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Maharashtra Double Engines Pull In Opposite Directions While Administration Idles; Adani Hires Top US Law Firm for Hindenburg Fallout
Govt defending narrative instead of territory, MSCI downgrades Adani, Justice Lalit supports Collegium, PM’s privacy affected by degree query: SG, Pathaan and the politics of participation and nation
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
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Snapshot of the day
February 10, 2023
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear on Friday a plea seeking a direction to the Centre to constitute a committee monitored by a retired apex court judge to investigate the Hindenburg Research report. The apex court also dismissed a plea by Hindu Sena for imposing a ban on BBC’s operations in India for telecasting the Modi documentary, saying that it cannot impose censorship.
Adani Enterprises has hired a top New York law firm with a reputation for shoring up companies besieged by hostile takeovers, scandals and bad press, the Financial Times reports:
“In recent days, the Adani Group has tapped senior lawyers at New York’s Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to advise it on how to stem the crisis facing the Indian conglomerate since Hindenburg accused it of accounting fraud and stock market manipulation in late January, four people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
“The Adani Group’s decision to hire Wachtell, known as one of the most expensive law firms in the US, shows the severe international pressure the group is facing since Hindenburg levelled its claims.”
“The Modi years have in many ways eroded India’s checks and balances. His government has steadily undermined the independence of the courts and the police. The media are mostly too cowed to investigate the mighty as they once did. Few Indian newspapers would have touched a story about Mr Adani had an American firm not asked the tough questions first. Mr Adani himself recently bought NDTV, a news channel that was once critical of the government but is now supine. For India to prosper, its institutions will in the long run be just as important as its infrastructure. Indians benefit from clean power and level roads, to be sure; but they also need clean governance and a level playing field,” writes The Economist in its leader. Adani also adorns the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek.
In a further setback for the Adanis, global index provider MSCI will change its weightings for Adani Group stocks after reviewing how many shares can be freely traded, reports the Financial Times. MSCI said “certain investors” in the Adani Group “should no longer be designated as free float pursuant to our methodology” after receiving feedback from “a range of market participants”. Any reduction in free float for the Adani Group’s listings would result in smaller weightings for those stocks in MSCI’s indices, and investors who track them would reduce their shareholdings.
Shares in the Adani Group’s listed companies were sold following the announcement, with flagship business Adani Enterprises falling 15% after posting gains for two consecutive days. An Asia equity strategist at a Wall Street investment bank said that it estimated this would result in outflows of about $1-1.5bn. This would add to pressure on the company’s shares listed in Mumbai, which are components in MSCI’s India, Asia, emerging markets and world stock benchmarks.
“We will call the top management to understand the issues and future plans for the situation,” MR Kumar, Chairman, LIC, said after announcing third quarter results yesterday. LIC’s investment department has already reached out to the Adani Group, he added.
Adani Group is offering shipments of coal at a discount, reports Bloomberg, suggesting that it wants to offload cargoes quickly as its liquidity comes under scrutiny. The group’s traders are offering to sell several shipments from Australia and Indonesia at discounts of about 4% relative to Asia’s prices. Adani has coal mines with more than 50 million tons of capacity across Indonesia, Australia and India, feeding global markets and Adani’s own power stations.
Norway’s $1.4 trillion sovereign wealth fund has sold its remaining stake in the Adani Group companies. The fund had shed most of its stake over time, before Hindenburg Research made allegations of stock manipulation and accounting fraud on January 24. Last week, it disclosed an end-of-year holding of just $200 million in Adani Total Gas Ltd, Adani Ports & Special Economic Zone and Adani Green Energy, calling it a “massive underweight position”.
When Rahul Gandhi launched his offensive in Parliament, one of his main allegations was that the Modi government tweaked norms to help Adani take control of six Indian airports. Scroll examines the basis of these claims.
Yesterday as the PM rose to speak in the Rajya Sabha for 90 minutes, he was visibly rattled by the chants of “Modi-Adani Bhai Bhai” from the Opposition benches. The RS chairman ordered the expunging of remarks Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge made about a nexus between Modi and Adani, claiming media reports should first be verified before being aired in the house. But the chairman, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, conveniently ignored the fact that Modi himself in the house had referred t newspaper reports that he said he could not confirm, to run down the Gandhi family.
Gujarat University has told the state High Court that the Central Information Commission,'s direction to furnish copies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degree certificate for his MA in ‘Entire Political Science’ to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal under the RTI Act affects the PM’s privacy.
“The breakdown of deterrence puts the risks for Delhi much higher than ever before. India’s weaknesses in infrastructure and military deployment in eastern parts of Arunachal Pradesh leave it highly vulnerable to Chinese military designs. The situation is worsened by a timid and fearful mindset that is unwilling to stand up to Beijing,” writes Sushant Singh on the ongoing border crisis. “Any loss of control over territory to China seems to be acceptable to this government as long as the country is kept in the dark about it. Instead of defending the territory, the government is defending the narrative. It has made its choice. India will pay the price.”
“I think the border issue is too complicated. There’s no reason why China doesn’t want to resolve the border issue with India. You see, the border is complicated to the extent that even the most simple things cannot be agreed upon. For example, we believe the border is 2,000 km long and you believe it’s 3,488 km. If we cannot even agree on the length of the border, how can we possibly resolve it?” An unusually candid interview with retired Chinese senior Colonel Bo Zhao.
Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar has said in Shivamogga that he would give a piece of his mind to the CBI for sending a notice to his daughter in a disproportionate assets case: “CBI has much bigger work to do than sending a notice seeking fees and details of the education of my daughter. They need information regarding her education fees? I will write a letter recommending the CBI to look into other grave matters instead of doing this.”
After declining for two straight months, retail inflation has picked up in January, nearly 6% upper tolerance level of RBI’s target, a Mint poll of 20 economists showed. In December, the inflation rate was 5.72%.
The Delhi High Court has sought a response from the Ministry of Home Affairs on the status of the pendency of NIA cases in two specially designated courts at Patiala House, New Delhi. Justice Jasmeet Singh sought the response during the hearing of a plea moved by Manzer Imam in 2021. The petitioner was arrested in August 2013 and has been in custody for the last nine years, but charges have not been framed against him. He is an accused in a terror case under UAPA. The MHA has been directed to file its response within six weeks. The matter has been listed for April 28.
A crew shortage is impacting the operations of Air India, with some flights to the US and Canada being cancelled or seriously delayed. Tata-owned Air India, the only Indian operator flying ultra-long haul routes (over 16 hours), had also faced problems due to crew shortages last year. In the last 5-6 days, the airline has cancelled three flights to San Francisco and one to Vancouver. Also, some of the flights on these routes are facing a delay of 10-12 hours.
Heavy Metal examines Hindustan Unilever’s role in India’s biggest mercury poisoning catastrophe in Kodaikanal. An extract.
UU Lalit supports Collegium system
In the latest bout of the tournament between the Union government and the judiciary over the Collegium system, former Chief Justice of India UU Lalit feels there is no need to change the system for picking judges. He was speaking about Why Study Law: Social Duty and Legal Responsibility at the inaugural session of the 12th edition of the ThinkEdu Conclave on Thursday, February 9. Justice Lalit also said, “Study of law must not be confined to universities and colleges, but must be open to the masses and the societal apparatus. It is time that emphasis should be given to internships where students will have to work with rural populations, interact with them, understand their problems and the challenges faced by them.”
Law Minister Kiren Rijiju told the Rajya Sabha that the government has asked the Supreme Court Collegium to reconsider 10 proposals reiterated by it. “Out of these 10 proposals, the SC Collegium has reiterated its earlier recommendation for appointment in three cases. On the remaining seven, the Collegium has sought additional inputs from the High Court collegium,” Rijiju said in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha. “Ten proposals reiterated by SCC (Supreme Court Collegium) were recently referred back to the SCC for reconsideration,” the minister said.
Exporters seek cheaper credit
Exporters are seeking interest subsidy and reintroduction of the Export Credit Refinance Facility to encourage banks to lend to the export sector. The Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) has sought these demands in a letter to the finance minister on Wednesday. Interest subvention is reduction of interest rate when granting a loan to a party. The FIEO letter follows the RBI hiking the repo rate by 25 bps on February 8 to 6.5%. Exporters contend that frequent rate hikes ― the latest is the sixth since May 2022 ― has sharply increased the cost of credit. Exporters are demanding credit at interest rates below market rates.
Beautification goes wrong at the Taj
A vertical garden built as a selfie point near the VIP gate of Taj Mahal has collapsed, raising questions about the quality of new construction in Agra developed to welcome G-20 delegates. The whole affair collapsed on Thursday morning. Chirchit Gaur, vice chairman of the Agra Development Authority, blamed it on a “monkey attack”. “When former US President Donald Trump visited Agra, they brainstormed about how to stop the stench from the nearby drain,” activist Sami Agha said. “This time, the filthy area around the drain was beautified for G-20 representatives.” He said the vertical garden was developed to keep the drain out of sight. Major roads in Agra have been spruced up and installations erected as part of a nationwide beautification effort for India’s G-20 presidency.
The Long Cable
Pathaan and the politics of participation and nation
There are moments in history when the only correct answer to the question: “Are you Muslim?” is a quiet “Yes”. Those are moments of truth, and moments in solidarity. Instants in which a gruff policeman asks you that question, after calling you a jihadi-terrorist for protesting against certain discriminatory laws; or when there is only a very slightly embarrassed pause in dinner conversation, where they’ve been holding forth on Muslims’ propensity towards crime and general disorder. It doesn’t do to giggle apologetically and agree, ‘nobody on this table is that kind of Muslim.’
When those things still held some cultural capital, sometimes you would say in response: “only culturally Muslim”, to indicate that you were not a hijab-wearing Muslim, but rather the gharara-owning, aadab-saying, wine drinking, fine dining, Faiz quoting one. Alas, those signifiers of elitism are also all cut down to size now.
In the eponymous film, there is a moment when Pathaan is asked if he is Muslim. One answer could have been a simple ‘Yes’ (from Dilli, or from any old provincial town in UP or Bihar, if he had wanted to further elaborate). Or he might even have come from upper Assam, worrying about his family having to commandeer papers to show to the Tribunal. His family could have been tanners in Kanpur, weavers in Banaras, farmers in Murshidabad, or business owners in Chennai, each with their particular set of ‘Muslim problems’. And he might even have added, “Baqrid to khair ab kya hogi, magar Muharram bohat zabardast hota hai. Kya Soz parha jaata hai; kya juloos nikalta hai”.
The invocation of provincial Muharram would have ticked all the boxes for syncretism and inclusive nationalism. Additionally, it might have served to throw the Pakistani spy who quite superfluously wanted to know whether Pathaan was Muslim. It would have established a safe distinction between ISI Muslim and Shia Muslim. In the event, Pathaan chooses more kosher forms of inclusiveness: its hero is born without a religion, or history and political context; brought up in national togetherness, and much later in life adopted by a Pathaan village in Afghanistan.
Although, traditionally, Eid (much like Holi) is spent at home, as in ‘watan’ – you’d see the last stragglers, and students, and migrant workers catching the last train or bus home on ‘chand raat’ – he spends Eid in Afghanistan. Pathaan is probably sentimentally Muslim. Which would in normal times be as good a Muslim as any other, I suppose.
Outside of the present political context, the ambiguity around Pathaan’s religious identity is just fine. It's a good thing in fact, when such ambiguity allows you to form solidarities with other marginalized identities, or even when it gives you space to distinguish yourself from those within your own religion, whose politics you might disagree with.
The present context
I have argued elsewhere that our present political context has successfully delegitimized certain political identities and articulations as ‘anti-national’. Acceptable citizen action is redrawn as one that does not overtly identify itself with any ‘Muslim cause’, but has a working relationship with majoritarian sentiments.
Take for instance the prosecution’s case against Umar Khalid, which is based solely on the delegitimization of certain counterpublics. Thus Khalid and his ‘co-conspirators’, who organised protests against the CAA-NRC legal regime are accused of having deliberately mobilised Muslim protestors, after suggesting to them that certain policies of the present government were discriminatory and must be challenged on the streets. There were other participants at the street protests, but they were brought in only to provide “secular cover, gender cover and media cover” to the ‘Muslim critical mass’[...] In creating, a ‘critical mass’ of Muslim protestors they communalised the political space and excited violence.”
In popular imagination, the counter-mobilization to quell the protests, supported by the state and by majoritarioan sentiments have never been identified as ‘Hindu political mass’. In fact, the counter protest are popularly seen as an organic, ‘nationalist response’, which sought to clear the streets of anti-nationals. The formation of ‘Muslim political identities’ thus disturbs the inclusive fabric, while the counterforce, Hindu majoritarianism is the corrective.
I couldn’t help but notice that Pathaan’s superior officer did not carry the same burden of having to be evasive about identity and context that Pathaan did. She was Hindu, had a family (whom she evidently neglected in the line of duty), was secular and inclusive, and most important, a healer of all broken souls. She is a good woman, and isn’t located in the dystopian frames of the present that I have described above. She is very likely Nehruvian, but yet her religious identity ( which is revealed in a prominent way towards the end) is able to segue lightly into inclusive nationalism. In fact, in an ironical inversion of the history of wars, the post-nationalist lines are all delivered by the evil, deranged and very violent villain, whereas the heroes positively thrive in their national identities, even when cooperating with each other, and work towards peace within the nation-state framework.
Pathaan and the Bharat Jodo Yatra
A similar criticism about evasion of marginalized identities may also be leveled at the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Sagar, writing in the Caravan says:
“Gandhi classifies the victims of this hatred and violence in terms of identities such as farmers, the youth and the owners of small businesses. Such categorisation, which may strike a chord with Savarna voters, allows him to escape taking a stand on the hate crimes that have proliferated during the tenure of the Modi government, whose victims— Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims—find themselves absent from his narrative.[...] By putting these identities on the same pedestal as those who have borne the brunt of the BJP’s hatred and violence, Gandhi fails to acknowledge that marginalised communities continue to face atrocities, humiliation and discrimination, or to provide a political vision that would alleviate this misery.”
There is no doubt that both Pathaan and the BJY operate in the realm of the affective. Hartosh Singh Bal did mention the ‘deafening silence’ during the Yatra, on the 39th anniversary of the Sikh Genocide, even as it marched to establish a narrative of peace. It marched through North Eastern Delhi, which had seen the worst violence in the aftermath of the anti-CAA protests, and it also paid obeisance at the Harmandir Sahib. There was an affective symbolism there for those that it appeals to without getting into explanations and apologies.
The BJY and Pathaan have both managed to quietly project love. There has been popular and easy support for an affective politics, which is not so much in your face. Even the Supreme Court of India has adopted this approach while hearing the ‘hate speech cases’: the bench often appeals to civilizational virtues, and makes an affective pitch for love, and away from the politics of hate. Both sides, the victims and the state that is allegedly in breach of its duty to protect the victim, nod in agreement. Only, with time, and without any effective orders thus far, the victims’ nods are getting less vigorous.
Pathaan too was received with vigour perhaps proportionate to how much one feels in the line of fire. It has been argued that even as the character Pathaan's origins are kept ambiguous, he really only mirrors Shahrukh Khan's life. Of course Pathaan is Muslim, and in a clever reference to Khan himself, was nurtured by the traditionally open film industry. Yet when Shahrukh Khan spoke in his personal capacity at the press conference later and called Deepika, John and himself, Amar, Akbar and Anthony, that was a more straightforward answer, akin to a ‘yes’, than the film offers. It is conceivable that he has felt very much more directly exposed to hate, and chose to speak overtly, beyond the poetic ambiguities and the affective signaling in the film.
Pathaan has been variously described as cleverly subversive, a nationalist project, and also as a Shahrukh Khan spectacle, which should be seen for what it is, without demanding from it any overt progressive politics. Of course, an intuitive politics of love has its uses, but when it is articulated as an actual politics of equal participation, it is even better. It validates the more overt struggles and builds solidarities.
I don’t think it’s unfair to expect good politics from films either: I rather think Pathaan is expecting it from us.
Towards the end, in a scene where the hero finally vanquishes the villain, he says that a good soldier never asks what the country has done for him, but focuses instead on what he might do for his country. At first blush, it sounds very much the statist discourse on how duties are more important than rights, but Pathaan is a clever film. It struck me that it could also be a call for more participation, from those pushed to the margins now. To not become despondent and withdraw, to not give up on home. There was another film of his: Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani, where he sang: “dil dukha hai lekin, toota toh nahin hai; Ummeed ka daaman choota toh nahin hai...”
If the film is indeed making a plea to all good people to not withdraw from civil spaces in dejection and despair, it will not be disappointed. Nobody gives up on home easily. Especially, not lovers. You’ll see them at every opportunity to push back tyrants. You'd know them from their lack of cynicism, and from their innocent belief that there is a fair political playing ground available to all.
Shahrukh Alam is a lawyer who practices in Delhi
The continuous tussle between Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his deputy Devendra Fadnavis is the most likely reason for the mess in the management of the bureaucracy. Fadnavis is second in command, but is clearly the one who calls the shots. Delayed appointments of bureaucrats are just one of the results of the constant one-upmanship. A delegation of IAS officers met Chief Secretary Manu Kumar Srivastava, Fadnavis and Shinde before six IAS officers from the 1992 batch were promoted to additional chief secretary rank last week. The delegation had to pressure the netas to urgently promote these officers since their batchmates in other states had already been promoted. Five senior IPS officers in the state, who were transferred, have not been given a posting and have been idling since mid-December. They have been idling since then waiting to be summoned for duty once the government makes up its mind. It’s double engine governance, with the engines pulling in opposite directions.
Prime Number: 2,25,620
The number of Indians who renounced their citizenship last year is the highest ever: 2.25 lakh. The number in 2015 was 1,31,489, 1,41,603 in 2016 and 1,33,049 in 2017. In 2018, it was 1,34,561, while 1,44,017 renounced their citizenship in 2019, 85,256 in 2020 and 1,63,370 in 2021.
Journalists in India operate under the ever-watchful eyes and ears of the government. How do they cope? Srishti Jaswal on the use of government surveillance to suppress dissent in India.
Opeds you don’t want to miss
What is acknowledged as ‘Indian’ now was developed across millennia by people whom we don’t consider Indian today, writes Anirudh Kanisetti.
Unless current efforts to forcibly ‘Indianise’ Kashmir are reversed, J&K will continue to drift away from us, writes Mani Shankar Aiyar.
Maj Gen Ashok Mehta (retd) writes that foreign ministry officials said that summit-level diplomacy with China is unlikely even as India will hold the presidency of the G20 and the SCO where President Xi Jinping is likely to come. Clearly, the Modi government will continue with the gag on Ladakh, including about the folly of vacating Kailash Heights, and cover it with the glow of the G20 presidency.
The RBI is responsible for modulating liquidity in line with the monetary policy stance adopted by the MPC. But the central bank is dictating the stance, writes Siddharth Upasani.
Lt Gen HS Panag (retd) writes that military laws have failed to keep pace with the times, particularly concerning sexual misconduct. In any case, these are century-old legislations deemed to have become Acts of Parliament with little or no change.
“Hindi newspapers labelled me a ‘so-called journalist’. I was secretary of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists. Hindi print media targeted me a lot. You know, these days some media are working as government PR [public relations],” says Siddique Kappan in an interview.
Rahul Gandhi sometimes looks as if he lacks the intelligence and capacity to change. But politics is full of surprises and the Congress as a party might create a world which surprises itself. Rahul Gandhi can be the sign and symptom of such a beginning, writes Shiv Visvanathan.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd writes that RSS/BJP intellectuals tell us today that texts like the Ramcharitmanas are mirrors of our civilisation. Then where do the Shudras, Dalits, Adivasis and women exist, except for occasional humiliation?
Pratik Kanjilal writes on the dark side of Pink Floyd.
Listen to Naveen Koomar, an Indian rap artist in Suno India. Lights, Camera, Azadi is quite a tagline to this podcast. [Partly Hindi].
In memory of the filmmaker, the late K Viswanath and his cinema: Innate musicality intertwined with masterful storytelling. Watch from this set of films.
Over and out
UP politician Amarmani Tripathi’s campaign to overturn his conviction for murdering the poet Madhumita Shukla has found an unusual ally: a Discovery+ series that casts doubts on the police investigation and recasts the former state minister “as a victim of a conspiracy by political rivals.” Love Kills: Madhumita Shukla Hathyakand is a five-episode series. The true crime show “is a twisted version of the American podcast Serial, which was credited with helping release a murder convict”.
That’s it for today. We’ll be back with you on Monday, on a device near you. If The India Cable was forwarded to you by a friend (perhaps a common friend!) book your own copy by SUBSCRIBING HERE.