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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Rajasthan. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Rajasthan. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, March 02, 2009

Why not a refinery in Rajasthan?

By M H Ahssan

Rajasthan and J&K are the only large states without a refinery. Rajasthan did not produce crude, and the market was relatively small till Cairn discovered crude. After commerciality was established, ONGC proposed in 2004 to build a refinery near Barmer. Conversion facilities are usually set up near the source of the inputs or at the market for the output, as crude alone accounts for more than 90% of input cost.

Rajasthan’s refinery project, however, was scrapped sometime in 2007. A few days ago, it was reported that the newly-elected Congress government there had approached the Centre to revive it. The petroleum secretary reportedly said that viability must first be established. This reasoning cannot be faulted. The question is why did ONGC initiate this potentially unviable project? The simple reply is: ONGC did not create Rs 2 lakh crore value — the highest ever in India at the time — by pursuing unviable projects.

The case for this refinery is complex. Firstly, ONGC’s interest was prompted more by the compulsion to cut losses rather than value addition through forward integration. While privatising exploration blocks, the private sector operator was given the ‘right’ to explore, but ONGC was made liable for 100% of royalty and cess. ONGC was allowed the consolation of a ‘walk-in’ option for 30% equity in case of commercial discovery. This policy to use public sector funds to subsidise the private sector still prevails.

In case of the Rajasthan discoveries, the impact on the ONGC balance-sheet was assessed to be a loss of $1 billion, over the field life-cycle. The management, with an eye to the interests of the company and shareholders (including GoI with 74%), decided to relinquish the licence. The ‘parent’ ministry pilloried ONGC for the anti-national act of discouraging FDI but had to assure ONGC that steps would be taken to mitigate the loss.

Based on this, ONGC retained the licence and exercised the option. It also opened talks to buy out Cairn. Had the ministry been honest with the assurance, the deal would have been closed. Given this context, ONGC decided to capture the margins for refining, product transportation and marketing to offset a fraction of the loss of paying Cairn’s share of royalty and cess.

This continues to cost the people of India hundreds of crores of rupees every year. ONGC’s under-recovery in case of the Rajasthan discoveries is high because cess does not consider inferior quality crude, compounded by high production costs because of reservoir characteristics. Transport cost is high too as pipelines and tankers have to be insulated and steam-traced to keep this crude in flowing condition.

The field development plan showed that peak production would be sustained for five years or so. A crude pipeline from Rajasthan to the coast would be fully utilised for five years, operate at declining rate for perhaps another 5-7 years and then be abandoned. In comparison, pipelines for crude, refined products and gas are running full capacity for over 40 years. Further, moving inland crude to the coast violates one of the cardinal principles of petroleum supply and distribution in India.

Cairn pointed out that under the contract, their responsibility ended with delivering crude to the wellhead. The option to process this crude at existing refineries was not available. The production profile in the field development plan did not justify a new refinery, so ONGC proposed the only viable option. It suggested building a 9 million tonne refinery to process a blend of sub-standard Rajasthan crude and ‘champagne’ quality Bombay High crude. Then the crude pipeline between the coast and Barmer would be a low-cost one, bringing in Bombay High crude. As the local production declined, more crude from BH (or even imported) could flow in. For marketing, a product pipeline would go to the high-demand market in north-western Rajasthan / south-western Punjab, and another would connect this public sector refinery to the public sector pipeline network for Rajasthan, NCR and Haryana.

But the proposal was scrapped. The reason is obvious: this would cut into the markets of refineries to the south. In time-honoured style, the first step was to give the dog a bad name. Several wise guys emerged from the woodwork to proclaim that 9 million tonne is uneconomical and a 15 million tonne train must be considered. What are the capacities for the inland refineries being built at Bina and Bathinda and the coastal refinery at Paradeep, pray? Nowhere near 15 million tonne. What were the design capacities for the last two refinery trains commissioned in the public sector? Six million tonne each. There was never a case for a 15 million tonne inland refinery, and public funds were wasted studying this option.

Another declaration: refining is not a profitable venture. In the last decade, the private sector has commissioned over 40 million tonne green-field refining capacity while the government controlled champions have notched up zero, except for the 0.2 million tonne by ONGC in 2001! Obviously, the Ambanis and the Ruias have been squandering money while public sector investment is safeguarded by ensuring no refinery project is anywhere near commissioning!

With the Barmer project slated to be studied anew, if the ministry again concludes that a 9 million tonne refinery for domestic crude there is not viable, it must withdraw immediately from the projects at Bina and Bathinda, designed on imported crude.

For Rajasthan, there is an excellent fallout of the 2007 decision to scrap the 2004 ONGC proposal. The Centre is to bear the capital investment and operating costs for the crude pipeline from Rajasthan to the coast. Upfront, this is a commitment of more than $1 billion from the Consolidated Fund of India; and over half of this investment will have to be written off. The ministry can divert, say, only half to subsidise the refinery, and balance that with $500 million central funding.

Of course, no one would dream of casting aspersions on the petroleum minister’s unquestioned innocence of the oil and gas business. For the new Rajasthan CM, this is a great chance to remedy Rajasthan’s lack of refineries, and catalyse an industrial upsurge before the pre-poll code of conduct kicks in.

Why not a refinery in Rajasthan?

By M H Ahssan

Rajasthan and J&K are the only large states without a refinery. Rajasthan did not produce crude, and the market was relatively small till Cairn discovered crude. After commerciality was established, ONGC proposed in 2004 to build a refinery near Barmer. Conversion facilities are usually set up near the source of the inputs or at the market for the output, as crude alone accounts for more than 90% of input cost.

Rajasthan’s refinery project, however, was scrapped sometime in 2007. A few days ago, it was reported that the newly-elected Congress government there had approached the Centre to revive it. The petroleum secretary reportedly said that viability must first be established. This reasoning cannot be faulted. The question is why did ONGC initiate this potentially unviable project? The simple reply is: ONGC did not create Rs 2 lakh crore value — the highest ever in India at the time — by pursuing unviable projects.

The case for this refinery is complex. Firstly, ONGC’s interest was prompted more by the compulsion to cut losses rather than value addition through forward integration. While privatising exploration blocks, the private sector operator was given the ‘right’ to explore, but ONGC was made liable for 100% of royalty and cess. ONGC was allowed the consolation of a ‘walk-in’ option for 30% equity in case of commercial discovery. This policy to use public sector funds to subsidise the private sector still prevails.

In case of the Rajasthan discoveries, the impact on the ONGC balance-sheet was assessed to be a loss of $1 billion, over the field life-cycle. The management, with an eye to the interests of the company and shareholders (including GoI with 74%), decided to relinquish the licence. The ‘parent’ ministry pilloried ONGC for the anti-national act of discouraging FDI but had to assure ONGC that steps would be taken to mitigate the loss.

Based on this, ONGC retained the licence and exercised the option. It also opened talks to buy out Cairn. Had the ministry been honest with the assurance, the deal would have been closed. Given this context, ONGC decided to capture the margins for refining, product transportation and marketing to offset a fraction of the loss of paying Cairn’s share of royalty and cess.

This continues to cost the people of India hundreds of crores of rupees every year. ONGC’s under-recovery in case of the Rajasthan discoveries is high because cess does not consider inferior quality crude, compounded by high production costs because of reservoir characteristics. Transport cost is high too as pipelines and tankers have to be insulated and steam-traced to keep this crude in flowing condition.

The field development plan showed that peak production would be sustained for five years or so. A crude pipeline from Rajasthan to the coast would be fully utilised for five years, operate at declining rate for perhaps another 5-7 years and then be abandoned. In comparison, pipelines for crude, refined products and gas are running full capacity for over 40 years. Further, moving inland crude to the coast violates one of the cardinal principles of petroleum supply and distribution in India.

Cairn pointed out that under the contract, their responsibility ended with delivering crude to the wellhead. The option to process this crude at existing refineries was not available. The production profile in the field development plan did not justify a new refinery, so ONGC proposed the only viable option. It suggested building a 9 million tonne refinery to process a blend of sub-standard Rajasthan crude and ‘champagne’ quality Bombay High crude. Then the crude pipeline between the coast and Barmer would be a low-cost one, bringing in Bombay High crude. As the local production declined, more crude from BH (or even imported) could flow in. For marketing, a product pipeline would go to the high-demand market in north-western Rajasthan / south-western Punjab, and another would connect this public sector refinery to the public sector pipeline network for Rajasthan, NCR and Haryana.

But the proposal was scrapped. The reason is obvious: this would cut into the markets of refineries to the south. In time-honoured style, the first step was to give the dog a bad name. Several wise guys emerged from the woodwork to proclaim that 9 million tonne is uneconomical and a 15 million tonne train must be considered. What are the capacities for the inland refineries being built at Bina and Bathinda and the coastal refinery at Paradeep, pray? Nowhere near 15 million tonne. What were the design capacities for the last two refinery trains commissioned in the public sector? Six million tonne each. There was never a case for a 15 million tonne inland refinery, and public funds were wasted studying this option.

Another declaration: refining is not a profitable venture. In the last decade, the private sector has commissioned over 40 million tonne green-field refining capacity while the government controlled champions have notched up zero, except for the 0.2 million tonne by ONGC in 2001! Obviously, the Ambanis and the Ruias have been squandering money while public sector investment is safeguarded by ensuring no refinery project is anywhere near commissioning!

With the Barmer project slated to be studied anew, if the ministry again concludes that a 9 million tonne refinery for domestic crude there is not viable, it must withdraw immediately from the projects at Bina and Bathinda, designed on imported crude.

For Rajasthan, there is an excellent fallout of the 2007 decision to scrap the 2004 ONGC proposal. The Centre is to bear the capital investment and operating costs for the crude pipeline from Rajasthan to the coast. Upfront, this is a commitment of more than $1 billion from the Consolidated Fund of India; and over half of this investment will have to be written off. The ministry can divert, say, only half to subsidise the refinery, and balance that with $500 million central funding.

Of course, no one would dream of casting aspersions on the petroleum minister’s unquestioned innocence of the oil and gas business. For the new Rajasthan CM, this is a great chance to remedy Rajasthan’s lack of refineries, and catalyse an industrial upsurge before the pre-poll code of conduct kicks in.

Why not a refinery in Rajasthan?

By M H Ahssan

Rajasthan and J&K are the only large states without a refinery. Rajasthan did not produce crude, and the market was relatively small till Cairn discovered crude. After commerciality was established, ONGC proposed in 2004 to build a refinery near Barmer. Conversion facilities are usually set up near the source of the inputs or at the market for the output, as crude alone accounts for more than 90% of input cost.

Rajasthan’s refinery project, however, was scrapped sometime in 2007. A few days ago, it was reported that the newly-elected Congress government there had approached the Centre to revive it. The petroleum secretary reportedly said that viability must first be established. This reasoning cannot be faulted. The question is why did ONGC initiate this potentially unviable project? The simple reply is: ONGC did not create Rs 2 lakh crore value — the highest ever in India at the time — by pursuing unviable projects.

The case for this refinery is complex. Firstly, ONGC’s interest was prompted more by the compulsion to cut losses rather than value addition through forward integration. While privatising exploration blocks, the private sector operator was given the ‘right’ to explore, but ONGC was made liable for 100% of royalty and cess. ONGC was allowed the consolation of a ‘walk-in’ option for 30% equity in case of commercial discovery. This policy to use public sector funds to subsidise the private sector still prevails.

In case of the Rajasthan discoveries, the impact on the ONGC balance-sheet was assessed to be a loss of $1 billion, over the field life-cycle. The management, with an eye to the interests of the company and shareholders (including GoI with 74%), decided to relinquish the licence. The ‘parent’ ministry pilloried ONGC for the anti-national act of discouraging FDI but had to assure ONGC that steps would be taken to mitigate the loss.

Based on this, ONGC retained the licence and exercised the option. It also opened talks to buy out Cairn. Had the ministry been honest with the assurance, the deal would have been closed. Given this context, ONGC decided to capture the margins for refining, product transportation and marketing to offset a fraction of the loss of paying Cairn’s share of royalty and cess.

This continues to cost the people of India hundreds of crores of rupees every year. ONGC’s under-recovery in case of the Rajasthan discoveries is high because cess does not consider inferior quality crude, compounded by high production costs because of reservoir characteristics. Transport cost is high too as pipelines and tankers have to be insulated and steam-traced to keep this crude in flowing condition.

The field development plan showed that peak production would be sustained for five years or so. A crude pipeline from Rajasthan to the coast would be fully utilised for five years, operate at declining rate for perhaps another 5-7 years and then be abandoned. In comparison, pipelines for crude, refined products and gas are running full capacity for over 40 years. Further, moving inland crude to the coast violates one of the cardinal principles of petroleum supply and distribution in India.

Cairn pointed out that under the contract, their responsibility ended with delivering crude to the wellhead. The option to process this crude at existing refineries was not available. The production profile in the field development plan did not justify a new refinery, so ONGC proposed the only viable option. It suggested building a 9 million tonne refinery to process a blend of sub-standard Rajasthan crude and ‘champagne’ quality Bombay High crude. Then the crude pipeline between the coast and Barmer would be a low-cost one, bringing in Bombay High crude. As the local production declined, more crude from BH (or even imported) could flow in. For marketing, a product pipeline would go to the high-demand market in north-western Rajasthan / south-western Punjab, and another would connect this public sector refinery to the public sector pipeline network for Rajasthan, NCR and Haryana.

But the proposal was scrapped. The reason is obvious: this would cut into the markets of refineries to the south. In time-honoured style, the first step was to give the dog a bad name. Several wise guys emerged from the woodwork to proclaim that 9 million tonne is uneconomical and a 15 million tonne train must be considered. What are the capacities for the inland refineries being built at Bina and Bathinda and the coastal refinery at Paradeep, pray? Nowhere near 15 million tonne. What were the design capacities for the last two refinery trains commissioned in the public sector? Six million tonne each. There was never a case for a 15 million tonne inland refinery, and public funds were wasted studying this option.

Another declaration: refining is not a profitable venture. In the last decade, the private sector has commissioned over 40 million tonne green-field refining capacity while the government controlled champions have notched up zero, except for the 0.2 million tonne by ONGC in 2001! Obviously, the Ambanis and the Ruias have been squandering money while public sector investment is safeguarded by ensuring no refinery project is anywhere near commissioning!

With the Barmer project slated to be studied anew, if the ministry again concludes that a 9 million tonne refinery for domestic crude there is not viable, it must withdraw immediately from the projects at Bina and Bathinda, designed on imported crude.

For Rajasthan, there is an excellent fallout of the 2007 decision to scrap the 2004 ONGC proposal. The Centre is to bear the capital investment and operating costs for the crude pipeline from Rajasthan to the coast. Upfront, this is a commitment of more than $1 billion from the Consolidated Fund of India; and over half of this investment will have to be written off. The ministry can divert, say, only half to subsidise the refinery, and balance that with $500 million central funding.

Of course, no one would dream of casting aspersions on the petroleum minister’s unquestioned innocence of the oil and gas business. For the new Rajasthan CM, this is a great chance to remedy Rajasthan’s lack of refineries, and catalyse an industrial upsurge before the pre-poll code of conduct kicks in.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Vasundhara Raje, The Return Of The 'Rajasthan Queen'?

By Shomolika Anand / Jaipur

The peculiar predicament of being Vasundhara Raje — who is all set to regain power in Rajasthan. The road to Sojat smells of fresh rain. But the dhaba on the roadside has stopped making the next batch of dal vadas. Everyone in this tiny, garbage-infested town in southern Rajasthan is waiting for Vasundhara Raje’s bus to arrive. 

It doesn’t matter if they are supporters of the BJP or the Congress; a sighting is what they are after. And it comes packed with drama. A hatch opens up at the top and Raje rises phoenix-like on a pedestal, towering over the crowd like a modern-day queen; as she asks an ecstatic crowd: “What are your main concerns? Do you get enough drinking water?” The crowd claps and screams as she waves once again before the pedestal is lowered and she disappears from view.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

With Vasundhara Victory, Is Lalit Modi Back In The Game?

By Jagmaal Rana | Jaipur

RAJASTHAN ELECTIONS  "I paid the price of being close to Vasundhara Raje." - Lalit Modi on March 1, 2009 after he lost in the Rajasthan Cricket Association election. Lalit Modi’s rise in the Board of Control for Cricket in India is the stuff of legend. 

His fall is the stuff of legend too. In both cases, the swiftness with which he rose and fell was extraordinary. He first came to power in the RCA in 2005 – overthrowing the powerful Rungta regime which had ruled Rajasthan cricket for 30 years. But soon after Raje lost Rajasthan in 2009, 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

'DISCARDING VEILS, EMBRACING CHANGE IN RAJASTHAN'

By Seema Dhar / Jaipur

Displaying extraordinary grit, courage and openness to change, women from some of the most feudal communities in Rajasthan's villages are changing the rules forever and leading development and local governance at the grassroots. 

As a child she used to keenly observe the government officials and leaders who came to her village Bassi, near Jaipur, Rajasthan, for official functions on occasions like Independence Day or Republic Day. Sitting in the audience, she used to watch in fascination as they addressed large crowds. She even had the urge to join them at the dais but knew she needed to become "someone important" in order to be able to do that.

Born into a family of daily wagers, it never really seemed likely that Murli Meena would achieve this desire. Although she was a natural leader, there simply were no opportunities for her to distinguish herself. Her fortunes, however, changed when she got married to someone who lived in the neighbouring village of Dehlala and decided to discard the 'ghunghat' (veil traditionally required for all married women).

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Focus: How 'Gehlot' Is Handing Over 'Rajasthan' To BJP?

By M H Ahssan / INN Bureau

The Rajasthan CM is trying his hardest to surmount multiple challenges to win in November. With less than five months to go for elections to the 200-seat Rajasthan Assembly, the contest to rule the desert state for the next five years is boiling down to this: Will Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot beat the trend and be the first incumbent in four elections to retain power in the state? Or will the dapper Vasundhara Raje, who has been in political wilderness for five years, pack enough punch to be the proverbial comeback kid?

Monday, December 09, 2013

Poll Analysis: The 'Master Politics' Of 'Clear Governance'

By M H Ahssan | INN Live

Something big has happened this past week. While the focus of most political analysts is on individuals, there is a need to read the bigger message behind the results of the elections in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The clear winner here is “governance”.

People in Delhi and Rajasthan voted overwhelmingly against the lack of governance and transparency, while those in MP and Chhattisgarh continued their belief in the governance provided by the incumbent governments. Let's look at each state and how governance, or the lack of it, affected voting.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Focus: Who Will Adivasis Favour This Time In Rajasthan?

By Ibrahim Shikhawat / Jaipur

Electoral battles in Rajasthan have traditionally been a direct battle between the two biggies— the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

With 25 seats reserved adivasis (tribals) in the 200-member Assembly, they form an important part of the election calculus of the main contenders.  In the 2008 election, the adivasis supported the Congress en masse, leading to its victory. However, in 2003 elections the BJP was the recipient of the majority of adivasi votes.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Editorial: It's now Bijli, Sadak, Pani and Terror

By M H Ahssan

Driving through Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, just a few days before the terrorist attack in Mumbai, one got the distinct impression that bijli, sadak and pani (BSP) firmly remained the key issues impacting the assembly elections in both states.

More importantly, terrorism was not even remotely seen as an issue with the electorate, even though the BJP’s central leaders had tried their best to politicise the Malegaon terror episode. This may have changed after the Mumbai attacks. It is now emphatically bijli, sadak, pani and terrorism (BSPT), not necessarily in that order.

Congress party leaders admit privately that the terrorist strike could have instantly given the BJP the extra advantage in crucial states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi which voted just after the black Wednesday. Of course, the full debate on terrorism will play out at the general elections five months from now.

By then things may look a bit different as some distance from the event brings greater perspective. The Congress still has time to demonstrate its seriousness in tackling the growing threat of terror. Five months, after all, is a long time in politics.

The BJP will also try to appropriate, as much as possible, the issue of national security in the context of terrorism. It will be somewhat constrained by the unwieldy manner in which it sought to communalise the terror issue — though L K Advani is now correcting his course saying that he was merely on the issue of how the Maharashtra ATS had tortured the sadhvi allegedly involved in the Malegaon bomb blasts.

The BJP is already going through its own contortions to explain away its earlier stand on Maharashtra ATS chief Karkare, who fell to the terrorist’s bullet.

There will be a much more nuanced play of the terror issue in the months ahead. Meanwhile, the results of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi will help in gauging how the Congress and BJP would evolve their campaign strategy for general elections.

Barely three days before the Mumbai terror attack, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Chouhan candidly admitted to some journalists who met him at his Bhopal residence that there was a lot of anti-incumbency working at the constituency level. He also conceded that national level issues such as terrorism were not a factor at all at that time.

However, the chief minister felt confident that his positive image, linked with a larger vision for the state would beat the anti-incumbency at the level of MLAs. The biggest factor working against the BJP at the MLA level was the absence of bijli and pani, the very slogan which helped the party throw the Congress out of power five years ago. On an average, across Madhya Pradesh, villages are getting electricity just about five hours a day. Sans power, farmers are unable to pump up ground water.

Chouhan was honest enough to admit that part of the failure was caused by the dependence of the state on hydel power from Narmada river which did not have much water this year due to low rainfall. “What was supposed to generate 2,200MW is now only giving 800MW”, Chouhan said.

Despite the odds, Chouhan is seen as a winning horse because of what many see as his ability to connect with the poor in the state. Put simply, he is a 24x7 grassroots politician.

Does Congress have one in Madhya Pradesh? It is interesting to note that Chouhan tries to model himself as a strong regional leader like Narendra Modi, who is seen as having a finger on the pulse of the people. One also saw in Madhya Pradesh shades of Modi’s Gujarat strategy. For instance, Chouhan has fielded a large number of fresh faces to beat anti-incumbency at the local level.

Of course, the Congress’s major criticism against the chief minister is that he has promised a lot and done little. Even if that were true, it might be difficult for the Congress to cover the massive deficit in the total vote share it suffered in the last assembly elections.

In 2003, the BJP cornered 42% of the total votes polled in Madhya Pradesh, with the Congress bagging only 31%. Other things remaining the same, the Congress needs a 5% plus swing away from the BJP to cover the vote deficit, which seems like a tall order. The terrorist strike in Mumbai a day before the polling in the state may have made things even more difficult for the Congress.

The Congress, it would appear, has a much better chance of exploiting the anti-incumbency factor in Rajasthan where it lags behind the BJP in vote share by just 3%. It needs a 1.5% plus swing in its favour to challenge the BJP chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia, who seems to be banking largely on her personal charisma, with not much help from the rest of the BJP leadership either at the state or central level. The party apparatus does not seem to have backed her to the hilt.

The Congress is somewhat better organised in Rajasthan this time and Vasundhara’s distance from her party leadership could help swing the state away from the BJP. Again, it is not clear how the issue of terrorism will play out in Rajasthan whose capital has been a target of major terror strikes in recent times. The voter turnout in Rajasthan, though, was quite high.

In Delhi, it seemed very clear that the sudden surge in voting after the Mumbai attack clearly reflected some anxiety among the urban middle class over the issue of national security. So, terrorism will certainly impact the outcome of the assembly polls.

The real test for India’s major political parties will come during the 2009 general elections. In many ways the Mumbai terror attacks may have already changed the discourse of national politics. Until recently, the view espoused by many political observers seemed to be that both the Congress and the BJP were in disarray and that a reinvented third front could emerge with Mayawati playing a key role.

The third front becomes a strong possibility if the Congress and BJP together fall well below the half way mark in the 545-seat Lok Sabha. At present the two main parties are a little above the half-way mark of 273 seats.

However, as national security and terrorism gain centre stage, as they are most likely to do, in the Lok Sabha elections, the electorate might prefer a coalition that is led by a stronger national party. This is an opportunity for both the BJP and the Congress. The contest to appropriate the national security plank should be quite engaging.

Editorial: It's now Bijli, Sadak, Pani and Terror

By M H Ahssan

Driving through Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, just a few days before the terrorist attack in Mumbai, one got the distinct impression that bijli, sadak and pani (BSP) firmly remained the key issues impacting the assembly elections in both states.

More importantly, terrorism was not even remotely seen as an issue with the electorate, even though the BJP’s central leaders had tried their best to politicise the Malegaon terror episode. This may have changed after the Mumbai attacks. It is now emphatically bijli, sadak, pani and terrorism (BSPT), not necessarily in that order.

Congress party leaders admit privately that the terrorist strike could have instantly given the BJP the extra advantage in crucial states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi which voted just after the black Wednesday. Of course, the full debate on terrorism will play out at the general elections five months from now.

By then things may look a bit different as some distance from the event brings greater perspective. The Congress still has time to demonstrate its seriousness in tackling the growing threat of terror. Five months, after all, is a long time in politics.

The BJP will also try to appropriate, as much as possible, the issue of national security in the context of terrorism. It will be somewhat constrained by the unwieldy manner in which it sought to communalise the terror issue — though L K Advani is now correcting his course saying that he was merely on the issue of how the Maharashtra ATS had tortured the sadhvi allegedly involved in the Malegaon bomb blasts.

The BJP is already going through its own contortions to explain away its earlier stand on Maharashtra ATS chief Karkare, who fell to the terrorist’s bullet.

There will be a much more nuanced play of the terror issue in the months ahead. Meanwhile, the results of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi will help in gauging how the Congress and BJP would evolve their campaign strategy for general elections.

Barely three days before the Mumbai terror attack, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Chouhan candidly admitted to some journalists who met him at his Bhopal residence that there was a lot of anti-incumbency working at the constituency level. He also conceded that national level issues such as terrorism were not a factor at all at that time.

However, the chief minister felt confident that his positive image, linked with a larger vision for the state would beat the anti-incumbency at the level of MLAs. The biggest factor working against the BJP at the MLA level was the absence of bijli and pani, the very slogan which helped the party throw the Congress out of power five years ago. On an average, across Madhya Pradesh, villages are getting electricity just about five hours a day. Sans power, farmers are unable to pump up ground water.

Chouhan was honest enough to admit that part of the failure was caused by the dependence of the state on hydel power from Narmada river which did not have much water this year due to low rainfall. “What was supposed to generate 2,200MW is now only giving 800MW”, Chouhan said.

Despite the odds, Chouhan is seen as a winning horse because of what many see as his ability to connect with the poor in the state. Put simply, he is a 24x7 grassroots politician.

Does Congress have one in Madhya Pradesh? It is interesting to note that Chouhan tries to model himself as a strong regional leader like Narendra Modi, who is seen as having a finger on the pulse of the people. One also saw in Madhya Pradesh shades of Modi’s Gujarat strategy. For instance, Chouhan has fielded a large number of fresh faces to beat anti-incumbency at the local level.

Of course, the Congress’s major criticism against the chief minister is that he has promised a lot and done little. Even if that were true, it might be difficult for the Congress to cover the massive deficit in the total vote share it suffered in the last assembly elections.

In 2003, the BJP cornered 42% of the total votes polled in Madhya Pradesh, with the Congress bagging only 31%. Other things remaining the same, the Congress needs a 5% plus swing away from the BJP to cover the vote deficit, which seems like a tall order. The terrorist strike in Mumbai a day before the polling in the state may have made things even more difficult for the Congress.

The Congress, it would appear, has a much better chance of exploiting the anti-incumbency factor in Rajasthan where it lags behind the BJP in vote share by just 3%. It needs a 1.5% plus swing in its favour to challenge the BJP chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia, who seems to be banking largely on her personal charisma, with not much help from the rest of the BJP leadership either at the state or central level. The party apparatus does not seem to have backed her to the hilt.

The Congress is somewhat better organised in Rajasthan this time and Vasundhara’s distance from her party leadership could help swing the state away from the BJP. Again, it is not clear how the issue of terrorism will play out in Rajasthan whose capital has been a target of major terror strikes in recent times. The voter turnout in Rajasthan, though, was quite high.

In Delhi, it seemed very clear that the sudden surge in voting after the Mumbai attack clearly reflected some anxiety among the urban middle class over the issue of national security. So, terrorism will certainly impact the outcome of the assembly polls.

The real test for India’s major political parties will come during the 2009 general elections. In many ways the Mumbai terror attacks may have already changed the discourse of national politics. Until recently, the view espoused by many political observers seemed to be that both the Congress and the BJP were in disarray and that a reinvented third front could emerge with Mayawati playing a key role.

The third front becomes a strong possibility if the Congress and BJP together fall well below the half way mark in the 545-seat Lok Sabha. At present the two main parties are a little above the half-way mark of 273 seats.

However, as national security and terrorism gain centre stage, as they are most likely to do, in the Lok Sabha elections, the electorate might prefer a coalition that is led by a stronger national party. This is an opportunity for both the BJP and the Congress. The contest to appropriate the national security plank should be quite engaging.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Barmer: A Sensitive Village Spot On Indo-Pak Border Lines

By R C Ganjoo (Guest Writer)

IN FOCUS Pakistan is always waiting for any opportune laxity on Indo-Pakistan International Border (IB) in Barmer sector in Rajasthan opposite to Sindh province of Pakistan, being guarded by Border Security Forces (BSF) to push fake Indian currency, arms and ammunitions and contrabands. But the alert BSF spread on 240 k.m on this border is equally ready to face any challenge from Pakistan side.

Recently, Pakistan has deployed a section of its army along with the Rangers managed by Scorp Karachi 18 Div. Hyderabad (Pakistan). Gardra Forward Post of BSF on Barmer sector, just 200 mts from IB is covered by , Damaka on left and Aliyani from right posts by Pakistani Rangers .

Monday, December 09, 2013

Editorial: What 2013 Results Mean For Poll 2014 Scenario?

By M H Ahssan | INN Live

The results of the 2013 assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are out but those looking for clear pointers towards how the next general election will play out are likely to be left scratching their heads.

The Bharatiya Janata Party turned in a spectacular performance in Rajasthan and wrested the state from the Congress. It has retained Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the latter with a significant increase in its seat share. But in Delhi, the BJP failed to properly ride the wave of anti-Congress sentiment, yielding crucial political space to the Aam Aadmi Party and falling short of a clear-cut majority.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Election 2013: BJP Wins, Congress Routed & AAP Debuts

By M H Ahssan | INN Live

DANCE OF DEMOCRACY  The verdict of the Assembly elections in four states – Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – has sparked a wave of fresh enthusiasm in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) camp, which has already been riding high after the declaration of Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate.

Not only did the party retain its governments in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, it also snatched away power from the Congress party in Delhi and Rajasthan. While it sweeped Rajasthan, winning 162 seats, the BJP managed to emerge as the the single largest party in Delhi with 33 seats, two short of the half-way mark.

All Bets Are Off For 2014; Both BJP, Cong Have To Reboot

By M H Ahssan | INN Live

ELECTION ANALYSIS  Even as we are mid-way through the election result trends in the four major assemblies of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Delhi, the broad trend seems to be thumping wins for the BJP in the first two, a challenging revival of the Congress in Chhattisgarh (though a win can’t be predicted for either party at this time), and a spectacular debut by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi, which will probably rob the BJP of a clear majority. 

But some broad conclusions can clearly be drawn from these trends – regardless of what the final seat count numbers are in these four states. First, the pollsters appear to have got it more or less right – even in Chhattisgarh and Delhi, where there was a tight race on. Their predictions are well within the margins of error they had predicted.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Rajasthan’s Living Dead: Thousands Of Pensioners Without Aadhaar Or Bank Accounts Struck Off Lists

By LIKHAVEER | INNLIVE

Some of the most vulnerable people have been denied meagre pensions due to errors in linking their details with Aadhaar numbers.

On July 11, Rajsamand district's Kushalpura panchayat held a ratri chaupal. District collector Archana Singh arrived to listen to the grievances of villagers at the late evening meeting at the village square. The majority of villagers there had complaints about irregularities in their social security pensions.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Special Report: How Cellphones Are Reviving India’s Folk Music Scene?

Spending time in rural India in the past few years, it has been difficult to miss the cellphone, especially in the hands of millennials. It has also been hard to ignore how rapidly the phone has been absorbed in the vernacular social fabric.

According to a Deloitte report, the sales of feature phones and smart phones, used as much for communication as for entertainment, are estimated to have surged by a 100% in the past year across India. In a nation where mobile phones are the primary entertainment device for those who own them, their use is now expanding to preserve and perpetuate traditional folk and tribal music.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

BJP Win In Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh; AAP Sweep Delhi, 30,000 Crore ‘Satta’ On 2013 Elections

By Sunaina Shah | INN Live

Exit polls have given BJP a big reason to smile after the assembly elections 2013 in five states. According to the exit polls, the BJP will sweep in the four of the five states—Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi—Congress may retain power in Mizoram.

Congress is projected to lose Delhi and Rajasthan while the BJP will continue to rule Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

In Rajasthan, with the halfway mark for the state assembly at 100 to form the government, the average of various exit polls show the BJP winning 138 seats and the Congress just 44. Some, however, show the BJP tally stopping at 110.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Cabinet Reshuffle Has Nothing To Do With Merit: Insider's Guide On How To Become A 'Mantri' In India?

By M H AHSSAN | INNLIVE

So, you think getting a Cabinet berth in India has something to do with merit and competence? Here is an insider's guide on how to become a mantri in India.

On Monday, as news of veteran politician Sanwarlal Jat's imminent exit from Narendra Modi's team reached his home state Rajasthan, the local BJP worked itself into a caste convulsion.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Focus: Rajasthan's Farmer Gajendra Singh's Suicide Turns Into Dirty 'Death Politics' In Delhi, AAP Targetted!

Rajasthan's Farmer and Aam aadmi Party's active member Gajendra Singh will forever be known as the man who hung himself from a tree close to Delhi's Jantar Mantar. This incident turns and reeling under 'death politics' against AAP.

But in Nangal Jhamkhada village of Dausa district in Rajasthan, Singh will always be the farmer who tragically, in his last days, had become famous not for his gooseberries, but the 'fashionable' turbans he made to survive.

Singh, who took the extreme step during an Aam Aadmi Party rally against the land ordinance Bill, was sporting a traditional Rajasthani turban and had caught attention of many bystanders who later would see him breathe his last. The history of the turban is perhaps as sad as the death of the 41-year-old farmer.