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Saturday, May 30, 2009

India calls for swift action against attacks in Australia

30 May 2009

NEW DELHI: As incidents of violence against its students in Australia continue unabated, an angry India called upon authorities in that country to take swift measures to stop the atrocity.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raised the issue with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd. The Australian PM had called Singh to congratulate him for having taken over again as prime minister, but that did not prevent Singh from taking up the issue with him.

While Rudd assured Singh that Australian authorities were doing their best to prevent such attacks, foreign ministry summoned Australian high commissioner John McCarthy to express its anguish over rising incidents of violence against Indians.

On Friday, another attack on an Indian student was reported, this time from Sydney in New South Wales.

McCarthy was called by secretary (east) in the MEA N Ravi to convey India's concern over the attacks. Sources said it was conveyed to McCarthy in no uncertain terms that it was the responsibility of Australian authorities to ensure safety of Indian students.

"It was conveyed to the Australian high commissioner that continuing sense of unease and insecurity for Indian students in Australia can have an adverse effect, in a sector that holds much promise. Certain steps that the Australian side could take, in addition to those that they have initiated, were also discussed and conveyed to the high commissioner," said the MEA in a statement.

"We are worried about the safety of Indian citizens, particularly the students," foreign minister S M Krishna said later. He too raised the issue with Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith when he called up Krishna to congratulate him. Krishna said the Indian government was in constant touch with Australian authorities "with a view to addressing issues concerning the well-being and physical safety of our students".

In his conversation with Singh, Rudd assured him that an overwhelming majority of Indian students were safe and that he was taking the issue very seriously.

Responding to attacks on Australian students, overseas Indian affairs minister Vayalar Ravi said, "We will be getting a report from the Australian high commissioner. My immediate task is to set up an institutional mechanism to deal with such incidents."

McCarthy said after his meeting with MEA officials that the attacks appeared more like criminal activity than racist. He said Australia has been taking a number of measures to "diminish" the prospects of such attacks taking place in the future. McCarthy said his discussion officials in the ministry had with him was "absolutely justified" and he would convey those views to authorities in Australia.

In a fresh incident of attack, 25-year-old Rajesh Kumar suffered 30% burns after a petrol bomb was hurled at his home in Sydney.

Australia on Friday arrested five teenagers in connection with the recent assaults on Indian students and charged one of them with attempted murder. A 17-year-old boy was charged with attempted murder after four Indian students, including 25-year-old Sravan Kumar, were attacked by gatecrashers at a party here over the weekend, Victorian police said, adding another 18-year-old was quizzed in relation to the assault, but has since been released. Kumar remains critical.

The arrests came after Indian High Commissioner Sujata Singh said the spate of assaults targeting Indian students in Australia have to "stop now'' and asserted that racism was a factor in some of the incidents.

"The fact of the matter is that whatever the motive behind the attacks, they seem to be Indian students. There is a racist element in some of the attacks but many of the attacks are opportunistic,'' she said.

Singh, along with the Consul General in Melbourne, had detailed meetings, with the Premier of the State of Victoria, John Brumby, and other ministers - as also police officials on Thursday. Brumby himself said that Victoria alone received 47,000 students last year from India and "it's paramount that their education experience and life experience in our state is positive''.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he was horrified at the attacks but defended the police response. "Any act of violence, any decent human being just responds with horror at the sorts of attack which have occurred recently...but the key thing is to make sure our law enforcement authorities are doing the best they can. I am confident they are,'' he was quoted as saying by the AFP.

Education minister Julia Gillard said on Friday that the Australian government will not tolerate victimisation and violence against international students. "I can assure you that the perpetrators of recent attacks in both Sydney and Melbourne will face the full force of the law and I will be working closely with the Victorian and New South Wales State Governments to ensure every effort is made to minimise the possibility of such attacks in the future,'' said the minister.

Race attack deals crushing blow to IT dream

31 May 2009,

SURAT: Leaving behind his family's booming hospitality business in Surat, Suketu Modi flew to Australia with a dream of making it big in information technology.

Barely eight months after landing Down Under, Modi got a shock of his life: a group of six Australian students thrashed him in a train. The 'curry bashing', as it is known there, left him so scared that he packed up within a week to return to Surat.

Recent pictures of Indian students brutally beaten up have brought back memories of his bitter experience in Melbourne. ''I was going home from the university in the train when a group of six youngsters came up to me and asked for cigarettes. When I told them that I did not smoke, they started hurling racial abuses at me. Suddenly, they started beating me. The punched me in my face and kicked me while people around did nothing,'' he said.

He discontinued his three-year degree course after just one semester at Holmesglen Institute of TAFE. He lost close to Rs 2 lakh paid as fees.

Since then, he thought it best to focus on the family business. ''Attacks on Indian students are common there. They would not harass other Asian students but target Indians only,'' Suketu said.

He recalled the case of Nikunj Patel of Vadodara, a taxi driver in Melbourne. ''Often, Australians would not pay him the fare. Once, he was shown a knife when he insisted on payment''. He said Nikunj could not return home as his parents had taken a hefty loan to send him to Australia. Premal Umap, a Sydney-based security professional who belongs to Vadodara, said such racial attacks were common. ''Most students avoid registering a complaint and suffer quietly,'' he said.

SOS: Save our students

Friday May 29, 2009

It’s with a lot of dreams that parents in India send their children for studies abroad, often under the burden of massive loans and even heavier expectations – from the extended family, friends and society. So when their kids are attacked abroad, mostly by lumpens and racists who, having themselves failed to do something substantial blame innocent desis for taking their jobs away, it breaks more than the heart. It breaks the trust in multicultural global cities being safe and free of the fetters of race and colour. It breaks the faith in the government of India for not acting strongly and swiftly enough. And it breaks faith in the 21st century youth who you’d feel have gone beyond the southern-northern, white-black, pale-brown, first world-developing world divide, something that their fathers and grand fathers were much more seized with.

The fears are already starting to form. In Chandigarh, which routes the passage of 20,000 students just to Australia in a year, anxious parents are lining up at the doors of immigration agencies which handled the visa processing work and are dialing their sons and daughters in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth. If the attacks on vulnerable Indian students continue, many parents would soon stop sending their children out of the country and halt all talk of their kids applying to universities down under, even in UK, USA and Canada.

Though it’s too early to assume Australia is being swamped by angry youths out to terrorize Indian students and eventually drive them out, the growth of neo-Nazi groups and ultra nationalists across the western world is worrisome. France, Italy, Germany, Russia, UK, Turkey, Spain, USA – the list is growing – have not been spared the shame. In a recent post Al Jazeera talks of how ``a good example of the right wing flexing their muscles was seen in February when a record 6,000 neo-Nazis marched (in Dresden) to commemorate the Allied bombing of Dresden during the second world war.’’ One witness is quoted as saying the marchers were ``very aggressive’’.

The economic slowdown and recession in many of these countries may not be helping matters at a time when unemployment and lack of revenue sources are drying up. America in the recent presidential elections agonized about its jobs coming to India. `Bangalored’ is something that has now seeped into that country’s lexicon. And in Britain there will be many openly unhappy with the distinct possibility of brown overwhelming white in the next decade or so. Air France is allegedly already making a habit of racial abuse. Frustration needs a channel and what better target than helpless and young Indians studying abroad. Ready fodder.

One can imagine how Australia might have reacted had one of its nationals, that too a student, been killed or kicked by enraged Indians. To that extent, external affairs minister SM Krishna has spoken up angrily and upped the diplomatic ante and word has come from Australia that it will punish the offenders, but more hard talk and call for security needs to be made to assuage feelings of fear among the Indian student diaspora, cowering in anxiety right now in lands alien to them. After all, they are paying huge sums of money to study in foreign colleges and universities, and the least they can expect is for themselves and their friends to be safe.

Blog post by Anand Soondas in Times of India

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mamata rejects 27-lakh cheque from Tata electoral trust

May 29, 2009 New Delhi:
Aide drives Banerjee to Rail Bhavan in his car on her first day as Railway Minister

Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, riding an unprecedented wave of support from across West Bengal — trouncing the Left in its worst defeat in three decades — has returned a cheque of over Rs 27 lakh sent to her by the Tata Electoral Trust after Verdict 2009.

“I politely returned it,” she said here today. “I don’t have any ill will against the Tatas.”

Last October, Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata had blamed Banerjee and her party for forcing him to pull the Nano project out of the state. “I once mentioned that if somebody puts a gun to my head, you pull the trigger or you take the gun away because I have not moved my head. I think Ms (Mamata) Banerjee has pulled the trigger,” he had said.

An official spokesperson of the Tata group confirmed the cheque had been rejected. Another party that rejected the money given by the Trust is the CPM, which, ideologically, does not accept corporate funding.

Said new Trinamool MP and inducted as Minister of State, Rural Development, Sisir Adhikari: “A meeting of all the party candidates was held and our leader (Banerjee) placed the issue before all of us. It was unanimously decided that we will not accept the money.”

Sources said the corpus for the Tata Electoral Trust is built over five years with contribution from Tata group companies, other corporates as well as individuals. The money is distributed to parties in two tranches of 50 per cent each. The first tranche for general elections 2009 was distributed based on the party-wise strength of the 14th Lok Sabha and the second tranche based on the parties’ performance in the 15th Lok Sabha. Parties qualify for funds only if they get at least three per cent of the total strength of the Lok Sabha — a minimum of 16 of the total 543 seats.

India Shares End At Over 8-Month High, Led by Blue Chips

MUMBAI (Dow Jones)--Fresh buying in blue chips and better-than-expected economic growth data helped Indian shares end at an over eight-month high Friday.

The Bombay Stock Exchange's benchmark Sensitive Index, or Sensex, closed up 329.24 points, or 2.3%, at 14,625.25, after trading between 14,319.87 and 14,727.28.

It last closed above this level at 14,662.61 on Sept. 10. The 30-stock index ended the week with a 5.1% gain, its twelfth consecutive weekly gain.

Dow Jones technical analysis estimates the Sensex will trade in a 14,000-15,500 range next week.

India's gross domestic product expanded 5.8% from a year earlier in the January-March quarter, as higher government spending and robust performance in other services offset a slump in manufacturing.

The rate of expansion was higher than a median 5.0% expansion estimated by economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.

"The buying was very stock-specific, suggesting that traders were taking long positions in select stocks" said Anita Gandhi, the head of institutional business at Arihant Capital Markets.

On the National Stock Exchange, the 50-stock S&P CNX Nifty ended up 111.85 points, or 2.6%, at 4,448.95.

Total traded volume on the Bombay Stock Exchange was INR84.24 billion, compared with Thursday's INR70.07 billion. Gainers outnumbered losers 2,147 to 649, while 56 stocks were unchanged.

The BSE Realty Index gained the most among the 13 sectoral indexes on the exchange, rising 6.8% to 3,819.89. Stocks jumped on expectations that with more companies raising funds through equity share placements with institutions, funding projects and retiring debt will become easier.

DLF, the nation's largest property developer by sales, rose 8.4% to INR403.30. Parsvnath Developers Chairman Pradeep Kumar Jain told CNBC TV18 that it will raise between $100 million and $150 million by selling shares to institutions. Its shares hit a 5% upper limit to close at INR96.80.

ACC jumped 8.6%, the most in percentage terms on the index, to close at INR783 as investors bought heavily into the counter.

Infrastructure companies continued to rise on expectations that the budget, to be presented in the first week of July, will focus heavily on this sector.

Larsen & Toubro rose 4.8% to INR1,405.60, Jaiprakash Asscociates climbed 8.2% to INR207.50, while state-run Bharat Heavy Electricals rose 2.7% to INR2,174.90.

Reliance Industries, India's most-valued company, rose 2.6% to INR2,277.50, while Tata Consultancy rose 6.1% at INR699.75.

State-run Oil & Natural Gas ended up 4.0% at INR1,175.90 after Oil Minister Murli Deora's comments raised hopes that it may not have to bear the subsidy burden to compensate state-run fuel retailers for selling cheaper retail fuel.

Deora said the government will consider deregulating diesel and gasoline prices. Among state-run oil retailers, Hindustan Petroleum rose 8.3% to INR363.30, while Indian Oil gained 6.9% to INR609.30.

59 more find place in Manmohan team

Farooq, Virbhadra, Deshmukh, Vasan, Kharge in

Choice guided by blend of experience and youth and regional representation

14 more Cabinet Ministers, 7 Ministers of State with independent charge and 38 MoS

NEW DELHI: After prolonged consultations with the senior Congress leadership and allies, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday announced the names he recommended to the President for inclusion in the Union Council of Ministers. The 59 new additions will be sworn in on Thursday morning.

The list — 14 in the Cabinet rank, seven Ministers of State (MoS) with independent charge and 38 Ministers of State — seeks to strike a balance between administrative experience and regional representation with a fair number of “youthful faces.” The portfolios will be announced after the swearing-in.

The face of the new Ministry was unveiled by the Prime Minister’s Office in the afternoon just as Dr. Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were calling up every new entrant to inform him or her of his or her inclusion. The new entrants include four from pre-poll allies of the Congress: Dayanidhi Maran, A. Raja and M.K. Azhagiri from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), and Farooq Abdullah from the National Conference.

The Congress will be further represented in the Cabinet by Virbhadra Singh, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Mallikarjun Kharge, Selja, Subodh Kant Sahay, M.S. Gill, G.K. Vasan, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Mukul Wasnik and Kantilal Bhuria. Notable exclusions from the last Ministry are H.R. Bharadwaj, Arjun Singh, Oscar Fernandes, Sisram Ola and Saifuddin Soz.

While putting together his Ministry, Dr. Singh has opted for talent and tested hands from within the Congress. Only in the case of the allies did he leave the selection to their leaders.

At the level of Ministers of State (Independent charge), some amount of innovativeness has been displayed with the inclusion of Salman Khursheed and the elevation of Dinsha Patel and Jairam Ramesh.

The other Ministers of State (Independent charge) are Praful Patel, Prithviraj Chavan, Sriprakash Jaiswal and Krishna Tirath. Of these, Mr. Patel held the same designation last time round and Ms. Tirath is a newcomer to the Ministry. The other two are promotees.

The 38 Ministers of State include six from the Trinamool Congress, four from the DMK, and one each from the Indian Union Muslim League and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The new faces from the Congress are Srikant Jena, Mullappally Ramachandran, A. Sai Prathap, Gurudas Kamat, Mahadev Khandela, Harish Rawat, K.V. Thomas, Preneet Kaur, Sachin Pilot, Shashi Tharoor, Bharatsinh Solanki, Tusharbhai Chaudhary, Arun Yadav, R.P.N. Singh, Pradeep Jain, Prateek Prakashbapu Patil and Vincent Pala.

The list raised eyebrows and drew murmurs; particularly the poor representation to Andhra Pradesh, which many in the Congress billed as a game-changer State for the party in the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress picked up 33 seats in the State but has only one face in the Cabinet, besides five in the Ministry. Contrast this with Kerala, where the Congress and its allies got 16 seats, but have managed six perches in the Ministry. Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, too, have got a better deal despite a poor showing by the party in the two States.

Haryana — which has sent nine Congress leaders to the 15th Lok Sabha — has got only one Ministry. And, from the northeast — where the Congress is back in the reckoning — the only State outside Assam to be represented is Meghalaya. Both MPs from the State have got a Ministry each while Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh find no representation despite the Congress sweeping the polls there.

Maharashtra has a sizable presence with nine representatives in the Ministry, including two from the NCP. In contrast, Uttar Pradesh has not found a Cabinet perch and has only three faces in the Ministry on the lower rungs.

Indian PM rewards allies with cabinet seats

NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, flush from a resounding national election win, on Thursday added 59 members to his week-old cabinet, rewarding loyal coalition allies with ministerial posts.

The 76-year-old Singh, a soft-spoken economist, was sworn in with a small number of ministers on Friday after a row over cabinet seats with his Congress party's biggest ally, the DMK, held up the process.

The dispute was resolved earlier this week and Singh completed the task of forming a government almost a fortnight after the Congress-led alliance secured a second term in office on May 16.

The ruling coalition won 262 seats in April-May elections to the 543-seat parliament and quickly secured the numbers required to cross the 272-member working majority mark.

Congress had campaigned on a poverty-alleviation platform for India's rural millions, and voters also responded to the image of Singh as a steady, pragmatic leader capable of steering the country through an economic downturn.

The new ministers include cabinet and junior ranks with many young and fresh faces. However the portfolios they will hold were still to be announced.

Among those included was former UN undersecretary general Shashi Tharoor, 53, who was India's official candidate to succeed former UN chief Kofi Annan in 2006 but finished second behind winner Ban Ki-moon.

Agatha Sangma, 28, elected from northeastern Meghalaya state became the youngest federal minister when she was sworn in by President Pratibha Patil at the presidential palace.

Singh described his cabinet as a mix of "experience and youthful energy."

"There are several factors like availability of talent and other considerations that played a role" in picking candidates, Singh said.

With 79 members, "this is the biggest cabinet in a decade," said political analyst Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, adding that Singh and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi wanted "to represent different regions, religions and caste groups".

At least nine ministers are women while about a dozen are from India's socially underprivileged classes. About half a dozen belong to the main minority Muslim community.

Singh, who has promised "responsive" and "efficient" government, has handed key ministries including foreign affairs, defence and finance to Congress members.

The Singh selection: Over a third are new, nine ex-CMs at Centre

May 27, 2009
Stage is set for the second round of reshuffle for the UPA council of ministers.

Continuity with change was the broad theme of the new Council of Ministers as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday finalised his team, bringing in 28 new faces. While he dropped “non-performing assets” like Arjun Singh, Sisram Ola and H R Bhardwaj to signal his intent, politics was writ large in the composition of the new team comprising 10 Dalits and five Muslims. Over one-third of UPA MPs from election-bound Maharashtra got ministerial berths, five in the Cabinet.

After hectic deliberations over eleven days, Singh inducted 14 new members in his Cabinet, including Vilasrao Deshmukh, Virbhadra Singh, Farooq Abdullah and Mallikarjun Kharge. He also recommended the names of seven Ministers of State (Independent Charge) and 38 MoS to President Pratibha Patil. They will all be sworn in at 11.30 am tomorrow. The total strength of the Council of Ministers has gone up to 79, including 34 in the Cabinet (also comprising the Prime Minister).

With youth being the buzzword this election, the Prime Minister inducted some more young faces like Sachin Pilot, R P N Singh, Vincent Pala and Agatha Sangma in the Council of Ministers but the Cabinet was reserved for veterans with as many as nine former Chief Ministers finding place. Plus Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s son M K Azhagiri was given a Cabinet berth while former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh’s wife Preneet Kaur, former Maharashtra CM Vasantdada Patil’s grandson Prateek Patil, former Gujarat CM Madhavsinh Solanki’s son Bharatsinh Solanki, former Gujarat CM Amarsinh Chaudhary’s son Tushar Chaudhary were made Ministers of State.

GDP better than expected, risks remain: Moody's

29 May 2009,

MUMBAI: The Surprise upward revision of December-quarter growth along with solid result in March quarter should inject some confidence back into Indian economy but downside risks remain, Moody's said.

The economy grew 5.8 per cent in the March quarter from a year earlier, above forecasts of 5.2 per cent and matching the upwardly revised December quarter rate, which was the lowest since the December 2004 quarter.

The October-December growth rate was revised from 5.3 per cent.

For the 2008/09 fiscal year to March 31, economy grew 6.7 per cent, its weakest in six years and sharply slower than rates of 9 per cent or higher in the previous three years.

The rise in expenditure on the election campaign may have boosted India's March quarter performance but downside effects from the external turmoil have been far too strong to be fully offset by the jump in political spending, the note said.

"The impressive victory of the Congress party foreshadows economic reforms, which may help to strengthen the Indian economy," said Sherman Chan, economist at Moody's.

The cash-strapped authorities cannot afford sizeable stimulus measures, or they will risk widening the fiscal deficit and policy reforms seem to be the best way of reviving growth while maintaining fiscal discipline, it said.

It said the need for further rate cuts has eased as the economy has held up better-than-expected.

However, the central bank is likely to maintain a loosening bias as global economic concerns remain and the US economy is unlikely to bottom out until October, it said.

Monthly income of average Indian crosses Rs 3,000: CSO

29 May 2009 PTI

NEW DELHI: The monthly income of an average Indian for the first time in the country's history has crossed Rs 3,000, thanks to economic reforms and a high growth rate of above 9 per cent achieved for three years since 2005-06.

The per capita income, a measure of average income of a citizen, went up 12.2 per cent to Rs 37,490 per annum during 2008-09, said the advance estimate for national income released by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) today.

During 2007-08, the per capita income was Rs 33,283 per annum.

The CSO data further reveals that the per capita income at constant (1999-2000) prices during the last fiscal rose to Rs 25,494 per annum from Rs 24,295 per annum in the previous year, recording a growth rate of 4.9 per cent.

The per capita income would have been higher but for the global economic crisis, which pulled down the country's economic growth during 2008-09 to 6.7 per cent from 9 per cent in the previous fiscal.

The national income during the year went up to Rs 43.26 lakh crore, showing a rise of 14.2 per cent, while the population of the country increased by 1.6 crore to 115.4 crore.

The CSO data further says that the national income at 1999-2000 prices increased by 6.4 per cent to Rs 29.42 lakh crore during 2008-09.

Oil prices jump above $65; first time in 2009

29 May 2009,

NEW YORK: Oil prices rose above $65 per barrel on Thursday as OPEC maintained crude production levels as expected and a pair of
suggested an economic rebound may push energy prices higher.

Benchmark crude for July delivery added $1.56 to reach $65.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a six-month high.

In London, Brent prices gained $1.80 to $64.30 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Retail gas prices have shadowed oil prices, ticking higher every day this month. Gas prices are not only rising because of crude. Refiners, stung by falling demand for gasoline, have cut back sharply on production this year.

The national average pump price increased 1.5 cents overnight to $2.449 a gallon (65 cents a liter), according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. Gas is 40.1 cents a gallon more expensive than last month, but it's still $1.495 a gallon (39 cents a liter) cheaper than a year ago.

Despite the uptick in petroleum prices, US energy consumption still hovers at its lowest level in a decade.

The Energy Information Administration said on Thursday that US storage facilities added another 106 billion cubic feet of natural gas last week, putting the overall surplus well above the five-year average.

That's largely because manufacturers and other big industrial power users have been slashing production and cutting jobs.

The lack of spending on energy over the past several months has meant growing supplies and lower prices, compared with last year.

On Thursday, however, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries stood firm on production levels. Oil prices have nearly doubled since the beginning of the year as the group uncharacteristically complied with production quotes for the most part.

Even though a huge glut of oil remains, OPEC President Jose Maria Bothelo de Vasconcelos said Thursday that the organization has seen signs of an economic upturn.

Signs that those cuts may be working have showed up weekly in U.S. government reports on the level of unused oil in storage.

Google hoping Web surfers will ride its `Wave'

28 May 2009,

SAN FRANCISCO: Google Inc. is hatching a new species of e-mail and instant messaging, but the Internet search leader first wants the hybrid service to evolve even more with the help of independent computer programmers.

The free tool, called ``Google Wave,'' runs in a Web browser and combines elements of e-mail, instant messaging, wikis and photo sharing in an effort to make online communication more dynamic. Google hopes Wave simplifies the way people collaborate on projects or exchange opinions about specific topics.

Google offered the first glimpse of its latest offering Thursday during the Mountain View, Calif.-based company's annual conference for software developers who build programs on top of its services. The rest of the Web-surfing public won't be able to hop on Google Wave until later in the year.

By the time Wave rolls out for everyone, Google hopes independent programmers will have found new ways to use the service.

Among other things, Google is counting on outsiders to figure out how to weave Wave into the popular Internet communications service Twitter, social networks like Facebook and existing Web-based e-mail services, said Lars Rasmussen, a Google engineering manager.

Rasmussen and his brother, Jens, helped build Google's online mapping service, which sprouted a variety of unforeseen uses after its 2005 debut because of the ingenuity of external programmers.

Having learned their lesson from the mapping experience, the Rasmussens wanted to give developers ample time to tinker with their newest creation before unleashing it on the rest of the world.

The Rasmussens broke away from Google's mapping service in 2006 to concentrate on building a service that would enable e-mail and instant messaging to embrace the Web's increasingly social nature. They contend e-mail hasn't changed that much since its invention during the 1960s.

``We started out by saying to ourselves, `What might e-mail look like if it had been invented today?''' said Lars Rasmussen, who worked on Wave in Australia with his brother and just three other Google employees.

Wave is designed to make it easier to converse over e-mail by providing tools to highlight particular parts of the written conversation. In instant messages, participants can see what everyone else is writing as they type, unless they choose a privacy control. Photos and other online applications known as ``widgets'' also can be transplanted into the service.

The service could easily accommodate advertising like Google's 5-year-old e-mail service already does, but Lars Rasmussen said it's still too early to predict how the company might profit from Wave.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Defence teams to visit Russia for final Gorshkov negotiations

The government has decided to now speed up renegotiation with Russia for the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier refit project and has scheduled three visits by officials to seal the deal by July-end to allow the ship to join the Indian Navy in the next three years.

These visits by top defence ministry and Navy officials have been planned after a recent trip undertaken by defence secretary Vijay Singh to Moscow failed to break the deadlock in negotiations on the Russian demand for an additional $2 billion for the warship, official sources said here on Tuesday.

India seeks uranium supply from Australia

Praising Australia's role in ending India's nuclear isolation, India hopes that Canberra would reverse its policy of not selling uranium to New Delhi, saying it would help the country move to cleaner energy sources.

Despite Kevin Rudd-led government's policy on not selling uranium to a non-NPT signatory, Indian High Commissioner Sujatha Singh underlined India's expectation that Australia would change its policy.

Source: Press Trust of India

China and India learning from each others experience: IFC

India and China have overcome the bottlenecks in their investment climate with sector-specific government policies in software and manufacturing sectors respectively and the two countries are also learning from each others experiences, World Bank's lending arm IFC said today.

The study, "New Industries from New Places," offers important lessons for other countries hoping to emulate the success of India and China.

Affordable housing: The buzz word in realty

The new wave of launches in the affordable housing segment is attracting the attention of private equity (PE) players, which had for more than a year shunned the real estate sector struggling with diminishing sales, tight credit and clouded economic forecasts.

Although PE firms are yet to strike any fresh deal in the realty space, which hit a downturn last year, funds such as Red Fort Capital Advisors and Kotak Realty Fund are scouting for opportunities in low-cost and mid-income housing projects.

Source: The Economic Times

Funding the merger not a major issue: Bharti

Bharti Airtel on Tuesday said that funding the proposed merger with South African telecom major MTN was not a major issue. The last time the company had initiated talks with MTN in 2008, it had received offers from various banks for funding up to $60 billion.

According to analysts, this time Bharti would need a total of $6 billion to fund the new deal being discussed by the two companies. Of this, the Indian company may have to raise debt of $3-4 billion if the merger talks with MTN Group succeed.

Local lenders find favour with MNCs

The global financial crisis seems to have changed the way multinational companies operating in the country engage with Indian banks. Post the crisis, their involvement with large Indian public and private sector banks has grown for a range of services, such as cash management and credit, according to bankers.

Multinational companies operating in India and other emerging markets may be looking beyond global banks and are increasingly keen to partner with strong local lenders, bankers say.

Source: Business Standard

FM seeks balance between growth and fiscal deficit

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said here today that he would like to strike a balance between the imperatives for achieving higher growth and ensuring prudent fiscal management.

"We require growth and for that we require money. If all government resources are not adequate, you have to borrow. Naturally, the fiscal deficit would increase. Therefore, we have to strike a balance between these two competing requirements — of growth and prudent fiscal management. And it will be my effort to strike this balance," Mukherjee said in an exclusive interview with Business Standard.

Mittal builds dream expat team to achieve global ambition

In the past year, when Bharti Airtel and South Africa's MTN were in touch to revive merger talks, Sunil Bharti Mittal had been quietly building up a team of global talent with a proven track record to handle the telco's international ambitions. He had mandated leading international executive search firms Egon Zehnder and Amrop to scout for the best global talent, and the gambit has come up trumps.

As talks with MTN gained momentum about three to four months ago, Bharti's global team got a new member in German communications major T-Mobile's former chief technology officer Joachim Horn, who modernised that company's networks and set up its mobile broadband business in Europe.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sikh groups clash in Vienna, tremors in India

May 25, 2009
An Indian woman talks to a cop in front of the Vienna gurdwara where the shooting happened SundayRelated ArticlesMost Read Articles

A clash between two groups of worshippers of Indian origin in a gurdwara in the Austrian capital left at least 16 people wounded and led to tremors in Jalandhar, where more clashes led to curfew in the entire district.

Police and eyewitnesses said a group of Sikhs armed with knives and at least one gun attacked Sant Niranjan Dass, a preacher, at a rival gurdwara in Vienna.

Mohinder Ram, a worshipper who said he had attended services at the gurdwara for decades, said it is run by followers of Shri Guru Ravidas, a 14th-century founder of a Sikh sect called Dera Sach Khand Ballan. He said the attackers were Sikhs from a gurdwara in another Vienna district.

Witnesses said the fighting erupted between worshippers in a dispute over the sermon.

Police said at least six men attacked the Sant. Other worshippers rushed to his aid, resulting in the melee. Police spokesman Michael T akacs said all six attackers were critical while the wounds of the others were less serious. More people might have been slightly hurt and run out of the gurdwara before police arrived, he said. Takacs said he did not know the motive of the brawl.

Gurdwara shooting: Visiting India Sikh guru dies of wounds

Vienna, May 25 (PTI) An Indian Sikh guru, one of the two visiting religious preachers shot during a violent clash between two groups of the community at a gurdwara here, succumbed to his injuries midnight last night.
The guru, Sant Rama Nand, 57, who was injured after Sikh followers clashed with knives and a pistol at a gurdwara in Vienna's 15th district yesterday, in which nearly 30 people were injured, died of his wounds in the hospital, police said.

"The doctor was initially satisfied with the condition of the injured after an emergency operation. However, he lost consciousness and died shortly after midnight," a spokesperson told the media today.

However, the condition of the other visiting guru, 66- year-old Sant Niranjan Dass is said to be stable after doctors performed an emergency operation, he said. The two belonged to the Shri Guru Ravidas Sabha movement.

Some 3,000 Sikhs live in Austria.

Meanwhile, Indian authorities clamped curfew and army called out in Jalandhar after violence erupted and protestors resorted to arson last night in the Punjab town, following the clash in the Austrian capital. PTI

Vienna Temple Shooting Prompts Riots in India

| Associated Press
CHANDIGARH, India -- India's prime minister appealed for calm Monday as riots spread to several northern Indian cities to protest a deadly shooting at a Sikh temple in Austria.

Hundreds defied a curfew and army patrols, attacking police stations and torching the car of a senior officer and several trains. In two places police opened fire on mobs, wounding at least four people, said senior police officer Khubi Ram. One person was killed as troops opened fire on an angry mob that attacked a police station, said the state's top elected official Parkash Singh Badal.

Indian police chased protesters in Amritsar, India.
The violence centered on the north Indian city of Jalandhar, a stronghold of the Dera Sach Khand, a Sikh sect comprised of mainly "untouchables," or Dalits.

A leader of the sect was killed and another preacher wounded Sunday when Sikhs wielding knives and a handgun attacked the two in Vienna. At least 15 other people were wounded, Austrian police said.

Witnesses said the perpetrators were fundamentalist Sikhs from a higher caste, who accused one or both of the preachers of being disrespectful of the Holy Book.

While officially Sikhism doesn't recognize caste -- the complex system that is all pervasive in India, dividing people into hundreds of groups defined by livelihood, class and ethnicity -- it remains deeply rooted.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, India's first leader of the Sikh faith, said he was "deeply distressed" by the attack and subsequent violence.

"Whatever the provocation, it is important to maintain peace and harmony among different sections of the people," Mr. Singh said, adding that "Sikhism preaches tolerance and harmony."

Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said India was working with Austrian authorities to "ensure that the perpetrators of this completely mindless and wanton attack are brought to justice."

Late Sunday after news of the Vienna attack, hundreds of Dera Sach Khand followers, supported by other local Dalit organizations, took to the streets of Jalandhar, burning several vehicles and a bank, stoning buses and blocking railway lines and roads, police said.

Sporadic violence was also reported from several nearby towns, said Sanjiv Kalra, a senior police official at Jalandhar, some 210 miles northwest of New Delhi.

On Monday morning, about 400 soldiers patrolled the area and police set up roadblocks across the city. Initially it appeared that the move had restored calm, but later protests spread to at least five nearby cities.

"Curfew in the entire district has been extended for an indefinite period and five columns of army have been deployed to control the violence," local government official A.S. Pannu told the Press Trust of India news agency.

Sikhs make up less than 2% of India's nearly 1.2 billion people, the vast majority of whom are Hindus.

Caste discrimination has been outlawed in India for more than a half century, and a quota system was established with the aim of giving Dalits a fair share of government jobs and places in schools. But their plight remains dire, living in poverty and kept down by ancient prejudice and caste-based politics.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Samajwadi Party expels Azam Khan for six years

24 May 2009,

LUCKNOW: Samajwadi Party on Sunday expelled senior leader Mohammad Azam Khan for six years for anti-party activities, capping weeks of bitter feud with SP leadership over its closeness with former BJP leader Kalyan Singh and its choice of Jaya Prada as candidate from Rampur.

"Azam Khan was involved in anti-party activities for a long time. Despite the national leadership's request he continued indisciplined behaviour and did not attend party meetings due to which he has been expelled from the party for six years," SP state president Shivpal Singh Yadav said.

60-year-old Khan, SP MLA from Rampur and a founder-member of the party, had actively campaigned against cine actor-turned-politician Jaya Prada in the constituency and made adverse comments against Amar Singh.

Khan had raised banner of revolt against the party leadership after declaration of Jaya Prada's candidature from Rampur and also Mulayam Singh Yadav's friendship with former BJP leader Kalyan Singh, who was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh during the 1992 Babri mosque demolition.

He had termed Yadav's closeness with Kalyan Singh as against the sentiments of Muslims.

Khan alleged in Rampur that "the SP has been transformed into a party of brokers and capitalists, who have amassed black money to nurse their interests."

Cong-DMK deadlock over, Baalu shown door

24 May 2009,

NEW DELHI: The deadlock over ministry sharing between the Congress and the DMK ended on Sunday with the DMK deciding to go with three Cabinet CM M Karunanidhi.

According to the agreement reportedly worked out, the DMK will get three cabinet and four Minister of State berths. The names for cabinet rank being floated are of A Raja, M K Azhagiri (Karunanidhi's son) and Dayanidhi Maran. Among the names for Mos are Kanimozhi, the chief minister's daughter.

However, the DMK leader said the final decision on the names for minister would be taken by DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi.

Hectic moves were afoot in the DMK camp on Sunday to resolve the impasse on ministry sharing with party supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi meeting senior party leaders individually at his residence.

Obama calls up Manmohan, both agree to work to combat terror

New Delhi, May 23 (PTI) US President Barack Obama today spoke to Manmohan Singh and the two leaders expressed their desire to work together to address common global challenges like terrorism and economic downturn.
They also voiced willingness to tackle the issue of climate change, the White House said in a statement.

The two leaders "recalled their warm meeting" in London on April 2 on the margin of G-20 summit and "discussed their mutual desire to strengthen US-India relations and work together to address common global challenges such as the economic downturn, climate change and counter-terrorism", said the statement.

"President Obama also invited the Prime Minister to visit Washington," it added.

Obama called up Singh congratulating him on his re-election as Prime Minister and invited him to pay an early visit to Washington.

The American President said the electoral verdict in India was an endorsement of the policies pursued by Singh's previous government.

Obama also congratulated India on successfully completing the largest democratic exercise the world has ever seen, calling it "a testament of the strength of India's democracy", the White House said.

Singh reiterated his invitation to Obama and his family to visit India, which the President said was a priority for him. PTI

India's 'odd couple' take up reins of power

NEW DELHI (AFP) - When India's enigmatic Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi first nominated the studious Manmohan Singh as premier in 2004, observers had their antennae tuned for signs of the first rift.

But five years on, the elegant Italian-born widow and the 76-year-old turbaned Sikh, dubbed the "odd couple" by India's media, are heading into another term of office after Congress's huge re-election victory.

And they would appear -- outwardly, at least -- to still be on good terms.

After the results rolled in last weekend showing Congress sweeping to its biggest win in 18 years, Gandhi beamed as she ushered the septuagenarian to a podium outside her home and declared he would again be her choice for premier.

There have been whispers of clashes but Gandhi, a fit and attractive 62, has said she and Singh have always worked in harmony.

"I adore the prime minister for the manner in which he handles the government," the widow of former premier Rajiv Gandhi and daughter-in-law of former prime minister Indira Gandhi -- both of whom were assassinated -- said in 2007.

"We work very closely in an atmosphere of frankness," said Gandhi, who arrived in India as a bride in her early 20s and has transformed herself into a sari-clad Indian who speaks Hindi fluently, albeit with an accent.

In 2004, in a blitzkrieg campaign courting India's poor masses, she led the centre-left Congress to a surprise poll triumph after years in the wilderness.

She gave up the chance to be premier, instead nominating the softly spoken Singh, an esteemed economist who has earned the reputation of being the "Mr Clean's Mr Clean" in India's murky politics.

"I must admire her political sagacity," Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee said this week for the way she has managed to silence opposition taunts that she was a power-hungry "foreign doll."

Pundits reckon however Gandhi still calls the shots in the partnership, taking on India's bruising political wheeler-dealing while Singh administers the nation's affairs.

"It's a very convenient division of labour -- he's good on policy and she looks after the politics. They also have a certain innate mutual respect," said columnist Parsa Venkateshwar Rao.

Gandhi's emergence as India's most powerful politician caps a remarkable life story.

Daughter of a middle-class Italian builder, she was thrust into the world of India's political first family after marrying Rajiv Gandhi in 1968, whom she met at a restaurant in England where she was studying English.

Before she came to live with his family, she knew only India had "snakes, elephants and jungles," she recalled once.

Her husband's assassination in 1991 by a Tamil rebel suicide bomber left Congress in limbo and the party turned to his widow to rebuild it. Her makeover from a stiff, shy housewife into a public persona was tough.

"I used to be a very, very private person," said Gandhi, who still almost never gives interviews. "It took a great deal of adjustment... to be in the limelight."

There are cynics who say she opted for Singh because his self-effacing style meant he was unlikely to seize centre-stage from the charismatic Nehru-Gandhi dynasty which has given India three premiers.

She is seen as carefully managing the eventual rise to the premiership of her son Rahul Gandhi, 38, whom she thrust into a central role in the latest campaign.

Rahul "has earned his political legitimacy in this election," said veteran commentator M.J. Akbar. "It is highly likely at some point there may even be a transition in government with Singh making way for Rahul."

Many in Congress cannot conceive of a future without a Gandhi in charge, but Sonia has insisted Rahul must prove himself if he wants to become premier.

"If you have a family whose earlier generations have been in politics it gives you a head start," she said.

"But India is a democracy. You may have an advantage at the beginning but you have to work hard to prove yourself," she added knowingly.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

India's leaders must forge reform

May 20, 2009

Gifts like this come rarely in politics. In the midst of a global economic crisis that threatens to stifle India's growth, the country's voters have defied all predictions and handed the leaders of the Congress Party a famous victory. The question now is what those leaders do with it.

If they coast along as they did in their last term, dispersing favours to voters and sitting on desperately needed economic reforms, the gift will leach away like water into cracked earth. If, instead, they seize the opportunity to forge ahead with change, then India could come out of the crisis remade, reinvigorated and ready to take on the world.

Which way they go is very much an open question. Congress did not expect such a gift. In fact, virtually no one predicted the scale of its victory.

Going into the election, the first national poll in five years, pundits expected to see regional and caste-based parties gain ground at the expense of Congress, which has been in decline for years and was able to govern during its last term only with the help of smaller parties. No galvanizing national issue emerged during the campaign to boost Congress's hopes and its candidate for prime minister, the 76-year-old professorial, white-bearded incumbent, Manmohan Singh, hardly set the house on fire.

Pundits were musing about a hung Parliament, in which no party would have the numbers to govern and it would take weeks of Byzantine negotiations to put together a workable coalition.

Now, Congress will be able to rule almost alone. It took 205 of the 543 seats by itself. Add in the seats taken by other parties in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance and it finds itself just a dozen seats short of an outright majority in the lower house of Parliament. Even better, it is free of the ball and chain it dragged around for the past five years: the Communists. Communist parties lost big at the polls and Congress will not need their support to govern, as they did in the last term. So Congress's excuse for delaying reforms – the Commies made us – has vanished.

That should leave Congress free to restart the reform campaign that Mr. Singh kicked off as finance minister in 1991. One obvious step is to privatize some of the many companies that remain in clumsy government hands. Another is to loosen India's archaic labour laws, which make it hard for firms to hire and fire to adjust for changing market conditions. Another is to lower the barriers to foreign investment in the retail, financial and media sectors. Yet another is to cut back the enormous subsidies on fertilizer and fuel that drain government coffers and distort the workings of the market.

The danger is that, instead, Congress will take its big win as an endorsement of its go-slow approach and sit on its hands for a few more years. That would be a ghastly mistake.

Congress leaders are no doubt feeling vindicated. Big government programs, such as a rural employment guarantee and a waiver on farm-loan repayments, may have helped them win votes among the Indian masses.

Reform, by contrast, brings controversy and opposition from vested interests. In their initial comments on the election win, Congress officials are hedging about reform. “We will take the reforms agenda forward, but not at the cost of development and not at the cost of state firms,” Congress leader Prithviraj Chauhan told a TV interviewer.

But by far the best way to improve the lot of the masses is to free the Indian economy from its remaining shackles, a strategy that not only produces job-creating growth but generates the government revenue to fund better health and education for the poor.

The past couple of decades have shown what an unshackled India can do.

After decades of disappointing progress, its annual growth rate jumped to 6 per cent from 1992 to 2002 when Mr. Singh slashed red tape and cuts tariffs and taxes. It jumped again over the past five years, to an average of 8.8 per cent a year, approaching Chinese levels.

It has dipped lower as the global crisis starts to bite. But with its eager young populace, its many modern, well-run companies and its rising self-confidence, India should be able to make it through this dark tunnel and come charging out the other end – if its leaders do the right thing.

Congress's unexpected victory has given its leaders a chance to move India to a new plane of progress. How tragic if they let it slip away

Mamata can be next chief minister of West Bengal: Pranab Mukherjee

20 May 2009,

NEW DELHI: After the Congress-Trinamool alliance's body blow to West Bengal's ruling Left in the hustings, Congress leader Pranab
Tuesday said that Trinamool Congress supreme Mamata Banerjee could be the next chief minister of the state.

In an interview to a news channel, Mukherjee, the West Bengal state Congress president, said it was possible that Banerjee would emerge as the next head of the state after the electoral rout of the Left after three decades.

"We (the Congress) have no problems with that (Banerjee as chief minister)," Pranab said, when asked what he thought of Banerjee becoming chief minister.

Asked if she would make a good head of government given her "difficult" personality, Mukherjee said: "I don't want to make judgments. But after all, position brings responsibility."

"I don't think she is anti-industrialization," he said when asked if Banerjee's tough stance forcing the Tata Motors to move their car project from Singur and the Trinamool-led violent protests in Nandigram over a chemical hub would not send wrong signals to the industry.

"Singur and Nandigram became political issues. Mamata initiated lots of development projects when she was the railway minister," Mukherjee said.

Mukherjee was instrumental in stitching the Congress-Trinamool alliance in West Bengal, which resulted in the Left parties winning just 15 of the 42 parliamentary seats.

The Trinamool Congress and the Congress won 26 between them. Of these, the Trinamool claimed 19 and the Congress seven.

Ever since the results, Banerjee has repeatedly been saying that the state assembly elections, due for 2011, should be advanced as the Lok Sabha poll results were a "no confidence vote" by the people in the state government.

Internal rumblings in UPA help BJP bounce back in Jharkhand

20 May 2009, PTI

RANCHI: The UPA frittered away its 2004 alliance strength letting the BJP bounce back to capture eight of the 14 seats in Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress-JMM-RJD-CPI combine had swept the 2004 polls bagging 13 seats among them, but failed this time as the RJD and CPI fought separately, while internal rumblings and JMM president Shibu Soren's indifferent health proved detrimental to the Congress-JMM tie-up.

Union minister and Congress leader Subodh Kant Sahay (Ranchi) was the lone winner for the Congress, while Soren (Dumka) and Kameswarh Baitha (Palamau) emerged winners for the JMM.

The Congress lost five and the JMM two seats. Though Sahay retained the seat, his victory margin dwindled from 15,421 votes in 2004 to a little over 13,000 this time.

Similarly, Soren's winning margin of 18,812 votes was poor compared to 1,15,015 votes last time.

The JMM, however, gained the Palamau seat where it allotted ticket to jailed Kameswar Baitha who defeated sitting MP Ghuran Ram of the RJD.

The BJP, which had no member in the 14th Lok Sabha from the state as it had lost its lone seat it won in 2004, benefited from the UPA's disintegration, contrary to its national showing.

Lalu says won't feel bad if denied Cabinet berth

20 May 2009,

NEW DELHI: With Congress reluctant to accommodate him in the new government, RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Wednesday appeared resigned to his fate, saying he would not feel bad if he doesn't get a cabinet berth.

"Those who bring power to Delhi are worshipped. I did not get that power," Prasad, who was the railway minister in the previous UPA government, said referring to the drubbing the party received in the Lok Sabha polls in Bihar winning only four out of 40 seats.

"I would not feel bad if I am not offered a berth in the Cabinet," he told a news channel.

The RJD chief said he has pledged unconditional support to the Congress-led UPA government and has no qualms about not being part of the new government.

Asked about the future of the Fourth Front comprising RJD, LJP and Samajwadi Party, Prasad claimed that such a Front did not exist at all.

"There was no Fourth Front. We had an understanding with our alliance partners," he said.

To a question, he said he shared good relationship with Congress president Sonia Gandhi's family and would not like to say a single word against them.

Manmohan, Sonia meet President, stake claim

20 May 2009

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh & UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday met President Pratibha Patil and staked claim to form the new government.

Earlier, the crucial UPA meet to decide Cabinet berths concluded at 10 Janpath, the residence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, a while ago. All the key pre-poll partners of the Congress attended the meeting. ( Watch )

National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, DMK chief M Karunanidhi, NCP president Sharad Pawar and leader Praful Patel were present, along with senior Congress leaders, including Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and A K Antony besides Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

Sonia Gandhi was re-elected UPA chairperson during the meeting. Her name was proposed by Karunanidhi and seconded by Mamata, the Trinamool Congress informed mediapersons.

All eyes are now on the likely candidates who would head some of the most important ministries in the next Congress-led UPA government. The Ministry of Human Resource Development, headed by controversial Congress leader Arjun Singh could throw up a surprise. According to sources, a serious contender for the ministry is Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi. Kapil Sibal’s name is also doing the rounds, according to TV channel Times Now.

Congress sources mention May 22 as a probable date for swearing-in of the new government. The previous day, May 21, being the death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the party leadership is keen to delay the launch of the new government by a day.

While numbers are no longer a big hurdle for the Congress-led alliance and the process appears to be a formality, working out the terms of power-sharing may create complications. Congress leadership got a reminder on Tuesday when the DMK leadership came up with big `wish list' for portfolios.

There is also the fear that the muscle-flexing may encourage similar demands from Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee. The Congress had initially estimated that the maverick partner may not insist on big portfolios because she would not like her colleagues to grow in stature. They are not so sure any more. The fear is that the arm twisting may incite the Trinamool leader to up her ante as she would not like to be seen as playing in a league below that of the DMK.

Congress may have a task on its hand if the Sharad Pawar demands that the representation of his contingent from the NCP should not be scaled down to be brought in line with the new numbers. Besides expectations of a suitable portfolio for Pawar, Congress will also have to manage demands for his associates like Praful Patel.

India’s Rupee Advances a Third Day as Capital Inflows Increase

May 20 - India’s rupee strengthened for a third day as overseas investors added to their local stock holdings, betting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be more successful with economic reforms in his second term.

The currency traded near a five-month high as data from the stock market regulator showed equity purchases by foreigners exceeded sales on all but three of the 28 trading sessions through May 18. Several regional political parties have offered to support Singh’s coalition, which returned to power with an increased majority, spurring optimism he will push through policies to revive growth and attract investment from overseas.

“The rupee has a positive outlook as economic reforms are expected to accelerate,” said Vikas Babu, a currency trader at state-owned Andhra Bank in Mumbai. “We are seeing very good capital inflows into the market, mostly stock-related.”

The rupee strengthened as much as 0.3 percent to 47.630 per dollar, before trading at 47.715 as of 10:22 a.m. in Mumbai, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The currency has jumped 3.6 percent after India announced on May 16 the results of its general elections.

Singh’s Congress party and allies won 261 of the 543 seats in the lower house of parliament, exceeding the most optimistic prediction for 216 in exit polls. The wide margin by which Singh won will enable him to form a stable government that need not depend on communists, who had earlier frustrated reforms, according to Standard Chartered Plc.

The Indian currency’s 4.9 percent gain this month is the best performance among the 10 most-active currencies in Asia outside Japan. It may rise to 47.50 in coming days, Babu said.

Offshore contracts indicate traders bet the rupee will trade at 47.79 to the dollar in a month, compared with expectations for a rate of 47.83 yesterday. Forwards are agreements in which assets are bought and sold at current prices for future delivery. Non-deliverable contracts are settled in dollars rather than the local currency.

Foreigners have bought a net $2 billion of Indian equities this month, adding to April’s $1.6 billion, according to the Securities and Exchange Board of India. The Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index has gained 17 percent this week.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

India-based companies get boost in US trading

NEW YORK - The celebratory mood in India's stock market carried over to New York hours for some India-based firms.

After India's stock market surged more than 17 percent Monday after decisive elections, depository receipts of Indian-based firms listed on U.S. stock exchanges skyrocketed. Investors in India welcomed the results of a month-long election that raised hopes for a rekindling in foreign direct investment and economic growth.

Bank of New York Mellon's India ADR Index, which tracks 13 Indian companies trading in the U.S., rose 18 percent in afternoon trading.

The Bombay Stock Exchange's benchmark Sensex vaulted 2,110.79 points, or 17.3 percent, to 14,284.21 when the market opened Monday in Mumbai, triggering a historic shutdown. Trading has never before been halted due to an upward swing in stock prices, according to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

The rally is likely to continue in the coming weeks because of a complete change in the climate in the market, said Arvind Panagariya, a professor of economics and the Jagdish Bhagwati professor of Indian political economy at Columbia University. Panagariya said the entire outlook for growth is now improved because of the election results.

An influx of foreign institutional investors should also help drive the rally, he added.

The convincing vote for the Congress Party and the near-collapse of India's once-powerful communist parties could mean key reforms in insurance, pension funds, banking and retail are now more likely to get enacted.

Two banks, HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank, saw their U.S. depository receipts shoot up more than 20 percent. HDFC Bank gained $17.33, or 22 percent, to $96.23. ICICI Bank jumped $6.58, or 28.1 percent, to $29.97.

Mahanagar Telephone Nigam, a fixed line telecommunications firm, rose 69 cents, or 23.8 percent, to $3.59. Sterlite Industries, an industrial metals and mining firm, rose $2.36, or 25.7 percent, to $11.54, while Tata Motors jumped $1.92, or 25.3 percent, to $9.52.

But it isn't clear how quickly or how far economic changes will go, which makes a potential long-term rally uncertain.

The Congress Party did not gain a full majority in the legislature in the recent elections, and will need to govern as it has in the past by forming a coalition. The party's past actions on opening financial markets have been limited, meaning pro-market liberalization is not a lock.

Panagariya said that the president of the Congress Party leans toward being a populist, which could lead to some hesitation to enact some reform.

"There is a faction in the party that is not warm" to changes, Panagariya said.

In addition, the global economic meltdown over the past two years could make India more wary of outside investment. The country also will likely continue to fund costly social welfare programs that could divert money that could be invested into economic growth.

Even still, investors immediately welcomed the potential changes for Indian firms. Shares of infrastructure, banking and real estate companies led the way in trading in India, and depository receipts trading in the U.S. of those types of firms were surging as well.

India began to shift away from decades of socialist-style policies in the early 1990s, pushing for greater economic openness. But over the past five years, many market reforms that Congress backed were blocked by the communists, which saw its seats more than halved in the month-long election.

Now the Congress party has more room to ease restrictions on foreign investment in insurance, retailing and banking. The government may also sell some of its stakes in state-run oil, banking, and fertilizer companies. The nation's pension regulator could get proper legal standing, which would encourage greater investment. And some steps might be taken to loosen hidebound labor laws, like allowing contract labor, analysts and business groups say.

In one minute, India best mkt in world with 48% gain in ’09

19 May 2009,

CHENNAI: The 2111-point surge on 'Magnificent' Monday pushed the Indian stock market ahead of competition as the best performing market across the world, giving investors an astounding 48% gains in 2009.

With factors like the government's stability and the Left's fate settled, investors furiously bought index constituents in the 30-share BSE sensex, keeping the 'India story' alive and kicking.

From sub-10,000 point levels at the end of 2008, the Indian benchmark has gained over 4,600 points in less than six months — thanks to the rally that started from early March.

Before Monday, sensex had gained 26% in 2009 but the two minute bull blitz leading to the unprecedented over 2,000-point gain turned out to be the game-changer for the open slot of the best performing market this year. Marketmen expect India to turn into one of the lowest risk, highest growth investment destination globally.

India could outperform emerging markets (EMs) in the coming 12-months especially if the government delivers on the policy front, said Ridham Desai of Morgan Stanley. He has an year-end target of 15,300 for sensex.

"Global investors will be chasing outperformance and Indian economy can offer them the best chance with 7-8% GDP growth in the next few years. While investors were earlier chasing value, now they will be chasing growth. The mindset has changed and there is lot of money waiting to come into India," said Seturam Iyer, chief investment officer at Shinsei AMC.

With political risk less of an issue, Indian stock market — still under owned by FIIs — is being re-rated. With the re-rating process still unfinished, many expect India to continue to outperform other countries like China, Brazil, Taiwan, Russia and Vietnam.

In terms of year-to-date performance, India's sensex is followed by China's Shanghai SE A-Share index with 45.6% gains, Taiwan's TAIEX (up 43.3%), Russia's RTS-2 (33.2% gain) and Indonesia's Jakarta Composite (up 31.2%), Bloomberg data shows.

Even if equity markets head lower sharply later in the year, $10-15 billion of capital may be transferred from global financial investors to Indian corporates and their major shareholders before that, Credit Suisse analyst Nilesh Jasani said.

While some experts feel that there could some consolidation before the market moves on, analysts at Credit Suisse believe that Indian stock market could overshoot considerably, global markets permitting, from pre-budget period to July.

With investors in stock markets in developed nations such as Australia, France, the US, the UK and even Switzerland registering 1-6% losses or at best, flat gains in 2009, experts believe India's outperformance will bring in more FIIs, hedge funds and big institutional investors.

Sensex surges over 318 pts at noon in volatile trade

19 May 2009, PTI

MUMBAI: In volatile trade, the Bombay Stock Exchange benchmark Sensex surged over 318 points at noon on Tuesday after being down by over 450 points in the morning when speculators began buying to cover their pending positions.

The Sensex, which experienced a historic rise in the previous day's trading, enthused by the smooth return of the UPA to power in the general elections, surged further by 318.59 points at 14,602.80 at 1215 hrs.

Before the current surge, the benchmark shuttled between 14,757.82 and 13,834.13 points.

Similarly, the 50-share National Stock Exchange index Nifty shot up by 45.15 points at 4,368.30, after touching a high of 4,464.90 and a low of 4,167.65 points.

Brokers said there were huge pending positions created by the market participants in the previous day's rally and a further rise forced them to cover them.

They said general investors who missed the rally also joined the party.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sensex creates history; two upper circuits in one day

18 May 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Markets have stopped trading for the day as the benchmarks hit another upper circuit Monday as soon as the trade resumed after 2 hour break. Investors are euphoric after the United Progressive Alliance emerged victorious in the 2009 general elections. ( Watch )

Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex was locked at 14272.62 up 2099.21 points or 17.24 per cent. National Stock Exchange’s Nifty was locked at 4308.05, up 636.40 points or 17.33 per cent. According to media reports turnover including cash and F&O was less than Rs 1000 crore.

Marketmen are upbeat given the fact that there will be no interference by the Left Parties and other regional parties in day-to-day functioning of the government and less number of allies will lead to a stable government which will run its course of five years.

BHEL (32.72%), Larsen & Toubro (29.53%), DLF (25.82%), ICICI Bank (25.30%) and HDFC (23.46%) were the top Sensex gainers.

Amongst the sectoral indices, BSE Realty Index was up 25.37 per cent, BSE Capital Goods Index gained 23.47 per cent, BSE Bankex moved 20.27 per cent higher and BSE Oil&gas Index advanced 19.57 per cent.

Market breadth was positinve on the BSE with 833 advances and 11 declines.

The new government which is likely to be sworn in by Friday is expected to come-out with full budget within 45 days of resuming office, according to media reports.

Reforms in the banking sector, divestment of public sector undertakings, infrastructure, retail sector and insurance sector is likely to top the priority list.

Sensex had opened 10.73 per cent or 1305.97 points higher at 13479.39 points to 12011.10. National Stock Exchange’s Nifty was locked at 4203.30, higher by 14.48 per cent or 531.65 points.

Market experts views:

“Markets had previously worried that gains by leftist and smaller regional parties would weigh on the reform agenda and lead to a further blow-out in the already large fiscal deficit. In previous elections, both BJP- and Congress-led alliances had been unable to push through reforms, held down by allies with their own agendas. The government's rural jobs program and strong private sector investment have highlighted the positive effects of economic reform and liberalisation, and voters' shunning of smaller parties imply a desire for greater action on the reform front,” said a Moody’s report

The report added, “Despite the strong endorsement from voters, the government is likely to have a tough job pushing through some much-needed reforms. Political constraints mean a scrapping of fuel subsidies are unlikely, nor reforms to outdated labour laws that constrain hiring and create high firing costs. Returning to the path of fiscal consolidation will also be challenging if the global recession becomes protracted, while the financial crisis will mean any steps to liberalise capital flows and foreign investment will be cautious.”

Investors' wealth swells by Rs 4 lakh cr within seconds

18 May 2009 PTI

MUMBAI: Investor wealth soared by a whopping Rs four lakh crore within seconds of opening of trade on the Bombay Stock Exchange, as the markets were elated at the decisive win of the ruling UPA government in the general elections.

The total investors' wealth, measured in terms of combined market capitalisation of all the listed companies, has increased by over Rs 4,08,410.60 crore in the opening trade to Rs 42,15,354.29 crore.

The 30-share Bombay Stock Exchange Sensex zoomed 1,305.97 points at 13,479.39, hitting the upper circuit within seconds of opening of trade, following which trading was halted for two hours.

Ashika Stock Brokers Research Head Paras Bothra said "the buying spree is likely to continue after the market reopens and may touch another circuit limit."

He further said "very low volumes were traded as most investors could not engage in any buying activity as the markets hit its upper circuit within seconds."

Further, the 30 Sensex companies, which account for over 47 per cent of the total market capitalization of all the companies, saw their combined market valuation rise by nearly two lakh crore in the opening trade today.

The combined market capitalization of the 30-blue chip stocks rose to Rs 20,33,564.40 crore today, from Rs 18,36,841.33 crore at the end of trade on Friday.

Among the Sensex companies Reliance Communication, Reliance Infrastructure, Larsen & Toubro, ICICI Bank and Jaiprakash Associates were among the major gainers with their stock prices surging between 18 per cent and 20 per cent.

From the beginning of the year, the benchmark 30-share index Sensex has made gradual recovery and has been on a gaining spree for the 10th consecutive week at the end of trade on Friday.

With today's upper circuit, the index crossed the 13,000 milestone again. It is for the first time that the Sensex has hit the upper circuit of 10 per cent.

While the National Stock Exchange 50-share Nifty increased 600 points or 14.48 per cent at 4,271.40.

All the major sector-indices were in the positive zone with realty surging the most by 15.84 per cent, bankex by 13.63 per cent, consumer goods by 12.83 per cent, power by 12.39 per cent among others.

Markets were expected to surge today in the first trading day after the announcement of the general election results, which showed that the UPA is set to form the next government without the Left support this time.

Sensex seen at 14k by Budget

18 May 2009 ET Bureau

MUMBAI: The euphoria is palpable. A stunning mandate, absence of any Left interference, and the likely entry of young faces in the new government could not only liven up Dalal Street punters and local institutions, but also trigger buying by India-dedicated foreign funds that stayed away from the recent rally.

But it may not be a one-way street for all. There are disturbing rumours that many traders and some big operators have been caught on the wrong foot following UPA’s convincing win. These are people, who, last week, went short on the market by writing call options, buying puts, and building naked futures positions. While some of these players are staring at massive losses, they are clearly in a minority.

According to the average of an ET snap poll of 15 leading brokers and fund managers, the benchmark Sensex is expected to rise between 700 and 800 points on Monday in early trade.

All the respondents expect the mood to be euphoric, and nine of the respondents were of the view that the Sensex could rise to 14,000 by the time of the Union Budget. Two of the respondents expect the Sensex to trade between 12,000 and 13,000 by Budget, while the remaining three declined to give any estimates.

In terms of best-performing sectors, an overwhelming majority of the respondents have placed their bets on banking and infrastructure stocks, expecting them to gain from government spending. The consensus view is that sectors like FMCG, pharma and IT could underperform in the near term.

“There are still lot of short positions in the market. That, and the renewed wave of buying, could push the market up by 700-800 points at opening itself,” says A Balasubramanian, chief investment officer, Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund.

Vikas Khemani, executive vice-president and co-head institutional equities, Edelweiss Capital, expects the Sensex to open with a gap of 8-10% over Friday’s close. This view is also shared by Nirmal Jain, chairman and managing director of India Infoline.

“The market will be in an uptrend for the next one week, with most of the gains coming in the first two days of the week,” says SA Narayan, managing director, Kotak Securities. He declined to comment on any specific projections for the index, other than saying that only the Budget would decide the medium-term trend for the market.

Bulls charged up for mega rally

18 May 2009,

MUMBAI: After 10 Janpath, the partying may shift to PJ Towers, Dalal Street. Unlike 2004, there is no fear of any Left-sponsored
common Minimum Programme (CMP) on Dalal Street this time around. So the bulls are waiting for the maximum: To take the sensex up by a circuit-hitting 10% within minutes of opening on Monday. Most Street players expect 15-20% rally during the week.

"The market was not expecting this (a thumping win for UPA) and was preparing for a fractured mandate. The election outcome is like a dream-come-true and we are in for a massive gap-up opening on Monday,'' said Nishid Shah, president & chief investment officer, IDFC Mutual Fund. So no one is ready to sit on the sidelines and miss the party. "FIIs, domestic institutions and investors will invest big time over next several months. Local investors, who were left out of the last two months' rally, will also jump in,'' Shah added.

Other than retail investors, speculators and mutual funds could also jump in. Over the last two months, most MFs stayed in cash. But now they are expected to join the celebrations, broking house officials said. "Anticipating a fractured election mandate, domestic institutions did not participate in the rally. But now DIIs have to start investing as the event risk is over,'' said Amitabh Chakraborty, president-equities, Religare Capital Markets.

Other than the expected euphoric buying, some short coverings could further aid the rally. Markets have put built-up around 3,300-3,200 (nifty) level and those positions could prompt some short covering, Chakraborty said.

Technically, the nifty could rally for another 600-650 points before it faces any major hurdle, chartists said. On sensex, this could translate to a rally of about 2,000 points and that could happen in the next 10 sessions, a derivatives analyst with a local brokerage said.

Moving beyond the immediates, the global markets, the budget expected to be presented over the next six to eight weeks, the emerging fiscal and economic conditions of the country will again start playing on investor sentiment and impacting the markets' movement, participants said.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Montek for FM, Chidambaram fine as HM, says India Inc.

New Delhi (PTI): Montek Singh Ahluwalia is the favourite of Indian industry to become Finance Minister and it wished for P Chidambaram to stay as Home Minister, while seeking a Cabinet berth for Rahul Gandhi.

Industry captains were, however, not clear what role Rahul should play in the next Cabinet.

Capital market expert Prithvi Haldea said the finance ministry should go to Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Chidambaram should continue as Home Minister. Real estate leader DLF clearly favoured Montek to move to North Block on Raisina Hill that houses the finance ministry.

However, the views are split when it came to sectoral representatives with most of the players giving their wishlist without wanting to be named.

A large corporate house wanted Murli Deora to be back as the Petroleum Minister, or to be replaced by his son Milind.

Kamal Nath also found favour for a second term as the Commerce and Industry Minister, although a section felt that Jairam Ramesh could be given the charge.

For telecom ministry, CDMA operators favoured DMK leader A Raja to continue, while GSM lobby wanted the Congress to keep this portfolio with itself, so that it can go ahead with reform process without any hindrances.

UN official-turned-politician Shashi Tharoor, who is making debut in the Lok Sabha shortly after losing the race for the UN Secretary Generalship, also figured in the wish- list of industrialists for a place in the Union Cabinet.

"We hope to see Rahul Gandhi in the Cabinet," Ispat Industries' Vice Chairman and Managing Director Vinod Mittal said, adding that age was not a criteria to be a dynamic leader and minister.

A cross section of investors, industrialists and analysts also felt that younger politicians, including Jitin Prasad, Sachin Pilot, Naveen Jindal and Jyotiraditya Scindia, should be given ministerial responsibilities.

Many of them felt that P Chidambaram should be given the responsibility of the home ministry, but few rooted for him to get back to the finance minsitry.

Brokerage firm SMC Capital's Equity Head Jaganaddham Thunuguntla said: "It will be good to have him (Rahul) in the Cabinet to give him exposure."

Essar Steel Business Group CEO J Mehra said, "Congress has many dynamic options and Montek Singh Ahluwalia is one of them (for the Finance Ministry)." He, however, quickly added that it would not be wise at this point of time to name possible ministers without knowing who all are in the fray.

Taurus Mutual Fund's Managing Director R K Gupta said the UPA has much better scope for change this time as now it would not have to seek help from the Left parties for forming the government.

"I believe finance portfolio might go to Montek Singh Ahluwalia as he is a close friend of the PM. Kamal Nath might retain the commerce ministry, but Shashi Tharoor, who has knowledge of commerce and international affairs cannot be ruled out as a potential candidate," Gupta said.

"UPA is likely to retain Chidambaram as the Home Minister," he added.

Gupta further noted that Dayanidhi Maran could be brought back to the telecom and IT ministry, while Pranab Mukherjee could retain external affairs ministry.

With Ram Vilas Paswan losing the elections, the fertiliser, steel and pharmaceutical portfolios could go to a new member, possibly to a non-Congress ally in the UPA, he said. Some others felt that the portfolio could be split to give Jitin Prasada the charge of steel.

A senior official at GSM operators association COAI said that association was ready to work with any minister from any party under the UPA fold.

Many corporates did not wish to be named, but said that the ministries should be given as per the capabilities of the potential ministers.

LTTE chief body believed found: Sources

17 May 2009, PTI

COLOMBO: A body believed to be that of Tamil Tiger founder leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran has been found but the identity of the corpse has not been
confirmed, Sri Lankan military sources said on Sunday.

"They are taking the body for checks to confirm it is the real Prabhakaran," one military official told Reuters on conditions of anonymity. Four other military sources confirmed the recovery and said identity checks were under way.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara denied the report.

Over 10,000 civilians held hostage by LTTE rescued: Sri Lanka

17 May 2009,
COLOMBO: Sri Lankan troops have rescued more than 10,000 civilians held hostage by the Tamil Tigers in a small strip of land on the island's north, the defence ministry said on Sunday.

"The hostages breached through the LTTE inner cordon leaving terrorists in total disarray," the ministry said on its website.

The rescue operation was carried out amid attacks by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels at the Wadduvakal causeway in Sri Lanka's northeastern coast which the army claimed to have liberated from the rebels Saturday.

The injured were shifted for medical attention, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, military spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said two senior LTTE leaders - Swarnam and Shashikumar master - were killed in the conflict with the security forces in Vellamullivaikkal Sunday morning.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Saturday declared that the Tamil rebels have been defeated militarily, although pockets of resistance continued to be reported in the country's northeast.

"I am proud to announce that my government, with the total commitment of our armed forces, has in an unprecedented humanitarian operation, finally defeated the LTTE," Rajapaksa said in a statement from Jordan.

He stressed that the military was on the verge of ending the 25-year old conflict, in which the LTTE has been fighting for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's minority Tamils.

Top LTTE leaders may commit 'mass suicide': Sri Lanka

Colombo, May 16 (PTI) With the Sri Lankan forces cutting off all their escape routes, the top Tamil Tigers leadership, including its supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, may be preparing to commit "mass suicide", the defence ministry said today.

The Tigers are "preparing for a mass suicide after forces cut off their sea as well as land escape routes and cornered them in a mere 3.5 sq km area", a military statement said.

The reports of the LTTE leadership resorting to self destruction came as a government spokesman said that army was on the brink of capturing all the rebel-held areas.

"Within hours, we expect the news of end of fighting," state television reporters, who have been allowed to move with the frontline troops, reported.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is on a trip to Jordon, is cutting short his visit and returning here where he may make a televised announcement late tonight.

The fast paced development came as Sri Lankan forces today captured last strip of coastline held by the rebels virtually cutting off any sea escape routes.

Two army divisions advancing on parallel fronts on the island's northeastern coastline linked up at the village of Vellamullivaikkal early today cutting off any sea escape route of the Tigers, military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara said. PTI

L K Advani steps into sunset of discontent

17 May 2009,

NEW DELHI: The L K Advani era has set. With results derailing BJP's power bid, a change of guard in BJP is inevitable. Advani is expected to step down as Leader of Opposition soon though an unclear pecking order could delay matters for a while.

After a long career in politics, during which he pitched Hindutva as a mainstream political thought, Advani's shot at the top job has fallen way short of target. BJP will soon have to address a generational change in the party — a fraught task given the competing claims.

Buzzing with activity till the morning hours, BJP prime ministerial candidate L K Advani's residence wore a deserted look as news of NDA's poor showing in the Lok Sabha polls trickled in. The scene reflected the exact mood in the party, which expected to make it as the single largest over Congress, even if there were doubts on whether it could cobble up enough numbers to form the government.

If the defeat five years ago hurt because it came as a surprise, the party was shocked on Saturday by the scale of Congress's victory which has settled the debate as to which is the country's number one political formation.

Typically, it will raise debate on the merits of ideological purity and pragmatism, with Hindutva hardliners backed by their comrades in the RSS pinning the blame on dilution of the brand under Advani. Many in the party fear that the dispute is going to sap the organisational energy and keep it from functioning as the main opposition.

The shrinkage carries with it the risk of the leadership being unable to forge a majority agenda because of the pressure from hardliners to cater to the biases of the base and protect the coherence of the brand. Coupled with this is the problem of succession and renewed factional bloodletting.

By afternoon, Advani had decided to step down as Leader of Opposition and asked the party's parliamentary board to choose a new leader. This exercise in itself is bound to start a war among second rung leaders in the party as seniors such as Jaswant Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi have all been elected to the lower House.

The problem is deeper and goes beyond who takes over as Leader of Opposition. Even as Advani fades into the political sunset, there is no automatic successor in sight. Narendra Modi's claim to be the natural successor was never acceptable to many. But the resistance will increase because of Congress's success in averting a mauling in Gujarat and Modi's failure to translate his Hindutva warrior image into votes outside Gujarat.

There was also the issue of unsettled dynamics between party president Rajnath Singh and his colleagues, including Advani. The party president lacks acceptance with many, but is sure to insist on hanging on now that the exit of Advani is imminent.

A blame game was already on with party strategists suddenly acknowledging that that projection of Narendra Modi as a future PM in the midst of electioneering was an "error of judgement". "It is a collective failure," BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley said.

Obama looks forward to enhancing 'warm' India-US partnership

17 May 2009,

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama congratulated India on its "historic" national elections saying he looks forward to continue working with the Indian government to enhance the "warm partnership" between the two countries.

"President Obama looks forward to continuing to work with the Indian government to enhance the warm partnership between our two countries," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement on Saturday.

"President Obama congratulates India on its historic national elections," he said after the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance surged to a commanding win.

"By successfully completing the largest exercise of popular voting in the world, the elections have strengthened India's vibrant democracy and upheld the values of freedom and pluralism that make India an example for us all," he said.

Gibbs added that the US recognised the achievement of Indian people in the election, noting they remained the "strength and foundation for India's prosperity and democracy".

Stronger FII inflows to boost market

17 May 2009,

Circa 2004: As red flags swept parts of India, there was bloodbath on Dalal Street. The investors' fear that a powerful Left will call the shots at the Centre led to the sensex recording one of its biggest plunges. Circa 2009: With the Left decimated, the Street is gearing up for one of its best sessions in years. Some market players see the sensex rallying up to — hold your breath — 10% or 1,200 points.

The stunning victory of the UPA government is expected to help extend the 10-week-old rally that has added over 4,000 points to the 30-share BSE benchmark, from its 2009 low at 8,160. Most market players believe the UPA's continuation in power with a stronger majority, but without the Left's support, could help improve the fiscal situation.

FIIs are also expected to pump more money into the Indian markets, through equity and debt. And, rupee is expected to strengthen against dollar. This better FII inflow, forex market pundits said, will take rupee higher in both short term as well as in the long term. Some experts said rupee to start trading with a huge gap on Monday. “Rupee is expected to open below 49 level on Monday from its previous close of 49.41, considering the positivity in the forex market," said Aspi Bharucha, vice prsident, Vadilal Forex.

The new government is expected to amend the Forward Contract Regulation Act to give Forward Market Commission more teeth.

India Inc upbeat as it sees stable government, push for reforms

16 May 2009,

NEW DELHI: India Inc, too, has given its verdict: It has applauded the people's mandate that seeks the return of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, hoping for stability in governance and a major push to economic reforms.

Stung by a fall in industrial output, drop in demand, major dip in exports and an overall slowdown of the Indian economy, leading chambers Saturday said the electoral victory for the Congress-led alliance will now make the environment conducive to tackling these issues.

"This outcome will generate a feel-good factor in the Indian business community as political instability was a major concern," said Amit Mitra, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

"You will see it on Monday how the stock market behaves with a positive note," Mitra told IANS.

"What is more important is economic revival will be easier and faster with UPA government back in power. They are fully aware of the financial and fiscal conditions and concerns."

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry described the election results as a vote for development and hoped the UPA government will pursue progressive social and economic agenda for inclusive growth and good corporate governance.

The chamber also said the vote was for measures like the rural job guarantee programme, the massive loan waiver for farmers, the numerous schemes to bridge the urban-rural divide and for the civilian nuclear deal with the US.

According to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the verdict was a clear sign that India wanted stability and will send a very strong signal to international investors.

PHD Chamber said that with the UPA government set to assume office again, the industry looked forward to much desired political stability that will create an environment favourable for business.

"We hope the new government will usher in a new wave of reforms to stimulate demand, provide a boost to the investment climate and put the economy on the path of growth," said PHD Chamber president Satish Bagrodia.

Looking ahead, the industry lobbies also had the wish list ready for the new government.

They hoped for pension and banking reforms, go-ahead for foreign investment in retail, private participation in the defence sector, further rationalisation of corporate and individual tax structure and push to the farm sector.

"We already have a 100-day agenda for the new government and we will hand it over to the prime minister as soon as he takes charge. Reform will happen with a much faster pace," said FICCI president Harsh Pati Singhania.

"It is also crucial to bring about a second Green Revolution, a skill revolution and a retail revolution," he said, adding the focus should remain on inclusive growth for long-term progress with economic and social justice.

CII, on its part, said the government must focus on three areas given the pain India Inc has had to endure over the past year. The chamber listed them as tax cuts, infrastructure development and lower interest rate.

India's heart still throbs for Manmohan Singh

17 May 2009

NEW DELHI: After Jawaharlal Nehru, Manmohan Singh will be the first Indian premier to serve a second term after a full first term. That, by itself, is an enviable milestone. What is so attractive about 'brand Manmohan', and when did it evolve?

He wasn't supposed to have any kind of individual equity. When Sonia Gandhi nominated him to the post in 2004, he was only the most non-controversial person with absolutely no personal ambitions. For five years, Manmohan has battled the popular perception that he isn't master of himself.

But somewhere along the way, Manmohan showed that there were certain things he believed in, and a few things that he was willing to fight for. There was certainly one thing where he stared down the Left and BJP.

The nuclear deal, which will remain up there with his other legacy of economic reforms, showed the nation that here was a man with a vision for India.

If the nuclear deal had revealed Prakash Karat's intense dislike for Singh, the election campaign brought Singh back into the crosshairs of a very nasty, personalized attack by LK Advani. But this could be one of the reasons that left Advani poorer.

Saturday's results give Singh a completely different profile, a 'brand equity'. Modest to the extreme, Singh was almost mumbling as he stood beside Sonia Gandhi to take a bow. He has never taken the bulldozer path, his consultative style has delayed decisions to the point where he has frequently seemed unsure and undecided. That may not change, but his supporters are hoping he will be a little more assertive this time round.

Talking to friends a couple of days ago, Singh's only concern was for India not to end up with an unstable government when the neighbourhood is in turmoil and the global economic crisis needs skilful handling. There wasn't even a whiff of such a higher sentiment in other leaders' campaigns.

He has a chance now to work on the important things. The economy needs to be fixed and the volatile neighbourhood needs serious attention. He had once said that he wanted to reform energy and education in India. He has worked on the first with the nuclear deal. He now needs to address the second.

Over these years, he has lost some of his trademark diffidence, but not enough, rue his friends. He remains largely untouched by the fact that in the rest of the world, Manmohan Singh has built a reputation for himself. He's a most uninspiring speaker, but hey, what the man actually says is something of importance to say