Saturday, September 28, 2019

At least 20% sitting MLAs may lose tickets

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

At least 20% sitting MLAs may lose tickets
BJP's internal surveys wants purging of non-performers

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 27

At least 20 to 30 per cent of the sitting MLAs in Maharashtra and Haryana may be shown the door by the ruling BJP in both the states. Of the sitting 122 MLAs who won on the BJP ticket in 2014, at least 22-25 may not be renominated. It transpires that the BJP's three internal surveys conducted during the past one year has concluded that new faces need to be to be brought to the fore. The party leadership at the Central level feels that in 2014 the situation was different as there was no alliance with the Shiv Sena and it had to make a lot of compromises and give tickets to certain leaders whom the party was disinclined to field. But it buckled under the pressure of various senior leaders. But times have changed and cleansing of the BJP itself is required. Secondly, the BJP's state incharge and party general secretary Bhupendra Yadav is a tough and thorough person. He would like the BJP to win almost every seat it contests. BJP president Amit Shah has also firmly told the state leaders that party should be in a position to win 150 out of 162 seats it is likely to contest. Though BJP is likely to contest 144 seats, it wants smaller parties to contest on its symbol. “Otherwise, they are free to take a walk,” said a senior BJP functionary.
Secondly, three surveys were done by different agencies and one was conducted internally directly under the watch of Bhupendra Yadav. It is felt that some outstanding personalities who have done well in fields other than politics be fielded. Its time that the BJP should draw talent from outside the political arena. Thirdly; the BJP has admitted a large number of leaders from other parties and some of them have to be accommodated and fielded during the Assembly polls to send the signal to those who are waiting in the wings. If sources are to be believed, at least 20 sitting MLAs may lose the tickets.

The situation in Haryana is no different where the party is going it alone for the 90-member Assembly. It has 47 MLAs who won on its symbol in October 2014. Now the Opposition is completely divided and fragmented unlike Maharashtra. Therefore, the BJP wants to deny ticket to at least 15 sitting MLAs based on the internal assessment and surveys.
The list will be declared after the BJP's Parliamentary board meeting on September 29 when the Prime Minister returns from his week long foreign tour.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Rahul Reluctant campaigner in Assembly polls

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Rahul Reluctant campaigner in Assembly polls
Congress banking on Sonia, Priyanka

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 26

There is intense speculation in the Congress whether former Congress president Rahul Gandhi will campaign in Maharashtra and Haryana in the ensuing Assembly polls.

The speculation gained momentum as Rahul Gandhi has become incommunicado and stays away from party activities. Except for visiting his parliamentary constituency Wayanad in Kerala, he is not taking interest in party affairs.

he has shunned meeting even the senior leaders and did not attend the CWC meeting and other meetings. So much so that when senior leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad wanted to inquire through his office if he would be campaigning for the Haryana Assembly polls, he did not get any response. Though he has not said a "No" to the campaigning but he has not consented as yet.
If sourcese are to be believed, Rahul Gandhi is expected to participate in the foot march (Padyatra) from Gandhi Ashram in Wardha. But its a non-political program and not part of the poll campaign.
However, there are indications that Congress president Sonia Gandhi, despite not so good health, will address a couple of rallies in the two states. Priyanka Gandhi, incharge of UP, may visit Haryana as she is under extreme pressure from the state leaders including Sejia, B S Hooda and others.
The Congress' leadership problem is that it doesn't have star campaigners except the Gandhis and sword of uncertainty is hanging. Even Navjot Singh Sidhu has gone in hibernation.
The party is in the process of compiling a comprehensive list of its campaigners in the Assembly polls.

However, Rahul Gandhi is active on twitter stridently opposing the abrogation of Article 370 despite the party officially had been coy. In fact, the party has allowed different voices to be expressed by its leaders sensing the mood of the people.
Rahul Gandhi has been poking fun at PM Modi for HOWDY, Modi at Houston and on other issues.
This is the only visible line of communication he has kept open with the party.
Otherwise, he is confined to reading books, watching TV on the big screen at his Tughlaq Road residence, visiting Khan market with a couple of close friends, rigorous workout at the gym at home and talking to non-political friends.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Are Ashok Lavasa's days numbered ?

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Are Ashok Lavasa's days numbered ?
Government wants him to quit
Wife made Independent Director in 10 companies

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 24

The controversial Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa is understood to have been conveyed to put in his papers.

Highly placed sources in the government say that he has been informally told to resign his Constitutional post. It is learnt that the government wants to undertake a proper inquiry after reports surfaced in the media that his wife was appointed as Independent Director on the boards of 10 major companies. She was taken on the boards of these companies when Ashok Lavasa was holding sensitive positions in the government.

Interestingly, it was the Modi government that gave him one plum post after another beginning with Power Secretary in August, 2014, then Environment Secretary and later as Finance Secretary 2016. After retirement in October 2017, he was rewarded for his services as Election Commissioner in January 2018. Had his honeymoon with the government continued, he would have become Chief Election Commissioner in April 2021. But times have changed and the government doesn't want him to continue to hold a coveted post when serious case of impropriety and conflict of interest has come to light involving his wife.

Ashok Lavasa created a stir when he differed with the the Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and other colleague during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

He differed with his colleagues on alleged violation of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by the PM and BJP chief Amit Shah. Though he clarified later saying “I have no axe to grind and my concern is to have a system of disposal of MCC violation cases in a timebound and transparent, and non-discriminatory manner.” So much so that Lavasa even recused himself from all meetings to discuss critical issues relating to the conduct of Lok Sabha polls.

After the massive victory of the BJP, Lavasa went into a shell. But it seems an annoyed government decided to look into his conduct when he was holding key posts as an IAS officer. It was discovered that his wife Novel Lavasa became a favourite with some of the companies and was inducted as Independent director though she had nothing in plate prior to August 2014.
The government feels that its a clear case of “Conflict of Interest” and a detailed inquiry is necessary. The government wants to go into the details as to why these companies showed interest in her as she was only a retired SBI officer and known as a painter in Lutyen's Delhi. Since no inquiry can be conducted against a constitutional authority, he has been conveyed to quit to allow the process to begin.
The last word on the Lavasa-Government saga is yet to be written.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Corporate Tax Ordinance PM, President used extra-Ordinary powers

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

special report 
Corporate Tax Ordinance 
PM, President used extra-Ordinary powers
Cabinet to approve the decision post facto

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 22

It was a rare occasion in the Independent India's history when the President used his extra-ordinary powers to promulgate the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2019. The Ordinance was issued to bring into effect the slew of corporate tax rate cuts late on Friday night.

If it was a “HOWDY” moment for the Indian and foreign investors, there is some confusion and surprises too. The surprise is as to why the President, Ram Nath Kovind, had to use his extra-ordinary powers to sign the Ordinance hours before the Prime Minister left for the USA on a week-long tour. Secondly, what prevented the PM to hold an emergency Cabinet meeting to get the proposals passed. A Cabinet comprises of PM and one Cabinet Minister and the presence of all 25 Cabinet ministers is not required as per the Supreme Court ruling.
Its clear that the decision was taken in the last hours of the Prime Minister's planned departure on September 21 night to Houston (USA). 

This is first time in several decades when the President used his extra-ordinary powers to promulgate the Ordinance without Cabinet approval. There have been occasions in the past when the President used his extra-ordinary power to sign the Finance Bill when the Parliament failed to pass it in Parliament due to ruckus.
But in the instant case, Kovind used the provision in the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules that allows for the promulgation of an Ordinance with the understanding that the Union Cabinet would retrospectively give its approval.
Though the Union Cabinet had met on Wednesday in the morning and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was in town. But it was only after she left for Goa that the Prime Minister decided to give the historic Corporate tax bonanza to boost investments and sentiment in the country and the USA & elsewhere. Surely, it was a last hour decision before the PM was to depart to Houston on September 20 evening. The PM used his extra-ordinary powers to send the file to the President recommending for the promulgation of Ordinance before he departs.

The President too used his extra-ordinary powers to issue the Ordinance which had no Cabinet approval.
The Ordinance amends the Income Tax Act 1961, and the Finance (No. 2) Act 2019 to give any domestic company an option to pay income tax at the rate of 22% subject to condition that it will not avail itself of any exemption or incentive. This was surely an extra-ordinary situation as Cabinet will approve the decision in September end after the PM returns.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Modi's watershed 'Howdy' moment at Houston

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Modi's watershed 'Howdy' moment at Houston
Trade Deal may be announced with Trump in Toe 

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 19

The PMO is giving final touches to the Minute 2 Minute (M2M) program of the joint rally at Houston with US President Donald Trump on Sunday next. Though the organisers of the historic event is Texas India Forum. But its the BJP's foreign affairs department and the PMO which are overseeing the entire arrangements. Vijay Chaowthaiwale, in-charge of the BJP's foreign affairs department has been camping in Houston for the past ten days and in regular touch with the PMO.
The PMO is in regular touch with the White House finalising minute details of the three hour program. There are indications that Trump may not stay for the full duartion of the Howdy Event. But back channels are between the two governments are at work to sort out these details. There is also a possibility that Trump may make some announcements to reduce trade tensions between the two countries. The US in June terminated India''s designation as beneficiary developing country under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) program.
It is learnt that 20 prominent MLAs from Gujrat belonging to the BJP and few MPs have already left for Houston to drum up support among the Gujrati community.
Over 60 US lawmakers, including senior Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer, are also expected to attend the event.

Though the entry tickets have sold out for the event at the stadium having a capacity of 50000, the entire US is on fire due to the massive publicity campaign in the social and other media outfits. The organisers, Texas India Forum, have even closed a waitlist registration for free passes.

The term 'Howdy' is a shorthand for “How do you do?", used commonly in southwestern United States. To showcase the diversity of the Indian-American community, the organizers have put together a 90-minute cultural extravaganza - "Woven: The Indian-American Story" - that will feature 400 artistes and community members from Texas and across the US.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

P K Sinha's designation of Principal Advisor puzzles

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

P K Sinha's designation of Principal Advisor puzzles 
Bureaucrats see a Reason 

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 16

Nothing is without a logic in the NaMo administration and puzzled top bureaucrats at the Centre have realized it now. The PM coined a new designation of Principal Advisor for P K Sinha while appointing him in the PMO. The designation is unheard of in the PMO for the past 70 years and people are still guessing why. While Dr P K Mishra's elevation as Principal Secretary was on expected lines, P K Sinha's appointment continues to baffle as there are many firsts.
Sinha is probably the first Cabinet Secretary to be moved to the PMO after serving for more than four years in the position. Insiders in the know of things in the government say that Cabinet Secretary is the senior most bureaucrat in the hierarchy and he could not have been made Additional Principal Secretary under Dr P K Mishra in the PMO.
Since the PM had decided to shake up the PMO, he needed a senior bureaucrat known for his integrity. After holding the highest post in bureaucracy, he could have been designated only as Principal Advisor.
This is how the PM showed his innovative skills and became unconventional and named Sinha as Principal Adviser. Secondly, drafting Sinha in the advisory role would provide him a wide canvas to give his advice to the PM on policy, implementation and coordination with different ministries and department. His role would not be restricted to merely infrastructure as was earlier whispered. Secondly, it would rule out any possibility of who is number One or Number two in the PMO.
Both, PK Mishra and PK Sinha would work together without stepping into the territories and domain of each other. Of course, P K Mishra would continue to handle the sensitive appointments as in-charge of the ACC. All files will be routed through P K Misha and there will be single line of command. Ajit Doval, National Security Adviser, to the PM has his role cut out. But even he will now have to adjust to a new system.
It is also learnt that Bhaskar Kulbe who is functioning as secretary to the PM and reporting to P K Mishra may get a fresh term. His extended term is ending on September 30 this year. It is likely that his term be extended co-terminus with the PM or earlier whichever is earlier.


Monday, September 16, 2019

BJP struggling to formulate winning strategy

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Special Report 

BJP struggling to formulate winning strategy
As Kejriwal Praises Modi, supports Article 370
Javadekar working overtime to turn tide  
Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 15

The BJP leadership may be on 7th Heaven in Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand going to polls in October-November. But its plate is full of problems when it comes to Delhi.

Sensing trouble ahead, the party has replaced Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman with senior leader and Cabinet Minister Prakash Javadekar, as incharge of Delhi affairs. Though Assembly polls are five months away. But Javadekar is holding district wise meetings seeking suggestions to formulate a winning strategy on a daily basis. The BJP has not won Delhi Assembly for the past 21 years.

The challenge before the party is how to counter the sops and freebies offered by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Javadekar has advised the local leadership not to unnecessarily criticise Kejriwal’s welfare schemes. The level of anti-incumbency against the Kejriwal government is still being assessed. The BJP is also baffled as to why Kejriwal has stopped criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi by name for the past couple of months. The AAP even voted in favour of abrogation of Article 370 in Parliament.

The BJP's another serious problem is whether it should project a chief ministerial candidate during the assembly polls or make it BJP vs Kejriwal. The BJP had burnt its fingers when it projected Kiran Bedi as CM face and lost badly in January 2015.
When a BJP leader, who wanted relief for residents of unauthorised colonies, Javadekar advised them not to talk to the media on the issue. The government was alive of it and responding, he said. Unauthorised colonies are a major vote-bank in Delhi, as they are home to 30-35 per cent of the city’s population.

Javadekar directed the local leadership to launch a full-blown attack on the Congress over corruption and Chidambaram the poster boy of the Congress. The BJP suspects that Congress and AAP will have some tacit understanding and wants to convert it into an opportunity.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Opposition got lion's share of Committees in RS

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Opposition got lion's share of Committees in RS

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 14

The Opposition members in Rajya Sabha have been given the lion's share this year when it comes to giving them chairmanship of joint parliamentary standing committees.

Compared to the previous two years, the Opposition benches were given five standing committees of the Upper House instead of four. Rajya Sabha Chairman M.Venkaiah Naidu approved the appointment of chairpersons of the eight Committees under which the ruling BJP gets headship of three Committees. He also approved nomination of Rajya Sabha on the 16 DRSCs of Lok Sabha. Constitution and chairpersons of the 16 DRSCs serviced by the Lok Sabha were also approved by Speaker Om Birla.

Of the DRSCs of Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma and Jairam Ramesh (Congress) obtained two committees,

of Congress will head the DRSC on Home Affairs while his party colleague Shri Jairam Ramesh will chair the Committee on Science, Technology, Environment & Forests.
Prof.Ramgopal Yadav (SP) was appointed chairman of Health & Family Welfare committee while Dr. K. Keshava Rao (TRS) is Chairperson of Industry Committee. V.Vijay Sai Reddy (YSRCP) is heading Commerce.
Satyanarayan Jatiya, Bhupendra Yadav and T.G.Venkatesh from BJP are heading three committees.

Main opposition Congress retained it’s quota of chairmanship of two committees.

Venkaiah Naidu held consultations with Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Shri Prahlad Joshi before finalising the composition of the committees.

16 Committees fall under the Lok Sabha and in all there are 24 Department Related Standing Committees of both houses.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Plastic Ban: Big headache for Govt.

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Lokmat Exclusive Report 
Plastic Ban: Big headache for Govt.
12 Single use plastic items identified
Plastic bottles may be spared

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 13

The government is understood to have drawn a list of 12 items under the “Single use plastic category” to be banned from October 2.

The Prime Minister has set up a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) under Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba which has drawn the list and consulting various ministries. The Consumer Affairs, Environment, Urban Affairs, Law, Health, Drinking water & Sanitation etc are part of this exercise.
Plastic bags below 50 micron, plastic plates including those made of plastic & thermocol, plastic cups, glasses, spoon cutlery, etc fall in this category.
Highly placed sources in the government say plastic water bottles may not be included in the banned list for now. Ever since the PM gave a clarion call from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15 to ban single use plastic, the ministers and bureaucrats are racing against time to implement the order.
It transpires that the PM made the announcement after Parmeshwaran Iyer, Secretary in the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation submitted a note suggesting ban on Single Use plastic immediately. The government was told by various departments and ministries that water bottle industry alone in the country is worth Rs 40000 crores. The size of the plastic industry as a whole is over Rs seven lakh crores. The economy is already facing a slow down.

It was in this background that there is a climb down from “Ban plastic” to “Give up plastic” and that too single use plastic. Even the list of single use plastic is drastically pruned so that the industry is not badly affected. The Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan is holding a series of meetings with the stakeholders in this regard to evolve a meeting ground before October 2 when the ban on these items will kick in.

It is learnt that if the Central government will ban the single use plastic on 12 items, a new law would required and modalies will have to be worked out as this is a state subject.

Friday, September 13, 2019

DRI & ED scanner on large overseas remittances

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

DRI & ED scanner on large overseas remittances

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 12

The government is considering tightening of the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) and other legitimate routes for remitting money abroad. The government's re-thinking came after the probe agencies brought to the notice massive outflow of funds abroad during the past couple of years through legitimate routes. The Probe agencies, in a meeting last week with the Ministry of Finance and the RBI had raised concern over the unusual trend. 

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and Enforcement Directorate  have detected outflow of money abroad in large amount to four countries namely; Thailand, Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong

A number of foreign exchange dealers have come under the scanner for alleged misuse of Liberalised Remittances Scheme (LRS) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). An individual is entitle to remit $250000 abroad without any question being asked by the banks. But it was noticed by the agencies that huge chunks in tranche have been remitted to these four countries only. 

The ED & DRI have detected misuse of legal routes for remittance of the funds in foreign exchange which is considered  laundering of  money. Estimates suggest these countries have received Indian money of about Rs 20,000-30,000 crore in 2018 alone. Of this, Thailand alone has received Rs. 5000 crore.  

In order to avoid regulatory attention, Forex dealers often create fake invoices under the LRS thereby blurring the identity of many accounts a source pointed out. “we have issued notices wherever we have come across such irregularities “ the official quoted earlier said.

According to RBI guidelines, resident Indians are allowed to remit an aggregate sum of Rs 250000 per financial year for any permissible current account or capital account transaction under the LRS without any approval from central bank. However, the RBI routinely seeks clarification wherever technical lapses are detected, Penalties are also imposed.The ED has issued many notices under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for unaccounted wealth parked abroad, after global leaks including he HSBC Swiss list and Panama Papers showing names of Indians. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Is Javadekar Filling Jaitley Void ?

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Is Javadekar Filling Jaitley Void ?

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 8

Information & Broadcasting and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar seems to have emerged as the “point’s person” in the new Modi dispensation. Be it the briefing of the BJP or the Union Cabinet or the key announcement, its Prakash Javadekar all the way. Though Telecom & IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Railway & Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Petroleum & Steel Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have also been briefing the media from time to time for the past some time for party and the government.

But the way Prakash Javadekar was fielded to hold the press conference solo on the occasion of completion of successful 100 days of the Modi government left no one in doubt that he is the man to watch. Normally, press conferences on such occasions are held by senior ministers jointly. But Prakash Javadekar was given the sole responsibility to present the Modi 2.0's  100 days' report card creates an impression of his growing ratings in the Modi dispensation. Javadekar held the fort on a Sunday at a  mega press conference at the National Media Center and impressed by his handling of tricky questions with calm and finesse.

The party has been struggling to find a replacement of late Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who was a catalyst, crisis manager and spokesman of the party & government par excellence. Ever since he fell sick in earlier this year and died last month, the void was being felt. Union Home Minister Amit Shah is now the crisis manager and catalyst. But the search was on for a spokesman of party & government. Nirmala Sitharaman impressed the leadership by her strident defence on the Rafale deal in Parliament and gained in stature. Ravi Shankar Prasad is a veteran party leader too and senior in order of Precedence. Both of them have been addressing crucial press briefings too. But the party leadership fielded Prakash Javadekar to address the press conference today indicates his rising clout as a spokesman as well.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Why Nripendra Mishra shown the door?

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Special Report

Why Nripendra Mishra shown the door?
Had been allotted a new bungalow recently

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 6

Nripendra Mishra’s offer to quit as Principal Secretary to the PM continues to baffle political observers and bureaucracy in the Lutyen's Delhi.

Its almost a week now when Nripendra Mishra put in his papers and no one has a clue as to what exactly had happened in the Prime Minister's Office. The surprise is largely because the veteran bureaucrat had been allotted 2A krishna Menon Marg bungalow in July after former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had vacated it. In fact, renovation work was at full speed in the bungalow which otherwise was completely re-done by Jaitley when he occupied it four years ago. Since Nripendra Mishra had been promoted to the Cabinet rank in June and allotted the new bungalow in July end and repair work was in full swing indicates that he had the intention to stay put in the PMO and in the Lutyen's Delhi itself.

There were also reports that the out-going Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha will either be sent to NITI Aayog or made Chief Vigilance Commissioner.

But all of a sudden, Nripendra Mishra desired to quit and the PM accepted it without blinking. The PM appointed out-going Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha as OSD in his office the same day. Mishra departure from the PMO is major development as he virtually running the show in the PMO since July 2014. The PM had even amended the law by issuing an Ordinance in June 2014 to induct him as his Principal Secretary. It was then attributed to his association with the Vivekanand Research Foundation (VRG) where he worked with Ajit Doval. In fact, Doval was the first to be brought in as the National Security Adviser in the PMO and Nripendra Mishra followed. While Nripendra Mishra focused on the state of economy and infrastructure sector, Additional Principal Secretary P K Mishra took care of transfers, posting and appointments in the government. It was in late 2018 when reports started emanating from the PMO that Nripendra Mishra will retire and P K Mishra will be elevated. Instead, the senior Mishra not only stayed on, he was re-appointed with a Cabinet rank.

Sources say that Nripendra Mishra's departure has something to do with the state of economy. The removal of hs hand-picked officer S C Garg as Finance Secretary, Sovereign Bonds controversy and fall out of the Union Budget on July 5 reported to have upset the government.

There are reports that Nripendra Mishra may be given guberantorial assignment to Goa or Karnataka.

Friday, September 6, 2019

PMO to decide on how to use RBI's 1.76 Lakh Crore Wind-fall

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

PMO to decide on how to use RBI's  1.76 Lakh Crore Wind-fall

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep. 5

Worried over fall in revenue collections due to economic slowdown, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has pressed the pause button over utilisation of Rs 1.76 lakh crores wind-fall gain in its kitty.

Highly placed sources say that its not the Finance Ministry but the PMO that will take a final call on Rs 1.76 lakh crores received from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) last week.

While the Opposition parties have alleged that the government will spend this money on meeting its rising fiscal deficit and unmanageable economic slowdown, the Finance Ministry has maintained a studied silence on the issue.

The RBI transferred a record dividend of Rs 1.76 lakh crores out of its Rs 10 lakh crores surplus funds on the recommendations of the Jalan committee report.
Sources aware of the goings-on in the government said that top officials of the finance ministry may shortly meet mandarins in the PMO soon to work out the modalities. The process has somewhat been delayed as the PMO is undergoing internal changes. With Principal Secretary Nripendra Mishra demitting office within the next one week and other six senior officials arriving in the PMO, things are settling down.

There is a thinking that the funds be put to use into stimulating the sagging economy and infrastructure spending rather than doling out bonanza to handful of sectors.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said recently that the government was yet to decide how to utilise Rs 1.76 lakh crore. “I can’t talk about how to utilise it now. We will take a call and then let you know,” she had said while replying to a question at press conference in Pune. She held a marathon meeting with the Industries representatives yesterday and assured them corrective steps are underway.

The PMO's new team is busy preparing a blue print for reviving the economy and bridge the revenue shortfall and cut down on borrowings.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Why Modi Picked Arif Mohd. Khan for Kerala

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Why Modi Picked Arif Mohd. Khan for Kerala

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 2

Of the five governors appointed by the Modi government last week, Arif Mohammad Khan's induction in Kerala signals BJP's growing desire to gain a toy hold in the key southern state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi picked up Khan as he has been the person of all seasons like Satya Pal Malik of Jammu & Kashmir. Arif was originally in Congress and later joined the Janata Dal, to BKS, BSP and finally BJP in 2002. He later quit the BJP and was looking for a political role for a long time. Similar was the case with Satya Pal Malik. Since Modi wanted a politician for the Muslim majority state, Malik was chosen. Similarly, Khan is left to centre politician but he never compromised with his strong support to the Triple Talaq law and even quit Rajiv Gandhi government too. Modi saw virtues in him and picked him. Thouigh Khan was looking for Rajya Sabha nomination. But Modi made him Governor of Kerala as his eyes are set on the state.
Khan is a hardcore politician at heart and at 68, he can play an active role. In fact, Modi has been quietly focusing on Kerala for the past sometime. For example, he worked hard to induct AP Abdullakutty into the BJP. Abdullakutty is a prominent Muslim leader. He was expelled from the CPM for praising the Gujarat model of development. He joined the Congress but kicked out again for hailing Modi. Apparently, Abdullakutty was not interested in joining the BJP. But he hopped on to the saffron bus because of Modi’s insistence. When he met the PM in his Parliament office during the Monsoon session, Modi told him that since he was thrown out of the two parties because of him, “you better be with me. I won’t allow you to retire.”
He joined BJP a few days later. Modi has brought Suresh Babu, a film personality, from Kerala to Rajya Sabha. Modi is desperately looking for talent in kerala to be inducted into the Cabinet as there is none from Kerala. After K J Alphons lost Lok Sabha polls, Kerala is not represented.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Piyush Goyal plans MMTC, STC & PEC Merger

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Exclusive story

Piyush Goyal plans MMTC, STC & PEC Merger
After banks PSUs merger on the anvil
PSUs accummulative losses cross Rs 2 lakh crores

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Aug. 31

After the merger of banks, the government is working on a war footing basis to merge loss making flagship State Trading Corporation (STC) with MMTC. Even the PEC may be brought under the mega merged PSU.
It is authoritatively learnt that Railways & Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal held a marathon meeting with the bankers and top officials a couple of days ago to to merge the three entities.

The MMTC, STC and PEC under the Commerce Ministry are dealing with imports and exports of goods and created in the 50s & 60s. The STC and PEC have been making huge losses year after year. However, the MMTC has been making profits.
With PM Modi telling the ministers handling economic ministries to shut down all loss making PSUs or re-structure them, Piyush Goyal has initiated move to merge the three entities. The NITI Aayog had also rang the alarm bells by telling the government that of the 300-odd PSUs of the Central government, 188 are loss making and their accummulative losses have crossed Rs 2 lakh crores. These loss making PSUs include Air India, BSNL, MTNL, STC, IIFC, Hindustan Photo etc. Ever since Modi government came to power in May 2014, it shut down only two sick units out of 188. Of course, consolidation process is on in banks. But other ministries are moving at a snail's pace and failed to take worthwhile steps.
It is in this background that Piyush Goyal has taken a major initiative to merge the three entities which have been exporting & importing goods. In a way, they are involved in same kind of business. In fact, his predecessor, Suresh Prabhu had initiated the process the process of merging of these canalizing agencies. But he couldn't move his finger.
MMTC used to work as a canalizing agency for import and export of non-ferrous metals and fertilizers. Similarly, STC was a canalizing agency for imports of essential items of mass consumption such as wheat, pulses, sugar and edible oils. The PEC deals with engineering goods
In 1989-90, these three companies were put under the one company called the Bharat Business International Ltd (BBIL), to prevent cross-competition. But the bureaucracy failed that experiment. Now it has been decided all these be merged into a single entity.