Assam Assembly Elections 2016


Asom Gana Parishad, BJP’s Assam Assembly elections 2016, today announced the first list of its 25 candidates for the hustings including the names of former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, former ministers and its president Atul Bora.

The regional party will also be announcing shortly the names of other candidates in those constituencies where it will have friendly contests with the BJP, AGP president Atul Bora told reporters here.

Among the 25 contestants are former two-time chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta (Barhampur), ex-ministers Brindaban Goswami (Tezpur), Renupama Rajkhowa (Teok), Pradeep Hazarika (Amguri), Pabindra Deka (Patacharkuchi), Dr Kamala Kanta Kalita (Chaygaon), Ramendra Narayan Kalita (Guwahati West), Bora said.

The others in the list include sitting MLAs Binod Gowala (Sarupathar), Utpal Dutta (Lakhimpur), Prabin Hazarika (Bwiswanath), Phani Bhusan Choudhury (Bongaigaon), Bhupen Rai (Abhayapuri-North), Mukundaram Choudhury (Kalaigaon), Kesab Mahanta (Kaliabor).

Besides party president Atul Bora (Bokakhat), the others are Bhabendra Nath Bharali (Dergaon-SC), Naren Sonowal (Naharkatia), Dr Ali Azam Sheikh (Bilasipara-East), Rabin Banikya (Abhayapuri-South), Gunindra Nath Das (Barpeta), Jyotiprasad Das (Boko-SC), Satyabrata Kalita (Kamalpur), Habibur Rahman (Dalgaon), Ranjit Deka (Lahorighat) and Ziauddin Ahmed (Jamunamukh).

The contestants have been selected in the interest of the party and considering their winning possibility of seats as per reports given by survey done by the party, the AGP leader said.

Speaking about the AGP-BJP alliance, Atul Bora said “It was done in consideration of the present political scenario in Assam. There have been 15 years of lawlessness here under the Congress with the government failing to protect people’s life and property.”

“As we cannot form government on our own and the BJP invited us to join them for bringing a change the people have been wanting, we have come together to defeat Congress,” Bora asserted.

He said the AGP-BJP target to win 86 of the 126 Assembly seats by garnering the non-Congress votes.

The AGP president also appealed party workers who went away or have distanced themselves to set aside their differences and return to the party fold to strengthen it and help the party to win.

Today several persons, including former Director General of Police Dilip Bora, Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad former president Dilip Patgiri, actress Dorin Hazarika and writer Diwas Phookan joined AGP at the press meet.

The BJP had yesterday in Delhi announced the names of 88 candidates, including those of its chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal, former Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma and Lok Sabha MP Kamakhya Prasad Tasha, who has been fielded against Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

Sonowal, who presently represents Lakhimpur Parliamentary constituency in the Lok Sabha, will contest from Majuli, a reserved seat for ST, while Sarma has been fielded from Jalukbari which he represented as a Congress MLA until he moved to BJP last year.

Assam goes to the polls in two phases with 65 of the 126 constituencies in the first phase on April 4 and the rest 61 on April 11.


PM Narendra Modi’s new growth recipe: Just add water


Like his father before him, Dattatatraya Kshirsagar, 80, has been looking forward for years to the day when a $65 million dam will be completed in his village, an hour-and-a-half drive southeast of Mumbai.

The dam would supply enough water to irrigate 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) of parched land around it, including Kshirsagar’s 2.5-hectare family farm in Kondhane village.

A steady water supply, instead of reliance on seasonal monsoon rains, would allow him to switch to cash crops and reap three harvests a year, instead of one now, Kshirsagar said.

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Kshirsagar’s family has been holding on to that dream since 1984, when the project was first proposed by the state government. “My family’s income will more than double if they complete the dam,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is promising to do just that in the 2016-17 Budget presented on February 29. His government has pledged nearly $13 billion on rural development, aiming to double farmer’s incomes by 2022.

Irrigation is a centrepiece of that promise in a country where nearly half of the arable land depends on monsoon rains.

Modi’s Budget has allocated a record $18 billion in the federal budget to expand irrigation and recharge aquifers — two thirds of that could come from overseas loans

At stake are both Modi’s political future and his growth ambitions. Most of India’s 1.3 billion people live in the countryside and depend on agriculture to make a living.

Late last year, rising rural distress after back-to-back droughts contributed to an embarrassing defeat of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in a state election. Global warming is making India’s summer monsoon increasingly unpredictable, scientists say.

More crucial state elections are due in the coming months, including in West Bengal. India’s farm sector, which accounts for around 14% of gross domestic product, contracted by 0.2% in 2014-15. It grew by 4.2% in the previous year.

Sloth, corruption, no coordination

Stalled projects like the Kondhane dam tell a cautionary tale for politicians making big promises.

Successive federal governments have thrown billions of dollars over the years to fix the problem. But many of the projects stalled due to bureaucratic sloth, corruption, opposition to land acquisition and lack of coordination within the government.

More than 200 irrigation projects worth some $36 billion have been stuck for years. One irrigation project has languished for 40 years in eastern Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls next year. The delay has increased the cost of the Durgawati project by eight times to Rs 800 crore ($119.15 million), a source at the Water Resources ministry said.

“Every year, a large amount of funds allocated for irrigation lie unutilised and that’s because of lethargy, red tape, inept administration and a lack of political will,” said Ashok Gulati, an agricultural economist, who formerly advised the government on crop prices.

Poor coordination between New Delhi and the states is one of the biggest challenges.

Other than the ministries of farm, water resources and rural development, nearly half a dozen departments of state governments are also involved in each project, making coordination and implementation tricky and time consuming.

“It’s a case of too many cooks,” said Devinder Sharma, an independent farm and trade policy analyst.

Depleting Groundwater

Only 64 million hectares of the 142 million hectares of farm area under crops in India are irrigated. Surface irrigation projects cover only 25 million hectares of that total.

Nearly 60 % of the irrigation for farms now comes from ground water, mainly through electric water pumps. Subsidised electricity gives farmers an incentive to pump out more water, a key reason behind fast depleting water tables.

That has lent an added urgency to speed up the surface irrigation projects.

Modi’s administration has decided to focus initially on 46 of the stalled surface irrigation projects. It has set a deadline to complete half of those by March 2017 and the other half by 2020, according to the 2016/17 federal budget.

The 23 projects will help bring an extra 1.3 million hectares under irrigation.

The remaining 150 or so projects that are stalled — like the Kondhane dam — have no timeline yet, as the government tackles the biggest ones first.

At the dam project site in Kondhane, nearly two dozen dumpers and a dozen excavators remain parked in a row, idle and covered in blue tarp with the Western Ghats mountain range in the backdrop.

After the Maharashtra state government first conceived the Kondhane dam, it took 27 years to get the necessary approvals from various government departments to start excavating the site.

Work started in earnest in 2011, but a year into it, the project got stuck again, in legal troubles this time, including environmental concerns about the impact of the dam. The matter is now before a court. The state’s anti-corruption bureau is also investigating graft charges.

The cost of the dam, meanwhile, has increased to 4.35 billion rupees from 80 million rupees when it was first conceived.

Assembly Elections 2016

Assam Assembly Elections : Different permutation

When chief Minister Tarun Gogoi was asked ahead of the 2011 Assembly Elections whether the Congress was considering an alliance with Badruddin Ajmal of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), he famously answered: “Ajmal who?”

So far, there seems little chance of a Congress-AIUDF alliance. If they had tied up, the Congress might have lost some ground but it would have been a formidable force. Instead, it is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is going on an alliance spree – it has tied up with the Asom Gana Parishad, the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) and some other independents.

As alliances go, the BJP’s is a strong one. In the previous Assembly’s tenure, the BPF had supported the Gogoi government till 2014. After the riots in Kokrajhar, an area controlled by BPF, the party began to get uneasy. It lost Kokrajhar in the Lok Sabha polls of 2014 and since then, a section of the Bodo leadership has been wanting to move away from the Congress. For both the AIUDF and the BPF, the motivation to defeat Gogoi is strong. But, while the BPF can visualise tying up with the BJP, this cannot be countenanced for the AIUDF. Hence, the BJPis trying to unite as many Hindu groups as possible, while hoping the Muslims are divided.

West Bengal Assembly Elections : Stopping the TMC

Mathematically, if the Congress and the CPI (M) get together and manage to replicate their earlier vote share, nothing can stop them from forming the next government. This cannot happen for two reasons. One, a formal alliance has been all but ruled out by the CPI (M), although Congress MLAs told party Vice President Rahul Gandhi they’d be decimated without an alliance with the Left. Two, some partners in the former Left Front government, like the Forward Bloc and SUCI, and even elements in the CPI (M) are leaving in droves to join the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). The latter started with 184 seats in 2011 and this has gone up to 195 today, the result of defection and by-election victories. An informal alliance will have only limited success. How the Left performs in Bengal in the day of Kanhaiya Kumar and sedition, given the ground work done by Trinamool, is the question. TMC is working especially hard in the Dooars area, hoping to make some inroads into the Gorkha vote. As for the BJP, it continues to matter little in Bengal.

Tamil Nadu Assembly Elections : Jaya again, for once?

In 2006, as well as in 2011, Congress and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam contested together. But, between the two elections and the one in 2016, there fell a shadow – the telecom spectrum allocation scam, that led to a jail term for DMK supremo Karunanidhi’s daughter, Kanimozhi.

The alliance broke. The two forces have joined again because the opposition knows that if it continues to fight against each other, it is the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK that will sweep, for a seventh time. But, it is an enfeebled Congress jumping into the field. Jayalalithaa doesn’t seem in any mood to have significant alliance partners. The BJP, with almost no political capital of its own, is trying to piggyback on DMDK’s Vijayakanth, with whom they had an alliance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Vijayakanth is being wooed by both DMK and BJP and is taking time to decide. There are mixed feelings about the extent of the vote he commands. Tamil Nadu has a tradition of voting in the opposition. Could this time be the exception?

Puducherry Assembly Elections : Maverick tries again

The 2011 Assembly elections were won by the All India N Rangasamy Congress and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, in alliance. But, immediately after the election, when Rangasamy realised he had the strength to become the chief minister on his own, he dumped a startled Jayalalithaa and crowned himself. After that, he has been cosying up to the BJP but the latter hasn’t paid much attention to him. He gains little by siding with Bharatiya Janata Party – only his independence.

The Congress-DMK has announced an extension of its Tamil Nadu alliance. Both parties have traditional strengths in the tiny Union Territory. It is possible that if he doesn’t watch out, Rangasamy could be confronted with an unpleasant surprise. Caste is not an issue in Puducherry, so the debate is likely to centre on development. Rangasamy will claim the greatest victory lies in getting Puducherry counted in the list of Smart Cities and getting funds from France invested here so that the city benefits. But ,the Opposition is going to target the lack of development in the rural areas, issues of water, power and roads. In many ways, national bookmarks will not weight down the discourse in Puducherry where the campaign will be purely on the development of the Union Territory.

Kerala Assembly Elections : Left’s turn now?

As in Tamil Nadu, the opposition is usually voted to power in Kerala. The Congress-United Democratic Front came to power with a majority of two MLAs in 2011. Despite hard work by the CM, it has not been able to increase its base. KM Mani of the Mani group had to resign in the wake of corruption charges. Its alliance partners are still together but reluctantly. The CPI (M)-Left Democratic Front (LDF) also has infighting problems but is getting some support from small, erstwhile allies. K R Gowri, at 96, has rejoined, for instance. The Ezhava community which had drifted away is making as if to return to it. The wild card is the BJP – on the other hand, maybe not such a wild one. Both PM Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah have visited leaders of the Ezhava community several times at functions to which CPI (M) and Congress leaders were pointedly not invited. But, caste in Kerala does not think the same way as caste groups think elsewhere in India. Hence, an LDF victory cannot be ruled out.

Rs 4,000-crore USL funds transfer under scanner


The Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Reserve Bank of India have launched a probe into the transfer of Rs 4,000 crore from United Spirits Ltd (USL) to the British Virgin Islands in early 2007 by the company before it was taken over by Diageo in 2012.

A probe into the transfer was first ordered by a division Bench of the Karnataka High Court on December 20, 2013,

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Here’s why Arvind Kejriwal is cosying up to ‘pujya guruji’ Sri Sri Ravi Shankar


Should Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, known for his unconventional views and infallible belief in saving the environment have been on the same stage as Sri Sri Ravishankar whose function got him a fine from the National Green Tribunal (NGT)? Kejriwal’s presence and his warmth towards “pujya guruji” has disappointed many followers. Others just shrug. After all, Kejriwal and Sri Sri have a history that cannot be forgotten.

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HDFC Bank has no love for India: Consumer court


HDFC Bank “has got no love and respect for India” as it put the country’s reputation at stake by not activating a debit card of a couple “trapped in a foreign country”, the apex consumer court has said.

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) made the observations while asking the bank to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the Indian couple, who were stuck in Thailand and Singapore as the bank did not activate their debit card for 10 days in 2008.

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Kingfisher vs Jet: One chart tells a grim story about Vijay Mallya’s loans


Bankers cannot escape blame for the bad-loan mess at Kingfisher Airlines. Why did they fund Vijay Mallya’s never financially solvent airline?

Kingfisher’s gross block (investment in fixed assets) was always a fraction of its total debt and the gap widened with each passing year (see chart). Thus, the banks never had the option to sell its assets and recover their dues in a default. Compare it to the amount of documentation and collateral that banks ask from individual borrowers.

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