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‘Who’s going to listen to the voice of sanity?’

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Atal Behari Atal

It was the summer of 1996. The Congress government of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao had lost the general election and, for the first time, there was an opportunity for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), headed by the moderate and well-liked Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to take power.

He lacked parliamentary majority but nevertheless made the bid to form a government and become Prime Minister — an ambition that he had long nurtured but which seemed elusive despite being in public life as a popular leader for long.

The moment it became clear that Vajpayee would be the man to lead the next government in India, I made a beeline to his house at 5 Raisina Road which was almost a stone’s throw from the Press Club of India. Vajpayee was a people’s man and security was light around him those days. I and a colleague, Mayank Chhaya, opened the gates of his bungalow and walked in to his secretary’s office. I asked his aides if he was busy. One of them pointed outside the window.

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There, standing all by himself, in an inconspicuous corner of the bungalow, seemingly staring into space, was the man of the moment — in his trademark starched white dhoti and collarless kurta — who would be the Prime Minister of India in a few days.

We congratulated him. He smiled and ushered us in. Vajpayee had often wondered aloud whether he would forever remain prime minister-in-waiting as the BJP, with its hardline Hindu nationalist ideology, was not a popular favourite of the country then.

But Vajpayee, with his affable personality, riveting oratory, an image of moderation and with friends across parties was one name that was being talked about as an acceptable alternative for those who were getting increasingly disillusioned with the corruption-tainted Congress.

Vajpayee, then 71, and the BJP, did form the government, but it lasted only 13 days in his first stint at governance. He never had the numbers and made his resignation announcement almost offhandedly after two days of divisive debate on a confidence motion. The motion was never put to vote as its result was foregone.

Even the BJP’s opponents then paid tribute to the party for not attempting any horse-trading. The voluntary resignation improved the BJP’s, and Vajpayee’s, stock among the people and the party returned to power in 1998 for a longer term of 13 months, but with some non-BJP support, its first shot at forming a coalition government with parties whose ideologies were not necessarily aligned with the BJP’s.

“If you want to form a government leaving us out, I don’t see any signs of its stability,” Vajpayee told Parliament presciently. “The birth is difficult, and after the birth, survival is difficult. For everything, you have to run to the Congress.”

But in the short 13-month term of the second Vajpayee government, he made his mark by making India a declared nuclear weapon power, authorising a series of five nuclear tests in the Pokhran desert of Rajasthan, a shock event that was followed by tit-for-tat tests by Pakistan.

Vajpayee’s best years were no doubt his third government of 1999-2004, when he formed the first National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition, carrying parties with disparate ideologies along under the umbrella of a progressive, market-oriented, pro-US, politically moderate agenda that the party hardliners did not like but which made its mark internationally and raised India’s stock in the global order.

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I made several trips with Vajpayee, as part of his media delegation, from the Caribbean to China, from the US to Pakistan, and he always found time to meet leading editors in his cabin on board Air India One and get feedback on his trip and on his policies.

But the most unforgettable experience with Vajpayee would be, no doubt, in the winter of 1992, a few days after the apocalyptic Babri Masjid demolition by Hindu zealots in Ayodhya.

Sitting in an inner room of his Raisina Road residence, a visibly anguished Vajpayee, in one of his life’s most candid interviews, called the Ayodhya action as the “worst miscalculation” and a “misadventure” and conceded that voices of moderation were overruled by hardliners.

Vajpayee admitted — much against the claims of his own party — that the BJP had failed to honour “solemn assurances” to the Supreme Court, Parliament and Prime Minister Narasimha Rao that the mosque would not be touched during the December 6 “kar seva” by Hindu activists.

“Moderates have no place,” he lamented to IANS, adding with a resigned air, “Who’s going to listen to the voice of sanity?” However, he ruled out quitting the party, saying he had a lifelong association with it and “when the ship is facing a storm, you don’t desert”.

Asked how, despite having been projected as a prime ministerial candidate as far back then, he had chosen to compromise on his convictions, Vajpayee replied, “I have waited too long (to be Prime Minister).”

Many of his party people, and even journalists, had decried the headline-grabbing interview and had even slyly suggested that it may have been contrived. But Vajpayee kept a dignified silence on the issue and, when I confronted him at the party’s National Executive meet in Kolkata some weeks later about what people were saying, he cryptically shot back: “Have I said anything?”

That said it all.

Vajpayee was a man of values, who decried the divisive ideology of sections of his partymen; he had a vision for the country and sought its rightful place in the comity of nations; but he remained till the end — as his opponents often taunted — the right man in the wrong party for India.

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

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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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