Having swept the board in the State Assembly elections – Punjab, exception to the rule, voted overwhelmingly for Congress - Prime Minister Narendra Modi galvanized markets with his thunderous political impact. Politics and economics are cloned, where one goes the other follows. Both the stock exchange and currency markets touched new peaks during the first day of trading, following the weekend of Modi’s triumph. The Nifty touched a record high and the Sensex and rupee ended the day at their highest level in almost two years (Telegraph, Hindu, Times of India, Business Line March 15)
Much is now expected of Modi’s economic reforms agenda. With no rival on the political horizon, as monarch of all he surveys, the Prime Minister, riding high on approval ratings, industry and the financial sector expect renewed momentum in pushing the envelope, including opening up the retail sector, easing labour laws and cleaning up the moun- tain of bad debt that was hob- bling banks (Telegraph et al March 15).
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, rarely short of words, always raring to go at the Centre, was gobsmacked. Chastened by the results in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarkhand, the subdued Trinamool Congress leader con- gratulated the winners and the electorate on the democratic exercise. In an unusually accom- modating vein, she spoke of working in harmony with the central government. The penny has dropped, wisdom has dawned. As they say, better late than never. (Telegraph, Times of India March 14).
Congess won the most seats in Goa, but the BJP had enough coalition partners to for the gov- ernment. The Congress appeal to the Supreme Court of India for a stay was peremptorily dismissed. As the party was slow off the mark in negotiating a coalition, Governor Sinha had no option but to accept the BJP’s assurance that they had the numbers since its coalition partners gave affi- davits of support to the BJP. In Manipur, the BJP-led coalition was sworn into office. This was a landmark victory for the BJP as it had ousted Congress from one of its most secure strongholds. In 2012, the BJP had no seat in the State Assembly. Now it has 21.
The BJP has now set its sights on the other hill states of the North East such as Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura. The first two are Christian, like Nagaland, where the BJP is the government. The party hopes to extend its influence in Meghalaya and Mizoram. This would be no bad thing, as it would broaden the BJP across ethnic and religious lines. The term minority in the media is synonymous with Muslim, hence carries an exclu- sive brand.
Arunachal Pradesh, largely Buddhist, is under BJP control, but Tripura is multi-ethnic and a bastion of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The BJP there has its work cut out (Times of India (March 15.)
Rahul Gandhi in the dumps
There is a rumble in the jungle of Congress party politics. With only 7 of the 403 seats in the Uttar Pradesh State Assembly, Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi remarked that Congress ‘was little down in UP.’ The Goa fiasco added to the disaster, lead- ing Congress Rajya MP from UP, Satyavrat Chaturvedi, to observe, ‘The time for surgery in Congress has passed. If a surgery was done in time, this would not have come to this pass. Rahul should think in the wider interest of Congress...Questions arise when there is defeat. Rahul has to answer this.’ (Times of India March 15)
That he is incapable of doing.
The party would be best served by asking him to step down. A new leadership then begin prepara- tions for the 2024 general elec- tion as the one due in 2019 is lost bar the shouting.
Car sales rise
Sales of domestic car sales rose by 9.1 per cent for the second con- secutive month in February, according to data provided by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. This was a decline from the January figure of 14 per cent due, say market analysts to the effect of demoneti- zation. With monetary normalcy fully restored consumer demand is expected to pick in the coming weeks and months (Mint March 11).
Tata Motors behemoth
Tata Motors Prima truck, a behe- moth with an astonishing 1,000- bhp was the showpiece during the TI Prima Truck Racing Championship at Buddh International Circuit near Delhi at the weekend. It is the vehicle that company expects to sell on the export market, said Ravi Pisharody, Executive Director Commercial Vehicles.(Business Line March 14).
Telangana tax-free budget for 2017-18
Telangana Finance Minister Etela Rajendar presented a tax- free development-cum welfare- oriented budget for 2017-18. Presenting his fourth Budget, the minister said it was projected to achieve a Gross State Domestic Product growth of over 10.1 per cent during the current fiscal. Stating that the budget was in line with Chief Minister Chandrasekhar Rao’s vision of the welfare of the poor and all round economic development of the State, he said its thrust was similar to the previous three bud- gets (Business Line March 14).
Japan’s naval foray into South China Sea
Japan will be dispatching its largest warship on a three-month tour through the South China Sea beginning in May, its biggest pro- jection of naval force in the area since the end of the Second World War. The Izumo heli- copter carrier, commissioned only two years ago will make stops in Singapore, Indonesia and Sri Lanka before joining the Malabar joint naval exercise with the Indian and US navies in the Indian Ocean in July (Business Line March 14)
Jaishankar visit to Moscow
India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar has the sharpest brain in the country’s foreign policy establishment. Prime Minister Modi ‘s extension of his tenure reflects his trust in Jaishankar’s capabilities, hence his increased responsibilities. He is to ivisit Moscow shortly for high level talks with top Russian misters and officials, as Indo-Russian ties gain fresh traction in both capitals. Jaishankar’s visit Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev. (Telegraph March 14) Watch this space.
Jaishankar’s visit follows the one in February by India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, dur- ing which he met with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev to deepen Indo- Russian counter-terror and intel- ligence cooperation.
Jaitley takes charge at Defence Ministry
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has been given temporary addi- tional charge of India’s Defence Ministry, following the departure of the previous incumbent Manohar Parrikar for Goa as Chief Minister. Jaitley has stepped into the breach for the second time, amid growing anxi- eties of military men that the ministry can ill-afford a part-time minister, given the security chal- lenges facing the country. Parrikar had initiated reforms in the ministry’s administration, but the cumbersome Indian bureau- cracy and its dilatory ways have held up major acquisitions, most notably new aircraft for the Indian AiR Force’s under strength squadrons about which air chiefs have long been com- plaining without the desired effect. The appointment of a chairman of the joint chiefs of staff has been waiting for cabinet approval for over a year (Hindu March 15).
US backs India’s NSG bid
The Trump admin- istration declared its support for India’s bid for membership of the 48 member Nuclear Suppliers Group, which China resolutely opposes.
A State Department spokesman said: ‘The United Statres supports India’s full membership in the four multilat- eral export control regimes...We have worked and continue to work closely with our Indian counterparts and NSG Participating Governments to help advance India’s case for membership,’ the State Department spokesman said. (Times of India March 16).
Exports on a high
India’s exports posted a double digit 17. 48 per cent growth in February fuelling hopes of reach- ing its $270 billion target this fis- cal ending March 31. Continuing the positive growth over the past six months, the export surge was led by sales of petroleum, engi- neering goods and chemicals. (Telegraph M arch 12).
Haneef Pakatwala, an Ahmedabad businessman was in bed fast asleep when he heard a knock on the door. On opening it, his mother was confronted by a posse of policemen from the City’s Crime Branch asking ask- ing after him. When Mr Pakatwala emerged from the room with his brother he was arrested and bundled into a van and taken to the police station, interrogated, charged with ter- rorism offence, tried by a court and sentenced to a term in jail. His arrest took place on 9 April 28, 2003.
He pleaded his innocence and his appeal eventually went to the Supreme Court where was absolved all charges and set free in February this year. In the mean time, his mother and wife had died and his family life was ruined. Asked if planned to seek compensation from the govern- ment, he replied: ‘I don’t want to get into trouble again. Let me move on.’ (Hindu March 12)
The Gujarat government cannot undo the tragedy, the least they can do is compensate him fairly for his ordeal.