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India’s decade of decay

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(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has been in office since 2004, recently held what was only the second press conference of his current five-year term, which is rapidly approaching an inglorious end. Betraying his yearning for approval, Singh told the assembled journalists that he hoped that history would judge his tenure more kindly than his political adversaries do.

That outcome seems unlikely, at best. On the contrary, Singh’s once-great Congress party is now at a political impasse, from which it can escape only if it frees itself from its destructive dynastic leadership. After more than a half-century in government – much of India’s modern life as an independent country – the era of Congress dominance appears to be over.

Perhaps the clearest indication of the party’s decline occurred in December, when it suffered crushing defeats in four key state-assembly elections. In Rajasthan, Congress won only 21 seats, while India’s second-largest political force, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won 162. This represents a massive shift from the 2008 election, when Congress gained 96 seats, compared to the BJP’s 78.

India Markets Weekahead: Driven by hope in an election-led rally

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

The New Year was ushered in with a steep and sudden correction in the broader indexes, with the Nifty closing 1.63 percent lower at 6,211. However, the mid-cap and small-cap indexes outperformed.

Though the holiday mood was evident, it was a politically charged week. The newly installed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi won a confidence motion with the support of the Congress. They subsequently announced power subsidies after granting water sops last week. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed a rare press conference, the third in 10 years, announcing his intent of handing over the baton to a new prime minister.

Time to brace yourself for a hard landing

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

In his speech to parliament last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: “The depreciation of the rupee and rise in dollar prices of petroleum products will no doubt lead to some further upward pressure on prices. The Reserve Bank of India will therefore continue to focus on bringing down inflation.”

By saying this, the economist in Singh seems to have won against the politician. This has also been a vindication of sorts for outgoing RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao.

India Markets Weekahead: Cash is king

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

Around mid-week, the Indian markets seemed akin to a sinking ship which saw unabated selling with Nifty hitting a low of 5,168 on Wednesday, before recovering sharply to close the week at 5,471 on the hopes of concrete action by the government to shore up the sentiments and the Reserve Bank of India’s moves to save the rupee.

The street expected structural reforms from the government to tackle this crisis whereas the textbook solutions of the RBI and the government backfired. The rupee cracked to touch 69/dollar, but recovered to close the week at 66.55.

Chinese general warns India even as Antony visits Beijing

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

India’s Defence Minister A. K. Antony is in Beijing on an official visit and a provocative curtain-raiser was provided by a retired major general of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) who cautioned India not to “provoke new problems and increase military deployments at the border area and stir up new trouble.”

Predictably, this statement by Major General Luo Yuan, who is associated with the PLA’s Academy of Military Sciences, hit the headlines in both countries. Luo is no stranger to such controversy and has in the past made shrill and hostile remarks to local media and in Chinese cyberspace about Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. One assertion – since denied – was that China should bomb Tokyo if Japan stepped out of line in relation to the long-standing island dispute between the two East Asian neighbours.

Budget 2013: A chance to leave ‘policy paralysis’ behind

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

In India, the government continues to both talk a good game and walk a decent game, having apparently learnt its lesson after a prolonged period of policy paralysis, before gaining a fresh lease of life with last summer’s economic reforms.

This year also, the government of Manmohan Singh has been unusually active ahead of the budget, scheduled for Feb. 28. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has just completed a global road show.

That’s the spirit, Mr Prime Minister

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(Rajan Ghotgalkar is Managing Director of Principal Pnb Asset Management Company. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of either Principal Pnb or Reuters)

Manmohan Singh’s “if we have to go down, let’s go down fighting” comment is exactly the spirit which needs to be demonstrated by those in power. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Step up, Mr Prime Minister

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Put aside Lokpal for a moment, how pervasive is the rot in our system that Vilasrao Deshmukh is the person that the Congress sent to negotiate with Anna Hazare. Leave aside whether Team Anna asked for him, is this the man the Prime Minister felt best to represent him and his government on the important issue of corruption?

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