Gaurav Aggarwal, founder & CEO of Savaari Car Rentals, a company that has services in 2,000 cities across the country, recently joined NewsX for a conversation as part of NewsX India A-List. He talked about his start-up journey, the mission of his company, and how the post-Covid times have changed how people travel.
Talking about the inception of Savaari, Gaurav said, “Right from my college days in the US, I used to book rental cars online. On one of my trips to India back in 2015, I was looking to book an online chauffeur or a rental car from Delhi to Dehradun and I couldn’t find a car rental company online that I could trust with quality service and a reasonable rate and ended up asking a friend to help me out with it. I realised that this market is largely unorganised after doing a bit of research. Post this incident, we started with the idea of Savaari car rentals. The most conservative estimates put the Indian car rental market at $15B annually. Though billions of dollars have been spent by two on-demand players in the market during the past seven years, it is quite surprising that 85% of the market still remains unorganised.”
He spoke about the services provided by Savaari Car Rentals, ”We provide quality chauffeur rides with car rentals in close to 2000+ cities across India at super competitive rates. Simultaneously, we offer customisation and assistance through our spirited 24×7 customer support team, thus providing the ideal combination of a technology platform and a services-based approach. In these cities, we provide airport transfers, local rentals, and inter-city travels. We provide round-trips around the city where you keep the car and the driver with you and Bombay inter-city drops so that you can travel from one city to another.”
Emphasising how the company is different from others, Gaurav expressed, “Indian consumers are not easy to please. They want quality service at a cheaper and reasonable cost and that is the reason why the market has remained highly unorganised as there is no pan-India player that you can go to and who you could trust for high quality, reliability and at competitive rates. So this is the gap that we had identified and set out to work towards the same.”
When asked about the growth of the company over the last few years, he underlined that Savaari Car Rentals has been one of the few startups that has become profitable. Gaurav said, “We became profitable in FY19 and our company witnessed solid growth in 2020. Although FY21 has been majorly impacted due to the Covid-19 lockdown. We are looking to do around 122 crore profit by the FY22, which will be close to 50% profit plus growth for our FY21, it will be quite an impressive growth.”
He stresses that his brand stands at the core of trust, customer safety and comfortable rides. Gaurav told us about some of the unique features offered by the company including travel kits, and language selection option for the drivers, “The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way people travel and commute. While the pre-pandemic travel demand was traditionally centred on leisure and business, travel was more need-based during the lockdown. With the vaccination drive starting in different phases across the country, the road ahead looks promising. Domestic travel has resumed, giving people a chance to finally step out of their houses to give themselves a well-deserved break. Travel picture in 2021 looks optimistic and the year is being tagged as the return of the classic road-trips in India.”
On a concluding note, he shared his vision of the company and how it is changing trends of travel, “Post Covid-19, we expect that there would be a lot of regional travelling and there is a new trend called ‘Revenge Travel’ where people who have been stuck in lockdown or those who had to cancel their trip because of the lockdown will take a trip. Off late, there has been a trend of exploring new places and road trips are the best way to explore these places. Our mission is to help you explore India, one road trip at a time.”
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WHY LORD RAM’S EXAMPLE IS RELEVANT IN TODAY’S WORLD
Children, some critics say that the Ramayana and Lord Ram’s example are irrelevant in the modern world. Their view is that in today’s age of science and technology, Ram’s path is too extreme and impractical. There may be some truth to their criticism because ages ago when the story of Ramayana took place, society and family life were firmly rooted in dharma. Back then, moral and spiritual values such as truthfulness, self-sacrifice and humility governed the land. Thus, people genuinely appreciated and followed the guidance and example of a ruler rooted in dharma. They really appreciated Ram’s ways, cherishing him as dharma personified.
As the King of Ayodhya, Ram gave prime importance to doing his dharma towards his country and its citizens. Both as a king and as a human being, he was perfect—loving, compassionate, fearless and considerate. He always had his subjects’ well-being and his country’s prosperity at the forefront of his mind. For him, everything else was secondary. Thus, his abidance in dharma had a huge impact on the citizens of Ayodhya. That is why they all wanted to accompany Ram to the forest when he went into exile.
It’s true we will not be able to duplicate Ram’s ways. Amma doesn’t think anyone can be that perfect. Regardless, no one can deny the fact that, thousands of years later, Ram’s life still remains as an immense source of inspiration to millions of people across the world and that it will forever continue to serve such a purpose.
Not everyone who worships Ram meticulously follows his teachings. But when compared to most people—the majority of which are mired in selfishness—Ram’s devotees must be relatively more dharmic. Actually, that is enough. Indeed such impact is the purpose of avataras like Ram. Because, as Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “Even a little practice of this a dharma saves one from great fear.”
Children, the truth is that if we could observe even an infinitesimal part of what Lord Ram showed us, the world would be in a much better place than it is today.
The writer is a spiritual leader, guru and humanitarian who is revered as the hugging saint by her followers.
PRACHI DESAI ON WHY SHE MADE A COMEBACK WITH ‘SILENCE’
Actress Prachi Desai recently joined NewsX for a candid interview as part of NewsX India A-List. Prachi has made a comeback in Bollywood after a long break with the suspense-thriller Silence… Can You Hear It?, which released on Zee5 on 26 March. She is currently basking on its success.
Talking about it, she said, “I think so far the response has been great. Also, I’ve done a film after a while so that excitement is special. The intention was to do something different as it’s been a while and that has paid off. The one thing I’m consistently hearing every day from people is it’s nice to see me back after a gap. That’s good to hear as it gives you a sense of hope. It also reminds me that people do want to watch me and are happy to see me again and there cannot be a better feeling than that.”
When asked about what convinced her to say yes to this film, Prachi expressed, “It just ticked all the boxes, there aren’t any specific requirements for every film that you do but it’s just the basics so whether it was a good and engaging script, the role was different and appealing and it’s made by a debutant female director. I’ve always wanted to work with female directors and feel like we need more of them in this industry and that is the case with this movie. I needed to do a strong role which is why I took a while to say yes to something and it happened when ‘Silence’ came my way and I immediately said yes.”
Sharing more insights from her experience, she said, “I love the film and love espionage thrillers, and murder mysteries in general. I don’t think you’ll believe this but I enjoy watching horror movies a lot and watch them often. With thrillers, it just keeps you at the edge of your seat most of the time if it’s written and directed well. This particular movie was a page-turner. When I was reading the script I just needed to know what’s gonna happen next and that’s a good sign.”
Sharing her experience of working with Manoj Bajpayee and being on sets with him, Prachi mentioned, “Manoj sir is like an institution in acting. I would just keep observing him the whole time on the set, watching him perform, how he prepares for every particular scene and trying not to creep him out while doing that. I feel a lot of things are going on in his head at a time, he is so talented. I think it rubs off very nicely on all of us as you want to also do well in the scene since he’s so good.”
She added, “He’s a very selfless actor. He makes sure that everybody in the scene is equally involved and if he ever feels like you can do something that will make your performance better, he shares that with everyone. The kind of involvement and dedication he has, despite being such a busy actor is commendable. He’s someone who’s done far more work than all of us in the film put together. Even then, he would just be involved with his 100% and probably worked as hard as we did. Considering the number of hours we worked, he doesn’t shy away from the hard work at all and that’s refreshing.”
On taking up a new role, Prachi said, “It was unplanned, an actor’s life is sometimes unpredictable. However, there came a point when I just felt like I needed to maybe detour from the roles that I’m doing and do something slightly different. It may not be earth-shattering but I needed that shift, and I don’t know if the casting directors or the filmmakers are lazy as they feel like this person does something well so keep on giving them the same role that makes their job easier as they don’t have to work hard with you to do something different.”
“That happened and repetitive things came my way. For a while, I enjoyed my space and made the most of it. But after a point, it felt like I can do so much more and needed people to open up to that. When that did not happen, you’re an actor and if you’re not a producer yourself, all you can do is probably wait or try and add something different to your role. But you only have this much only and you can do it within that scope as you can’t make a different film for yourself. The waiting period took a little longer than expected. Certain things in that span were very interesting but did not materialise for some reason, and as an actor, at times you never know how months and years pass by and then there we were struck with the Covid-19 pandemic and an entire year went into trying to deal with the new normal. After all the wait, I feel, it has been worth it.”
THE ESSAR STEEL RESOLUTION: AN IBC SUCCESS STORY
One of the largest recoveries which happened after the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 was put into effect was the Essar Steel Ltd resolution. It brought benefits for the operational creditors, the banks and the company’s employees, which would not have been possible under the previous regime, and is proof of the merits of the new Code.
Not long after the implementation of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), the Reserve Bank of India identified the first 12 large cases for the insolvency proceedings. The case of Essar Steel Ltd was one of them. The Essar Steel Ltd (ESL for short) had financial debts of Rs 49,000 crore. The money was owed to a group of banks led by SBI, which included PSU and private sector banks. The lenders referred ESL for insolvency resolution to NCLT Ahmedabad in July 2017. The NCLT admitted the insolvency proceedings in August 2017 and it was followed by the submission of EOL by five metal giants, including ArcelorMittal and Numetal. However, the government introduced Section 29A in the Code, which barred the promoters of companies that defaulted on loans for 12 months from submitting bids. Naturally, the lenders rejected the bids of ArcelorMittal and Numetal, because of default in Uttam Galva and KSS Petron Pvt Ltd. The bidders challenged this all the way to the Supreme Court, but weren’t successful. They were ordered to pay the dues of Uttam Galva and KSS Petron to be eligible for bidding. This was the legal side of the resolution proceedings.
Meanwhile, on the operational side, immediately after the admission of the insolvency proceedings, the NCLT and lenders appointed Shri Satish Kumar Gupta, an independent insolvency resolution professional. The lenders, after considering bids, appointed British company Alvarez & Marsal to run the company during resolution proceedings. Though it was not the lowest bidder, Alvarez & Marsal was appointed due to its reputation as a turnaround specialist as it had successfully managed large stressed firms. The team of Alvarez & Marsal managed to take the lenders on board, convinced the operational creditors (vendors) to extend the credit line and revived the operations of ESL. They managed to increase production from 4.60 lakh tonnes per month to 6.00 lakh tonnes per month! Steady international steel prices also helped. Within months, there was an operational turnaround of the company. By the time the appeals of ArcelorMittal were decided by the Supreme Court, there was an operational turnaround in the company. This encouraged ArcelorMittal to agree to pay the dues of Rs. 7,500 crore in the case of Uttam Galva and KSS Petron, and also to increase its bid for Essar Steel Ltd to Rs 42,000 crore from its initial bid of Rs. 29,000 crore, amounting to 92% of the credit liability.
Here we want to make it clear that this resolution proceeding wasn’t a very smooth process. It had its share of obstacles. First, the promoters approached the Gujarat High Court in July 2017, challenging the RBI’s decision to identify Essar Steel among the first 12 large cases for insolvency resolution. However, they weren’t successful. Later the introduction of Section 29A resulted in the litigation being taken to the Supreme Court by the rejected bidders. In spite of all the obstacles, the realisation for financial creditors was completed within 850 days. One can say that the introduction of Section 29A helped the banks in getting additional realisation for ESL as well as Uttam Galva and KSS Petron Ltd.
BENEFIT TO THE BANKING SECTOR
Rs 42,000 crores (92%) were realised and introduced in the economy as against a debt of Rs. 49,000 crores. Imagine, what would have happened in the earlier system: the resolution would have involved a protracted legal battle for a decade or so, while the debtor company would have closed down operations, and assets, plants and machinery would have been put to disuse and decay. Finally only a pittance would have been recovered from whatever asset could be salvaged.
BENEFIT TO OPERATIONAL CREDITORS
Since the company continued to be run by the turnaround specialists, the OCs came on board and extended credits. The company achieved operational turnaround and so the operational creditors got to continue their business with the company and also realise their dues. This was a win-win for both the OCs and the company.
BENEFIT TO EMPLOYEES
The resolution proceedings ensured that not only did the company continue its operations but also achieved an operational turnaround. This was great news for employees who feared retrenchment. After the resolution, ArcelorMittal took over the company and continued its operations. Hence, most of the employees except the top management echelons would get to keep their jobs. This could never happen in resolution proceedings prior to the Code.
A word of caution here: not all cases result in such high realisations. The average realisation for financial creditors under the Code has been 46.84% within an average period of 380 days as compared to 23% over endless delays under the earlier regime. A significant benefit is the early realisation, as we all know there is a huge time cost for money. Further, the Code has enabled the realisation of 192.09% of the liquidation values (almost equal to market values).
As per the report of the IBBI, about 50.32% of insolvency proceedings (CIRPs) are initiated by the OCs. It’s further seen that more than half of the CIRPs initiated by the OCs have been closed on appeal, review or withdrawal, which indicates that for fear of losing control and ownership of the company, debtors have preferred to pay the OCs and resolve amicably.
Needless to say, the speedy and convenient resolution has greatly strengthened the business ecosystem, boosted the confidence and kindled animal spirits in the economy. Several good debt-laden companies like Essar Steel, Bhushan Steel, Electro Steel, Amtek Steel, Bhushan Power and Steel, Alok Industries, and Reliance Communications have been revived with minimal loss of employment, loss of assets or loss in production.
The Code has given much required assurance and confidence to international investors too. No wonder, the rank of India in the index for Ease of Doing Business has seen a significant jump, from the 142nd position in 2014 to the 63rd in 2019.
Sreenivas Bidari is a senior IRS officer hailing from Karnataka. Ranjit Kejriwal is an FCS and Registered Valuer (SFA). The views expressed are personal.
AMID CORONAVIRUS SPIKE, BJP TO USE LED SCREENS, RESTRICT GATHERINGS FOR PM MODI’S BENGAL RALLIES
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public rallies, which are scheduled on 23 April in poll-bound West Bengal, will be restricted to 500 people as against “jan sailaab” that characterises most of the rallies addressed by him. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to change its campaign style and bring in ‘new normal’ in organising the election rallies in wake of the spike in the Covid-19 cases across the country.
“The plan is to have 500 people in audience following all the Covid protocols possible. All the people at the rally will have to wear a mask and use sanitisers. Also, chairs will be placed as per social distancing norms during the rallies,” West Bengal BJP In-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya told ANI.
The number of leaders allowed on the stage will also be restricted.
According to a senior party leader, the Prime Minister was scheduled to address the rallies on two different dates but now rallies have been clubbed together on 23 April.
“The Prime Minister is scheduled to address rallies in Murshidabad, South Kolkata, Siuri and Malda on 23 April,” the senior leader said. “LED screens will be put up across the constituencies for the supporters and voters to listen to PM Modi. We will try to maintain Covid protocols at the points where the LED screens will be setup,” he added.
Amid a record spike in Covid-19 cases in the country, the Election Commission has decided to curtail the timings of campaigns for the remaining phases and extended the silence period to 72 hours for each of the phases.
Even as political leaders cherish big crowds at landing sites of their choppers, the BJP has decided to keep the number of people coming to rallies symbolic. The party is also shifting its campaign from big rallies and road shows to ‘potho sabhas’, corner meetings with very small gatherings in order to follow ECI guidelines and suggestions on Covid-19 appropriate behaviour.
The Covid-19 situation in the country continues to deteriorate with another highest single-day spike of over 2.73 lakh cases and 1,619 deaths in the last 24 hours.
Meanwhile, ahead of the sixth phase of West Bengal Assembly elections, BJP national president J.P. Nadda on Monday urged the voters of the poll-bound state to vote for the BJP to “end the ‘Tolabaji, Tushtikaran, Tanashahi’ prevailing in the state under the rule of Mamata Banerjee”.
Nadda who was addressing a gathering while holding a roadshow in support of the party’s candidate from North Dinajpur, Krishna Kumar Kalyani. Nadda said, “This election which is happening in West Bengal is happening for ‘asol parivartan’ (real change) and to make the state ‘Sonar Bengal’. The Tolabaji (extortion), Tushtikaran (appeasement), tanashahi (dictatorship), which is prevailing under the rule of Mamata Banerjee has to be stopped by making the lotus bloom and make Krishna Kalyani victorious. Friends, before taking your leave I would like to take this promise from you that you will vote for the BJP and make it victorious in Dinajpur and in Raiganj just as it is winning in the rest of West Bengal,” said the BJP president amid chants of Jai Shree Ram from party workers who accompanied him during the roadshow.
The first five phases of the eight-phase Bengal Assembly elections have already been completed. The sixth phase of the state Assembly polls is scheduled for 22 April. Polling for the seventh and the eighth phase will be held on 26 April and 29 April. The counting of votes will take place on 2 May. ANI
BATTLE FOR BENGAL: A REPORT ON FIRST FOUR PHASES OF ELECTIONS
After the provocative campaigns and speeches which have been a staple this election season in West Bengal, the contest between CM Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party is heating up. Here is an overview on the progress made in the first four phases of the massive eight-phased polls.
As a short spring metamorphoses into the mighty summer, West Bengal’s air is warming up to the potent political currents and cross-currents that promise to drive the windmills of change this electoral season. The Assembly elections have kicked off with a bang in the state and unfolded in a mosaic of narratives and counter narratives laced by violence and sanctions by the Election Commission.
Although the Trinamool Congress (TMC), once perceived as invincible, seems to have developed major chinks in its armour, thanks to misgovernance, corruption, the highhandedness of its leaders, extortion or “cut-money”, widespread unemployment and a major anti-incumbency wave, it would still take the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a lot more to hit the ball out of the park.
The eight-phased election is half way through. The first four phases have been conducted fairly peacefully (except the fourth phase where five people lost their lives). Various political developments capable of causing pronounced vicissitudes in the outcome of this mammoth polling exercise are analysed below.
The polling for phase one was held on 27 March in five districts, Paschim Midnapore Part-I, Purba Midnapore Part-I, Bankura, Jhargram, and Purulia. West Bengal reported 84.3 percent voter turnout, which can influence the other phases and has kept hopes alive for both the ruling TMC and main rival, BJP.
The 30 Assembly constituencies where voters have already exercised their franchise can be divided into three pockets, each with a character of its own.
In pocket one, the 11 Assembly constituencies, mostly in Purulia district, betrayed a distinct trend and had the lowest voter turnout. In this region, till the 2016 Assembly election, the Left was the force to reckon with after Trinamool, which was in the lead position. Things changed dramatically in the Lok Sabha elections of April-May 2019 and a large chunk of the CPI(M) and Congress’s vote went to the BJP. This shift has given the BJP a major impetus. Here, if the vote share transferred by all the parties in 2019 is retained by the BJP, then the voter needs to go out and participate to keep that level of turnout ratio. If this fails to happen and the vote transferred goes back to the respective party, even if partially, the BJP will suffer a major beating and the whole premise of BJP’s 40 percent vote share in 2019 will be reversed. The BJP can expect a because of the less than 78 percent turnout, which means nobody voted enthusiastically for anybody, while the TMC is expected to retain its vote share or even get more.
In pocket two, the 11 Assembly constituencies, mostly in Bankura and West Midnapore districts, saw the BJP get an increase in the vote share in 2019, but it was a lot moderate, as compared to pocket 1. Also, the Trinamool did not lose its vote share here. So, in this region, it was a simple transfer of votes from the Left and other parties to BJP. So, any dip in the turnout ratio in this region shall affect the BJP negatively. However, this region has historically commanded higher voter turnouts.
Pocket three comprises eight Assembly constituencies, mainly in East Midnapore district. This region had been a Trinamool stronghold traditionally, even in 2019, but with the exit of Suvendu Adhikari and his family from the ruling party, the contest here has become interesting. The BJP is working on the simple equation that if its voters remain intact and the Adhikari family brings its own chunk of votes, it will give the BJP an upper hand in the region. But traditionally, Bengal votes for the party rather than the candidate, and Mamata Banerjee’s popularity is still strong, as demonstrated by some opinion poll surveys.
To conclude, for all the three pockets collectively, a turnout ratio of less than 82 percent is not good news for the BJP.
The voting for phase two was held on April 1 in four districts, South 24 Parganas Part-1, Bankura Part-2, Paschim Midnapore Part-2, and East Midnapore. In 2016, BJP could secure only one of the 30 seats in this region, with a cumulative vote share of 7 percent, almost double from 2011, while the TMC had won 21 of the 30 seats. However, faced against a resurgent BJP this time, the TMC may have a tough time retaining these seats.
The battle for Nandigram, where TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee is up against confidante-turned-adversary Suvendu Adhikari, pretty much sums up the contest here. CPI(M)’s Minakshi Mukherjee is contesting as the Sanyukt Morcha candidate. BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari wields considerable influence in the region and had won this seat for the TMC, securing over 67 percent votes, in 2016. The Left received nearly 27 percent votes, while the BJP was a distant third, getting only a little over 5 percent. However, things changed dramatically in 2019 when the BJP secured 37 percent votes. Suvendu’s brother, Dibyendu, won the Lok Sabha seat for TMC with a little over 50 percent votes, but both of them, along with father, Sisir Adhikari, a sitting MP in the same region, are now with the BJP.
In many other seats too, the contest is primarily between TMC and erstwhile Left or Congress leaders now being fielded as BJP candidates. Three other combustible seats are Haldia, Bankura and Kharagpur Sadar.
Most seats in phase two are in rural areas. Tamluk, Barjora, Bishnupur, Bankura, Panskura Paschim and Panskura Purba may be the trickiest seats in this phase, as the winning margins were very narrow in the last Assembly election, with the victory margin less than 1,000 in 2016 in Tamluk and Barjora.
The voting for this phase was held on April 6 in Howrah, Hooghly, and South 24 Parganas. The Trinamool Congress has an edge over the BJP and the Left-Congress-ISF alliance, Samyukta Morcha, in the majority of the 31 Assembly seats in this region.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the TMC had comfortable leads over the BJP in all seven Assembly segments in Howrah and the 16 in South 24 Parganas and a significant lead in the eight seats in Hooghly.
The key seats in this contest include Tarakeshwar, from where the BJP has fielded journalist-turned-politician Swapan Dasgupta, who resigned from the Rajya Sabha to contest in this election, and is considered part of the BJP’s think tank for Bengal.
Amta in Howrah is also being keenly watched as it is all set to witness a three-corner contest between the Congress’ two-term MLA Asit Mitra, known for his simplistic living, BJP’s Debtanu Bhattacharya, who heads the Hindutva organisation Hindu Samhati, and the TMC’s Sukanta Pal, whose main strength is his party’s organisation.
Meanwhile, in South 24 Parganas, Kultali and Joynagar are expected to see four corner contests, with SUCI(C) as the fourth force.
However, the most-keenly-watched contests are expected to take place in seats like Canning, Canning West, Magrahat East, Magrahat West, where the Samyukta Morcha seemed to have gained some momentum due to the Indian Secular Front, a newly launched party floated by the Islamic cleric Abbasuddin Siddiqui. The Left and the Congress’ alliance with the ISF had raised quite a few eyebrows, but Siddiqui’s rallies in these areas have so far drawn significant crowds. The TMC-BJP-Samyukta Morcha battle in these seats with a pronounced polarised propensity may play a crucial role in determining the political outcome in the district.
The voting for phase four was held on April 10, in Howrah (Part-2), South 24 Pargana (Part-3), Hugli (Part-2), Alipurduar (all five constituencies), and Cooch Behar (all nine constituencies). It was the first phase where polling took place in the northern half of the state, in districts like Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri. Seven seats in Jalpaiguri district and six in Darjeeling voted in the next phase on 17 April.
The TMC saw a big decline in its seat share in this region in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Its wins were reduced to 2/3rd of its 2016 share, as it won in only 25 constituencies. What is worrying for the party is that the decline of 14 constituencies happened with a vote share decline of just 1.3 percentage points. This was possible because while the vote share of anti-TMC parties was divided between the BJP, Left, Congress and others in 2016, a large part of it consolidated behind the BJP in 2019. Anti-TMC parties won 19 constituencies here in 2019, up from five in 2016, and the BJP won all 19.
However, the Left played spoilsport in 18 of the 44 constituencies voting in 2019. In these 18 constituencies, the BJP finished second in 11. Hence, if the BJP is not able to win over more Left voters, it could still end up behind the TMC.
In the hill regions, the TMC faced a much bigger decline compared to the south Bengal region, where it was still a strong player even in 2019. In the 14 constituencies of the former, the TMC’s 2019 seat share was 0.17 times that in 2016, whereas in the 30 constituencies of the latter, it was 0.85 times that in 2016.
Both the BJP and TMC campaigns also faced the litmus test in the fourth phase. BJP leaders had attacked the TMC for its alleged pro-Muslim policies while the TMC has criticised BJP leaders as outsiders or “bahiragata”. Jalpaiguri has the third-lowest Bengali-speaking population among the 19 districts of the state, according to the 2011 census, and the second highest Hindi- and Nepali-speaking population. This phase and latter rounds will likely test Mamata Banerjee’s “outsider” attack.
The BJP, on the other hand, has had to contend with the high share of Muslims in Cooch Behar, Howrah, and South 24 Parganas. Even the Hindu population is not homogeneous in the districts that voted in the fourth phase. In Cooch Behar, Scheduled Tribes (STs) comprise almost 2/3rd of the population, while Scheduled Castes (SCs) constitute over 40% of the population in Hooghly and Jalpaiguri.
Phase 4 was also marred by the violence which took place across polling booths in Cooch Behar. Four people died in CISF firing at poll booth number 126 in Sitalkuchi and another was killed in a separate incident at poll booth number 285. Both these booths will see repolling.
In the aftermath of the Sitalkuchi incident, the Election Commission has pulled up its socks and taken stern steps to restrict and forbid inflammatory statements by politicians. The EC also restricted Mamata Banerjee from campaigning for 24 hours on 13 April (preceding which she had been served notices to explain her stance) and Rahul Sinha of the BJP for 48 hours the same day. It also restricted any politician from visiting Sitalkuchi for 72 hours following the shooting. West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh was served a notice as well by the EC seeking an explanation for his statements on the unfortunate incident.
Irked by the ban on her by the EC, Mamata Banerjee called it “undemocratic and unconstitutional” and staged a sit-in protest near the Gandhi Statue at Mayo Road for three and a half hours on 13 April.
Many veterans from opposing parties like the Left’s Sujan Chakraborty and the Congress’ Adhir Chowdhury have alleged that Mamata used the restrictive order against her to create a narrative of martyrdom and victimhood. However, Banerjee is a seasoned politician who is adept at turning the tide in her favour and the silent dharna she staged, perched on her wheelchair, both for the optics as well as an appeal to sentiments of Bengalis, could be a master stroke which catapults her and the TMC to victory, riding on the sympathy of the proletariat. Conversely, if the public eye is able to see through the dramatics, it might be the last nail in the coffin for a desperate incumbent. The twist in the tale should be something to watch out for.
The writer is founder and editor-in-chief of Tribe Tomorrow Network. The views expressed are personal.
THE TRANSFORMATIVE NATURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS ENERGIES
The individual consciousness can never live independently of other energies. Do we have experience of any energy being independent? In the current material circumstances of consciousness, as soon as the current situation terminates the consciousness, particles must associate themselves immediately with another energy, either, according to the Vedas, as energies made of the same conscious constituents or be embedded within substances that are of an entirely different nature to itself. So, consciousness must find another shelter. Even when the consciousness particles are seen to transform themselves within consciousness energies, it is not a guarantee of a permanent home because within consciousness energies there are places where the consciousness particles can be seen taking a long rest from activities, bearing in mind that consciousness is always active, apart from the state of deep sleep.
Our Vaishnava acharyas have compared the state of motionlessness in the consciousness energies, known as the Brahmajyoti, with a kind of deep sleep; one could say peace and harmony. But the teachers of Vedic knowledge bring to the attention of the reader that the inherent need of consciousness to exchange with another consciousness and engage in activities eventually leads consciousness out of this deep sleep of harmony. And because of a lack of knowledge of the activities of the origins of consciousness, the consciousness particles find themselves back in the atmosphere of an ethereal, and eventually a devolved, quantum and classical plane in order to exhibit activities.
It is a scientific fact that energies are never destroyed, but transform themselves. It is also a fact that the energy source for this earth is the sun, and the Vedas indicate the sun is a devolved or transformed energy from the light of the Brahmajyoti. And the Brahmajyoti is a transformed energy from the natural effulgence of the body of divinity, who is described in the Vedas as the original cause of all causes. The sun transforms its energies through photosynthesis and heats the atmosphere and causes air movements. The moon’s energies are confirmed in the Vedas, as the moonbeams strike the planet, giving it flavour. This is not understood by modern science.
Srila Prabhupada makes the following statements:
Prabhupada: It is better. [break]…the influence of the moon planet, the vegetation grows. Do they accept, the modern botanists, influence of moon planet?
Parivrajakacarya: All the farmers, they…
Prabhupada: They do believe?
Parivrajakacarya: They believe that. They plant certain seeds according to the moon.
Prabhupada: Just see.
Pradyumna: Even in the West, they only plant certain things on the waxing moon, not on the waning moon. On Sukla-Paksa.
Prabhupada: And the moon is vacant. By the influence of the moon, other vegetation is growing, and it cannot grow itself.
Hari-sauri: They admit that the moon rays have some kind of potency. They know that.
Prabhupada: No, it is stated in the Bhagavatam.
Consciousness energies are transformed, in the sense that their circumstances transform and bring them into new environments as different combinations of matter and ethereal energies. This transition happens on account of the consciousness association with matter and an ethereal plane, or in some cases a superior plane beyond the ethereal plane. But in the case of the former, the ethereal plane connects to the quantum plane of many possibilities, that eventually devolve into the classical four-dimensional space we inhabit which includes time, as former reactions to classical, quantum and ethereal connections play out for a given period of time.
Devotee (3): Srila Prabhupada, is the subtle bodies in the subtle world, are they made up of subtle atoms?
Prabhupada: Subtle body means subtle atoms. So, if we are in subtle body, whatever there is in the subtle body, everything is there.
The permanent shelter for consciousness, the Vedas indicate, is a world of quality and variety, with beauty and love and attraction, where consciousness expands in a form that is fit for a particular display of loving exchange. The ultimate transformation and sharing of experiences, which the Vedas call rasa, is of both the consciousness of the supreme consciousness and His other parts and parcels. This exchange takes place primarily between the origins of form and beauty, divinity Himself. He is a Personality who displays a full, unlimited and ever-increasing form and personality, which forever draws His parts, who now display the beauty of love toward Him in their respective forms, in ever increasing service and qualities.
Nothing is static here, the highest of all planes, where any of the consciousness particles can reside. The immaculate senses and beauty of divinity captivates the transcendental senses of His fully transcendentally formed parts, which take up residence, along with those who have never left His association, under the guidance of the personification of Divinities’ pleasure potency and Her expansions, or under the guidance and care of others who exhibit fully the five types of loving exchanges with divinity.
How it is possible for a tiny particle to reside with the supreme consciousness is explained by the founder and acharya of ISKCON Inc., A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
“So, in the animal life it is not possible to change one’s nature, which is given by the material energy, prakrti. Prakrteh kriyamanani [Bg. 3.27]. Karanam guna-sango ‘sya… Karanam guna-sangah asya sad-asad-janma-yonisu [Bg. 13.22]. Why? All living entities are part and parcel of God. Therefore, originally, the characteristic of a living entity is as good as God. Simply it is a question of quantity. Quality is the same. Mamaivamso jiva-bhutah [Bg. 15.7]. For example, if you take a drop of seawater, the quality, the chemical composition, is the same, but the quantity is different. It is a drop, and the sea is the vast ocean. Similarly, we are exactly of the same quality as Krishna.”
Our acharyas also indicate that in Krishna’s personal abode, His sweetness increases and His Majesty diminishes, thus enabling full, loving exchanges between the origins of consciousness and all His parts. This indeed is another inconceivable aspect of the Inconceivable Lord and Master of Consciousness.
Gauranga Sundar Das is Iskcon Inc Communication Director and SM IT Head.
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