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Congress sees ‘conspiracy’ as 12 party MLAs join TMC

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With 12 of Congress’ 17 MLAs in Meghalaya joining Trinamool Congress (TMC), senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on Thursday said the defections were “like a conspiracy” and said the party was looking into the matter, even as former Meghalaya Congress Chief Minister Mukul Sangma on Thursday said that 12 Congress MLAs have taken a “conscious decision” to join the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

Kharge said:”This is happening like a conspiracy. People in the party especially our party president (Sonia Gandhi), Rahul Gandhi are looking into it. They will take a decision.” Several prominent faces of the Congress, including Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada and Sushmita Dev, had earlier left the party.

Kharge said despite differences, the common goal of the opposition parties is to fight the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “Organizational fights have always taken place. No use of commenting now. Important is to fight together in the arena of Parliament as Rahul Gandhi, in a core committee meeting of floor leaders, had said that parties may have different ideologies but our common goal is to fight BJP,” Kharge said. He said apart from farm laws, the party will raise several issues concerning people during the winter session of parliament.

After 12 of 17 Congress MLAs in Meghalaya joined the TMC, senior Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Thursday said, “This conspiracy to break Congress is happening not only in Meghalaya but whole Northeast. I challenge the TMC to make them resign as Congress MLAs and contest on the party’s ticket. Even if they reportedly joined the TMC, they are still Congress MLAs and it is the Congress voters who have voted them. If they win on TMC tickets, then we will recognise your capability.”

Meanwhile, former Meghalaya Congress Chief Minister Mukul Sangma on Thursday said: “We have taken a conscious decision to join TMC. A complete sense of commitment towards serving the people has brought us to take this decision. In the 2018 Assembly elections, we were confident of forming a government, but we could not. Again, post-poll there were activities to poach our members,” Sangma said in a press conference here. “This group of 17 we have, collectively demonstrated our commitment…the commitment towards the state has superseded everything else…we are failing in our duty as far as the role of the opposition is concerned,” he added.

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Amit Shah plays masterstroke to destroy Shiv Sena

Matoshree would no longer be the power centre in Maharashtra politics.

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After the Supreme Court cleared the deck for a showdown on the floor of the house and Thackeray tendered his resignation to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Wednesday evening, it was certain that the BJP under the leadership of former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis would form the next government with Shiv Sena rebel Eknath Shinde’s pack of dissidents. The BJP Legislative Party met at the Mumbai Taj Hotel late in the evening, where all BJP MLAs welcomed and congratulated Fadnavis as future Chief Minister of Maharashtra. He was also feted with floral garlands and sweets in that celebratory bonhomie. Everybody present on the occasion could not wait for Fadnavis to stake claim to form government the next day.

However, a phone call at 12:30 from Delhi to Fadnavis changed all that.

So, after meeting the Governor, when Fadnavis announced that Shinde would be anointed as Chief Minister and he would not be part of the government to be formed with rebel Shiv Sena MLAs, it took all political pundits, the media and layman alike by surprise. However, behind Shinde’s coronation as Chief Minister of Maharashtra is Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s well thought out game plan to completely decimate the Shiv Sena led by former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

Sources closely watching the developments in recent days told The Daily Guardian Review that Shinde’s coronation is part of a game plan Amit Shah has put in motion for a complete decimation of Shiv Sena as a political force in Maharashtra using Shinde as a mascot. The plan seeks to consolidate Hindu votes in the state to help BJP come to power on its own in 2023.

Nobody had any clue till the last moment, said source in the BJP. As the party leadership worked behind the scene to wean away Shinde and his faction of dissident Shiv Sena legislators to topple the MVA government led by Thackeray, it was Fadnavis who was seen pulling the strings till the last moment, making it obvious that he would be the first choice to head the government and Shinde would be his deputy.

While playing a king maker, the BJP has also told Shinde to help rout the remainder of the Shiv Sena in the state so that there is no split of Hindu votes in coming elections. It was logical for the party to ask Fadnavis to sacrifice his political ambition for this larger goal.

As part of the strategy, the BJP leadership may launch a campaign against Uddhav Thackeray condemning him for giving up the Hindutva plank and Balasaheb’s ideology in order to form government with the help of the NCP and Congress Party. Shinde will be given a free hand to bring the rest of the Shiv Sena completely under his control.

In the given circumstances, it will be a great challenge for Thackeray to keep whatever is left of his moribund organization together in coming days, even as Shinde would increase the pressure by making a claim over the Shiv Sena.

It is obvious that Matoshree would no longer be the power centre in Maharashtra politics.

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EKNATH SHINDE TAKES OATH AS CHIEF MINISTER, FADNAVIS HIS DEPUTY

Springing a big surprise, BJP decides to play second fiddle to Shinde, for now.

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Putting an end to the ongoing political drama in government formation in Maharashtra, rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde was sworn in as Chief Minister of Maharashtra on Thursday 7.30 pm by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. Surprisingly, BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis, who was the frontrunner for the post of chief minister, took oath as his deputy.

As the development sent shockwaves, the union Home Minister, Amit Shah and the BJP cheif JP Nadda congratulated Phadnavis for showing “big heart”. Shah said in a tweet that Fadnavis’s decision reflects his true dedication and attitude of service towards Maharashtra.

Shinde would be the twentieth Chief Minister of the state. The rest of his ministerial colleagues from his Shiv Sena faction, the BJP and Independent legislators would be administered oath of office on a later date.

Earlier during the day, springing a big surprise, Fadnavis, who was a former Chief Minister, announced that Shinde would be the next Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Before the announcement, Fadnavis and Shinde had met the Governor to stake claim to form government. “Eknath Shinde to be the Maharashtra Chief Minister, oath ceremony to be held at 7.30 pm today,” Fadnavis told media persons after meeting the Governor. Fadnavis also said he would not be part of the government.

In the present 288-member Maharashtra Assembly, the BJP has 106 MLAs and Shinde is leading 39 rebel Shiv Sena legislators and some Independents. Passing the muster for a majority mark of 144 would not be a problem for the Shinde–BJP alliance.

With Shinde’s swearing in has come to an end the 10-day-long political high drama that began on 20 June after Shinde and other rebel MLAs disappeared from Mumbai only be discovered camping in Goa. The Shinde faction is alleged to have helped BJP candidates to sail through both in RS and in Legislative Council elections. All kinds of cajoling and veiled threats did not work as Shinde remained adamant on his demand seeking Udhav Thackeray sever ties with Maha Vikas Agadi (MVA) alliance partners, the Nationalist Congress Party and Indian National Congress.

Things came to a head after Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal initiated disqualification proceedings against 16 Shiv Sena rebel legislators, including Shinde. The matter reached the Supreme Court, which gave a go ahead to the floor test ordered by Governor Koshyari, thus sealing Thackeray and his MVA government’s fate. Knowing well he has lost the numbers game, Thackeray chose to step down and tendered his resignation on Wednesday evening.

With Fadnavis by his side, Shinde was all praise for the BJP leadership including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Fadnavis. Addressing the joint press conference in the day, Shinde said, “Today BJP has taken a decision, even though they have 120 MLAs, yet they have given the chief ministerial berth to me. However he has shown a big heart and has supported Balasaheb’s Shiv Sainik. I thank Devendra ji, PM and Amit Shah and thank him from the bottom of my heart.” Fadnavi on his part assured all support to the Shinde-led government. “I will ensure that the government works properly. This is not a fight for power but for Hindutva,” he told the media persons.

In the meanwhile, Deepak Kesarkar, spokesperson for the Shinde faction of Shiv Sena issued a veiled threat to the remaining Shiv Sena legislators who still owe allegiance to Thackeray to fall in line or lose their status as legislators. “We are the Shiv Sena. We will not merge with any party. The remaining 16 MLAs will have to follow the whip of our group leaders. Otherwise, they will lose their MLA post,” said Kesarkar.

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VOKKALIGAS VS VOKKALIGAS: DK SHIVAKUMAR HAS GOWDAS WORRYING

R. Jayaprakash

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It was Kempe Gowda Day on Monday. Prominent Vokkaliga leaders occupied the dais including Deve Gowda, HD Kumaraswamy, Sadananda Gowda and Vokkaliga seer Nirmalananda Swami. As DK Shivakumar started to speak, he got stupendous response from the crowd. DK, as he is popularly known, though appreciated his political bête noire too, drove home the point that three Ks built Bengaluru – Kempe Gowda, Kengal Hanumanthaiah and SM Krishna. Deve Gowda and son Kumaraswamy were left red faced. 

Those who know Vokkaliga politics in the state knew the import of DK’s address. There is a tug of war going on among the leaders of the community and DK made it clear that day.

In 2018, when the Karnataka electorate threw a fractured mandate, the political drama that played out in the state for over a fortnight had everyone cued in – midnight hearing in SC, resort politics, resignation of BS Yediyurappa and formation of JDS–Congress coalition government. Something impossible was achieved and on the steps of Vidhana Soudha the coronation HD Kumaraswamy took place, with a galaxy of Indian politics – from Mamata Banerjee to Mayavati, from Sonia Gandhi to MK Stalin, from Sharad Pawar to KCR, from Arvind Kejriwal to Kamal Hassan – in attendance. This picture was a direct message to the BJP that it has a formidable force to contend with, but what happened in 2019 Lok Sabha elections was an anti-climax. 

It was nothing short of a miracle then as the BJP lost in the numbers game by a whisker, and it was achieved as two Vokkaliga leaders Kumaraswamy and DK, who were sworn enemies, joined hands. The biggest losers were Lingayat strongman BS Yediyurappa and Kuruba leader Siddaramaiah. 

It has been four years since, and Karnataka has seen four chief ministers in the interregnum – Siddaramaiah, Kumaraswamy, Yediyurappa and now Basavaraj Bommai – and a lot of water has flown under the bridge. Today the very same leaders DK and HDK, as they are popularly known, are at each other’s throat. The reason is that both are vying with each other to get the mantle of undisputed Vokkaliga leader.

For decades the Gowdas – Deve Gowda and clan – have been the first political family of the Vokkaligas. SM Krishna, though a Vokkaliga from Mandya heartland and Deve Gowda’s contemporary, was edged out. 

The battle for the Vokkaliga mantle has passed on to the second generation – between DK and HDK. While HDK is Deve Gowda’s son, DK, who is Kirshna’s protégé, became family through his daughter’s was marriage to Krishna’s grandson Amarthya (Cafe Coffee Day Siddharth’s son).

An apparent result of dynastic politics is that the JDS is losing support especially in the Cauvery basin, their bastion. The loss of then sitting Chief Minister’s son Nikhil Kumaraswamy in 2019 Lok Sabha is a case in point. All seven assembly constituencies in Mandya were with JDS, yet the party failed to ensure his victory.

JDS has since then rapidly declined, while DK’s popularity has steadily grown.

DK’s jail time proved counterproductive for the BJP and the Congress Party finally made him the state president despite resistance from the Siddaramaiah faction.   

The Gowdas have been critical of him, for they know DK’s organisational and resource mobilization skills. DK has in the past couple of years consolidated his position in Vokkaliga-dominated districts of Mysore, Mandya, Hassan, Ramanagara, Tumkur, Kolar, Bengaluru Urban and Rural, Chikkaballapur, Chikkamagalur and parts of Shimoga much to Gowdas’ discomfiture. 

The open revolt in JDS in recently concluded Rajya Sabha elections can be seen in this backdrop. JDS MLAs like AT Ramaswamy and Shivlinge Gowda of Hassan, Srinivas of Tumkur, Shrinivasa Gowda of Kolar and GT Deve Gowda of Mysore have rallied behind DK. 

There is a general sentiment among the Vokkaligas that DK should ascend the CM throne given the current political scenario. The BJP is going to the hustings sans Yediyurappa, the JDS is getting weaker because of exodus of their legislators. The big question is will this sentiment convert to vote? And will DK replace the Gowdas as their numero uno leader? 

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Tourism has a value beyond lifestyle and economic factors

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Going on a holiday can have a positive impact on an individual’s mental health and well-being, according to a new study. A new cross-disciplinary paper from Edith Cowan University (ECU) has proposed a change in the way we view tourism, seeing it not just as a recreational experience, but also as an industry that can provide real health benefits.

The collaboration between ECU’s Centre for Precision Health and the School of Business and Law found many aspects of going on holiday could have a positive impact on those with mental health issues or conditions.

Lead researcher Dr. Jun Wen said the diverse team of tourism, public health and marketing experts investigated how tourism could benefit those living with dementia.

 “Medical experts can recommend dementia treatments such as music therapy, exercise, cognitive stimulation, reminiscence therapy, sensory stimulation, and adaptations to a patient’s mealtimes and environment,” Dr. Wen said, adding “These are all also often found on holidays.” This research is among the first to conceptually discuss how these tourism experiences could potentially work as dementia interventions.”

HOLIDAY FUN OR TREATMENT?

Dr Wen said the varied nature of tourism meant there were many opportunities to incorporate treatments for conditions such as dementia.

For example, being in new environments and having new experiences could provide cognitive and sensory stimulation.

“Exercise has been linked to mental wellbeing and travelling often involves enhanced physical activity, such as more walking. Mealtimes are often different on holidays: they’re usually more social affairs with multiple people, and family-style meals have been found to positively influence dementia patients’ eating behavior and then there’s the basics, like fresh air and sunshine, increasing vitamin D and serotonin levels,” he said.

“Everything that comes together to represent a holistic tourism experience, makes it easy to see how patients with dementia may benefit from tourism as an intervention,” he further expressed.

A SHIFT IN THINKING

Covid-19’s impact on travel in recent years has raised questions about tourism’s value beyond lifestyle and economic factors.

“Tourism has been found to boost physical and psychological well being, so, after Covid-19, it’s a good time to identify tourism’s place in public health and not just for healthy tourists, but vulnerable groups,” he said.

He hoped a new line of collaborative research could begin to examine how tourism can enhance the lives of people with various conditions and expressed, “We’re trying to do something new in bridging tourism and health science,” he said, adding, “There will have to be more empirical research and evidence to see if tourism can become one of the medical interventions for different diseases like dementia or depression; so, tourism is not just about travelling and having fun; we need to rethink the role tourism plays in modern society.” 

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‘OVERNIGHT SUCCESSES’ CANNOT BE ATTRIBUTED TO PROVIDENCE

Everybody wants to hop onto a bandwagon that is taking off, yet few of us are prepared for the toil that paves the way for it.

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“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen,” goes a quote attributed to Lenin. For Eric Yuan and the team at Zoom, those weeks were in March and April 2020. That was when the world was reeling under the twin impact of the pandemic and the lockdowns; and voila, Zoom was the savior. From work meetings to birthday parties, everything started happening online. Usage of Zoom ‘zoomed’ thirty-fold in just four months, surpassing three hundred million daily participants. The company’s market capitalization smashed past the hundred-billion-dollar mark, rising eightfold over the ten months to October 2020.

‘Overnight successes’ are not confined to the world of business. In 1976, an unknown, out-of-work actor named Sylvester Stallone approached a movie studio with a script. The studio offered him over three hundred thousand dollars, but he opted to take a much lower sum if they agreed to his demand to play the lead role. The studio finally relented, and the rest is history. The movie, ‘Rocky’, smashed box-office records, was nominated for ten Oscars, and spawned multiple sequels. It left behind an enduring legacy based on its theme of the power of the human will.

One might be tempted to attribute such successes to providence. Yet, nothing could be farther from the truth. As entertainer Eddie Cantor said, “It takes twenty years to make an overnight success.” Many processes in life follow the pattern of the Chinese bamboo tree, a seed that needs to be watered and cared for over four full years before it even begins to sprout. Yet, in the fifth year, it suddenly shoots up, growing over fifty feet in just a few weeks. Plodding over those dreary four years lays the foundation for what follows.

Before 2020, the team at Zoom had spent nine years obsessing over the customer experience, product architecture and technical standards, with the founder Eric personally responding to customer complaints. Eric’s own story is testament to his persistence, of how he found his feet in the US after eight visa rejections and despite his patchy English.

Sylvester Stallone’s story is no different. To realize his Hollywood dreams, he went through many rough years, with only two pairs of clothes, sleeping in a bus station, and even having to sell his dog. To quote him, “Life is an opponent that never stops punching, so you better never stop punching back.”

In the world of business today, it has become commonplace to talk about the ‘hockey-stick’ curve, an initial period of learning followed by supposedly meteoric growth. Yet, few founders and investors have the patience to last it through the initial curve of the ‘hockey stick’. This is where setbacks happen, mistakes are made, business models come apart, and often, startups flounder and die. Eventually, this trial by fire culminates in a better product and a wiser management team. Everybody wants to hop on to a bandwagon that is taking off, yet few of us are prepared for the toil that paves the way for it.

I have also seen this dynamic in the stock markets. Whenever we hear of someone making a ‘multi-bagger’ return on a stock, it is tempting to attribute it either to luck or to spotting an attractive company early. Yet, neither of these explanations conveys the full story. The real secret of bagging a multi-bagger is often in being able to retain conviction and hold it through periods of gut-churning volatility, when the stock might be down over 50%.

This pattern is mirrored in the world of books too. Writing my first book, KaalKoot, took many years. This was a period where I had to keep at it without any external validation, and with pangs of self-doubt gnawing away at my mind. After the success of KaalKoot, writing my second book was much faster and easier. Yet, it was those difficult early years that laid the foundation for what followed.

The US Airways pilot ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, who saved hundreds of lives in January 2009 by successfully landing the plane over the Hudson river after an engine failure, garnered widespread applause for his presence of mind during those critical moments. Yet, to quote him, the secret lay elsewhere. “For 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education, and training. On January 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.” 

That, then, is the secret of becoming an ‘overnight success’, i.e making regular deposits in the bank of experience, being consistent with it, and persisting despite obstacles.

S. Venkatesh is the author of AgniBaan and KaalKoot, a leadership coach and an investor who has held key positions with JP Morgan, Credit Suisse and Macquarie. He writes about mindfulness and its link to creativity, business and wealth.

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ARTIST’S SEARCH FOR ROOTS AMONG UTTARAKHAND HILLS

Yatin Kandpal makes a mark though his solo exhibition ‘Emotional Rescue’

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After his four-day solo exhibition, “Emotional Rescue”, ended on Sunday June 19, Yatin Kandpal returned to his studio that late evening more than contented. For the 37-year-old painter, who left a well-paid job in 2016 to pursue his passion, never knew his work would create so much enthusiasm among the seekers of art. “The reception my open-air exhibition got from both the connoisseurs of art and the customers visiting was more than expected,” said Yatin basking radiantly in the stupendous success his exhibition had.

Yatin (right), in conversation with fellow artist Asha Sharma

Girl learning hands on drawing colours

The four-day long exhibition, organised at iHeart Café at the sleepy village of Mehragaon on way to Bhimtal – about 15 km from district headquarters – saw a footfall of about 2000 visitors. Children, wannabe and accomplished artists, actors, senior bureaucrats, police officials, teachers and students, tourists and locals all came in droves to see the two-hour-long evening exhibition, keeping Yatin on his toes, discussing at length about each painting, with the artist giving live demos especially to children, even inviting them to give a shot at it.

“It was wonderful to see Yatin engage children showing them hands on how they can express how they view the world around them with the stroke of a brush,” said Asha Sharma, an artist herself.

Among a surprise visitor to his exhibition was none another than his teacher, Professor Zahoor Ahmed Zergar, former Head of the Department of Applied Art at Jamia Milia Islamia University. It was under Professor Zergar’s tutelage that Yatin grew from a raw hand, who could barely drew some sketches on art paper, to an accomplished artist that he is now. It was, in fact, Professor Zergar who discovered Yatin way back in 2005 when he had gone to Almora to attend a 10-day-long camp organized by Lalit Kala Academy where artistes from various parts of the country had come to participate.

The camp he attended at the prodding of one of his arts teacher proved a turning point, as it created an everlasting bonding both with the professor and with the brush. After doing Masters in Fine Arts, he followed Professor Zergar to Delhi in 2008 where he learnt the nuances of painting while watching closely his Guru working on canvas strung on the easel in his studio even while pursuing another Masters. After his stints with Prime Focus and the Central Institute of Educational Technology in Delhi, he packed his bags in 2016 to settle down in Bhimtal. “It is these mountains where I chose to put down my roots in the midst of nature which is my muse,” said Yatin waving his hands without any cares about the world at large.

“It needs a lot of courage to stay through what you believe is your calling. Yatin has done exactly that. In other words, he has rescued himself through his paintings,” said Professor Anne Feenstra, who curated the exhibition. “I will put his work in the realm of super-reality as he interprets realities of life through his paintings,” added the recipient of Global Award for Sustainable Architecture.

Take, for instance, the self-portrait he drew on canvas after his dog died a couple of years back, the centrepiece of the exhibition. He threw in some paws all over his face to express his loss. When you look at a landscape, a person, or a mountain, for instance, you interpret those elements of nature or objects through your work adding your own perspective to what you observe, using imagination.

So when he saw Nainital with its daunting mountain tops on three sides, half cut by forces of nature and half denuded by human intervention, he drew a painting that says all about it. We see the beautiful lake in its quaint pristine form with a solitary row boat in the middle and with no human intervention. The rich yet sauve colour tones he used to express his interpretation of the city he was born and brought up in forces you to take notice and brood over it.

“Yatin’s paintings reflect his emotional response to life around him. In some of his works, his brush strokes reflect expressionism and in others the dark shadows in portraits appear mysterious and loaded,” said Anupama Sharma, an artist from Rajasthan settled in Bhimtal, who had an exhibition with Yatin some years back in Mumbai.

His signature style is visible in the portrait of a girl venturing out of her home. She is cautious as she steps out. The use of a darker tone over her eyelashes and eyelids enhances the expression on those kohled eyes and face wear, conveying her fears, her wonderment, to the beholder. Those intense black eyes catch and transfix us.

The exhibition was part of a collective effort that Professor Anne, who is working on sustainable mountain architecture there, has put together with the help of Padmini Smetacek and some other local enthusiasts to promote local talent by helping them showcase their works, with iHeart Cafe providing a perfect setting. “It is all about giving value to our immediate community. We are trying to help artists like Yatin to showcase their talent,” said Tim Sebastian, owner of iHeart Cafe, visibly happy at the turnout during the exhibition. And it makes a lot of business sense as well for him.

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