Archive for April, 2014

Friends of the Marxist economist Nirmal Chandra, who died recently, will remember with a pang of grief many facets of his personality: his self-effacing manner and lack of egotism; his warmth and conviviality (further enhanced by an evening drink with friends); his unstinting aid – without the least condescension – to students and others who sought his help or advice; his principled stand when he felt it necessary to distance from something wrong; his lack of malice, gossip, and careerism of the type so common in academia. He had the quality (rare among academics) of inviting and welcoming criticism of his work, and readily accepting it if he felt it was justified, not only before publication but even after. Ashok Mitra has written movingly about some of these and other facets of Nirmal[1]. For Nirmal’s personal friends, his passing leaves a gap that will not be filled.

At the same time, his death is a loss not only to those who knew and cherished him, but to causes that he held dear. One might tend to overlook this at first, for several reasons. His personality, while gregarious and generous, eschewed all flamboyance, and he never wore his sentiments on his sleeve. He was a private person in some ways, even in public. (One recalls Auden’s lines: “Private faces in public places/Are wiser and nicer/Than public faces in private places.”) In his writing, too, he typically preferred to present his investigations in detail but keep his own conclusions concise, at times almost terse.

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The Polls Are Over

More than two weeks remain for the declaration of the election results (May 16). However, discussion in the media more or less takes for granted that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or rather its leader Narendra Modi, will win. And this presumption may well be justified. For he has clearly won, by a landslide, the constituency that matters most: the private corporate sector. In fact, polls for that real constituency were over last year, and they have drastically shaped the formal elections being held this year.

This fact is so well known that it now hardly bears repeating. Last September, the Nielsen/Economic Times survey of 100 corporate leaders found that 74 per cent favoured Modi as prime minister, compared to just 7 per cent who favoured Rahul Gandhi.[1] But the drumbeat began much earlier. Telecom magnate Sunil Mittal declared in 2009 itself: “He [Modi] is running a state and can also run the nation.” At a ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ summit, Anil Ambani called Modi “lord of men, leader amongst leaders and king amongst kings”, and Mukesh Ambani affirmed that “In Narendra bhai, we have a leader with a grand vision.” Anand Mahindra prophesied that in the near future “people will talk about the Gujarat model of growth in China.” When Modi organised an extraordinary package of clearances, land and huge subsidies for Tata Motors’ Nano car project, Ratan Tata joined the Modi fan club. Having tasted peasant resistance in Singur, what Tata found attractive about Modi was that “If he says it will be done, it will be done”.[2]

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