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Atal Bihari Vajpayee: The Gentle Colossus

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Atal Behari Vajpayee

In passing away of Atal Behari Vajpayee, India lost its one of the tallest leader and a statesman. He was a democrat and nationalist to the core apart from being an orator par excellence and a poet. Vajpayee was for BJP what Pandit Nehru was for the Indian National Congress. Vajpayee’s only sin was that he moulded the early BJP as a secular and a socialist legatee of the Janata party which came into existence in 1977 to oppose Mrs Indira Gandhi.

He had also opposed the Ram Mandir movement and it was Advani who was the RSS’s first choice for Prime Minister for the 1996 elections. But it was Advani who in November 1995 in Bombay announced Vajpayee as the prime ministerial candidate – to the astonishment of those present on the stage. It also took RSS by surprise but from then on, Vajpayee never turned back becoming Prime Minister in 1996, 1998, and in 1999 – while Advani withdrew to being his deputy.

The close friends and family members used to call him “Baap ji” and the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh once addressed him as the “Bhishm Pitamah” of Indian politics. Vajpayee was a gentle colossus among the contemporary politicians and there were few among Indian leaders who attained the respect which he did. Journalists and newsmen all over the world do without salutations in addressing a politician but Vajpayee Ji was an exception and “Ji” became an integral part of his name.

“This young man would one day become the Prime Minister of India” said Pandit Nehru about Vajpayee. Nehru’s prophecy did come true decades later in 1996 when Vajpayee occupied the coveted post. Vajpayee was elected 11 times for Loksabha and twice for the Rajya Sabha and remained a Member of Parliament for 47 years.

In 1977, he became the External Affairs Minister under Morarji Desai and when he entered the office of Ministry of External Affairs in the South Block, he found the usual portrait of Jawaharlal Nehru missing from its spot in the ministerial chamber, removed in an excess of zeal by functionaries to please the new rulers. Though a lifelong critic of Congress, he wanted it back on its original spot. That was the persona of Vajpayee – a great heartedness as he embraced even those with whom he disagreed.

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Pro-India; anti-Indira: (From left) Jagjivan Ram, Morarji Desai, Ashok Mehta, Chandrasekhar and Atal Bihari Vajpayee | Pramod Pushkarna. “

According to a popular legend, once Henry Kissinger asked Chou-en-Lai in 1972 what he thought of the impact of French Revolution on Western civilization. Apparently, Chou thought about it for a minute and then turned to Kissinger and said: “It is too soon to tell.” Something like that could well be said about the legacy of Vajpayee, India’s first BJP Prime Minister and also the first non Congress leader to complete a full tenure.

He had the distinction of being the first head of nation to address the United Nations in Hindi. He ran a coalition Govt of 24 parties in one of the most chaotic times in the country and provided not just stable but very efficient governance. His coalition partners in ideology were as diverse as chalk and cheese but it was to his credit that he kept his flock together despite extreme provocations.

When Jayalalitha pulled the carpet under his feet, he refused to opt for the customary horse trading and lost the confidence motion by just 1 vote. He took integrity and probity to a level which was unheard of in the Indian politics. He was also the best performing parliamentarian for over 5 decades and was a true Bharat Ratna on all counts.

His stewardship of economic reform and his skilled management of unruly coalition made his 6 year tenure as a Prime Minister a memorable one. But more than these accomplishments, Vajpayee should be remembered for the way in which he achieved them. Judged on most parameters, Vajpayee was a great Prime Minister.

He continued the policies of economic liberalisation initiated by Narsimha Rao and as a result economy flourished during his reign. He took the historic trip to Lahore by Bus to break the ice with Pakistan but unfortunately it was followed by their usual betrayal in the form of Kargil war. His summit with President Musharraf at Agra also ended in a fiasco but Vajpayee improved India’s relations with US, Russia, China and most of other important nations.

He was a great consensus-builder and worked closely with the opposition, avoided political invectives and endeavoured to bring all Indians and not just Hindus to bring them together in harmony. After the Pokhran-II nuclear test of May 1998 and the victory in Kargil, India began to be taken seriously as an emerging Asian power. It was under Prime Minister Vajpayee that the old hyphenation of India-Pakistan ended and a new one like India-China emerged on the global scene.

Vajpayee’s legacy remains in doubt as people forget that for all his charisma, he began his career as a hard-core Sanghi and made his reputation in the great Hindi debates of the Sixties, demanding that all of India should embrace Hindi, his mother tongue.

Vajpayee only began to mellow in the Seventies when experience convinced him that there is no place for divisive politics in India. From then on, he lost interest in the agitation for Hindi language and more significantly also moved away from the hardliner Hindus-first politics of Jan Sangh. By doing this, he alienated most of his old colleagues and earned the ire of the RSS.

After the BJP was almost wiped out during Congress landslide victory of 1984, the RSS looked around for alternatives and it found one in Vajpayee’s old lieutenant LK Advani, who abandoned the liberal approach that he too had once espoused, and pushed the concept of RSS. Advani undertook a Rath yatra through most of North India in an effort to whip up the communal tensions and weaponise Hinduism.

Vajpayee had no option but to distance himself altogether from his protege Advani’s movement. But when the BJP seemed like it had a chance of finally coming to power, the RSS also conceded that it was only Vajpayee who could attract the potential allies.

We think of Vajpayee as a strong Prime minister but that was only because he always remained calm and composed and seldom let the tensions show. RSS continued to push its own agenda and was not happy with Vajpayee’s politics and propped up Advani as a rival power centre. The allies in coalition Govt were difficult to handle but somehow, Vajpayee made it all seem easy.

From then on, the BJP should have continued as a centre-right party as even Advani suddenly turned into a liberal and visited Pakistan to sing paeans in support of MA Jinnah. But that was not to be and the BJP went back to her Hindu-centric ideology that Advani had once espoused much to the delight of RSS. Only, this time around, the shift to a muscular Hindutva was so extreme that even a hardliner like Advani began to seem like a lily-livered secularist in comparison.

Related image

Lal Krishan Advani lays a flower wreath at the mausoleum of Mohammed Ali Jinnah

From BJP’s point of view, Vajpayee’s greatest achievement was that he took a party that had once been a political pariah, brought it into the mainstream and acceptable to the electorates.

In many ways, it is as if the Vajpayee Prime minister ship with its consensus-building and taking everyone in confidence never happened. Sometimes it seems that the BJP moved directly from the destruction of the Babri Masjid to the dominance of the ideology that celebrated the demolition. So, it will be pertinent to say, Vajpayee was a great Prime Minister. But what will India remember as his legacy? As Chou-en-Lai might have said, “It’s too soon to tell”.

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Apple iPad Pro (2018): Near-laptop experience on a sturdy tab – Tech Review

For those familiar with iOS 12 on iPhone X and iPhone XS, the iPad Pro provides a similar experience, including tap to wake and swiping to go home, access Control Centre and for multi-tasking.

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New Delhi, Dec 10 : Three years is enough time for a flagship consumer electronics device to don a new avatar and the new Apple iPad Pro (2018) has done just that — it is far superior to the first iPad Pro that came into existence in 2015. (The first iPad arrived eight years back.)

Smartphones have begun to rival tablets today and tablets have decided to go the laptop way — at a time when fixed office spaces are shrinking and professionals and frequent travellers are looking to create, work and enjoy from anywhere, everywhere.

With the all-screen iPad Pro, Apple has introduced the future of mobile computing that has the potential to outperform a traditional PC.

The new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros are available in silver and space-grey finishes in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB configurations as well as a new 1TB option (which we reviewed).

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at Rs 89,900 for the Wi-Fi model and Rs 1,03,900 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model. It is just 5.9 mm thin — the thinnest iPad design ever.

Let us see what went into making iPad Pro so that it can take on a laptop.

Once you own an iPad Pro, invest further in buying a Smart Keyboard Folio, encompassing a full-size keyboard that never needs to be charged or paired (the space grey Folio will cost Rs 17,900).

Now is the time to get the second-generation Apple Pencil that will cost another Rs 10,900.

Once the ecosystem is complete, sit back and witness new levels of precision and productivity with the iPad Pro.

The Apple Pencil magnetically attaches to the device for pairing and wireless charging. It became even more powerful and intuitive as we began selecting tools or brushes — with just a simple double tap.

The new touch-sensor built onto the Apple Pencil detects taps, introducing a new way to interact within apps like Notes.

If you are working in creative streams and love to multi-task, the Smart Keyboard Folio features a streamlined design that’s adjustable for added versatility.

The device packs creative apps from Adobe, Autodesk and Procreate (remember that Photoshop CC from Adobe is coming to iPad Pro next year).

Another noticeable thing for creative professionals is a high-performance USB-C connector that brings a whole new set of capabilities.

You can now connect iPad Pro to cameras, musical instruments, external monitors, even docks, and get data transfer done in a jiffy. This is important for creative pros whose workflows require high bandwidth.

The battery is great and gave all-day support during gaming and streaming movies.

For those familiar with iOS 12 on iPhone X and iPhone XS, the iPad Pro provides a similar experience, including tap to wake and swiping to go home, access Control Centre and for multi-tasking.

The new Shortcuts app will help you link together automated workflows for photo editing, video editing and file and asset management.

Improvements to Photo Import and support for native RAW image editing give photographers efficient ways to work on the device.

For a day-to-day user at home, iPad Pro is packed with fun features.

Group FaceTime now makes it easy to connect with groups of friends or colleagues at the same time.

Participants can be added at any time, join later if the conversation is still active and choose to join using video or audio from an iPhone, iPad or Mac.

With the new Animoji and customisable Memoji, you can take advantage of the large screen on iPad to add more personality to photos and videos in Messages and FaceTime.

iPad Pro features edge-to-edge Liquid Retina display with rounded corners. The A12X Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine outperforms most devices. The device offers Gigabit-class LTE and up to 1TB of storage to enable mobile workflows.

Face ID, the most secure facial authentication system in any tablet or computer, is now available on the iPad for the first time.

A seven-core, Apple-designed GPU delivers up to twice the graphics performance for immersive AR experiences and console-quality graphics.

What does not work?

Well, there are some limitations when it comes to a true laptop experience. If Apple decides to run macOS on iPad Pro in the near future (the hardware is ready for that), it will become a perfect laptop for sure.

Conclusion: Those on the iPad Pro ecosystem must go for the device as it has never-before-seen improvements, at both the hardware and the software fronts. For working professionals, switching to the iPad Pro will take a bit training time, but the experience is simply out of the world. For the rest, it is an iPad Pro anyway!

(Nishant Arora can be contacted at [email protected])

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Demonetisation threw up political, economic puzzles: Arvind Subramanian

“Through my new book, I am drawing attention to the puzzle, the big puzzle of 86 per cent reduction in cash after demonetisation, and yet the impact on the economy was much less,” he said.

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New Delhi, Dec 9 : Drawing the link between demonetisation and GDP numbers, former Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian has said the puzzle thrown up by the note ban has a dual aspect – whether its impact as seen in the GDP numbers reflects a resilient economy, and if the growth figures pose questions about the official data collection process itself.

In an interation with IANS, Subramanian, currently teaching at Harvard Kennedy School, and here for the launch of his book “Of Counsel: The Challenges of the Modi-Jaitley Economy”, published by Penguin, referred to the chapter “The Two Puzzles of Demonetisation — Political and Economic”.

He also referred to the other “puzzle” posed in his book — that of divergence in regional economic development in India despite equalising forces like migration and economic growth — a dynamic of the states, he says, which runs against the logic of competitive federalism.

“Through my new book, I am drawing attention to the puzzle, the big puzzle of 86 per cent reduction in cash after demonetisation, and yet the impact on the economy was much less,” he said.

“The puzzles essentially spring from the fact of why the measure was politically successful, and why GDP was affected in such smaller measure… Is it because we’re not measuring GDP correctly, not measuring the informal sector, or is it the underlying resilience in the economy?” he said.

“In the six quarters before demonetisation, growth averaged 8 per cent and in the seven quarters after, it averaged about 6.8 per cent (with a four-quarter window, the relevant numbers are 8.1 per cent before and 6.2 per cent after),” Subramanian has written in his book.

“The key to this would lie in a comprehensive understanding of both the polity and economy of India, about how people vote, for instance,” he said.

He referred to the ongoing controversy on the NITI Aayog’s presence at the release of the GDP back series data by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) with a change of the base year, lowering the country’s economic growth rate during the previous UPA rule.

“I think the calculation of GDP is a very technical task and technical experts should do the job…institutions that don’t have technical expertise should not be involved in this,” he said.

“Economists would naturally raise questions when the parameters vary so much and yet growth remains similar. It is not so much about credibility of the data as about the data generating process itself and of the institutions that carry it out,” he added.

To a query on whether he was a participant in the decision-making process on demonetisation, the former CEA said: “As I’ve said in the book, it is not a Kiss and Tell memoir…that is for gossip columnists.”

Asked about the recent tiff between the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Subramanian said the autonomy of RBI must be protected because the country will benefit by having strong institutions.

“I have myself advocated that RBI should play a pro-active role, but its surplus funds should not go towards routine financing of spending and deficit financing — that would amount to raiding the RBI,” he said

The government’s differences with the RBI centres on four issues — the former wants liquidity support to head off any credit freeze risk, a relaxation in capital requirements for lenders, relaxing the Prompt Corrective Action rules for banks struggling with accumulated NPAs, or bad loans, and support for micro, small and medium enterprises.

Central to the liquidity issue was the government’s demand that the RBI hand over its surplus reserves by making changes to the “economic capital framework”.

On the RBI board, which has a majority of government nominees, the former CEO said: “I think that part of maintaining a real autonomy is not to politicise the board. The board should not be politicised. Not only it must not be done, it must not be seen to be done either.”

On the other puzzle of domestic divergences in development, he said the reasons could be historical in the form of the unequal impact of British colonialism in different regions of the country.

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Gambhir’s retirement draws curtains on glorious career

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New Delhi, Dec 9 : The high points of Gautam Gambhir’s career are a stuff every aspiring cricketer dreams of. Top scorer in two World Cups, winner of two IPL titles with Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), one of the most prolific opening pairs in world cricket alongside the great Virender Sehwag. The list goes on and on.

On Sunday, the combative former Team India player made his exit from the game as the Ranji Trophy match between his native Delhi and Andhra drew to a close.

The match ended in a dull stalemate at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium. The match itself however, faded into inconsequence as Gambhir was at the centre of attention of the spectators present in the stadium.

He made the occasion a memorable one, top scoring with 112 in Delhi’s first innings.

The 37-year-old has an enviable record. He has played 58 Tests (4154 runs), 147 One-Day Internationals (5238 runs) and 37 Twenty20 Internationals. He has also played 197 first-class matches.

But apart from the statistics, what fans will remember most is his combative attitude, the never-say-die spirit which stood out during those nerve wracking run chases or when the going became tough.

These qualities were on full display during two of the most memorable occasions for Indian cricket since the World Cup triumph in 1983 — winning the 2007 World Twenty20 and the 2011 ODI World Cup.

He played an integral part in India’s wins in both finals. At the the 2007 World Twenty20 final against arch-rivals Pakistan, he top scored with 75 runs from 54 balls.

He was the top scorer in the 2011 World Cup final as well with a composed 97 from 122 deliveries as India pulled off an exciting chase against Sri Lanka in Mumbai.

Gambhir is also the lone Indian and only one of four cricketers to have scored hundreds in five consecutive Test matches. He is the also the only Indian batsman to score in excess of 300 runs in four consecutive Test series.

But even before he announced his retirement earlier in the week, the signs were there for the past couple of years.

Gambhir did not exactly see eye to eye with India captain Virat Kohli which played a part in his exit from the national squad. He also struggled in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in recent times and his last season after returning to the Delhi Daredevils was not a very memorable one.

On Sunday, as Gambhir walked off the field and into the sunset, the curtains came down on a glorious career. Indian fans, perhaps even several around the cricketing world will miss one of the most exciting and talented batsmen of his generation.

(Ajeyo Basu can be contacted at [email protected])

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