He then went on to lampoon Jaitely by commenting that Indian leaders dressed in western attire, when they go abroad, looked like ‘waiters’. He made the statement on a day when suit-clad photographs of Jaitely, who was abroad, were published in the newspapers. A fuming Jaitely cut short his China visit and is believed to have met Modi to seek justice.

It is well known that Swamy enjoys proximity to top leadership of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and the organisation was behind his nomination for the Upper House. That’s why observers are looking at the controversy as a tussle between Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on the one side and the RSS on the other. A similar tussle between RSS and former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was witnessed during his tenure at the top job. Though the BJP and its leaders follow the ideology of the RSS, and in fact have their roots in RSS, there has always been a turf war between the two when the BJP is in power.
Swamy had woven his way close to the RSS leadership by constantly hammering at the political rivals Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Robert Vadra. He had been levelling wild allegations against them. It had suited the RSS and the BJP.
Swamy’s latest attack on Jaitely and his finance ministry was obviously not an isolated or unintended diatribe. It was a well thought out plan intended to provoke Jaitely as well as Modi.
Swamy’s proximity to Nagpur also explains why Modi had been rather mild in his criticism and had refrained from naming him. He merely called the comments as inappropriate and a “publicity stunt”. He added that “anyone who believes he is bigger than the system is wrong” evidently sending a message to Swamy.
He also took his party MP, again without naming him, to task for suggesting that Raghuram Rajan was not patriotic. “Rajan’s patriotism is no less than any of ours…..those who speak such language are doing great injustice to him” he said and declared that he appreciated the contributions made by the outgoing RBI governor. Though the rap to Swamy was considered too mild, it appears to have placated Jaitely and had silenced Swamy for a while but Swamy is not the one to lie low for long. Humiliating people has been his forte. Given his reputation as a rabble rouser he is likely to prove a thorn in the flesh of the Modi Government. Watch this space for more news emanating from him.

RSS has sought to distance itself from the perception that it was backing Swamy on the issue. A senior RSS leader, who declined to be named, told a newspaper (TOI) that “RSS will communicate directly with the government on any issue. We don’t need a proxy for any purpose”.
Swamy tweeted on Wednesday : ” I have said before and saying now : Come hell or high water I stand by Modi. I admire his spine. No foreign power can buckle him” (sic)

Schools, colleges shut in rain-hit Karnataka district

Bengaluru: Schools and colleges remained shut on Thursday across Kodagu district in south-west Karnataka as heavy rains inundated towns and villages. “The administration has declared a holiday for all schools and colleges after heavy rains lashed the region on Wednesday,” said an official from Madikeri, about 270 km from Bengaluru. With the monsoon intensifying in coastal and south interior areas of the state, the Triveni Sangama in Bhagamandala where river Cauvery originates was overflowing with rain water. “An arterial road between Madikeri and Talacauvery remained cut off owing to inundation and flooding of the Bhagamandala-Ayyangeri road has blocked plying of vehicles,” the official added. Widespread and heavy rains in the state’s central (Malnad) region have turned rivers and streams in Shivamogga district into a spate. Copious rains in the catchment areas of the coastal region and the Western Ghats have also raised water levels in dams and reservoirs for storage and hydel power. A vigourous monsoon in south interior and its active momentum in coastal areas brought heavy to very heavy rains, with Kollur, Gerusoppa and Bhagamandala recording a whopping 25 cm each rainfall. According to the state met office, heavy to very heavy rains are likely to pound several coastal and south interior areas. // ]]>

Gujarat government, BJP threatened traders to cancel meet: Kejriwal

Panaji: The Gujarat government and the BJP threatened members of a traders body in Surat into cancelling a July 10 meeting to which Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had been invited as they are nervous about the AAP, Kejriwal said on Thursday. “The businessmen say they are getting calls from Gandhinagar, saying if Kejriwal is called, then they will be destroyed. So due to pressure by the Gujarat government, all these meetings are being cancelled,” the Aam Aadmi Party leader said during an interaction with editors here. “It clearly demonstrates the nervousness of the Gujarat BJP and the Gujarat government,” he added. Kejriwal said that one Jailal from the Surat Vehapari Mahamandal had formally invited him to attend a meeting in the city because of the support the AAP had given in the past to protestors demanding a rollback of the one percent excise imposition on jewellers. “Their head Jailal had come to invite me in Delhi at my home. They gave me a formal invitation. I accepted that. The meeting was supposed to take place on July 10. Suddenly, I am told that the venue, which was some university, suddenly the university cancelled the booking on its campus. “Suddenly, we realised that Jailal wrote them a letter that they were not organising the programme,” Kejriwal said, adding that subsequent sting operations on Wednesday had shown the Registrar of the University saying that if Kejriwal was being invited, the booking would be disallowed. // ]]>

AAP ad budget less than money spent on PM's clothes: Kejriwal

Panaji: The AAP government’s advertising budget is less than the expenditure incurred on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clothes over the last two years, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday. He claimed that Modi never repeated clothes once worn and that each dress of the prime minister’s costs Rs 2 lakh. “It is being said we have given advertising of Rs 526 crore. Completely false. We have released advertising worth Rs 76 crore. That’s it. Advertising expenditure of all departments of the Delhi government is less than the total expenditure on Modi’s clothes,” Kejriwal said at a meeting with editors here. “I can give you the calculation. One dress that Modi wears is worth Rs two lakh. He change clothes five times a day, (which comes to) 10 lakh rupees (per day). He never repeats his clothes, doesn’t wash them and reuse them,” Kejriwal said, giving a detailed costing of Modi’s wardrobe. “Here’s the biggest proof. Go to Google, type ‘Modi’ and in the images column you will never see the same clothes in two separate images. The expense comes to Rs 10 lakh per day. He has been in power for 700 days, that means he has spent Rs 70 crore on clothes alone. Five crore more on his other clothes,” said Kejriwal. The Aam Aadmi Party convener also accused a large section of the media of being either “scared or ignorant,” citing the “five-hour non-stop broadcast” of the function organised to mark Modi’s completion of two years in power as a case in point. “I think media is either scared or ignorant. Not all, most of it. On completion of Modi’s two years in power, a five-hour programme from India Gate was telecast non-stop by all media channels. Has this ever happened? So if they are doing that, then they should show the good work we are doing too. They are not doing that,” Kejriwal said. “Completely false things about us are being picked up and repeated so many times that people actually start believing,” the Chief Minister said. Kejriwal said the two Delhi state assembly elections were won by the AAP despite a “negative and mischievous” campaign by the media against his party. He said the voters in general saw through the media campaign and ensured that the AAP won. “A section of the media is releasing wrong ‘facts’ about us. They are trying to defame us. But there is no need to worry, because the same media in Delhi left no stone unturned to defeat us. “The media ran such negative and mischievous campaigns ahead of both polls. Despite the media campaign, we performed so well. The people are discerning. They know the rights and wrongs about what is shown by the media,” he said. // ]]>

Pakistan extends Afghan refugees' stay for six more months

Islamabad: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday granted an extension in the stay of registered Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan for another six months – till December 31, 2016. “Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of States and Frontier Regions shall immediately engage with UNHCR and Government of Afghanistan for gradual relocation of refugee camps in Pakistan to Afghanistan,” spokesperson for the prime minister said. Sharif issued the directive on Wednesday after reviewing the ‘Repatriation and Management Policy for Afghan Refugees’, said the Prime Minister’s Office. It is to mention that the validity period of the “Proof of Registration” cards – that allow Afghan refugees to stay in Pakistan – was set to expire on June 30, Dawn online reported. But now, following the approval by the prime minster, the registered Afghan refugees can legally stay in Pakistan till the approved date. The PM’s spokesperson further said that in order to facilitate relocation and as a gesture of continued goodwill, Pakistan shall commit provision of free of cost wheat for the relocated camps in Afghanistan for a period of three years. “Quantum of wheat shall be determined by a certified number of refugees returning from camps in Pakistan and authorised daily entitlement according to the standards of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO),” the spokesman said. However, this extension in stay will be given only to the Afghans who are “Proof of Registration” card holders and legally reside in Pakistan. There are only 100,000 registered refugees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said provincial information minister Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani. “We don’t suggest any aggressive campaign against Afghan refugees, but we have been hosting them for the past 35 years and it is time they should go back to their country,” Ghani said. Unregistered Afghans had become a major security issue for the government, he added. About 6,000 Afghans have chosen to return home from Pakistan in 2016, well below last year’s figure of 58,211, the UN’ Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said. Registration cards allowing a temporary legal stay for Afghan refugees last received a six-month extension after they expired in December 2015. // ]]>

Clinton leads over Trump: Fox News poll

Washington: Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton opened up a 6-point lead over Republican rival Donald Trump in the latest Fox News poll released on Wednesday evening. In a head-to-head match-up, Clinton earned 44 per cent to Trump’s 38 per cent, while 7 per cent volunteered that they would vote for someone else, 5 per cent said they would not vote and 5 per cent said they did not know who they would choose, Politico reported citing the poll. In the previous Fox News survey conducted earlier this month, Clinton’s lead was only 3 points, 42 per cent to 39 per cent. But apart from a Quinnipiac University national poll released earlier on Wednesday that showed him behind by only 2 points, Trump has trailed by similar margins in other recent surveys, including a 5-point deficit in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and a more pronounced 12-point gulf in the ABC News-Washington Post poll, which the business mogul derided as “dirty” because the sample included 10 per cent more Democrats than Republicans. Neither major party candidate inspired much confidence from voters, as 48 per cent said they were confident that Clinton would do right by the US and 51 per cent said they did not think so. Even fewer people, 42 per cent, said they were confident in Trump’s decision-making for the country, while 58 per cent indicated a lack of confidence to some degree. Asked a series of questions about personal characteristics, 45 per cent said Clinton is someone who cares about people like them, while 51 per cent disagreed with that sentiment, about the same as when the question was last asked in May. But for Trump, 35 per cent in June said they saw empathy from him, down from 42 per cent in May. Neither candidate is seen as trustworthy, while Trump is seen as more hot-headed and obnoxious than Clinton, who is seen as more sensible, experienced and intelligent. The poll was conducted from June 26 to 28, surveying a random national sample of 1,017 registered voters via landlines and cellphones. // ]]>

I was used for political gains: Robert Vadra

New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra on Thursday said he was being used for “political gains”, adding that baseless accusations were levelled against him by “governments” for “almost a decade”. “Almost a decade of governments false and baseless accusations on me! They cannot prove anything without proof, and there is nothing there to prove…” Vadra said in a post on his Facebook page. “I will always be used for political gains, I know … But I will walk with my head held high, as in time and with the truth which will conquer incorrect perceptions, created about me,” he said in the post. Vadra has recently been issued a notice by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for his alleged involvement in a land scam in Bikaner. At the same time, the Justice S.N. Dhingra Commission enquiry report into controversial land deals in Haryana is likely to be submitted soon. The one-man Dhingra commission, set up by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Haryana in May 2015 to probe controversial land deals in Haryana, including Vadra’s land deals. // ]]>

Government releases 25 more declassified files related to Netaji

New Delhi: The central government on Wednesday released another batch of declassified files related to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on portal “The fifth batch of 25 declassified files relating to #NetajiSubhasChandraBose was released online on web portal today,” Union Culture and Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma said in a tweet. The new files include report of Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry on the alleged disappearance of Bose and Action Taken Report of 2006. The new batch of files consists among others files containing photographs of interior view of Renkoji Temple showing how Netaji’s ashes are kept, Russia Parliament question on Netaji and letter from Amiya Nath Bose to Pt Jawaharlal Nehru regarding conversion of Netaji’s house into National museum and disposal of properties of Indian National army. The government had earlier released four files including on May 27 from the Prime Minister’s Office, from the Home Ministry, and also from the External Affairs Ministry pertaining to the period 1968 to 2008. The government has earlier released three batches of files pertaining to Bose in March and April this year. The first lot of 100 files relating to Bose were put in the public domain by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 23, on the occasion of the 119th birth anniversary of Netaji. // ]]>


FDI reforms welcome but investors need confidence

By Vipin Pubby
The sweeping overhaul of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms across nine key sectors on the heels of the controversial announcement of the departure of charismatic RBI governor Raghuram Rajan has sent out conflicting signals on the economic front. Although the reforms may have been in the works for some time, the timing appears to aim at the damage control as a fallout of Rajan’s exit and contain any adverse impact on investor confidence from his departure.
Modi government has repeatedly proved that it is second to none as far as the perception game is involved. Thus whether it creates a grand event out of Modi’s address at the Madison Square and later in addressing the US Congress or attracts focus of attention when interacting with the Chinese premier or his Pakistan counterpart or even putting India’s stamp on the International Day of Yoga, the government had been striking the right chords at the right time.
The first set of FDI relaxations had come shortly after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had lost the prestigious Bihar elections and these did well to draw the world’s attention away from the humiliating defeat. The second set comes two days after Rajan announced, evidently after getting the signals from the government, that he would not seek extension of his term as had been the norm with his predecessors.
Rajan, a no-nonsense economist, who spoke his mind and took his own decisions, was a thorough professional. There were indications of differences between him and the government on certain key issues. His attempt to clean the banks of bad loans and holding on to high interest rates may have ruffled a few feathers but on the surface the government had been giving him enough elbow room. Some of his comments, like Indian economy compared to one-eyed King in the land of the blind, also drew ire of certain elements. The first indications about his imminent exit came from the maverick Subramanian Swamy, the outspoken Rajya Sabha MP, who demanded his ouster because he was “anti national”. His loss would be felt although there are several other professionals who may prove to be equally and even better than him if given a free hand.
The timing should, however, not take away entirely the significance of the announcement regarding FDI reforms. Perhaps the most direct impact on the consumers in the country would be felt by the relaxations in the retail sector. Though companies with 100 per cent FDI could open single brand stores, there was the clause that made it mandatory for them to source 30 per cent of the merchandise from India. Under the relaxed norms there is no need to disclose sourcing for first three years for products with cutting edge technology. This would enable companies like Apple to open its own signature stores.
Similarly in the food sector FDI in multi-brand food retail was prohibited but now FDI upto 100 per cent would be allowed in retail trading enabling foreign giants like Tesco and Walmart to set up dedicated foot retail stores if the items are made in India.
However, it is the in the sectors of defence, aviation and pharma that major investments are expected. Domestic airlines can now sell cent per cent to foreign investors although the cap of 49 per cent stays on foreign airlines. This could boost competition and services. In defence, the condition of access to state-of-the-art technology has been done away with while in pharma no government approval would be required for upto 74 per cent of FDI with the possibility of a sharp increase in foreign investment in the sector.
The nine key sectors had been relatively laggards in attracting FDI and together accounted for only 11 per cent of the total FDI received by India.
The BJP, when it was in the opposition, had opposed relaxations in norms and had alleged that these were a result of capitulation before the west. Times have now changed and world is a much smaller place. Even the thinking in the Left, which had been opposed to relaxations in FDI, has undergone a change. Though the usual noises over the decisions are expected, the reforms were long due and would open more avenues for foreign investment.
The government has claimed that with these relaxations, India now is “the most open economy in the world” to FDI. Although the government’s first such list of reforms in November 2015 had evoked good response, the economists are preferring to wait for the response from investors especially in view of the ouster of Rajan. The investors would like to look for stability and professionalism in handling economic issues. The appointment of the new RBI governor would be watched with keen interest.
At the same time the government shall have to ensure growth in the employment sector. Unfortunately, there has been no significant improvement in generation of employment opportunities since the Modi government took over. Although the latest relaxation of norms is expected to result in more employment opportunities, much would depend on the kind of response that the MNCs give to the new norms. The country still lags behind in the rankings for ease to do business. For that the government needs to take practical steps to create a hassle free and efficient system of governance which would effectively cut down red tape and hold authorities accountable for their actions and non actions.]]>