Saturday, June 03, 2017

Right Angle

I have moved: 

This blog has shifted to Right Angle: Come visit me at my new home and also pass on the word to friends, please.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Shuttle Diplomacy

A good way to start the week is by contemplating on what we are set to achieve in the next 7 days. Conventional wisdom suggests it is best to focus on the positives and visualise the outcome we desire, much like that long drive in Golf, when we can picture the ball landing on the green after a perfect lift through the air. But as in Golf, so at work and life, it is smart to be mindful of the hazards that lie on the way. Anticipating potential obstacles are traits of achievers.

As leaders our only job is to help our teams succeed. In doing so, we empower them and also provide guidance and coaching. But, we largely leave them to fight their own battles. Surely, that is the recipe for personal growth and hardened by these struggles emerge the leaders of the future.

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Post UP 2017: "Bihar Model" is outdated; Opposition must find a new template

Article first published in  (Photo courtesy PTI via ABPNews)

It has been a week since the Assembly election results that stunned the nation came out. Politicians and media were shocked by the now seemingly unstoppable rise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While most people are still trying to gather their wits to formulate a response to the stupendous victory of the BJP, the discourse has been dominated by theories on the future of the Congress and Rahul Gandhi.

No doubt there has been discussion on the fate of the major losers, namely the Samajwadi Party, BSP and AAP. But, not much attention has been paid to the reactions of other regional leaders and what this mandate means for them.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Assembly 2017 Results: Time to look ahead

Article first published at +ABP NEWS curated in Sandip Ghose' Blog: Right Angle click here

Let us stop flogging the dead horse of demonetisation and not settle scores among each other about who had predicted what outcome. Face it, we were all off the mark to a greater or lesser extent including most Exit Pollsters. It is all par for the course in a 7-phase election, which can be as tricky as an eighteen-hole Golf course.

Several myths and assumptions have been broken, but again we should not self-flagellate ourselves by blowing our own fallacies or fantasies, as the case might be. So, focus on some home truths and move forward.

Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav wasted precious time and energy on bashing Notebandi, while Captain Amarinder Singh who royally ignored it came home swimmingly. There is no value in a post-mortem on whether any of the proclaimed benefits of demonetisation have been achieved. It is history and certainly will be a non-issue in the 2019 elections. By then, even Amartya Sen (long live the revered Bharat Ratna) would also have forgotten about it.

But, what is here to stay is increased digitisation of the economy, Aadhar and PAN tagging of transactions leading to, whether we like it or not, greater transparency and, hopefully, higher tax collection. GST is going to become a reality and with increased numbers in the Rajya Sabha the government will not have to take recourse to money bills for passing every single unpopular legislation. So, stop whining about ‘tax-terrorism’ and brace up for some more tough economic measures – such as on Benami Property and unaccounted Gold.

Businessmen and Corporates who have been waiting for their turn in 2019, when the political parties have to come to them for funds, should do well to take note that demonetisation did not affect elections either in UP or Maharashtra. Narendra Modi’s definition of “Acche Din” may not be the same as what they were used to during previous dispensations.

It is time for the opposition, still tormented by thoughts of the resounding drubbing of May 2014, to realise that lungpower and disruptions of Parliament will not translate into votes.

Second, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have long internalised the theme of Tagore’s “Ekla Chalo Re” realising that going forward it is going to be BJP Vs the Rest all the way. Therefore, while Prashant Kishor may get richer by advising parties on how to beat the BJP and more Harvard Professors may make a bee-line for the booming electoral market of India, Shah-Modi have already moved the game at least two notches higher.

In UP, Narendra Modi has conclusively demonstrated how it is possible to cut across caste, communities, geography and socio-economic strata by creating a larger national agenda.

After Maharashtra and UP, it can be safely said that BJP will not have to seek out allies for 2019 (even in the South) instead regional parties will woe BJP in the hope of a couple of berths at the centre.

One may not have to wait for too long to see how ripples of Uttar Pradesh victory into neighbouring Bihar, where Nitish Kumar is already seeing to be warming up towards Modi being one of the few in the opposition to find merit in Demonetisation.

It would also be fascinating to watch how the heads of some of the regional empires, who were dreaming of being the consensus candidate or playing kingmaker in the event of a third front cobbling up majority in 2019, will recalibrate their ambitions and strategy.

It will be a psychologists delight to study how these results affect Arvind Kejriwal , who was already behaving as a shadow Prime Minister.

However, what can be said for sure is, unless bitten by an overwhelming urge for self-destruction, no party will ally with Congress as an equal partner at least as long as Rahul Gandhi is at the helm.

These elections would have also have broken the reverie of those who were romanticising about the entry of Priyanka Vadra into politics. Her brief guest appearance in the Gandhi pocket boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli would have made her fans realise she is at best a Goddess with feet of clay. And, if one were to accept her party seniors’ claims that she had played a pivotal role in managing the war-room for UP, it sadly shows that she is no better than her brother in shaping political strategy.

On the other hand Captain Amarinder Singh has proven that the Dynasty may be Dead (or dying) but long lives the Royalty. One need not belabour the point that Congress could never have won Punjab without him. Whether other minor royals in the Congress, like Jyotiraditya Scindia, will take a cue from him only time can tell.

Finally, it can be said that manufactured controversies can create social media stir and get a few stray headlines in the inside pages of international media but leave greater India, which has many more existential issues to cope with, untouched.

The left-liberal media and intelligentsia should accept this and desist from making themselves even more irrelevant by opposing every move of the government for the heck of it.

Similarly, smart quips and sound-bytes may sound nice in TV studios media and get pats in the crony circuit, but do not cut ice with the voters.

At the end of the day, if the arguments are not substantive, Patillas are just empty vessels that make noise, which has little use for Mrs Obama or even a humble desi homemaker.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Watch out for Devendra Fadnavis, BJP's gen-next leader

Pic Courtesy +ABPLIVE 

This article was first published in +ABPLIVE

To read other published articles on politics by Sandip Ghose Click Here. His curated Blog: Right Angle has now shifted to

Just when two forty-something scions of political dynasties are tripping over each other to promote themselves as youth icons, BJP has quietly gifted the country its own gen-next leader in Devendra Fadnavis.

Like in Uttar Pradesh now, if one recalls, the BJP had gone to polls in Maharashtra without a Chief Ministerial face. Even then, the strategy was a matter of intense debate and discussion. It was only towards the last lap of his campaigning, in Nagpur, that Narendra Modi had dropped a broad hint about Fadnavis being one of the probable names.

In fact, the triumvirate of Fadnavis, Khattar and Raghubar Das, all anointed as Chief Ministers within a gap of a few weeks towards the end of 2014, set some kind of a trend. They were all relatively unknown faces and somewhat surprise choices defying normal caste and region equations.
Of them, Fadnavis was more of an exception than others. Not only was Fadnavis younger than the rest, but he also did not have a strong constituency of his own to write home about. In a state like Maharashtra that boasts of being the commercial epicentre of the country money is a key determinant of political relevance. Therefore, even a first time young MLA like Pankaja Munde harboured ambition of becoming CM purely on the strength of inheriting her powerful father’s legacy. But, Fadnavis came from a modest background with a clean image and reputation of a sincere and dedicated ​party ​ worker. In some ways, he was a symbol of the industrious, educated, middle class Marathi ‘mulga’.

Putting Fadnavis at the helm in a large and complex state like Maharashtra was a huge gamble of Narendra Modi. His challenge was not only tackling a demanding and bickering partner like Shiv Sena but also managing heavy weights within his own party, which called for extra-ordinary maturity. Even though out of power and reduced almost to stubble, NCP and Congress in certain boroughs still remained forces to be reckoned with. It must be said to his credit that, Fadnavis navigated through the pitfalls and minefields with dexterity that is rare for a debutant.

One had observed signs of Fadnavis’ deft political management in the few by elections and local body polls over the last two years, but the recent BMC and Municipality Polls were undoubtedly his baptism by fire. While the BJP’s sweep of the rest of Maharashtra was less of a surprise for many, barring perhaps the traditional NCP stronghold of Pune, Pimpri-Chichwad, it was Mumbai that left everyone awestruck. It was truly a moment of Fadnavis coming of age.

But, if the results were stunning, the biggest statement of Fadnavis’ ascending stature was his magnanimous declaration of not contesting the mayoral position and offering outside support to Shiv Sena in forming the Brihan-Mumbai Municipal Council. At one stroke, he shed his “come lately” status to steal Uddhav Thackeray’s thunder and place himself on a higher pedestal. It was an unequivocal announcement that henceforth, Shiv Sena and other political parties have to deal with him on his own right and not as a surrogate of Modi and Amit Shah. The same message would have surely gone home also to his own senior colleagues and peers in the state BJP.

Maharashtra on a platter, just before the last lap of U P Elections, was the best return gift that Devendra Fadnavis could have given Narendra Modi for choosing him as the Chief Minister. But, in living up to the confidence reposed in him by​ ​ ​ Modi-Shah, Devendra Fadnavis has also started the generational shift in BJP that is required to reinvent the party and make it future ready.
This is a strong signal for other regional veterans who may have started taking their positions for granted, many of whom should start planning either for early superannuation or being bumped up to lofty but unimportant positions at the centre. In the event of BJP winning in Uttar Pradesh, which many are willing to bet upon today, it can be expected with reasonable certainty that Modi-Shah will spring another fresh face.

And, in the BJP ruled states that will go for polls in the coming two years, the incumbent Chief Ministers should not assume their indispensability. But, the challenge for Modi and Shah will be to find more like Fadnavis across the country, who will shape BJP 2.0 — that is more progressive and liberal. The young India, whom Modi has wooed so relentlessly, expects it of him. He can deliver on the promise only through a new breed of BJP leaders who shall walk the talk of governance, development and growth.

Originally published at on March 5, 2017.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Demonetisation in Retrospect

Pic Courtesy +Mint 

This Blog has moved to Right Angle: To read article Click here

What happens when “post truth” meets statistics?

One enters a new world of counter-factual spins.

So, now that the third-quarter GDP estimates indicate growth at a healthy 7%, tighten your seat belts and get ready for a new wave of economic sophistry on demonetisation.

This writer has neither claim nor pretence of being an economist. However, as a roving marketer he has travelled through several states since demonetisation was announced on 8 November.

Like every other Indian, he, too, had some views on note bandi—based not on erudite economic theory but observations and anecdotal conversations during field trips, which he had penned down from time to time.

After some initial hesitation most political parties, save some notable exceptions like Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), had jumped on to the bandwagon of demonising demonetisation. A couple of leaders among them, notably Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati, were particularly strident in their protest.

Economists across the spectrum lambasted the move, except a few sarkari ones who were seen to be beholden to the government of the day.

The first signs that demonetisation might have been over-flogged came with the Maharashtra civic polls. Similar, murmurs were probably also emanating from the Uttar Pradesh campaign trail, which saw a subtle shift in the discourse to traditional topics like caste and community with the mandatory Om Ganeshaye Namah mention of development.

Also read: What explains 7% GDP growth despite Modi’s demonetisation drive?

We have already started hearing, the cautionary “don’t count your chickens too soon; wait for the Q4 estimates” kind of counsel that could well turn out to be true. The analogy of a speeding car brought to a screeching halt by firing at its wheels has quickly changed into the explanation of momentum carrying the juggernaut through an extra quarter. There may be some merit in that argument too, but it still does not explain the paradox fully.

So, where is the disconnect between theory and reality?

First, as this writer has argued in the past, it was erroneous to judge demonetisation through the single lens of economics. There were multiple dimensions to the decision of demonetisation, even if some appeared to have been added as afterthoughts. Therefore, one needed to view through a prism of economic, political and governance objectives.

Second, one cannot paint the entire country with a single brushstroke seeing the queues outside ATMs in Delhi. There are not only differences in the economies of states, say between Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, but also the attitude of people. For example, the public reaction to dry ATMs in south India was very different from those in Kolkata.

Similarly, one found traders in “rurban” Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to early adapters of digital transactions than, understandably, in rural belts of Hindi-heartland.

Finally, the pundits and politicians in their eagerness to trash demonetisation, forgot to factor in the resilience of the average Indian, whose DNA has been engineered to cope with shortages and scarcities. Living with the vagaries of nature and whims of the masters, they are used to long periods of hardship due to natural calamities, such as poor monsoon or floods, or man-made crises created by hoarding or chronically inefficient public distribution system. For them, demonetisation would be only a small speck in memory.

While the government may be guilty of trying to retrofit logic to justify a decision that seemed to be on the verge of backfiring, politicians and analysts critical of the government be can be accused of selectively ignoring or debunking indicators such as statistics of rabi sowing or record car sales in January. There was also little mention of the bumper kharif crops after a good monsoon in most parts of the country.

One read about alleged retrenchment of staff by a certain private bank, but the record profits declared by the same bank in the third quarter did not receive the same attention, just as largescale hiring by one of their foreign peers expanding their operations in India.

As a roving salesman what one observed in the behaviour of the rural consumer was postponement of discretionary purchases that normally follow a good harvest. A sort of Giffen effect kicked in. The credit cycle increased in the villages with delay in realisation of crop sale as well payment for seed purchases. There was also a readjustment in buying patterns with a move towards small unit size packs for many products. But, hardly any peer group competitors in the field talked of more than a 10% shortfall in their sales targets.

What, of course, did not happen is much of the channel stock up that traditionally takes place in December in anticipation of a demand surge post winter. This was more than compensated by a pick up in January, but without the increase in prices that usually accompanies it. Therefore, those looking for speculative gains and stock profit were left disappointed.

Sectors like real estate have indeed suffered. That is because it was the largest playground for cash transactions. In sharp contrast, one did not see much contraction in infrastructure work except in poll-bound states.

It would be disingenuous to say the economy is hunky-dory just as it would be dishonest to make doomsday predictions. At the same time, there may not be a sharp “rebound” as many were expecting in the fourth quarter—simply because there was no major dip in third quarter. The real action will start in FY 2017-18.

An iconic Bengali satirist wrote a story of an astrologer, who predicted to a person who had come to see him that the stars would not be favourable till his age of 38. Excited, the client asked what happens after 38? Pat replied the astrologer, “After that you will get used to bad times”.

Whether people have gotten used to demonetisation or not, it is stale news and it’s time that our politicians and economists start to look ahead. The next two years indeed holds a lot of promise and interesting possibilities for the Indian economy. With goods and services tax on the horizon and a thrust on infrastructure spend in the last lap of Modi government, we must make the most of it instead of being stuck in a chronic desi malady of naysaying.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Twin Blog: Economic Survey and Budget 2017

My twin blogs published in +ABPLIVE on 

Economic Survey :

Budget :

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Turn Right

This Blog has migrated to RIGHT ANGLE - Please follow and share with friends. See you at Right Angle And thanks for visiting.

Happy New Year and Cheers,