Rebooting India to the Meta Verse

The India Foundation held its seventh conclave in Bangalore from 20th to 22nd May. Curated by Ram Madhav and his team at the Foundation, the event saw some engaging conversations around the new rules of engagement in a tech driven world. Union Ministers Hardeep Puri, Ashwini Vaishnaw and Jyotiraditya Scindia addressed the event. Puri spoke of the transition to green and sustainable energy and was confident that India would meet its targets before time. He also praised PM Modi’s initiative at Glasgow. According to the minister, 60 million people visit a petrol pump each day, leading to a demand of 5 million barrels of fuel daily. Given these figures, he pointed out that India will be a critical driver of demand in the energy sector. While speaking about how technology helps in the ease of doing business, Rajdeep Roy, the BJP MP from Silchar, recounted how when the trains and road links were all down in his constituency during the flash floods recently, the only access was by air. Seeing this, the airlines had tripled the ticket prices to over Rs 30,000. However, after Rajdeep tweeted about this, tagging Jyotiraditya Scindia, the Civil Aviation Minister immediately intervened and got the airlines to stick to the same price they were offering before the floods. A good example of both tech and governance working hand in hand. It was not all mantris who took the dais. Two of the bureaucrats who made outstanding presentations at the event were Hemang Jani, Secretary, Capacity Building Commission, and B.V.R. Subrahmanyam, Commerce Secretary. While Jani spoke of the plans of GOI to sensitise the IAS to the technology age and also to provide a more meaningful interaction with the public where they would find solutions and not cite rules, Subrahmanyan spoke of how one lesson from Covid was to ensure that supply chains were closer home and based in friendly countries. He also pointed out that India was the second biggest source of FDI in UK and quipped, “we have reversed the East India Company”.

From Dog Biscuits to Chicken Sandwiches

When Hardik Patel quit the Congress, his parting shot that the Congress leaders spent more time in ordering chicken sandwiches for visiting leaders from Delhi than focusing on state politics, reminded everyone about Himanta Biswa Sarma’s parting shot about Rahul Gandhi being more interested in feeding his pet Piddi dog biscuits than focusing on affairs of the state. In his resignation letter, Hardik Patel also took an apparent dig at Rahul Gandhi when he commented that senior party leaders were more interested in reading messages on their mobiles than hearing those who had come to meet them. Social media went viral with these colorful accusations and these will be bound to come up during the election campaign when the state goes to polls at the end of the year. Hardik’s personal politics aside, this has been a complaint by local Congress leaders against their state in-charge Raghu Sharma that he is more keen to appease visiting central leaders than the needs of the local partymen. As far as Hardik is concerned, this could well be his greatest USP; that he is a misguided missile that can be deployed against whichever target of the day. He was always known as Amit Shah’s mole within the Congress and the day he quit, state BJP leaders were told not to attack him during television debates. It’s only a matter of time before he joins the BJP. In fact, in 2015 when Hardik Patel led the Patidar agitation against the then CM Anandiben Patel, the move was not so much an anti BJP move as it was an anti-Anandiben move. Don’t forget that factional politics are rife in every party, not just the Congress.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Journalists who covered the Chintan Shivar came back a tad disappointed, for, unlike previous occasions, the media was not allowed near the venue, but made to camp at an alternate venue outside, where a spokesperson would come and brief them. But what really irked those journos who undertook the train journey along with Rahul Gandhi hoping for some sort of an interaction with the Congress leader, was while Rahul interacted with the public on the train, he kept the journalists at an arm’s length. This is pretty much SOP for Rahul as he did the same with journos who trekked with him to Vaishno Devi a while back. But given the fact that the party has admitted that it needs to up its communication skills, perhaps it’s time Rahul stopped treating the media as the “bad guys”.