In contrast to the prosaic style of pre-Budget Economic Surveys in the past, the advent of Arvind Subramanian as chief economic adviser has lent a literary flourish to the report. For the 2017 survey, virtually each chapter begins with a quote and Subramanian has drawn from many sources, including Tagore, Nehru, Keynes, Amitabh Bachchan’s dialogues and Aravind Adiga. Each chapter title is carefully thought out and provocative. Subramanian, who is on leave from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, where he is a senior fellow, clearly believes that the survey should be written in the style of an academic thesis. So at the end he has acknowledged taking inputs from some 200 individuals, ranging from ministers and officials to NGOs, economists and columnists, including two from this newspaper. A conservative Finance Ministry official was not amused because few names included in the long list of acknowledgements are stringent critics of the government.
Taxiing to success
H R Shah, a Gujarati NRI who runs the 24/7 TV Asia channel in the US, was awarded the Padma Shri this year. Shah has an interesting history. He started out as a limousine cab driver in New York and was a favourite of many VIP politicians from Gujarat, and so he was ensured of a steady supply of customers from India throughout the year. One of his clients was Amitabh Bachchan, with whom he struck up a friendship and they eventually launched a TV channel together. Later, Bachchan exited the venture. It is speculated that one of Shah’s former Gujarati customers recommended his name for the Padma award.
Slip of a slip
When Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav met in a Lucknow hotel for a press conference this week, Rahul gave Akhilesh a three-line chit which had been passed on to him by Ghulam Nabi Azad. The note reminded Rahul to discuss the Amethi and Rae Bareli seat adjustments with Akhilesh. Unfortunately, Akhilesh did not keep the slip in his pocket and left it on the table. A local journalist picked up the chit, which consequently became public, to the Congress’s embarrassment. The party is unsure whether Akhilesh acted deliberately or absent-mindedly. Certainly, Akhilesh and his followers are unhappy with the way the Congress hijacked the event. Rahul acted as the big brother when the Congress is in fact a junior partner in the alliance. Instead of praising the SP government’s performance, which is the campaign theme of the party — ‘Kaam Bolta hai’ — Rahul said that while their intentions were right, there were some shortcomings, as with the UPA 2. When asked about BSP chief Mayawati, Rahul said he had a lot of respect for her, a response which was hardly music to SP ears.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is upset that the Congress and SP did not include the JD(U) in their alliance in Uttar Pradesh. Sharad Yadav had suggested to Ghulam Nabi Azad that the JD(U) and RLD should join forces with the SP and Congress to make it a broad-based alliance. But Azad returned with the message that Akhilesh had vetoed the idea. However, the JD(U) believes that the Congress was more responsible for keeping them out as it did not want to part with its share of tickets. A JD(U) leader said his party was perforce not contesting the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls as it would be accused of cutting into the anti-BJP vote. In fact, it is doubtful if its presence would have made much difference.
Outside help needed
The BJP workers who volunteered to help out in the campaign for the five election states were asked to give their preference for the state they would like to be sent to. In Madhya Pradesh, the overwhelming demand was to go to Goa, known as a holiday destination. But help is really needed in Uttar Pradesh where in many areas local RSS workers are up in arms over candidate selections and want to teach the central leadership a lesson.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was missing from the Capital for most of January. Kejriwal did not even attend the two-day Winter Assembly session. His visit to the Capital for the flag-hoisting on January 26 was among the rare occasions he was seen in Delhi. Deputy CM Manish Sisodia functioned in his absence. Kejriwal is campaigning in Goa and Punjab. The BJP considered putting up Kejriwal’s photographs in Delhi with the caption ‘Missing’, but seems to have had second thoughts.