Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Category: India

Amit versus Ahmed

Usually elections to Rajya Sabha are tame affairs. Number of candidates is equal to number of seats and candidates win unopposed. Rarely there is a contest. One candidate loses when there is a contest.
Elections to three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat on 8/8/2017 saw interesting twists. There were four candidates. BJP had fielded Amit Shah, Smriti Irani and Balwantsinh Rajput. Congress had fielded Ahmed Patel. The contest was seen as Amit Shah versus Ahmed Patel. Narendra Modi wants Congress-Free India. Amit Shah is BJP President. Ahmed Patel is political secretary to Sonia Gandhi.
Balwantsinh Rajput was a Congress member. BJP got him to quit Congress and join BJP and fight against Ahmed Patel. It is said Amit Shah holds Ahmed Patel responsible for his imprisonment in Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter case. Congress leaders were jittery about TV channels mentioning Ahmed Patel as political secretary to Sonia Gandhi. They said Ahmed Patel is contesting as a Congress member and not as political secretary to Sonia Gandhi.
Congress had 57 MLAs in Gujarat Legislative Assembly. Ahmed Patel was a sitting MP of Rajya Sabha from Gujarat and his victory was taken for granted. Then Shankarsinh Vaghela quit Congress. Some Congress MLAs followed him. Some Congress MLAs resigned from Legislative Assembly. Congress accused BJP of offering 15 crore rupees bribe to its MLAs and intimidation of MLAs who did not except bribe. It shifted its MLAs to Bangalore. Some channels were critical of Congress. They said Congress MLAs were enjoying in Bangalore while Gujarat was flood-affected. Congress MLAs replied they were not safe in Gujarat. The MLAs stayed at Eagleton Golf Resort owned by Karnataka’s Energy Minister D. K. Shivakumar. Income Tax Department raided his properties.
After voting on 8/8/2017 Shankarsinh Vaghela said “As Ahmed Patel is going to lose, I have not given my vote to him.” Congress leader Ashok Gehlot said “Out of our 44 MLAs, one of them has cross-voted.”
In the evening the action shifted to Delhi. Congress leaders Randeep Surjewala and Ratanjit Pratap Narain Singh went to Election Commission and met CEC A. K. Joti and EC O. P. Rawat. They presenteda video and said Bhola Gohel and Raghavji Patel had shown their ballot papers to unauthorised persons and their votes should be quashed. Then BJP delegation headed by Arun Jaitley approached Election Commission. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, P. P. Choudhary and Nirmala Sitharaman were in the delegation. BJP contended that once votes are cast nothing can be done and the process was fair and EC should reject Congress plea. Returning Officer is the statutory authority for polling and counting. EC has no power.
Then Congress delegation returned, this time led by P. Chidambaram. Chidambaram wanted rejection of the two ballot papers and cited precedents. He said “The most recent precedent in Haryana on June 11, 2016. On that day, in the election to the Rajya Sabha, a Congress MLA’s vote was rejected on the ground that the ballot paper has been seen by a person other than the authorised person…”
BJP delegation returned and demanded immediate counting of votes. Congress delegation was back for the third time and BJP delegation followed. EC said it would not meet more delegations. EC viewed video footage. It invoked Article 324 of the Constitution and overruled Returning Officer’s decision and ordered that the votes of Bhola Gohel and Raghavji Patel be invalidated. It is rare for EC to overrule RO. Ahmed Patel won. Balwantsinh Rajput lost. Victories of Amit Shah and Smriti Irani were not in doubt.
It was Randeep Surjewala’s vote that was disqualified on 11/6/2016 after BJP objected he showed it to Congress Legislature Party leader Kiran Choudhary who was not the authorised person while Congress leader and AICC General Secretary B. K. Hariprasad was the authorised person. That time BJP benefitted. This time Congress benefitted.
The election had side shows. Nitish Kumar wanted JD(U) MLA Chhotu Vasava to vote for BJP. He voted for Ahmed Patel. Nitish Kumar sacked Arun Srivastav as general secretary for appointing an authorised agent of behalf of the party. Of the two NCP MLAs, Kandhal Jadeja said he voted for BJP against party whip. BJP MLA Nalin Kotadiya said he had voted for Ahmed Patel.
It is victory of Ahmed Patel and defeat for Amit Shah at personal level and victory for Congress and defeat for BJP at party level.

Captain and Coach

It is bad for cricket when captain decides who should be coach.
The saga that started with BCCI calling for applications for coach’s job and ended with Ravi Shastri’s appointment had many twists. Virat Kohli and some players did not want Anil Kumble as coach. Virender Sehwag was asked to apply. There were attempts for ending the rift between Kohli and Kumble. CAC wanted to keep Kumble as coach with reduced powers. Kumble quit. Ravi Shastri was not one of the original applicants. After Kumble quit deadline for submitting applications was extended. Shastri applied. Interviews were held on 10/7/2017. It was announced there was no hurry to appoint a coach. Captain has to be consulted. Next day there was news that Shastri is appointed coach, Rahul Dravid is batting consultant for overseas tours and Zaheer Khan is bowling coach.
It seemed the matter ended there. Then came another twist. CAC members Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman were disappointed and hurt and pained by media reports that Shastri wanted Bharat Arun as bowling coach and Zaheer Khan was thrust on him. They wrote to Vinod Rai to clear the air. BCCI issued a statement that CAC consulted Shastri and decided to have batting and bowling consultants on overseas tour-to-tour basis.
Ramachandra Guha had warned about submitting to captain’s wishes in selection of coach.
Selectors should first select the team and announce the names of players. Next day they should announce the names of captain and vice captain. Captain should have no say in the selection of other players. Coach should be announced before team selection.
There used to be a time when there was one manager and one coach. Sometimes it was manager-cum-coach as in the case of Hemu Adhikari. Now we have a coach or head coach, a batting coach, a bowling coach and a fielding coach. If the head coach is a batsman there may not be a bowling coach and vice versa. Sanjay Bangar is there as batting coach. Rahul Dravid is coach of India A and U-19 teams. If the two teams have simultaneous tours someone else has to accompany U-19 team. Appointment of Rahul Dravid as batting consultant does not make sense.
Soon we may have Coaches: head, batting, bowling, and fielding.
Below batting coach there will be other coaches, each a specialist in one stroke – drive, hook, late cut, leg glance, pull, sweep, scoop, reverse sweep, reverse scoop, square cut, switch hit and so on.
Bowling coach will have assistant coaches for off spin, leg spin, chinaman, googly, in-swinger, out-swinger, bouncer, yorker and so on.
For fielding there will be assistant coaches for wicketkeeping, slip, gully, forward shortleg, backward shortleg, mid on, mid off, long on, long off, cover, extra cover, silly point and so on.

Besides coaches there will be others like dietician, physiotherapist, psychologist, and physical trainer.

Coach should be for a series. Each match and series should be played as it comes. The purpose should be to win each match. Looking two years ahead for World Cup and preparing team for it while ignoring present match and series is not good. Take care of present and the future will take care of itself. Captain should have no say on who should be players in a tournament after two years.

If BCCI wanted captain to have coach of his choice they should avoided the farce of calling for applications and conducting interviews. BCCI, CAC and CoA have not conducted themselves well. It is said that Sachin Tendulkar wanted Ravi Shastri as coach; Sourav Ganguly wanted Virender Sehwag as coach. Once Sourav Ganguly announced there was no hurry to appoint a coach, CoA should not have interfered. CoA should have acted when CEO Rahul Johri extended deadline to submit applications. It should have said the extension is cancelled and previous deadline stands.
Much was expected of CoA, especially chairman Vinod Rai. He has disappointed. He was a mute spectator of violation of Supreme Court order. Ramachandra Guha quit CoA. R. M. Lodha was critical of Vinod Rai.
Something good came out of Ramachandra Guha’s letter. Conflict of interest issue is addressed and there are two year contracts. That avoids clash between Indian team and IPL team.
P.S. There are reports that Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan have not got contracts as consultants from BCCI. Ravi Shastri is not against Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan as consultants but he wants his own support staff. He wants Sanjay Bangar as batting coach, Bharat Arun as bowling coach, and R. Sudhir as fielding coach. Sanjay Bangar and R. Sudhir are there in support staff. Bharat Arun has to be added. There is talk that CAC was asked to choose coach. It went beyond its brief to select consultants.

GST

GST came into effect on 1/7/2017. It is not One Nation One Tax. It has taken over or done away with 17 taxes including Amusement and Entertainment Tax (except levied by local bodies), Excise, Additional Excises, Octroi and Service Tax. Other taxes continue. GST has different tax rates for different goods and services and with cess added the tax rates may be forty even though the government claims there are four tax rates – 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. For Coca Cola the tax is 28% + 12% cess making it 40% tax.
GST has been good for chartered accountants and tally programmers. Their demand and income has gone up. Octroi is abolished. It is good for traders and transporters. In some restaurants customers received bills with Central GST and State GST.
There is confusion about rates. Some have raised questions about rates. Cashew nuts are charged 5%. Almonds are charges 12%. Almond merchants say almonds are nuts so rate for cashew nuts and almonds should be same. By that they mean 5%. Such disputes are good for lawyers.
Some traders have not used computers. They are unable to comprehend GST. They will need services of professionals.
Some say GST has brought more work. Previously, it was a Quarterly Return. Now it is three Monthly Returns and an Annual Return.
Textile was free from tax. Now it is 5% GST on cotton and 18% GST on man-made fibre. In Surat textile traders are on strike. In Maharashtra, especially in Bhiwandi, many power looms have shut down.
Many women are opposed to 12% GST on sanitary napkins. Government has justified the tax on the ground that previously there was excise and VAT on sanitary napkins which is equal to 12% GST and women did not know about it.
Car companies decreased the prices of cars after GST came into effect. Maharashtra Government increased Motor Vehicle Tax.
Banks had Service Tax rate of 15%. GST is 18%.
Some shopkeepers have problems because their buyers do not accept their receipts. They want receipts in a different format.
Confusion and uncertainty should be over within three months.

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