Connect with us


UP results likely to impact Congress thinking on alliances



New Delhi, March 1 : The Congress has much at stake in the outcome of assembly elections in five states, particularly Uttar Pradesh, where its decision to abandon the original plan of contesting all seats is being viewed with some scepticism even within its own ranks.

The results on March 11 will decide if the Congress decision to ally with the Samajwadi Party and contest about a fourth of 403 seats in Uttar Pradesh will set the stage for the party’s revival in the country’s most populous state or make its path more difficult.

The Uttar Pradesh results are also likely to have a bearing on the party’s thinking on forging future alliances.

The Congress is hoping that the results in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa will end its electoral drought since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when it could manage only 44 seats in the 545-member house, which has 543 elected members.

The party has not won a major state on its own since that debacle. Quite apart from losing Assam, Kerala, Maharashtra and Rajasthan in the assembly elections, the reverses in local body elections in Maharashtra and Odisha have added to the challenges faced by the party.

The Congress entered into an alliance with the Samajwadi Party led by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in an apparent bid to stop its main electoral rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), from coming to power in Uttar Pradesh. It settled for 105 seats after some hard bargaining with the Samajwadi Party, which is contesting the remaining 298.

Some Congress leaders told IANS that contesting all the 403 seats would have better served the party’s interests.

“During the Kisan Yatra we could see a revival of Congress. There were ticket aspirants for almost every seat in the state. But the alliance struck a blow to such hopes,” a senior leader, who did not want to be named, told IANS.

He said the 26-day Kisan Yatra (Farmers’ Rally), which culminated in Delhi last October with a roadshow and rally of party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, was the right step in the party’s larger aim of returning to power on its own.

He said the party had already been relegated to the fourth position in Bihar, which, along with Uttar Pradesh, accounts for 120 Lok Sabha seats.

“A party which used to be number one or number two in almost all states, is now struggling to be number three or four party in those states,” he added.

Before its alliance in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress had been critical of the performance of the Samajwadi Party. The Congress had coined the slogan “Sataees saal, UP behaal. (UP has been in abysmal state for the past 27 years) to remind the people of its own rule in the 1980s and convey that the BJP, Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party had failed to deliver.

Former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, who has floated his own party — Chhattisgarh Janata Congress (Jogi) — after quitting the Congress, said the “Congress party is getting finished on its own”.

“They are contesting 105 seats in Uttar Pradesh. What will happen to the workers in the remaining 300-odd seats? The workers will go here and there. In Bihar too they are fourth,” he said.

The issue of alliances has been a key debating point in the Congress since it went through a rough patch in the mid-1990s.

At a brainstorming session at Panchmari in Madhya Pradesh in 1998, the party said it considered “the present difficulties in forming one-party governments a transient phase” and pledged to restore itself to its primacy in national affairs.

Coalitions, it said, will be considered only when absolutely necessary and on agreed programmes. However, there was an apparent change of stance at the brainstorming session in Jaipur in 2013.

Jogi said that the Congress at Jaipur expressed its willingness to enter into a coalition “wherever it is needed to defeat the communal forces”.

The party has shown more flexibility on alliances since then. Its informal pact with the Communist Party of India-Marxist in the 2016 West Bengal poll came as a surprise to many. It had decided to be a junior ally of the Janata Dal-United and the Rashtriya Janata Dal in the 2014 elections to the Bihar assembly. There is also some speculation that the Congress may go for an alliance in the Gujarat assembly polls at the end of the year.

There were also noises that the Congress could offer outside support to the Shiv Sena to enable it to claim the mayor’s post in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation after the elections to the 227-member house threw up a 84-82 verdict with the BJP claiming the latter figure, but these were quickly shot down.

Political analysts said that going into alliance in Uttar Pradesh was a logical option for the Congress.

Senior journalist and political commentator Neerja Chowdhury said getting into winnable “alliances” was a workable strategy for the Congress.

“When a party is weak, it has to revive itself. Every party has used alliances as a means towards revival. The BJP won only two seats in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections. In 1989, it supported V. P. Singh at the Centre. This decision had a major advantage for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and helped it come to power in the state,” Chowdhury said.

Chowdhury said if Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance can pull it off in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress will be in power in the state after nearly three decades.

She said election victories will change the mood in the Congress and answer those seeking to write off the party.

Columnist and political commentator Ashok Malik said there was “no evidence of the Congress reviving itself in Uttar Pradesh” and, therefore, an “alliance was the only alternative” in its goal to stop the BJP from coming to power in the state.

“I don’t think there is any evidence of Congress becoming strong in Uttar Pradesh by contesting on its own. If there was any evidence, then the alliance would not have happened,” Malik said.

By : Sidhartha Dutta

(Sidhartha Dutta can be contacted at [email protected])


Global sell-off drags Indian equities to 5-month lows




Mumbai, March 24 : A global sell-off triggered by trade protectionist measures imposed by major world economies unleashed the bears in the Indian equity markets during the week, pushing the key indices — NSE Nifty50 and BSE Sensex — to their 5-month lows.

Apart from the prospects of escalating trade wars, the risk-taking appetite of investors was marred by rising crude oil prices, the ongoing turmoil in the domestic banking system as well as the uncertainty on the political situation in the country.

On a weekly basis, the barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the BSE shed 579.46 points or 1.75 per cent to close at 32,596.54 points — its lowest closing level since October 23, 2017.

On the National Stock Exchange (NSE), the wider Nifty50 ended below the psychologically important 10,000-mark and closed trade at 9,998.05 points — down 197.1 points or 1.93 per cent from its previous week’s close — its lowest closing level since October 11, 2017.

“Benchmark indices Sensex and Nifty fell 1.75 per cent and 1.93 per cent respectively during the week, posting their longest stretch of weekly losses in 16 months as the domestic market joined a global sell-off triggered by prospects of a trade war,” Arpit Jain, Assistant Vice President at Arihant Capital Markets, told IANS.

According to D.K. Aggarwal, Chairman and Managing Director of SMC Investments and Advisors, the global stock market traded lower after US President Donald Trump announced sweeping tariffs on Chinese goods, a move that has heightened concerns that the global trade war will escalate.

“Back at home, dragged by escalating trade tensions among global economies, the Indian stock market too witnessed selling pressure amid other domestic factors. Since the beginning of the year domestic market witnessed some hiccups on the back of imposition of LTCG (long term capital gains) tax, liquidity issues, rising bond yields and volatile global markets,” Aggarwal told IANS.

“Also, a surge in crude oil prices impacted the market sentiment. The Indian rupee, too, witnessed a volatile move ahead of Fed rate-hike and global trade war concerns,” he added.

On the currency front, the rupee weakened by eight paise to close at 65.01 against the US dollar from its previous week’s close at 64.93.

“Sentiments were affected by rising crude oil prices, bond yields and a troubled domestic banking system. Uncertainty around the political situation in the country added to the woes, and collectively dragged the sentiment across the street,” Gaurav Jain, Director at Hem Securities, told IANS.

Provisional figures from the stock exchanges showed that foreign institutional investors purchased scrips worth Rs 2,524.13 crore and the domestic institutional investors (DIIs) scrips worth Rs 211.91 crore during the week.

Figures from the National Securities Depository (NSDL) revealed that foreign portfolio investors invested in equities worth Rs 2,060.04 crore, or $316.99 million, during March 19-23.

“The market breadth was negative in three out of the five trading sessions of the week. The top sectoral losers were realty, metal, Bank Nifty and pharma indices. There were no gainers,” said Deepak Jasani, Head – Retail Research, HDFC Securities.

The top weekly Sensex gainers were: NTPC (up 2.90 per cent at Rs 170.15); IndusInd Bank (up 1.36 per cent at Rs 1,750.20); Power Grid (up 1.04 per cent at Rs 194.25); Hindustan Unilever (up 0.05 per cent at Rs 1,299.75); and Larsen and Toubro (up 0.01 per cent at Rs 1,267.75).

The losers were: Yes Bank (down 8.37 per cent at Rs 286.70); ICICI Bank (down 7.48 per cent at Rs 275.80); State Bank India (down 7.13 per cent at Rs 234.60); Tata Steel (down 5.65 per cent at Rs 566.60); and Axis Bank (down 4.29 per cent at Rs 501).

(Porisma P. Gogoi can be contacted at [email protected])

Continue Reading


24% scheme performance indicators of Delhi government ‘off track’



Manish Sisodia

An average 23.7 per cent of output and outcome indicators for various programmes and schemes of the Delhi government departments were “off track” till December last year, analysis of a report tabled in the Delhi Assembly on Wednesday suggested.

The 23.7 per cent of indicators were off track for schemes and programmes of 14 major departments, including Health, Social Welfare and Education, for which funds were allocated in the Delhi Budget 2017-18, according to an IANS analysis of Status Report of the Outcome Budget 2017-18.

The Status Report was presented by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

In the report, the indicators — output and outcome of schemes and programmes — of a department were used to denote whether their schemes were on or off track. Here off track implies the performance or progress of indicators of major schemes of a particular department (till December 2017) was less than 70 per cent of the expected progress.

With 45 per cent indicators off track, the Public Works Department’s schemes performed worst, followed by the Transport Department and the Environment Department, each having 40 per cent of indicators for schemes off track.

The departments whose schemes performed well include the Directorate of Education with 89 per cent indicators of schemes on-track, followed by the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) with 87 per cent schemes on track and the Delhi Jal Board with 82 per cent programmes on track.

Sisodia said that idea behind the Outcome Budget was to bring a high degree of accountability and transparency in public spending.

The Outcome Budget, which coveres 34 departments of the government, was termed as the “first of its kind” in the country.

Citing an example of Mohalla Clinics, Sisodia said a regular budget tells only about the money allocated for the construction of clinics, while Outcome Budget is about the number of clinics built and the number of people expected to benefit from it.

The Outcome Budget measures each scheme using two indices: output and outcome.

The infrastructure created or services offered due to spending on a particular scheme is termed as output, whereas the number of people benefited and how is termed as outcome.

(Nikhil M. Babu can be contacted at [email protected])

Continue Reading


Will Drabu’s ouster impact PDP-BJP alliance in J&K?

While even Mehbooba’s political adversaries, including the National Conference President, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, have welcomed her decision, her allies in the BJP are not happy at all about her decision.



Jammu, March 15 : The decision by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to drop Haseeb Drabu from her council of ministers for his remarks at a business meet in Delhi is being hotly debated in political circles – especially what its consequences could be on the state’s PDP-BJP ruling coalition.

By doing what she has done, the Chief Minister has proved that she is prepared take political risks — and taking her for granted is something her colleagues and allies should learn not to do.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders were aghast after Drabu, who was the Finance Minister, was quoted as telling a meeting organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi that Kashmir was not a political problem and a conflict state but a “social problem”. He said this while seeking investments in the state from businessmen and saying the conditions in the state were conducive to business “where you will find some very interesting opportunities” not just to make money but also to have “a lot of fun and enjoy yourselves”.

PDP Vice President Sartaj Madni had said this was something which negated the very existence of the PDP because it is the firm belief of the party that Kashmir is political problem that needed political remedies to resolve.

Interestingly, instead of voices being raised in Drabu’s favour by his own party men, leaders of the PDP’s coalition unlikely partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seem to be more worried about the decision to drop him.

Some senior BJP leaders have rushed to Delhi to discuss the development and its fallout on the ruling coalition with the central leadership of the party.

How important Drabu had been for the PDP was proved not once, but many times in the past. The late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed trusted him to work out the terms of the agenda of alliance with BJP National Secretary Ram Madhav that finally paved the way for the present PDP-BJP coalition.

“Mufti Sahib always loved him and would overlook what some of his party men would say about Drabu Sahib,” said a PDP insider, not wishing to be identified.

In a letter released to the media after he was dropped from the cabinet, Drabu expressed sorrow for not being told by the Chief Minister or her office about the decision to drop him.

“I read it on the website of daily ‘Greater Kashmir’. I tried to call the Chief Minister, but was told she was busy and would call back. I waited, but my call was never returned,” he rued.

He also said in his letter that he had been quoted out of context by the media and that he what he had said was that Kashmir is not only a political problem, but that “we must also look beyond this”, Drabu clarified.

Sayeed made Drabu his economic advisor during his 2002 chief ministerial tenure and later made him the chairman of the local Jammu and Kashmir Bank. In fact, Drabu became the point man between the PDP and the BJP after the 2014 assembly elections.

The problem is that many PDP leaders had of late started saying that Drabu was more of “Delhi’s man in Kashmir rather than Kashmir’s man in Delhi”. Drabu is reportedly very close to Ram Madhav, the powerful BJP leader who is in-charge of Kashmir affairs, which many say “cost him his job”. It is this image that has been floating around in the PDP that finally cost him his berth in the state cabinet.

While even Mehbooba’s political adversaries, including the National Conference President, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, have welcomed her decision, her allies in the BJP are not happy at all about her decision.

“What did he say? He said it is a social problem and Kashmir is a society in search of itself. Is this wrong? We don’t think this is something for which such a harsh decision should have been taken,” a senior BJP leader told IANS, not wanting to be named.

His successor, Syed Altaf Bukhari, who has been assigned the finance portfolio, took a major decision immediately after taking over. Bukhari announced that the decision to replace the old treasury system by the Pay and Accounts Office (PAO) has been put on hold. The ambitious PAO system was Drabu’s brainchild.

Bukhari’s decision has been welcomed by hundreds of contractors in the state who had been on strike during the last 13 days demanding their pending payments and suspension of the PAO system at least till March 31.

Would Drabu’s ouster be a storm in a teacup or would it have repercussions on the PDP-BJP ruling alliance in the immediate future? Ironically, Drabu’s PDP colleagues say it won’t be, while the BJP leaders in the state say it would.

By : Sheikh Qayoom

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])

Continue Reading

Most Popular