RSS steals the show in Rajasthan, outsmarts ruling Congress

RSS steals the show in Rajasthan, outsmarts ruling Congress
By Archana Sharma

Jaipur, May 26 (IANS) In Rajasthan, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) has shown its value to the BJP by turning the tables on the Congress in the Lok Sabha election even at a time when the state is under Congress rule.

The RSS has an excellent work record in the western belt of Rajasthan which comprised crucial Lok Sabha seats including Jodhpur and Barmer.

Its different units including Kisaan Sangh, Mazdoor Sangh and a separate unit active in border villages have been active on the ground for the last several years contributing to social causes irrespective of caste barriers and as a result, they won the favour of the local masses.

Also their gestures of organising inter-caste marriages and cow welfare, among many others, made their workers earn the people’s trust.

Eventually, it was not a tough contest for the RSS when Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s son was fielded from Jodhpur against Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat who also has an RSS background and romped to victory.

The organisation was firmly determined to show its strengths, virtually making it a Chief Minister versus RSS contest in Jodhpur. Surprisingly, all caste equations were neutralised on these seats when Jats, considered rivals of the Rajputs, also voted for Shekhawat who won by around 2.7 lakh votes.

Similar was the story of the Barmer seat which witnessed Congress’ Manvendra Singh fielded against the humble Kailash Chaudhary who was a farmer leader and yet again an RSS worker.

Here too, Chaudhary won by 3.23 lakh votes brushing aside all caste equations by garnering votes of Rajputs too.

As RSS workers were silently working on booth analysis and campaigning for their candidates across the state, Chief Minister Gehlot many a time openly criticised the working of the RSS during his press conferences and public gatherings during the election.

Twice in May, Gehlot attacked RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, advising him to merge with the BJP and “play politics on the front foot”.

In one of his tweets, he said: “The RSS must do politics on the front foot. The Congress is strong enough to fight back. Let’s fight it out in the open. Let’s see who has what policies, what programmes and what ideals. Let’s say what we want and then let the people decide. Politics from behind the curtains is not in the interest of the country.”

“The way RSS leaders are giving covert support to the BJP, indulging in politics and enjoying its benefits while staying behind the scenes, it would be better if the Sangh announces itself as a political party. They should take my advice very seriously, discuss it and come forward,” Gehlot had said.

“It seemed the Rajasthan Chief Minister had got an inkling that his son was losing the battle in his home turf and hence he came out openly against us,” says a senior RSS worker.

In fact, the RSS after witnessing the BJP’s defeat in the Assembly election in December, became proactive right from January and worked on a clear strategy.

The workers of around 4,000 RSS ‘shakhas’ in the state proactively went door to door surveying the electorate and classified them in four different categories. The last category which constituted of Congress loyalists was altogether ignored and all emphasis was given to the other three categories to ensure they voted for the BJP.

Their clear plans changed the fortunes of the saffron party which did result in record voting and record victories in many seats in the state.

And the direct consequence of its efforts resulted in the drastic rise in BJP’s vote share which was an increase of around 20 per cent as compared to the 2018 Assembly polls.

The BJP’s vote share was 54.5 per cent as compared to 38.8 per cent in the Assembly polls.

The ground work of booth workers and RSS teams read the pulse of voters and drew them out of their houses to vote in big numbers. Also, fresh voters’ names were added in voting lists with their support.

As a result, 68.22 per cent voting was recorded in the first phase of polling held on April 29 for 13 seats, while in the second phase on May 6, around 63.78 per cent voting was registered on 12 seats. Overall, 66.12 per cent voting was recorded which was the highest voter turnout in the state in the last 67 years.

In 2014, 63.10 per cent voting was recorded.

As RSS was quite active in western Rajasthan, a few seats witnessed over 70 per cent polling in some belts as people supported the BJP due to the social work being done since the last many years and they came out in large numbers to vote.

The RSS has also been working thoroughly in Bhilwara, where BJP candidate Subhash Baheria clinched victory by over six lakh votes. The unit has been quite active with their ‘path sanchalans’ and their cow research centre has been drawing accolades by people of all castes and creeds in this belt.

Another BJP candidate from Chittorgarh, C.P. Joshi, who won by record margin of over four lakh votes, is yet again a soldier of the RSS army who is expected to get a decent berth in the Union cabinet. Advertisements congratulating him were released a day before the counting was done which left the opposition stunned and surprised over his confidence.

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Possible to cobble non-BJP majority alliance in Goa: Former Dy CM

Possible to cobble non-BJP majority alliance in Goa: Former Dy CM
Panaji, May 26 (IANS) There is a possibility that the Congress, along with MGP and some other non-BJP MLAs, can come together to form a majority coalition, but the decision to approve the alignment will be taken by the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party’s central committee, party MLA and former Deputy Chief Minister Sudin Dhavalikar said.

Dhavalikar, who is now a lone member of the MGP, after two of the regional party’s MLAs following a split joined the BJP two months back, also said that there is nothing “proper or improper” in politics.

When asked if there was a possibility of the Congress, MGP and other non BJP MLAs in the state Assembly coming together to form a majority coalition, Dhavalikar said: “Of course, this can happen, but whether we should support them or not, it is up to the (MGP) central committee”.

After the results of the four Assembly bypolls were declared on May 23, the BJP now has 17 MLAs in the 40-member state legislative Assembly. The ruling coalition is currently supported by three MLAs of the Goa Forward party and three independent legislators.

Despite MGP’s public announcement of withdrawal of support from the BJP-led coalition government, after the saffron party engineered a split in the MGP ranks and dropped Dhavalikar as Deputy Chief Minister from the Pramod Sawant-led cabinet in March, the regional party has still not withdrawn its formal letter of support, which was submitted to Goa Governor Mridula Sinha at the time of government formation, following the demise of former Chief Minister late Manohar Parrikar.

Dhavalikar’s comments come at a time, when newly elected Congress MLA Atanasio Monserrate announced on May 23, that the Congress would aim to cobble a new non-BJP coalition government in the state.

The Congress currently has 15 MLAs and needs the support of Goa Forward MLAs, and at least three more MLAs to reach a simple majority in the 40-member House.

Apart from the BJP, Congress, Goa Forward contingents and three independent MLAs, the Goa legislative Assembly also comprises of one Nationalist Congress Party MLA and Dhavalikar himself.

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LS polls in TN a Stalin show all the way

LS polls in TN a Stalin show all the way
Chennai, May 26 (IANS) The 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu is clearly that of DMK President M.K.Stalin show, given the campaign, alliance strategies that were followed, said political analysts.

They also said about 11 per cent of the voters are in favour of third alternative to AIADMK and DMK.

“Stalin has emerged as a political leader in the state in his own right and also cemented firmly his place as a party leader. He had followed a fine strategy, shifting gear from being anti-Chief Minister K.Palaniswami to anti-Modi and continued that in a sustained manner,” Jhon Arokiasamy, political analyst told IANS.

“The second step was stitching up an electoral alliance embracing all partners and finally announcing Congress President Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate. During the campaign, leaders of alliance parties were used judiciously depending on the vote base in a constituency,” Arokiasamy said.

A sustained campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP over the past couple of years by the opposition against the various projects and other policies moulded the public opinion.

The BJP leaders said the sustained campaign against their party was the main reason for the DMK-led alliance’s victory.

According to Arokiasamy, Tamil Nadu poll battle arena was clearly drawn – Prime Minister Narendra Modi vs Rahul Gandhi.

“The minority vote consolidation in favour of DMK-led alliance wouldn’t have happened if the Congress was not part of the alliance or Gandhi was not announced as Prime Ministerial candidate which led to DMK’s massive victory,” Arokiasamy said.

With this victory, Stalin passed the acid test and cemented his position as a leader in his own right.

The DMK-led alliance routed rival the AIADMK-led alliance winning 37 out of 39 Lok Sabha seats that went to the polls on April 18. The Election Commission cancelled polling in Vellore.

The AIADMK alliance got about 30 per cent vote share.

The AIADMK on its own suffered a drastic slide in vote share this time. In 2014, the party on its own won 37 Lok Sabha seats with a vote share of 44 per cent. This plunged to 18.48 per cent now.

The DMK-led front got about 52 per cent vote share in 2019.

The DMK secured 32.76 per cent of votes, up from 23.6 per cent it got in 2014.

The DMK and Stalin hammered in the anti-Tamil Nadu stance of the BJP-led government starting from Hindi imposition, loss of jobs due to demonetisation, employing north Indians in large numbers in railway and postal departments, rise in fuel prices, alleged failure of Modi to keep his 2014 poll promises and water crisis for irrigation and drinking.

“Tamil Nadu has bucked the national trend and voted for Congress in the past. The state voted for Congress in the Lok Sabha polls held after the Emergency. The people voted for Rajiv Gandhi (1989) and now for Rahul Gandhi,” political analyst Raveendhran Dhuraiswamy told IANS.

“On his part, Chief Minister Palaniswami retained power winning nine seats in the assembly by-elections. Palaniswami also contained Dhinakaran’s influence and has brought some sort of an order within the party,” Arokiasamy added.

“In the assembly seats people voted for AIADMK while the same section voted for DMK-led alliance in the Lok Sabha polls,” Arokiasamy said.

The by-elections for 22 assembly seats were held owing to disqualification of 18 AIADMK law makers for anti-party activities by Speaker P. Dhanapal and the four vacancies arose due to the deaths and conviction of a member in a legal case.

Arokiasamy said Stalin has emerged as a leader in his own right with this victory after the death of DMK President and former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

Stalin’s stature among at the national level must be up by several notches given the massive victory he pulled off in Tamil Nadu while the other opposition parties in their states suffered a severe drubbing at the hands of BJP-led alliance, Arokiasamy said.

Meanwhile the Lok Sabha voting trend also shows about 11 per cent voter of Tamil Nadu have voted in favour of a third alternative.

The percentage would slightly go up if one takes into account the vote share of the independents and NOTA (None of the Above option).

What is interesting is that about 11 per cent of the votes polled was secured by three parties of which two made their debut (Makkal Needhi Maiam-MNM and Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam – AMMK) in the recent Lok Sabha polls.

The Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) floated by movie director Seeman has been contesting elections for quite some time.

“There is a sizeable number of voters who want an alternative to AIADMK and DMK,” Arokiasamy said.

Arokiasamy said actor-politician Kamal Haasan floated MNM (vote about 3 per cent) has attracted the urban voters positioning the party as the third alternative while NTK (vote share about 3 per cent) attracted good traction among the rural voters with its anti-BJP and Tamil Nationalism stand.

The AMMK party secured about five per cent.

“Haasan’s MNM has made a good beginning and Seeman has attracted the rural youth. It is Dhinakaran who has come as a cropper for the hype he had created before the poll,” Dhuraiswamy said.

According to Dhuraiswmay, the future of MNM, NTK and AMMK depends on the strategy they would take in the future.

“The MNM may go for alliance in the future while the NTK has announced it will go it alone in the coming elections,” Dhuraiswamy said.

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Fiscal deficit may see upward revision in Budget from 3.4% to beat slowdown

Fiscal deficit may see upward revision in Budget from 3.4% to beat slowdown
By Anjana Das

New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) The upcoming Budget in July may revise the fiscal deficit of 3.4 per cent upwards in view of the need to step up public expenditure to beat the economic slowdown while keeping in mind tax revenue are not going to grow at the required pace to match up with increased expenditure.

“In a scenario where consumption, demand, investment and capital formation need support, fiscal deficit can be secondary point though profligacy will not be tolerated and the revision in the deficit will be well-controlled”, said sources.

Fiscal deficit for 2018-19 is also pegged at 3.4 per cent and the final yearly figure is awaited.

The Budget which will be presented amidst a gripping slowdown, is slated to address the concerns by taking measures for tax rationalisation, undertaking public spending in infrastructure, job creation, social and farmers’ schemes.

Though the fiscal deficit figure of FY19 fiscal is yet to be out, the NDA government in the last five years has brought down the deficit and largely avoided any big slippage since 2014. But it could not strictly adhere to the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act glide path due to structural disruptions in the economy like implementation of the GST. Yet, Moody’s Investors Service did do rating upgrade of India during this time solely crediting the government for containing fiscal deficit.

The N.K. Singh panel to review the FRBM Act recommended that the government should target a fiscal deficit of 3 per cent of the GDP in years up to March 31, 2020 cut it to 2.8 per cent in 2020-21 and to 2.5 per cent by 2023.

The government had pegged its fiscal deficit target for 2018-19 at 3.4 per cent for which was revised upwards from the earlier 3.3 per cent. At the end of February, the fiscal deficit is at Rs 8,51,499 crore had crossed 134 per cent of the budget estimate. The figures for FY19 is awaited.

In Budget 2017-18, government pegged the revised fiscal deficit at 3.5 per cent of GDP and it was almost met broadly with a 3.53 per cent fiscal deficit .

In 2016-17, the deficit at 3.51 per cent, turned out to be broadly in line with the fiscal deficit target of 3.5 per cent of GDP.

The fiscal deficit at 3.9 per cent of GDP for 2015-16 was in line with target. In 2014-15, the NDA government beat the 4.1 per cent fiscal deficit target set by UPA government and recorded a lower 4 per cent deficit.

The Interim Budget 2019-20 has estimated to collect Rs 13.80 lakh crore from direct taxes, But according to sources, these figure could also be revised downwards putting pressure on the government to revise deficit target.

(Anjana Das can be contacted at anjana.d@ians.in)

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Fuel tax rejig, infra required to spur air traffic growth

Fuel tax rejig, infra required to spur air traffic growth
By Rohit Vaid

New Delhi/Mumbai, May 26 (IANS) The downtrend in air passenger traffic might continue unless the new government takes steps to reduce air fares via rationalisation of jet fuel taxes and infrastructure creation to spur capacity at major airports.

Industry experts warn that unless these crucial steps are implemented, the sector would continue to see a slide in passenger traffic numbers.

Lately, high fares caused by capacity constraint and slowdown in economic activity has subdued passenger traffic.

The growth rate of the high frequency indicator is usually 1.3-1.4 times the gross domestic product (GDP) growth of the country.

“Besides, economic revival and pick-up in tourism demand, the government needs to address India’s aviation infrastructure requirements and other matters (like tax on ATF), which have constrained the performance of airlines,” Kinjal Shah, Vice President and Co-Head, Corporate Sector Ratings, ICRA, told IANS.

As a case in point, the monthly air passenger traffic on a year-on-year basis fell for the very first time in the last six year. India’s passenger traffic growth rate was in double digits for over 50 months.

However, in April, the air passenger traffic declined (-) 4.50 per cent to 1.09 crore in April from 1.15 crore reported for the corresponding month of the previous fiscal.

The last monthly Y-o-Y de-growth in the domestic passenger traffic was recorded in June 2013.

“This trend is expected to persist for some time, until capacity situation is corrected… the available capacity (in April) came down by six per cent month-on-month, and this will further come down in May,” said Anshuman Sinha, Principal, Transportation and Automotive at A.T. Kearney.

“Fares will remain high until more capacity is added, and until that situation balances itself, downtrend in passenger traffic is expected to continue.”

As per the Directorate General of Civil Aviation data, January-April passenger traffic grew 2.53 per cent to 4.64 crore from 4.53 crore ferried during the corresponding period of the previous year.

“Higher ATV (average transaction value) and lower flight options due to capacity constraints has led to low passenger numbers at airports,” said Rajnish Kumar, Co-founder, ixigo.

“Recent negative growth in passenger traffic is a reflection of how price sensitive the Indian consumer is. Previous strong demand seen in passenger traffic was primarily being driven by promotional offers, sales being offered by airlines.”

Kumar blamed the current capacity constraint on the grounding of aircraft by Jet Airways which ceased operations from April 18. This impacted 14 per cent of the total industry capacity.

“This (Jet Airways grounding) has resulted in a shortage of 180 slots which have in turn driven up air fares and impacted the overall passenger travel growth,” Kumar said.

In addition, while Jet’s demise has been cited as the trigger for decline in passenger numbers; other airline were quick to absorb the market share or passengers of the erstwhile carrier.

The current situation allowed other airlines to induct Jet’s grounded aircraft, hire some of its pilots along with crew and come out with robust plans for capacity expansion.

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at rohit.v@ians.in)

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Lok Sabha results alter poll math in Delhi

Lok Sabha results alter poll math in Delhi
New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) The massive victory of Bharatiya Janata Party in Delhi may change the politics in the national capital as the ruling Aam Aadmi Party, which had come to power with a thumping majority in 2015 state elections, failed to take lead in any of the 70 assembly segments in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

While the BJP is a clear winner in 65 out of 70 assembly segments, it is the Congress that came first on five seats, all having large Muslim population. The AAP candidates have ended runners-up most in South and North West Delhi assembly segments while the Congress recovered its lost vote base to end as No. 2 in the rest of the city.

If AAP’s meteoric rise in 2015 was spectacular, its fall four years later in 2019 Lok Sabha elections is equally astonishing. With assembly elections due next year, the news is not good for Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The best score for AAP was in Tughlakabad Assembly segment where it got 35.7 per cent of the votes when BJP’s Ramesh Bidhuri got 52.1 and Congress was restricted to 7.8 per cent.

The second best was Deoli where it got 32.5 per cent vote share against 49.5 for the BJP and 14.5 for Congress.

The BJP, which had won three out of 70 seats in the assembly elections, can win more than 60 seats if the trend witnessed in 2019 holds. The Congress, which had failed to opened an account in 2015, can win five.

The Congress was ahead of BJP and AAP in Ballimaran in the walled city getting 53 per cent votes while the BJP got 36.4 and AAP 9. The Congress, which had ruled the city for 15 years before it was uprooted by AAP, delivered its best performance in Matia Mahal, another Muslim dominated pocket, bagging 65.1 per cent of the vote. The BJP polled 25 per cent and 8.3 per cent went to AAP. The other seat where Congress got maximum votes include Seelampur (56.6 per cent) and Okhla (37.2 per cent).

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Four key issues before Modi 2.0

Four key issues before Modi 2.0
By Anjana Das

New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Four key economic issues — GDP figures from CSO, fiscal deficit numbers from CGA, Jalan panel report on RBI surplus and RBI circular on NPA resolution — are awaiting formation of government as the Modi 2.0 is faced with a slowdown, slack in demand, consumption and investment.

Battered by a severe slowdown, the Indian economy is expected to grow slower at 6.3 per cent in the January-March quarter of fiscal year 2018-19, clocking the lowest expansion in six quarters, said sources. The full year and Q4 GDP growth reports are awaited from CSO.

The concerns about a slow-down in economy could continue well into FY20 and will be immediately felt in the Q1 period, sources said. The GDP growth has been falling consistently from July-September quarter of FY19. The year (2018-19) began with a GDP growth of 8 per cent in Q1 period only to slow down to 7 per cent in the second quarter. In Q3, it was 6.6%.

On another key macro stat, the government had pegged its fiscal deficit target for 2018-19 at 3.4 per cent for which was revised upwards from the earlier 3.3 per cent. At the end of February, the fiscal deficit is at Rs 8,51,499 crore had crossed 134 per cent of the budget estimate which translated into 4.52 per cent of GDP. The figures for FY19 is awaited from Controller of Government Accounts (CGA).

The other key report is RBI’s revised circular which is expected now after the government formation. In the report, the RBI is likely to adopt a more accommodative approach towards resolution of stressed assets when it issues a revised circular sometime in the next few days, following the February 12 circular quashed by the Supreme Court.

Sources said the major contention in the February 12, 2018, circular that got challenged in the court leading to its quashing, will be done away with in the new circular. Instead, banks will be given more time to identify and qualify an account as bad debt and also be given more time to resolve the same.

The RBI is likely to retain the main contours of its February 12, 2018 circular while making the referral to National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) non-compulsory, sources told IANS.

It might, however, be guided by suggestions earlier given by the Indian Banking Association (IBA) for debt resolution for classification of Non-Performing Asset (NPA) and resolution of bad assets.Bankers had suggested qualifying a loan as bad debt if the default was for a period of at least 90 days and not one day as was the case in the February 12 circular.

A bank-led resolution should start only after that, according to the bankers.Moreover, it had suggested a 60 day incubation period post this time for identifying the default. After this, banks would resolve a case within 180 days and consider referring the case to NCLT post that period if the majority of the lenders agreed.

On April 2, the Supreme Court struck down a February 12, 2018 circular of the RBI that asked banks to initiate insolvency process against companies even if there was a day’s delay in payment of dues.

Bimal Jalan panel on RBI’s capital size is likely to submit report by June. The high-level panel looking into appropriate capital reserves the RBI should maintain will hold at least two more meetings before finalising the report.

(Anjana Das can be contacted at anjana.d@ians.in)

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Teenager injured in Pakistan firing on LoC in Nowshera

Teenager injured in Pakistan firing on LoC in Nowshera
Jammu, May 26 (IANS) A teenager was injured on Sunday in small arms firing by Pakistan army on the line of control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district.

Police sources said 18-year-old Muhammad Ishaq was injured when Pakistan army resorted to unprovoked small arms firing on the LoC in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district.

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