The “precarious” Karnataka government makes the front page for the third consecutive day this week, and its third time lucky.
It’s about the only report the mainstream newspapers agree on for page 1 this morning, perhaps due to half page advertisements in Times Of India, Hindustan Times and The Indian Express.
Headlines reflect optimism for Congress now that the Speaker has responded to the mass resignations of MLAs: “Breather for K’taka govt as speaker seeks time to rule on resignations”, says TOI, Express reports the “coalition gets time”, but HT believes “K’taka suspense lingers”.
HT say Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar rejected the resignations of most MLAs since they were not “tendered in the correct format”. Papers disagree, however, on the number of letters rejected: Hindustan Times and The Hindu say it was 8, but Express, says it was 9, adding on the most recent resignation of Congress MLA Roshan Baig.
TOI says Baig’s resignation was another “blow”, but the Express writes that the Speaker’s move “gives the JD(S)-Congress combine breathing room to pull the government back from the brink of collapse”.
“Every step I take will become history, so I can’t be committing a mistake. I need to be convinced that the resignations are voluntary and genuine,” said the Speaker.
Hindu also points out that “protests disrupted Parliament” as the Karnataka crisis managed “rocking the Lok Sabha” too. With Congress members walking out, Rahul Gandhi raised “slogans against the BJP”. Also, protests by members of the Congress, Trinamool Congress, the CPI and the CPI(M) “erupted as soon the Rajya Sabha reconvened”.
In other news — TOI’s lead for the day —there’s the Delhi High Court’s refusal to grant relief to former Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal to travel abroad. Not “without submitting a bank guarantee of Rs 18,000 crore” at least, it reports.
HT finds that Goyal was travelling aboard to meet with “foreign investors who had reportedly shown some interest in the now defunct airline”.
“I won’t name but some people are sitting outside and India is not able to bring them back. What you [Mr. Goyal] are asking today it is not possible…” said Justice Suresh Kait, who constituted the bench.
Goyal, meanwhile, “stressed he had been an NRI since 1991, and this required him to stay abroad for 183 days a year for I-T benefits and to maintain his residency visa in the UK and the UAE”, reports TOI.
This story has been ignored by Express for page 1.
Migrants, labour safety, and Switzerland
As the newspapers go for different leads, Hindu focusses on “SC to decide if illegal migrants can be given the status of refugees”. It reports that the apex court “agreed to examine a ‘substantial question’” by the Union government “on whether illegal immigrants could even be considered for ‘refugee’ status”. The context is two Rohingya men contesting the Centre’s proposal to deport 40,000 from the community.
HT reports that “After wage code, labour safety on Cabinet table”, saying it’s on the verge of clearing the Occupational, Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code. “It’s a clear indication that the Narendra Modi government, in its second term, is ready to push ahead with labour reforms”, it declares.
Express finds that the “stage is set for the first exchange of banking information between India and Switzerland” in its lead “Swiss banks: Indian details to be transferred”.
“‘Several dispatches might be necessary’ in the case of India giving an indication of the volume of shared with Indian tax authorities of all Indians with bank accounts in Switzerland as of 2018 beginning,” it writes.
US President Donald Trump’s latest comments saying “India has long had a field day putting Tariffs on American products” made news in HT, which put it on its front page flap. It offers its own analysis: “It could not be immediately ascertained if he was setting up forthcoming punitive trade actions or was merely venting his frustration on an issue that has clearly been a major priority for him”.
Express reserves column space for “Budget curbs stay, FinMin restricts access to the press” in what it calls an `unprecedented move’’. Previously this restriction was in place only before the Budget — now the media can only enter the Finance Ministry with prior appointment.
In “Market scare”, HT analyses Indian stock markets and how they are “clearly overvalued”. After the Budget was announced, the Sensex plunged Monday and was able to regain only 380 points Tuesday. The Sensex, similarly, had soared when NDA returned to power with the Price Earnings (PE) multiple touching 28.35 and continued rising. Many said it was overvalued for there are many factors why it should not have done so including predictions of a bad earning season for Indian companies, global trade war etc. Thus, there are “very good reasons for the market to witness a correction.” Yet, even after the plunge on Monday, it was still trading at a very high PE multiple which “factors in a 15-20% earnings growth – not the kind of growth that is expected in the near-term.”
While the immediate reason for this fluctuation might be the budget, the stocks are overpriced and both growth and earning will have to “play catch-up to justify this”.
The Express‘s “Caution on Spectrum”, takes note of the shortcomings of TRAI’s price recommendations regarding 5G spectrum bidding. The Digital Commission had expressed concern regarding “financial health of telcos” and “muted demand of spectrum”. TRAI on its part has assured the commission that all relevant factors have been taken into consideration when it recommended the pricing.
Telecom industry is one of the foremost revenue generating industries for the government and yet Express argues that increasing revenues should be avoided since there are concerns about the “financial health of the sector.” Aggressive bidding on the 3G spectrum in 2010 had left many telecos in crippling debt and this has impacted the revenue generated as well. Due to their precarious financial situation, they exercised restraint while bidding on spectrums in 2016 and there are serious concerns that “a repeat of the 2016 auction is a possibility,” this year as well.
Thus, while it will be difficult to put aside TRAI recommendations on spectrum pricing it is important for the government to take not note of its implications
India’s semifinal match against New Zealand in the cricket World Cup threatened to take over prime time before rain stopped play.
Karnataka’s government crisis remained in the news but channels also discussed other topics.
Aaj Tak: In Karnataka, the Speaker rejected several MLAs resignation letters saying they were “not in order”, thereby staving off an immediate collapse of the JDS-Congress government. Anchor Rohit Sardana discussed these developments.
BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said, “During the assembly elections, Congress accused JD(S) of having ties with the BJP. But a day after the election results, there was a Congress-JD(S) alliance. What is the deal between these parties?”
Abdul Raza Khan, JD(S) said, “BJP is using the governor like a puppet. They want the government to collapse. This problem will go away, and the government will not collapse.”
Zee News: Anchor Aman Chopra turned to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s defence strategy against Pakistan — data suggests a 43 per cent decline in terrorist activities in the last six months.
BJP’s Sambit Patra said, “The Modi government has always had a zero tolerance policy against terrorism.”
So “Is a terrorism-free Kashmir possible then?” Chopra asked.
Zeeshan Rana, National Conference, challenged the government’s claims: “When the Balakot air strike happened, Amit Shah said that we killed 250-300 terrorists but he was unable to present any proof. If he is saying that there are no more terrorists in Kashmir, then (too) he is wrong.”
Republic TV: As another mob went on the rampage in Ranchi amid protests against mob lynchings in Jharkhand — a bus carrying students was vandalized — anchor Arnab Goswami asked, “Is India becoming Lynchistan?”
Dr. Faheem Baig, Islamic scholar, said, “If someone has taken the law into their hands, the government should take action against them.”
Suneet Chopra, political analyst, agreed with the premise: “It is a lynchistan, but we will stop it from becoming lynchistan by taking action against such incidents.”
Senior journalist Sanjeev Srivastav said he hated “this tag of India being a called lynchistan. How can you allow mob justice to have a field day?”
A defensive Patra reverted to the past: “When thousands of Sikhs were butchered under Indira Gandhi’s government, nobody called India lynchistan. Today under Modi suddenly this term ‘Lynchistan’ comes into existence.”
NDTV: Anchor Sreenivasan Jain went looking for Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and found him missing. He has been curiously absent throughout the current Parliament session. Jain wondered what had happened to the Opposition.
Nalini Singh, senior journalist, said, “It’s the scale of the defeat. The Opposition has been cut off at its knees.”
Senior journalist Sharat Pradhan said, “An elusive Akhilesh at this juncture only indicates that those who get (things) on a silver platter and don’t work hard can’t come back from this. They can’t accept defeat.”
Raja Ram, political analyst, disagreed: “I don’t think this is such a big deal. Parliament has just begun.”
Samajwadi Party’s Javed Ali added that Yadav’s absence was due to “personal reasons”.
With inputs from Kairvy Grewal and Rachel John.