Indian Thought

S Chandrasekharan – Indian Scientist …

Posted on October 20, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, Indian Thought, Personalities |

Professor Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar Why Google honours him today?

In his honour, Google is changing its logo in 28 countries to a doodle, or illustration, of him and the Chandrasekhar Limit.

Described as a “child prodigy” and hailed as the first astrophysicist to win a Nobel Prize for his theory on the evolution of stars, Diwali on Thursday would have been Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar’s 107th birthday.

But in his lifetime, the Indian American astrophysicist was not always recognised for his achievements. This is his story:

Born in Lahore in 1910 to a Tamil family, Chandrasekhar was home tutored until age 12. In his autobiography, Chandrasekhar referred to his mother as “My mother Sita was a woman of high intellectual attainments”. His uncle, Sir CV Raman, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930. Also in 1930, Chandrasekhar completed his bachelor’s degree in physics at the Presidency College in Madras, India (known today as Chennai).

Chandrasekhar was then awarded a scholarship by the government of India to pursue graduate studies at the University of Cambridge in the UK. He completed his PhD studies in 1933.

Married to Lalitha Doraiswamy in the southern Indian city of Madras, Chandrasekhar praised his wife’s “patient understanding, support, and encouragement” and called those the “central facts of my life”.

Working as a researcher at Cambridge University, Chandrasekhar made his most significant discovery, which became known as the Chandrasekhar Limit. But his colleagues were sceptical of his discovery and sought to discredit it. According to the Open University, English astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington persuaded Chandrasekhar to present his findings at the Royal Astronomical Society in London on January 11, 1935.

At the astronomical society, Eddington then gave a lecture to “demolish the young researcher’s calculations and theory, dismissing it as mere mathematical game playing”.

More than 30 years later, in 1966, scientific research with computers and the hydrogen bomb gave credit to Chandrasekhar’s calculations. Black holes, central to Chandrasekhar’s theory, were identified in 1972. His calculations contributed to the understanding of supernovas, neutron stars and black holes.

In 1937, Chandrasekhar emigrated to the US and started working at the University of Chicago. During World War II, he was invited to join the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos to make a nuclear bomb, but delays in the processing of his security clearance prevented him from joining.

Chandrasekhar contributed to the war effort, working for the Ballistic Research Laboratory in Maryland. In 1953, 16 years after he came to the US, Chandrasekhar was granted US citizenship. He died in Chicago at the age of 85.

In his book, Truth and Beauty, he offered his advice to aspiring scientists, “What a scientist tries to do essentially is to select a certain domain… and see if that takes its appropriate place in a general scheme which has form and coherence; and, if not, to seek further information which would help him to do that.”

In his autobiographical sketch for the Nobel Prize ceremony, he described what motivated his scientific quest, “When, after some years of study, I feel that I have accumulated a sufficient body of knowledge and achieved a view of my own, I have the urge to present my point of view, ab initio, in a coherent account with order, form, and structure”.

In an interview, Chandrasekhar praised the US, “I have one advantage here in the United States. I have enormous freedom. I can do what I want. Nobody bothers me. What a scientist tries to do essentially is to select a certain domain … and see if that takes its appropriate place in a general scheme”

When Chandrasekhar was 43, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. At the age of 56, he was awarded the National Medal of Science for his numerous contributions to stellar astronomy, physics and applied mathematics.

At the age of 61, he was honoured with the Draper Medal from the US National Academy of Science for his leadership in, and major contributions to, the field of astrophysics.

In 1983, at 73 years of age, Chandrasekhar shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with William Fowler for his “theoretical studies of the physical processes of importance to the structure and evolution of the stars”. That is, how shining stars eventually become “black holes” or “white dwarfs”.

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Ladakh …

Posted on October 4, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Uncategorized |

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-40404852?ocid=global_bbccom_email_02102017_top+news+stories+india

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Indian Math and Music …

Posted on September 26, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

Prof. K. Ramasubramanian from IIT, Mumbai, delivered a lecture titled “Glimpses of Indian Mathematics: Sutra Style to Paragon of Poetry” at MIT on Sunday, August 13, 2017.

In this talk organized by Samskrita Bharati Boston and MIT Samskritam, Prof. K. Ramasubramanian offered an illuminating view of Indian Mathematics over the ages, its unique approach based on poetry rather than prose, the need for such an approach, and presented many surprising facts about mathematical results ranging from algebra and trigonometry through calculus, that were discovered in India much before the West.

For example, Fibonacci numbers are described in Bharata’s Natya Shastra. Prof. Ramasubramanian mostly used the work of Pingala (prior to 300 BCE), Bhaskara (12th century CE) and Nityananda (17th century CE), mathematicians from three different periods of history to illustrate his ideas.

It was fascinating as well as amusing to learn how complex ideas in Math were taught and transmitted over the millennia via the medium of delightful poetry, in effect giving a musical character to Mathematics! Here are highlights from his talk.
Music in Mathematics

In most of the world, technical literature is written in prose, while poetry is reserved for subjects involving fantasy and feeling. However, a significant corpus of scientific and mathematical literature in the Indian tradition have been composed in Sanskrit verses that can set to melodious music.

This approach was driven by compulsion, because the Indian learning tradition was an oral tradition where ideas are captured and transmitted via sound rather than the written word. There was an element of choice also to this approach because structuring a concept as musical poetry makes it fun and easy to memorize.

For example, this verse (link to recitation) captures the date of its composition in musical form (in a meter known as “shaardUla vikriiDita”). The chanted verse actually describes the following set of simultaneous equations: y=m2, t = y/2, v= t x 3, b = v/2, that when solved will yield the exact date of the verse’s composition (April 25, 1629)!

This musical method of conveying ideas in Math has been used for representing numbers, specifying the value of pi and representing it as an infinite series, specifying expressions for sums of series, and even computing the derivative of a quotient, among other things!

The earliest shaastras were composed in sutra style, for example Panini’s grammar, and Bodhayana’s shulba (measurement) sUtras – see “Pythagorean” theorem above. A sutra is a pithy aphorism and its length is not uniformly regulated, and is not really constrained by any metrical discipline.

The rules of prosody (chandas shaastra) were composed later in the 2nd century BCE by Pingala-naga (though Prof. Ramasubramanian believes that Pingala may have predated Panini, based on the coarser style of the sUtras used in chandas shaastra), and consists of two classes of meters, one based on number of syllables (varNa vRRittaH), and another based on the number of beats (maatraa vRRittaH).

The later shaastras were set to these poetic meters, and are more musical to hear than sutras. Use of a meter restricts the choice of words that can be used in a verse, and therefore created challenges in conveying mathematical ideas. This resulted in some innovations such as the “khyughRRi” representation invented by Aryabhata, and the number naming system of “bhUta sa~Nkhyaa”.

The khyughRRi notation for instance used vowels to denote powers of 10 and consonants for other numbers (e.g., ka=1, ki=100, ku=100000), and created new (but difficult to pronounce) words such as “khyughRRi” (=4.32 million) for numbers used in astronomical calculations. The “bhUta sa~Nkhyaa” approach employs representative ideas to stand in for numbers that these ideas are typically associated with.

For example, the word “eye” (netra) represents the number two (we have two eyes), “veda” represents the number four (there are four vedas), and “aakaasha” (space – is empty) the number zero. Further a composer can choose from any of the numerous synonyms of these words which may each have a different number of syllables to meet metrical requirements in a verse. For example, “kham”, “vyoma”, “aakaasha” are all synonyms for “sky” but with different number (1, 2 and 3 respectively) of syllables.

An example of “bhUta sa~Nkhyaa” may be found here, where bhU” (earth) represents the number one, and “baaNa” (arrows of manmatha) represents the number five.

Meters based on syllables and beats lead to innovations that are today known by the names of scientists in the West who also discovered them much later. For example, Pascal’s triangle, which captures binomial coefficients in a triangular array of numbers, is described by the concept of “meru prastaara” (arrangement in the form of a mountain), the construction of which is described by a Sanskrit verse composed by Halaayudha.

Prof. Ramasubramanian presents this verse and its translation here. Each level of the “meru prastaara” captures the number and types of meters that are possible for a given number of syllables. When the number of beats is fixed instead of the number of syllables, and a rhythm is constructed either using a set of ‘laghu’ (1 beat long) or ‘guru’ (2 beats long) units, determining the number of rhythms possible leads to the discovery of what is known as the Fibonacci sequence in the west.

Prof. Manju Bhargava from Princeton University, the young winner of the 2014 Fields Medal (considered by many as the Nobel Prize equivalent in Mathematics), who as a tabla player encountered this problem of number of rhythms given a fixed number of beats, popularized the fact that this problem has been solved before Fibonacci (1202 CE) by an Indian Mathematician known as Hemachandra (1150 CE).

Fibonacci numbers are now also referred to as “Hemachandra numbers” by many. Prof. Ramasubramanian pointed out that there are mathematicians even before Hemachandra, such as Virahanka (600 CE), Pingala (200 CE), and Bharata (100 CE) who described the same idea.

In fact, these numbers are described in Bharata’s “naaTya shaastra”. To add to the fun, the Hemachandra numbers can be derived from the “meru prastaara” by adding along the diagonals.

Prof. Ramasubramanian also presented verses from Bhaskaracharya’s Lilavati, that has problems at the level of high school algebra expressed as poetry. One verse dealt with a problem involving a single variable linear equation.

This verse expresses what would now be called a “word problem”, but with a poetic touch and describes a collection of bees split divided into various fractions groups. Here is a link to the recitation of the verse. Another verse described a “word problem” involving a quadratic equation.

The problem uses a setting in the “Mahabharata” war and deals with the number of arrows that Arjuna needs to discharge to kill Karna on the battlefield (link to recitation).

A more interesting verse (link to recitation) specifies not only the sum (sankalita) of the first ‘n’ natural numbers (1+2+3+…+n = n(n+1)/2), but also the sum (sankalitaikya) of such sums: (1 + (1+2) + (1+2+3) + … (1+2+3+…n) = n(n+1)(n+2)/1.2.3).

Trigonometry was important for astronomical calculations. Prof. Ramasubramanian described the work of Nityananda, who was a brilliant astronomer in the court of Mughal Emperor Shaj Jahan, and the author of the monumental treatise “Sarvasiddhaantaraaja” (1639 CE).

In addition to original contributions, Nityananda also absorbed ideas from various sources including Arabic Astronomy and Mathematics, and incorporated them into his Sanskrit works.

Nityananda devoted 65 verses to trigonometric sine formulae, provided a summary of Arab mathematician Al-Kashi’s method for determining the sine of 1 degree, and an original procedure to solve the cubic equation that arises in Al-Kashi’s method, all in verse form. The sine formulae that he describes includes the well-known expansion for sin(a+b) = sin(a)cos(b) + cos(a)sin(b), but in verse form.

Prof. Ramasubramanian also mentioned the work of other earlier Indian mathematicians who came up with methods of computing sines, such as Aryabhata’s recurrence relation and Bhaskara’s approximation function, He also pointed out how infinite series expansions for trigonometric functions and pi – the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle, and the idea of a derivative defined in calculus appear in the work of Indian mathematicians a few centuries before Newton and Leibniz.

Prof. K. Ramasubramanian is at IIT Mumbai in the Cell for Indian Science and Technology in Sanskrit, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. He holds a doctorate in Theoretical Physics, Bachelors in Engineering, and Masters in Samskritam. His research interests include Indian Science and Technology and other disciplines such as Indian Logic and Philosophy.

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Greater than Jhansi ki Rani – ABBAKKA CHOTA – …

Posted on September 17, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

Viswanath Swanatha Bllavara –

ABBAKKA CHOTA

The year was 1555 and Portuguese colonial power was at its zenith. They had destroyed Zamorins of Calicut, defeated the Sultan of Bijapur. They had taken away Daman from the Sultan of Gujarat and Established a colony in Mylapore.

They had Captured Bombay and made Goa as their headquarters. And while they were at it pretty much unchallenged, they even ruined the ancient Kapaleeswarar Temple to build a Church..

Their next target was the super profitable port of Mangalore. Their bad luck was just 14 kilometers south of Mangalore was the small settlement of Ullal – ruled by a feisty 30 year old woman – Abbakka Chowta.

Initially, they took her lightly and sent a few boats and soldiers to capture and bring her to Goa. Those boats never came back. Enraged, they sent a fleet of ships under command of the much celebrated Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira. The Admiral returned badly wounded and empty handed.

Another Portuguese fleet was sent but only a few injured made it back.

Now the Portuguese decided on another approach THey went on to captured Mangalore port and fort and planned to tackle Mrs. Chowta from the Mangalore fort.

An army under João Peixoto, an experienced Portuguese General was sent to Ullal. The brief was simple – Subjugate Ullal and capture Abbakka Chowta.and the plan was foolproof and there was no way a 30 year old woman with a few men could withstand the might of an army with modern weapons.

The Portuguese reached Ullal and found it empty and deserted. Abbakka had disappeared and was nowhere in sight. They roamed around, relaxed and thanked their stars. Just when they were about to call it a day, Mrs Chowta attacked with 200 of her chosen warriors.

In the chaos and confusion, many portuguese lost their lives without a fight and even General João Peixoto lost his life while some 70 portuguese were captured while the rest ran away.

So there is Abbakka Chowta, who’s just defeated a large aggressor army, killed their General, captured prisoners and defended her city – but what will an ordinary person do? – Rest? No!

Rani Abbakka Chowta rode with her men towards Mangalore that same night and laid siege to the Mangalore fort.

She not just broke inside the fort but killed Admiral Mascarenhas – the Commander of the Fort and let the remaining Portuguese flee. She didn’t just stop at that but went on to capture the Portuguese settlement at Kundapura, a full 100 km north of Mangalore.

However the Portuguese eventually managed to get back at Abbakka Chowta by the usual method of betrayal and intrigue. They succeeded in bribing her estranged husband who betrayed her for power and money.
She was arrested and put in the prison and killed while attempting an escape.

Abbakka Chowta was a Jain who fought against the Portuguese with an army comprising of both Hindus and Muslims – a full 300 years before the First War of Indian Independence in 1857.

What have we Indians done for her? We just forgot her! We do not name our children after her. We do not teach about her in our History Books. Yes, we did release a Postage Stamp in her name, named a boat after her and erected 2 statues in the whole of India for one who is a true a National Hero!

We Indians remain busy arguing whether it was actually one of her daughters who fought the battles instead of her. Some talk of her being the last Indian to have had the power of the agni-ban.

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Making of a Hindu Rashtra …

Posted on September 7, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

The Wire – 30/5/2017 Injustice, Intolerance and Intimidation in the Making of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’

The veteran rationalist thinker, writer and communist leader Govind Pansare was brutally assassinated in Kolhapur on February 20, 2015. More than two years have passed, but justice remains elusive. The same is true for Narendra Dabholkar and M.M. Kalburgi, whose second death anniversary is three months away. All three men were also killed by right-wing fundamentalists.

The investigations into the assassinations have been very slow and have moved only because the Dabholkar and Pansare families have petitioned the high court to monitor the investigation. The police have managed to arrest only two suspects so far and two have been absconding. All the accused are associated with the radical Hindutva organisations Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagriti Samiti, with their totally unconstitutional agenda of establishing a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in the country.

The chargesheets filed by the police in the Dabholkar and Pansare cases clearly mention that the accusedare absconding since the Margao bomb explosion case in Goa in 2009. In spite of objections on the pressure tactics used by the lawyers of the accused and the spokespersons of Sanatan Sanstha, no action has been taken against them. The state government has not yet declared the absconding suspects as wanted in the Pansare case. The investigation officer is changed at every interval and the activists’ demand to hand over the case to a dedicated team for investigation is also pending with the government.

Fundamentalism has no religion

It is really painful to define ‘justice’ in cases where people are killed because their ideology and expression of thought are not acceptable to some. Regardless of political affiliation, the government seems to be insensitive in solving these crimes and punishing the guilty. Not even a single arrest has been made in Kalburgi’s case yet.

Fundamentalism and fanaticism is not a characteristic feature of any specific religion. Farook Hameed, a young activist of the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam (DVK), was killed by Muslim fundamentalists on March 17, 2017 in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. The DVK is an offshoot of the Dravidar Kazhagam founded by Periyar in the 1940s and propagates atheism and rationalism.

Being an atheist in individual life is something accepted by the society, but it seems one cannot propagate atheism the way others propagate a religious faith without risking one’s life. Farook openly expressed his ideology. He had posted comments about atheism, criticising religion and caste on his Facebook page. He was the administrator of a WhatsApp group called ‘Allah Murdad,’ meaning ‘There is no God’. The result: he was killed, reports say, by his own friends. Farook’s murder is in fact a threat to all Muslim youths who embrace atheism or even rationalism.

The Coimbatore incident is, in essence, no different from those where the victims belonged to the Hindu religion and were killed by Hindu fanatics.

The situation in India is growing more complex by the day. The space for free expression and freedom is shrinking rapidly. The fascist forces are trying to shut voices of freedom and we are compelled to fight the battle in the available space.

The campaign of returning awards by the writers and scientists brought the anxiety of intellectuals before society. They were concerned about everything that is going against the principle of equality, freedom of expression, cultural diversity and secular values in our nation. There have been three ‘yatras’, or journeys, of writers and poets to express solidarity with the families of Pansare, Dabholkar and Kalburgi so far. The first was a part of the Dakshinayan campaign in which 14 eminent writers from Gujarat visited Pune, Kolhapur and Dharwad, where the three rationalists were killed.

Then a team of Marathi writers and activists followed the same route during their journey to Goa for a national conference in defence of freedom of expression held in November, 2016. In February 2017, 11 members of the Progressive Writers’ Association, Madhya Pradesh travelled to Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa. They condemned the respective governments for failing to arrest the killers. Based on their dialogue with local people in these regions and their experiences, they will write books, plays and hold discussions to spread their thoughts across the Hindi speaking belt.

As the atmosphere of fear and intimidation grows, hundreds of writers and artists visited the historical place of Dandi, Gujarat to hold a silent protest march on January 30, 2016 to commemorate the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. A platform of collective voices of the left and Dalit movement was created in Mumbai Collective, while Delhi observed Pratirodh I and II with a clear stand to enjoy the right to dissent and free expression. The progressive forces in many towns, small and big, in the country have started organising programs like seminars, book publications and poetry recitations to protest against the attacks on women, minorities, progressive people and Dalit communities.

The atmosphere of fear exists, not only because of fundamentalist violence, but also because of the criminalisation of peaceful expression. Many have been attacked by the self-appointed nationalists and so-called religious people, while many from the minority communities, especially youth, have been arrested, held in pre-trial detention, and subjected to extensive criminal trials by the government machinery.

Fear of such repression, combined with uncertainty as to how the statutes will be applied, leads others to engage in self-censorship. State governments are using draconian laws such as the sedition provisions of the penal code, the criminal defamation law and laws dealing with hate speech to silence dissent. These laws have been repeatedly used for political purposes against critics.

There have been major attacks on free speech in the country from the government itself. The information and broadcasting ministry under the BJP government has become an image manager for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government’s advisory to news channels not to telecast the Nirbhaya documentary and serving a legal notice to the BBC for airing the Nirbhaya film India’s Daughter, issuing show cause notices to channels on Yakub Memon’s execution coverage, banning a documentary on beef – all of this tell their own story.

The BJP government has crushed the resistance of the students from the Film and Television Institute of India against the appointment of a pro-BJP director and has charged JNU students with sedition. It has appointed RSS affiliated people in various academic institutes.

There have been cases of deaths of journalists, intellectuals, attacks, arrests, threats, sedition, defamation and censorship of films, broadcast media, print media, music, cyber media and hate speech. The attempt to impose a one-day banon NDTV India, the filing of a complaint against an Outlook investigation on child trafficking in Assam, the trumped up cases against human rights activists in Bastar, are all attempts to silence the media and the voices of democratic dissent. Reporters covering the courts have been assaulted by lawyers, taken into police custody and their access to the courts restricted.

The time has come for thinkers, writers, poets, artists, scientists to overcome this feeling of intimidation and regenerate the society. Thinkers can become an explosive, powerful force. We have seen some examples in our freedom struggle, in Revolutionary Russia, Latin America and Africa. We have seen recently in India that the individual writers chose their timing of dissent in tandem with other fellow writers. Their act wasn’t solitary, but in solidarity with others.

At such a crucial time it will be unfortunate, if the real thinkers stop writing or speaking or expressing their views. The active thinkers can awaken society, create standards of morality, humanism and honesty and preserve them. The absence of thinkers causes civilisations to collapse. We have been observing this decay with our own eyes. The process of decaying has taken alarming speed. Make the people think aptly at individual, collective level and at the level of small groups is the first step. To create a live internal debate is the second and going to the people and thinking together, is the third.

We have seen Russel taking a stand against war, we have seen Sartre taking a stand against the US in Vietnam, and we have seen Chomsky and many others taking a stand against the aggressive foreign policy of America. Many writers opposed Franco’s dictatorship. We have seen and heard Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi doing this during many social campaigns. We have seen them expressing their views fearlessly throughout their lives.

The strategy to fight the battle with right-wing forces, in Pansare’s words, is ‘shatru-mitra vivek’ (Śatru-bandhu bibēka). The regressive forces are in power not because they have support from the majority of people, but because the progressive forces are scattered and not united. The union of the left and Dalit movement can challenge the communal forces in power, he used to say.

So, if now the government at the Centre says that people should sacrifice their desire for justice and truth in the national interest, in the name of nationalism and patriotism, it should be opposed. If there are forces, which declare that India will be a Hindu Rashtra by 2023 or 2025, they should be opposed. For this is a secular nation and will remain secular. This is a democratic nation and will remain so.

Megha Pansare is an assistant professor at Shivaji University, Kolhapur, where she teaches Russian. She is the daughter of Govind Pansare.

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Mr Modi and the Raincoat …

Posted on September 6, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

THE WIRE – Ashish Khetan is chairperson of the Dialogue and Development Commission of the Delhi government and a leader of the Aam Aadmi Party.

Narendra Modi is truly a street-smart politician. His ‘rain coat in a shower’ metaphor for Manmohan Singh is a simple but powerfully accurate description of Singh’s ten-year long prime ministership. He allowed scams like 2G spectrum, coal block allocations and the Commonwealth Games loot to happen right under his nose without any direct charge of personal corruption sticking to him. His staunchest critics derided him as ‘Maun Mohan Singh’ but even they could not call him a corrupt prime minister.

The Congress is understandably furious at the use of the ‘raincoat’ metaphor. It has touched a raw nerve. But instead of getting worked up, the Congressmen could have well pointed out how Modi himself has been a master at the art of being seen as clean, like a lotus, while remaining immersed neck deep in muck.

For 14 years, Modi, while he was Gujarat chief minister, held the home portfolio. While his deputy minister of state for home, Amit Shah, was arrested, jailed and then externed for a spate of extra-judicial killings, the chain of evidence never travelled beyond Shah. As Shah and his loyalist police officers did time in jail, Modi reaped a rich political harvest by polarising society using these killings.

His other ministerial colleague Mayaben Kodnani was sentenced to 28 years in prison for the Naroda Patiya massacre. Babu Bajrangi, who killed women and children in Patiya and later, after being released on bail, ruled the streets of Ahmedabad for several years, kidnapping girls, blocking the release of films and terrorising minorities, all along openly flaunted his proximity with the chief minister.

In 2012, he was convicted and sentenced to life based on eye-witness accounts and his own confession on a spy-camera, but his statement indicting Modi was dismissed as hearsay.

As chief minister, Modi presided over the killings of more than 1,000 men and women, and yet used every repudiation – whether from within the party or without – every judicial stricture, every effort to inquire into his culpability so to further cement his stay in power.

In fact, when it comes to the art of enjoying the proverbial shower without getting wet, Modi is many shades better than Singh.

Comptroller and auditor general (CAG) reports on the 2G spectrum, coal blocks and Krishna Godavari Dhirubhai 6 Basin singed Singh, politically and personally. But CAG reports on the scams of the Modi government in Gujarat faded without a whimper.

In 2012, the Modi government earned strictures from the CAG for giving away a 10% participating stake in a KG Basin gas field measuring 4,57,000 acres it had won in an expensive bid to a mysterious overseas company named GeoGlobal Resources, incorporated in Barbados, with a capital of just $64, for free.

As per the Modi government’s own estimates, announced in a press conference, the gas field was worth about $20 billion. Though state government-run corporation Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC), the owner of the gas field, had spent in excess of Rs 20,000 crore in drilling and exploration costs, Geo Global’s share of Rs 20,000 crore towards expenditure cost was also borne by GSPC.

The issue failed to get the attention of the national media as Modi was on the ascendance and the corporate media owners could see which way the wind was blowing.

Arvind Kejriwal’s hour-long press conference on the issue was blacked out. Till date there has been no inquiry into this shady deal nor any investigation into the real operators behind Geo Global, which was incorporated just six days before the joint venture with the GSPC.

A new CAG report last year indicted Modi’s Gujarat government for wasting Rs 20,000 crore of public money in an exploration process which has yielded one-tenth of what he had promised. Primetime TV refused to take cognisance of it.

Just weeks after Modi’s inauguration as prime minister, the CAG released five different reports for the year ending March 2013, highlighting financial irregularities by the Modi-led Gujarat government amounting to more than Rs 25,000 crore, which included Rs 1,500 crore in undue benefits to companies including Reliance Petroleum, Essar Power and the Adani Group.

If the Singh government gave away coal blocks to Congress cronies for a song, Modi as Gujarat chief minister also gave away about 16,000 acres of land to Adani SEZ for rates between Rs 1 and Rs 32 per square metre.

Other companies like Bharat Hotels, Larson & Toubro, Essar Steel and real estate developer K. Raheja also got large parcels of prime land for a fraction of market price.

It had all the hallmark of crony capitalism: arbitrariness, private gains at the cost of the exchequer and proximity between beneficiaries and the chief minister.

When the opposition’s demand for a probe into land deals reached a crescendo, in 2011, chief minister Modi appointed an inquiry commission under a retired judge, a time-tested technique of deflection and obfuscation.

The report of the commission was never made public and with neither media nor courts interested in holding him accountable, the Gujarat government had little incentive to release the report. Modi’s proverbial raincoat remained intact.

For 13 years, chief minister Modi didn’t appoint a lokayukta in Gujarat. His government spent Rs 45 crore of taxpayer’s money in litigation blocking the appointment of retired justice R.A. Mehta, widely regarded as honest and competent, as lokayukta. For the last three years, Modi has not appointed a lokpal. Yet he projects himself from every pulpit as a warrior against black money.

Between 2004 and 2015, the BJP has shown more than three-quarters of its funds as cash received from unnamed sources. The same funds catapulted Modi to prime ministership. Yet he has been drumming about the virtues of a cashless economy.

As Modi’s march to Delhi was gaining pace, the UPA in a rearguard attack launched a probe into the business affairs of Gautam Adani, Modi’s principal backer.

A probe by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) nailed the siphoning off of hundreds of crores abroad by the Adani Group by an intricate conspiracy involving over-valuation in imports for projects subject to a low or nil rate of customs duty. The report was finalised days before the results of Lok Sabha elections were due.

Seeing the body of evidence against Adani, the UPA quickly moved to hand over the case to the CBI. For two years, the CBI, which reports to the prime minister’s office, is sitting tight on the file.

In July last year another, the DRI probe revealed that 40 of the country’s biggest energy companies, including Adani and the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, were prima facie found involved in over-invoicing of imported coal. The scam was conservatively estimated at Rs 29,000 crore, with the common power consumers bearing the brunt of the inflated power bills, a direct effect of over-invoicing.

This author has written several letters to the PMO, CBI and Enforcement Directorate detailing the report and asking for a thorough probe. Only acknowledgments have come from in return, while Modi goes on publicly embracing both Adani and Anil Ambani.

The UPA was shamed into removing Ashok Chavan after the Adarsh Scam, Suresh Kalmadi after the CWG scam, A. Raja after the spectrum scam, Pawan Kumar Bansal after a bribery scam and Ashwani Kumar after the coal scam status report scandal.

No such scruples bother Modi. After more than 40 suspected killings connected with the admission and recruitment scam called ‘Vyapam’ which happened on Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s watch, Modi has not said a word about the propriety of a tainted chief minister continuing in office.

Public outrage after Vasundhra Raje and her family were found to be mixed up with fugitive Lalit Modi failed to evoke a response from Modi.

Addressing an election gathering in March 2014 in Chandigarh, then prime minister-designate Modi blasted the Congress for giving a ticket to the tainted Bansal. On his watch, Modi’s alter ego Shah appointed tainted B.S. Yeddyurappa, who presided over many scams including the infamous Bellary scam and whose corrupt image had compelled the BJP to expel him as Karnataka state president in April 2016.

Yet Modi can afford to talk about the janam patri of the Congress without having the fear of having to account for his own track record. Modi as a prime ministerial candidate talked of bringing lakhs of crores of black money deposited in offshore bank accounts back to India. On his watch as prime minister, Vijay Mallya fled the country.

The list of Modi’s wrongdoings runs long. His omissions and commissions in the Gujarat pogrom and the subsequent subversion of criminal justice system are shocking to the conscience of a reasonable person and a “kalank” for us as a nation. His silence over episodes like the Dadri lynching is as troubling as Singh’s silence as prime minister.

Though perhaps he will never have to face an inquiry into the alleged Sahara-Birla payoffs, the swift income tax settlements facilitated by his government in both cases will go down as egregious examples of an abuse of power to protect those in power.

The persecution of political opponents at the hands of police agencies, the harassment of civil rights activists and the systematic chipping away of institutional integrity and autonomy have surpassed the record of Congress regimes of the past.

If Singh was an accidental prime minister, notebandi has shown that Modi is an arbitrary prime minister.

Singh has never had to face criminal prosecution for any of his actions or omissions. Modi too so far has staved off a criminal prosecution. The prime minister who ran the most corrupt central government in independent India’s history ironically remained for ten long years in public imagination as Mr Clean. It was only towards the end of his stint that his sheen wore off and he became a figure of ridicule and revulsion.

The present prime minister, who is running one of the most duplicitous, insensitive and arbitrary governments since independence, is similarly projecting himself as an honest man. It remains to be seen how history will judge Modi – but so far, he has managed to reap a rich political harvest from all the wrongdoings of his government and his party, without one charge sticking to him.

You may attribute this to the inadequacy of our legal system that has always failed to hold the powerful to account, or to the artful device of “raincoat in the bath” as Modi himself has put it. Though their styles contrast – one professorial, the other a relentless demagogue – both Singh and Modi have made a fine art of donning the raincoat.

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Absconding Billionaires …

Posted on September 6, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

By Swati Chaturvedi – a senior journalist and author based in Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often boasted about his ‘zero tolerance’
for corruption and his chief aide, BJP president Amit Shah, has claimed that no scams have happened on his saheb Modi’s watch.

But do billionaire absconders like Vijay Mallya, arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari and former IPL chief Lalit Modi get “special handling”? And are the facts at par with the crackdown on corruption jumla?

Consider the following cases.

In December of last year, Bhandari, following in the footsteps of Mallya, managed to slip out of the country and is believed to be in London where Mallya is also based.

Authoritative sources confirmed that Mallya was tipped off about his imminent arrest by the ruling party, since after showing up in parliament in the Zero Hour, he left the country accompanied by his partner and masses of designer luggage in March last year. A senior Enforcement Directorate (ED) official described Mallya’s slipping away as “an assisted escape.”

On March 1, 2016, Mallya – who held a diplomatic passport by virtue of being a member of parliament – whizzed through immigration with ease and boarded the London-bound Jet Airways flight 9W-122 from New Delhi. He flew first class and had booked the entire cabin for himself and his companion. Mallya was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2010 as an independent candidate from Karnataka with the help of the BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular).

He showed up at the release of a book by socialite Suhel Seth titled Mantras for Success: India’s Greatest CEOs Tell You How to Win on June 16, 2016, in London’s South Asia Centre of the London School of Economics, and tried to accost Navtej Sarna, the then high commissioner of India to the UK, causing him huge embarrassment.

Sarna left the event after spotting Seth. After I wrote on the subject, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, was forced to issue a clarification that Sarna had left the venue after seeing Mallya. Attempts were made to pretend that Mallaya had “gate crashed” the event “uninvited”. This came to naught and did not spare the government any blushes as it was angrily denied by Mallya himself who said on Twitter that he had gone to the event because he was “invited”.

A similar situation unfolded with Bhandari, who is considered the best networked arms dealer in the country had a host of top-level connections, including those with a senior editor of one of Delhi’s largest newspapers. The Income Tax authorities discovered that the editor, known to be exceptionally close to the current establishment in the BJP, had exchanged 500 calls with Bhandari when the Augusta deal was being negotiated.

Interestingly, despite requests from the Income Tax (IT) department, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Intelligence Bureau, which asked Delhi police to register a case under Sections 3 and 5 of the Officials Secrets Act after classified papers of the defence ministry were found during a raid at Bhandari’s residence in April 2016, the case doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Bhandari was allegedly linked to Robert Vadra – the son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi – after IT sleuths found an email trail linking the two. Vadra, via his lawyers, has denied these claims. The ED attached Rs 21 crores of Bhandari’s assets in June this year under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, however, the government does not have answers to Bhandari whereabouts and its plans to bring him back.

According to a senior official, “Bhandari is the key link to the biggest political players in India. We need to be serious to ensure his return as he was a cross-party player. So far, the government has only allowed us to touch the tip of the iceberg.”

Despite the editor being outed publicly with his phone records, the newspaper has taken no action against him. Both Bhandari and Mallya seemed to be privy to planned official action against them as Mallya had got to know that senior counsel Dushyant Dave on February 28, 2016, had advised the State Bank of India (SBI) to ask the courts to retrain Mallya from leaving.

Curiously, the SBI took its time to act but Mallya did not. The CBI also told the Supreme Court that it had “downgraded” its lookout notice against Mallya from him being stopped at airports to immigration authorities “merely informing the CBI of the fact that he had taken a flight.”

The original lookout notice for Mallya was issued on October 16, 2015. This was surprisingly amended a month later on November 24, 2015. Why it was modified remains a mystery to this day.

The NDA government is clearly very kind to billionaire absconders. Earlier, in June 2015, it became known that Swaraj had helped procure IPL czar Lalit’s travel papers after his passport was cancelled. She said that she had helped him on “humanitarian grounds”.

Vasundhara Raje, Rajasthan chief minister, had given a “witness statement” in favour of her friend Lalit. Currently the ED is investigating 16 cases against him and has issued show cause notices in 15 cases.

So while the billionaires continue to abscond, the status of the cases against them is the same as their status – lost in transit.

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Lesser known Face of Terror …

Posted on September 6, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

With Gauri Lankesh’s Killing, another Voice of Truth Has Been Silenced. Denying people a voice is violence and it was this violence that Gauri Lankesh stood against. In return, she was given a violent death.

Another of our best and bravest has been cut down. She lay there lifeless. A frail frame grounded. So utterly defenceless. Covered with her own blood. I look at the thickening red, which is silent.

Silence is what she fought against. And for this foolhardiness, she was silenced.

‘Hindutva baiter shot dead,’ is how a sympathetic newspaper reports the murder. Hindutva baiter?

Choose your words with care. This is not how you measure Gauri Lankesh, who used each minute of her life to speak for those who are denied a voice.

Denying a voice is violence. And it was this violence she stood against. And in return, she was given a violent death.

There is something suicidal about non-violence. It is seductive. It invites violence on itself.

Those who preach violence and practice it live gaily. Presiding over murders, more murders, winning new admirers along the line. People are in awe of these artists.

When people fall in love with murderers and choose them as their guardians, they also turn into the patrons of the murdered.

Then the murderers are asked to condole the deaths that are actually murders. And they suggest to their countrymen that this is not the way to deal with lives. That living people should be allowed to live.

The murderers have long lives, filling non-violence with an inferiority complex.

Three bullets out of seven were enough to make her slump and touch the Earth. She, who always walked erect and could not be bent by any amount of threat, could not stand those three bullets.

There is something eerie about this number of three. Seventy years before Lankesh, who was 55, an old man of 79 faced them. But they are only part of a tradition. The distance of 70 years is not an empty road. You have milestones along the path.

The most recent ones and slightly closer to each other are those of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi.

And a new stone is added now to indicate to us the nature of the road this nation is moving on.

It was only word that Lankseh used, even when she was not writing. Holding seminars and protests, words were all she was organising. Speak and listen is what she was urging her people.

She spoke relentlessly, and irreverently. Not that she was not cautioned. Not that she was such a fool or ignorant that she could not fathom the anger that was rising with each word from her.

Lankesh worried about Kanhaiya Kumar. About the threat that lurks behind him. But she, who treated him as her son, did not want him to stop, hide or not speak.

Lankesh did not see anything extraordinarily brave about her business of words.

Lankesh was advised to go slow.

“If we do not speak, who will?” is what she told a friend. For words were all she had acquired, learnt. For she knew the tradition of Basavanna and she saw herself as an inheritor of Ananthamurthy. Her father was also a wordsmith.

Lankesh had to return those words to the world.

Lankesh had to keep the words alive. She knew as a fellow poet has said, words do not die from cold, it is fear that kills them.

Lankesh did not use words strategically. Her words pointed out what was significant about the moment she was in.

Lankesh did not tire of repeating herself, of keeping to talk about injustices because it was the injustice that was being repeated.

Lankesh, one must also remember, chose to speak in the language of her people. It was Kannada, an Indian language.

Those who kill in the name of Indianness and those who support them must see who was practising this Indianness.

Also read: Gauri Lankesh: ‘Intolerant Voices Find Strength in our Silence’

Dabholkar spoke in Marathi. Pansare spent his life in Marathi. Kalburgi knew the play of Kannada.

Lankesh was a writer of Kannada.

Writing in an Indian language is a dangerous business, if it is writing at all, not what our mainstream language newspapers print.

Is it surprising to see why the mainstream language media has turned into an apologist of hate mongers and murderers?

Lankesh, like these predecessors, had to pay for practicing truth in an Indian language.

Let us keep doing in our languages what Lankesh was doing. As a daily, hourly business, as routine. For death, even when it is murder, is also routine.

Apoorvanand teaches in Delhi University.

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Demonetisation – Needless Surgical Procedure Performed on Unhealthy Economy …

Posted on September 4, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

Raghuram Rajan – The former IMF economist’s comments come days ahead of the release of his new book titled “I Do What I Do – On Reforms Rhetoric and Resolve”.

“I was party to the [demonetisation] conversation, as I have already said, on the costs and benefits of the case but not on the date. Separately, we were moving to a new set of notes, not related to the demonetisation exercise necessarily, but as part of a move to a set of newly designed notes. Of course, the accelerated printing of the 2,000-rupee notes did make us better prepared for an eventual demonetisation without a specific date having been fixed,” Rajan said in an interview with The Times of India.

In this new book, the former central banker says that he gave his opinion orally on demonetisation in February 2016 after which the RBI submitted a formal note outlining the steps that would be needed if the Centre went ahead with the move.

“The RBI flagged what would happen if preparation was inadequate,” wrote Rajan, who after leaving the RBI returned to University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business as a facutly member.

While acknowledging that demonetisation “intent was good”, Rajan flatly states that it was not an economic success.

“I think the people who mooted this must have thought that some of it would be compensated if money didn’t come back into the system. The fact that 99% has been deposited certainly does suggest that aim has not been met,” he said.

“So, I think all said and done, it would be fair to say the intent was good. But certainly at this point, one still cannot in any way say it has been an economic success. But again, as I said, only time will tell.”

In the interview, Rajan also notes that “demonetisation has had the largest impact on those people who transact informally”, even if it won’t be measured by India’s GDP indicators.

“Unfortunately, given the way we measure GDP, these are people who are probably not going to be counted that much. The GDP measurement will overlook the stress on these people, and we will only indirectly see this, for example, through the kind of stresses that micro finance institutions are experiencing because they deal with many of these people.

T.K. JAYARAMAN AND BHANU PRAKASH Write in The Wire

Among the 176 countries that have been ranked by Transparency International on a scale from 100 (very clean) to zero (highly corrupt), India ranks in the second half of the list at 79, with the illegal money of sizeable proportions.

The central government, which was elected on the promise of a cleaner government, is worried about coming to power again. With the impending election two years away, it had to do something drastic: a much-dreaded surgery with uncertain consequences.

That was the November 2016 decision of demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes in order to curb black money.

No doubt, the demonetisation exercise had to be kept a secret for its full effect to be realised, ruling out any possibility of wide discussions and weighing of pros and cons. It is reported that even the chief economic adviser was caught unaware, though the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)’s top management was prepared for it.

Unrealised windfall

The demonetisation was clearly aimed at eliminating black money. It was thought that some Rs 5 lakh crore (Rs 5 trillion) would be declared illegal; RBI’s liabilities would be extinguished, giving rise to larger than usual annual profits and they would be turned over to the government as dividend for funding planned social welfare schemes and infrastructure projects.

The windfall did not materialise.

Early this week, it was announced that of the estimated Rs 15.44 lakh crore (Rs 15.44 trillion) of currency that was rendered invalid due to demonetisation, Rs 15.28 lakh crore or Rs 15.28 trillion has come back into the Indian banking system. Does it mean that the so called “illegitimate money” that has now been legitimised was, in fact, a close 99%? The unreturned money of about Rs 0.16 trillion is just 1%.

The question is: was the team of surgeons, minimum in number for secrecy purposes, competent enough? Or if a member expressed a contrary view, was it given due consideration?

That will remain a secret for some time.

For every fait accompli decision, there are always two views, one supportive and another opposed, whether one likes it or not.

Is the achievement worth the effort?

The price of “achievement” following the November 2016 demonetisation has now been measured. Economic growth rates have been falling. Though not big falls and of course the growth rates are positive.

In the April-June 2017 quarter, the gross domestic product (GDP) grew at 5.7% – a three-year low, much below the 7.9% GDP growth in the corresponding quarter of 2016 and lower than 6.1% recorded in the January-March quarter of 2017.

It is a clear downward trend.

GDP growth can always be attributed to not one but a combination of factors in a developing economy. The most important component of aggregate demand is domestic consumption. Falling demand is also influenced by decreased external demand for domestic output and competitiveness of India’s exports and, of course, investment demand.

The government’s chief statistician was in a hurry to point out that it would be incorrect to attribute it to ‘demonetisation effect’. He laid the blame on the impact of GST roll out on the industry.

The government should have handsomely accepted the failure.

Also read: Demonetisation’s Failure Won’t Hurt Modi, He’s Already Changed the Narrative

All along, ever since the November decision was announced, the growth momentum has been halted. The fears of economic doom have gripped the nation. The middle class has been rudely shaken.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in January 2017 updating the earlier October 2016 World Economic Outlook lowered its estimate of India’s growth. It said India would grow only at 6.6% as against its earlier estimate of 7.6% on account of the “temporary negative consumption shock, induced by cash shortages and payment disruptions associated with the currency note withdrawal and exchange initiative.”

The IMF hoped demonetisation would strengthen India’s institutional framework by reducing tax avoidance and corruption and would support efficiency gains.

The World Bank, while echoing the IMF’s view, made it clear that the reason behind the move was “to curb corruption, tax evasion and counterfeiting”. It added the move would “broaden the tax base” and help revenues which will “eventually go up, besides reducing the size of the informal economy.”

The finance minister Arun Jaitley is now keen to highlight tax avoidance, broadening the tax base and reducing the size of the informal sector and other likely gains, and continues to downplay the main purpose behind the demonetisation decision. “People with inadequate understanding of how to tackle black money linked note ban with money returned to system,” said Jaitley, adding “deposits in banks don’t legitimise” black money.

“Money has now been identified with its owner”

It is touted that not only has liquidity been restored but that now there is an excess of it. Bhupal Singh and Indrajit Roy of RBI in their working paper on ‘Demonetisation and Bank Deposit Growth‘ note an unusual increase in cash deposits of about Rs 1.7 lakh crore and the excess of the order of Rs 2.8-4.3 lakh crore.

The interest rate has fallen with the RBI cutting repo rate by 25 basis points. The commercial banks should pass on the full portion of rate cuts to borrowers if the effects of transmission mechanism are to be fully felt and benefits realised.

Last month, RBI deputy governor Viral Acharya referred to an unintended outcome of demonetisation decision: a benefit indeed. It is the shift away from bank deposits to financial assets.

Bloomberg reported that funds have moved from low-cost current account and savings accounts to other financial instruments. Mutual funds are among the beneficiaries with their assets at Rs 18.96 lakh crore as of June 2017, compared to Rs 16.28 lakh crore in October 2016.

The FM is keen to get on with his work, apparently, he does not want to spend any more time discussing why the windfall did not materialise and why only one percent of the Rs 15.44 trillion liabilities were extinguished.

He has no time to waste on the elusive black money.

FM’s job is now cut out

The latest State Bank of India Ecoflash of September 1 notes that the incremental bank credit in the current fiscal year is declining. It is now less by 1.37 lakh crore from last year’s figure during the corresponding period of April to August: it is a negative growth of 1.8%, which is a historical record.

“The deceleration in credit growth also highlights the role of supply side factors – stressed assets and capital constraint – in hindering a revival in the credit cycle. The sectoral data on flow of credit indicate that deceleration in credit, though broad-based, is characterised by a sharp contraction in exposure to industry”, the Ecoflash adds.

The banks are unwilling to lend anymore because of the mounting corporate debt.

The only solution is urgent cleaning up of the public sector banks: the twin balance sheet problems; mounting corporate debt; commercial banks’ piling up non-performing assets; the poor flow of bank credit and speeding up proposed bank mergers.

With the return of the 99% of the so-called black money, liquidity is no more a hurdle. RBI knows money stock has risen with unexpected deposits.

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The Modi way of Winning …

Posted on September 1, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

APCO Worldwide, a transnational public relations company, had their most apt pupil in then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

The one thing Modi learnt was never to engage with his opponents on issues they want to talk about. He sets the agenda and a hapless opposition and media try to keep up. Demonetisation was a Modi-made disaster. Yet the disaster only served to propel Modi to greater electoral heights, and today, as he towers over a clueless opposition, even the return of 99% of the extinguished notes does not change the narrative of one man’s fight against corruption.

Modi had made an emotional pitch on demonetisation – “Give me 50 days, then punish me if I am wrong” – which was the lead story in all newspapers. Today who remembers that? Modi has moved on from “acche din” to “new India” and, like the Pied Piper, carried a mesmerised UP electorate with him. He swept the UP assembly, anointed Adityanath as chief minister and could not care less about what the opposition and media will now say.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called demonetisation “an organised loot and legalised plunder”, and the venerable economist had a point. Modi, however, used demonetisation as a chance to reinvent himself as a “messiah of the poor”.

Modi and his closest aide, Amit Shah, are a ruthless-election winning combine. They give no quarter and expect none. No niceties of politics are maintained and the BJP has been transformed into a formidable election-fighting machine, modelled from the booth level upwards on the Congress of the 1950s. Modi himself is on 24/7 campaign mode. Consider this: until the Gujarat election later this year, he will make weekly trips to the state.

A senior member of the cabinet told me, “We are quiet in cabinet but occasionally the prime minister scoffs at the media. The opposition is never discussed as they have become irrelevant”.

Modi has an utter mistrust and dislike of the media. Both he and Shah are gleeful about pulling off spectacular surprises that the media have no idea of. Yet Modi, through a senior minister, maintains tight control of what is being covered and likes to manage headlines.

Remember Modi mockingly holding forth that “hard work, not Harvard” is his core belief? So while articles will be written on the the disaster of demonetisation and social media will be awash with how the economy was torpedoed, Modi could not care less. As the Left’s Sitaram Yechury, who studied economics, and Congress’s P. Chidambaram, who served as India’s finance minister, pick holes in the figures, Modi has got away unscathed.

Modi has simply changed the agenda and the narrative. It’s the opposition’s problem that they cannot pin him down. “How do you hold a hologram to account?” says a senior Congress leader in frustration.

And, as APCO Worldwide demonstrated with the Modi hologram during his 2014 campaign, Modi is all things to all people. But the only thing Modi cares about, as do most incredibly successful politicians, is winning power and holding it.

Consider this from the polarising campaign of his first Gujarat term post the 2002 riots, when he went on a “gaurav yatra“. That’s when he used his “hum paanch hamarey pachees” jibe against Muslims, called relief camps “baby-producing machines” and took on “mian Musharraf”. Post winning and punting for a second term, he changed the story to Gujarati asmita (pride) and the Gujarat model of development.

Modi as a shape shifter was evident in his promises of “good governance” in 2014. Now, with elections coming up in two years, there is no talk of governance; instead ritual attacks are made on triple talaq. The opposition and media scramble to present facts – such as that the Reserve Bank of India has lost all its credibility as an autonomous institution post demonetisation – but facts don’t matter, Modi has already skated away.

The opposition needs to get its act together and actually play a real role in pinning down the government. But it’s up against Modi, who controls the story and then ensures he spins it the way he wants. So expect more spin as more elections are coming up. The only thing that is certain is that Modi has an gargantuan appetite for winning them. Inconvenient facts be damned.

Swati Chaturvedi is a senior journalist and author based in Delhi. She tweets at @bainjal.

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