Tuesday 28th October 2014 06:41 EDT

Devendra Fadnavis is the BJP’s rising star, a brilliant speaker of whom great things are expected as Maharashtra’s next chief minister. The BJP bested the local Shiv Sena, whose principal wing, led by Uddhav Thackeray, came an honourable second, while its rival wing, headed by cousin Raj Thackeray limped near the bottom and is clearly destined for the political wilderness. Uddhav Thackeray gained from his outreach to non-Maratha communities and minority faiths. The party has moved on from its former brand of Maratha xenophobia and intolerance of peoples from diverse parts of India residing in Mumbai. The good sense of the electorate has rubbed off on a mass regional party and it showed. Haryana, long a Congress bailiwick is now a BJP citadel. The Times of India referred to the significance of the ground reality.”BJP’s conquest of Maharashtra and Haryana underscores how it has rapidly emerged as the  as the principal pole of Indian politics.” (October 20). Quite so. The once mighty Congress party is now a beached whale, lacking political direction and strangled at the top by Sonia Gandhi and her discredited son Rahul. Congress is adrift, bothered and son, bewitched, bothered and bewildered, entrenched dynasts with cloned courtiers for comfort and support. Sonia Gandhi is better off at Madame Tussauds.  Give Congress a chance to rebuild, because it’s in the national interest that it does so, with the Gandhis becoming ordinary again and worthy of the respect they have forfeited.

Bengal Terror network exposed

This is a work in progress. Ever since the bomb blast in Burdwan several weeks ago, the National Investigation Agency, having bypassed the incompetent and demoralized local police, has started unearthing a vast jihadi terror network across the State, whose headquarters are apparently in neighbouring Bangladesh. The scale of the discoveries has confounded the public. Madrassas across the districts of Birbhum, Murshidabad and Malda were training grounds for terror squads. Scores of jihadis were embedded in these areas, leading a secretive existence while planning bombings in the metropolis of Kolkata under the noses of the Bengal constabulary. The Trinamool administration, headed by the  massively egotistical chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, is under the spotlight. It’s  promotion and preservation of  jihadi  vote banks might cost the party dear.

Search operation
Significant arrests have been made, but the controlling jihadi masterminds, Moffazul Hussian, Dalim Sheikh, Mithu Sheikh,Talehar Sheikh and Abdul Malik are fugitives on the run, provoking a massive search operation. A huge haul of triggering mechanisms, RDX explosives and incriminating documents have been unearthed thus far. But for the accidental explosion in a Burdwan flat, the loss of lives and property across the State and beyond in other parts of India would have been truly horrendous (Telegraph, Times of India, October 19-26)  

Andhra Pradesh devastated

The massive tropical cyclone, Hudhud, tearing in from the Bay of Bengal struck Andhra Pradesh and, to a lesser extent, Odisha. Widespread evacuation of coastal communities and an array of storm shelters kept the death toll to 36 lives; a similar cyclone several years back claimed 10,000 lives, hence the experience stood the authorities in good stead. Precautions were taken well in advance of the storm, whose progress was tracked by Indian weather satellites. On this occasion the eye of the cyclone hit the port city of Visakhapatnam and left it a ruined hulk. The damage to infrastructure was awesome and it will take months to repair and put the city back on its feet. Prime Minister Modi, who made an aerial inspection of the affected areas, has promised the Andhra Chief Minister, Chandra Babu Naidu, an interim Rs 1,000 crore relief package, with more to follow when the damage assessment has been completed (Hindu, Times of India, October 14-16).

Finance Ministry appointments

With the Union budget preparation starting to roll, Prime Minister Modi has made two key appoints to the Finance Ministry, appointing  Arvind Subramanian, a Senior Fellow at the US Peterson Institute for International Economics as Economic Adviser to the government for a three-year term. Subramanian has a distinguished CV. Having graduated from St Stephen’s College, Delhi, he completed his doctorate at Oxford University and taught at Harvard University and worked for the World Bank and the IMF, where Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan was a colleague.  The second appointment is that of Rajiv Mehrishi as Economic Secretary to the Finance Ministry. He was one of the architects of Rajasthan’s Land and Labour Reforms policy.  (Business Line October 17)

Diesel deregulated

In the most significant of economic reform measures, the government has deregulated the price of petrol and announced a new price for domestically-produced natural gas. The government is also to re-launch the previous UPA government’s flagship Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme for liquefied petroleum gas to consumers denied a subsidy for want of an Aadhaar number. The price of diesel, like petrol, will now stand linked to the market without any government intervention, with retail rates reflecting the price changes in the global marketplace (Business Line October 19).

Satellite launch

PSLV C26 has placed India’s 1,425 kg Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System into orbit, making it the 27th straight success for the workhorse vehicle designed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The IRNS 1C was the third satellite, of seven, in the series, with four more satellites to come. The present satellite carried two types of payload –navigation and ranging. The navigation will transmit navigation signals


Meanwhile ISRO is gearing up for the suborbital test flight of GSLV Mark III , taking a step closer of sending astronauts into space. The GSLV Mark III will be the heaviest Indian launch vehicle, and is designed to make ISRO self-reliant in the heavier class of communication satellites weighing between 4,500 to 5000 kg and thus enhance the country’s capability to be a competitive player in the multi-million dollar commercial launch market. Typical parameters of GSLVIII are: (1) lift-off weight 630 tonnes. (2) Payload 4 tonnes to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit and (3)Height, 42.4 metres. (Business Line, Hindu October 17).

Successful Nirbhay

India’s goal to boost strategic deterrence capability took a vital step forward with the successful test-flight of its long-range subsonic cruise missile, Nirbhay (Fearless),from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, Odisha, off the Bay of Bengal. The 1000 plus kilometre-range missile, with a tree-top trajectory was launched from a mobile platform, carrying a dummy payload of 350 kg hit its target with the expected accuracy. Nirbhay, designed and manufactured by the Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) and its sister Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADED) can carry a nuclear and conventional warhead. Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister and Director General DRDO, Avinash Chander, described the test as a “great moment”. Dr K.Tamilmani Director General, Aeronautical Systems, said the test would be the “basis for improved cruise missiles (Hindu October 18)

India-Russia defence ties

Apropos of Sino-Russian commerce in energy, armaments and weapon systems, The Economic Times’ Russian guest columnist, Petr Topychkanov (October 15) responded to Indian anxieties by pointing out that Russia’s military-technical cooperation with India “is significantly larger than that of Russia and China. In 2013, Russia exports to India through the military-technical cooperation amounted to $4.8 billion (30 per cent of the total amount). Russia’s cooperating with India in domains in which there is no  partnership with China, such as missile production, the construction of nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. Russian-Indian  military-technical cooperation has two distinct features when it comes to cooperation not with just China, but with any other country.” Russia is developing with India weapon systems of strategic significance such as cruise missiles and nuclear submarines; and they joint develop and manufacture other military technologies as well. He reminded Indian readers that China had a vast maritime border that required protection with weapon systems that were of no relevance to its land border with India.

Hero MotorCorp Excels

Hero MotorCorp, Ltd, India’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer, has posted a second-quarterly 58.62 per cent jump in profit, exceeding market estimates. The precise sum earned was Rs 763 crore. This is the company’s highest quarterly profit. “We are only beginning to see how strong an impact we can make on the market with our innovation and technological improvements,” said company   Vice Chairman and Managing Director Pawan Munjal (Mint October 17).

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