Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who is facing a tough time in his political career due to the back to back defeats across the country, is once again making the headlines. This time Rahul has been into the limelight for a completely unique reason. Vishal Diwan, who is an engineering student from Hoshangabad Madhya Pradesh has approached to the Guinness Book of World Records and requested to enlist Rahul Gandhi’s name for losing as many as 27 elections in the country.
Diwan believes that the fact that Congress party has lost 27 elections in the span of 5 years is somewhere a result of Rahul Gandhi’s active participation in election campaigning and media interactions. As a matter of fact, this number consistent losses are more than enough to get qualified for the record book. In order to fulfill his wish, Diwan has written a letter to the administration of Guinness Books and have also paid the enrollment fees for the same. Diwan has received the confirmation of acceptance of his application, but the US-based record book have not confirmed whether it will approve such request or not.
The more one thinks about it, the more one is inclined to compare Narendra Modi with Indira Gandhi. The original Mrs G was the last Indian prime minister to create an emotional bond with the public. The crowds at her memorial are far greater than at the Nehru Museum, situated at the other end of Teen Murti Marg. Irrespective of the long-term damage she did to the economy, and however much she fostered corruption, the poor thought she stood for and by them. Narendra Modi is the first prime minister after Mrs G to have created a comparable bond. Whatever happens in the future, he will always remain the “hriday samraat” for a lot of Hindus who consider him the first Indian prime minister who is truly their own.
As with Mrs G, the more his critics sound off about him, the stronger will be the bond between Mr Modi and his public. It happened in Gujarat, and it may be happening now across much of the country north of the Vindhyas. For Mr Modi stands tall in a way that no one has since Mrs G. Like her, he can and does reach out directly to voters, without the need for party intermediaries. His party needs him more than he needs it — imagine the BJP’s Bihar campaign without Mr Modi.
When Mrs G came to power, she was broadly acceptable to most people. In about three years, though, she had alienated much of the English language press, and a good part of the chattering classes (as they later came to be called). Something not entirely dissimilar has now happened with Mr Modi. Even those who were willing to give him the chance of a fresh start as prime minister have decided that Mr Modi is in fact the same as of old. He mostly ignores them and what they say, just as Mrs G did. Like her, if he responds at all, it is at mass rallies. Like her, he has no regard for the media.
This has been Leadership Week. All it took for people to feel better about the economy was for a young, new governor of the Reserve Bank with impressive credentials to stand up, show he was in control, and outline a plan of action that made sense. The Rajan effect explains a good bit of the latest rally in stocks and the rupee. We can guess at the additional “Kennedy effect” – the cut of his suit, the width of the tie, the slight rebelliousness that people have detected in his hairstyle, and facial features that have apparently made some women go weak at the knees (a first for a governor). But the performance made immediately clear one thing: what has been sapping the country’s self-belief these past many months has been not just the presence of real macroeconomic problems, but also the lack of demonstrated leadership.
In Uttar Pradesh, a younger but not-so-new leader showed that he was not up to the job of maintaining law and order and communal peace. All the reasons attributed to why mayhem and killing followed minor incidents may or may not be valid, such as: a ruling party that is not short of criminal and anti-social elements had been interfering with postings at police stations, and thereby undermined the law and order machinery. But in a crisis politics has to yield to governance, and a chief minister can either stop a conflagration or fail at the job. Akhilesh Yadav failed. One question is whether this failure will be followed by electoral success – as it was for Rajiv Gandhi and Narendra Modi. If the reported mood of Muslims in western Uttar Pradesh is anything to go by, perhaps not. Read More
The Nehru-Gandhi family, not surprisingly, emerges as the government’s favourite when it comes to expenditure onnewspaper advertisements on former leaders. Over the past five years, more than a third of UPA-2’s spending on newspaper advertisements for birth and death anniversaries of former leaders has been onRajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Of the total Rs 142.3 crore spent on newspaper advertisement on former leaders, Rs 53.2 crore was used for ads on the trio.
According to the directorate of advertisement and visual publicity (DAVP), in the five years between 2008-09 and 2012-13, the government has published ads on birth and death anniversaries of 15 former leaders.
With Rs 38.3 crore spent on his death and birth anniversary, Mahatma Gandhi accounts for the highest ad allocation for any individual leader. The Mahatma is followed by Rajiv Gandhi, B R Ambedkar, Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru in that order. Read More
The Congress today rejected as “baseless” news reports quoting WikiLeaks claim that late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, may have been a middleman for Swedish company Saab Scania trying to sell its Viggen fighter jets to India way back in the ‘70s when Rajiv Gandhi’s mother Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister.
Congress Media incharge and senior leader Janardhan Dwivedi today accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of “spreading lies and falsehoods” and quoted lines of the cable to state that it was not based on any evidence.
Opposition BJP however leapt at the opportunity and demanded that the Congress come clean on the allegations. BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, “The WikiLeaks revelations are serious. Let us not forget that the revelations are making two specific charges, about two of their late prime ministers Indiraji and Rajivji.”
Adding, “All defence deals have some relation with the Congress’ first family. They should come clean on this, all the documents should be made public.”
Janardhan Dwivedi addressing the media today quoted the Wikileaks cable stating, “Having noted what the Swede has said, the cable makes the comment that there was no additional information to either refute or confirm the information. The foundation of the whole story falls flat here.” Read More
The finance minister has already committed that the fiscal deficit for FY13 and FY14 will be 5.3% and 4.8% of GDP, respectively. A lower number will be welcomed by the markets, provided it is credible. For example, with the failure of the spectrum auction, it might be difficult for the finance minister to stick to his 5.3% target for the current fiscal. Any attempt to fudge the oil subsidy figures, as was done last year, will be viewed askance.
In general, a reform-oriented budget that does lip service to populism and shifts the focus on spending towards infrastructure-building and capital formation will be positive. A Citibank note says the market will focus on “(a) incentives for financial savings, including equity; b) road map or commitment on GST (goods and services tax); c) legislative intent on land acquisition, sectoral FDI (foreign direct investment), insurance; d) infra and capital investments; e) bond markets; and f) execution commitments and initiatives. It’s the incentives that should be the swing element, and where the surprises could lie.”
• Broad market
• Accelerated depreciation in some growth sectors such as power, renewables, or more industrial categories.
• Sops to route money through the Rajiv Gandhi Equity Savings Scheme or mutual funds.
• A reduction in the securities transaction tax and/or short-term capital gains tax will be viewed positively, although a marginal reduction like the one in last year’s budget will not move the markets. The introduction of a commodities transaction tax will be taken positively, as it will create a level-playing field and correct the large shift in trading to commodities.
• Raising the base exemption limit in direct tax will be a positive.
• There are fears (in some quarters) about the minimum alternate tax (MAT) being raised to 20% (from 18.5%); and excise duty being raised to pre-crisis levels of 14% (from 12% currently). If these rates are left unchanged, it will be a positive. If they are indeed raised, it will be negative for the market.
Here are some of the measures that could move stock prices in different sectors: Read More
Although the global nuclear power industry is loath to admit it, the 11 March incident at Japan’s Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant complex has proven a global game changer, leading some nations to cancel nuclear projects altogether, and others to reevaluate their interest. Nuclear power production still remains an attractive option to developing, energy-poor nations, but the rising protests over a nuclear power plant in southern India sharply underlines the growing divergence between government politicians and a citizenry increasingly concerned about the potential consequences of having such a facility nearby. India, which currently operates 20 nuclear power plants, plans to quadruple its 4,780 megawatts of nuclear power to 20,000 megawatts within a decade to meet rising energy demands of a booming economy. Now a protest by a group of poor Christian fisherman in southern India threatens to derail one of New Delhi’s pet nuclear projects, a multi-reactor site at Koodankulam. The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) has had a long gestation. In November 1988 Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement on constructing Koodankulam but the project fell into abeyance for more than a decade due to political and economic upheaval in Russia after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. A further impediment were the objections of the United States about the plant on the grounds that the agreement does not meet the 1992 terms of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on civilian nuclear energy. If plans for the KKNPP are ever fully realized, then the facility eventually will contain six 1,200 megawatt and two 1,000 megawatt reactors. Read More