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Key to new Goa leadership is getting around Parrikar cult

Over the last two days, nearly all sitting MLAs as well as party state President Vinay Tendulkar, a favourite of Parrikar, have been lobbying with Ram Lal for the Chief Minister to continue.



Panaji, Sep 17 : There was a rare moment of levity on Monday amid tense ongoing negotiations for a leadership alternative to ailing Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, when a BJP leader, after meeting party’s General Secretary (organisation) Ram Lal, said: “If choosing an alternative CM is so difficult, we should just appoint his Principal Secretary P. Krishnamurthy to the post. After all, he’s virtually calling the shots in administration without uttering a word for months now.”

Krishnamurthy is a 1997-batch Indian Administrative Service officer, has been Parrikar’s favourite mandarin for nearly two decades now and has been the IITian’s omnipresent shadow, irrespective of Parrikar’s stints at the state Secretariat or Defence Ministry in the South Block in Delhi.

According to Ministers in the BJP-led Coalition government, Krishnamurthy is known to wield more authority and say in matters of administration than most Ministers as well as the Chief Secretary himself.

As Ram Lal and his team may have unearthed during their two-day meetings with party officials, MLAs and alliance partners, the most difficult part to deal with as far as finding a replacement for Parrikar is negotiating the cult and coterie of which Parrikar built around himself in his three-decade stint as the state BJP’s top boss, without formal appointment.

BJP sources say that in Parrikar’s absence, the coterie is perhaps one of Parrikar’s most uncomfortable legacies, which the party High Command may have to work their way around with, for choosing a replacement or successor for the Goa BJP’s tallest leader ever.

This is especially so, because unlike other states, where a robust organisational set- up serves as a strong framework for BJP’s growth, there is no potent organisational hierarchy in place in the upper echelons of the Goa BJP’s decision-making elders, who have played a poor second fiddle to Parrikar for far too long.

In case of Goa, both in administration as well as in the ruling party, the cult and coterie have overshadowed formal administrative processes and the “party organisation”, as BJP leaders prefer to call it.

“There is no doubt that Parrikar was always our best bet for Chief Minister and our greatest (state) leader. But one also cannot ignore the fact that the state needs to be governed efficiently and that the party organisation needs strengthening. This cannot happen when he is fighting a severe ailment. While we have the CM in our prayers, but for the betterment of the party, government and state, we have to look beyond any individual,” a former BJP MLA, who met Ram Lal and other central observers, told IANS.

Over the last two days, nearly all sitting MLAs as well as party state President Vinay Tendulkar, a favourite of Parrikar, have been lobbying with Ram Lal for the Chief Minister to continue.

BJP MLA Nilesh Cabral put it in context perfectly on Sunday.

“Within the BJP, they should find somebody and Parrikar should remain the Chief Minister till he is alive,” Cabral said.

Informed sources said that one of the key incidents which hastened the current political crisis is Parrikar’s sudden decision to offer Deputy Chief Ministership to Public Works Department Minister Sudin Dhavalikar (Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party), without sanction from the state BJP’s core committee — a fact which riled other alliance partner Goa Forward’s Vijai Sardesai.

Both alliance leaders had called on Parrikar on Friday at a private hospital, more than a week after the Chief Minister’s return to Goa from the US, during which the former Defence Minister had cut off all communications from Ministers and party workers, including Tendulkar and core committee members.

Ram Lal was briefed about the lengths at which the state BJP leaders had to go through to convince Sardesai that the Deputy Chief Ministership offer made by Parrikar to the Goa Forwar leader’s rival was not vetted at all by the BJP state core committee.

Sadguru Patil, a keen political reporter and columnist of a Marathi daily, in a column has put the spotlight on the growing mistrust between Parrikar and the BJP’s top brass in the state.

A new CM will inevitably be appointed by the BJP High Command, which is looking to stabilise the power apparatus in Goa, in Parrikar’s absence. Whether the new appointee will be able to break through the shackles of the Parrikar cult and the grip of the latter’s coterie is anybody’s guess.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at [email protected])


The US presidential elections and future of India-US relations




Donald Trump Joe Biden

As the coronavirus pandemic dominates global news in the United States, progress toward the next presidential election scheduled to be held on November 3 moves slowly forward. President Donald Trump had no real opposition in the Republican party and is running for re-election. And it has now become apparent that former Vice President Joe Biden will be his opponent as the Democratic candidate for president.

What would a Trump victory bode for the future of US-India relations? What would a Biden victory bode? Let me answer each of those questions in turn.

Given the love fests of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston, Texas, in which Trump participated in September of 2019, and Trump’s ‘Namaste Trump’ event hosted by Modi in India in February of this year, it might be assumed that the future for US-India relations is a splendid one. This would be an incorrect assumption.

Both of these events were more symbolic than substantive. Trump’s participation in them undoubtedly helped to persuade some — perhaps many — Indian American Modi supporters who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 to cast their ballots for Trump in 2020. Trump’s campaign team took steps to ensure this by holding an event at his Mar-a-Lago resort in which a group of prominent Indian Americans announced their plans to work for his re-election and to mobilize Indian Americans on his behalf.

To understand the future potential of India’s relations with the US. with Trump as president, however, it is necessary to look beyond these political moves and to examine the present state of those relations and Trump’s personal style.

In a word, the best way to characterize the current relations between the US and India is “functional”. The relationship was relatively good for the first two years of Trump’s presidency. In fact, near the end of 2018, Alice Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, was quoted in the media s saying: “This has been a landmark year for US-India ties as we build out stronger relationships across the board.”

Then, in 2019, the relations went off the track in the first half of the year after the US and India got into a tit-for-tat tariff war after the US terminated India’s Generalized System of Preferences which allowed India to send certain goods to the US duty-free. There have been continuing efforts to structure a “modest” trade deal since then. It was thought there might be some type of deal done in September of 2019 while Modi was in the US by year’s end, and then during Trump’s India visit. But, as of today, there is still no deal.

This inability to get any meaningful trade agreement in place speaks volumes about India’s potential future relations with India with Trump as president. So, too does Trump’s style.

Trump’s campaign slogans this time around are “Keep America Great” and “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” Trump is not a policy wonk and most of his effort will go toward “America First”. This involves making the US more isolated by withdrawing from international agreements, restructuring trade agreements, emphasizing building walls to stop immigrants at the border, using tariffs to block trade with countries who are taking away American jobs, and confronting businesses who are allegedlly stealing American trade secrets.

This perspective suggests what India can expect for its relations with the US if it has to deal with Trump for a second term as president. The relations will stay functional at best. As I have said before, that’s because the words partnership, cooperation and collaboration are not in Trump’s vocabulary. Nationalism, isolationism and protectionism are.

Joe Biden stands in stark contrast to President Trump both professionally and personally. Biden is a strategic thinker and doer with a solid eight-year track record of leadership experience as Vice-President in forging alliances that have made a difference around the world and he has also been a long-standing friend of India.

He was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading advocate for the Congressional passage of the Indo-US civic nuclear deal in 2005. At a dinner convened 10 years later in 2015 by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Vice President Biden discussed the tremendous joint progress that had been made by the two countries in the past and declared “We are on the cusp of a sea change decade.”

Early in his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in July of 2019, in laying out his foreign policy vision, Biden stated that the US had to reach out to India and other Asian partners to strengthen ties with them. The items on Biden’s foreign policy agenda for strengthening which are of importance for India include climate change, nuclear proliferation and cyberwarfare.

During his vice presidency, Biden worked side by side with President Barack Obama to do things that would contribute to achieving Obama’s vision stated in 2010 of India and America being “indispensable partners in meeting the challenges of our time.” In 2020, those challenges are even greater than they were a decade ago.

That is why it is so essential that India and the US develop a strategic relationship that enables them to become those indispensable partners. That can happen if Biden assumes the presidency on January 20, 2021. It cannot happen if Donald Trump remains as president for a second term.

The results of this upcoming election in the US matter greatly for the future of the United States. They matter greatly for the future of India-US relations as well. Time and the American electorate will tell what that future will be.

(Frank F. Islam is an entrepreneur, civic and thought leader based in Washington DC. The views expressed here are personal)

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Covid-19 toll across world crosses 35,000

The COVID-19 is affecting 132 countries and territories around the world.



Patients infected with the novel coronavirus

New Delhi, March 30 : The death toll around the world due to coronavirus crossed 35,000 on Monday evening, with Italy heading the list of 35,097 deaths with 10,779, while the number of cumulative cases rose to 737,929, with US leading with 143,055 of them, as per data from the Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

Spain was second with 7,340 deaths, followed by China with 3,308 (3,186 of them in Hubei where the outbreak was first recorded), Iran with 2,757 deaths, France with 2,606 deaths, the US with 2,513 (776 of them in New York) and the UK with1,228 deaths.

In number of cases, Italy was second with 97,689, followed by Spain with 85,195, China with 82,198, Germany with 62,435, Iran with 41,495 and France with 40,747.

Meanwhile, 156,652 people around the world had recovered, with nearly half of them (75,923) in China, followed by 16,780 in Spain, 13,911 in Iran and 13,030 in Italy.

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45% of Indians do not back up their data, files: Survey

The survey was conducted among 728 Avast and AVG users between February 20-March 25.




Data Privacy

New Delhi, March 30 : Nearly half of Indians do not back up because they think their data or files are not important enough and most of those who back up their data, do it once a month, a survey said on Monday.

Other reasons cited by the respondents for not backing up their data included not knowing how to do it, not having time and forgetting about it, according to the survey by cybersecurity company Avast.

“It could be that many aren’t aware they are backing up, as it could be happening automatically, in the background, however, others really might not be backing up at all, thinking it is not worth it,” Luis Corrons, Security Evangelist at Avast, said in a statement.

“Losing personal documents, photos and videos can be a painful experience and it’s not until this happens that they realize how valuable it actually is,” Corrons added.

Of those who do back up their data, nearly 42 per cent Indians back up to a cloud storage, 36 42 per cent back up their data to an external hard drive, 23 42 per cent back up to a USB or flash disk, 18 42 per cent back up their phone to their PC, and 10 42 per cent back up to a network storage drive, the results showed.

Corrons recommended to back up data to two different locations, like the cloud, and a physical storage, like an external hard drive.

When it comes to iPhone and Android phone owners, the percentage that backs up is nearly the same, 69 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.

The percentage of smartphone owners that don’t know how to back up their data does not vary much between iPhone and Android owners, with 13 per cent and 17 per cent claiming not knowing how to, respectively, the study revealed.

Data loss can be caused by users accidentally deleting their data themselves, hardware damage and failure, as well as malware, causing valuable data such as photos, videos, documents, and messages to be lost forever.

Ransomware and other malware, such as wipers, can either encrypt or completely destroy files, and there is no guarantee that files can be decrypted if a ransom is paid.

The survey was conducted among 728 Avast and AVG users between February 20-March 25.

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COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Most infected people will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization.