Column

Indraprastha

Virendra Kapoor is a political commentator based in Delhi
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A lucky economist, a chief justice's love for publicity and a chief minister's drunken words

ONLY A FEW days before he got called back from virtual retirement to head one of the more iconic bodies in Lutyens’ Delhi, he had been rather harsh on Indian economists working with Western academic and multilateral institutions. Implicitly, he criticised politicians for being bedazzled by economists with foreign credentials. Little did he know at the time that his immense good luck would soon catapult him into a position—one which, in all honesty, he may have considered out of his reach—vacated by one such well-known economist in order for him to retain his tenure at an Ivy League university.

Now that he has been in the post vacated by the US-based economist for a couple of months, his colleagues and senior officials, who have to necessarily interact with him, feel underwhelmed by his talents. His modest credentials as an economist make his predecessor shine all the more. Speculation in official circles is that given his pro-NDA noises in the media, and his proximity to a key officer in the PMO, the latter might have helped to get him the job, especially given the bad press generated by the sudden departure of the previous incumbent. Indeed, those who have followed his career insist that a background check on his professional career would have obliged the Government to reconsider his nomination to the high-profile job.

THEN THERE IS the retired Chief Justice of a High Court. He gets excited at the sight of TV cameras and is willing to say what he believes the media expects to hear from him. Even while presiding over a key High Court, his brother judges were made fully aware of his weakness to play to the gallery. But having tasted blood after delivering a path-breaking judgment in a matter which particularly enthuses the usual liberal-leftist circles, his penchant for publicity has often trumped common sense. The other day, he made himself available for the delivery of a rambling and ill-informed sermon on camera to make a case for an inquiry into a matter which was wholly cooked up by the professional baiters of the ruling dispensation. The so-called investigative report in a journal had its bottom knocked by a painstaking effort at fact-checking by a major Delhi newspaper. And yet, the former High Court chief put his reputation on the wire upon seeing the cameras of a website given to spewing venom against the ruling party. Even this would have been okay had the good judge familiarised himself with the names and locations of the events he was talking about. Without reading the case file, as they say in judicial parlance, he was ready with his judgment. A bias for publicity does not a good judge make, or does it?

POST-DEMONETISATION, post-GST, cash had become scarce, taking a toll on business activity, especially in the informal economy. Now, a full year after notebandi and a brutal mauling of the GST, mainly dictated by electoral considerations, we can report that cash is getting back to being king again. As a world-wise friend with interests in real estate and industry confided, in particular after the cash- limit for transactions under GST was raised to Rs 2 lakh, mid-level businesses are again back to being the BJP supporters they had been all along. Even the real estate sector in the National Capital Region, says our friend, is looking up again, with the cash component creeping up slowly. The need to win elections often supersedes the duty to make honest citizens of us all. And calling it ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ has only undermined efforts to enforce transparency in the economic sphere, forcing a whittling down of the most progressive tax in a long, long time.

A SOUTHERN POLITICIAN, widely known for his weakness for alcohol long before fortuitous events in his region catapulted him into the Chief Minister’s gaddi, remains an addict of the hard stuff even after occupying the high constitutional post. A video clip currently doing the rounds on social media shows him rambling away in the state Assembly without making much sense even to his loyal flock sitting behind him, with some of them struggling to suppress their titters. Unsteady on his feet, there are moments in the video when a viewer suspects he might collapse. However, there is no reason to expect a collapse of his government anytime soon, so firm is his and his family members’ control over the party and the government.

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