Maya Elliott is the face of generation, a supermodel, and student by profession; she stands 5'11 inches tall and expands her influence in the fashion world, bringing together the sharpest female brains in the Fashion world. She is born and brought up in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
She has a great camera presence. Her look is flexible ranging from High Fashion, to Fitness/Lifestyle. She was scouted by IMG models and life has changed for since then as she is getting ready to be America’s next top model. She is represented by Ursula Wiedmann models in Women main board and they are specialised in finding amazing models and developing them to be the best models and talent they can be. She is in conversation with team Opinion Express.
First off tell us how you were “discovered” and how your modelling career all started?
I was discovered by IMG models through their Instagram campaign ‘WLYG’ and was shortly signed after that. It all started from there.
What kind of connection do you share with India, considering your Indian roots? Is there a bit of influence that Indian lineage gives to your food and culture choices?
My mom was born and brought up in India until she was thirteen so since I was little I have been introduced to the food and culture of India. Some of the customs and our family dynamics come from that Indian lineage.
Having walked for so many runway shows, you must have had lots of exposure in the high fashion, glamour side of the industry. Which would you say, has been your best show till date and why?
I liked the first show that I did, which was at the Americas mart in Atlanta because everything was so new and exciting and the adrenaline was pumping and all the clothes that I wore were amazing.
Was modelling something you always wanted to do, or did it just happen?
I would always watch reality Tv shows about modelling like America’s next top model and it always sparked an interest and then one day I just thought that it would be a cool thing to try to do and it’s been going since.
What do you do to stay in shape?
I try to stay in good shape by eating healthy, mainly home cooked meals and staying active by going to the gym and participating in sports.
Are you into watching Bollywood films? If yes who is your favourite actor?
I don’t watch as many Bollywood movies as I should but I love watching the music videos from the movies. Of course everyone knows Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra but I also like Deepika (who doesn’t?) and Alia Bhatt even though she’s technically British.
For the gentlemen I like SRK and Salman Khan. I also like Jishu Sengupta because my mom is Bengali and she watches Bengali movies too.
Do we also see an actress in Maya Elliott? Is acting in your bucket? If yes what kind of characters do you desire to play?
As far as acting is concerned, it’s surely on my list in the future. Atlanta has a lot of movies and television shows that are shot here and I can start out as an extra and move into other supporting roles. I have to wait till I turn 18 because of my height I can’t pass for a teenager. In order to play an adult role I have to be 18. So let’s see what happens over the next year. There are a lot of possibilities but I think I would do better in a comedic/light role rather than a dramatic one.
(The writer is Nithya Ramesh, Bureau Chief – Fashion & Entertainment Desk)
Suneet Sharma on Friday took over the charge as new Railway Board Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Indian Railways and ex-officio Principal Secretary to the government, officials said. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet had approved the appointment of Sharma as Chairman and CEO of the Railway Board on Thursday.
Prior to this, Sharma worked as the General Manager of Eastern Railway since September 2019. Sharma joined the Indian Railways in 1979 as a Special Class Apprentice while he was studying engineering at IIT Kanpur.
According to railway ministry officials, Sharma, a graduate in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering has more than 40 years of experience in serving in the Indian Railways in various capacities. He has done stints in operational working, maintenance in sheds, depots and workshops.
He was Chief Workshop Manager, Parel workshop in Mumbai where he was instrumental in manufacturing narrow gauge locomotives for hill railways. He also restored old steam narrow gauge locomotive for the heritage Matheran line near Mumbai.
"During the 2006 Mumbai suburban train blasts, he was part of the team which put the suburban network on track within a few hours after the terror attack," ministry official said.
As ADRM, Mumbai CST, he is credited with increasing the services of the suburban network, which is considered the life-line of Mumbai. "During the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, he was part of the team that managed the aftermath of the attacks at Mumbai CST, Central Railway," the official said.
The official said as DRM, Pune he was instrumental in adding infrastructure which brought about operational efficiency. As Chief Mechanical Engineer Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi he was a team leader for starting the electric locomotive production. Conversion of diesel to electric locomotives took place under his leadership in a record time and for the first time anywhere in the world.
As General Manager Modern Coach Factory, Raebareli, he set a record by doubling the out turn of the much required modern passenger coaches in one year. During his stint as the General Manager of Eastern Railway, he took initiative in increasing the speed of goods trains to a record level and for completing a number of infrastructure projects of new lines and electrification which not only resulted in operational efficiency but developed the local areas. He is known for bringing about systemic changes for ease of working and administrative reforms.
Sharma in his three decade long career has won many professional awards. As General Manager (Modern Coach Factory Raebareli) and Chief Mechanical Engineer (Banaras Locomotive Works)) the factories won the award for best production units.
Sharma has attended professional training in Germany and France and he has done an advanced leadership and management course at Carnegie Mellon University in the US. He has visited Iran as a consultant for manufacture of locomotives.
He is also an avid sportsman and has played Billiards and Snooker at competitive levels. He is also a keen golfer and a badminton and squash player.
Chennai, Dec 31 (IANS) The priority for the year 2021 will be to usher in increased space sector reforms by putting in place a permanent Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) and other sectoral policies, said K.Sivan, Secretary, Department of Space (DoS). Sivan is also the Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Space Commission.
He said an interim IN-SPACe, which was set up, has received 28 applications from the private sector companies -- small and big -- startups, and academic institutions for various space related activities. The IN-SPACe is the regulator for the private sector space industry players in India. It would also provide a level playing field for private companies to use Indian space infrastructure. "We want to install the IN-SPACe next year. The existing space related policies are being modified or new one brought in," Sivan added.
As per current scheme of things, IN-SPACe will have its own directorates for technical, legal, safety and security, monitoring as well as activities promotion for assessing the private sector's needs and coordination of the activities. IN-SPACe would have a board and representatives from industry, academia and the government.
Till date, the DoS has also come out with three draft policies -- Draft Space Based Communication Policy of India 2020 (Spacecom Policy-2020), Draft Space Based Remote Sensing Policy and Revised Technology Transfer Policy Guidelines -- to enable the private sector to play a greater role in the space field. A policy for launch vehicles or rockets, space exploration and also a comprehensive Space Act will also be announced, Sivan had said earlier.
According to him the other priority areas for 2021 will be the Gaganyaan mission (India's human space mission), third moon mission-Chandrayaan-3, development of high thrust launcher, advanced satellites, electrical propulsion for satellites, realisation of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV). Sivan said the liquid fuel powered engine for the Gaganyaan rocket was tested. "The crew module design phase is over," he added.
Earlier Sivan had said Team ISRO has a busy schedule ahead for the launch of Aditya L1 satellite, third moon mission Chandrayaan-3, Gaganyaaan -- India's human space mission, and realisation of small rocket Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV). He also said the SSLV will carry EOS-02 (Earth Observation Satellite), and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-F10 (GSLV) carrying EOS-3.
The other Indian satellites that are ready for launch are GISAT and Microsat-2A.
New Delhi, Dec 18 (IANS) Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur, who comes from Himachal Pradesh, has an understanding of farm issues. He provides the government's point of view on the contentious farm laws which have seen farmers laying siege to Delhi. Minister strongly supports the new farms laws and he is sure that through new laws, the promise to double the farmers income is possible.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Farmers are apprehensive that the government will withdraw completely from purchasing farm produce and leave it entirely open to the private sector. The corporates, n turn, will purchase a small portion of the total produce "as per the high standards which can be manipulated" and the remaining crop will get paid only a pittance...
A: The government is not going to withdraw purchasing farm produce and we are not doing away with the Minimum Support Price (MSP) scheme. This has rightly been called as the 1991 moment for the agricultural sector in India.
Under The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, farmers will be freed from the grip of the middleman, and they will be able to sell their produce to the buyers from across the country at a price they deem to be fair and at a time of their choosing.
Meanwhile, under The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, farmers can opt for contract farming with agriculture trade firms, wholesalers, big retailers and exporters. The provision of market linkages at the sowing stage itself will insulate them from production and price vagaries.
Through these Acts, we are enabling the farmers to produce as per their will and convenience and that they should not be bound by selling only to the APMCs. The farmer should have the control over his crop and he should have the right to decide the price of the crop. These Acts will be the catalysts to the promise we made to the nation of doubling farmer's income by 2022.
Q: The sugarcane farmers particularly were upset, thousands committed suicide and successive governments have promised assistance, but nothing happened. Is Modi government simply doing lip service?
A: The Modi government is not only committed to increasing farmers' incomes, but also their welfare. The last Cabinet Committee headed by the Prime Minister approved an assistance of about Rs 3,500 crore for sugarcane farmers. This will benefit five crore sugarcane farmers and their dependents.
In addition to this, there are about five lakh workers employed in the sugar mills and ancillary activities; and their livelihoods depend on the sugar industry.
Farmers sell their sugarcane to the sugar mills. However, the farmers are not getting their dues from the sugar mill owners as they have surplus sugar stock. To address this concern, the government is facilitating the evacuation of surplus sugar stock. This will enable payment of dues of the sugarcane farmers. The government will incur about Rs 3,500 crore for this purpose, and this assistance would be directly credited into the farmers' accounts on behalf of the sugar mills against cane price dues and the subsequent balance, if any, would be credited to the mill's account.
This subsidy aims at covering expenses on marketing costs including handling, upgrading and other processing costs and costs of international and internal transport and freight charges on export of up to 60 LMT of sugar limited to Maximum Admissible Export Quota (MAEQ) allocated to the sugar mills for sugar season 2020-21.
Q: You claim to ensure farmers' welfare, yet farmers are on the streets. Either they are misled or your schemes and assurances are like hollow promises. What do you have to say?
A: A few farmers have been misled by the opposition parties. The majority of the farmers have benefited and understand our various initiatives. Since 2014, Soil Health Card has increased productivity levels, provided e-NAM facility to sell produce and set up cold storage facilities apart from opening mega food parks.
We have also provided PM Kisan Maandhan Yojana with an assured monthly pension of Rs 3,000. This is a voluntary pension scheme, where the government will match the monthly contribution and it will also be payable to the farmer's spouse in case of death. Already over 21 lakh farmers have registered for this.
PM KISAN is another flagship initiative that has already benefited around 11 crore farmers with a disbursement of over Rs 95,000 crore. Besides this, the Fasal Beema Yojana, increase in MSP rates and procurement -- all these have immensely increased farmers' welfare, income and productivity. Will the opposition explain why they did not do any of these while in power or in the states they are in power? Clearly, facts speak louder than the opposition's myth mongering.
Q: What was the hurry in introducing farmer-related issues as ordinances in the month of June? The issues concerning lakhs of farmers deserved to be brought in as bills for the opposition to debate them before they were passed. Why did you not allow questions to be raised on the 'anti-farmer' provisions in the bills?
A: Let's go by hard facts. During 2009-2014, the budget allocation for agriculture increased by a meagre 8.5 per cent. From 2014-2019, the Modi government took it much higher - an increase of 38.8 per cent. Those people who accuse the BJP government of being anti-poor have no facts to back their rhetoric. We have been standing with our farmer brothers and sisters and these Acts are a watershed moment in India's agricultural history.
After decades of toil and struggle, our farmers finally have the the option of choice; to choose what they produce, when they produce, whom to sell, at what price to sell. This all is in addition to the MSP scheme which will guarantee a minimum support price for their produce no matter what.
The Indian agricultural sector remained malnourished because of the archaic APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) Acts. The mandis which were meant to help and protect the farmers instead became monopolies and benefited only them and not the farmers.
By opposing the passing of these historic Agri Acts in the Parliament, the hypocrisy and the duplicitous nature of the Congress gets exposed. Why? Because in their 2019 manifesto, the Congress had clearly said they "will repeal the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act and make trade in agricultural produce - including exports and inter-state trade - free from all restrictions".
Lastly, on the issue of this Parliamentary session, it is a fact that this session witnessed 167 per cent productivity, with 60 hours of sittings, 2,300 questions and 370 zero hour mentions. In fact, the House on multiple occasions debated and sat late into the night. Why did the opposition parties not participate in the debates during the session? Why did they create disruption instead of having a democratic debate?
Q: Farmers apprehend that the government is making false claims about the provision for the continuance of the MSP system. Out of the listed 23 crops, in Punjab, MSP is paid only for wheat, paddy and cotton. Does the government guarantee that in case farmers do not get the MSP from traders, the government will buy all the listed crops at MSP?
A: The 70th round of NSSO on Key Indicators of Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households in India shows that only six per cent of farmers gain from MSPs. The archaic and regressive laws did not allow the markets to function and thereby only the rich farmers benefited from the earlier laws.
We had recently released the first instalment of over Rs 19,000 crore for paddy procurement in three states under the MSP scheme. We also announced the MSPs for six rabi crops of 2020-21 which are in line with the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission.
Wheat MSP for the rabi crop of 2020-21 has been fixed at Rs 1,975 per quintal - 2.6 per cent higher than Rs 1,925 in 2019-20. MSP for lentil (masur) has been fixed at Rs 5,100 per quintal - 6.25 per cent or Rs 300 higher than in 2019-20.
The MSP for gram has been increased to Rs 5,100 per quintal - Rs 225 or 4.62 per cent higher than last year. MSP for safflower has been increased to Rs 5,327 per quintal - hiked by Rs 112 or 2.15 per cent over last year. MSP for barley has seen an increase of Rs 75 (4.92 per cent) from Rs 1,525 per quintal in 2019-20 to Rs 1,600 in 2020-21.
The increase in MSP for Rabi crops for marketing season 2021-22 is in line with the principle of fixing the MSPs at a level of at least 1.5 times of the all-India weighted average cost of production as announced in the Union Budget 2018-19.
Q: How will the government ensure that the private sector pays the MSP when even the government was not doing so in letter and spirit?
A: In spite of the rumour mongering and the underhanded tactics of the opposition to falsely portray fear, the Prime Minister and the Agriculture Minister have clarified that the system of MSP will remain and government procurement will continue.
These Acts, meanwhile, empower the farmers to do business with those private companies that they want and they have no compulsion to accept any contracts which they do not agree with. The imperfectness of the markets was a reason for the poor growth of the agricultural sector. We are giving options to the farmers, no one is compelling them to choose one or the other. If a farmer thinks the APMC mechanism is good, he can opt for it; if he wants to sell his produce to a private company, he should be free to do so. These Agri Acts have empowered the farmers with the power of choice.
By removing the barriers, farmers all across the country can sell their produce wherever they want. This will promote inter-state trade and the farmers will get the right price for their produce. We are also strengthening the agricultural infrastructure and we have announced a Rs 1 lakh crore fund for the same. This fund will facilitate the development of agricultural infrastructure, that includes collection centres, warehouses, storage centres, cold chains, and pre-processing facilities, among others. Funds for the development of the animal husbandry and fisheries sector have also been launched to diversify the sources of farmers' income.
Q: Can the protests of the farmers all across the country be termed unjust? Shouldn't the farmers be given a patient hearing?
A: Do not underestimate the intelligence of our farmers. We have had several rounds of discussions with the Agriculture Minister and we will clarify all the concerns being raised by the farmers.
We have our ears to the ground and have been listening to the farmers. Farmers across the nation are happy and pleased with these Acts. Visit any part of rural India and you will get the real picture.
These are Acts which will alter the agricultural sector as we know it and will bring a paradigm shift in the way the farmers have been doing their business. With the emergence of agri-tech startups and the government being committed to improving the infrastructure side by side, the focus is solely now on increasing the farmers' income and improving their standard of living.
Our doors are always open for our farmer brothers and sisters and we will always pay heed to their concerns as these Acts are for their prosperity and for their benefits. They are the biggest stakeholders in our 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' vision and their interests are Modi government's priority.
Q: Farmers feel that they have not been involved at any time during the decision-making process on an issue which affects their lives. They say before formulation of the policies, they were not consulted at all. Your comments?
A: Again, let's go by facts. We have at every stage been in touch with the farmers. In fact, the Prime Minister has spoken about them around 25 times! The total number of training and webinar sessions conducted with farmers were over 1,30,000 reaching out to over 92,00,000 farmers between June and November 2020.
We have been in touch with the farmers across the nation. Moreover, as I shared already, the Acts were passed after hours of discussion in both the Houses of the Parliament. The farmers all across the country have suffered because of their inability to produce and sell independently. We have already created 2,000-plus Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) and 10,000 more are in the works with a budgetary allocation of Rs 5,000 crore.
Over 1,000 agri startups, driven by young technology graduates, have been created and over 20,000 agri clinics have been made possible by agriculture graduates. We need these reforms now more than ever before for these start ups to prosper which will benefit the farmers the most.
No amount of scare mongering will take away the fact that it is the government led by PM Narendra Modi that dismantled monopolies of the APMCs and began a new era for the farmers.
Q: Why are electricity and fertiliser subsidies being taken away and farmers being told that they will be compensated later? Can the government deny that the state and the Central finance departments struggle for funds? So, what is the guarantee for farmers getting refunded later? Many subsidies like those on polyhouses have not been cleared...
A: We have not taken away any electricity and fertiliser subsidies. Instead, since 2013-14, MSP for wheat and paddy has increased by 41 ore cent and 43 per cent, respectively, while there has been up to 65 per cent rise in MSP for pulses and oilseeds.
The quantity of wheat and paddy procured has also increased by 73 per cent and 114 per cent, respectively, compared to 2014. In the case of pulses, the increase has been a staggering 4,962 per cent.
Increased agriculture credit, higher loan subsidy, and soil health card to 16.38 crore farmers have benefited farmers across the nation. The Modi government has also provided security cover to 13.26 crore farmers under the PM crop insurance scheme and direct cash benefit of Rs 94,000 crore to 10.21 crore farmers through the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi.
New Delhi, Dec 21 (IANS) Vineet Agarwal, the Managing Director of logistics major Transport Corporation of India Limited (TCIL), has taken over as the new President of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).
He replaced Niranjan Hiranandani, co-founder and Managing Director of Hiranandani Group of Companies, who has completed his tenure at the chamber during its centenary year.
Apart from being the first head of a logistics company and one of the youngest industry captains to be appointed as the chief of an apex industry body in India, Agarwal is also the founding national President of Young Leaders Council at the All India Management Association.
Sumant Sinha, Chairman and Managing Director of ReNew Power, India's leading clean energy company, has been appointed the new Senior Vice President of ASSOCHAM.
New Delhi/Washington, Dec 22 (IANS) US President Donald Trump has presented America's highest military decoration, The Legion of Merit, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership and vision under which India's emergence as a global power has accelerated and for elevating strategic partnership of the two countries.
Official sources said, The Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, bestowed on Prime Minister Modi on behalf of the President, is a rarely-awarded, prestigious decoration that can only be bestowed by Trump, typically to heads of state or heads of government of other countries.
India's Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, accepted the award on behalf of the Prime Minister from the US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien at the White House.
The citation with the award states: "For exceptionally meritorious service as the Prime Minister of the Republic of India from May 2014 to August 2020. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's steadfast leadership and vision have accelerated India's emergence as a global power and elevated the strategic partnership between the US and India to address global challenges. Prime Minister Modi's personal engagement expanded US-India ties across all facets of the relationship, helping to establish a strong foundation for an enduring partnership that is based on shared commitment to freedom, democratic principles, the equal treatment of all citizens, and the rule of law.
"India is a key partner for the US in the Indo-Pacific, where the two countries are increasing collaboration to ensure freedom of the seas, open and transparent investment and infrastructure development, secure and reliable digital networks, and good governance."
In a glowing tribute, the citation adds: "Prime Minister Modi's personal initiative strengthened the defence partnership between the United States and India, enhancing the US' ability to secure joint military cooperation that addressed shared challenges. His efforts to expand India's economic cooperation with the US has advanced prosperity, investment and job creation in both countries.
"Prime Minister Modi's superior effort, personal leadership, and unwavering commitment to advancing strategic cooperation between the United States and India and promoting global peace and prosperity reflect great credit upon himself, the Indian armed forces, and his country."
The Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander is a domed five-pointed American white star plaque of heraldic form bordered in purplish-red enamel 215/16 inches circumscribing diameter with 13 white stars on a blue field emerging from a circle of clouds; backing the star, a laurel wreath with pierced, crossed arrows pointing outward between each arm of the star and the wreath. The reverse is engraved with the words 'United States of America'.
In September this year, after a very long gap, President Donald Trump awarded the Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, to Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Amir of the State of Kuwait.
The decoration was last awarded in 1991.
In happy tidings, Mukesh and Nita Ambani on Thursday announced that they have become grandparents for the first time as their son Akash and daughter-in-law Shloka gave birth to a baby boy.
"With the grace and blessings of Lord Krishna, Shloka and Akash Ambani became proud parents of a baby boy today in Mumbai," the RIL family said in a brief statement.
Shloka (Mehta) and Akash were married at a glittering ceremony in Mumbai on March 9, 2019, with the who's who from the world of business, politics, Bollywood, cricket along with international celebs coming to bless the young couple.
"Nita and Mukesh Ambani are delighted to have become grandparents for the first time, as they welcome the great-grandson of Dhirubhai and Kokilaben Ambani," the overjoyed family said today.
"Shloka and Akash Ambani became proud parents of a baby boy today (Dec. 10) in Mumbai. Both mother and son are doing well," the Indian business's first couple added.
The new arrival has brought immense joy to the Mehta and Ambani families, they said, even as social media erupted in jubilation with congratulatory messages flooding from all over.
Chennai, Dec 3 (IANS) Today's movie stars are tomorrow's political leaders and Chief Ministerial aspirants -- that is the trend in Tamil Nadu. The latest to join that club is actor Rajinikanth, who on Thursday announced his decision to float a political party in January 2021.
With this Rajinikanth puts an end to various speculations about his plunge into Tamil Nadu politics. Announcing this in a tweet he added: "In the upcoming assembly polls, with people's massive support, in Tamil Nadu, an honest, transparent corruption less, secular and spiritual politics is sure to happen." "Miracle, Wonder will happen," he added.
Speaking to reporters here Rajinikanth said: "The time has come to change the fate of Tamil Nadu. Political and government change in the state important. It will surely change. The political change is important and is compulsion of time. If not now, it is not possible ever. Everything has to be changed. We will change everything." He appealed to all to support him to bring in the change. "I am just a small instrument in the change. If I win then it is people's victory," he added.
With five chief ministers in the last five decades from the Tamil movie world, the way to the political power in Tamil Nadu is through tinsel town. Five of the state's chief ministers - C.N. Annadurai, M. Karunanidhi, M.G. Ramachandran (MGR), Janaki Ramachandran and J. Jayalalitha - had their roots in filmdom, while several other actors showed an interest in politics.
However, the trend of movie hero turning into a mass political leader was started by MGR who broke away from DMK and to float All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and went on to become the state Chief Minister. In the upcoming 2021 Tamil Nadu assembly polls, the movie heroes who will be contesting would be: Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan and A. Vijaykant. While Annadurai and Karunanidhi were involved in writing the story, screenplay and dialogues of movies, it was MGR who became the first actor-turned-Chief Minister.
The state has seen and is seeing several actor-turned-politicians like the late Sivaji Ganesan, T. Rajendar, M. Karthik, Vijayakanth with the DMDK, Sarathkumar with his All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi, Director and actor Seeman with his Naam Tamilar Katchi and recently Kamal Haasan floating the MNM.
There are several other actors like R. Ramarajan, Vagai Chandrasekhar, Napoleon, Khushbu, C.R. Saraswathi, Anantharaaj, Radha Ravi and others who have joined the AIADMK, the DMK and the BJP. Barring MGR and Jayalalithaa, no other actor has captured power in the state fighting elections.
In 1972 MGR broke away from DMK and floated AIADMK and in 1977 captured power in the state in 1977. He continued to be the state Chief Minister till his death in 1987. He was succeeded by his wife Janaki Ramachandran and latter by J. Jayalalithaa, a popular heroine in Tamil movies. In 2005, Vijaykant, an action hero known to perform stunts in movies without a double, floated his DMDK party as an alternative to the two dominant Dravidian parties -- the AIADMK and the DMK.
"Vijaykant had his fan club in nook and corner of the state. The set up was great and it was converted into a political party. He had developed the fan club like a political party set up," political analyst Kolahala Srenivaas told IANS. When he fought the 2006 assembly polls alone without aligning with any party, the DMDK notched up an impressive vote share, better than even the established MDMK and PMK.
In the 2006 assembly polls the party contested in all the 234 assembly elections and got about 10 per cent vote share. Barring Vijayakant who won from Virudhachalam seat, all other party candidates lost the polls. Then DMDK became a most sought after party for alliance, more so for DMK.
Alinging with AIADMK in 2011, the DMDK became the second largest party in the assembly and Vijaykant became the Leader of the Opposition. Later the party witnessed dissensions and some long time office bearers broke away. The party now has lost its steam with Vijayakant's health not up to the mark. Over the years the DMDK's vote share has come down.
In 2018, Kamal Haasan floated his Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) party in Madurai. The party contested independently in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and got about four per cent vote share while all the party candidates lost. In 2021 assembly polls the party plans to contest lead by Kamal Haasan.
The other action hero Sarath Kumar floated The All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi in 2007. The party mostly contested in alliance with AIADMK and its own vote share is not known. The other notable politician import from Tamil movie world is Seeman who has floated Naam Tamilar Katchi. The party has been contesting in the polls without aligning with any other party.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls Naam Tamilar Katchi had polled four per cent, logging three per cent vote growth over the earlier assembly polls. "In terms of growth, it is only Kamal Haasan's MNM and Seeman's Naam Tamilar Katchi has the growth opportunity. While MNM can cut into urban votes of other parties-mainly DMK-Seeman's party can gain in the rural areas," a political analyst not wanting to be quoted told IANS.
But such a scenario is bound to change with the entry of Rajinikanth the latest movie hero to enter the state politics. "He is super caste neutral. He can attract all voter segments - urban, rural, apolitical, small, micro communities. It is going to impact all the parties," the analyst added.
The next probable actor in the political line could be Vijay. However last month he distanced himself from the political party floated by his father and movie director S.A. Chandrasekhar. Vijay urged his fans not to join or serve the party just because his father started. The actor said there is no connection between his father's party and his fan's movement. "I also hope that appropriate action will be taken against them if they engage in any activities involving my name or photo or the name of Vijay Makkal Iyakkam," Vijay had said.
Perhaps, the Congress is in its lost year indeed. Perhaps that’s the trigger for that emboldening moment among its legacy holders to rescue the party. Electorally, it is quite done with trying to make a difference. Organisationally, it has been torn asunder like never before. And now an era that justified its bigness and relevance has ended with the passing away of two of its senior and indispensable leaders, Ahmed Patel and Tarun Gogoi. Both were organisation builders who used dissent as an opportunity to strengthen and glue the party further. But Patel’s loss is indeed irreplaceable as the Congress has lost its Chanakya. And the Gandhis, their lone warrior and the gatekeeper, who kept them safe and convinced everybody else that the party indeed needed them. A self-effacing man, who masterminded the shrewdest backroom strategies, he ran the party much like the late Pranab Mukherjee ran the Government under successive Gandhis, from Indira to Sonia. But he never let his ambition show unlike the latter, helming the party through crisis after crisis, propping up Governments with coalition partners when the numbers seemed impossible, raising funds and building a worth that would be bigger than any chair. He became the party, the Gandhis the representable face. That doesn’t mean he was a courtier, far from it. Or that he was shy, being socially one of the most accessible of Congressmen. He was just sagacious and discreet that made him the most trustworthy leader and the party’s ablest troubleshooter. He got the job done. A fact that he put to good use to build connections within the party and outside. He was accessible to cadres, had his ear to the ground and addressed their grievances, a quality that junior leaders are yet to imbibe, believing in data analytics than the human connect. A failing described by the well-meaning and weathered senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad as “five-star” culture. In fact, Patel was the bridge in the perennial tussle between the old guard and the young Turks, between the Congress and its allies in the coalition era and between the party and the Opposition. And he endeared himself to corporates, a fact that even compelled Rahul Gandhi to bring him in as Treasurer though the latter was not too close to him unlike his parents. Patel never went public, choosing to settle matters in private, his last manoeuvre being calming the 23 senior “letter writers” and keeping the party leadership out of an ugly spat. In short, he embodied all that held the Congress together. And he had deep political foresight, winning the Bharuch seat swearing loyalty to Indira Gandhi in 1977, post-Emergency, when the tide was against her even in her own party. Rajiv Gandhi noticed his deliverer capabilities and made him party general secretary, a most wanted post back then. Then he became part of the first family circle. Obviously, he was left out in the cold after Rajiv’s assassination but he never embarrassed PV Narasimha Rao despite being sidelined or chorused the then Prime Minister’s critics. He had that stabilising quality. By the time Sonia Gandhi warmed up to politics and was ready for the 2004 Lok Sabha election, Patel became her strategist and advisor, finding relevant talk points in the campaign that demolished the “India Shining” blitz by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government. And despite the Modi wave, Patel made sure that the Congress at least had a moral victory by narrowing the BJP’s margins in the Gujarat Assembly elections or clinching his own Rajya Sabha victory. But the best part was that for all the Congress’ appeasement politics, Patel never ever played the Muslim card himself. Personal heft and consensus-building were also the virtues of Tarun Gogoi, who steadied the party’s presence in Assam in the post-militancy years as Chief Minister, ensuring development, peace and growth and rescuing a ravaged State from the brink. Both these stalwarts did pull the party out of its morass and kept it on course.
The problem with the Congress now is that none of them is around to steer it back. The senior leaders are understandably adrift, unable to convince the leadership that the party should now give up the culture of nomination and restore organisational democracy first before renewing and rebuilding itself. Sonia, bereft of fresh ideas and now Patel, continues to be reluctant about anything that could challenge the continuity of the Gandhi bloodline at the helm of affairs. And with divisions so sharp, anybody with a prescriptive formula to revive it is usually considered a rebel than a well-meaning loyalist or dismissed as a defector, usually to the other national party. Yet the dynastic entitlement has outlived its purpose in a politically empowered India, one that sees no potential in the leadership of Sonia’s children but would certainly believe in a rebuilt party. The Congress last held CWC elections 1998 and holding one now would keep the field workers and grassroots leaders invested in the party. All of them are currently cut off by a sedimentary layer of loyal courtiers, who are interested in simply playing along as long as their posts are secure. Yet State leaders like Chhattisgarh’s Bhupesh Baghel and Punjab’s Amarinder Singh have proven that they are able organisers and can even articulate and take a stand on national issues. If the Congress wants to stick around, this is its last chance to self-correct, rise above ego, value honest counsel and appear selfless in the interest of a larger political legacy. Unless its leadership just wants to exist for the sake of it. Dynastic stubbornness would have to give way to reason, wisdom and reconciliation. And if Rahul Gandhi still wants the adulation, he has to earn the confidence of the rank and file to be elected, not foisted, in the hardest of times. At least, he would have made a brave choice.
Shakila Makandar is a passionate entrepreneur. Having divorced at a young age and stepping out of an abusive relationship backed by religiously opinionated people, Shakila decided to withdraw from such false life. Pursued her studies that was halfway through and completed Diploma in Electronics and Telecommunications. Her passion for studies was too high but scope of getting sponsored for higher education was extremely low. Therefore, as she kept working, she completed her arts graduation with specialisation in history: the love for stories. It was a big shift but the bigger one came when after spending few years in corporate world, when she started her own venture. Today, she runs Orane Intelli Solutions with more than 60 employees and her Delhi based Marketing venture called Bromide, it is an end-to-end marketing solutions provider. Her journey so far has been inspiring to lot of people from various parts of the country and organizations she’s engaged in over the decade. She believes in individuality and equality that is as important to self-esteem. Excerpts from her interview with Opinion Express.
You have been an entrepreneur for more than a decade. What led you to taking that first step and setting up your own business?
I have been entrepreneur by birth, its in my head that I am an entrepreneur but it took me many years to discover. I kept exploring new avenues during my initial days of writing, poetry, traveling, and everything that meant nothing those days. Just passion of being on my own. I don't have more than four years of working experience. In perseverance of freedom of thought and action, I set foot in Mumbai to do something on my own will, something very independent, something that doesn't bind me. Initially, I was just trying to pick the work I enjoy doing but very soon I figured out that a venture of my own would make good sense. It was too early for the times that I started. I say this thing because I couldn’t find ways and means of independent women into technology business per say. Looking back, I feel it was a right decision because there's a lot of experience that I have gathered. And it truly makes me feel very nice that I'm an entrepreneur eventually.
Tell us something about your journey as an entrepreneur
Over the years, especially the past decade has been a roller coaster ride. I've had a true entrepreneurial journey, like they say, a full life cycle from start to fall and rise high. And then to see all the dark sides that one would anyway experience in business, some bad decisions, some bad influences, some unnecessary sacrifices, unforeseeable troubles etc. For example, in initial years, I thought having people with lot of experience, coming from big companies and with sound professional background in your team meant value addition to the organization in terms of more business, systematic and process driven execution etc., that was naivety but today, I am a mature entrepreneur, I have very passionate resource contributing a lot more to the company even though they don’t carry experience in their profiles or degrees holders from IIMs and IITs are naturally part of team now. My only determination is, “I can do it”. And I did it with almost little or no experience just by driving the team passionately towards quality service. Today we are self-sufficient and self-reliant organization working with same passion and enthusiasm, mixed set of team and happy associations internationally.
For me, a project is means working on a fast track mode. No project means a holiday for the entire team. Efficiency and process-oriented methods on a project delivery is critical. These are few things that I follow. These are my key learnings. I am happy and proud that every single team member who have been with us ever since, have settled in very good places, organization and positions in life.
What were the major challenges you faced as a young woman entrepreneur?
In my head, I was just another human being who wanted to do something on her own. But the world made me realise I was woman and that too a young woman. I’ve been sized and gazed upon many times. The funniest question I was once asked was, “how are you doing the business, you're too young to be doing an IT business?”. In, 2010-11 nobody even thought that somebody who's never been in business, hardly worked and has been living a free lifestyle in Mumbai would think of a serious business like IT, but I had to, and I did. Second thing they couldn't believe is the size of projects that we use to execute. Like, large manufacturing units, large retail conglomerate, some of the world's top companies. We did not make great margins, but they were some of the finest projects that we executed. In all these years I realised that being an entrepreneur itself was challenging but more so for a woman entrepreneur. And now I think it's all subsided because I have learned to tell NO, to stick to business conversation, talk work and leave the rest for another day.
On the international levels, it was worst. People had issues in understanding how I am so open minded, I'm too straightforward. I could tell men straight on their faces - can we just get straight to business? Or, sorry, I am not interested in any conversation. It's okay. I don't need your business. I've been that straight. Therefore, we do not have great number of prospects perhaps. Nonetheless, whatever we've done, is good and so far, commendable for the whole team. My ideology on success is executing each project to its glory, every project is as important as my first client. I've had my own share of hurdles being a woman entrepreneur, but today I’m sure it’s a different story.
How has lockdown affected start-ups like yours?
I don't think so it's greatly affected us because our success is with success of project, not with the success of the market. We were able sustain and execute projects at the same speed as it did in the past. In fact, we've had increased quality leads and inquiries with least pressure on sales pitch. Our team has grown and had added much better team to work with. So not that COVID has affected us greatly. We have lost some very good projects that were part of the pipeline from the Middle East, Europe and other parts of Asia and Africa. But otherwise, regionally we’ve been performing well. COVID also has given ease of operations. I think, in fact, more and more start-ups have come in the market during this crisis.
What is your advice to woman who are planning to start business?
To all the women, I always say- We women are blessed. We are natural entrepreneurs. We are natural administrators; it comes to us from our homes. We have managed a lot of relationships, in our own ways without being charged, it's innate in us. The same qualities out in the market, people look at you as somebody very vulnerable. Personally, let me tell you that many times I have been offered lucrative, enticing, quick buck offers; coming from various places because I was a woman, and everybody thinks women are easier option to deal with. But I could not ever succumb to such offers. They tend to impose themselves and manipulate your inner self. So, for all the women entrepreneurs, all I have to say is, hold your head high, no matter what you're doing. You only have course correction, when you set your foot on the journey. You need to patiently do what you are already doing and wait. Keep learning during the course. Don't get succumb to any situation. Work with open mind t known weakness, Self-motivate- I'm going to work on it. Gather your strength; Say- I'm going to be better at it. Every new business is important, but not every new person has to be important. So, keep your intuitions strong. Keep your gut feeling strong.
Elon Musk’s year of dizzying ascents hit a new apex Monday as the Tesla Inc. co-founder passed Bill Gates to become the world’s second-richest person.
The 49-year-old entrepreneur’s net worth soared $7.2 billion to $127.9 billion, driven by yet another surge in Tesla’s share price. Musk has added $100.3 billion to his net worth this year, the most of anyone on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a ranking of the world’s 500 richest people. In January he ranked 35th.