Inside Track: Kishor’s Hand Seen
Start your Sunday with your weekly dose of political gossip courtesy Coomi Kapoor. In this week's column for The Indian Express, Kapoor explains how Prashant Kishor may be behind the Congress' newly-found "steel spine", the myriad problems before Akhilesh Yadav ahead of the Uttar Pradesh polls next year, the simmering anger in certain sections of the BJP after the recent union cabinet reshuffle, the new Railway Minister's "workaholic" life and PR skills, and why the BJP and Shiv Sena are unlikely to bury the hatchet soon.
"The new steel in the Congress spine is reportedly courtesy Prashant Kishor, whose advice appears to carry weight with the Gandhi siblings. Though Kishor was originally Amarinder’s appointee, he nevertheless warned the Gandhis that despite the CM’s stature, Sidhu was gaining traction with the public by raising popular issues. Sidhu, incidentally, is not particularly popular with the Congress MLAs. The reason that 60 legislators showed up at his Amritsar residence to demonstrate support was because they were asked to do so by the party high command." - Coomi Kapoor in The Indian Express“Business Only With Governments”
In his column for The Indian Express, Congress leader P Chidambaram raises questions on how the Indian government has handled the Pegasus Snoop Gate. He focusses on one specific question - since NSO, the group that makes the Pegasus spyware has stated that it does business only with governments, has the Indian government purchased the software? There's really just a simple yes or no answer.
"The four words in the title ought to define the debate on the use of spyware to snoop on political leaders (Opposition members and ministers), judges, civil servants, students, civil rights activists, journalists and businesspersons. The four words are in a written communication of the NSO Group, the creator and owner of the malevolent spyware named Pegasus. This statement followed an earlier statement of the NSO Group that “NSO sells its technologies solely to law enforcement and intelligence agencies of vetted governments.” At the same time, however, the NSO Group has distanced itself from the actual use to which the spyware was put by its “clients”, that is governments. Some client-governments may have misused the spyware." - P Chidambaram in The Indian ExpressA Hopeless Opposition
In a position contrarian to that of Chidambaram's, Tavleen Singh, in her Indian Express column says that the focus of the opposition in the Parliament should've been the government's handling of the second COVID-19 wave. Singh, a self-proclaimed "former bhakt", says this confusion of the opposition on what is an electoral issue and what's not is merely one of the reasons PM Modi has won two elections with an overwhelming mandate.
""Rahul Gandhi appeared with a group of Opposition MPs outside Parliament. He stood in the rain and in his inimitable style declared that Modi has ‘put a weapon in your phone’. There is no question that using Pegasus to spy on dissidents and Opposition leaders is a bad thing, but surely the most important issue continues to be the terrible mistakes made in the handling of Covid? This is the first session of Parliament since the second Covid wave that made millions of Indians understand the catastrophic consequences of governmental ineptitude. So, should Rahul Gandhi not have been inside the Lok Sabha asking questions? There are questions that the Prime Minister would find hard to answer. Why did people die because hospitals ran out of oxygen? Is this not murder? Why did the Prime Minister and the Home Minister vanish when they were needed most? Why is India still dangerously short of vaccines? Is it because the Opposition leaders have failed in their role that the Prime Minister is able to slither out of his worst governance crisis?"" - Tavleen Singh in The Indian ExpressFrom Hot Borders To Peace And Development Belts
The border conflict between Assam and Mizoram which has led to the death of at least six police personnel has left many in shock. Some have even said that such a conflict could potentially shake the foundations of India's federal structure as well as that of peace in the region. In his column for The Hindustan Times, Sanjoy Hazarika gives a historical context to this border dispute. He also enunciates how the only way to solve this is to re-think and recalibrate policies based on evolving local sentiments of the region.
""The importance of good internal communications, trade and infrastructure cannot be sufficiently emphasised. Without peace that enables free flow of transport, people and goods, how will the Act East Policy which seeks trade and relations across international borders work? Internal stability and peace are preconditions to international investments and collaboration of other national governments. Such an important, visionary and rightfully ambitious policy cannot be held hostage to internal divisions. Some 25 years ago, the Shukla Commission identified the stumbling blocks to the growth of the region as deficits in infrastructure, governance, communications and trust. To me, the trust deficit is as important as the sum of all the others. It is time to bridge it."" - Sanjoy Hazarika in The Hindustan TimesPegasus And The Threat Of An Orwellian State
Is the Pegasus Snoop Gate what George Orwell was talking about in his book, '1984'? Well, yes, says Mark Tully in his column for The Hindustan Times. After all, Big Brother IS watching!
"The Pegasus spyware scandal is an example of one of the gravest threats against humanity: The misuse of technology by over-mighty states. Russian novelist and critic, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s novel titled We, imagined a 26th century utopia wherein the individuality of individuals had been crushed by the State. People lived in glass houses so that the police could see what they were doing all the time, except for one hour a day when they were allowed to draw the curtains so that they could make love. The philosophy that guided society was “happiness and freedom are incompatible”." - Mark Tully in The Hindustan TimesThinking Beyond Love And Arranged Marriages
Love marriage, arranged marriage, and love-cum-arranged marriages: Marriages in India are as diverse as the country itself. To understand what I mean, end your Sunday with this eye-opening, researched article by Parul Bhandari in The Hindustan Times.
""They say marriages are made in heaven, and as a sociologist, I was curious to know how these are actualised on earth. This question became more poignant with discourses on modernity that gripped Indian society, particularly since liberalisation, according to which, our progress was defined by a definitive turn to “choice” in marriage. An important contributor to this discourse was large-scale surveys that claimed to reveal whether Indians prefer “love” or “arranged” marriages, if their choice of spouse is influenced or determined by their parents, and if caste plays a role in this decision-making. My research set out to explore what these categories of arranged and love mean for the urban Indian middle-class, and what is a modern process of matchmaking. It revealed several interesting aspects including the role of pre-marital relationships, gendered expectations of a supporting wife and a providing husband, and the impact of the professionalisation of matchmaking services."" - Parul Bhandari in The Hindustan TimesInvestor Warning: Unicorns Can Go Bust Too
The Zomato IPO has a lot of us asking if we should ditch our FDs and invest in unicorns. In his weekly finance column for The Times Of India, Swaminathan Aiyar answers this question.
""Some readers want to know if they should abandon their conventional prudent investments in fixed deposits that yield hardly 6% interest, and plunge into unicorns. Yes, they all know that investing in IPOs of new companies is a high risk, high-gain business, and that new shares can soar but sink too. So far, the average gain of shares after IPOs in 2021 has been 31%, but some have fallen well below the IPO price. A modest quantity of shares in each IPO are reserved for retail investors like you and me, as distinct from the big institutions that bid for hundreds of crores worth of shares. Many small investors apply under the retail quota, and with luck get a small allotment of say 100 shares, and sell that at a good profit within weeks. They then deploy their profits in new IPOs that hit the market month after month. That has proved a reasonably safe way of making decent profits. But what they make is peanuts compared with those who invested early and stayed invested through thick and thin in Facebook or Amazon, or in Infosys and TCS, and are now worth a hundred crores or more. People remember the dot.com boom of the late 1990s when the public plunged crazily into IT shares, selling the family silver and all else to keep buying even when markets fell, convinced that things would ultimately turn up. A few survived triumphantly. but lakhs of small investors went bust."" - Swaminathan Aiyar in The Times Of IndiaCong Must Aspire To Be Like Apple, And Not BlackBerry
The Congress party must not bank on its laurels as former "market leaders" in Indian politics (like BlackBerry in the telecom maket), but instead demonstrate its capability of being a market leader for years to come (like Apple), says Sanjay Jha in The Times Of India. Tbh, though, we're just recommending this for the 15/10 headline!
""BlackBerry does not exist anymore (it has an enterprise software model now). Like BlackBerry in the smartphone industry, Congress once overwhelmingly dominated the political narrative in India. If BlackBerry in 2009 had 50% of the US smartphone market, Congress regularly won absolute majorities on its own in the Lok Sabha; its peak was 404 seats in 1984. By 2014, BlackBerry’s market share had nose-dived to less than 1% (with losses at $1 billion). In the same year, Congress was reduced to 44 Lok Sabha seats and WhatsApp, which initially appeared to be a poor third cousin of BBM, got a whopping valuation of $19 billion from Facebook. BBM had sunk into a rabbit hole. Do you see the similarities here? Both remained adamant that all was well, and the slipping customer/voter mindshare, at worse, a transient aberration. It would naturally fix itself. It did not."" - Sanjay Jha in The Times Of IndiaFifty Shades of humbug: Why Desis Pretend They Don’t Consume Porn
What is a Bollywood controversy if there's no Shobhaa De opinion piece on it? In this week's column for The Times Of India, De talks about the Raj Kundra pornography controversy and India's secret relationship with porn.
""Kundra has been nabbed but there are hundreds of Kundras out there. Will this one high-profile arrest successfully deter other peddlers of porn? Kundra has challenged his arrest, arguing that what he shoots and markets across the world does not fall into the hard-core porn category — which is a punishable offence. “Who decides what’s lascivious?” his advocate cheekily asked the court. Now his team wants him out on bail saying he’s not a “terrorist”! Kundra’s wife, actress Shilpa Shetty, insisted, “It’s just erotica.” Kundra’s petition in the high court says the alleged content does not depict direct explicit sexual acts or sexual intercourse. At its worst, it can be described as ‘prurient’. There are two issues here: Exploiting young men and women from under-privileged backgrounds who have fallen on hard times surely is a pretty lowdown thing to do. But with the existing law silent on the definition of pornography, who decides what is hard core and what is titillating? One man’s erotica can be another man’s porn."" - Shobhaa De in The Times Of India . Read more on India by The Quint.Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For YouImage of Woman Holding 'Boycott Bollywood' Poster is Morphed! . Read more on India by The Quint.