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Bihar ‘misruled’: Nitish Kumar looks more ‘eager than desperate’

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In the run up to the 2015 Bihar assembly elections scheduled for October-November, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar looks more “eager than desperate” as compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections where he seemed more “desperate than eager”. While the catchy slogans differ, the ruling party’s punch-line remains the same: “Phir ek baar Nitish Kumar”.

Photo credit: oneindia.com
Photo credit: oneindia.com

The flamboyant chief minister, who bit the dust in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, is going all out to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the famous “Modi-way”, hiring the brain behind his smashing success through digitalized campaign – Prashant Kishor.

“The man wants to achieve that all over again, without the BJP. He has been hearing some jarring sounds with a formidable rival at work but he would do whatever it takes — from attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to brandishing his development plank to forging an alliance with long-time rival Lalu Prasad,” says the book whose publication is certainly well-timed with the crucial elections just a month away.

This is one of many interesting accounts that the book, Ruled or Misruled, written by Santosh Singh, offers. The book, whose cover portrays contrasting images of good governance and truth is described by the author, a journalist, as “an extension of my reporting”.

“He accepts making his campaign more organised than last time,” it adds.

“He has started knocking at the doors of the voters a bit early to remind them that it is an assembly election and Narendra Modi is not going to be the chief minister.” The author advocates that Nitish Kumar has “realised the value of brand-building belatedly, especially through unconventional and modern methods of social media”.

The book compares former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s emergence as a “leader” in nine months with the birth period of a child.

“A childbirth period of nine months has a great symbolism in the context of Manjhi. He was also born a leader in his nine-month tenure as Bihar chief minister. He chose his political birth as a Dalit leader as an afterthought.

“Manjhi had got his chance at the age of 70. After all in his last 34 years of political career, he had hardly done or said anything to get noticed, let alone trying to emerge as a leader of dalits,” the book says.

The book, however, describes central minister Ram Vilas Paswan, another Dalit face in Bihar, as a leader who “could have become a national dalit icon, but frittered away the opportunity because of his obsession with short-term politics and love for the comfort zone”.

From the rise of Lalu Prasad, the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, to his growing influence and a massive debacle and from the rise in influence and governance of Nitish Kumar to the “political importance” of the Manjhi surname, the book, through 21 chapters, carries one through the political landscape of the state, which has been arguably the most misruled over the years.

The author sensibly narrates the stories of repair, hope and construction under Nitish Kumar, disillusionment and new political realignment after the 2013 NDA split, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav coming together again after two decades and Nitish Kumar almost walking out of Lalu Yadav’s alliance.

The book also details the emergence of the BJP and the reunion of ‘Janata Family’.

By Prashant Kumar, IANS

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Copyright 2015 NewsGram

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Fall Of The Currency And Increase In Oil Prices: India ‘s Turmoil

The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars.

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India
Rajesh Kumar, left, shares a ride to work with another employee, Dilip Swain, right, as higher petrol prices in India begin to be felt in people's pocketbooks.VOA

The fall of the currency of India to record lows and rising global oil prices have raised worries that the world’s fastest growing economy faces headwinds that could hurt the fortunes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in next year’s general elections.

From people filling fuel at gas stations to thousands of students heading out to study overseas, the impact of the slumping rupee is sparking discontent.

Having plunged by about 12 percent against the dollar this year, the rupee is one of Asia’s worst faring currencies, and as in other countries, the slide has accelerated since the crash of the Turkish lira.

“The reasons are global. We must bear in mind that in last few months, dollar has strengthened against almost every currency,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently as he tried to send out reassuring signals that India’s economy is on track.

India
The rupee has plunged by about 12 percent this year raising fears of spiraling inflation. VOA

The rupee’s sharp depreciation comes at a time when the economy had recovered from a slowdown and surged to a two-year high in the quarter that ended in June. Forecasts put growth for this year at 7.5 percent.

Economy will slow

But economists warn this momentum will be difficult to sustain as the tumbling rupee, along with rising crude oil prices, takes a toll on growth. India, the world’s third largest oil importer, gets almost 80 percent of its fuel needs overseas.

“The government needs to mellow down on growth aspirations,” said N.R. Bhanumurthy, economist with the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. “The growth needs to come down to a little less than 7 percent.”

Even as the government faces the prospect of a slowing economy, it is under pressure to lower taxes on gas and diesel to bring down the sharp rise in prices. Fuel is one of the most heavily taxed items in India, with rates as high as nearly 50 percent. Prices vary from state to state, but they have gone up by about 14 percent this year.

Hoping to cash in on the growing disaffection over the surge in fuel prices and the sliding rupee, opposition parties led nationwide protests that shutdown offices and schools in several cities this week.

India
Discontent with spiraling fuel prices poses a challenge to Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of general elections next year. VOA

The government dismissed the protests, saying that although people faced momentary difficulties, they understood they were because of factors beyond its control.

Political analysts are not so sure, pointing out that fuel prices are a politically sensitive issue in India and usually result in a spike in inflation.

“Anger is rising, there is resentment,” said Satish Misra at the Observer Research Foundation, warning the ruling party will face a backlash “Obviously that is going to have a negative impact on the electoral fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party, there is no doubt about that.”

Warnings from economists

Among those who are upset with the high fuel prices is Rajesh Kumar, who commutes 30 kilometers to the advertising agency where he works. Hit by the higher prices that eat into his income, he has started sharing the ride with another employee.

India
Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

“I have given up the idea of buying another car,” he said despondently. “I will not be able to afford the cost of running it.”

Economists however have warned the government against giving in to populist pressures ahead of a series of state polls later this year and general elections around April next year. They say lowering taxes on fuel or taking measures to prop up the currency will strain the country’s finances and hurt the economy in the long run.

Also Read: Diverse Gathering To Be Addressed This World BioFuel Day: PM Narendra Modi

“One needs to be more careful and vigilant,” Bhanumurthy said. “It is easy for India to stay with low growth than experiencing the high deficit.”

But there is also some good news for the Indian economy. The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars. (VOA)