Thursday, February 6, 2014

Countdown To Elections - Part 4

Well the dance of democracy is taking a very nice and humorous touch these days. Before I make my comments based on the last few updates, I would like to share some videos that will provide the context of my discussion this time around.

First: A few days before the Delhi elections, this was a debate on Times Now. It was regarding the joke of getting a meal for 5 bucks in Delhi and 12 bucks in Mumbai!


This was where the Congress representative Sanjay Jha emphatically told the AAP reprsentative - you cannot beat us! What was the result of the election? Congress took a royal drubbing not just in Delhi but also in other key states like Rajasthan, MP

Now comes the biggest blunder of Congress - Rahul Gandhi with his fantastic interviews

First was the CII Interview


Then was the fantastic interview on Times Now


Time and again, Mr Rahul Gandhi keeps harping on problems in the system, democracy not spreading deep enough, etc etc etc - Mr Rahul Gandhi - please can you tell us who was ruling this country for the last 10 years??? The very fact that you state that there are problems in the system clearly shows that your party has mismanaged this country big time. You are questioning the ethics and code of your own party - what have you been doing as number 2 of the Congress committee???

I don't want to get into the constitutional hurdles that Mr. Subramaniam Swamy has raised regarding Mrs Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi's eligibility to be the PM of this country. The fact of the matter is that the people of India know to segregate wheat from chaff. Mr. Rahul Gandhi should very well take a leaf out of his own father or grand mother's book as far as leadership and politics are concerned. There is no doubt about the fact that Mr. Rajiv Gandhi was one of the best Prime Ministers India got post-independence. He had a compelling vision and mission to transform the economy of this country.

Now you cannot free-ride on the same because every leader has to prove his/her own credentials. By merely making a 500 crore election campaign [called image make-over campaign which by itself is an acknowledgement that people don't hold Rahul Gandhi in high esteem] Mr. Sanjay Jha said on Times Now that Congress will win the elections in Delhi; the result is in front of us. Mr Rahul Gandhi now says emphatically that Congress will win this election. I cannot comment on that at this point of time.

The fact of the matter is that the Congress has already realized that it is running into the dead end if the elections is on the basis of merits alone. The Congress has stooped so low that it is completely focused on getting the high population low literacy section votes with ponzi schemes like Food Security Bill and Rajiv Awas Yojana, MNREGA etc etc etc. The Congress party needs to answer the question as to who foots the bill for Food Security Bill? There is a major paradox - your party says that less than 30% of the population is 'poor' thanks to good governance by UPA1/2. If that is indeed the case, why do we need to have such populist measures? Why could you not think about Rajiv Awas Yojana in the last 10 years. Why do these advertisements come on prime time television 4 months before the elections?

On one side, you are telling people to move to cities and find better employment opportunities. Then who will take care of the farms and flora/fauna in villages? Is this the reason why you need MNREGA in villages? Also please answer a few basic things; if a farmer is going to have MNREGA, other opportunities and Food Security Bill, why will he cultivate food in the first place? Why should he spend so much time, energy and resources when things can be simple, easy and cheap???

The fact of the matter is that the Congress by and large has lost conscience, common sense and ethics completely. Moreover, it is grossly underestimating the power of people even after a royal drubbing in the semi-final stages of the elections. The state that Congress is in right now, is the same as that of the British in 1946-47. The British knew that the end-game was around the corner; they just tried to extract maximum possible in the last stages and inflict as many damages as they could before leaving. This is exactly what Congress is doing right now.

This is precisely where the country has a bigger problem. After Congress, there is no major party that has a reasonably strong clout on a pan-country basis. The BJP is undoubtedly second but they too have a major challenge on a pan-country level. They don't have enough clout. And for those who are running on the AAP bandwagon, Delhi state elections are different and a pan-India thing is different. Maybe that may be the best alternative to India but that will still take a good 10 years to become so.

Sad but in all likelihood this time again, we will end up with a fractured mandate from the people. By the looks of it, there is little doubt that BJP will emerge as the single largest party in this election. What is more critical is how the coalition will be formed. It might very well turn out to be an irony that the single largest party does not garner enough mandate to form the government. BJP, Congress and all other parties need to remember that Namo, RaGa, DiDi, Amma etc are all fine but at the end of the day, people vote for the best possible candidate in that particular constituency. From that perspective, despite the fact that BJP has far better individual candidates in many areas and media hype shows favor towards BJP, people will vote for XYZ in that constituency.

I am more of a capital markets' analyst and can say from my limited findings; the odds are still in favor of incumbents. If the stock markets are an indication, as long as the corrections preceding elections are less than 20%, incumbents have a stronger chance to come back. Of course, the confidence interval for the same is less than 90% [statistical confidence interval] And this is not my personal finding; one can google up correlations for capital market actions preceding elections and there is enough material out there that say more or less the same thing.

So the BJP [and allies] need to get their act together and portray something very strong. It is very much possible as the sentiments are with them at this point of time.

If the Congress really wants to have a chance, it is time to shut up this Rahul Gandhi nonsense. The educated middle class and youth will not accept him as the leader of the country. The Congress in reality has only 2 potential PM candidates that people will embrace and welcome big time - P Chidambaram and Nandan Nilekani. Both of them are educated [truly], have very good understanding of the problems the country faces and what the youth wants [in fact I would rate Nandan Nilekani higher on these parameters as he is the poster-boy of youth and for those who have doubts in his credentials can read Imagining India. Even McKinsey's Re-Imagining India is nothing compared to the original!]

Both of these erudite gentlemen score very well with politicians across borders and likewise with businesses. The Congress cannot continue on the basis of dynasty - it has to be a party.

The other dark reality is the possibility of a Third Front; time and again people have seen how futile such a structure is. At such low GDP growth rates, this is the last thing that India needs. If a 3rd Front comes through, then the economic development of this country will take a further beating. I think that the middle class and youth realize this fairly well and will not let this happen in all likelihood.

To summarize, both Congress and BJP still have a very good chance to change the pathetic state in which this country is right now. Both have their own actions to take care of. They just need to make sure that they don't go around making a fool of themselves as this is not even 2009. People are far more connected and knowledged than ever.

So let us see how the probabilities pan out [My personal assessments]

The 4 states where elections have just concluded - the result will be in their favor ownly

J&K: Whether we like it or not, status quo will continue
Punjab: Akali Dal will in all likelihood win the race
Haryana: Congress will certainly get booted out
Uttar Pradesh: The problem is that both BSP and SP are idiotic; but with a 20 crore population, one just doesn't know how things will swing
Uttaranchal: The incumbents will be challenged
HP: In all likelihood, incumbents will be challenged
Bihar: Nitish Kumar likely to continue

Gujarat: BJP set to win
Maharashtra: Unpredictable with Congress, NCP, MNS and SS all having their share of votes and challenges
Goa: BJP set to win under Parrikar
Rajasthan: BJP set to win

MP: BJP set to win
Chattisgarh: BJP set to win
Jharkhand: Status quo to continue

This is an unpredictable cluster as always and status quo with local parties expected

Karnataka: Congress seem set to win
Tamil Nadu: AIADMK seem set to win
AP: Remains to be seen [but Congress and BJP are unlikely candidates]
Kerala: Seems like the Left may stage a comeback

Thus, it is a very fractured state of affairs and horse trading will once again come into the picture. Time is ticking - tick tock tick tock ---- people of India restless for a change

Foreign investors waiting for policy paralysis to get over. May the best happen to our country. Last but not the least, there will be a lot of lessons on humility, politicial strategy that will emerge after these elections. Things never heard of, thought of before will come into the foray. Many old hands will be gone for good.

One question that still remains unanswered and will remain unanswered for a long time: IF IAS, IPS and judiciary have retirement ages, why can't there be an upper age limit for politicians and leaders???

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Countdown To Elections - State Poll Review

So after a long time, we have seen some key changes in the political landscape of the nation.

Delhi - Congress has been booted out comprehensively and although AAP came in second, it is a significant achievement considering that they are contesting elections for the first time in the country.

Chattisgarh polls remain inconclusibe.

MP was expected to be status quo - the same was reflected in the outcome.

The real surprise though came in Rajashtan. Status quo was expected but BJP has swept past the Congress comprehensively.

This is a wake up call for the UPA and as mentioned earlier, the more Rahul Gandhi is promoted by Congress, the more people's perception that he is a 'Buddhu' will get cemented. If the UPA is serious about going in for the 3rd term, they need to ensure that the PM candidate is P Chidambaram. The family lineage etc is not something that will resonate with modern Indians.

All the euphoria apart, we must remember that these are state level polls. The polls for the centre are a different order all together but fact remains that there is not too much time between current results and summer elections. By and large, the proportion of votes will be the same as the ones that were cast this time around.

Also it is critical to note that on a national scale, the BJP/NDA has a real shortage of ministers who can take care of a lot of portfolios with finesse. Nevertheless, for now its mirror mirror on the wall for Congress. It is not late to do damage control but they need to shake themselves out of inertia and anachronism.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Countdown To Elections 2014 - Part3

So every 4 weeks, we are getting more and more media bytes of politicians taking pot shots at each other in a game of one-upmanship. Rahul Gandhi is on an overdrive to prove himself the complete buddhu that he is.

It initially started with 'Poverty is a state of mind' and spending time with the poor. Then he was quite garrulous in his statement that it doesn't matter what the cost is, the poor must have food security. [Well Mr. Gandhi, since poverty is a state of mind, isn't it better that you contribute from the trukloads of black money you have stashed and foot the bill?!?! Why bother the tax payers to help you bribe the poor voters]

Then came the real political drama where-in the law is first tossed in favor of convicted politicians and then Mr. Buddhu comes and says it is rubbish blah blah and all the twitterati and media rants followed. This has really compelled people to ask the question WTF is going on in Congress at the moment? Who is in charge? Who has the say because at the end of it all, it is some member from the Gandhi family who takes either the money, or the fame or both canceling all incentives from senior party leaders to even think of working for a change.

Next comes another political drama yet again of Telangana and Seemandhra. Yet another futile exercise as it will cause more harm than good for the tax payers and fuel unnecessary duels. Well, its just like the government coming and telling you - 'Sorry mate, we are the currently elected members and are doing our best to bribe the voters and what happens after that is your problem. You just have to pay and sulk as usual! And don't tell me that it happens in India alone it happens all over' Any common man who replies saying, 'Ok sir, I agree even Germany and US and UK do the same thing but then they at least ensure that the infrastructure is in place, social security is in place'. The obvious snub on this would be 'Boss - yeh India hai. 100 Crore ki aabaadi hai - sab kuch jo videsh mein hota hai, yahan nahi hota. Hum toh bas satta ke liye kuch bhi karenge'

We had 2 major calamities, one in the form of Phailin and the other was the stampede at a temple in MP. The Congress was quick to pounce upon the MP CM and said that the incident happened in his regime, etc etc etc. Well the Congress should have been the last party to take such soft pot shots; under the Congress regime, we have had 2 rueful rape cases [reported and highlighted by the press] One in Delhi and one in Mumbai [both of which are Congress territory] We had a sad Uttarakhand disaster [again a Congress foothold] and it was the armed forces that came to the rescue. Unfortunately, our leaders from both Congress and BJP are resorting to cheap politics to take jibes at each other when the core tragic issues are something else all together.

The Congress has used almost all ammunition possible to bribe voters big time as we move closer to the elections

1 - Poor class - albeit the votebank won over with Food Security Bill.

2 - Middle class - with the sudden 4 rupee reduction in petrol price [I thought the budget was made with Rupee-Dollar below 56 after which the series of increases kicked in. CAD was an issue. Oh no - with elections around the corner, all these issues are futile]

Moreover, the 7th Pay commission has been approved and passed out [There are yet so many who are yet to see the benefits of the 5th Pay commission, let alone the 6th Pay commission. Rampant loot by PSU officials and MPs in the name of LTA]

3 - Business class is being wooed with tax amnesty, banking licenses and suddenly, the defunct industries that were shut down or clamped with taxation issues are reviving. Spectrum prices are decreasing sharply in the auctions [and simultaneously the CAG is getting snubbed with calculation of 1.76Lakh Crores of lost money]

In a nut shell, the Congress government has almost used every trick in the book possible to entice voters. Whether that will really translate to votes, time will tell.

On the other hand, Modi is strengthening himself in public speeches and taking royal swipes at the Congressmen. However, there is a very real risk in this particular strategy. One must remember that with all due credit to his visionary leadership, he is now over-shadowing the local candidates. Good oratory skills can get you those quick wins of taalis and seetis amongst the crowd and overflowing tweets from all media channels wanting to report the metaphors. One man can only do so much as a leader and the strength of Narendra Modi is his fortress, Gujarat. He may have some cheer now for the party in the form of momentum but this strategy is not really going to work out in favor of Modi or BJP.

At the end of it all, there is a proper set of lieutenants to be setup and that somehow is not happening with the BJP at the moment. All that they are doing is taking jibes at Congress but those can't really swing elections moving forward.

The other cartoon Mulayam Singh Yadav has the audacity to say that a 3rd front will come into power. Both cartoon father and son have not realized that the people of this country have lost all respect for them. They may do what they want in UP - but for how long GOD alone knows.

In fact, what has surprised me the most is the level of under-estimation politicians have done in terms of awareness levels of people. Thanks to media proliferation and specifically social media proliferation, news travels at the speed of light - literally. And news is not limited to the daily newspaper or the eveninger or a particular channel. Most of our political leaders at the moment seem to have mentally retarded themselves in late 1980s and early 1990s. On one hand they talk about demographic dividend but on the other hand, they seem to have not realized how much things have changed.

There are a lot of illusions that the young have and some of those die the natural death in course of life maturity. However, most of our political leaders seemed to have completely lost track on how smart and educated the youth of new India our. Maybe due to inertia, this time they may get through. However, if our political leaders don't tune into the fact that they are simply making a fool of themselves with never ending foot in the mouth disease loose statements, they are rapidly shaking the confidence of the youth on ekected leaders.

In fact, what was most refreshing to see was the efforts made by Narendra Modi to connect with the youth of the country. True, it may very well be that he has a team of young people giving social media bytes on his behalf but what he is gesturing is something very significant. The message seems to be 'I agree that the world is changing and I would like to tune myself as much as possible to the social mood' On the other hand most leaders from all parties are still doing what they used to do 20 years ago. Even Bollywood and Television change the themes of their programs on the basis of what people like. Not so with our politicians. It has been time and again reported that the 12 crore new voters can swing the elections big time, this time. This has been covered by all leading media outlets and a strange statistic is that no single party has garnered 12 crore votes so far in the last few elections [thanks to poor voter turnout]

The only other MLA/MP I see active on social media is Derek O Brein. All the quiz elements that he posts, I enjoy [come on I grew up watching earlier BQC shows and reading all the BQC books he published] All his mouthpiece elements for TMC, I ignore [but not before I have snubbed him on DiDigiri and TMCs' rogue practices] I really don't expect anything positive from the senior leaders in terms of social media contribution.
However, the sense of responsibility of thinking through before speaking is near zero. Especially when this happens from senior people like Sheila Dikshit, Digvijay Singh, one really has to ask the compelling question 'Is the stress of doing all this for the party so stressful to you. Boss - you seem one stop away from being admitted to one of the NIMHANS centres and administered some electric shocks - you have gone senile!]

Senility has taken over common sense as far as most oldies in the world of Indian politics are concerned. In fact it is high time that we change the constitution strengthening the eligibility criteria for politicians.

1] Education: Must be at least a Graduate from a Tier1 university [Hardly any US senator gets the chair without a degree from the Ivy League Universities]

2] Age: If IAS / IPS / Judiciary are all set to retire by 60-62 years of age, why do we have senior citicns in the parliament? They are not blue blooded people; if the arterial forces of the country have a specification to hang their boots, nothing should stop politicians from staying within that age limit.

3] Qualification for Portfolio: We can't have actors like Shatrughan Sinha handling Shipping or Zero Sibbal handling Telecom.

So where does the jury stand after all the hooplah of last 5 weeks?

UPA: Still a 60% chance of making it
NDA: Still a  40% chance of making it
3rd Front: ZERO

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Countdown To Elections 2014 - Part2

Well from 12th August '13 till date, there have been quite a few headlines so lets review how things stand

The recipe for disaster has been spelt by the current PM, MMS; one thing is very very clear - if Rahul Gandhi is announced as the PM, candidate, UPA-3 will be a distant dream. He has disappointed the youth brigade and has already demonstrated his incompetence in the CII meet. His attempt to connect with people of UP also have been flopshows. Indian youth has changed, preferences have changed and it seems like Congress has still not woken up to that fact. If it wants to avoid a political disaster, Rahul Gandhi needs to step aside and follow his mother's footsteps.

Foot in the mouth disease has grappled Congress leaders big time. Just to highlight a few issues

Mr. Oily [Veerappan Moily] acknowledged challenges of oil imports. He went on to suggest that petrol pumps should be closed from 8pm to 8am. BS - shot down. About conservation of fuel by MPs, MLAs and their convoys, no answers. [and as anticipated, the BJP who slams every problem on UPA or the Left Groups chose to stay mum. Obviously, they also enjoy the benefits with their MP/MLA status. Well we have no shortages of hypocrites in India!]

Mr. Antony is completely clueless about whats happening at the borders. We fully understand that you are clueless but please stop shooting from the hip! Right from Nehru days, our babus have failed to acknowledge the independent talents of our armed forces. Just allow them some autonomy to resolve issues and they will do a fantastic job. If the army was given a free hand to handle the Pakistan issue instead of interference by Nehru, we would not have Pakistan / JnK challenges today.

Mr. Sharad Pawar acknowledges that we have about INR 44000 crores worth of food wastage due to improper storage facilities. That acknowledgement itself is proof of his incompetence. If in 2 terms as food and agriculture minister, you could not reduce at least half of this wastage, then you have no right to continue.

Mr. Chidambaram went on an overdrive last week, talking about various challenges. His claim is that our external debt is going to be capped at 4.8% of GDP. Outrageous; all that UPA-2 has been doing is increasing expenditure big time and ballooning government expenses. Over and above that, the Food Security Bill has come through, subsidies on mobiles, tablets etc etc are being doled out [pre-election bribes to the voters, we know] On the currency front, the only thing that is harped about is Gold. The only thing that has been spoken about is that Iran accepts payments in Rupees. BRICS bank is also fine but the first and foremost thing we need to do is agree on Currency Swaps with our major partners. It is surprising to see that a country like Japan comes back to India and agrees to treble the Currency Swap window to USD 50 Billion worth of payments.

Ideally, India should be reaching out to high trade partners like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, South Africa and create Currency Swap windows. We can accept Thai Bahts for our payments and they can accept Indian Rupees. Similarly for Chinese Remnibi, Malaysian Rinngits, South African Rands etc. By doing this, we emerging nations are internally ring-fencing ourselves against dollar strength against which all these countries are suffering as well. The whole thing boils down to 'Who will bell the cat?'

I think this is the right time to do it with the new RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan. Let us wait till his announcements on 20th September in his first press conference.

However, from an elections perspective, Chidambaram [and Cngress] has played a master stroke this time. Banks and business houses welcome the new RBI chief. On the other hand with more and more subsidies being doled out, the rural and lower income groups have been targeted. As usual, the hope is that the educated urban/middle class does not vote in large numbers.

Now the other side of the fence

Narendra Modi has been slowly gaining momentum and as most reporters have rightly reported, vast majority of Indians are pro-Modi anti-BJP. The VHP tried to create a stir in Varanasi but couldn't gather scream. This is not 1993 and large swings on the basis of Hindutva won't work.

Modi's work in Gujarat is exemplary; Mundra port came up as a leading shipping terminal de-congesting Nhava Sheva and Mumbai. Over a period of time, over 40% of exports from West, Central and North India will be routed through Mundra port. Without the able guidance and empowerment by Modi, this would not have been possible. As I mentioned earlier as well, Narendra Modi has taken a lot of positive steps towards training and development of government employees. Having seen success of B'lore, Hyd'Bad and Chennai in the ITeS sector, he is facilitating development of the same in Gujarat. Under the leadership of Narendra Modi, Gujarat has set a precedent in adopting renewable energy sources like Wind Energy and Solar Energy. The way Gujarat is adopting this technology, it will soon surpass Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in use of renewable energy. We must remember that he is ultimately human; there is only so much he can do alone. after that he needs the efforts and energies of the team under him and he has a strong track record.

The larger question is how successful can he be on the national scale where dynamics change? Even in a democracy, sometimes, a hard line is needed and Modi has been able to do that in Gujarat. Linguistic advantages, familiarity with local nuances has helped him achieve. No human being is perfect. 2002 riots, fake encounters etc are some of the factors weighing down on him. However, as I have mentioned earlier as well, post-2002, we have not seen communal riots erupting in Gujarat. On the other hand, because business has flourished well in Gujarat, the prohibition of alcohol seems very stupid. Gujarat black market of alcohol is amongst the top 3 in India.

Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj need to support Modi well. With Swamy coming in, there is a booster on the economic and legal fronts. What a lot of people including members in the Congress fail to realize that Raghuram Rajan and Swamy will enjoy more camaraderie than Chidambaram and Raghuram. Simply because their education backgrounds and outlooks have more similarities than differences. Nevertheless, the sad fact for BJP is that momentum is still a concern. The association with RSS and VHP on a national scale, earlier a strength is now a big drag for them. It was also very stupid on part of BJP to say that Food Security Bill is an election gimmick and inflationary consequences. Well they also voted in favor of the bill, hoping to cash in on the gimmick.

I think they should hope that Congress announces that Rahul Gandhi is the PM candidate of UPA-3. This will be the game changer in favor of BJP/NDA. The youth, business houses, educated class will all unanimously reject Rahul baba and UPA if this goes through. i don't think the Congress is so stupid to do this but if they do, BJP can celebrate victory in advance. Also public anger against MMS has increased so much that nominating him for the 3rd term is also a big disaster. Public will unanimously reject this option as well.

So till the time the official announcements of candidates don't go through, I am personally assuming that Chidambaram will be the PM candidate from UPA and Narendra Modi will be the PM candidate from NDA.

I don't take into account any of the opinion polls posted by various media channels because these are not like Gallop Polls where the data samples are mined through a representative electoral data set. Let us take a cursory look at different states and what can emerge

North-East: They will go more or less the same way as in the past. Barring a few aberrations due to Chinese incursions, outcome expected to be status quo.

West Bengal wants debt waivers from centre. Congress can bite the bullet here but DiDiGiri is more of a drag for UPA. The best is to leave TMC alone and the people of WB at state level will set things right.

JnK is a sensitive area and very difficult to predict till the last minute; on balance status quo expected
Punjab: A change expected due to current economic situation of the state. Congress may use this opportunity to swing the situation
Haryana: Status quo expected
Rajasthan: Status quo expected
UP - Lots of things happening. No single party is good. Ummeed ki cycle has got flat tyres, BSP's elephants
have drained the tax payers. CBI and Congress will hold power here [CBI = Congress Bureau of India]
Uttarakhand: They will vote against Congress/ Coalation this time in all likelihood

Delhi: The current election holds the key. I really hope that the people of Delhi boot out Sheila Dikshit and let AAP take over. The administration that wins Delhi election will replicate itself

Rajasthan: Status quo

Ktaka: Congress will emerge winner in all likelihood just as was the case in the state elections
AP: Telangana = Congress Exit; United AP = Congress - the equation is simple
TN: The coalition partner that bribes the most will get the support
Kerala: Congress/ Allies have better chances

West / Central:
Gujarat: Narendra Modi will emerge as single largest winner - undoubtedly
MP: Status quo expected
Maharashtra: Lots of Power-Play here, literally and figuratively ;)
Goa: If Parrikar plays his cards right and gets voting in favor of mining redemption, then its BJP in all likelihood.
Chattisgarh and Jharkand will be gunda-raj as usual.

As we can see, in this rudimentary glance itself, the diversity factor in India comes into play. Many politicians are still banking on the fact that the educated middle class will take election day as a welcome break. I personally foresee a very high degree of voting by educated middle class this time and this will swing.

India is changing and the change hungry India is more keen to see which ministers will hold which portfolio rather than the party itself. Narendra Modi and Swamy together can pre-empt this by getting a core committee [agree some cards have to be witheld] so that we can at least see who handles what

[Please note that the names I have mentioned here are my independent personal opinions]
Key Sectors
Finance: I would like to see Swamy in this post

Defence: UPA has a horrible track record. I personally feel that this should be handed over to at least an ex-defence head. Our politicians will be embroiled

Home Ministry: Ditto. I would like to see Sushma Swaraj in this position. Women need to progress in society and Sushma Swaraj has both the left brain intelligence and right brain empathy to handle sensitive issues. Let us not forget that she was an NCC cadet herself and when push comes to shove, she can do it.
Since latest memories stay longer, she made the mistake of walking out too often in the recent past from discussions.

Oil Ministry: Ditto - I think Yashwant Sinha should take this. The situation when he was finance minister was different. Now we need his skills here or perhaps in Corporate Affairs.

Railways: Time to get back Lalu Prasad Yadav regardless of who wins and also ensure that the IAS officer who was the right hand man of Lalu during his Railway ministry Sudhir Kumar at the helm.

Aviation: Ajit Singh has been a disaster. Praful Patel is a good project starter not finisher; but if the NDA is more progressive in thinking, it could very well hand out some portfolios to opposition based on merit. Last time NDA gave Shahnawaz Hussain this portfolio and he wrecked tax payers money big time. [Leasing airplanes at 4 times the prevailing market rates??? ]

Shipping: Please appoint somebody with a background in shipping and logistics. Last time NDA created disaster by giving this portfolio to Shatrughan Sinha who has zero shipping / logistics knowledge.
[See Im telling you - the youth in India are far more informed today and are doing their homework on who is who. Be it UPA or NDA, merely slamming the opposition won't do. The young brigade goes beyond white lies in media - they will dig out information!]

Telecom: Right now we have Zero Sibbal! Arun Jaitley should take this. There is still a lot to be done and his BCCI ventures should help this sector further

Information n Broadcasting: No suitable candidate visible from BJP. UPA can field one of their 3 musketeers

See - so many key portfolios to be filled and the names in NDA are drying up. The major challenge being their coalition partners. RSS, VHP, SS, MNS are all gundaraj people. As much as they criticize incumbents, fact is that NDA has a poor track record in key portfolios that impact the common man [some listed above]

Phew - that was a very very long post indeed for Part2. I will be sharing this on Twitter as well with some of the leaders who are active there.

The scale is still tilted in favor of UPA-3 to the extent Chidambaram is the PM candidate from UPA.

Next Update: 15th October 2012

Monday, August 12, 2013

Count-Down To Elections - Part1

Well we are in a crucial phase of countdown to elections 2014 in India. One section in India is looking for anti-Congress rule whilst the others believe that NaMo and NaMonia will sweep away the polls. Some more are still looking at a potential 3rd front [and a new contender for the same is AAP in isolation]

As we are all aware, the 3rd front is a distinct dream and will not materialize in the near term, especially with the credentials of people involved in such a dream. AAP can be a very formidable force but it is in very nascent stages and it is impossible for them to sweep the polls this time at least. So it boils down to the 2 major fronts i.e. the Congress-led UPA force and BJP-led NDA force. That is all that elections 2014 will be all about.

My primary interests are the capital markets in India and business sentiment but those sentiments definitely are looking for clarity in political leadership in any country and hence I would run this piece till we have the final results in place. The observations, recommendations made on this blog will be purely my personal views and I do not represent any political party or affiliations.

Since India is a land of Vedic knowledge, I will first begin with an astrological perspective with my limited knowledge of Vedic Astrology. In 2013, the major planet Jupiter is transiting through Gemini, an Air Sign with ample room for confusing communication in the world overall. This transit will go till June 2014 after which Jupiter will move into the Water Sign of Cancer. Towards the end of 2014, Saturn will move from the Air Sign of Libra to the Water Sign of Scorpio. So what are the implications of these 2 findings for the next Prime Minister of India? Cancer is ruled by Moon. The next leader of India will in all likelihood be a hard-headed person to the extent that at times may be eccentric. Overall, Cancer signifies a no-nonsense attitude towards his/her subjects. Scorpio is again a water sign, indicating a person with stubborn attitude, and somebody with the capability to sting opposition left, right and centre. To summarize, the new leadership in 2014 in India will be a group of leaders with minimal coalition members, and a slightly hard-line approach towards administration and ruling. '

Since the UPA government is in power right now, let us quickly do their SWOT analysis.
First part, this party is led by the Gandhi family predominantly and has a lot of momentum behind it. With due credit to Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram, they did usher in a lot of positive reforms into India despite so many external challenges and having to appease so many stakeholders. However, we must also remmeber that Manmohan Singh is pretty old and won't be able to take on the mantle further. He has personally been very fiery in his first stint as finance minister in the 1990s and in UPA-1/2 regime, he has managed to pass a lot of good reforms with the help of P Chidambaram.

Whilst his silence on many issues has become the butt of jokes in social media, fact is that his hands are tied up and he has not risen up to the challenge to speak out. P Chidambaram is a very well educated person and has been extremely business-friendly with his economic policies. Certain deteriorating economic factors are simply beyond anybody's control as they are governed by externalities.  However, 3 major points go against P Chidambaram in the current state of affairs

1. Highly inflationary policies as far as the common man is concerned [The benefits accrue to a few super-rich who were by and large indifferent anyways]

2. Lots of abuse of power and ensuring personal benefits to family members to thrive [most important to note are the rise of India Bulls and the Maxis-Aircel deal] One can bring in a lot of counter-arguments and invoke legal mechanisms that will ensure that arguments, counter-arguments keep moving around in a vicious circle and go on forever. That he is extremely corrupt and does things under a very nice veil with glib talking is an open secret.

3. He creates an illusion of creating benefits for the middle class and needy but then ensures that subsequent addendum to the policies offset all of that and further suck out sums from the wallet is also a known thing.

On balance of all factors put together, from the UPA perspective, he is the most suitable Prime Ministerial candidate. Rahul Gandhi as a PM candidate is sure short and fast forward suicide for Congress. Rahul Gandhi just like many others brought in some anticipation of positive expectations from the people. However, he simply does not have the abilities nor the conviction to lead India. Thanks to the company of his mentor, he has developed a chronic foot in the mouth disease. He is simply not articulate enough to address the business community and has 0 knowledge of challenges in India at grass-root levels.

The Congress nevertheless has 3 musketeers from the young brigade i.e. Jyotirao Scindia, Sachin Pilot and Milind Deora. All are well educated, again very friendly with business communities and have ushered some positive changes with their limited experience and time in portfolios allotted to them. The choice of Defence Ministers though has been pathetic in the UPA regime over the last 8 years and so is the case with Home Ministers. 2 ominous elements that have worsened the Congress stand in India are Kapil Sibal and Veerappan Moily. Kapil Sibal has made a joke out of the important aspect of education in India. Veerappan Moily has acknowledged that India is moving towards 90% dependence on oil imports but has not taken any positive steps that will have longer term positive impact on the CAD.

The alliance with NCP and food ministry with Sharad Pawar has worsened the situation of both farmers and end consumers in India [farmers have not become richer despite high consumer prices whilst all the bumper harvests at different times have not made any difference to the common man's expenses] On balance we still ensure that a lot of food is wasted in India and then subsequently import a lot of agricultural produce and it is again an open secret that Sharad Pawar makes money both ways [and not to forget all the proceeds from cricket and real estate!]

Corruption undoubtedly has been part and parcel with politics right throughout and that is the case in all economies. The corruption during the UPA regime has been as inflationary as the economy has been. The government has a lot to answer but we must not forget of one critical element; with media proliferation over the last 5 years, it is just that the extent of reporting that has gone up compared to the past. Am I advocating this corruption. No Im just saying that we need to take things with a pinch of salt. Action needs to be taken and the government has fallen short of taking appropriate actions and mitigating steps.

To summarize, if the Congress wants to get UPA-3 in power the following steps are critical
1. P. Chidambaram as the Prime Minister
2. Rahul Gandhi out from the parliament affairs [and perhaps follow his mom's footsteps to handle the remote control]
3. Greater role for the 3 musketeers, Jyotirao Scindia, Sachin Pilot and Milind Deora
4. Stonewall Digvijay Singh, Veerappan Moily and Sharad Pawar
5. Strike chords with the real youth, control inflation and improve the business climate of India.

Now we come to the new force that is fast picking momentum, the BJP-led NDA

I think that party internally has sent down some strong messages and is trying to ride the Narendra Modi wave and gain anti-incumbency mileage. Things that have been going right for Narendra Modi

1. He has adopted social media platforms and has done well to connect with people.
2. He understands the challenges of people at grassroot levels and brings policies accordingly
3. He understands the importance of thriving business communities for economic progress
4. Extremely good in striking a chord with the masses with his oratory skills.
5. Sound administrator as reflected in Gujarat [one must note that Modi has instilled the doctrine of Employee Training and Development in the bureacratic machinery of Gujarat just as corporates would do to their employees]

A lot is spoken about Modi's role in Godhra riots and it may have been the case that some of them are true. It is not surprising as he was led by LK Advani who was blatantly responsible for the 1993 communal riots and this aspect is a part of the DNA of BJP. However, let us not forget that Congress too has had a role in creating communal disharmony directly or indirectly time and again. What actually stands out for Gujarat is that post-Godhra, no riots have taken place in Gujarat in grand scale. Surat has become plague free. Mundhra port came up and displaced Kandla big time [an achievement of Adani group but could not have been possible without government assistance]. When the Singur issue came up in Bengal for Tata Motors, the transition to Gujarat was smooth.

On the other hand, he has been just sticking to the anti-Congress factor which is a good start but then he also needs to spell out his game plan [may not be in full detail but a basic blue-print nevertheless] In the rise of creating NaMo waves, he still has been running a lone crusader's role. He displaced LK Advani fine but still, there are no visible signs of good camaraderie and teamwork in any press conference and rallies so far. One must remember that there is only so much that he can do as an individual. People must see that the party comes together as one unit especially the central think tank of Narendra Modi, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley Yashwant Sinha and now Subramaniam Swamy. This is also a point where there are some kinks for the NDA force. We must also not forget that just as is the case with Congress, BJP also has a Gandhi heir in the form of Varun Gandhi. Again a brat with limited thinking capacity and a chronic verbal diarrhea prone politician. He needs to be shunted out too and the mistakes of the past must not be repeated at all [for instance Shatrughan Sinha as Shipping Minister, Shahnawaz Hussain as Aviation Minister etc] The educated class do not have ghajini memory always!!!

The second and third rung of administrators seem largely absent or incompetent. Moreover, if NDA vies for power in centre, the Lokayukta in Gujarat is going to be very critical. Other wise it is like pointing fingers on someone for corruption whilst they themselves are in the same boat. Moreover, their once strong holding in Karnataka has seen the power of Lokayukta and hence people at large want to see a chorus and similarity - not differences.

Subramanium Swamy's joining forces with BJP is a very big positive. Whilst he himself maybe looking for the PM's post, IMHO, he is best suited to be the next FM for India. The RBI Governor in Raghuram and FM in Swamy will be a very potent combination for the business with Narendra Modi at the helm. However, without visible signs of unity, a united voice and a distinct action plan, the chances of NDA at the centre may get thwarted as anti-Congress can only be the starting point not the end. Moreover, they need to ensure buy-in from bureaucrats and it would be ideal if BJP can bring AAP into its armour.

To summarize, as things stand today, there are still probabilities
As on 12th August 2013, my probability estimate is as follows

Objective Analysis
UPA-3: 50% Probability
NDA: 50% Probability
3rd Front: Zero Probability

Clear Single Majority Result Probability: 10%

Which party will gain power: The one that has maximum youth power and educated / street smart people. Election 2014 will prove that vote-bank politics won't sustain and that is something I am certain about.

Clock is ticking tick-tock-tick-tock