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Demonetisation deadline: Does govt has no plan to get back crores of NRI ‘white money’?

Despite all the love sprayed on NRIs and those multiple Pravasi Divas conventions held in various parts of the country for various ministers to iterate their love for Indians abroad the week of good cheer is a bit soured.

With good reason. As airlines hike up the cost of tickets by nearly 250 percent (from the Gulf for sure) and families largely opt to stay home there is also a tangible sense of loss from the enormous vat of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes lying around the diaspora.

Awash in cash? PTIAwash in cash? PTI

Awash in cash? PTI

Assessed officially at 30 million people but probably higher by another five million with about Rs 5,000 being taken as the modest average lying with each person it comes to a sizeable Rs 15,000 crore and running.

Most of us keep a reasonable amount in high denomination notes with Rs 25,000 being the outer limit as per law to avoid delays at Indian airports in making foreign exchange and simply pull out the wads that have been lying under shirts and saris or used biscuit and chocolate tins to take a cab home and, in case banks are closed, have enough for Day One and Two.

The stories of long queues and no money and cards not working have made for a change in touching the base.

Relatives in the home country already stretched to breaking point are also not too keen to having us descend upon them en masse.

Rumours and half-truths that the government is listening to last moment pleas from community representatives for a delay in the 30 December deadline for these notes to be vacuumed in don’t seem to have much grounds and the odds are the Not Required Indian will stay not required. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things the sum from NRIs is not astronomical but why lose it.

The Customs form allows us to bring in Rs 25,000 though most of us carry less on each visit. And we do not take back much, just the leftover financial debris of the holiday.

This year the stress level has a different texture to it. For one, there is this fear that carrying banned notes might cause hassles at points of entry. No one wants to be taken aside because they are carrying six or seven crumpled notes. There is no logic in the fear but it exists anyway…there have been enough scare stories on the social platforms to make everyone a little concerned…and hugely confused.

And it does not make sense spending Rs 30,000 per passenger and more for a Y class ticket to make the end of the year deadline when such a low cast carrier ticket usually goes for Rs 10,000 or thereabouts. The situation as it stands is that these Rs 150 billion will be consumed by the clock. Come to think of it, the total is probably much more.

That these crores are going to be largely lost to the exchequer seems to be of no concern to the authorities. Even blue-collar labour has a note or two, often placed in their wallets for good luck by tearful parents sending their sons and daughters to foreign shores when they leave home…a kind of ‘shagun’ that has now lost its meaning.

You would think that one of the mandarins in the Ministry of Overseas Affairs would say, uh oh, that is a lot of money let’s create a blueprint for getting it back and instruct all banks to allow these monies to be sent by courier to the accounts up to Rs 25,000 and let it be accepted.

After all, look at the delicious irony. It is not black money. it is bright, shiny, pristine white money that people want to return.

Allowed to be in our possession by law. So why are NRIs being penalised indirectly for not breaking the law. Echo answers who?

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 19:37 IST

Going easy on love affairs in armed forces could be an error

It is a cornerstone of military life. Your being an officer and a gentleman. And intrinsic to that carriage is the codicil that you will not steal the affections of a brother officer’s wife. It is not done.

Not being done has been a historical code in all armies and the judgement this week by the Kolkata bench of the armed forces tribunal on extramarital affairs kind of knocks the grace and dignity that came with this code of conduct for a bit of a loop.

Love tangle. ReutersLove tangle. Reuters

Love tangle. Reuters

The tribunal has said that acts of infidelity should be treated with a lot more leniency and the penalties for misconduct should be less punitive. In the case of Flt Lt Ishan Sharan accused of having an affair with the wife of a colleague who outranked him she being a Squadron Leader herself. It has been decided that rather than being dismissed from service and losing all his emoluments he should be ‘released from service’ for his indiscretion in shacking up with the lady concerned.

Imagine how tacky and tragic. Squadron Leader Dasgupta committed suicide after her affair fell apart and Sharan got married later. The husband was cuckolded and in the close-knit society of the forces, would always be known as the guy whose wife duped him. The whole squadron must have been in gloom, sides were taken, no winners, only losers.

The tribunal’s cavalier approach is clearly predicated on the new world out there and the fact that even the forces have to move on with the times. For some unfathomable reason, it also adds that what with more women joining the forces the mindset has to undergo a change.

He first indicates a flexibility indeed and may sound logical if it wasn’t made so mutually exclusive from the genesis of this fiat. The second makes no sense whatsoever and is thoroughly irrelevant. Women do not join the army, navy and air force to have affairs. I guess what they are trying to say is that women are not chattel or property and if a wife strays she is intelligent, educated and knows the consequences so why should only the man pay such a heavy price. That’s fair enough but it again misses the mark.

No one is talking about chastity belts when everyone marched off to war, leaving their women behind, unguarded. Though that is exactly why the code was made sacrosanct. It was always in times of combat that you honoured each other by saying ‘hands off.’
And when you are not in combat you are preparing for a bit.

When a brother officer went on furlough or was injured and sent home from the frontlines he became a postman, a of information for the families of his regiment and a welcome visitor to their homes. Abusing that hospitality was unthinkable. He was the SMS, the Facebook, the mobile phone for families thirsting for updates.

In India, we do not regularly have a war but thousands of officers and men are posted in non-family stations, their wives in military cantonments living alone and bringing up children. At this very moment.

Officers in the rear party or on leave who take advantage of the loneliness are what is a called a cad. Perhaps in the 21st century it is a bit of prudery to think like that but in the armed forces stealing those affections is not only unbrotherly it is also a direct slap on the esprit de corps and morale of the regiment or battalion.

Everyone is bruised. And shamed. And embarrassed.

Imagine if these two men were pilots in the same aircraft or flying in formation. Would you want to be the wingman to either of them? Imagine one commanding the other on a ship. Being part of the same armoured formation.

Regardless of the genial softening of the attitude to affairs in uniform by this tribunal’s recommendation, it will still be seen as the second worst offence after cowardice in battle.

No one is being naïve. Affairs will happen. But if you get caught, pay the price. GOING EASY ON LOVE AFFAIRS IN ARMED FORCES COULD BE AN ERROR.

It is a cornerstone of military life. Your being an officer and a gentleman. And intrinsic to that carriage is the codicil that you will not steal the affections of a brother officer’s wife. It is not done.

Not being done has been a historical code in all armies and the judgement this week by the Kolkata bench of the armed forces tribunal on extramarital affairs kind of knocks the grace and dignity that came with this code of conduct for a bit of a loop.

The tribunal has said that acts of infidelity should be treated with a lot more leniency and the penalties for misconduct should be less punitive. In the case of Flt Lt Ishan Sharan accused of having an affair with the wife of a colleague who outranked him she being a Squadron Leader herself. it has been decided that rather than being dismissed from service and losing all his emoluments he should be ‘released from service’ for his indiscretion in shacking up with the lady concerned.

Imagine how tacky and tragic. Squadron leader Dasgupta committed suicide after her affair fell apart and Sharan got married later. The husband was cuckolded and in the close-knit society of the forces, would always be known as the guy whose wife duped him. The whole squadron must have been in gloom, sides were taken, no winners, only losers.

The tribunal’s cavalier approach is clearly predicated on the new world out there and the fact that even the forces have to move on with the times. For some unfathomable reason, it also adds that what with more women joining the forces the mindset has to undergo a change.

He first indicates a flexibility indeed and may sound logical if it wasn’t made so mutually exclusive from the genesis of this fiat. The second makes no sense whatsoever and is thoroughly irrelevant. Women do not join the army, navy and air force to have affairs. I guess what they are trying to say is that women are not chattel or property and if a wife strays she is intelligent, educated and knows the consequences so why should only the man pay such a heavy price. That’s fair enough but it again misses the mark.

No one is talking about chastity belts when everyone marched off to war, leaving their women behind, unguarded. Though that is exactly why the code was made sacrosanct. It was always in times of combat that you honoured each other by saying ‘hands off.’

And when you are not in combat you are preparing for bit.

When a brother officer went on furlough or was injured and sent home from the frontlines he became postman, updater of information for the families of his regiment and a welcome visitor to their homes. Abusing that hospitality was unthinkable. He was the SMS, the Facebook, the mobile phone for families thirsting for updates.

In India we do not regularly have war but thousands of officers and men are posted in non-family stations, their wives in military cantonments living alone and bringing up children. At this very moment.

Officers in the rear party or on leave who take advantage of the loneliness are what is a called a cad. Perhaps in the 21st century it is a bit of prudery to think like that but in the armed forces stealing those affections is not only unbrotherly it is also a direct slap on the esprit de corps and morale of the regiment or battalion.

Everyone is bruised. And shamed. And embarrassed.

Imagine if these two men were pilots in the same aircraft or flying in formation. Would you want to be the wingman to either of them? Imagine one commanding the other on a ship. Being part of the same armoured formation.

Regardless of the genial softening of the attitude to affairs in uniform by this tribunal’s recommendation, it will still be seen as the second worst offence after cowardice in battle.

No one is being naïve. Affairs will happen. But if you get caught, pay the price.

Beyond surgical strikes, why India should go ahead and wipe out Pakistan’s Jihadi facilities

If anything that the surgical strikes of Thursday have reemphasised, it is this: Narendra Modi remains the master of surprises. Perhaps since Independence, no prime minister has mastered the art of keeping all cards close to the chest and showing his hand only after the predetermined outcome has been achieved. Everything that then follows is simply analysis in hindsight. In an age of the nonstop and unremitting churning out of opinion and criticism at the rate of Gigabytes per second, it’s hard to do what Modi continues to do with aplomb: bypassing and blocking the media and keeping calm under pressure even from the legions of his loyal admirers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. APPrime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Indeed, Modi’s Kozhikode speech was in many ways, a masterstroke at lulling the enemy even as some sections of his hardcore supporters and others were lashing out at him for doing nothing in the wake of the tragic terrorist strike at Uri.

As some analysts have correctly observed, that by abandoning the silly “strategic restraint,” which is “a euphemism for doing nothing and stoically adopting a defensive posture against Pakistan-backed jihadis,” Modi has introduced a courageous new doctrine in dealing with a rogue state. Indeed, this is in many ways a real-life implementation of Modi’s own response to an old Aap ki Adalat question about dealing with Pakistan: “We must talk to Pakistan in its own language…and stop writing love letters to it.”

Both at the root and the heart of yesterday’s surgical strikes lies a fundamental conception of statecraft and warfare of all nations from the most ancient times: territorial integrity is sacrosanct, and no measure is invalid, insignificant or unworthy to maintain it intact. And as history shows us, India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru abandoned this elementary tenet in the case of Jammu and Kashmir to our continuing misfortune. While Sardar Patel seemingly effortlessly united more than 550 Princely States into the Indian Union, Nehru made a permanent mess of the only state whose “problem” he said he’d solve.

On the other hand, a terrorist state like Pakistan interprets territorial integrity to mean not only the sanctity of its own borders but the infringement of other nations’ territories. And to consciously adopt a state policy of crying victim in the face of retaliation. However, this time, that door seems to have slammed shut. Perhaps for the first time, not a single nation is willing to condemn India for retaliating — a routine practice for nearly three decades.

And this outcome didn’t happen by accident.

Let’s hear it from the mouth of Zaid Hamid, a commentator and analyst on the Pakistani news channel, Zem TV. In July 2016, he perceptively observed that Modi has spent considerably less time on Indian soil and that his marathon globe-trotting has systematically succeeded in “hijacking all of Pakistan’s former friends” to the extent that Pakistan has no buddies in its immediate neighbourhood apart from an undependable China. And that Pakistan neither has a foreign policy nor a government that thinks in terms of national interest.

And now, two months later, in the aftermath of the surgical strikes, it’s no surprise that the general mood is one of respect for India standing up for itself.

But mere surgical strikes are not enough. Members of the military establishment that this author has spoken to are still smarting under the humiliation and tragedy of the Pathankot attacks, and generally aver that Pakistan might lie low for a while before it launches its next counter-offensive. Equally, they advocate a strategy to keep Pakistan continuously on its toes, to preempt fresh strikes and to make it expensive to carry on its time-tested strategy of bleeding India by a thousand cuts.

Given the physical, tactical and psychological upper hand India currently has, apart from eliminating the launch pads, it must also work to completely dismantle the anti-India Jihadi terror infrastructure that Pakistan runs in the neighbourhood. With the surgical strikes, India has taken the first step in calling Pakistan’s nuclear bluff, something that analyst Rakesh Simha provided a hint last year:


What if Pakistan uses tactical nuclear bombs against the Indian Army’s Battle Groups the moment Cold Start is initiated? In Kapila’s view, Pakistan’s low nuclear threshold is a myth – perpetuated and planted by Western academia and think tanks. This suits the needs of the conservative American establishment in whose eyes India is a long-term rival and Pakistan a useful, if unreliable, ally. Unfortunately, India’s political leadership and its uncritical media have been brainwashed into believing that Cold Start has apocalyptic consequences.

“Nuclear warfare is not a commando raid or commando operation with which Pakistan is more familiar,” says Kapila. “Crossing the nuclear threshold is so fateful a decision that even strong American Presidents in the past have baulked at exercising it.

Although the Indian establishment has officially declared that no further strikes have been planned, knowing Pakistan’s record, India needs to tighten the squeeze, and not just sit back. Some steps would include shutting down the Pakistani Embassy here, moving aggressively on the Indus Waters Treaty — another Nehruvian Himalayan blunder — and lobbying harder with the US to get Congress to officially designate Pakistan as a terrorist state.

Indeed, the political rhetoric — if not vision — of making India a superpower in the coming decades will ring meaningless unless accompanied by the building up of and displaying deterrent strength against rogue states. In the words of Arun Shourie, for long India, the country has become a wastepaper basket inhabited by all sorts of illegal immigrants and terror-infiltrators.

And I tend to agree with Rakesh Simha when he invokes Walter C Ladwig’s Harvard paper on India’s Cold Start Doctrine as saying:


“As the Indian military enhances its ability to implement Cold Start, it is simultaneously degrading the chance that diplomacy could diffuse a crisis on the subcontinent. In a future emergency, the international community may find the Battle Groups on the road to Lahore before anyone in Washington, Brussels or Beijing has the chance to act.”

The surgical strikes have vividly demonstrated the said diplomatic victory not to mention the Balochis openly congratulating India, among others, or Iran shelling Pakistan’s Balochistan border.

The ensuing Pakistani verbal bravado, a disguised attempt at face-saving, only reveals its desperation and failure at being caught unawares.

For now, the price for the Pathankot and Uri attacks has been extracted in the nature of a tooth for a tooth. The whole jaw remains intact.

And as a shameless footnote to this episode, a Congress rally on 28 September in Moradabad became the theatre that witnessed its workers sloganeering, “Pakistan Zindabad.”

Hypocrisy towards terrorism will not do: India at UNGA Summit for Refugees and Migrants

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Describing terrorism as an “existential threat”, India has said that “hypocrisy” towards the menace is unacceptable and underlined that terrorism is the “principle cause” of the large-scale refugee movement. “It is important to stress that today the geo-politics of the crisis points and proves that terrorism is the principle cause of refugee movements. Can we ignore this fact, we cannot. We do so at our peril,” Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar said in his address to the UN General Assembly’s first-ever Summit for Refugees and Migrants here yesterday. Akbar asserted that terrorism is an “existential threat” and “hypocrisy towards this crisis will not do.”He underscored that for the millions of people fleeing conflict, war and poverty, terrorism is not characterised as good or bad. “There is no good terrorism or bad terrorism and if you do not know the answer to this question, all you have to do is ask the refugee if he considers any terrorism to be good or bad,” Akbar said. Stressing that terrorism is the “biggest danger” to human rights, Akbar said large movements of people across borders serve as a reminder that the world has become a global village.”We can only prosper or perish together, it is best that we learn to live in peace, prosperity and amity,” he said.Underlining that “prevention is better than cure”, Akbar said the international community has to address issues like terrorism, prevent armed conflict and facilitate development, which will help ensure people are not forced to flee their homeland. “We have to find out what drives them towards seeking refuge. Prevention is better than cure. Perhaps prevention is the only cure,” he said adding that preventing armed conflict, countering terrorism, building and sustaining peace to facilitating sustainable development and governance will prevent people from being forced to leave their homeland.Terming the present refugee crisis as “unprecedented,” Akbar said the number of people on the move globally is estimated at close to 250 million or one in every 30 persons and three-fourths of all refugees come from just 11 countries. Akabar noted that it is disconcerting that just seven countries host more than half of all refugees and now almost 90% of all refugees are hosted in developing nations.He said it is wrong to assume that host nations do not want refugees. “It is assumed that only host nations do not want refugees. I ask do refugees also want to become refugees. They don’t,” he said.e said the problem of the refugee crisis has been with the world for a very long time. “Refugees are as old as war. The first consequence of war is death and the second is refugees. There is another kind of person seeking a new haven – the migrant driven by a second cruelty, hunger or economic aspiration, and both phenomenon are visible in the present crisis.”Akbar referred to India’s “long history” of welcoming people seeking refuge from conflict, war, tyranny and poverty. “India offers refuge not because it has a large bank balance but because it has a large heart,” he said. He cited the tumultuous year of 1971 when Bangladesh was fighting for independence and more than a million people from the neighbouring nation took refuge in India to escape the “genocide” that they were facing at home. “People seeking shelter in our country have never been turned back. Our record has been unique,” he said. Akbar said nationalism is the “contemporary architecture” of stability and “we understand its importance. “The intersection of human need in a refugee crisis and national imperatives make this a complex issue,” he added.Akbar also recalled Mahatma Gandhi’s “seminal contribution” to abolishing indentured labour 100 years ago. He said in more recent times, Indian migrants, including a cross section of professionals, skilled and less-skilled workers, have migrated to countries around the world and offered a “positive contribution to the diaspora”.He voiced India’s commitment to working with all partners beginning next year in developing a global compact to ensuring a safe and orderly migration that is in the interest of all people.

Powerful politicians, bureaucrats have made Lokayukta toothless: Report

Does Maharashtra really need a Lokayukta? Perhaps not. A confidential annual report of the Lokayukta, submitted to the governor last Saturday, underscores how the corruption watchdog has been rendered powerless by powerful politicians and bureaucrats.Most recommendations made by the Lokayukta to prosecute corrupt government employees are never taken seriously by the government, forcing the institution to send reminders and then submitting “special reports” to the governor seeking attention, stated the report viewed by the dna. The confidential report mentioned “special reports” under section 12 (5) were sent to the governor in 154 cases, informing him about the government’s non-compliance. It, however, hardly helped. This is obvious from the fact that the Lokayukta’s annual reports have not been tabled in the legislature after 2011. Not surprising that the institution now seeks permission to make its report public immediately after submission to the governor.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In cases where the government was forced to take action following repeated reminders of the ombudsman, the action was too little and too late, serving neither as punishment for the accused nor as deterrent for others. “In many cases, it was observed that charge sheets were served to employees at the fag end of their service or on the date of retirement. Then the employees were placed under suspension. Departmental inquiries, however, don’t commence since inquiry officers are not appointed, and in some cases, inquiry officers are changed from time to time,” stated the report, adding that in many cases, the employees even died before the departmental inquiry could be completed.The report highlighted the need for a strict deadline for departmental inquiries, adding that such delays affected pension benefits as “many times, the retired employee dies before completion of the inquiry”. The report further mentioned, “It is imperative that the government established a regular in-house monitoring mechanism for such delayed departmental inquires and ensured that orders were passed by appropriate authority in time.”While the 700-page annual report gave a detailed description of corruption cases disposed off by the body in 2014, the first few chapters of it gave interesting insight into the happenings within the watchdog – how powerless the body is sans investigating and prosecuting power and how it has been made toothless, as it has to rely on the government to probe serious cases against its own employees and politicians.Referring to previous reports, and reference of states such as Karnataka, MP and UP, the Maharashtra’s ombudsman has reiterated its long pending demand that the police and ACB must be brought under them so that the institution could be made “effective”. The watchdog has also sought “financial autonomy” from the government. “The Godbole committee’s report of 2001 states that the institution completed 25 years, but its impact on the public life in Maharashtra has been minimal. The absence of an independent investigating agency, inadequate staff affects the functioning of this institution. Lokayukta in Karnataka, MP, Chhattisgarh, AP, UP have independent investigative agencies. Hence, entrusting the Lokayukta with overall responsibilities of overseeing the vigilance work in state, putting DG, ACB under the institution is needed,” the report added.The body has also demanded that their recommendations to sanction prosecution must be treated as “mandatory” and cited staff crunch owing to expansion of jurisdiction. Such a sorry state of the ombudsman was surprising.Maharashtra was the first state to enact the Maharashtra Lokayukta and Upalokayuktas Act 1971. The institution came into effect on October 25, 1972 headed by chief justice SP Kotwal. Over 903 cases were received in the very first year by the watchdog. Nearly 43 years down the line, the institution receives over 6,000 fresh plaints annually. That is when the institution doesn’t have a website of its own.It was 1966 when the concept of Lokpal was discussed in India for the first time. The credit goes to the Administrative Reforms Commission which recommended an institution of ombudsman on lines of Scandinavian countries.There was a public outcry against corruption in the country, existence of widespread inefficiency and unresponsiveness of administration to attend to public complaints in the country which was set-free from British rules barely 18 years ago.Top five districts in terms of cases (Jan to Dec 2014)Mumbai City 288Mumbai Suburbs 444Thane 469Nagpur 376Pune 373

Dusting was Indira Gandhi’s stress-buster after 1971 war began, says new book

According to a new book by Indira Gandhi’s personal physician, KP Mathur, the day after the 1971 India-Pakistan war erupted, then prime minister was seen dusting the house. In his book, ‘The Unseen Indira Gandhi’, the 92-year-old physician narrates various anecdotes that he recalls from his 20-year association with Indira Gandhi. “I had the occasion to see PM herself changing the bedcovers on the ‘diwan’…It was the day after the Bangladesh war had started and she had worked late into the night..When I went to see her in the morning, I saw her engaged in the exercise of dusting. Perhaps, it helped her release the tension of the earlier night,” Mathur says in the book, reports IANS. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to the book, Indira was in Kolkata the day Pakistan attacked India in 1971, and she immediately flew back to Delhi. During the flight, the prime minister was ‘cool and composed as ever’.Mathur in the book says she was nervous when she took charge as PM in 1966 and was not sure of herself. “During the first year or two of her becoming PM, she used to be very tense, a bit confused and not sure of herself. She had no advisors and was almost friendless…” reports IANS. Mathur also says that Indira Gandhi took an immediate liking to Sonia Gandhi when her son Rajiv got married. Indira Gandhi used to refer to Sonia as ‘bahurani’. Mathur describes Indira Gandhi as ‘a loving mother, grandmother and an understanding and non-interfering mother-in-law.’Mathur also says in the book that Indira Gandhi was not only religious, but also superstitious. She followed spiritual guru Anandmayi Ma, and wore a rosary of rudraksha beads received from him. Indira Gandhi also visited famous temples including Tirupathi, Vaishno Devi several times.

‘Signora Gandhi’ under attack: It’s firefighting time for the Congress

Sonia ‘Signora’ Gandhi is directly in the line of the BJP’s fire this time and you can expect her to dominate the headlines in the coming days.

Of course, there’s no proof of wrong-doing against her in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal — at least not as yet — but the fact that she finds mention in the Italian court’s order as the ‘driving force’ behind the chopper deal is good enough for the BJP to launch a fierce attack against her. In this season of no-holds-barred adversarial politics, even half a chance to nail a rival cannot be allowed to go waste; if it’s the Congress chief, then the sense of urgency becomes more explicit.

Thus, the ruling party’s effort to cash in on the court’s order comes as no surprise.

File image of Sonia Gandhi. PTI

File image of Sonia Gandhi. PTI

The Congress might claim that it responded swiftly when the controversy erupted in 2013 over the deal signed in 2010. True, it cancelled the deal immediately and confiscated the guarantee money besides blacklisting AgustaWestland and initiating CBI and ED probes. It also moved the judicial authorities in Italy for assistance in the case. However, now that the former chief of Finmeccanica — of which AgustaWestland is a subsidiary — has been convicted and the annexures to the judgment mention leaders believed to be close to the Congress president, the party has to do much more than putting up a staid, routine defence.

Why should bribe-takers go scot free when bribe-givers are convicted?

This is a valid question from the BJP. The Congress will need to come up with a convincing answer to that. It is possible as in most big-ticket scams involving political biggies, that there won’t be any smoking guns — evidence directly pointing to involvement of leaders. In this case too, there will be lengthy legal battles before there is any conclusion to the case, but in times when politics is all about winning the perception game, it is critical that the party produces a strong rebuttal for public consumption.

The centrality of Sonia to the survival of the Congress need not be overstated.

As the sole rallying point of the faction-ridden outfit — Rahul Gandhi is yet to prove himself — it’s critical for the party than her moral authority remains beyond question. The party has been on a political downhill journey under her in the last few years but lost political ground is less difficult to regain than the lost moral high ground of the leader. The effect would be devastating on the party rank and file. This is the reason the Congress has always been prickly about any attack on the Gandhi family and has rushed to its defence when it’s under attack — whether perceived or real.

The BJP, out to ensure a Congress-mukt India, clearly understands the predicament of the party.

The Congress, it believes, will collapse without the Gandhis. The best way to go about it is to take the moral sheen off them through attacks big and small. The direct attack has already come in the form of the National Herald case and now the Italian court verdict provides more fodder for its cannons. Now that the irrepressible Subramanian Swamy is in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress should expect a frontal attack on its top leadership on several issues.

Will the party win the perception battle this time around? Chances are bleak, given the state of disarray in the party’s response mechanism. It has been responding to all the allegations against it over the years, but the vigour is missing. Perhaps the BJP’s stronger media strategy has something to with it. Whatever the case, unless the Congress comes up with emphatic answers in the chopper deal matter, the damage can be long-term.

Sushma Swaraj in Iran: Good manners is no sign of weakness

When Khushwant Singh was Editor of the Illustrated Weekly at its peak he was invited to address the Bombay Gymkhana members one afternoon. Singh wore his crumpled slacks and his lightly torn towel T shirt and sandals and sauntered off to the Club even though the dress code said ‘formal.’

He was stopped from entering and then refused to give the talk since he was miffed. He came back to office and in his inimitable style decided to set up his decision to vote with the staff (and what a galaxy of stars that staff was) taking part. Perhaps because I am an army brat and dress codes have been intrinsic to my upbringing I voted against and told him I thought it was wrong of him to accept the invitation and not the dress rules. He argued back that he was the speaker and the code should not apply to him. I asked him to show the card he was sent and he did. It gave the dress code and so I stuck to my guns.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. ReutersExternal Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Reuters

External
Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Reuters

I said he showed them discourtesy. He said, they had no right to tell him how to dress, he wasn’t doing a fashion show, he was giving a speech.

I would not budge.

Much the same as Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj accepted an invitation to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and covered herself in a sari and a shawl of matching colours. Clumsy but courteous. That is just proper and anyone finding fault with that is being fatuous. It would be diplomatically absurd to do otherwise. What point would you possibly score by being rude? If she had removed her bindi there might have been a case for overdoing it but simply covering herself is mere good manners.

It would have served no purpose if both leaders had sat in discomfort and averted eyes and been diverted from their purpose by sartorial impoliteness.

After all, you are on their territory. If you have gone you follow the cultural norm. We do it at our level. You go to some homes you keep your shoes on. Others you take them off. Some let you smoke. Others will not. I eat with my left hand. If I visit the south I make sure I do not offend my hosts by eating with the hand that makes them ill at ease.

The operative word is offend. There is no strength in equating rudeness with courage or independence. India’s air crew land in Saudi Arabia they put on the hijab. Do we stop the commercial agreement because we don’t like it. We have had scores of heads of states and royalty from around the world visit our holy places and multiple houses of worship and they accord us the grace of our code of conduct. If they have to cover their heads they do so. Barefoot? So be it. Folded hands? You bet. Sit on the floor? Yes.

If Sushma had strode in to this meeting with skin showing and a sliver of her waist exposed in a sari which part of it would have made her critics feel that she had scored a point for the flag and the country.

Ask the ones who are making this hue and cry and setting her up for ridicule what they would do and why they think good breeding is weakness.

I am a Hindu. I have never eaten beef. Would you call me to your home and cook it and serve it because you eat it.

Would I make pork sausages if I had Muslim friends come over because that’s the way I am, take it or leave it. I would not.

Would I make any non veg food for my Jain friend?

Would you light up your cigarette in a home with small children? Would you chew tobacco and call for a spittoon?

End up on a question? Why do so many of us wear a tie and a shirt (and even a coat in sweltering heat) when we go to get a US or UK visa?

Echo answers why.

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