The week in review

The week in review

New Delhi: The week began with the Election Commission setting the schedule for the world’s largest and perhaps the most complex electoral exercise. A little over a month from now, India will start voting in over five phases to elect the 15th Lok Sabha. More than 700 million Indians are eligible to vote in the election. The elections are held in the backdrop of falling economic growth, fiscal indiscipline and increasing terror threat.

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27f72cc0-0a73-11de-a53f-000b5dabf636.flvYet, none of these issues have become the dominant national issue catching the imagination of the electorate. What is however clear is that there would be another coalition government at the centre with no single party in sight of an absolute majority. Therefore the announcement triggered hectic activity to sew up alliances.

The two major formations United Progressive Alliance, headed by the Congress and National Democratic Alliance, headed by the BJP are racing with time to get their tie-ups in place. Threatening them is the so-called Third Front---- led by the Left, which fancies itself as a viable alternative.

But the path to victory is not easy. Congress is fighting a ding-dong battle with Samajwadi Party to get a better deal in Uttar Pradesh. It has arrieved at a modicum of agreement in Maharashtra with the Nationalist Congress Party, but has no such luck in Andhra Pradesh where it has lost its ally Telengana Rashtriya Samiti to the Third Front.

The NDA led by the BJP is in no better shape. It has lost its ally in West Bengal and is having trouble with its existing allies in Orissa and Maharashtra. The story of Third Front is no different. Mayavati who heads Bahujan Samaj Party has refused to bite the overtures of the Left and AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa is playing hard ball with them. In short everyone is squabbling.

Meanwhile Home Minister P. Chidambaram has put to rest apprehensions that Twenty20 tournament could be canceled. He said cricket is completely safe in India and the IPL matches will proceed with some changes in the schedule. The second edition of the tournament looked uncertain in the wake of the terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.

Chidambaram had said it coincided with the general elections and providing simultaneous security for both would be tough. He has now clarified. “I did not say that IPL should be postponed. I am trying to help them and will help IPL hold the matches. Some rescheduling seems unavoidable," Chidambaram said.

Eager to avoid a postponement, IPL organizers offered to schedule the matches away from the polling dates.

In what could possibly be its last push to bolster the economy till the new government takes over in June, the RBI cut its two key policy rates by 50 basis points each on Wednesday. The repo rate came down to 5% and the reverse repo rate to 3.5%. RBI had been under pressure from the government and industry lobbies to cut rates to help pull up the sagging economy. Lower interest rates are expected to spur demand for loans, and encourage consumers to spend and firms to invest. With the latest cut in repo rate, fifth since the crisis began in October, the RBI has reduced 400 basis points.

Fraud hit Satyam Computer Services has received SEBI’s approval to sell 51 per cent stake through a global bidding process. The selected investor will have to acquire the stake by purchasing 31 per cent equity via a preferential sale of new shares and later make an open offer for a minimum 20 per cent. Satyam’s likely suitors include global IT major IBM, Larsen & Toubro, Tech Mahindra, BK Modi-owned Spice group, and the Hinduja group.

Inflation for the week ended February 21 hit a near seven-year low at 3.03% compared to 3.36% for the previous week. It is expected to fall faster over the next two weeks because of base effect.

With the FIIs selling heavily in Indian markets and a high demand for the dollar, the Rupee crossed the 52 to a dollar mark for the first time to dip to an all-time intra-day low of 52.20 on Tuesday. On Friday afternoon it stood at 51.58/6 to a dollar.