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from Expert Zone:

Unclear messages from the electoral tea leaves

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The past 12 months have been characterized by the narrowest market in two decades although sectoral performance varied significantly. While the markets are likely to be range-bound, valuations are expected to rise in 2014, especially in the first half.

Based on a one-year forward PE range of between 12.5 and 15 times and our top-down FY15 earnings growth forecast for the Nifty of between 10 percent and 15 percent, we expect the index to trade between 5,500 and 6,900 in 2014, with a target of 6,900 -- an implied increase of around 10 percent relative to current levels.

National elections will take place before May 14 next year. Historically, a surprise outcome has moved markets by between 15 percent and 20 percent either way.

Based on Narendra Modi’s strong governance track record and his reputation of being pro-industry, investors are positively inclined towards the BJP. They are less inclined towards the Congress despite policy course corrections. The recent rally implies that markets no longer view a BJP victory as unlikely -- a factor that may be priced in from a near-term perspective.

from India Insight:

India state elections: Exit polls give BJP the upper hand

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By Aditya Kalra and Shashank Chouhan

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to win in four of the five states that went to polls over the past month, exit poll surveys conducted by Cvoter and the India Today-ORG group showed. Such a victory will be a boost for the party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi ahead of the 2014 general elections.

The results for all the states, except Mizoram, will be announced on Sunday. Here’s what the exit polls forecast:

from India Insight:

State Elections in India: Opinion polls and 2008 results

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India will hold state elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Delhi, starting November 11. The polls are seen as a warm-up for next year's national elections.

Three of these five states - Mizoram, Rajasthan and Delhi -- are governed by the Congress party, while the Bharatiya Janata Party rules in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. These state elections will serve as a popularity test for Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and the BJP's prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 national elections.

from India Insight:

Who are India’s Maoists and why they are in the news

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By Shashank Chouhan and Sankalp Phartiyal

Here’s a ready reckoner on the Maoist movement in India.

WHO ARE THE MAOISTS?

The Maoists, also known as Naxals in India, are inspired by the political philosophy of China’s late Chairman Mao Zedong. They say they are fighting for the rights of poor farmers and landless labourers. In 2004, several Maoist groups merged to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which is now the largest left-wing extremist organization in the country. Their aim is to overthrow the state and usher in a classless society. The Maoists are banned in India. They are not to be confused with the mainstream communist parties in India who regularly get elected to legislatures and parliament.

ARE THEY GETTING STRONGER?
The May 25, 2013 ambush was perhaps their most brazen attack on politicians. On June 13, 2013, Maoists attacked a passenger train in Bihar, killing three people. On April 6, 2010, the rebels killed at least 75 policemen in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. The same year, Maoists were blamed for a sabotaging a crowded train in West Bengal, with around 100 passengers killed when it derailed. Maoists have also kidnapped bureaucrats and foreigners to force their demands on the state. Government data shows they have also destroyed hundreds of schools and infrastructure such as telephone towers.

from India Insight:

Military personnel who rape in India’s conflict zones should be prosecuted: committee

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The Justice Verma Committee, set up to review India’s legislation following the brutal gang rape of a student in Delhi last month, released its recommendations on how to make the country safer for women last week.

Among the issues which the panel addressed was a “neglected area” concerning sexual violence against women in areas of conflict.

from India Insight:

Short skirts, bad stars and chow mein: why India’s women get raped

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If you thought the Delhi gang rape would cause a serious debate on women’s rights in India, you'd be half right. Let's look at the other half: last December's brutal incident seems to have put a spell on India’s politicians, holy men and otherwise educated people.

From suggesting that the rape victim should have called her rapists “brother” to blaming her stars, plenty of reasons cited for the crime lay the blame on the women whom men brutalise, or portray women in ways that reveal our skewed attitude toward women and their place in our society. When given an opportunity to figure out ways to improve the  education and behaviour of men, and thus try to reduce the  number of rapes that occur in India, many people revert to the  more traditional method: limit the rights of women.

from India Insight:

Elsewhere in India: girls, mobile phones and slapping your tormentors

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Here's a short roundup of regional news in India that attracted our interest this weekend. Any opinions expressed by the author are no doubt ill informed and ridiculous. Aditya Yogi Kalra contributed to this post.

Another politician, another reference to women being the root of all man's troubles. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh blamed "girlfriends, bikes and  mobile phones" for the rising number of road accidents in the state.  "It's a common sight to see youngsters driving two-wheelers while talking on cellphones which often leads to accidents. Youths should avoid such habits," Singh said. (PTI via CNBC-TV18)

from India Insight:

Police taking on India’s Maoists can’t shoot straight?

The killing of 76 police by Maoist rebels earlier this month in central India did not come as a big surprise to experts who know most of the forces that are deployed in the dense jungles are hardly trained in jungle warfare.

Security personnel in Lucknow pay their respects in front of a coffin of a policeman who was killed in the Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh April 7, 2010. REUTERS/Pawan KumarMost of them undergo a short training course before engaging the rebels in inhospitable terrain is thrust upon their shoulders.

from India Insight:

Is the government losing the plot in tackling Maoist insurgency?

A day after hundreds of Maoist rebels trapped and killed 76 Indian security personnel in a heavily mined swathe of jungle in Chhattisgarh, a feeling of shock pervades the national psyche.

The nature of the attack, the detailed planning that went into it and the government's reaction thereafter has raised the question that is being debated for some time now.

from The Great Debate (India):

Maoist killings in Dantewada call for multi-pronged response

The well-planned  ambush and deliberate killing of  more than 70 security personnel by Maoist cadres on April 6 in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh has caused enormous anger and anguish all over India.

INDIA-MAOIST/The phrase 6/4 is being added to the blood-splattered internal security lexicon of India that is still coping with 26/11 – the equally pre-meditated and cold-blooded Mumbai attacks of November 2008.

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