 0.90 each. The bookies were quoting a price of Rs 1.20 for TMC and Rs 0.40 for BJP after the second phase. High rate indicates lower winning probability, while lower rate indicates higher winning probability. The high-voltage poll rallies have kept the bookies on their toes as they are frantically exchanging notes almost every minute, and fixing rates for each party and candidate. Following the completion of the fourth phase of polling, Kolkata bookies claim BJP is clearly ahead of TMC. The fifth phase of the poll scheduled for April 17, may go in favour of TMC and Left Front, they speculate. As for the veteran political pundits, the fierce tussle seems to be leading towards a hung assembly! !
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Veteran Adman Anil Kapoor Who Re-Built Ulka Passes Away

Anil (Billy) Kapoor the legendary advertising man and former chairman of FCB Ulka passed away on April 12 at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai. He had successfully battled pancreatic cancer almost a decade ago but it recurred aggressively a couple of months ago. He had been living in Singapore for the last several years and was flown back on Saturday. Unlike the fanfare behind the big brands he promoted, his funeral was a private affair. He along with Ranjan Kapur of O&M, Mike Khanna of HTA were referred to as the ‘Punjabi Club’. The trio controlled the era of big brand advertising. Billy was the last to go. One may recall what Ambi Parameswaran wrote when Ulka turned 60 in his column: “It was Bal’s (founder Bal Mundkur) bold move in 1988 that saved the agency. Or it was Anil Kapoor’s courage of conviction that he could rebuild Ulka in a new image. Anil joined as MD in 1988, identified some key managers to re-motivate and retain (Shashi Sinha and Niteen Bhagwat are still in FCBUlka/IPG Group); Anil also managed to rope in a few more – Arvind Wable, Nagesh Alai and yours truly.”  Kapoor is survived by his wife, Rita, daughter Aruna and son Ram Kapoor who is a well-known TV star.

Who Is Trying To Rake Up Rafale Issue?

In less than nine months of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s welcoming the first batch of Rafale jets and highlighting how the fighter jet acquisition was a unique Government-to-Government deal, the Congress party is back with a fresh Rafale assault. “Karma = The ledger of one’s actions,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi, triggering a low-intensity twitter brawl with hashtag #Rafale. India’s season of multi-state polls and rallies has once again got animated after Yann Philippin’s Rafale report appeared in French portal Subramanian Swamy’s joining the brawl has only raised confusion. His tweet, “Gov may brief a few to counter the ballooning demand for probes in France on the Indo France Rafale deal. I had originally studied it when XXX struck a 126 plane deal with Carla Bruni. Parrikar cancelled it and started a new deal. He briefed me. But alas Parrikar passed away.” Soon, Swamy shared a story (May 11, 2011) where he had attacked the IAF’s $12-billion M-MRCA fighter deal during the UPA regime.  Philippin’s disclosures to Barkha Dutt’s Mojo Story point to involvement of a middleman who is already being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate in AugustaWestland case. That partly explains why the so-called scandal – dismissed as “completely baseless” by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad – didn’t get the desired twitter momentum. The question being asked is at whose behest is the Rafale issue being raked up again?
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VK Krishna Menon’s Dark Side

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh’s biography of VK Krishna Menon — A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of V.K. Krishna Menon — based on fresh archival material, reveals that the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru entrusted Menon with responsibilities such as the post of high commissioner to the UK and defence minister, although Nehru had himself diagnosed Menon as suffering from depression and dark mood swings, as early as 1938. When asked to leave as high commissioner, Menon in a letter acknowledged to Nehru that he took sedatives and hypnotics, but insisted that the barbiturates were not habit-forming. The mercurial Menon, who had strong likes and dislikes, usually created divisions wherever he worked. As defence minister Menon played havoc. He encouraged army chief General PN Thapar to humiliate and charge-sheet two of the most outstanding officers in the Indian Army, General KS Thimayya and General SPP Thorat, who were later exonerated. He instigated his favourite, General BM Kaul, to hold a court of inquiry against Lt General Sam Manekshaw, who was to be later appointed India’s first field marshal. Clearly, even the best of leaders can be fickle-minded – and a disaster.

Politicians And Their Covid Talks

Politicians know what they don’t want – a lockdown. But the second wave of Covid-19 has put them in a dilemma. If they go in for lockdown, they will have to weigh in on its socio-economic implications vis-a-vis political fallout. The other option is to ensure everybody gets vaccinated and plug the deficit in healthcare infrastructure while simultaneously enforcing stricter Covid protocol. It is evident that the five states – Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry (UT), which are in the throes of election fever,  have thrown Covid protocol to the wind. The Election Commission had mandated during the Bihar elections that Covid-appropriate steps should be taken. But that was forgotten after the elections. Come to think of it, everybody needs to share that blame equally. In Mumbai, the BMC officials are on an overdrive, collecting Rs 200 fine from Mumbaikars for not wearing masks. And in Aurangabad, we have a Member Of Parliament, Imtiyaz Jaleel being cheered by his ‘maskless’ partymen. They carried him on their shoulders as they were thrilled that the government may not go in for a complete lockdown. If politicians break law with such impunity, then what do you expect from the ordinary citizen? In reality, all politicians merely pay lip service when they say, Do gaj ki doori, mask hai zaruri. –Mahesh Vijapurkar

Who Are The Most Powerful Indians In 2021?

The Indian Express annual list IE 100: The List Of Most Powerful Indians in 2021 is out. There are no surprises in terms of Top 10. Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds on to his #1 position, so does Home Minister Amit Shah at #2 followed by RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat at #3. Bhagwat was ranked #4 in 2019, and this slot has been occupied by the BJP President JP Nadda this year. Reliance CMD Mukesh Ambani holds on to his #5 rank while Adani Group Chairman Gautam has pole-vaulted from 28th position to #10. As always, every year there are new entrants. This year there are five names from the healthcare sector as this sector had to do fire-fighting to manage Covid-19. There are 59 politicians, 17 businessmen, 9 bureaucrats who find a place in the survey. Surprisingly, there are no film stars, spiritual guru or sports personalities save for Virat Kohli. So this brings to fore what was the methodology or criteria used to select these powerful Indians? The prefatory note is silent on that front.

Operation Debutants And The Inaugural World Test Championship Final

Not many would have bet on the Men in Blue after the humiliating rout they suffered in the first Test at Adelaide (Dec 17-19, 2020), scoring 36, their lowest total ever. Even on the final day of the last Test at the Gabba (Jan 15-19, 2021), they were given 1% chance. India ended Australia’s 33-year dominance at the Gabbatoir with Shubhman Gill hitting a mesmerising 91 and Rishabh Pant an audacious 89 to chase down the target of 328 with 18 balls left in the match. Wisden Cricket’s Editor-In-Chief Phil Walker notes: “Seasoned and sober judges are saying it’s perhaps the finest series win away from home by any side ever.” Cricket analyst Robert Craddock wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “Australia got their best squad to throw their best punch – and they got knocked cold.” The incredible turnaround story for the team (that lost all four tosses, their power-hitting captain, and several frontline players through injury) was scripted by the fiery energy of the debutants and the steely spine of the young guns batting at lower order. The same debutant spirit was unleashed after the thrashing England inflicted in the first Test at Chennai. India managed to defend its fortress, securing 13th consecutive Test Series win. The 3-1 series victory over England seals India’s berth in the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final, where they will face New Zealand, the team of “scrappers that scraps for win.” Hopefully, India will soon find answers – as Saurav Ganguly (president of the BCCI) and Rahul Dravid (in charge of the National Cricket Academy, Bengaluru) sharpen focus on training young talents like Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, and Shubman Gill, among others.

Lone Wolf Premchand

Like the Texas ranger J.J. McQuade in the Hollywood thriller Lone Wolf McQuade, this 60-year old Parliamentarian NK Premchand too likes to work alone. He is the one-man army who has made his presence felt in the Lok Sabha. A four-time MP from the Kollam district of Kerala, he is the Central Secretariat Member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party. Whether it is debate or raising questions, he is in the forefront. According to PRS.Org, between June 2014 and February 2019, Premchand asked 471 questions (national average: 293), participated in over 300 debates (national average: 67), and had attendance record of 87% compared to the national average of 80%. He introduced a private member bill overturning Sabarimala verdict and it was the first private bill introduced in the 17th Lok Sabha. Everybody from the prime minister to speaker to MPs acknowledge his dedication and commitment. And nothing misses his sight. He raised the question about a Supreme Court-appointed panel issuing an advertisement in a leading newspaper inviting comments on new farm laws. It was “unfortunate” that the Apex Court was encroaching upon the domain of Parliament, he said. If the panel can seek comments on the new laws, “then what is Parliament meant for”. Quite.

Jackie Shroff with Subhash Ghai, the man who made him the Hero

Why Everybody Loves Jackie Shroff

Showman Subhash Ghai, who was the guest of honour at The Indian Idol Show, revealed an interesting story about Jackie Shroff. Ghai was looking for a fresh face for his movie Hero and Jackie Shroff came to meet him with his portfolio. Ghai asked him three questions: Can you sing? Can you dance? Can you act? And Jackie Shroff said NO to all the three questions. Then why have you come to meet me, asked Ghai. Jackie said his friends forced him! Impressed by his innocent honesty, Ghai said: “You are selected to play the hero’s role opposite Meenakshi Seshdari in the movie Hero. Jackie was stunned. After profusely thanking Ghai as he was walking out of the cabin retraced his step and said: “Sir I will tell you one thing truthfully. I have played a role in Dev Anand’s movie in which there is a goonda Shakti Kapoor who has an assistant goonda and I am assistant to assistant goonda. Now, you are casting me as a hero, Sir Aap Fas Jaogey.” Ghai was moved by the hero’s honesty. Even today after tasting phenomenal success Jackie is the most grounded star, says Ghai with a touch of pride. The 64-year old star who has become synonymous with the word Bhidu is also fondly called “Jaggu Dada”.

Who Is Setting The Social Media Agenda?

That’s the billion-rupee question. The late actor Sushant Singh Rajput continues to trend for nine months now. On March 17, the Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, who is in the eye of the storm, was trending on Twitter via #IamwithAnilDeshmukh. A few months ago, it was the Mumbai Police Commissioner who was subsequently transferred.  The question everybody is asking: Does Deshmukh have the charisma or mass following like his boss Sharad Pawar, the NCP Supremo? Earlier, when the Founder-Editor of Republic TV was arrested by the Mumbai Police he was trending at #1. It was a natural public sympathy; even the Supreme Court made scathing remarks on the illegal arrest. Sure, he had a strong platform to tell his story. Similarly, starlet Rhea Chakraborty was trending both ways; for one group she was a villain whereas for the other group she was a victim. Suddenly you see #CBI Expose Jiah Khan Killers trending. Jiah died in 2013. The last time the whole country, sans social media, came together was during The Emergency in the mid-70s. Likewise, the Anna Hazare movement over corruption became a national movement.  So, this trending business raises lots of questions. Who decides the trending patterns and ranking? In whose interest it is to keep issues alive? Is it a perception game? Does judiciary take cognizance of social media numbers?

Electoral Win: Is It Public Sympathy Or Performances?

In 1984, the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi saw the Congress party win 411 seats out of 542 with her son Rajiv Gandhi becoming the Prime Minister. It was a sympathy wave. A similar situation arose when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated while campaigning during the 1991 elections. In areas where polls were held before the assassination, the Congress fared badly. It was a vote against non-performance. Post Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, the Congress did well due to the sympathy wave but could not muster enough seats and had to form a minority government led by PV Narasimha Rao. So this brings to the fore whether West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who met with an accident in Nandigram constituency will romp home on a sympathy wave? Will her campaigning on a wheel-chair optics make the various scams, misrule a non-issue and catapult her party TMC into the winning zone. It may be recalled Chirag Paswan did not gain much from his father Ram Vilas Paswan’s demise but YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, current Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, more than benefited when his father and Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy died in a helicopter crash. Likewise, one must see what happens in Tamil Nadu with the demise of two icons — M Karunanidhi of DMK and J Jayalalithaa of AIADMK. Will it be sympathy or performance that will tilt the scale?  It is worth mentioning that the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi got two terms on sheer performance indices and so did AAP in Delhi, led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Looks like the electorates have wizened up and optics do not matter.

Benazir Bhutto: Making Money The Pakistani Way

One more book on Pakistan’s first woman prime minister Benazir Bhutto hit the book shelves sometimes back. The Bhutto Dynasty, authored by Owen Bennett-Jones, while tracing the turbulent history of the Bhutto dynasty, also reveals about her views on corruption. “Politicians everywhere, the former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto argued, made money. The difference was that while Western politicians did so after they left office, their counterparts in the developing world did not have that option. The U.S. journalist Ron Suskind once put it to her that his high-level sources in the U.S. government had told him that she was making ‘real money’. There was no denial. Rather she said, “Let me explain how it works. In your part of the world Dick Cheney is vice president and then he goes to Haliburton to make his money. In this part of the world, you make your money whilst you are in office. It is not that different.”

Javadekar Gets SC Licence To Give Teeth To The OTT Laws

The OTT Entertainment industry doesn’t know what hit them. First came the Allahabad High Court’s massive observations on the streaming of Tandav – seen by many as an indictment of the rapidly growing, unregulated platform. Next followed the remarks of the venerable Supreme Court’s bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and R Subhash Reddy that concluded that the new guidelines governing social media (SM) and OTT (over the top) platforms have ‘no teeth’. Swiftly pouncing at the SC-sent opportunity, Information & Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar promised that the government would soon issue guidelines for the regulation of OTT platforms. Replying at the floor of the Rajya Sabha, the soft-spoken minister said that the new guidelines would address the issues of sensitive content, adding that a lot of suggestions on the regulation of OTTs have been received. The new development comes as a sharp contrast to the Minister’s earlier espousal of Self-Regulation for the industry. While meeting the OTT honchos, he tried dispelling misrepresentations around the digital media guidelines, assuring that the self-regulatory bodies would not have any member appointed by the government. Well, the fiery tussle between the key protagonists – including the FoE advocates – is far from over. What’s urgently needed is clarity in guidelines to draw more investments in the sector with about 40 OTT platforms.


Editor’s Note: Big Punch In Small Pack

It is the Third Anniversary of Short Post and as a news media startup launched during the Covid-19 pandemic it certainly feels better than good to find ourselves where we are today. Here, I must cite the unstinted support of our seasoned contributors, all senior editors in the country, who brought a great degree of maturity and sagacity to the Short Post newsroom. But for them, our tagline “Authentic Gossip”, an Oxymoron, would not have matured viably. Our user numbers may be small but our stories have created the desired impact among people who matter — decision makers and influencers. We offer a big punch in a small pack and Short Post with its 225-word stories has been punching above its weight category. Having posted close to 3,000 stories in the last 36 months, Short Post, I feel, is an idea whose time has come.
And this is vindicated by our two marquee advertisers – IDFC FIRST Bank and ICICI Lombard. Both believed in our story and have supported us from Day one. A big thank you to both.
If you look at the media landscape – print, TV and digital — it is a mixed bag. There are job losses as some outfits have closed down while a lucky few were bailed out by large corporate houses. Yes, there is a lot of action in the digital space. However, the entry of corporate houses has raised the question of independence of news media outfits. Sadly, there are just a handful of independent media outfits in the country that are highly respected for their neutrality. At Short Post, our credo is not to take sides, prejudge issues or be biased but, informing readers of behind-the-scenes happenings. In essence, Short Post strives to be a neutral editorial platform — neither anti-establishment nor pro-establishment.
As I said last year, disruptions in the media world are moving at a fast and furious pace. Technology is playing a very big role in how content is generated and consumed. But, we are neither alarmed nor perturbed as it is all a part of the evolution process. What gives us comfort is that AI is unable to create original gossipy content. And that is the news arena where we have achieved a distinction.