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How strategists from RSS are keeping BJP united ahead of Bihar polls

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New Delhi: With the Narendra Modi government facing its first major controversy ahead of crucial Bihar polls over Sushma Swaraj’s help to former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi, the RSS has intervened to ensure that the BJP presents a united face and there is no internal bickering, said informed sources.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley defending External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at a joint press conference with Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday was part of the strategy by the RSS, the sources said.

The ideological fountainhead of the Bharatiya Janata Party sought to ensure that the party sends a message of internal cohesion and unity amid concerted attack by the Congress.

Sources said Sushma Swaraj met Rajnath Singh and Jaitley, about an hour before Tuesday’s press conference, which was on the issue of central assistance to Jammu and Kashmir.

“As part of RSS strategy, it was decided in the meeting that only Jaitley will answer the questions related to Sushma Swaraj. It happened like that,” an informed source, wishing not to be named, told IANS.

The Congress attacked both Jaitley and Rajnath Singh on the Lalit Modi issue on Tuesday but Jaitley chose to take all the questions on the subject.

BJP MP from Darbhanga Kirti Azad on Sunday gave rise to speculation with his cryptic tweet about “aastin ka saanp (snake in the grass)” as the story blew up about Sushma Swaraj helping Lalit Modi procure travel documents on “humanitarian” grounds and thje media focused on it.

“#BJPs #AsteenKaSaanp & #Arnab conspire against BJP leaders. Guess the snake? IStandWithSushmaSwaraj @SushmaSwaraj,” Azad tweeted, triggering speculation that he was talking about the person in the BJP who had targeted Sushma Swaraj with the leaks about Lalit Modi.

A RSS source said that the controversy faced by Sushma Swaraj came about when the BJP was focusing on Bihar elections, in which it will heavily bank on the achievements of the Narendra Modi government.

The source said that there is realisation that the party faces a tough challenge in Bihar and it cannot afford any internal tension.

He also said that there was no allegation against the Modi government in its first year in office but opposition has now seized on an issue to put the government in the defensive. (IANS)

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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)