It is middle of June and there are still no signs of monsoon in major parts of the country. This is making IMD’s forecast of a rain deficient monsoon even ominous. To prepare for this challenge Modi did a two and half hour meeting with a select group of Ministers. Government’s aim is to minimize the outrage in a drought like situation. The fact that BJP is sensitive to public outrage was evident today when Goan MLAs backed off on their plan to visit Brazil using state funds.
Inflation is top worry for the current government as growth of the economy is linked to it. Just when inflation is showing signs of slowing down, lack of rain resulting in drought can play a major spoiler. It will result in food prices going up steeply.
Thus Modi sarkar is busy chalking preemptive strategies to effectively tackle the problem. Modi on Friday met Agriculture Minister Ram Mohan Singh, a meeting also attended by the likes of Arun Jaitley, Uma Bharati etc. Agriculture minister briefed PM about how they are looking to handle the situation. It has been decided that contingency measures will be soon kicked in to support the poor farmers.
Modi’s ploy to reach out to Pakistan to improve bilateral ties received a jolt today. Even as Modi wrote a letter to President Sharif thanking him for sending a saree to his mother massive ceasefire violation happened in Mendhar sector of the valley.
This forced India to come up with a strong response. Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said in no uncertain terms that peace in the border will always be the precondition to amicable relationship between the two countries. Modi’s letter to Sharif also gave the same message in a subtle manner. Modi wrote that he is looking forward to dialogues with Sharif in an “atmosphere free from confrontation and violence”.
But unrest in the border is perhaps inevitable considering the lack of any central authority in Pakistan. Heavy firing including use of mortars was reported from Rajouri and Punch since early morning today. Omar Abdullah tweeted to say that even civilians were targeted by the Pak army. He wondered if this massive ceasefire violation has anything to do with new Defence Minister Arun Jaitley’s visit to Kashmir on Saturday.
Today Narendra Modi met Army Chief Bikram Singh who is slated to demit office shortly. The meeting lasted for nearly three hours and reports suggest that PM was given a detailed overview on the prevailing security situation of the country especially in the border region. Army chief designate Dalbir Suhag and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley were also present in this high level meeting where candid views was given to the Prime Minister on war readiness of the armed forces.
Tomorrow Modi is slated for his first trip outside the capital since he became Prime Minister. He is starting with Goa, where he was formally ratified as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. He is scheduled to sail on INS Vikramidtya, country’s largest warship and aircraft carrier.
Navy has decided to showcase their prowess in front of the Prime Minister who will be witnessing numerous exercises by warships and aircrafts. Indian Navy has faced some reverses in the recent past mainly owing to accidents in submarines. It will be interesting to see if Modi gives any formal speech to boost up the morale of those brave officials.
Speaking of Goa, public outrage regarding trip of 6 legislators to witness world cup using taxpayer’s money has yielded some results. The MLAs including three ministers have now decided to go to this “study trip” using their own money. However some sources indicate that corporates may pick the tab for this tour. It is hard to say what prompted the U-turn but many believe with Modi visiting Goa tomorrow it was difficult for the BJP government to not toe his line of austerity.
Modi sarkar has further tightened the norms on foreign visits for both politicians and diplomats. Permission for any foreign visit has to be sought from Prime Minister atleast 10 days before the trip and the agenda of the tour has to be clearly mentioned with the application. Similarly after returning a progress report has to be submitted.
Minister under fire:
Skeletons from closets of members belonging to the Modi sarkar are slowly coming out. After VK Singh another member of the government has embarrassed Narendra Modi. A district court in Jaipur has issued notice to minister of state for Chemicals and Fertilizers Nihal Chand Meghwal in connection with a rape case. Congress has promptly asked for resignation of this minister from Rajasthan.
The charges however are not new. As early as back in 2011, a FIR was filed by a woman where 17 people including Meghwal were accused of rape. Police rejected the case subsequently. Now the woman has approached a higher court which has issued the notice. Congress leaders are asking Modi to follow his speech where he spoke about zero tolerance to violence against women. It will be interesting to see how Modi sarkar handles this curveball.
Economy is just showing some signs of turnaround. But it may stutter if it faces the double blow of bad monsoon and civil war in Iraq. Iraq war will surely lead to rise in price of crude oil which will have cascading effect on multiple economic parameters. With full-fledged civil war in Iraq a distinct possibility rupee considerably weakened to end at 59.76.
Its effect was also felt on the market where expected surge was arrested with the news of rising price in crude. Both Sensex and Nifty ended in red today. The fall in Nifty was more pronounced (107.80) where it recorded the biggest single day slump in nearly 5 months.
Budget is tentatively scheduled to be presented on 11th July. The focus will be on delivering a “people friendly” budget. For that Finance Ministry is mulling with the possibility of raising tax exemption limit from 2 lakhs to 5 lakhs which will come as welcome news to the salaried middle class. Special tax concessions are also planned for students, women and elderly citizens of the country.
Centre- state relation:
Jayalalithaa has again written a letter to Narendra Modi!! In this 32 page letter, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has urged Modi to form the Cauvery Management Board, a demand already rejected by Union Minister Uma Bharati. Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah has strongly objected to this letter. Cauvery has been a niggling issue for very long and looks like even Modi will have problems to solve it amicably.
Planning Commission has informed that they are yet to take any decision to accord special status to truncated Andhra Pradesh ( Seemandhra). However with NDA in power in Andhra it is seen as merely a matter of time before the decision is announced formally.
Planning Commission has already rejected demand of Rajasthan, Odisha and Jharkhand for getting special status. Bihar is also ineligible but may well get it if Centre obliges
CBI has filed charges against current and former MPs of the Parliament in a corruption related case. In a somewhat “petty” crime compared to spectrum and coal scam, they have been accused of inflating their travel bills to get extra reimbursements. TMC has alleged government of using the agency for settling political score. It has defended Debabrata Bandhopadhay whose name has cropped up in this scandal. However case has been also registered against a former BJP MP in this matter. Thus the charge of misusing CBI is unlikely to hold here.
Finally, a look at the key economic parameters as of today…