Patna: Nasim Zaidi,the Chief Election Commissioner on his two days’ visit to Patna, is set to revise the preparations for the upcoming Bihar assembly polls, as reported by an official. “Zaidi will hold discussions with representatives of various political parties and officials on election preparedness in the constituencies going to the polls in the first three phases,” Bihar’s Additional Chief Electoral Officer R Lakshmanan said.
He added that Zaidi and his team would also meet top officials, including chief electoral officer, other election department officials and district-level officials, to know about the elaborate security plans for the polls.
“The team will hold review meetings with chief secretary, home secretary and top police officers on Monday,” Lakshmanan stated.
The polls for 243-member assembly will take place in five phases between October 12 and November 5, with the counting of votes slated for November 8.
New Delhi: Contrary to the general impression, the defeat in the Bihar assembly elections has not dealt any blow to the reforms agenda of the ruling National Democratic Alliance. Rather, it has proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to fast-track reforms – legislative and administrative.
For the realty sector, those that stand out include the move for a pan-India goods and services tax regime and legislation for a real estate regulator, both of which are expected to get the parliamentary nod in the current winter session of parliament.
Close on the heels of the Bihar defeat, the government gave a Diwali bonanza by easing foreign investment norms in 15 major sectors, including construction, and raising the approval limit for the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) from Rs.3,000 crore to Rs.5,000 crore.
It removed entry and exit barriers in the construction sector, doing away with area restriction of 20,000 sqm and capitalisation of $5 million and allowing foreign investors to exit and repatriate investment before a project is completed but with a lock-in period of three years.
The government’s sense of the real estate industry is that it should not survive on subsidies but on the strength of the market economy. That’s why it’s focusing on realty reforms aimed at strengthening fundamentals for the sustainable revival of the sector.
The delayed reforms had affected the market sentiment and the government has been receiving a lot of flak for its inability to check retail inflation and generate employment.
The government realises it is imperative to provide momentum to reforms if it has to leverage strong domestic growth in the form of healthy seven percent plus GDP growth in the coming fiscal, besides picking up manufacturing activity.
The assessment of global rating agencies like Moody’s weighs heavily on the government’s mind that delay in reforms may hit investment. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) has also emphasised that India’s growth prospects remain relatively robust provided further progress is made on implementing structural reforms.
The government is focusing on triggering investment. By exercising tight control over unproductive expenditure, it has greatly increased capital investment by the public sector. And to further push this, the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund has been set up to leverage public investments.
The government also plans to come up with tax-free infra bonds to broaden the corporate bond market and provide long-term finance for infrastructure. It is also looking at providing tax incentives to spur investment in housing.
Then, FDI has considerably increased and private investment is picking up. The government is also working on simplifying FDI & ECB rules to speed up foreign investment.
It plans to put 98 percent sectors for foreign investment under the automatic route. And, to help the fund-starved real estate sector to tide over the current crisis, the government is working on allowing foreign investments in alternate investment funds (AIFs) and in infra and realty trusts via the automatic route.
The most crucial piece of legislation that has a big bearing on real estate is the GST Bill expected to be passed in the current parliament session, especially as the government has now adopted a collaborative and accommodating approach.
The introduction of a single GST rate across the country is aimed at dismantling the inter-state fiscal barriers to create a common market within India to boost competitiveness and make it easier to do business.
It will result in simplification and uniformity of taxes, putting an end to tax inefficiency in the form of different state-specific VAT and service tax laws. Though there are two main taxes for home buyers – VAT and service tax – multiple taxes in the form of CST, custom duty, excise duty and the like paid by developers result in price escalation by about 25-30 percent.
A likely GST rate of about 20 percent (the Congress party is demanding a cap on 18 percent) should be quite beneficial for the sector in lowering the current tax burden, in turn resulting in the reduction of home prices. Separately, the government proposes to provide tax relief to the real estate sector in the budget for 2016-17.
The decks are already cleared for crucial Real Estate Regulation & Development Bill, 2013 in the winter session as the government has accepted changes proposed by a Rajya Sabha panel. This bill will give a major boost to real estate sector, bringing in fair play and transparency in transactions to safeguard the interests of buyers and investors.
The government, which has already streamlined environment clearances for improving ease of doing business, is now fast- tracking single window clearance system for multi-storied buildings that should come through by early December 2015.
The simplified process will considerably cut delays in granting approvals, in turn resulting in cost reduction that will benefit property consumers.This will also provide much – needed relief to debt- ridden developers by way of faster projects completions and lesser interest outgo.
For its flagship programme — “Housing for All”, envisaging building 30 million houses, the government is readying a plan to provide more funds for constructing rural houses and providing subsidised power and water. Under its AMRUT programme, the Centre has allocated Rs 11654 crore for infrastructure upgrade.
The Bankruptcy Code — providing for an easier exit for businesses, safeguarding the interests of lenders and investors — together with proposed new start-up policy, will foster new enterprises and fast-track winding up of failed enterprises, with a view of strengthening ease of doing business.Further, labour reforms are aimed at removing rigidity and encouraging employment.
The government’s new-found aggression and resolve to push reform agenda have already seen the BSE Realty Index, registering the most rise in the last fortnight and further reform measures to be unveiled in the budget, will serve to speed up the revival of real estate facing the slowdown.
Kolkata: It was “rising intolerance” or a “desperate survival bid” that saw old foes Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad join hands with the Congress to trump the BJP-led alliance in the Bihar polls. Will the approaching West Bengal assembly elections see the emergence of yet another grand alliance?
Opinions vary as the political temperature in the state rises with the electoral battle just months away.
While for some, the vastly different political spectrum in Bengal may not allow the forging of a Bihar like combination, some others feel the Nitish-Lalu duo, post the Bihar victory, could play a decisive role in next year’s duel.
While the opposition – the Left Front, the Congress and the BJP – has often been unanimous in deriding the Trinamool Congress for its “misrule” and aspires to dethrone the Mamata Banerjee government in the state, it is yet to indicate any resolve to bury its differences and collectively fight against the Trinamool.
On the other hand, an advocate of forging a federal front opposed to the “communal” BJP, Chief Minister and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee, has been wooing Nitish Kumar and her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal, which some see as an attempt to forge a Bihar-like coalition.
Political analyst Anil Kumar Jana, though, opines that Bengal’s political dynamics may not present the opportunity for such an alliance.
“Had the BJP won in Bihar, things could have been different. There could have been possibilities of the Congress or even the Left coming together with the Trinamool to stop the BJP. But now, owing to the strong political compulsions of the parties, the possibility of any such alliance is very remote,” Jana told IANS.
The Vidyasagar University professor, however, felt the Congress and the CPI-M – both locked in an existential battle in the state – may come together against their common enemy, the Trinamool.
Another analyst, Udayan Banerjee, insisted that the Marxists cannot afford to align with the Congress.
“For the Left, Kerala is far more important as it has a chance of coming back to power there. Even if Bengal leaders insist, the politburo will not allow any kind of truck with the Congress as it may jeopardise its chances in Kerala,” said the associate professor of political science at the Bangabasi College here.
While there have been feelers from certain sections in both the camps on the possibility of an alliance, the top leaderships are non-committal. But both the parties unanimously ruled out the feasibility of a Bihar-like coalition.
Remaining evasive on the issue of joining hands with the Marxists, state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury argued that the political dynamics in Bengal did not afford the major forces – Trinamool, Congress, Left or the BJP – to be unopposed to each other.
“The BJP’s communal politics had brought rivals together in Bihar. But in Bengal, irrespective of the fact that the opposition collectively has been a target of Trinamool’s terror tactics, such a coalition is not possible,” Chowdhury told IANS.
Marxist politburo member Mohammad Salim shared a similar view.
“While the decision to forge any kind of alliance rests with the politburo, I don’t think in Bengal, a Bihar-like alliance is possible.
“Mamata Banerjee may indulge in any kind of gimmicks, but political parties realise the consequences of joining hands with the Trinamool. Her wooing of Nitish Kumar or Kejriwal is only a desperate move to stay relevant in national politics,” Salim told IANS.
While his party had been part of the Congress-led UPA-I dispensation, Salim, on speculation of the CPI-M aligning with the Congress, said: “Let the speculation remain.”
But political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty felt that association with JD-U chief Nitish Kumar and RJD head Lalu Prasad is a guarantee for victory in the Bengal polls.
“Post the Bihar polls, both of them have emerged as the apostles of secularism and victors over intolerance. With nearly 30 percent Muslim population in Bengal, whoever can get them on their side will emerge victorious,” Chakraborty told IANS.
Enthused by the success of its recent agitations, including a trade union-endorsed general strike on September 2, the Marxist-led Left Front has been claiming it is gaining ground since the debacle in 2011 when the Trinamool ended its 34-year-long uninterrupted rule in the state.
Chakraborty however, opined that the 2011 scenario will unfold yet again unless the Left manages to forge a “secular democratic front” with Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad on board.
“Incidentally, it’s not the Left, rather Mamata, who is making endeavours to stitch such a front. From participating in Kejriwal’s chief ministers’ conclave to voicing support for Nitish Kumar, Banerjee has been making all the right noises,” Chakraborty, a political science professor at Rabindra Bharati University, told IANS.
“Even though her party can win on its might, by wooing the key non-BJP players, she is sending out a strong message to the minorities and at the same also attempting to deny the Congress or the Left, the opportunity to forge any kind of association with the secular parties,” Chakraborty added.
Trinamool Lok Sabha member Sultan Ahmed insisted the invitations to Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar or Lalu Prasad for the Bengal Global Business Summit in January 2016 is not aimed at any electoral move.
“Whether inviting Kejriwal or supporting Nitish Kumar, it is more about fighting to preserve the federal structure of the country, which is under attack under the Narendra Modi government,” Ahmed told IANS.
Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s move to invite veteran BJP leader LK Advani and BJP Lok Sabha member Shatrughan Sinha to his oath-taking ceremony has raised many eyebrows.
Although the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) badly lost the assembly polls to Nitish Kumar’s Grand Alliance, Shatrughan Sinha has repeatedly publicly praised the chief minister. Advani is also said to have a soft corner for Nitish Kumar.
The oath taking ceremony is slated on November 20.
“Advani and Shatrughan Sinha have been invited to the event at Gandhi Maidan. We sent invitations to both of them,” said a Janata Dal-United leader close to Nitish Kumar.
However, no invitation has been sent to any other BJP leader, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah.
The event is expected to see a galaxy of top political leaders including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi, chief ministers Arvind Kejriwal of Delhi, Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal, Naveen Patnaik of Odisha and Akhilesh Yadav of Uttar Pradesh.
JD-U leaders say the event — where the star attraction will be RJD chief Lalu Prasad — will mark a new beginning of opposition unity in the country.
Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda is also likely to attend the oath-taking, besides former Jharkhand chief ministers Babulal Marandi and Hemant Soren and INLD leader Abhay Chautala.
Lalu Prasad and JD-U president Sharad Yadav will be the main guests.
According to JD-U leaders, Nitish Kumar will take oath as chief minister along with a 36-member council of ministers on November 20.
The RJD emerged as the single largest party in the 243-seat house with 80 assembly seats followed by the JD-U (71) and the Congress (27 seats).
There will be 16 ministers from the RJD, 15 from the JD-U and five from the Congress in the new government.
Critics opined that the oath ceremony might be the forum where a new ‘third front’ is expected to be incubated.