South India’s ‘Thalaiva’ Rajinikanth is making his political debut this year. He said ‘it is time’ as he declared in Chennai that he will form a new party rather than joining the existing ones. After, AIDMK’s imposing leader, J Jayalalithaa’s death last year, the political scene in Tamil Nadu went through several changes at the helm, but nobody could equate the stature of the iconic leader. And, with the grand entrance of Rajinikath, that may change, but maybe not. Who’s to say!
What is it? The number of security personnel deployed in Assam ahead of the release of the first draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which will be made available to the public on January 1.
Why is it important? The Indian government will use the register to determine who in Assam—a state with a large presence of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh—is a citizen of India and who is not. This is the first exercise of its kind since 1951. It was an election promise of the BJP before it won the state elections in 2016, and its publishing can cause unrest in a state where the issue of immigration has long been a bone of contention.
Tell me more: Because of the illegal immigrant issue, Assam also has the lowest enrolment among states for Aadhaar, the unique identification number for citizens: while most states are nearing 100%, Assam’s is just 8%.
What is it? The number of assembly constituencies of Tamil Nadu—meaning, all seats—from which iconic Tamil actor Rajinikanth’s party will contest the next Tamil Nadu elections.
Why is it important? On Sunday, Rajinikanth announced his entry into politics, adding to the political intrigue and churn in Tamil Nadu triggered by the death of AIADMK leader and then chief minister J Jayalalithaa in December 2016. The state has seen 3 chief ministers in the last 13 months. And though elections in the state are due only in 2021, the expectation is that, given the flux, they could happen sooner.
Tell me more: Tamil Nadu politics has been a good stage for actors, and a similar transition was made by Jayalalithaa and her mentor MG Ramachandran. In 1996, Rajinikanth had a brush with politics when he indirectly endorsed the DMK. “If Jayalalithaa is voted back to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu,” he had said. The AIADMK lost those elections.
What is it? The increase in price of Ripple, the cryptocurrency that is also known as XRP, on December 28.
Why is it important? On the back of this 50% increase, the market capitalisation of Ripple rose to a record $85 billion. It peaked at about $100 billion, and leapfrogged Ethereum ($72 billion) as the second most valuable cryptocurrency after Bitcoin. Designed for interbank payments and settlements, Ripple has about 100 banks signed on its platform, RippleNet, including Bank of America, RBC and UBS.
Tell me more: On December 28, the Indian finance ministry cautioned people on the risks of investing in virtual currencies, saying “they don’t have any intrinsic value”.
What is it? The number of games in the English Premier League (EPL) that Arsene Wenger has been in charge at Arsenal, following the football club’s latest game on Sunday against West Bromwich Albion.
Why is it important? That is an EPL record for the maximum number of games managed with a single club, in a single stint. This record was previously held by Alex Ferguson, who was in charge at Manchester United between 1992 and 2013, and whose career often crossed paths with that of Wenger’s.
Tell me more: Wenger joined Arsenal in October 1996. In his first 10 years, the club won three league titles. The last league title came in 2003-04, and the barren run has raised question marks over his future at the club.
What is it? The number of employees that Air India, the state-run airline, as of March 2016.
Why is it important? In a new year’s message to the airline’s staff, Pradeep Singh Kharola, who took over as India’s managing director and chairman in December, said “we have to perform if we do not want to perish”. Air India’s employee base is nearly twice that of IndiGo, though Air India’s revenues are only 24% more than that of IndiGo, which is one indicator of the efficiency gap.
Tell me more: The government has initiated the process of privatising Air India and its subsidiaries in 2018, and is looking to complete it in the next six to eight months.