Aam Aadmi Party could disrupt  national politics in Punjab and Goa

State assembly elections that are now in progress in five states will indicate how successful India’s prime minister Narendra Modi has been in meeting the aspirations of electors who voted him into power with a landslide victory three years ago to change the way India had been run by ineffective national governments.

Uttar Pradesh is the biggest prize, but the states of Punjab and Goa could make political history by launching another agent of change, the Aam Aadmi (people’s) Party, into national politics outside its current base of Delhi where it was elected two years ago.

kejriwal-iranian-new-year-115_647_031916080248_011017051019This means that the current elections are vitally important for three political leaders – Modi who is desperate to prove himself by winning the massive state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), Arvind Kejriwal (left) of the AAP who wants the Punjab and Goa results to propel his party to other states, and Rahul Gandhi, the fading Congress Party’s hapless dynast, who urgently needs success in UP where he is focusing his electioneering.

Voting took place in Punjab and Goa on February 4 and began in UP on February 11. There will be another seven polling days in UP finishing on March 9 – spread out because security forces have to be relocated across the vast state with its 140m voters in a population of 220m (more than Brazil, the world’s fifth largest). Voting is also taking place in Uttarakhand, previously part of UP, and Manipur in India’s north-east. The votes will be counted on March 11, and exit poll results will be announced on the 9th evening.

Modi’s desperation

UP is always regarded as a bell-weather state. That is specially so this time because of Modi’s desperation to defeat an alliance between Congress and the regional Samajwadi Party, which is currently in power. The other main contender is the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) headed by Mayawati, a maverick former chief minister, but it is running a distant third in opinion polls (which may of course be proved to be wrong).

If the BJP wins, Modi will claim it as acceptance of his controversial demonetisation project that was launched on November 8 and is still causing shortages of bank notes after three months of widespread social and economic disruption. It would also boost him politically two years ahead of the next general election in 2019.

If he loses to the Samajwadi-Congress alliance however, it will seriously damage his political standing and that of Amit Shah, his chief henchman and the hardline BJP president, and will provide Rahul Gandhi with a desperately needed victory.

akhilesh_yadav_pti_650_636192039936377969Opinion polls are divided on who will win. Akhilesh Yadav (left), the 43-year old current Samajwadi chief minister who has just won a leadership battle with his father and former party leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav, is drawing support from the youth. Rahul Gandhi, 46, however is a weak ally. The BJP seems a stronger contender, but is weakened by the absence of a chief ministerial candidate, making Modi the focus of the campaign with Shah (together, below).

While UP is significant, it is Punjab and Goa that could have a major disruptive effect on the future of Indian politics. If the AAP does well in either or both those states, even if it does not win, it will be seen as a potential national political party. Its next target would then be Gujarat, Modi’s home state, where assembly elections are due at the end of this year.

Some recent opinion polls are tilting in the AAP’s favour, with some even giving it a chance to win in the Punjab and upset a traditional BJP versus Congress contest in Goa.

Turnout was high on February 4 with 75% of the 20m electorate voting in Punjab and 83% of the 1.1m in Goa. This could be good for the AAP because it indicates a desire for change, quite possibly away from established parties – notably the Akali Dal, a state-level party, which is in coalition with the BJP in Punjab, and also away from the current BJP state government in Goa.

modi_shah-_2921205fPunjab needs a change from the Sikh-dominated Congress and Akali Dal parties that have dominated the states politics for decades with one and then the other in power. The state’s once prosperous agriculture has problems, and widespread corruption has deterred private sector investment and the maintenance of public services.

There is a high level of youth unemployment and a serious drug problem among the youth, protected by politicians and fed by supplies from neighbouring Pakistan. “The smugglers throw parcels of heroin across the border in bottles, or enlist farmers to carry the drugs after pushing the parcels into long plastic pipes,” a counterintelligence official in the Punjab police told Ellen Barry of the New York Times.

The possibility of a Punjab victory for the AAP first emerged early last year in shock opinion polls that gave it a clear lead with as many as 75 to over 100 seats in the 117-member assembly. It then lost ground with a series of scandals and defections that developed as the established parties tried to annihilate the upstart’s surge in popularity.

Indications now are that it has recovered, even though it has no experienced prominent local political leader to parade as a potential chief minister and has no ethnic links with Sikhs, who form 60% of the population. It is specially strong in the Malwa region in the south of the state, which has 69 of the 117 seats, but Congress is tipped to win in the other two Doaba and Majha areas.

Delhi problems

Kejriwal, a prominent anti-corruption campaigner, formed the party in November 2012, but failed disastrously to govern effectively when he led a minority Delhi administration after assembly polls in December 2013. He and his fellow ministers spent more energy on street protests than trying to run the city, and he resigned after 49 days.

The next election led to an AAP victory in February 2015 when it won support from both youth and the poor. This was a major defeat for Modi because the BJP had expected to win and was routed with just three assembly seats against the AAP’s 67. The AAP has had a bumpy ride since then. The BJP has undermined its policies whenever possible, acting mainly through a compliant lieutenant governor (recently replaced) who has extensive powers, including control of the police, because Delhi is only a quasi-state. The AAP complains that he has blocked plans ranging from water supplies and buses to schools.

The AAP failed to win any of Delhi’s parliamentary seats in the 2014 general election and did not win anywhere else, apart from four seats in Punjab, despite fielding candidates across the country. That made it look as if it had been marginalised in both national and Delhi politics.

But it has rebuilt itself and has replaced its former image of disruption and protest with a more constructive approach.

This a major blow to Modi who sees his programme of economic and governmental reform along with his Hindu nationalist ideology as the way to build a strong India That voters are still looking for an alternative must worry him and Amit Shah.

Better not to win?

It might be better for the AAP however if it does not win an election this time. It does not seem to be ready to form a government in Punjab, unless Kejriwal plans to be chief minster which has been denied. It would be better maybe if it was a strong runner-up in both Punjab and Goa because this would give it a chance to build local experience and develop senior politicians ready for the 2019 general election and then the next state elections.

Meanwhile, it could turn its attention to harrying Modi and Shah in Gujarat next winter.

Posted by: John Elliott | February 7, 2017

India Art Fair scores with prospects of Basel zing next year

Jaipur Lit Fest gets massive crowds for books and fun

A Souza oil gets an amazing $8m price tag but is not for sale

North India’s two annual cultural jamborees have this year again pulled in tens of thousands of expanding crowds from home and abroad as they reach their ten-year anniversaries – the Jaipur Literature Festival last month and the India Art Fair next year. Both provide a mixture of culture, education and entertainment, having begun in a relatively informal way without any great ambitions.

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This Souza work is recognised by experts as possibly one of the top five works of Indian modern art – its owner, Ashish Anand, says it’s the best

The lit fest (known as JLF) started as a small part of a wider Jaipur arts festival for two years before it became a separate event. It is now the largest in the world, while the art fair (IAF) began as a public relations company venture and is gradually achieving international recognition.

Both have their stars. The art fair’s top painting (left) was Man and Woman Laughing by F.N.Souza, one of India’s great “modern” masters. Bought for $2.6m at an auction two years ago by Ashish Anand of the Delhi Art Gallery, it appeared on an art website on February 2 with a $8m price tag – and the art fair organiser’s press release included $8m as the top end of the price range available at the fair.

Top Souza works “worth $8m”

That improbable figure is almost double the current $4.4m record auction price for an Indian painting, but Anand describes the $8m as “an equivalence vis a vis artists of that period in India and overseas” for a Souza work. “We believe his good works should command that price,” he told me, adding that “it is not for sale, not even at $15m”. 

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Not the three wise monkeys but one of six prints called Peace Owners II by Sunil Sigdel from Nepal

While the art fair has the same star artists every year, the lit fest produces new top writers from India and abroad. This time they were led by American and Indian poets, Anne Waldman and Gulzar, along with novelists Paul Beatty from the US and Alan Hollinghurst from the UK.

Both events have expanded and developed at a time when there is a increasing appetite in India for what they offer, as well as growing international interest in India’s modern culture. About a quarter of the 400 authors and other speakers at Jaipur came from abroad, as did 18 of the art fair’s 76 galleries and other exhibitors, despite debilitating (and expensive) government customs regulations on the import of art from abroad.

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A papier mache packhorse by Kashmiri artist Veer Munshi on the ArtDistrict XIII stand

In terms of control, one of the events has been lost by India. The art fair is now foreign owned. Its founder, Neha Kirpal, has reduced her stake to just 10% with the sale five months ago of a controlling 60.3% to MCH Group of Switzerland that runs the internationally famous Art Basel fairs in Basel, Miami and Hong Kong.  Angus Montgomery Arts, a UK-based exhibition and events company, bought 29.7% in 2011, which it retains.

The lit fest, which had 400,000 footfalls over five days with 80,000 registered visitors, looks firmly anchored in India. It is produced by Sanjoy Roy, head of Delhi-based Teamwork Arts whose leading investor is Ambit Capital of Mumbai. Intellectual leadership is provided by writers Namita Gokhale and Willie Dalrymple, the co-directors.

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A striking oil on canvas by Shivlal Saroha on the Art Heritage stand

But while the lit fest does not need foreign investor involvement, the art fair will undoubtedly gain from MCH’s Basel expertise and international contacts. Despite a splendid layout and evident popularity – it reported 90,000 footfalls over four days – the fair has settled in the past two or three years into a relatively bland groove and needs a boost.

MCH Swiss Exhibitions (Basel), headed by Marco Fazzone, hopes to invest in about five regional art fairs around the world and will encourage links for them to liaise and expand. The IAF is its first investment and its second (announced Feb 9) is a 25.1% stake in a German company that organisers the new art fair ART DÜSSELDORF. 

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Eventually, the art fair will have an app that will enable, for example, a visitor to access information about a work by focussing on it with a mobile phone. That will generate enormous potential for increasing knowledge as well as for art sales on-line, which many galleries now say are becoming an increasingly significant part of their business.

This year, the organisers and galleries were specially cautious about what was displayed because they were worried that India’s demonetising banknote ban, which was suddenly imposed by prime minister Narendra Modi early last November, would restrict sales because of the uncertainty about the economy and lack of available cash. 

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A large M.F.Husain painting and a K.S. Radhakrishnan sculpture on the DAG stand

The modern art market has been flat for some time. A new report by Art Tactic, a London based analyst, says that auction prices of Indian modern art rose by just 0.5% in 2016 and sales fell by 25%.

Domestic demand for miniature paintings and other classical Indian art had however risen by 84% since 2014, indicating that collectors were widening their horizons.

The gloom seems now to have lifted as new bank notes have become available and government restrictions have eased. Many galleries on Sunday night were reporting satisfactory sales, or pending sales. The art fair organisers reported, somewhat over-optimistically, that “strong sales” from $1,000 (Rs67,000) upwards were reported by 94% of Indian galleries and 85% of international galleries. Most of those that I spoke to on the final evening however told me that their best sales were still being negotiated; some had just about broken even on the costs of attending.

The galleries’ displays were dominated by old “progressives” such as M.F.Husain, F.N.Souza, S.H.Raza and Ram Kumar, plus later but equally safe names such as Lalu Prasad Shaw, K Laxma Goud, Sakti Burman, Satish Gujral, along with some younger artists doing easily accessible work. 

Ashish Anand’s Delhi Art Gallery had a display area far bigger than any other exhibitor and he was named “collector of the year” at India Today magazine’s annual art awards. He describes Souza’s Man and Woman Laughinga 60 x 48in oil on Masonite board, as “the most iconic painting in Indian art” and says it would “beat any Picasso”.

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A few more adventurous galleries showed installations like Mithu Sen’s Phantom Pain pink dental plates (above) that was on the Nature Morte stand, and a painting (above) of three Peace Owners including Donald Trump that drew attention to the Nepal Art Council’s booth. Nepalese modern art is little known and Trump and his cohorts attracted visitors and helped to put it on the map.

With its massive crowds and the excitement of top authors and other speakers who can be listened to and engaged in conversations, the lit fest is a more exciting event than the art fair and stimulates ideas and influential debate. 

Controversies crop up every year. This this time it was liberals objecting to hardliners from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the extreme right wing umbrella organisation of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, being invited as speakers. A few years ago, author Salman Rushdie was prevented from attending by Muslim protests over his controversial Satanic Verses novel.

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Celebrations at the Jaipur lit fest

The festival has something for all tastes and interests. I mostly attended sessions on current affairs and controversies with writers of books on China’s one child policy, murder and mystery linked with the compiling of the Oxford English Dictionary, Indian politics, London’s infamous Jack the Ripper sadist, and Britain’s colonial misdeeds in India.

I moderated sessions on Modi’s banknote ban and the new world of the digital economy – appropriate since an attempt to make the festival cashless crashed on the first morning because of inadequate internet. With a total of some 200 sessions, there were plenty of alternatives for those with a more literary or poetic bent.

Both the lit fest and the art fair have now established themselves as important annual events, alongside others including the biennial Kochi festival that is on now in Kerala. Both have also led to the creation of similar but smaller events elsewhere in south Asia.

For the future, the art fair awaits a Basel boost while the lit fest will continue to be an important part of India’s cultural diplomacy – it is staged, by invitation, in London and Boulder and next weekend will be popping up in Melbourne.

Posted by: John Elliott | February 1, 2017

India Budget tries to bounce back from misery of bank note ban

Government admits demonetisation caused widespread disruption

Arun Jaitley, India’s finance minister, today presented his annual Budget which was aimed at bouncing the country’s political and economic focus away from the miseries of prime minister Narendra Modi’s three-month old bank note ban and at projecting an economy with increased growth and less corruption.

Known as demonetisation, the cancellation of Rs1,000 ($14.8) and Rs500 notes was suddenly introduced by Modi in a nation-wide broadcast on November 8. It removed 86% of currency in circulation and led to widespread economic and social disruption and hardship that Jaitley and Modi have always underplayed in public statements.

img_1507Although Jaitley did not spell this out in his speech (left), the government has now admitted that demonetisation has had “significant implications for GDP”, reducing 2016-17 growth by 0.25% to 0.5% from an expected 7%. That statement came with the finance ministry’s annual Economic Survey, that was published yesterday and included an analysis of the problems and potential benefits.

“Like all reforms, this measure is obviously disruptive, as it seeks to change the retrograde status quo,” was all that Jaitley would acknowledge. “Drop in economic activity, if any, on account of the currency squeeze during the remonetisation period is expected to have only a transient impact on the economy”.

Modi initially said that the aim was to curb the role of black money but, when it became clear that massive amounts of cancelled notes were being corruptly banked and converted into new currency, the government switched to say that the aim was to drastically reduce the role of cash in the economy by encouraging digital transactions. Amitabh Kant, chief executive of Niti Aayog, the government’s revamped planning commission, has even claimed that “by 2020 India would make all debit cards, credit cards, ATMs and POS machines totally irrelevant”

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Arvind Subramanian, chief economic adviser, launching his annual Economic Survey

The Economic Survey however was more realistic and said that “digitalisation is not a panacea, nor is cash all bad”. Public policy should balance benefits and costs of both forms of payments and “the transition to digitalisation must be gradual; take full account of the digitally-deprived; respect rather than dictate choice; and be inclusive rather than controlled”.

In his speech today, Jaitley put more focus on reducing corruption, which has been a major government policy since the general election nearly three years ago.

He talked about how “tax evasion for many has become a way of life”, which “compromises the larger public interest and creates unjust enrichment in favour of the tax evader, to the detriment of the poor and deprived”. That had bred a parallel economy that was “unacceptable for an inclusive society”. Demonetisation sought to create “a new ‘normal’ wherein the economy would be “bigger, cleaner and real”.

To illustrate that India was “largely a tax non-compliant society”, Jaitley said that only 172,000 people declared annual income of more than Rs50 lakhs ($73,500), yet in the last five years more than 12.5m cars had been sold and, in 2015, 20m Indian citizen flew abroad for business or tourism. “The predominance of cash in the economy makes it possible for the people to evade their taxes,” he declared.

Political funding

The government now needs to show that it will follow up the possible demonetisation gains by taking more steps to tackle corruption than it has done so far. One major area is funding of political parties, which depends on massive use of black money. It was widely assumed that Modi’s November 8 note ban was timed to hit hordes of Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes collected by regional parties in five states, including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, for campaigning in assembly elections that start on February 4.

Jaitley announced that the maximum cash donation that any party could receive from one source would in future be Rs2,000. Other donations could only be by cheque or a digital transaction. The Reserve Bank of India will be issuing electoral bonds that donors could buy for redeeming by a political party. These measures however fall far short of full declaration of party funding, which Modi said recently was desirable. Sceptics say that the Rs2,000 limit will not be effective.

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Arun Jaitley with his ministers of state and senior bureaucrats

Jaitley also said the government is considering introducing legislation that would provide for the confiscation of assets owned by people who leave the country to evade court action. Although he did not name him, the most recent such example is Vijay Mallya, former head of the leading liquor and (bankrupt) airline business with the brand name Kingfisher, who has failed to return from the UK for court hearings.

One significant reform is the abolition during the coming financial year of the government’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), whose main job since it was founded in 1991 has been to examine foreign investment proposals (sometime attracting bribes).  With FDI inflows totalling $75bn in the past year, more than 90% of FDI inflows are now automatically cleared without vetting  Plans for further easing FDI restrictions and phasing out the FIPB will be announced in the next few months.

Fiscal deficit

The budget’s aim, Jaitley said, was to “transform, energise and clean India”. In an attempt to boost employment and consumer spending, there were measures for agricultural and allied sectors including rural jobs schemes, plus $58.8bn more spending on infrastructure, notably highways and the railways. Taxes were reduced for the poor and raised for the higher paid.

The fiscal deficit for the coming year has been set at 3.2% of gdp instead of the planned 3%, presumably because Jaitley does not want to over-restrict the economy when recovery from the shock of demonetisation is the main priority.

For the first time since 1925, there is no longer a separate Railway Budget. This is one of three significant changes this year. The speech has been brought forward from its traditional February 28 date to February 1 to enable the government ministries and states to plan for the start of the next financial year. Complex distinctions between what have been called plan and non-plan expenditure have been abolished to simplify financial allocations.

Overall the budget has been welcomed, as it always is, by business federations that rarely dare to criticise the finance minister publicly. Opposition political parties have inevitably attacked it for failing to tackle basic problems of joblessness and sluggish investment.

More independent observers however have seen it as a politically competent budget that has tried to move on from demonetisation by boosting growth and taking some anti-corruption measures. There is little to show how its plans will work in practice, but its pro-poor rural announcements might well help garner votes for Modi and Jaitley’s Bharatiya Janata Party in the coming assembly elections.

Posted by: John Elliott | January 12, 2017

Tata has a new chairman from inside the group

Natarajan Chandrasekaran of TCS to take over next month

India’s Tata group today began rebuilding its seriously damaged image as India’s most respected and stable conglomerate when it announced the appointment of Natarajan Chandrasekaran, 53, (below) who heads the highly successful Tata Consultancy Services, as executive chairman of Tata Sons, the main holding company.

chandrasekaran_ptiHe will take over on February 21 from Ratan Tata, 79,  (below) who was previously chairman for 21 years and reappointed himself as interim chairman on October 24 when he organised a boardroom coup that ousted his chosen successor, Cyrus Mistry, 50.

Chandrasekaran began to emerge as the possible choice when Ratan Tata picked him to join the Tata Sons board a day after the Mistry sacking. 

It was almost inevitable that an insider would be appointed, partly because it was most unlikely that any outside candidate would accept the job, given the way in which Ratan Tata has for the past 25 years dominated Tata Sons, the main operating companies and the Tata trusts that hold the majority of shares. It was Ratan Tata’s unwillingness to let go of the reins and be content heading the Tata trusts, along with a new life as a venture capital investor, that largely led to the Mistry bust-up and sacking.

Given the history, it was also essential that the new chairman should be trusted by Tata and be able to work well with him, which Mistry could not. Chandrasekaran has headed TCS as chief executive officer and managing director since 2009 and, although Tata was  little involved in its affairs, the two men will have established mutual respect.

Tata said on October 24 that a new chairman would be appointed within four months and it was done in less than three, indicating that the group realised it needed to move on as quickly as possible.

Tata might also step down from chairmanship of the trusts later this year when a new chairman is found. Media reports last month, including interviews with one of Tata’s close advisers, indicated that he is willing to go when he thinks it appropriate, maybe some time this year. 

ratantata-kjzh-621x414livemintWhen that eventually happens, it will mark a new era and the $100bn group could be on its way to restoring its battered image. 

Ratan Tata has been widely criticised for the impulsive way in which he organised Mistry’s sacking after three years of increasing frustration and months of plotting, and for not providing coherent justification for the move. He presumably assumed that Mistry would go relatively quietly, but he was wrong, and he certainly could not have had any idea of the corporate earthquake he was unleashing.

Mistry has been removed from all the Tata operating boards and will probably be off the Tata Sons board by early February, but he has fought back publicly. That has led to a series of headline allegations and counter allegations that have criticised Tata’s governance and lifted the lid on its businesses and some of their more dubious dealings. Legal cases have been started in courts and regulatory tribunals, including the key National Company Law Tribunal, by Mistry and Tata. Mistry is challenging the legality of his dismissal and of other actions taken by Ratan Tata, and is also accusing the group of malpractices.

Chandrasekaran will therefore take over a group that not only needs urgent action to sort out what are dubbed operating companies’ “legacy” problems inherited from Ratan Tata’s 21 years in charge, but one that is also embroiled in a potentially embarrassing and damaging legal jungle.

A statement from the company this evening says that the Tata Sons board “believe he will now inspire the entire Tata group to realise its potential acting as leaders in their respective businesses, always in keeping with our value system and ethics and adhering with the practices of the Tata group which have stood it in good stead.”

That is not just public-relations-speak. It goes to the heart of the Tata-Mistry dispute, with Ratan Tata accusing Mistry of not adhering to those values and practices. Mistry (below) denies he deviated from the standards and that has said he was indeed trying to ensure that the business’ potential was realised by operating companies including the debt-laden Tata Steel with its loss-making Corus business in the UK, Tata Motors with the loss-making Nano mini car, Taj Hotels which needed slimming down, and similar exercises elsewhere.

cyrus_mistry-dec-19-ptiChandra, as he is known, joined TCS in 1987 straight from engineering college. He has played a leading role in the growth of what is by far the group’s most profitable business that contributes 70% of Tata Sons’ revenue and is India’s largest IT company. Turnover and profits tripled while he has been in charge, with annual revenues of $16.5bn.

He will command respect within the group as a professional manager because of his achievements at TCS and has had extensive experience dealing with leading multi-national banks and companies that use TSC’s services. He is  credited with being a strong chief executive who implemented a corporate reorganisation that broke down what was a monolith into more than 20 business units.

He leaves TCS however at a difficult time because of Donald Trump’s likely presidential moves to curb US companies using offshore IT firms. At a TCS press conference today announcing buoyant quarterly results, Chandrasekaran said the industry would be able to “tackle any headwind”

The Tata and the Mistry families belong to the Parsee (Zoroastrian) community and religion, and Chandrasekaran will be the first non-Parsee chairman of Tata Sons. That marks a major break with tradition. He will also be only the second chairman not to have the Tata name, Mistry being the first. His appointment means that Noel Tata, Ratan’s low profile step-brother who heads some of the group’s retail companies, has for the second time been passed over for the top job. 

“I like the way the peaceful Buddha can influence that giant creature,” Chandrasekaran has said, talking about his favourite painting of a meditating Buddha seated near an elephant, the Business Standard newspaper has reported this evening. That was in 2014, long before he could have even dreamed that one day he would be in charge of the giant Tata creature.

Posted by: John Elliott | December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

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Posted by: John Elliott | December 22, 2016

A bitter battle has started for the future of the Tata group

Ratan Tata has shattered his and the group’s protective halo

The Tata group, India’s largest conglomerate, faces an unpredictable new year with a battle developing for control of what has always been regarded as India’s most stable and respected business group. The end game is far from clear at this stage, but what is clear is that serious damage has been done to the Tata image.

On one side is Ratan Tata, the veteran former chairman who instigated the sacking on October 24 of Cyrus Mistry, his successor as chairman of Tata Sons, the group’s top holding company. He is trying to find a new chairman who will rebuild the image and the group’s relationship with Tata trusts that own a controlling 66% stake in Tata Sons

On the other side is Mistry, who was the first chairman not from the Tata family and held the job for nearly four years. His Shapoorji Pallonji family, which belongs to the same Parsee religion and community as the Tatas,  owns an 18.5% stake in Tata Sons – the largest minority holding after the trusts. Mistry has started destabilising regulatory and legal actions that are aimed at changing the governance structures of the group and, consequently, control.

In the wings are members of the Tata Sons board who have been backing Ratan Tata but who, according to unsubstantiated rumours swirling around Mumbai, may have other plans for the future of the group.

Mistry’s immediate aims include removing Ratan Tata from the temporary chairmanship that he assumed on October 24, and also removing board members who he has recruited in recent months. Also planned are changes in the way that Tata charitable trusts, which are also headed by Ratan Tata, relate to the companies.

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Cyrus Mistry – Dec 19, PTI photo

The first stage of Mistry’s legal campaign began today (Dec 22) with the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) holding a preliminary hearing on a petition from his investment companies for an administrator to take over the group’s affairs, pending the appointment of a new board – led, it is suggested, by a retired supreme court judge. The petition is based, under India’s companies’ legislation, on allegations of oppression of minority shareholders and mismanagement of Tata Sons.

Ratan Tata, who is 79 on December 28, was chairman of Tata Sons for 21 years till the end of 2012 when he was replaced by Mistry with his support. During most of those years he was also chairman of Tata trusts and of the leading operating companies, which meant he dominated decision making and few people would cross him.

That absolute authority ended with Mistry’s appointment, though Ratan Tata continued to exert corporate authority as chairman of the trusts, and less formally as the bearer of the Tata name, which gradually led to his relationship with Mistry breaking down.

The current (unnecessary) upheaval is the result of him deciding in October that he could no longer tolerate dealing either with Mistry, aged 50, or with Mistry’s top advisors, who many saw as excessively abrasive. Talking to contacts in Mumbai and elsewhere over the past few weeks, I have found far more support for Mistry than Tata on almost all grounds, except on the advisers who formed a general executive council and are widely criticised.

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Ratan Tata in October, PTI photo

Ratan Tata could have waited till next April when Mistry’s current contract expires and had him replaced then. He has said that he will take the reason why he had to act when he did “to my grave”.

The apparently impulsive action has shattered a protective halo that has surrounded both the group’s and his personal image for decades. It has released streams of pent-up personal criticism that has rarely been uttered in the past but now constantly crops up in conversations with businessmen, professionals and observers.

Mistry’s 344-page petition was served on 23 people, including members of the Tata Sons board – industrialists Ajay Piramal of the Mumbai-based Piramal group and Venu Srinivasan of TVS in Chennai, together with Nitin Nohria, Harvard Business School dean, Amit Chandra, India head of Bain Capital, Vijay Singh, a retired bureaucrat, and Ronen Sen, a former top diplomat. Also in the list is N.A.Soonawala, a Ratan Tata confidante and former top executive, now on the Tata trusts.

The inference is that these people, who Mr Tata has assembled on the board and who backed the removal of Mistry, have plans for the group that will be detrimental both to the reputation and success of operating companies, maybe after Mr Tata has finally retired. Linked with this is what would happen to the 18.5% stake that Cyrus Mistry’s Pallonji family has in Tata Sons as the biggest minority shareholder. Among the names, Piramal is know to have an appetite for takeovers.

Tata rebuts Mistry’s allegations which have been building up in a series of public statements since October. They include revelations of alleged questionable payments made by a Tata aviation joint venture with Air Asia of Malaysia, financial deals which Ratan Tata did in the past with Chinnakannan Sivasankaran, a controversial south Indian businessman who has been close to him, and other telecoms investments.

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Ratan Tata leaving the Finance Ministry in Delhi in November after lobbying Arun Jaitley, finance minister – PTI photo

The tribunal is also being asked to investigate whether the Tata trusts have breached insider trading regulations by asking for price-sensitive information from publicly-listed operating companies – something that Mistry annoyed Ratan Tata by resisting on one planned takeover.

“This is about governance — it’s not about me, it’s not about my position,” Mistry told the Financial Times yesterday. “Whatever I have said has been said for the long-term interests of the group. Nothing that I’ve said is not backed up.” He said that he would end his campaign “when a structure is put in place at the trusts, which clarifies [their role] with regard to Tata Sons”. He said that this would involve making sure that strategic moves were not made purely on the strength of “one person’s decision”.

Tata Sons dismisses Mistry’s public campaign as “a personal issue which reflects his deep animosity towards Mr Ratan N Tata”. It has also said that the group followed “the highest standards of corporate governance”.

Ethical reputation

That statement goes to the crux of recent events. For decades, the Tata group has been seen as one of India’s most ethical and corruption free businesses. Ratan Tata has often spoken about this, telling for example how he missed out on an aviation deal with Singapore Airlines in 2000 because he would not pay a bribe. Yet the revelations challenge such a reputation.

After Mistry was removed from the Tata Sons chairmanship, Ratan Tata started moves to remove him from the chairmanship of operating companies in steel, hotels, power, chemicals, beverages, and motors, alleging that Mistry was a “serious disruptive influence”.

The companies involved called emergency general meetings, several for this week. Mistry forestalled that by voluntarily resigning his chairmanships and board memberships on the evening of December 19, presumably knowing that he would lose the shareholders’ votes. Tata Consultancy Services removed him last week.

Yet all the companies, including Tats Sons, had given Mistry excellent reviews of his role as their top manager in the past few months. This meant that Ratan Tata has had few categorical reasons for sacking him, and it also led members of some of the companies’ boards to vote for Mistry to remain as chairman. Yet, Tata alleges, “Mistry has done precious little to build the goodwill of the Tata Group, built through the hard work and dedication of its employees.”

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Nusli Wadia – PTI photo

Mistry’s alleged misdeeds include not implementing changes he had proposed when he was being interviewed for the chairmanship in 2012, and not  moving fast enough on resolving problem areas including heavy debt burdens that he inherited.

He is also however accused of moving too fast on plans to close Corus, part of Tata Steel in the UK, at a time when the steel demand is picking up. There have also been criticisms of the way he handled a joint venture severance dispute with DoCoMo of Japan, plus rumblings that he clashed with Ratan Tata on the need to close down Tata’s personally-inspired but failed Nano small car project.

On the sidelines of this saga, there is a row involving Nusli Wadia, 72, a prominent Mumbai businessman and previously a close Ratan Tata friend and adviser. He is on Tata’s motors, steel and chemicals boards and has outspokenly backed Mistry.

Tata responded by calling for his dismissal from the boards – the first response came yesterday with Tata Steel voting him off its board. Wadia has filed a Rs3,000-crore defamation suit against Ratan Tata and the board of Tata Sons, and has complained about Tata’s corporate governance to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi). He has also issued a series of allegations against Tata, including criticism of the Nano production line not being closed,.

Ratan Tata has been getting a bad press internationally, though most of it has been directed more at the dominant relationship that he has expected to be able to exert on Tatas Sons through the chairmanship of the Tata trusts, plus his recent tactics.

Media reports last weekend indicated that he is willing to step down as chairman of the Tata trusts sometime next year. That would be in addition to handing over to a new Tata Sons chairman, which he has said should happen in the first two months of next year. But he wants to leave the trusts when he thinks it appropriate, not when Mistry or others seek to ease him out.

The FT’s respected Lex financial comment column took a tough line yeserday: “In resorting to counterclaims against Mr Mistry, Tata has done itself no favours. By throwing mud of its own, rather than presenting evidence that its process is clean, Tata is left with a bigger mess on its hands”.

What was left unsaid is that the whole “mess” could have been avoided with a little patience and with more care in the implementation of such a major generational change of top management.

this post has been replaced with a new one – A bitter battle has started for the future of the Tata group –  http://wp.me/pieST-3mk

 

 

Posted by: John Elliott | December 19, 2016

Modi-generated economic worry curbs bids at Christie’s auctions

MUMBAI: Christie’s high profile annual art auctions in Mumbai just managed yesterday to overcome growing concern about the direction of the Indian economy. They yielded a respectable but unexciting sales total of Rs72.17 crores ($10.79m) that acted as more of a warning than encouragement about future prospects.

In an evening auction of South Asian modern and contemporary art, 53 lots were sold out of 73 (72%) producing a total of Rs68.01cr ($10m). That was far below Christie’s record sale last December of Rs97.7 crore ($14.7m), the highest for any auction held in India, and the previous record of Rs96.5 crore that it achieved at its first Indian sale three years ago.

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Tyeb Mehta’s Untitled/Diagonal 

An afternoon sale of classical Indian art produced dismal results with just 38 lots sold out of 71 (53%), including 50 miniature paintings of which only 42% found buyers. The total was Rs4.13m ($609,076).

That is not the sort of result that Indian art’s leading international auction house expects to achieve, though it was the first time Christie’s has held a dedicated classical sale in the country. The result would have been far worse but for a colourful though little-known British cigar-wielding collector who made most of the successful bids and became known as “paddle number 28” – later revealed as Raymond Jones, a one-time friend of Lucien Freud and well known in international artistic circles.

“Christie’s pulls it off again, just!” was the most optimistic comment that I heard from collectors at the end of the day. “Out of all our four auctions here, this one was the hardest,” said William Robinson, the modern art auctioneer and international head of Christie’s, told local media.

“Potential buyers are holding onto their money because of a growing fear of bad times ahead – across broad areas people are hurting,” said Geetha Mehra, who runs the Sakshi Gallery in Mumbai.

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Vasudeo Gaitonde’s Untitled

That reflected the over-riding verdict in India’s commercial capital – that Narendra Modi has led the country into unnecessary economic problems with his unexpected “demonetisation” announcement on November 8 that 86% of currency notes would become unusable.

His aims of tackling black money and encouraging India to move towards a cashless e-economy are accepted, but the impact of his seemingly unplanned methods is condemned.

The high spot of the moderns auction was the sale of two paintings by Vasudeo Gaitonde, a leading member of India’s Progressives artists’ group who died in 2001, and another by Tyeb Mehta, also one of the Progressives, who died in 2009. “Along with other works, this sent a strong message to the market,” said Deepanjana Klein, Christie’s international head of south Asian modern art.

Gaitonde has been doing well in recent years and he currently holds the record for the highest auction price achieved by an Indian modern artist, but Christie’s were anxious about the sales because it failed in September to sell a Gaitonde estimated at $1.8m-$2.2m in New York.

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Vasudeo Gaitonde’s Untitled

Yesterday’s two works by Gaitonde, both 60in x 40in (approx) oils on canvas, sold after slow bidding. The highest hammer price of Rs13 crore ($2.34m including buyer’s premium), which exceeded the top estimate, was achieved for a work (above) that had more detailed drawn shapes than many of Gaitonde’s paintings.

The other work (right) achieved Rs9.5 crore ($1.71m including the premium), just above the low estimate.

The lot on which Christie’s had pinned most hope was a striking 66in x 51in oil on canvas by Tyeb Mehta (above). This failed to meet the low estimate of Rs10 crore, but sold for Rs8.5 crore ($1.5m including the premium). The auction catalogue explains that, in the late 1960s, Mehta abandoned his expressionistic style and produced paintings dominated by a diagonal line that violently sliced his canvases into two. In this work, the focus is on two human figures in the centre with disjointed bodies, but there is less subtlety than in other Mehta series.

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Interior of a Temple, an early Bhupen Khakhar that sold after strong bidding for a hammer price of Rs2.2 crore, marking this artist’s growing popularity with a solo exhibition at London’s Tate Modern that closed last month

An important attraction of the moderns sale was that 41 of the lots, including the Mehta and one by Gaitonde, came from a collection assembled by Abhishek and Radhika Poddar who are raising funds for a museum of art and photography in Bangalore. Abhishek (interviewed here) has been collecting since he was a teenager and became friends with many artists who are now famous.

Such collections strengthen the provenance of works and thus usually boost sales, though that did not happen in the classical auction where 42 of the lots came from a famous collection assembled by Colonel R.K.Tandan of the Indian army, who died in 2009. Christie’s experts can console themselves that the potential buyer base for classical auctions in India is smaller than abroad because the works cannot be exported, so international collectors cannot bid.

A year ago however Mumbai-based Saffronart, the leading Indian auction house, staged its first sale of classical Indian art and had the rare achievement of all the 70 lots being sold, yielding Rs16.4 crore ($2.5m). That auction also included a large number of works from Tandan’s collection, though experts say the quality of the art was better than yesterday’s

Till now, the main collectors of miniature paintings have been in the UK and US, plus the Middle East. They buy and sell works that were taken abroad many years ago and thus were not caught by the current ban on the export of antiquities. There have been few Indian collectors though specialists believe that this now could change as Indian collectors of modern art realise the appeal and prestige of the best miniatures and sculptures. Many of these works can be obtained for around $10,000, which is far less than for the best moderns – and is also lower than prices being paid abroad.

radha-in-the-moonlightThere has been a spate of other south Asia art auctions since a successful one held by Sotheby’s in October in London. The most notable was staged last month by Pundole, one of Mumbai’s oldest art galleries that holds regular auctions in the city. It sold 85% of its 92 lots totalling Rs42.25 crore ($6.31m), its highest score since it began auctions in 2011.

This included Radha in Moonlight, a 57.5in x 41.5in oil on canvas (left) by Ravi Ravi Varma that was sold for a hammer price of Rs20 crore ($2.99m). This was well above the Rs8 to 12 crore estimate and set an auction record for the artist. It was also the second highest auction price for an art work in India. Believed to have been bought by Kiran Nadar, India’s most prolific collector, for her art museum in Delhi, it is a registered antiquity so is not exportable.

Ravi Varma, who died in 1906, is an important painter from the second half of the 19th century. He merged European artistic styles with Indian life and sought commissions from the rich and powerful. This work was originally in the collection of the dewan (prime minister) of Travancore in southern India, whose great-grand children sold it to the previous owner.

Delhi Art Gallery (DAG), a new entrant to auctions, had mixed results in Delhi earlier this month when it sold only 45 of 70 lots totalling Rs12.99 crore (without buyers’ premium). It has high ambitions and, unusually for an auction house, took all 70 lots not just to Mumbai but to four other cities – Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune. It plans more auctions and showings in more cities next year.

Overall these results show that the Indian art market is constrained by Indian buyers’ concern about the domestic economy and also, along with international buyers, by worries about developments abroad, notably the looming Trump US presidency and Britain’s Brexit. At such times, people conserve their wealth.

Film star to chief minister Jayalalithaa dies in Tamil Nadu 

India lost one of its most controversial and charismatic political leaders with the death last night of  J.Jayalalithaa, the 68-year old autocratic chief minister of Tamil Nadu. A former film star, Amma (mother) as she was widely known, managed to mix a reputation for massive corruption and an intensely reclusive lifestyle beset by illness with efficient administration, widespread and effective welfare schemes, and an erratic but sometimes powerful role in national politics.

jayalalithaWhen she was briefly jailed for corruption two years ago, several people committed suicide by setting fire to themselves, as they had done in 2001 when she was ejected from office on a supreme court ruling. She calmly announced in 2001 that “loyal and loving brothers and sisters” had become “martyrs” and gave each family a compensation payment of 50,000 rupees (then just over $1,000).

“For more than two decades, Jayalalithaa loomed large on the horizon, in the minds of the public as a benevolent despot, a tough politician, an unforgiving leader, a vengeful opponent and an unfriendly, intolerant, ruthless chief minister who dragged journalists and opposition leaders to court on defamation charges,” says an article in The Times of India today headlined “Tragic End of a Lonely Empress”.

Narendra Modi, the prime minister, flew to Chennai today along with many other political leaders. He said Jayalalithaa’s death left a “huge void in Indian politics.” Hundreds of thousands of people, many weeping, thronged through Chennai to a public hall where Jayalalithaa’s body, draped in the Indian flag, was on a raised platform. Later, they followed a procession taking her body in a glass coffin to a beachside burial ground.

The city has been under tight security for two days with at least 5,000 police and other security personnel stationed around the Apollo Hospital where Jayalalithaa had been in intensive care since September, with more paramilitary troops on standby.

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The worry has been that there would be suicides along with general unrest and violence as news of her death spread through the massive crowds. That was avoided last night with a carefully planned series of moves involving police and politicians, including other leaders of her AIADMK regional party, that led up to the death announcement shortly before midnight and appointment of her successor.

Jayalalithaa had been on life-support following a cardiac arrest on Sunday night. Respiratory and other ailments that took her to hospital three months ago had seemed to be improving after treatment by a stream of doctors from India and the UK. On November 13 she sent a message from her hospital bed to tens of thousands of followers saying “I have taken rebirth because of your prayers and worship”.

That statement helped to mobilise distraught AIADMK party workers for imminent local elections. It also added to the god-like aura that surrounded Jayalalithaa who aroused a level of adulation that is hard to explain, even in Tamil Nadu where the cult of personality merging films and politics exceeds India’s general love and adulation of icons.

Jayalalithaa came from a more prosperous family background and higher levels of education than many regional politicians – doing well at Bishop Cotton Girls’ High School in Bangalore and Church Park Convent School in Chennai, with an ambition to be a lawyer or academic.

jayalalitha-youngHer mother pushed her to enter films rather than academic studies  and, after training in western music and Indian classical dance, she became one of the most popular Tamil film stars in the 1960s, famous for her looks and voice.

She became associated with Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran, known as MGR, a cultural folk hero and a film star turned chief minister, who became her mentor and promoted her in politics from the early 1980s. She was a Brahmin, India’s highest caste, but her party was founded on anti-caste ideology.

When MGR died in 1987, there was a tussle between Jayalalithaa and his wife for his political legacy, which Jayalalithaa won, securing the AIADMK’s general secretary post in 1989.  She led the AIADMK to victory in a state assembly election in 1991 and become chief minister. She later won four more elections, the latest being in May this year.

She was voted out of office in 1996 amid corruption allegations and criticisms of her extravagant and cult-like lifestyle – cabinet ministers rolled on temple floors and pulled golden temple chariots to mark her 48th  birthday just before the polls. She had an outrageously extravagant life style and was reputed in the 1990s to be collecting Rs10m (then US$300,000) a day in kick-backs.

Corruption cases based on owning assets disproportionate to her occupation have dogged her since those days. They have stemmed mainly from extravagant wedding celebrations that she staged for her foster son in 1997, which were reported to have cost over $1m. Later, 400 pairs of diamond- studded gold bangles, 30kg of jewellery and 750 pairs of slippers were found when her home was raided.

She managed to stave off court cases till she was convicted and briefly jailed in 2014. She was acquitted a year later, but that acquittal is being appealed by the Congress Party in Karnataka where the case was heard.

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Jayalalithaa (right) and Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal described as India’s “feistiest chief ministers” on the cover of India Today magazine in April

Tamil Nadu’s other main political party, the DMK, has been her main rival and generally alternated with her AIADMK ruling the state.

Headed by Muthuvel Karunanidhi, a prominent film script writer who is 91 and currently in hospital with an allergy, the DMK’s leaders centre around one dynasty with excessive nepotism and corruption, and links to national as well as local graft cases

From the mid-1990s, these two unlikely leaders ran an efficient administration. Tamil Nadu became an ideal location for investment by both Indian and foreign companies, despite demands for money and favours. “She is a chief minister we can do business with,” an American ambassador said in the mid-1990s after he had met Jayalalithaa.

She won popular support with a series of “Amma” welfare schemes including subsidised pharmacies, meals, salt, drinking water and gifts for mothers with babies – and gifts of lap tops at election time.

She was an autocrat and said in interviews that this was necessary for her to succeed as a woman politician. In recent years she has rarely met visitors, including her civil servants and fellow politicians, often ruling via messages from an upper floor of her home. She demanded outrageous displays of loyalty with her most senior political colleagues, bureaucrats and police chiefs making obeisance and touching her feet in public.

jayalalithaa“Over the last 25 years, what Jayalalitha has done is ensured that there was no second line, no third line, no fourth line, that there was not a single leader who had his own support base,” a local historian, A.R. Venkatachalapathy, told the New York Times. “She ensured that everyone in her party was dependent on her and her alone.”

Her successor as chief minister, who was sworn in this morning, is O.Panneerselvam, the state finance minister who stood in for Jayalalithaa twice as chief minister when she was banned from office and jailed, and again in recent months while she has been in hospital. He is reported to have displayed the limits of his power when he ran a cabinet meeting recently with a photograph of Jayalalithaa in front of him.

Power has also wielded by others during years of intrigues, notably by Sasikala Natarajan, Jayalalithaa’s closest friend since the 1980s – it was the 1997 wedding of Natarajan’s nephew, adopted by Jayalalitha as a foster son, that led to the corruption cases. Natarajan performed the last rites today – a duty usually performed by a man. She is being tipped as a possible party general secretary, though her political power without Jayalalitha will now be tested. She has no formal political position and she is also one of the accused in the corruption cases that are now being appealed.

With Jayalalithaa gone and the DMK’s Karunanidhi ailing, Tamil Nadu politics are set for a period of uncertainty and upheaval as new leaders emerge. This will leave openings for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party to extend its reach in south Indian politics and also for the Gandhi family’s weak Congress Party to strengthen its links with the Tamil Maanila Congress that broke away in 1996.

New charismatic politicians will no doubt emerge again but they are unlikely to combine the positive and negative mix that made Jayalalithaa so irresistible to her followers.

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People pay homage to the body of Jayalalithaa in Chennai today – photo Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Cameron says No Regrets as he pockets six-figure fee

“Why are you wearing a suit? !ts not as though you’ve got a job”

He looked and sounded like the prime minister that he was. There was no loss of agility, humour or conviction when David Cameron ran with his old style, bounce and speed up three steps onto the platform of a conference in Delhi this morning. 

cameron-ht-speechWhatever one’s politics, and whatever one thought of his elite toff’s origins and his record when he looked an over-confident prime minister, one could not but admire the style and content of his speech – and regret that such a political talent had been wasted by the unnecessary and disastrous Brexit referendum that he called.

An Indian friend commented later that it was a pity that Indian politicians weren’t able to show similar often self-deprecating humour, while an  American visitor thought that Donald Trump might not have won the US presidential election if he had faced an enthusiastic Cameron as a rival.

Perhaps this praise came because the performance  was such a contrast with Cameron’s successor, Theresa May, who showed no humour or enthusiasm when she made a rather drab visit to New Delhi a month ago, though she relaxed a little when she went on to Bangalore.

The former prime minister was speaking at a Hindustan Times two day conference (video here with Cameron on first) in Delhi for a  fee rumoured to be around £200,000, well above levels that he is reported to be charging including £120,000 for a one-hour speech to Blackstone Properties in New York a few weeks ago. This morning his speech lasted just 15 minutes and was followed by 30 minutes answering questions.

It was, he said, his first public speech outside Europe since resigning as prime minister after the Brexit vote in June. He met Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister yesterday, and told the conference he was “bowled away” by the progress he has seen the government making with “bold decisions to try to fast forward” economic reforms and growth.

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That was an oblique reference to Modi’s current controversial “demonetisation” exercise which has removed 86% of the country’s currency from circulation and caused widespread economic and social disruption.

Cameron, who came to India three times as prime minister and hosted Modi in London a year ago, replied cautiously when asked about this. He said it could help the government’s main targets of tackling corruption, widening use of the banking network and the digital economy, as well as increasing the tax base. The objectives of demonetisation were “worthy”, he added, which was scarcely wholehearted endorsement.

He started his speech as if he was still prime minister extolling India and Britain’s “very modern partnership” co-operating in a range of areas from investment and trade to terrorism and projects such as smart cities and skills training.

Populist upsurge

On his speech’s theme of “the western world in crisis”, Cameron talked about the rise of populist and extremist political forces in Europe and acknowledged he had lost his job because of a “populist upsurge”. While globalisation had benefited people around the world, the belief that “the rising tide will raise all the boats” had not come true, and there were many people who thought they had been left behind while the mass movement of migrants was leading to too many cultural changes, he said.

He still thought the Brexit referendum was the right thing for “a democrat” like him to do and that it was not a dead end for Britain. The country’s attempt to be inside the European Union but outside many of its institutions like the Euro currency would now be replaced he hoped by “being out but in some of its elements”.

He did not comment (and wasn’t asked) about how that hope gelled with Theresa May’s hard-Brexit approach. A victory of Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate in the French presidential elections, would he said be a “body blow” for the European project.

With Trump “look for the positives”

Optimistic as ever, he said on America’s presidential election that, “as a free trade man, as a NATO man, I am concerned about some of the things Donald Trump has said. Modern leaders have to make most of the circumstances. Let’s start to look for the positives”.

Finally, at a time when England has lost two matches in its current Test series with India he avoided controversy and praised the English team and said its skipper Alastair Cook was one of the best batsman in the world.

With that, the former prime minister left the stage, declaring that his future interests and activities would include writing a book on his time in politics, development issues, a youth-oriented national citizen’s service of which he is president, and promoting research on dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

His son, he said, had asked when he left for the flight to India, “Why are you wearing a suit? It’s not as though you’ve got a job or anything”.

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