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Mulayam Singh Yadav | The mud-pit wrestler who grappled with social realities on the political plane

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Through his nearly six-decade political journey, Netaji straddled regional and national politics on his own termsMulayam Singh Yadav | The mud-pit wrestler who grappled with social  realities on the political plane

The death of socialist leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, a leading light of alternate politics in India, brings the curtain down on this fast-diminishing breed of politicians who rose to the pinnacle from the grassroots with a spirit of accommodation.

Yadav, known by the sobriquet ‘Netaji’, remained a quintessential old-school politician who remained committed to the socialist stream as opposed to the dominant course set by the Congress and the Bharatiya Jana Sangh/Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Influenced by the work of Ram Manohar Lohia, after his death Yadav gravitated towards Chaudhary Charan Singh and his Bharatiya Lok Dal in Uttar Pradesh, the crucible of national politics.

It was Singh who launched the political career of this self-acclaimed mud-pit wrestler who converted his penchant for ‘Daav’ (wrestler’s gambit) into a successful political career first on the regional, and then on the national stage.

In a career spanning over half-a-century, Yadav was clear about his priorities to work towards empowerment of the backward classes and minorities through the route of political power.

In the process, at times his proclivity to align at different times with the Left and the Congress contributed in creating an image of a leader who tread his own path.

Through association in early days with the likes of Lohia and Singh, ingrained in him an anti-Congress stance. Towards the end of the 1990s, it transformed into creating the Rashtirya Kranti Morcha that laid the foundation for his Samajwadi Party in 1992.

Yadav realised the Congress was losing grip in Uttar Pradesh, and decided to occupy the space being vacated. He vowed to work and make the Congress a politically less relevant force. It is no surprise the last Congress government in the state ended its tenure in December 1989.

It is another matter that some 28 years later, in 2017, his son and party chief Akhilesh Yadav revised the position to join hands with the Congress under Rahul Gandhi.

It is ironic that during his lifetime, the SP did two political U-turns in UP. After the 2017 experiment, the party buried the hatchet to smoke the peace pipe with another arch-rival, the Bahujan Samaj Party ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The famed coming together of ‘Bua-Bhatija’ (aunt-nephew) duo of Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav could not prevent the BJP winning three-fourths of the 80 seats in UP.

The seeds of distrust between the BSP and the SP were sown in the mid-1990s. Having created a strong base for the party, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s first shot at power in the state came in 1993 forming a government with the BSP then under the leadership of party founder Kanshi Ram. Relations turned bitter after Mayawati levelled a serious charge of a dastardly and life-threatening attack against her by SP workers.

For the next two decades, the SP-BSP remained strident opponents, and in 1996 when the BSP had an opportunity to form a coalition government in UP, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav played a pivotal role in preventing it. By then he had acquired a national role as Defence Minister in the HD Deve Gowda-led United Front government.

The indifferent nature of relations with the Congress continued, and was pronounced. The SP was forced to sit out of any arrangement in 2004 when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance formed the government. The SP went into a sulk since it won 39 Lok Sabha seats, but counted little.

With Left too, the SP founder had his share of differences that were pronounced twice in the same decade. In 2002, Mulayam Singh Yadav walked out of the ‘Lok Morcha’ (Peoples’ Front) alliance of the Left parties, and the SP. The disagreement was over the choice of Captain Lakshmi Seghal in the election for the President of India with Yadav favouring APJ Abdul Kalam.

Then in 2008, Mulayam Singh Yadav heeded to the scientific reasoning of Kalam and decided to support the Manmohan Singh government on the India-US nuclear deal, an agreement that led the Left withdraw its outside support to the coalition government at the Centre.

These decisions left political watchers confused over the trajectory of SP politics just as his praise in Parliament for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s work and predicting a second term for him, confounded his supporters.

This in a way, reflected the old-school politician who accorded respect to opponents despite ideological differences. The spirit of accommodation and realising there was space for the other view in politics guided his policy, which otherwise remained committed to socialist ideals.

This author recalls an incident during 2002; while waiting at an airport I was having a conversation with the SP chief. Suddenly, Netaji raised his voice to scold a party leader asking, “What are you doing?” The party leader, who had just brought a cold beverage, mumbled, “Netaji, I was feeling thirsty…” only to be told “drink water”! Mulayam Singh Yadav returned to the conversation we were having, prefacing “We Samajwadis, do not consume such beverages".

Yet, towards the later part of the decade, while the SP came back to power on its own, it attracted adverse comments for the glitzy festivals at his native village Safai, with the Clintons as his guests on one occasion.

Through his nearly six-decade political journey, Netaji straddled regional and national politics on his own terms. He carried the flag of socialist ideals with Lohia as the guiding light, and took positions that could be at times be termed pragmatic. He ended the journey with the satisfaction of a seamless transfer of leadership to son Akhilesh Yadav, and empowerment of the larger Yadav clan.

With e₹, India joins the CBDC bandwagon

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The CBDCs can help in reducing operational costs in physical cash management, foster financial inclusion, and bring further innovation in the payments system without risksThe e₹ is on the way as RBI gears up for a pilot launch of its own digital  currency

From barter, shekel, metal including gold, silver, bronze, nickel, to paper to polymer, the form of money is now attempting to enter another new era by going digital through the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

As cryptocurrencies and stablecoins have become increasingly popular among young users, central banks around the world seem to believe that they need go digital on their currencies, and towards this have been issuing their own concept notes and in the early days of their experimentation phases. However, one needs to understand that the CBDCs and crypto assets are different — and cannot be compared.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on October 7 released a concept note on India’s Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had already announced earlier this year, that a digital rupee would be issued in 2022 or 2023 that will operate via blockchain or related technologies. The concept note comes at a time when India's crypto exchanges and the ecosystem has borne the severe brunt of higher taxes including high rate of TDS, an operational shadow ban on exchanges through payment systems all of which has indirectly pushed business and monies out of India into the hands of overseas exchanges, which seemed to have benefited the most.

For easier understanding, a CBDC is a ‘digital banknote�� that can be used by individuals for their retail requirements such as paying shops, businesses or between businesses or among financial institutions for their wholesale ones. A CBDC is a virtual money backed and issued by a central bank. The CBDCs are different from electronic payments such as UPI, wallet, NEFT, IMPS, RTGS, etc. as these are digital payments with banking solutions at their core. The liability of these account transfers lies with the corresponding government/commercial banks. Despite being called the sovereign equivalent of crypto assets, the CBDCs are centralised.

The RBI’s concept note has defined the CBDC as the legal tender issued by the central bank in a digital form, and referred to it as ‘e₹’. The RBI has also explained the objectives, choices, benefits, and risks of issuing a CBDC in India. The RBI has proposed to issue two versions: one for wholesale for interbank settlement, and the other for retail for the public. The RBI has also proposed that it will issue the e₹ but regular banks can distribute it. The RBI has also proposed the e₹ in its retail version to be token based, wherein one can find out the recipient’s public key, and transfer it using one’s private key. Anonymity has been proposed for small amounts only.

As per the Atlantic Council, today 105 countries, representing over 95 percent of global GDP, are exploring CBDCs of which 10 have fully launched, with China’s pilot set to expand in 2023. Of the G7 economies, the United States and the United Kingdom are most behind on CBDC development. Nineteen of the G20 countries are exploring a CBDC, with 16 already in development or pilot stage. Globally various efforts that involve multiple countries and banks have been underway from efforts like Multiple CBDC Bridge (mBridge), Project Dunbar, Project Helvetia, Project Jasper, Project Aber, Project Jura, Onyx/Multiple wCBDC etc. Bahamas was the first to issue the Sand Dollar CBDC three years ago.

It is, however, important to understand that in some countries a CBDC may be an important path to financial inclusion, while in case of others it may have other motivations. The CBDCs may also help support trade in another emerging area of NFTs.

The CBDCs can help in reducing operational costs in physical cash management, foster financial inclusion, and bring further innovation in the payments system without risks. It can be used for retail, wholesale, and international payments.

With each central bank around the world evolving its own use cases, concepts, and with certain banks and countries collaborating in their own way, there is a likelihood that the global financial system may face an interoperability issue, unless there is equal effort to work towards certain standards as well.

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