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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:

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 FaithWorld:

High drama in India as monkeys wed despite official disapproval

(Rajesh plays with his monkey Raju, the "groom" in India's first monkey wedding, in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, July 4, 2011/Danish Siddiqui)

The tale, set in the forests of northwestern India, had all the ingredients of a perfect Bollywood love story: emotion, celebration, star-crossed lovers and a nail-biting climax. The only difference was that the lovers were monkeys, taking part in India's first simian wedding -- with the whole unfolding drama a classic clash between age-old village belief and the demands of modern life sceptical of that way of thought.

from India Insight:

Deep in the madding crowd at the Jaipur Lit Fest

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It was a startling introduction to Asia’s largest literature festival for best-selling writer J.M. Coetzee, as he clambered over hundreds of people squeezed next to speakers, crouched next to seats, or sat on folded newspapers on the churned-up grass.
Jon Lee Anderson (R) talks about his best-selling book Che on the opening day of the 2011 DSC Jaipur Literature Festival
Coetzee, a notoriously reticent author who rarely appears in public, gingerly picked his way through the masses to reach the stage and address the Jaipur Literature Festival that has in seven years grown magnificently into a cultural must-visit, but requires careful cultivation to ensure its rapid rise can continue unabated.

For all the intellectual finger-pointing whipped up by a public spat between organizer William Dalrymple and India’s Open magazine over allegations of a perpetuation of colonial-era Western superiority the Open-sponsored banner welcoming guests to the festival appeared as something as a peace flag – it was anyway unlikely to sour an event that is famed as much for its infectious atmosphere as its literary relevance.

from India Insight:

India’s Gujjar mess underlines problem of relying on quotas

There is no doubt that India is a deeply unequal society, that people at the bottom of the pile face discrimination, and struggle for the opportunities they need to raise themselves up. But is the answer caste- or tribe-based quotas in government jobs and universities?

Members of the Gujjar community beat a burning effigy of Rajasthan’s Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje during a protest in Bikaner district of India’s desert state of Rajasthan May 28, 2008. REUTERS/Vinay Joshi (INDIA)This week, the debate is back in the headlines, as the Gujjar community takes to the streets again, blockading India's capital to reinforce their demand for more quota-based jobs . Nearly 40 people have been killed in the latest violence, most shot dead by police.

from India Insight:

Time to train India’s police in riot control

Time and time again, India's police react to riots by using live ammunition and protesters are killed. Occasionally there is a public outcry, as there was after deaths in Kalinganagar and Nandigram, yet seldom can I remember officers being dismissed or prosecuted.Ethnic Gujjars sit near the bodies of those who died during clashes with the police at Bayana village, in Bharatpur district in India’s desert state of Rajasthan May 24, 2008. Thousands of agitators from the Gujjar community organised a stoppage of train services to press for their demand for Scheduled Tribe status, which will entitle them to government jobs and college seats. REUTERS/Vinay Joshi (INDIA)In Rajasthan over the past few days, the police appear to have shot and killed more than 30 rioting Gujjars . True, their provocation may have been extreme -- one policeman lynched, another police station attacked.

But was the death of so many, apparently unarmed, people really necessary?

A judicial inquiry has been ordered and I look forward to its conclusions.

In the meantime, I wonder if it is time the Indian government spent some time and some money in training its own police in how to quell unruly mobs without having to kill people.

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