Silver-Haired Sikandar Bakht

By Rajdeep Sardesai

Long before Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, there was Sikandar Bakht. For almost two decades, the silver-haired Bakht was the ‘Muslim face’ of the BJP, it’s defence to the charge of being a ‘Hindus only’ party. When Atal Behari Vajpayee became prime minister for the first time in 1996, Mr Bakht was made the urban development minister. The relative lightweight portfolio left him unhappy. ‘I know you will ask whether my seniority has not been respected because I am a Muslim,” he replied with a flash of anger when I went to interview him. A week later, he was given the additional portfolio of external affairs. The government lasted only 13 days but Mr Bakht’s reaction seemed to typify the Muslim predicament in the BJP.

A few weeks ago, Mr Naqvi too had his moment in the sun.  I asked the minority affairs minister at a media conclave about the beef ban and its impact on minority groups. Normally an affable soul, Naqvi lost his temper: ‘Those who cannot live without beef should go to Pakistan, the cow is holy for us.’ Pitted against Mr Naqvi was the sharp new face of new Muslim politics, Asauddin Owaisi who leapt into the debate and asked if Mr Naqvi was asking Catholics in BJP-ruled Goa to go to Pakistan. I helpfully reminded the minister of communities in the North-East who also ate beef. Pushed on the defensive, Mr Naqvi resorted to filibustering even as the partisan audience cheered his ‘Go to Pakistan’ remarks.

Perhaps, Mr Naqvi, like Mr Bakht all those years ago, feels a desperate urge to prove his ‘loyalty’ to his party cadres who might view a Muslim leader with suspicion. Being a Muslim in a Hindutva party can be awfully lonely. Only 3 Muslims have won Lok Sabha elections on a BJP ticket: Naqvi, Shahnawaz Hussain twice, and Arif Beg (Bakht won in 1977 on a Janata Party symbol). When Narendra Modi was Gujarat chief minister for 13 years, not a single Muslim was given a Vidhan Sabha ticket.

It isn’t just a BJP problem though: being a Muslim leader isn’t easy in contemporary politics. The 16th Lok Sabha has the lowest number of Muslim MPs in parliamentary history, just 22. There isn’t a single Muslim MP from the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh while Bihar with a sizeable Muslim population has thrown up just four. Clearly, a growing Hindu majoritarian consciousness, especially in the Hindi heartland and western India, has meant that the ‘winnability’ quotient of a Muslim candidate has reduced.

Stepping into the political vacuum has been an Owaisi-like figure, someone who now claims to be a flagbearer of his community’s identity in politics. Owaisi’s party, MIM, has its roots in the turbulent and, at times, overtly communal walled city politics of post-Nizam Hyderabad, but he is now seeking to spread his net further, from Maharashtra to Uttar Pradesh,  by feeding on a growing sense of fear and anxiety among Muslim youth in particular. With his oratorical skills — he is a bar at law from London — Owaisi is seen to represent a Muslim identity which is aspirational but rooted in religious beliefs.

Muharram-Festival

In a sense, the rise of Owaisi is an indictment of the so-called national parties who claim to represent Muslim interests under the guise of secularism. Each of these parties stand accused of promoting vote bank politics while seemingly bringing little real benefit to the minorities. The Sachar committee report has graphically brought out how social and economic conditions of Muslims have remained well behind their counterparts. At a recent meeting at Aligarh Muslim university, a young student told me, ‘Why should we vote for the Samajwadi party which could not protect us in Muzaffarnagar, or a Congress which allowed Muslim youth to be falsely accused as terrorists when they were in power in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh?’ It was a telling remark, one which reflects just why an Owaisi with his unapologetic defence of the community’s interests has suddenly become an attractive option for some.

So where does the BJP and the prime minister with his ‘sabka saath, sabka vikaas’ promise stand in this changing paradigm of the Muslim search for an alternate leadership? Last week, the BJP claimed that 30 lakh Muslims had joined the party as part of its ‘missed call’ membership drive. A day earlier, the prime minister had met a delegation of 30 Muslim clerics and community leaders at his residence. He reiterated his desire to see Muslims with a ‘Koran in one hand and a computer in the other’. But are well scripted sound bites and photo-ops enough to bridge the gaping trust deficit?

Firstly, like it or not, the Gujarat 2002 riots still haunt the average Muslim mind: most Muslims are convinced  that the then Modi government failed, deliberately or otherwise, to stop the violence. Secondly, the Muslim interlocutors chosen by the prime minister  are seen to lack credibility within the community: most of them are seen as ‘rent-seekers’ who are using their proximity to power for self-aggrandisement, not for genuinely benefitting the wider population.

Thirdly, the Sangh Parivar still continues to send out mixed messages which only reinforces traditional suspicions. While the prime minister speaks of the constitution being his only dharma, he has still been unable to fully rein in sangh affiliates and individual MPs who speak the language of hate and bigotry. Which is where a leader like Mr Naqvi needs to stand up and be counted. Instead of threatening to send all those who insist on eating beef to Pakistan, why doesn’t the honourable minister, whose wife is a Hindu, speak out on the obnoxious concept of love jehad, and ask those who propagate it to leave Indian shores?

Post-script: Last week,a communal flashpoint in Ballabgarh in BJP-ruled Haryana saw the displacement of many Muslim families. Ballabgarh is just around 40 kms from Delhi. Maybe a reach out to the affected victims could be a more effective response than a photo op at 7 RCR?


 

Rajdeep

One of India’s most respected journalists, Rajdeep Sardesai, has nearly three decades of journalistic experience in print and tv. He has been the founder- editor of chief of IBN 18 network, which included CNN IBN. Prior to setting up the IBN network, he was the managing editor of NDTV 24 x 7 and NDTV India. Rajdeep has won more than 100 national and international awards for journalism, including the Padma Shri in 2008. He is currently consulting editor at the India Today group.

Narendra Modi’s Governance & Clean India campaign gets india vote, Kejriwal is second most popular leader – India Today Survey

Perception has been described variously by various wise men. That it is reality. That there is no truth, only perception, and so on. Narendra Damodard as Modi could add that it is also a double-edged sword. And when combined with impatience, a volatile force. The leader who so grandiloquently arrived on the national stage riding the promise of deliverance and prosperity is in for a jolt, caught in the counter-narrative of the immoderation of his fanatic brotherhood and his own inability to dominate the debate in the mould of the campaigner-conqueror. As the BJP-led NDA government counts down to its first anniversary and plans to make a splash of it, the India Today Group-Cicero Mood of the Nation (MOTN) opinion poll serves a reality check.

The honeymoon is well and truly over, the first indication of which was thrown up by EVMs in the national capital on February 10. A reinvigorated Opposition, parliamentary logjams and uncharacteristic climb downs in subsequent weeks pushed that point further. And an intolerant Parivar that has peppered the last 10 months with decisions and demands that smack of political naivete and electoral myopia has sealed the deal.India has begun to question if the regional overlord it elevated from Gandhinagar to Raisina Hill is up to the task of staying on track while slaying the forces of intolerance and bigotry that have begun to hijack his historic mandate. In perhaps one of the sharpest such declines within the first year of a new prime minister’s tenure, only 36 per cent of respondents think Narendra Modi should be PM, down from 57 per cent in the previous MOTN poll conducted in August last year.

For a PM candidate who coined new development slogans and governance acronyms every week on the campaign trail, the numbers have the potential to hurt. It is as if the clock has been put in reverse mode or the wheel is coming a full circle, if cliches can capture the sentiment shift. The reinvention of Narendra Modi from the leader who had to take years of flak for the communal carnage in Gujarat to someone who made that state synonymous with growth, development and progress is one of modern India’s most amazing political turnaround stories. That success was elevated to an entirely new plane when Modi made a national pitch and showcased himself as the man India awaits to undo the story of scandal, sloth and hubris that had gripped the country and threatened to push it down the road to ruin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An exasperated India desperately looking for relief bought that pitch and many would say rightly so. Modi, after all, was the new image of development and good governance. And overwhelmingly so because his quiver was completely shorn of the poison arrows of religion and fanaticism his ideological fraternity has wielded from time to time to climb the charts of notoriety. To Modi’s credit, he stuck to his theme after his stunning victory and did not appear to waver in his determination to keep contentious issues out of his framework for governance. The leader who reached out to hundreds of thousands of voters through a gruelling campaign schedule like no other had obviously got a measure of the pulse of the people.

Members of Hindu organisations perform a ceremony for the conversion of Muslim families in Agra.It’s taken only 10 months for the Narendra Modi government to fritter away a portion of the approval and admiration it had earned with that massive mandate last year. And it took only a few loose cannons, and Modi’s mystifying silence in demanding silence of them, to shoot the first holes through the image of a man with a mission-of development and governance.

Party leaders confide that the impression of communal intolerance gained ground, and conversely Modi’s pro-development image took a hit, around the autumn of 2014 with two separate campaigns launched by RSS-affiliated organisations against what was dubbed “love jihad”, and for “ghar wapsi“, or reconversion to Hinduism. As VHP patriarch Ashok Singhal has maintained since the Lok Sabha victory, “There is a large section in the country that dreams of a return of our lost rule. After Prithviraj Chauhan, it is now (under Modi) that Hindutva has got the reins of Bharat.”

Ergo the utterances that have come at regular intervals. And which have put the government in a spot on each occasion, given the Opposition issues to beat Team Modi with, and sparked off reactions ranging irritation to anxiety among sections of the public. Take, for instance, Minister of State Giriraj Singh’s remarks about Congress President Sonia Gandhi on April 1. “If Rajiv Gandhi had married some Nigerian lady, and if she (Sonia Gandhi) wasn’t white, would the Congress party have given her its leadership,” he is reported to have said. Not only outrageous and completely unwarranted, it wasn’t even good real politik. And even though he issued a half-hearted apology the same day, the damage was done-it was criticised by even many staunch BJP supporters.

Or, earlier, Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath’s battle cry against “love jihad” in the run-up to the by-elections in Uttar Pradesh in September last year, which changed seamlessly into Sakshi Maharaj’s remarks that madrasas are churning out terrorists, and further to minister of state Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti’s theory of “Ramzade” versus “haramzade” in December.

In quick succession that same month came the assertion from Ram Naik, governor of the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh and a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, that the Ram Temple in Ayodhya should be built at the earliest, and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s contention that the Bhagwad Gita be declared a national holy book. As elections for the Delhi Assembly drew closer, the winter saw attacks on and vandalism of churches, leading to unrest among Christians.

Spring this year saw the sprouting of a national debate around the ban on beef imposed in Haryana and Maharashtra, with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh adding fuel to the fire, saying, “Cow slaughter cannot be allowed in this country. We will use all our might to ban it.”

Senior bureaucrats say Modi’s decision to hold an official event on Eid, ministers’ reluctance to hold Iftar during Ramzan and the government’s diktat to observe Good Governance Day on December 25 have all added to the anxiety about a purported Hindu chauvinistic government flexing muscles.

Too little, too late?

“These elements believe their over-enthusiasm will please Nagpur (seat of the RSS) and that they are scoring brownie points there,” a top minister had then told India Today, “But the truth is even Nagpur is unhappy with this behaviour. We need to single out such elements and warn them.” While BJP leaders such as this minister believe these utterances are from fringe elements within the wider Parivar, many in the left-liberal and minority camps counter that if this is the fringe, then fringe is the new saffron core.

Protests outside Sacred Heart cathedral, Delhi, against attacks on churches in the capital.Many ministers rue that such loose cannons have provided the Opposition an opportunity to divert public attention off development. A senior Union minister suggests that Modi had made efforts to check these elements by requesting the RSS to rein them in. “RSS pracharak Rajeshwar Singh’s removal from his Dharm Jagran task (of ghar wapsi in UP) is an example of action behind the scenes,” he says.

But the BJP’s efforts to first dissociate itself and the delayed action subsequently meant the damage was already done. By the time Modi made the first overt attempt to reassure people from religious minority communities, the Opposition had succeeded in cornering the government and partly convincing a sizeable section of the public that Modi’s promised “achche din” was just that: a promise.

The problem for the BJP is that its leaders know their catch-22-esque dilemma: they cannot go against the RSS line, and if they don’t, the government’s image takes a hit-from the “fringe elements”, and consequently in public perception. “The problem is, the BJP cannot publicly dissociate itself from concerns that figure in private and internal discussions of RSS leaders. Every BJP leader worth his salt wants to be on the right rhetorical side of the RSS on this,” says a government functionary who also served in the Vajpayee government.

For the record, love jihad, reconversion, beef ban, popularising the Gita, and the Ram Temple are among a host of issues that figure in internal conversations of the RSS brass. No wonder then, Modi himself hesitated in countering these fringe elements right at the beginning. “How could the PM, once an RSS pracharak himself, have publicly countered them when RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was holding forth on ‘Hindurashtra’ around that time,” asks a government functionary.

Several BJP leaders and Sangh pracharaks however claim that the RSS has consciously decided to allow Modi time to consolidate before pushing its agenda. This, they say, came to the fore at the recent Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha of the RSS, the largest congregation of Parivar brass in Nagpur, which did not raise the issues of Ram Temple, Article 370, and many of the other contentious issues.

While RSS General Secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi said that a team committed to “Bharatiya philosophy” is at the centre of decision-making after many years, the RSS’s annual report presented at the meeting appeared an attempt to take pressure off the government. “The nation expects the government to understand public’s expectations and work accordingly. The people also understand limitations of the government,” it noted.

Several ministers too counter the general reading that the government has been blase about the high-pitched rhetoric from the Hindutva elements. “The Prime Minister has firmly declared that he is the PM of every segment of Indian society. The commitment towards the welfare of all (sections) is complete, unflinching and unwavering,” Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad says.

Party spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain echoes the sentiment: “Narendra Modi is not the leader of Hindus, but of entire Hindustan. He doesn’t see any Hindustani through the prism of religion; he has a single motto: sabka saath, sabka vikas.”

But the bravado notwithstanding, Modi seems to have realised the slip in perception and, in an effort to paper over the holes, is believed to have told his cabinet colleagues more than once in recent times that he cannot be expected to react on each incident.

While many senior ministers have been quiet over the months, presumably following directions to avoid multiple channels of communication, Modi, according to a source, is now believed to have urged them to counter contentious statements immediately. Perhaps taking a cue, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari recently took the initiative to assuage sentiments of the Christian community in public.

So what does the future hold for the government, and the party? While some answers can be expected in the next few days, as the party’s National Executive meet winds up in Bengaluru on April 4, the real aam aadmi’s reading of it all can be known only in the next Mood of the Nation poll.

But a stunning victory such as the BJP’s can overawe the lesser intuitive. Give a false sense of assurance that the country had finally turned a corner and embraced an agenda that seeks to provoke, divide and dictate. And it did not take long for the headlines of love jihad, ghar wapsi, Hindu rashtra and sundry decisions about what people can or cannot read, watch, study or eat to dominate the discourse. Now they are stark numbers, reflecting the changing perception of why India may have actually voted for Modi and what he stands for. In the mix are familiar terms from the not-too-distant past. Terms such as religious polarisation, communal intolerance and Hindu nationalism that Modi had to sweat to remove from the narrative.

Those are not the only shadows from the past either. The RSS and its leaders worked tirelessly to help the BJP return to power and somewhat unexpectedly, the ideological parent and its extended family have become obviously emboldened in the last 10 months. From frequent reiterations of all Indians being Hindus to abruptly pushing Sanskrit in Kendriya Vidyalayas in the middle of an academic session, the stamp of the saffron establishment has been in your face. And India recognises that. Modi, after all, may not be as independent or free from RSS control goes the feeling. The struggle to work on his own terms seems to be getting harder, just like a certain Atal Bihari Vajpayee had discovered more than a decade back.

India can be quick in apportioning blame, and is not always wrong even if the source of information and intellect is predominantly noisy television news and its slanging matches. Modi’s victory is now being blamed for radical Hindu groups becoming more audacious and more voices are being heard opposing the RSS’s vision of turning India into a Hindu rashtra. So if Lok Sabha polls are held now, the BJP and NDA will see the wave vanish and their boats rocked. The MOTN poll says the BJP will lose 27 seats to fall to 255, erasing its biggest achievement of becoming the first party in three decades to win a clear majority. Six months back, the surge was unabated and the party had built on its May 16 tally. The NDA will in all lose 36 seats to settle at 299. The Congress, which made a different kind of history with its 44 seats, will gain nine seats and cross the half-century mark. But that is another story and for later.

It was not supposed to be like this. Modi’s promise was about development, good governance, minimum government, maximum governance, skill development, jobs, infrastructure, fighting corruption, ending poverty, smart cities, a clean country, achche din-a laundry list of everything India desperately needs. But the critics have begun to argue that Modi’s development agenda was a mask for the Sangh Parivar’s core programmes and when the BJP’s own tally crossed the magic figure of 272, the partisans began crawling out of the woodwork. The more charitable wonder if Modi is unable to tackle his radical alma mater or is figuring how to go about it or is just deliberately turning a blind eye to avoid confrontation and focus on his job. T o the credit of the voters, they recognise the last part. Modi still gets marks for effort and India has not lost all hope. The new Prime Minister scores particularly highly on the diplomacy front, what with his superhit public speeches in New York and Sydney, hosting US President Barack Obama as the Republic Day chief guest, a walk in the park with Japanese premier Shinzo Abe and dinner with Chinese president Xi Jinping on the Sabarmati waterfront, among other high-voltage Kodak moments. Improving India’s global image has become Modi’s biggest achievement yet, notwithstanding all the brickbats he earned in the process for his monogrammed suit.

 

On the economy, the tailwinds have been with Modi. Global oil prices crashed and pulled down inflation, finally allowing the Reserve Bank of India to cut interest rates. Market and investor sentiment has remained high, pushing stock market indices to new peaks and the 2015-16 Budget, albeit cautious, has given little room for complaint. Make in India is the new manufacturing mantra hoping to take off and the government has succeeded in getting parliamentary approval for higher FDI in insurance and transparency in coal and mineral mining. Easing the process of land acquisition is the next big-ticket item, one that has run into trouble with the Congress-led Opposition.

India seems to be more patient with Modi and his government here, trusting him to put in place the blocks needed to build a strong economic edifice. Modi gets thumbs ups for the slow improvement in the economy, his Make in India policy even though it is still on the drawing board and the Swachh Bharat programme that has at least got people talking about our all pervasive filth. The major endorsements would make Modi happy if he chooses to ignore the alarm over the communal cloud. But was it his aim to just be known as someone whose government has performed above expectation?

Methodology

The India Today Group Mood of the Nation poll was conducted by Cicero Associates & Consultants. A total of 12,161 interviews were conducted across 519 locations in 260 assembly constituencies in 19 states- Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. The fieldwork was conducted between March 1 and March 14. The survey followed multistage stratified random sample design and the respondents were selected from the official electoral rolls. All interviews were conducted using a standard structured interview schedule or questionnaire which was also translated into regional languages. Questions on voting preference were asked using a ‘dummy ballot box’ and ‘dummy ballot papers’ in order to maintain confidentiality during mock voting. More than 20 per cent of the interviews were cross-checked for ensuring data quality.

The rhetoric of his campaign juggernaut could take serious issue with that. As also his own perception of himself. So what if he has now overtaken Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the best prime minister India has ever had? Even Modi would know the ephemeral nature of that perception, considering he has been in power for only 10 months, has been talked of as a contender for at least 10 years and is yet to give shape to what could be his legacy. And for a man with an eye on history, he has some distance to travel to beat Indira Gandhi’s popularity in 2001 when a record 43 per cent said she was India’s best prime minister ever.

Ideally, these numbers should breathe some life into the Congress if not make it jump in joy, push the party’s heir not-so-apparent to stop introspecting, pick up its 44 pieces and lead from the front. And the mood of the nation would reflect this gentle swing, one would assume. But India seems as confused as the main Opposition party is about its future direction. What else would explain the contradictory findings and perplexing numbers questions about the Congress seem to produce? Firstly, more Indians now think the Congress can see a revival in the next five years. Rahul Gandhi, now the party vice-president, has a solid chunk backing him to become the next president. But at the same time there is a surge in the number of those who feel Priyanka Gandhi should replace him as Congress leader. Sonia Gandhi’s performance as Congress president has taken a beating even though she has jumped to the rescue of the party that fears divisions along generational fault lines drawn by Rahul. Sonia and Rahul also see their numbers fall as the best candidates in the Congress for the PM’s job.

And then comes the surprise. Former Union minister and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad emerges as the best PM candidate outside the party’s first family. Azad was not even in the reckoning in August and his big achievement since then is to get re-elected to the Rajya Sabha and becoming leader of the Opposition in the House that is at the centre of Narendra Modi’s legislative migraine. Perhaps it is the mixed signals emanating from the Congress, or the confusion about the role of Opposition in a time of unbridled aspiration. Either way, it poses existential dilemmas for the party.

{mosimage}Delhi CM and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal could have considered himself fortunate for not having to struggle with such mathematical crises but events in his party in March have shown that election sweeps are not the be-all and end-all of politics. The MOTN poll was conducted before the AAP crisis exploded at the end of March and respondents were found to be still in thrall of Kejriwal.

The former Indian Revenue Service officer is second to Modi on the list of India’s PM desirables. But he still has to shake off the tag of being a political maverick. For the moment though, Rahul, Sonia, Kejriwal and the others can afford to take a step back. This is Modi’s ship to steer and the people of India have sent a gentle reminder about the direction in which they chose it to be steered in the first place, the speed of the voyage and the need to avoid choppy waters. Captain Modi can either adjust his sails or ignore the signals at his own peril as voters have time and again displayed how unforgiving they can be.

AAP now like any other Party says Bhusan in Open Letter to Arvind Kejriwal

(Prashant Bhushan is a famous lawyer-activist whose public interest litigations have helped expose major scams. He is a founding member of the Aam Aadmi Party.)

Dear Arvind,

In the National Council meeting held on the March 28, in your Convenor’s address, instead of giving a review of the party’s situation and the path ahead, you chose to launch an attack on Yogendra Ji, my father and me, making all sorts of false and inflammatory allegations against us. Your speech incited several Delhi MLAs- (who were invited despite not being members of the NC) to scream that we were “gaddars” who should be thrown out, and behave in the manner of hooligans. Such was the ferocity of the mob of these MLAs and others as they rushed towards my father, that he felt that he may not get out of this alive.

You did not even allow us to respond to your allegations. Immediately after your speech, in the middle of shouting and screaming by MLAs and others, Manish read out a resolution for our removal (without any chair, and without anyone allowing him to do so). He then proceeded to call for vote by show of hands without allowing any discussion, forcing us to walk out of what had clearly become a farce.

It was farcical for many reasons: Many members of the NC had not been invited or allowed to attend; more than half the people inside the meeting hall were non-members, which included MLAs, district and State convenors of four states, volunteers and bouncers; there was no orderly conduct of the proceedings for many reasons, including the hooliganism displayed by many people there; no independent videography was allowed, the party’s Lokpal was not allowed, etc.

What has happened subsequent to the 28th, however, has taken the farce to a level where it seems as if a Stalinist purge is taking place in the party. The party’s internal Lokpal, a person of immense stature and independence, has been removed unconstitutionally, merely because he expressed his wish to attend the National Council meeting and was seen to be fair; other members of the National Executive are being suspended, again unconstitutionally, only because they had attended a press conference held by us after the hooliganism in the National Council meeting.

Thereafter, you have ordered the release of a carefully-edited version of your speech at the National Council meeting, containing various false charges against us, and carefully editing out the portions showing the hooliganism of the mob. It is in such circumstances that I am having to write this open letter to you.

In order to respond to your charges, I would need to go back a bit to see where my serious differences started with you.  If you will remember, my differences started after the Lok Sabha elections, when a series of things happened which began to show two serious defects in your character and personality. Firstly, you wanted  to push through your decisions at any cost in the party, despite the majority of the PAC or the National Executive disagreeing with you. This included  decisions that would have undoubtedly been very harmful for the party and against public interest. And secondly, you were  willing to use some very highly unethical and even criminal means to achieve your ends.

After the Lok Sabha elections, you felt that the party was  finished, and could only be revived if it were  able to form the government again in Delhi. So immediately after the elections, you started talking to the Congress party for taking its support again to  form the government in Delhi. When news of this came out, a large number of important  people in the party including Prithvi Reddy, Mayank Gandhi and Anjali Damania called me up saying this would be disastrous, and if this happens, they would have to quit the party. I was in Shimla at that time, I called you up, and I said that you should not go ahead with this unless there is a proper discussion in the Political Action Committee (PAC).

I immediately came back and we had a meeting of the PAC at  your residence. And at that meeting, a majority of the members – 5:4 – felt that we should not go ahead with forming the government with Congress’ support. I had pointed out that this would seem extremely opportunistic, since there was no logical reason for us to change our publicly stated position. I also added that such a government would not last, as the Congress will withdraw support soon, and thereafter, for us to revive the party would become even more difficult.

Instead of abiding by the majority decision, you said that while that may be the majority view, as the Convenor of the party, you have the right to take the final decision, and that you would go ahead with seeking Congress’ support. At that point, I had a verbal argument with you. I said the party can’t be run in this manner, and it has to be run by some democratic means. So it was decided to refer this issue to the National Executive which had many more people. This reference was made by email, and people were expected to vote by next morning. By next morning, again a majority of people opposed this decision in the National Executive and yet, a letter was secretly sent by you to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi saying that he should not dissolve the Assembly for another week because AAP wants to seek the opinion of the people on whether to form the government again.

Immediately after the letter came out, Congress said they were not ready to support AAP and that left us with egg on our face with the result that you had to backtrack the next day and apologize. But despite that, the attempt to form the government with Congress’ support or with the support of breakaway MLAs from the Congress continued, as is clear from the sting tape of Rajesh Garg which shows you were wanting to form the government with the support of those MLAs whom you had yourself accused of having being bought over by the BJP for Rs. 4 crore each. How could you even think of forming a government with the support of such people! And this went on till as late as November, just before the dissolution of the Assembly. In November, you called Nikhil Dey and asked him to speak to Rahul Gandhi to convince him to get the Congress party to support. But Nikhil told you that he can’t talk to Rahul Gandhi on this issue.

Can you deny any of these facts? All this, showed your willingness to go against majority opinion, break all democratic rules of the party, and seek unethical support of MLAs whom you yourself had accused of being corrupt, all in the pursuit of power at any cost.

Then came the issue of AVAM or Aam Aadmi Volunteer Action Manch, which was a group of volunteers who wanted their voices heard in the party. Because this was threatening to brew into a rebellion amongst volunteers who felt that they were being used only like slave labour, and because you felt that it was necessary to crush this, it appears that the party got an SMS sent in the name of AVAM, saying that volunteers should join the BJP – the idea was to  suggest  that AVAM had become an agent of the BJP, though the SMS was  fabricated by the party itself in the name of AVAM. And using this, you announced in a Google Hangout that these people had become traitors because of that SMS. And on that basis, Karan Singh, who was the leader of AVAM, was suspended and removed from the party. He appealed to the national disciplinary committee, which I was heading, and he said ‘I had been saying that this is not sent by me, please have this investigated’. So I asked you and Dilip Pandey and others to get this investigated, but you steadfastly refused.

Eventually, Karan Singh had to lodge an FIR, and the police investigated the matter and it was found that a volunteer of the party, not of AVAM, called Deepak Chaudhary, created this identity in the name of AAVAAM and used that to send that SMS. You should know Arvind, that impersonating an organisation or persons in order to defame them, is a serious criminal offence. Unfortunately young volunteers in the party under your tutelage are being taught that use of such means is OK in politics, since any means used to defeat a “Bigger evil” is OK.

Then came the issue of whether the party should contest Assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra. Again the matter was put to the National Executive by email, and the majority – 15 is to 4 – said that that should be left to state units to decide in accordance with our principle of Swaraj. But you did not allow that decision to be implemented. And eventually, it was rendered infructuous, because elections came too close and finally in that National Executive meet in Sangrur it was decided that there’s no point, and one should forget about contesting those elections.

When the Delhi elections were announced and campaigning started, you instructed volunteers to start a campaign ‘Modi for PM, Kejriwal for CM’. I said this is totally unprincipled. It means that our party has gone down on its knees before Modi at a time when it was positioning itself as the main opposition to Modi.

When the process of candidate selection for the Delhi Assembly election of 2015 started, I found there was no transparency. Contrary to earlier practice, we were not posting candidates’ names on the website. Even the PAC, which was meant to approve the candidate, was not being sent the bio-data or names of the candidates in advance to enable us to check the records of the candidates. In the second meeting of the PAC to discuss candidate selection, because I had received complaints about two of the candidates who were being proposed in that meeting, I pointed this out. You got very angry saying, “Why do you think we will be selecting crooked people?” I said that is not the point – we need to have some transparency and due diligence. That led to an argument between you and me, and I walked out of that meeting and wrote an email on November 27, that I cannot be a rubber stamp for non-transparent and questionable selection of candidates. That email is now in the public domain.

After that, in the next list, again there were at least four questionable candidates among the 10 names proposed. Yogendra Yadav and I wrote a letter to the PAC on 10th December, detailing the objections against these four and pointing out that this time, the process of candidate selection was very different from the last time. This time, we were giving tickets to a large number of political entrepreneurs who had joined the party only for opportunism, who had jumped  ship from Congress, BJP or BSP at the last moment,  who had no ideological commitment to our party, had no record of public service, and whose sources of wealth weren’t explained.

Some of them were people against whom our party had itself complained that they were distributing money or liquor or had beaten up our volunteers. One of them (our initial choice from Wazirpur), went back to the BJP within 4 hours of us announcing his candidature. Your initial choice for the Mehrauli seat, Gandas, had to be dropped at the last moment only because his photographs were circulated with him showing off, with a glass of liquor in one hand and a revolver in the other. Yet, while he was dropped, his brother was given the ticket. Eventually, even he had to be changed because our Lokpal, Admiral Ramdas gave a strong report against him.

Thereafter, AAP stopped having meetings of the PAC or sending names for the approval of the PAC, and started announcing names on their own. When all this happened, I said “Now enough is enough. If this does not stop, and if there is no credible scrutiny of these candidates, I will have to resign from the party and make public the reasons for my resignation.” On that, an emergency meeting was called at my residence on January 4, by Yogendra Yadav, Prithvi Reddy etc which had 16-17 people from all over the country, important functionaries of the party. All of them felt that the party’s campaign would be ruined if I resigned at that stage.

In that meeting I said, “Look, all these kinds of compromises are being made, various ethical corners are being cut and now you are selecting these kind of candidates without proper transparency or scrutiny. If you go with these kinds of candidates, then even if you win, the further compromises that you will have to make, will be such that they will completely destroy the USP of the party, which is of being a clean, transparent party, wedded to alternative politics. And instead of winning by using these kinds of candidates, it would be better to lose the elections by going with clean and honourable candidates”. That statement is being twisted around to claim that I said that I wanted the party to lose.

I had said that rather than winning by these kinds of candidates and means, it’s better to go with honourable candidates and run the risk of a possible loss. Because winning with these kinds of candidates and means destroys the founding principles of the party in the short run, and will destroy the party itself in the long run.

If I had wanted the party to lose the elections, I would have resigned and gone public with my reasons at that very time. If Yogendra Yadav wanted the party to lose, he would not have convened that meeting and stopped me from going public. Instead, he worked his heart out for this campaign, defended the party on innumerable occasions on TV. And yet you have the temerity to accuse even him, along with me, of working for the defeat of the party!

At the end of that meeting, an arrangement was worked out with your express consent, that: We would immediately refer all the complaints against candidates who had been selected to the Lokpal of the party and his decision would be final. And the rest of the issues of institutional reforms about transparency in the party, accountability, swaraj, inner party democracy – those issues will be taken up immediately after the elections. So those complaints against 12 candidates were referred to the Lokpal. In the 4 days that he had to do this exercise, he recommended the  removal of two against whom there was clear evidence, recommended the issuance of warnings against six against whom there was some evidence, and allowed four to continue. Two were thus removed.

But the other issue of institutional reforms, which was agreed to be taken up within two days of the election results, were not discussed. Instead, the National Executive meeting of February 26, which you chose not to attend, started with Vishwas announcing your resignation and a no holds barred attack on Yogendra Yadav and myself by members of your coterie. The message conveyed by them on your behalf was clear: That the price for your continuing as Convenor was our removal from the PAC and NE. I then responded and pointed out the things I have mentioned above, and the issues of institutional reforms, but those were not discussed. The only issue that was discussed that day was whether you should continue as Convenor.

We all agreed that you should continue, but thereafter, some people went to your residence to meet you, and you made it clear that it’s either you or us, and that we have to be removed. And therefore, that is what happened in the next meeting which was held on March 4.

A charge that is made against me is that I did not campaign for the party during this election. I had said that I can’t campaign for many of these candidates, and given the manner in which these candidates had been selected, I was willing to campaign only for those candidates about whom I was fairly certain that they were the kind of people who would take the ideology of clean politics forward and work in public interest if they win. I had in fact given a list of five people that I thought were decent. But the party did not send me any programme for addressing public meetings. I therefore went for Pankaj Pushkar’s public meetings who had personally invited me.

The other charge made against me is that I stopped people from donating to AAP. When other people asked me whether they should donate etc, I’d said, “Look, you should donate to those candidates who appear to be decent and honest to you”. You and your coterie have made the same charge against my sister Shalini Gupta. She also said the same thing that I had said to a closed circle of friends. In fact she strenuously encouraged the Global group to donate to deserving candidates, which is why several candidates got so much funds from NRIs.

Your coterie have also accused my father, my sister and myself of trying to capture the party. Arvind, you know very well that none of us have even wanted any executive positions or tickets for ourselves or any friends or family members. We have only tried to contribute and help in every way that we could to see the party grow into a powerful and credible vehicle for alternative politics in the country. My father, apart from donating more than 2 crores as seed money to the party, has spent an enormous amount of time in giving selfless advice, legal and otherwise to the party. He played a major role in the draft of the Jan Lokpal bill. He worked for the well being of the party with his “tan, man and dhan”. Yes, when he felt that you, for various reasons were not the right person to lead the party organisation, he frankly told you so. Apart from the reasons of ethical compromises mentioned above, he also saw that you were violating the constitution and rules of the party repeatedly, not allowing any working structure of the party organisation to be created (other than a coterie), and were not interested in formulating the policies of the party.

For two years, the elaborate reports of the 34 policy committees that we had set up, have been gathering dust because you havent found the time or have the inclination to look at those reports and apply your mind to them. You accuse my father of having stated that you were his third choice for CM after Kiran Bedi and Ajay Maken. That was his honest view after seeing all the shorcomings in your character that he had been observing. I had immediately publicly disagreed with his opinion, but in the light of what has transpired subsequently, particularly the stage managed lumpenism that you got unleashed in the NC meeting, I regretfully wonder if he was right.

My sister Shalini Gupta, as well as many other highly qualified persons, left their lucrative jobs abroad to help you build credible and efficient systems which would have proper cells and expertise so that it could function as a world class organisation. On repeated occasions you had yourself asked Shalini to give up her job for the sake of the country and said that her role as Organization Development Advisor was only an advisory role and not a formal position with any power in the party as discussed in the PAC before she was appointed.  However it became clear over time that you did not want any professional advice in this matter. Instead you asked Ashutosh who has no such professional expertise to come up with an alternative plan to make each cell of the party organisation an appendage to your coterie and accountable only to you.

It is true Arvind that I have not contributed as much as you for the party. I have not fasted, nor gone to jail. I have been mostly involved in my various PILs against various scams, 2G, Coalgate, the CBI director, 4G, the Reliance Gas robbery, against GM foods, Nuclear Power Plants, destructive Hydel projects, Section 66A, Tobacco and Gutka, etc. I have spent the rest of my time giving legal and other advice to the party and fighting its cases in court. I have never been interested in any executive posts and I have seen my role in the party mainly as a person who will try and ensure that it remains true to its founding principles. And it is for this reason that I have raised my voice whenever I have found it to be slipping from its path.

Arvind, this party was founded with a lot of idealism by thousands of people, especially young people, who came out and spent a lot of their time, effort, energy, money, sweat and blood in order to create a vehicle for alternative politics, in order to create a party that would practice clean and transparent politics. But unfortunately, all those principles are being betrayed by you and your coterie, who are currently in control of the party. And it has become a supremo-oriented, high-command culture kind of party.

You feel that you can rectify everything by running the Delhi government well in the 5 years that you have. You think that if you deliver on governance, people will forget what you have done to the party. I wish you well in that endeavour. Even traditional political parties like Congress, BJP have done some governance.  But the dream that we started with for clean and principled politics and corruption free governance was much much bigger.  The fear that I have, is that after how you have behaved and the character traits that you have showed, this dream of clean and principled politics that the Aam Aadmi party was founded on may well turn into a nightmare. But still, I wish you well.

Goodbye and good luck,

Prashant

Smriti Irani caught in Goa Fabindia trial room, four held after she files FIR in Goa Fabindia trial room

Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani comes out of the FabIndia showroom at Calangute, Goa on Friday.

A case was registered against a Goa outlet of the popular clothing chain FabIndia on Friday after Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani said a CCTV camera was pointed towards the changing room she used.Police detained three staff members for questioning and have sealed the store. A case has been registered under Sections 354 C (voyeurism) and 509 (insulting the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code against employees who were monitoring the cameras. Police seized the camera.Ms. Irani, on a two-day holiday to Goa with her family, raised an alarm on noticing the camera. She called BJP MLA in Calangute, Michael Lobo, who reached the outlet along with the police. He lodged a complaint on her behalf.Mr. Lobo said the camera was located just above a beam touching the trial room. “The trial room has wooden ventilators in the shape of cubes and squares for air conditioning through which the camera had a clear view inside,” he told

Will cooperate with police: FabIndia

Mr. Lobo said he checked the camera at FabIndia store in Goa after Union Human Resource Minister Smriti Irani complained. “It was indeed recording the scene inside the trial room. We rolled the footage 20 minutes back… there was objectionable footage of people changing,” Mr. Lobo said.FabIndia managing director William Bissel said the cameras did not focus on the trial room. In a clarification posted on its Facebook page, FabIndia said it was “deeply concerned and shocked at this allegation.” The outlet was in the “process of investigating this internally and will be cooperating fully with the police. Senior officials of the company are on their way to Goa and will be present during the investigation,” it said.Mr. Lobo said the larger concern now was to check if the culprits were circulating the footage outside.


 

The youngest person on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, Smriti Irani is a firebrand whose political career began with her joining the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) in 2003. The former TV bahu has had an eventful career path dotted with equal amounts of failure and success. Recently appointed as the Minister for Human Resource Development, here’s a look at 18 lesser known facts about the 38-year-old Smriti Irani.

 

Smriti Irani - Youngest Women in Modi's Cabinet

Cabinet Minister Smriti Irani after taking an oath at the presidential palace in New Delhi.1. As the youngest person in Modi’s Council of Ministers, Smriti handles the crucial HRD portfolio that covers Education. The former TV actress had potshots taken at her by Congress leader Ajay Maken for the same as she dropped out of Holy Child Auxilium School after Class XI. But we strongly believe a degree isn’t everything!

 

Smriti tweeted about a run down girl's school

Smriti Irani tweeted about the atrocious conditions in which girls in Amethi study.

2. Smriti comes from a lower middle class family. Her Punjabi-Maharashtrian father and Bengali-Assamese mother’s only dream for Smriti was for her to get married to a good boy. Well, clearly the BJP politician had bigger things on her mind.

 

3. The eldest of three sisters, Smriti worked to support her family and ease the load off her parents from a very early age. After Class X, she apparently earned Rs.200 for promoting a beauty product.

 

Smriti Irani in her younger days

Smriti Irani in her younger days

 

4. She wanted to become a journalist at one point but gave up on that dream on being rejected after an interview by a journo. Well, good for her. She now has jounalists making a bee line for her instead 🙂

 

Snriti Irani being interviewed by a journalist

A journalist interviews Smriti Irani 

 

5. Married to a Parsi Zubin Irani with two kids Zohr and Zoish, Smriti also has a stepdaughter Shanelle from Zubin’s previous marriage to coordinator and former beauty contestant Mona Irani.

 

Smriti Irani and husband Zubin Irani

Smriti Irani and husband Zubin Irani at the 6th Annual Indian Television Awards

 

6. Zubin and Smriti were childhood friends. He used to pull her ponytails, and tease her when she was young. Well, some things never change. In an interview, Smriti confessed that Zubin still loves to tease her and pull her hair, but all inside the four walls!

 

7. Before attaining stardom, Smriti worked a job at McDonald’s Bandra, where she cleared tables and cleaned floors. Talk about a rise to the top!

 

8. In 1998, Smriti Irani took part in the Femina Miss India beauty pageant, for which she borrowed Rs.1 lakh from her dad promising to repay it regardless of the outcome of the contest.

 

Smriti Irani in Femina Miss India pageant

Smriti Irani (extreme right) during the Femina Miss India contest in 1998

 

9. Her life changed for the better when she was called to replace actress Neelam Kothari as the host of an episode of “Ooh La La La”. That’s when Ekta Kapoor spotted her.

 

10. Popularly known as TV’s favourite bahu, Smriti got her big break as Tulsi Virani in Ekta Kapoor’s Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi in mid-2000. Sadly she had a fallout with Ekta and was replaced by Gautami Kapoor in 2007.

 

Smriti Irani as Tulsi Irani in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi

Smriti Irani as Tulsi Virani in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi

 

11. She produced TV shows Virrudh and Thodi Si Zameen Thoda Sa Aasmaan under her banner Ugraya Entertainment.

 

12. In 2003, Smriti plunged into politics and joined the BJP. Her ties with the party go back a long way. Apparently her grandfather was a swayamsevak and her mother a BJP booth activist.

 

13. In 2010, Smriti was appointed as the National Secretary of the BJP and All India President of the BJP’s women’s wing, BJP Mahila Morcha.

 

Smriti Irani advocates death sentence for rapists

Sushma Swaraj (C) with Smriti Irani, Najma Heptulla (R) and other Members of Parliament shouting slogans of protest against the heinous Delhi gangrape

 

14. While other politicians made shockingly insensitive comments following the many rape cases in India, Smriti advocated capital punishment for rapists.

 

15. Smriti and Modi were not always the on the best terms with each other. In fact, in December 2004, Irani threatened to fast unto death Narendra Modi resigned from his position as Gujarat Chief Minster and blamed him for BJP’s electoral losses. However, she later relented after being threatened by BJP’s central leadership. Guess much water has flowed under the bridge and all is good between the now PM and HRD minister.

 

Smriti Irani campaigns for Narendra Modi

Smriti Irani campaigns for Narendra Modi

 

16. In the 2014 general elections, Smriti wore orange saris to every one of her rallies in keeping with the BJP saffron colour.

 

Smriti and Zubin Irani during general elections

Smriti Irani in her signature orange saris during the 2014 general elections

 

17. Contesting from Amethi, she gave Rahul Gandhi the jitters on counting day. Though she lost, she was tough competition for the Congress Vice-president.

 

Smriti Irani at a rally in Amethi

Smriti Irani campaigning in Amethi

 

18. There are so many people who leave home to pursue their dreams but not many are successful. That’s why Smriti considers her life a work of God and is a very god-fearing and spiritual person.

 

Smriti Irani celebrates Navroze

FIR against Giriraj Singh for ‘white skin’ comment against Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Sonia hits back!

The court ordered the local Mithanpura police station to immediately lodge an FIR against Giriraj Singh and report to the court within a week’s time.

A day after Union Minister and Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Giriraj Singh sparked controversy with his ‘white skin’ comment against Congress president Sonia Gandhi, a local court in Bihar, on Thursday, ordered to lodge an FIR (First Information Report) against him.A local Congress leader in Muzaffarpur district of north Bihar, Vidyanand Singh had filed a defamation against Giriraj Singh for his derogatory remark against party president Sonia Gandhi.While talking cognisance of the petition the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate in Muzaffarpur transferred the case to the court of Sub-Divisional Magistrate, East, Anju Singh for adjudication.Later, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate ordered the local Mithanpura police station in Muzaffarpur district to immediately lodge an FIR against Giriraj Singh and report to the court within a week’s time.Meanwhile, Union Minister and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), an ally of the BJP, leader Upendra Kushwaha condemned Giriraj Singh’s comment saying “it does not behove a Union Minister to make such comment. A person holding such post should refrain himself from making such controversial statements”. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, asked to respond to a racist comment on her by union minister Giriraj Singh, said today: “I would not like to comment on people who have a narrow mindset.”

Mrs Gandhi was speaking to reporters at a village in Madhya Pradesh, where she met farmers hit by unseasonal rain.On Tuesday, Mr Singh had said at an event in Bihar: “If Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian lady and not a white-skinned woman, then would the Congress have accepted her leadership?”

The BJP ordered Mr Singh to apologise. Sources say party chief Amit Shah asked the 63-year-old minister to “observe absolute restraint in public and in private” and stop embarrassing the party and the government.The minister later said: “All sorts of things are said off the record. But if Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were hurt by my remarks, then I regret them.”

The Congress said the minister’s comment was “bordering on insanity” and demanded his resignation.

Indian Healthcare Analysts must understand the rural disconnect

Determined to shape the future of healthcare in India, Dr Devi Prasad Shetty is breaking new ground in productivity, profitablity and affordability. By M Neelam Kachhap

201503ehm16

Dr Devi Shetty, Founder Chairman of Narayana Health, is the ingenious man who wants to change the way healthcare is delivered around the world. He is celebrated world over as the man who made heart surgeries available and affordable for the poor. Taking a leaf out of CK Prahalad’s famous ‘bottom of the pyramid theory’, Dr Shetty designed an inventive method to bring heart surgery closer to the poorest socio-economic group in India without compromising on quality.

He created a movement called Narayana Hrudayalaya (now known as Narayana Health-NH). Today he is expanding this idea to include complex treatment modalities like cancer and organ transplant, while adding increasing number of beds to his already large healthcare conglomerate Narayana Health.

“When I started out in 2000, I never thought all this was possible,” Dr Shetty says. “We not only proved to ourself that it could happen but also to others,” he adds. Quite frankly he has achieved a lot in 15 years. Be it adding 7000 beds or health insurance at five rupees per month or building a world class health city, Dr Shetty has managed to grab it all.

Ground breaking idea

201503ehm17Dr Shetty is world renowned for performing complex heart surgeries, mostly on new born babies, but that is not the only thing he wanted to achieve. He wanted to make heart surgery affordable.

When Dr Shetty saw that sequential organisation of tasks around the operating table was achieving quick turn-around time for patients in less than half the cost; he not only institutionalised the process but also shared the theory with the world. Soon he was being labelled as “Henry Ford of cardiac surgeries”.

By applying the principles of assembly line production to cardiac surgery he was able to demonstrate that world-class cardiac surgery could be performed at lower costs. He achieved this difficult feat by enhanced productivity (more number of surgeries in a day than other surgeons) which in turn translated into affordability that brought profitability to the hospital.

High volume, low cost

India has a large number of patients seeking heart care. “Every year two million Indians need cardiac surgery, but only 100,000 to 120,000 are performed,” informs Dr Shetty. In addition there are a huge number of children with congenital heart defects that needs surgical correction.

“In India, a large number of children are born with a heart problem (600-800 per day),” adds Dr Shetty. He further says that, of these, 90 per cent perish gradually without ever getting any type of care.

Dr Shetty decided that he would not turn anybody wanting heart care back for want of funds. As a humanitarian, he wanted to help patients in need, which also allowed him to do high volumes to sustain the low cost of surgery.

Besides high volume, Dr Shetty was able to put in place a cross subsidised cost model for surgery where a poor patient’s surgery was paid for by a wealthy patient and by innovating the low cost insurance scheme.

Innovating insurance

201503ehm18He designed the world’s cheapest comprehensive health insurance named Karnataka Yeshasvini healthcare scheme, supported by the Government of Karnataka for the poor farmers of the state in 2003. Through the scheme, a farmer could have health insurance for a token sum of Rs 5 per month. Today, the token amount has increased to Rs 18 and still the farmers insured can avail benefits of a variety of surgeries, including heart surgeries. “Till now over four million people have benefitted from this scheme,” says Dr Shetty. Currently, he is applying this frugal thinking to further bring down the cost of healthcare in India. Broadly, outlining yet another disruptive healthcare financing scheme, Dr Shetty proposes an all-India insurance scheme linked to the large ubiquitous mobile phone customer base.

Dissociate health from affluence

Healthcare is not only for the rich. The poor patients also need healthcare and Dr Shetty envisions India as the first country in the world to dissociate healthcare from affluence. This can be achieved through micro-insurance schemes, he says. “In India, there are about eight million mobile phone subscribers who spend around Rs 200 every month to speak on the phone. If the government allows them to pay Rs 20 extra on that phone bill for health insurance, I don’t think people would mind paying that additional money and there would be a corpus for the healthcare expenses,” explains Dr Shetty. “This will happen soon,” he adds with enthusiasm.

Cutting cost not quality

Dr Shetty believes that healthcare can translate into a profitable business. This profit could then be passed onto the patient. Cost-cutting is one of the ways to achieve this but quality becomes a major concern for many hospitals when thinking of cost-cutting. Dr Shetty does not compromise on quality.

A few years back he realised that his annual bill for sutures was very high and kept rising every year. “Our annual bill for sutures was coming up to $100,000 and rising by about five per cent each year,” he remembers. “We switched to less costly sutures by Centennial, cutting the expenditures in half to about $50,000,” he says.

In the wake of re-evaluating costs, Dr Shetty set up a medical disposable company called Amaryllis Healthcare. “We realised that other companies were only cutting and stitching disposable fabric bought in bulk to make disposable drapes,” shares Dr Shetty. “So, it was just a matter of procuring bulk material to make our own disposable drapes,” he says. Today, Amaryllis not only supplies NH with drapes but also exports to other countries. “Most hospitals rarely use disposable drapes, preferring linen because it is cheaper. But because of our scale, we switched and reduced our costs by 50 percent in the process,” he adds.


NH: At a glance

201503ehm19Narayana Health (formerly known as Narayana Hrudayalaya) founded by Dr Devi Shetty has its flagship hospital in Bengaluru at NH Health City. It houses India’s largest bone marrow transplant unit at Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Centre, dialysis units and has tertiary care expertise in liver, kidney and heart transplants. One of the world’s largest heart hospitals, it has performed the largest number of successful paediatric heart surgeries in the world. The group has one of the largest telemedicine networks in the world. The Narayana Health network today has hospitals in Bengaluru, Kolkata, Jamshedpur, Raipur, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Durgapur, Shimoga, Mysore, Dharwad, Davangere, Kolar, Berhampore and Kuppam, in addition to its international subsidiary in Cayman Islands, North America.

  • It conducts 40 heart surgeries every day
  • It has expertise in liver transplants on babies less than 10 kg weight with 95 per cent success rate
  • It is the first heart hospital in Asia to implant an artificial heart
  • It has performed combined kidney and pancreas transplant, offers formal training programme for paediatric cardiac surgery
  • Thrombosis Research Institute, Bangalore a division of Narayana Health is working towards discovering a vaccine to prevent heart attack. The Institute has come up with markers to diagnose heart disease early
  • Two units of NH, Narayana Institute of Cardiac Sciences, Bengaluru and Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Jaipur are JCI-accredited and four others are NABH-accredited

Profit – loss analysis

Cost-cutting is not the only tool in Dr Shetty’s tool-kit. Profit-loss analysis is also used for diagnosing the financial health of the business.”To reduce cost of healthcare one must know how much we are spending today,” says Dr Shetty. “We have invested in a technology that lets us do exactly that,” he reveals. “Every day at noon, I get an SMS on my cell phone with previous day’s revenue, expense and earnings before interest, depreciation, taxation and amortization (EBITDA) margin. All doctors and administrators are also given a daily P&L calculation. This helps us stay above our competitors. More importantly, if there is a course correction required it can be done immediately,” shares Dr Shetty.

“For us, looking at a profit and loss account at the end of the month is like reading a post-mortem report. You cannot do anything about it. Whereas, if you monitor it on a daily basis, it works as a diagnostic tool. You can take remedial measures,” he further explains.

Create volumes of workers

Dr Shetty believes that workers in healthcare should be empowered to help in healthcare delivery. Technicians and executives can make a lot of difference but there are no dedicated skill enhancement programmes for people wanting to work in this area. “The health sector can create millions of jobs for the extremely skilled, semi skilled, and unskilled workers. We are looking at innovative ways to help them educate and absorb in the main workforce,” says Dr Shetty.

He also believes children from deprived background can become outstanding doctors. “If you look at almost all the outstanding surgeons in this world, they are all children from a deprived background,” he says. He believes that children from rural India aspire and have the zeal to be successful heart surgeons, neurosurgeons and other specialised medical professionals in fields that require more commitment and dedication. He also feels that these children can be motivated to use their training in improving healthcare systems in their villages and small towns.

He has launched a scholarship programme in rural West Bengal, with Asia Heart Foundation (AHF) for children interested in becoming doctors and medical professionals. At present they have 305 students taking benefits of the programme.

Insistence on accountability

Accountability is one of the major challenges in the Indian healthcare sector. Patient safety and quality are there on paper but not many hospitals take firm steps to address these issues. “At NH every hospital has a committee that addresses these issues. They meet every week to discuss mortality and morbidity incidences,” says Dr Shetty. “All data is collected and analysed to reduce morbidity,” he adds.

He says this has helped NH reduce the incidence of bed sore at the hospital. “Bed sore incidence globally is about 8-40 per cent following cardiac surgery and we wanted to reduce it to zero per cent. We accomplished it in three years. Now our protocol is being accepted by the American Nursing Association to reduce bed sore in US,” Dr Shetty says proudly. “Like this we have various standardised processes to reduced morbidity and reduce complications,” he adds.

Lobbying for better healthcare

Dr Shetty is one of the healthcare evangelists lobbying for better working condition of doctors. He is also a supporter of ‘Save the Doctors’ campaign that advocate equalisation of undergraduate (UG) and post-graduate (PG) seats in medical colleges. “Unless the government equalises the UG and PG seats in medical colleges, (50,000 UG and 14,000 PG seats) there will not be any rural healthcare. Maternal mortality and infant mortality will not come down. Overall, no future for healthcare unless medical education is liberated from the shackles of current policies,” he asserts.

Since, there are very few PG seats there is a dearth of specialist doctors. The few specialists that are available are all concentrated around urban areas and rural areas still lack specialist doctors. “Government has to do it,” Dr Shetty insists. “In India, 26-28 million babies are born every year of which one-fifth are born through C-section for which you need two lakh gynaecologists. But we only have 30,000 gynaecologists who are practising. Besides, we need anaesthetist, paellied staff it poses great concern to accountability. “Legal framework is ill defined for doctors. Without an MD degree you cannot do anything.,” laments Dr Shetty.

He also regrets the state of nurses in India. “The nursing profession may soon be extinct gal framework is ill-defined for doctors. Without an MD degree you cannot do anything,” laments Dr Shetty.

He also regrets the state of nurses in India. “The nursing profession may soon be extinct in India,” he says. The acute shortage of nurses in India is no secret. Nursing in India is not a preferred career choice. Besides long work hours and minimal wages, nurses also struggle with stagnation.” In developed countries nurses can specialise and become anaesthetist, intensivists but in India it’s not possible,” says Dr Shetty. He says that nurses should be specialised and empowered for better delivery of healthcare in India. “We should legally empower the nurses and bring them to level of junior doctor,” suggests Dr Shetty. He also says that these suggestions have been put to the health ministry and they are expected to take decision on these matters soon. “Yes! the government is listening and these things may be a reality soon,” says Dr Shetty.

201503ehm20

Next big idea in healthcare

Talking about his next innovation, Dr Shetty says, “The next big thing in healthcare is not going to be a magic pill, a faster scanner or a new surgery technique, it will be information technology that will change the way healthcare is delivered and consumed.”

Indeed information technology is being used today to improve the quality of care in India. “The entire healthcare will be delivered on the matrix of information technology,” he reiterates.

However, healthcare is utilising information technology at a heightened pace now, so how is it going to be disruptive in future? Answering the question, Dr Shetty says, “Information technology has not been able to mould healthcare. There has not been enough innovation as yet, may be because of data security concerns or due to low penetration of technology.” Emphasising on his views, Dr Shetty says, “But in time to come all this will change. Healthcare services will be delivered by information technology.”

Talking about his tryst with technology, Dr Shetty says, “We are in the process of developing and testing a large number of applications for mobile phone, smart phone and internet.”

In fact, ICUs at Narayana Health, Bangalore are all paper free. “We have developed one app for the iPad. Our ICUs do not have paper, they have iPads. All the patient monitoring data is stored in the iPad and the patient is monitored through the iPad. Several other apps are being tested by us right now,” informs Dr Shetty.

Developing new technology is one of the focus areas of Narayana Health. “We have a major interest in developing technology. We are currently negotiating with one of the largest healthcare chains in US. They are very keen to take the iCare we have developed with Cognizant to the next level,” informs Dr Shetty.

India can become the first country in the world to dissociate health care from affluence. This can only happen by closely linking healthcare delivery with medical education.According to World Bank data, Cuba produces the larg est number doctors per capita in the world (6.7 per 1,000 against 2.5 per 1,000 in the US and 0.7 per 1,000 in India) and its health indices are better than that of the US, which spends the most on healthcare. India is short of 3 million doctors and 6 million nurses, as per a PwC study , and its paramedical training programme is virtually non-existent. It is unfortunate that in 65 years post-Independence, we have never even once studied our manpower requirement for healthcare.

Every 10 minutes, a young woman dies during childbirth somewhere in India and 3 lakh children die the day they are born. India’s infant mortality rate (42 per 1,000 live births) and maternal mortality rate (178 per 100,000 live births) almost matches that of sub-Saharan countries, and the situation will not improve simply because government spends more money . We simply don’t have the number of medical specialists needed to reduce these rates.

For 26 million childbirths per year, we need to perform at least 5.2 million Caesarian sections. For successful childbirth following a Csection, we need over a lakh each of gynaecologists, anaesthetists, paediatricians and radiologists. We only have around 30,000 gynaecologists and 20,000 anaesthetists and radiologists.

NUMBING NEGLECT

No surgery on a human body can be done legally without an anesthetist.Only 30% of India’s population has satisfactory access to proper anesthesia services, of which 80% are urban beneficiaries.

Top 10 causes of death like heart disease, resistant TB, brain stroke, mental illness leading suicide, liver disease, accidents and cancer cannot be legally retreated by a doctor without a postgraduate qualification. Consider our figures for just two specialties -India has only 4,000 gastroenterologists and 1,400 neurosurgeons. The US has 20,000 undergraduate seats and 37,900 postgraduate seats. In most developed countries, postgraduate seats are twice the number of undergraduate seats.However, in India we have close to 50,000 undergraduate seats and 14,000 postgraduate seats in clinical subjects.

EMPOWER NURSES

India runs MBBS-centric healthcare.Indian policies prevent anyone other than a doctor with an MBBS degree to touch a patient. Primary healthcare in most countries is taken care of by nurse practitioners or physician assistants. In India, a nurse with over 20 years of experience in a cardiac ICU is not allowed to prescribe basic drugs. But in the US, nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia in 67% of cases. The government should consider offering dispensing rights to nurse practitioners or AYUSH doctors working at the public health centre to dispense 47 basic drugs after rigorous training and certification.

The nursing profession in India is on the verge of extinction because career progression is limited in the field. Admissions to nursing colleges have come down by nearly 50%. Soon we may have to import nurses at exorbitant salaries from countries like the Philippines or Thailand.

TRAIN PARAMEDICS

Healthcare is not about just doctors and nurses. For holistic healthcare, there should be four nurses and four paramedics behind every doctor. Of the 20 fastest-growing occupations in US, 15 are in paramedical healthcare.Unfortunately in India, none of the 15 training programmes exist. Paramedics like physician’s assistants can add significantly to very sick patient care.

Instead of only looking to increase the healthcare budget in India we should look at reforms in medical, nursing and paramedical education, which will have a big impact in less than three years. Pumping more money into a defunct system will only increase corruption.

India will see major changes in medical education and healthcare within the next couple of years, renowned cardiac surgeon Devi Shetty said on Wednesday as he called for technology enabled solutions to address pressing health issues. Delivering the key note address at the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) here, Shetty said the next big thing in health care will not be “magic pill” or a new operation but information technology. Shetty said “the present Narendra Modi led government was very “progressive” and one will witness major changes in medical education and healthcare in India in the next couple of years. There is no other choice,” he told PTI. “You cannot have a country with GDP shooting up to 7-8 per cent and 80 per cent of population not having access to proper healthcare. They have to bring about change,” he said.During the speech, he referred to estimates by WHO which predicted a shortage of 12.9 million healthcare workers presently. However, he said that his own estimates suggests that it is going to be twice as that as India only requires 3 million new doctors and 6 million nurses today.”What we can do collectively and what is desperately required in this world is a global university for medical nursing and para-medical education,” said Shetty, who runs Narayana Health in Bangalore.Noting that, it was very expensive to start a medical school in India, he said there was a need to change the way medical colleges are established.”We need to change it because cost of medical education has to come down significantly. Children from poor families should get into them and become doctors,” Shetty said.”Outstanding doctors throughout the world, who have magic in their fingers, passion to change things, generally come from deprived background. These are the children who have fire in the belly and work for 18-20 hours and change the way healthcare is delivered,” he added.”Existing medical universities will not be very happy with this concept (global university). It is not required that every country has their own medical university. India can afford but lot of African countries cannot afford it,” he said.”Having a global university, one can actually reduce the cost,” he added.He said that another big thing in healthcare is online clinics and elaborated that in the coming ten years, entire out-patient services provided by doctors will disappear and patients will stay at home and get online consultations.Similarly, he also talked about replacing paper charts with ipads and said this will dramatically reduce the risk of hospital and doctors making medical errors which is one of the biggest problems in health care.There are around 850 million mobile phone subscribers who are spending about Rs 150 per month, he said.”If we can collect Rs 20 from each mobile phone subscribers we can cover the healthcare cost of 850 million people. This is the beauty of technology which brings millions of people together,” Shetty added.

THE PRESCRIPTION

The first step is to equalize undergraduate and postgraduate seats in India. This can be done without incurring any cost, by just increasing the number of postgraduate seats in medical colleges and giving the NationalBoard of Examination the status of a statutory body and extending postgraduate medical education beyond medical colleges.

State-owned medical universities should be empowered to innovate and train adequate number of medical specialists, nursing and paramedics to meet the healthcare needs of the state.Today they are restrained and treated like examination conducting agencies.

The Mumbai-based College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPS), which was the first Indian medical university established 103 years ago, can convert the entire basic cadre of MBBS doctors from government hospitals into diploma degree holders in broad specialties like gynecology , pediatrics, anesthesia and radiology in just two years and with no additional investment. The CPS only requires state government recognition.

Unless community health centres are staffed with adequate number of medical specialists with postgraduate diplomas, infant and maternal mortality rates will not decline. The government’s target should be to reduce both by 50% within five years.As a collateral benefit, the rest of healthcare delivery in India too will get transformed. Building more institutions like AIIMS will not create this effect. It is time to act now. Otherwise, we will end up reinforcing Einstein’s definition of stupidity – “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”.

Emotional Kejriwal narrates the sequence of dramatic moments at the National Executive, Was jailed for 15 days on Prashant’s advise, declined Personal Bond, how many have you done so?

A day after it ousted rebel leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan from the National Executive, adopting a resolution in a National Council meeting, that witnessed extreme acrimony and allegations flying thick between two warring sides, the Aam Aadmi Party on Sunday released the video of party’s national convenor Arvind Kejriwal’s speech where he said he was back stabbed by his own companions.In a 45-0 minute speech at the National Council meeting on Saturday, the Delhi Chief Minister claimed, “When the entire Delhi supported us, some of my colleagues back stabbed us. When we came to power following a landslide victory, BJP and Congress became afraid of us but their tension was eased by some of our own party members.”
He said neither him nor Yadav or Bhushan could gain from this internal rift.”From our internal turmoil, who benefitted? This rift benefitted Modi…It helped the Congress and the Amabanis,” Kejriwal claimed.He said he was attacked by my own friends.”I did not want to fight with Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. I came to power to fight against corruption,” said he.He said due to this rift earlier, he wanted to leave the party but was persuaded by Bhushan and Yadav.Around 45 minutes long video shows Kejriwal accusing dissidents Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan of conspiring against the party.

“Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav had threatened us before Delhi polls that they will hold press conference and destroy the party. The senior members of AAP  had to convince them not to defame the party as it was heading for a historic win. This has been going on for the past one year,” Kejriwal said in the video.

He further revealed, “In February last year, Yogendra Yadav’s PA Vijay Raman called one of our volunteers, Satya, and told him that I will be removed from party’s convenor’s post as I was made Delhi’s CM. He also told Satya that since Yadav will take over the charge of national convenor, he would form his own secretariat and Satya was being considered to be a part of it.”

“After LS polls debacle, I was targeted many times. In June first week, our NE meet was held. In the meeting I broke down in tears and told everyone that I can fight against Modi, Gadkari, Khurshid and Ambani, but can’t fight against Prashantji and Yadav. I decided to quit politics, but both Yadav and Prashantji convinced me not to take such a decision,” he added.

Talking about alleged conspiracies, Kejriwal said, “A faction of AAP had supported AVAM for spreading lies against our funding in media. Prashantji had told people that he wanted party’s defeat in Delhi so that they can do introspection. Stories were being planted against us in media. Reacting on a media report, our volunteer called Yadav and asked him if he has spoken to a journalist against AAP, but Yadav denied. However, later he accepted it and when we called the journalist to enquire about the story’s source she told us that Yadav had told a group of journalists during a breakfast meet in Chandigarh to write against me.”

Hinting at Shanti Bhushan, Kejriwal said that he was in for a shock when he heard a statement in media that a senior most member of AAP had said that his first choice for Delhi CM was Kiran Bedi, second was Ajay Maken and third was Kejriwal.

“We tried all possible ways to mend ways, but all in vain. They also placed five condition before us and we agreed to all, but later they said that they were only bargaining with us,” he said.

A resolution to remove the two dissident leaders along with their supporters Anand Kumar and Ajit Jha from the powerful panel was passed at the National Council with 247 members supporting it.

10 members opposed it while 54 others did not take part in the voting, AAP National Secretary Pankaj Gupta said.

After the meeting, Yadav and Bhushan accused Kejriwal of using unfair means including bringing goons at the meeting who allegedly beat up a number of National Council members opposed to the resolution.

“It was a murder of democracy. Everything played out in accordance with a predetermined script and the resolution was moved and passed within minutes completely disregarding laid down procedures. It was a total farce,” said an agitated Yadav.

Bhushan alleged Kejriwal came fully prepared to “kick us out” from the party and that a number of NC members, who supported him, and Yadav were injured.

(With PTI inputs)

“I wanted to leave the party but then I said I will fight elections only if I had the power to take decisions. There was total conspiracy to make me lose in the Delhi Assemblt polls. Prashantji wanted me to lose,” he said.Accusing the rebel leaders, Kejriwal said, “They used to blackmail us and say if this is not done, we will call a press conference and spoil the party’s image.”
“I did not come here for power. I did not give tickets to my own relatives since we wanted our candidates to be clean,” he said.Speaking about the sms which Bhushan sent him for a personal meeting, he said, “I wanted to meet Prashantji too but i was afraid that he will tell everything to TV channels. He did not want to meet me. His intention was to tarnish my image.”
“I sent a representative to Yadav’s house to resolve the issue. He said he had 5 issues. He demanded that if we accept all his proposals, he will leave. This was just a show,” claimed the Delhi CM.Kejriwal said the party had accepted all conditions. “I had no problem on probe over me also but once it will be done, BJP will oppose being my CM,” Kejriwal said.Speaking on how he relied on the two rebel leaders, Kejriwal said, “They wanted Haryana, we said okay. I went to Tihar over Prashantji’s one nod.”
Ending his address he said he cannot work as an active member with them present in the party.
“I want to give up my claim in the party. I announce my failure. I can’t work like this. Today, I ask you to choose between me or them,” he appealed to all members of the party’s national council.The Aam Aadmi Party on Saturday defended its stand saying 247 votes were in the favour of the resolution.”A proposal to remove Yogendra yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Anand Kumar and Ajit Jha from NE was presented in National Council of AAP. There was voting held in the National Council for removal of the four people from the National Executive,” The AAP said in a statement on Saturday.”247 votes in favor of the resolution, 8 against it, 2 gave dissent notes and 54 either walked out or abstained from voting,” it added.
AAP leader Sanjay Singh also refuted Yadav’s claim of violence during the meeting and had said, “There was no violence in the meeting.”
The party’s move signalled the possible expulsion of the two founding members from the party as well.
Many of the party leaders supporting  Yadav and Bhushan had, however,alleged that supporters of party chief  Arvind Kejriwal dragged them out from the meeting and also used violence against them.
 “It was scripted. It was a murder of democracy,” Yadav had said after the meeting.
 “There was bogus voting in the meeting. Many of the National Council members who supported us were injured,” he had said.
“Whatever Arvind Kejriwal was heard saying in a sting yesterday was played out in the entirety in today’s meeting,” said Bhushan. “Goons were brought to the meeting. Our supporters were beaten up inside the meeting. The meeting was a total farce,” he had added.

 

Why Arvind Kejriwal must tell the nation that there are no Kejriwal Camp?

Why Arvind Kejriwal must tell the nation that there are no Kejriwal Camp?

Kejriwal must prove analysts wrong by re-installing Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav

Satya Brahma*

Ever since the Delhi Election result declared & AAP’s sweeping victory in Delhi by bagging 67 of 70 seats at a time when Narendra Modi wave swept Maharashtra, Haryana, J & K & knocking the doors of the Delhi people to vote BJP for governance & reforms terming Arvind Kejriwal as an anarchist & AAP should be sent to jungle, the combined force of AAP rose to the occasion & worked with sincerity & dedication spending sleepless nights. The Victory for AAP led by Kejriwal has three important factors

  1. Arvind Kejriwal’s clean image
  2. Dedicated Volunnters
  3. Positive Campaigning

The message of AAP was loud & clear that it was indeed unstoppable & India was looking at a party that may well give an alternative politics to India. Even Leaders across the states were camping in Delhi spending their personal money to ensure victory for the party. It is true that certain leaders got carried away & nurtured personal ambitions resulting in sharp division of differences. It was the same Yogendra Yadav with party stalwarts Ashutosh, Ashish Khaitan who guided the younger spokespersons like Raghav Chadha & Atishi Marlena & others to lead the TV & Media battles & people liked them in sharp contrast to Congress & BJP’s regular opposition bashings. Mayank Gandhi & Anjali Damania had their own genuine reasons to express their grievances.

Now Arvind Kejriwal must realize that if he is the captain of the boat, than he should take all members into the boat & not dump them in river because certain incidences are really important for the party to think. Arvind must realize that sooner he finds solutions, it is better as Congress is revamping & BJP will leave no stones to leave the battle without a fight. Party volunters should not be taken for a ride

 

The author is Editor-In-Chief of Network 7 Media Group

DK Ravi’s father-in-law Hanumantharayappa – My son was constantly under threat

Bengaluru: Amidst conflicting reports that strained personal relationships and a romantic link with a woman IAS officer drove D.K. Ravi to suicide, his father-in-law Hanumantharayappa sought to set the record straight claiming he did not notice  anything abnormal in the IAS officer’s behaviour. In an interview with Deccan Chronicle, he admitted to the fact that he played a role in getting his son-in-law transferred to Bengaluru from Kolar fearing a threat to his life.

Excerpts from the interview:

How was your relationship with D.K. Ravi?

More than a son-in-law, both of us were friends with each other. My daughter and Ravi would stay at our Nagarbhavi house during weekends, and at that time we always made it a point that we would have breakfast and dinner together. During the meals, he used to share many details about his work. He was normal as usual and I could not see any change in his behaviour.

There is speculations doing the rounds that D.K. Ravi could have taken the extreme step due to personal/familial issues. What is your say on this?

The couple was extremely happy as far as I know. They had no children and I thought both of them would have planned their family. And we were on good terms with Ravi’s parents as well. Ravi had plans to move into a house with his wife and his parents in Vasant Nagar, but as renovation work was continuing there, they had decided to temporarily move into a flat in St. John’s Wood Apartments in Chikka Adugodi.

You said it was you who got Ravi transferred from Kolar to Bengaluru. What makes you feel that the threat perception in Bengaluru is less than that in Kolar?

It was not the question of threats alone. He had worked over one year and three months in Kolar and gained the trust of the entire district who supported him. Except for MLA K.R. Ramesh Kumar, all the present sitting MLAs were in favour of getting Ravi transferred from Kolar, which Ravi himself disclosed to me. In the meantime, the case of a prominent builders’ group came up in the Karnataka High Court. Bangarpet MLA, S.N. Narayanaswamy approached the chief minister and demanded his transfer saying that there were recommendation letters from all sitting MLAs to transfer Ravi, and he himself told me this. Then I started hearing that that the builders’ group had underworld connections and there was a threat to the life of my son-in-law. Hence, after discussing this with Ravi, I approached the CM to recommend his transfer. Until then the CM himself did not know that Ravi was my son-in-law. And that’s how he was transferred to Bengaluru in October last year.

Did Bangarpet MLA S.N. Narayanaswamy get in touch with you before or after Ravi’s transfer?

No, S.N. Narayanswamy did not get in touch with me for anything. I heard that the day after Ravi got transferred to Bengaluru, the Bangarpet MLA had gone to Tirupathi, tonsured his head and was seen celebrating and distributing sweets before the District Commissioner’s office in Kolar as the transfer happened finally. Ravi had told me this too.

Did Ravi share with you anything regarding his work over the last 15-20 days over his work at the Commercial Taxes Office?

Around 15-20 days ago, when he had begun with the raids, casually he had told me that, here too it’s the same case. There is a lot of pressure demanding me to deviate from working. Nobody is allowing me to carry on the work properly. When I told him that when he had done raids on Embassy Group that its stakes are owned by powerful ministers, he said whosever it is? I had made a list and I am continuing with my raids.

What do you have to say about the rumours about an alleged love affair between the IAS officer and his batch mate and about the calls that have been made to Ravi’s phone on the day of his death?

I am not aware of hearing anything like that and if there is something like that, everything will come out during investigations while the phone call record details are examined by the investigators.

AAP ideas are now part of Union Finance Minister’s Budget 2015 – Meera Sanyal

The Finance Minister has presented his first full-fledged Union Budget under the most favourable political and economic circumstances. Though some welcome measures were announced, the budget sadly missed the opportunity to present a clear vision on the much-awaited road map to ‘Achhe Din’.

Clarity on top governmental priorities — how and where 10 lakh jobs per month would be created and how India would move up the rankings from its lowly position of 142 on the Ease of Doing Business — were conspicuous by their absence. It did not add comfort that the plan is to set up yet another committee to suggest such steps. Industry leaders have complained that the “pro-business prose hasn’t translated into on-ground policy reality”.

Incorporating AAP ideas

We are extremely happy that several of the Aam Aadmi Party’s ideas have been adopted — Mr. Prashant Bhushan’s suggestion on a comprehensive law to combat Black Money and the Pradhan Mantri Vidya Lakshmi Scheme, which mirrors AAP’s Higher Education Guarantee Scheme, are examples.

We appreciate the introduction of Insurance-based social security schemes, which provide a much-needed safety net to those at the bottom of the pyramid. Similarly the monetisation of gold will hopefully bring this precious metal out from “under the pillow” into being a productive part of our economy. The Bankruptcy law, deepening of the bond markets, capital market reforms, and bringing NBFCs under the SARFAESI Act are all positive.

However, there is serious concern with the approach to taxation. Many feel that the corporate sector is being appeased with tax cuts and exemptions — though the fine print shows an increase of 0.25 per cent! With increased service tax and excise duty, the fundamentally regressive nature of Indian taxation (decrease in direct taxation and increase in indirect taxation) has worsened and the burden on the Aam Aurat and the Aam Aadmi has increased.

In a huge surprise, the Finance Minister seemed to walk away completely from the proposed Direct Tax Code reforms. There were minor exemptions for the middle class but no rationalisation or simplification of taxes, with no concrete measures being taken to widen the tax base or improve our very low tax-to-GDP ratio.

Of equal concern is the lack of a committed timetable or implementation plan for the General Sales Tax (GST). With a majority in the Centre and in several States, it is hard to understand why the BJP government is not pushing ahead swiftly on this much-needed reform.

Another area of concern is the shifting of the fiscal consolidation goalposts. Given the positive head winds of declining fuel costs, sticking with a fiscal deficit target of 3.6 per cent was achievable. Mr. Jaitley’s 8 per cent GDP growth numbers use a different base year for price changes and a new way of calculating GDP at market price rather than factor cost. This is something that both RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan and Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian have been puzzled by.

The idea of increasing allocations of untied funds to States is welcome and aligns with the concepts of Swaraj and decentralisation. However institutional mechanisms to report on actual allocations and outcomes are required. Though an allocation of 42 per cent to States gives the perception of greater funds being given to States, one must note that this has been accompanied by huge spending cuts in social sector spending, and leaves no directives on essential service delivery to States. For example, expenditure on Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan has gone down from Rs.28,000 crore to Rs.22,000 crore, the Integrated Child Development Scheme from Rs.16,000 crore to Rs.8,000 crore, and the Mid-Day Meal Scheme from Rs.13,000 crore to Rs.9,000 crore.

Education received token mentions in the form of a few new IITs, IIMs and AIIMS instead of fundamental overhauls while health and environment did not appear to be on the agenda. There was also no mention of allocations for the ‘One Rank One Pension’ promise made to the Armed Forces. Though there was a Rs.1,000 crore allocation to the Nirbhaya fund, in the interest of transparency it would have been good for the Finance Minister to share information about the fund’s non-utilisation in consecutive years. The Prime Minister’s Office itself stopped the directive to create one-stop crisis centres for women. If utilisation of funds is not a focus, budgeting will regrettably, especially for areas as critical as women’s security, remain a token farce.

This was a unique opportunity to present a bold and visionary budget to set India on the path of sustained and inclusive growth — but regrettably the 2015 Union Budget, will go down as an opportunity missed.

(Meera Sanyal is on the Aam Aadmi Party’s National Committee for Policy. Roshan Shankar works full-time at the AAP.)