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FRONT PAGE NEWS
11 March 2020

BJP GETS A HOLI GIFT AS JYOTIRADITYA SCINDIA CHANGES COLOURS

The Congress Tuesday lost one of its most prominent national leaders, and
appeared set to lose its government in Madhya Pradesh, too, with four-time
MP and former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia walking out of the party
along with at least 22 MLAs.
Scindia posted his resignation letter on Twitter minutes after meeting Prime
Minister Narendra Modi along with Union Home Minister Amit Shah Tuesday
morning.
Left deeply embarrassed by the developments, the Congress mounted a
desperate bid to save face by claiming - after Scindia posted online his
resignation letter dated March 9 to party chief Sonia Gandhi - that it had
expelled the 49-year-old, once known to have been close to the Gandhi
family, "with immediate effect" for "anti-party activities".
But, with the state Budget session starting March 16, the Congress-led
government in MP has now been reduced to a minority.
On Monday, the strength of the state assembly stood at 228 - apart from 114
Congress legislators, the state government had the support of four
Independents, two BSP MLAs and one SP MLA; the BJP had 107 members.
However, the resignations Tuesday of 22 Congress MLAs have reduced the
party's strength to 92, and the government's support to 99. It also brings
down the majority needed in the assembly to form a government to 104, well
within the reach of the BJP.
In his resignation letter, Scindia described his exit as "a path that has
been drawing itself out over the last year". Indicating his disillusionment
with the Congress, he wrote: "While my aim and purpose remain the same as it
has always been from the very beginning, to serve the people of my state and
country, I believe I am unable to do this anymore within this party."
Among the first to welcome Scindia's decision was his aunt Yashodhara Raje
Scindia, a senior BJP leader and former MP minister. Describing the move as
"homecoming", she said: "The way he has been welcomed by Prime Minister
Narendra Modi and (Union Home Minister) Amit Shah shows their respect
towards Rajmata (Vijaya Raje Scindia).In the end, everybody needs
self-respect."
Scindia is the son of the late Madhavrao Scindia, who was a prominent
Congress leader, and grandson of the late Rajamata Vijayraje Scindia, who
was one of the leading faces of the BJP from its initial days. Tuesday
marked the 75th birth anniversary of Madhavrao Scindia.

UP GOVT MAY CHALLENGE HC DECISION TO REMOVE HOARDINGS ON ANTI-CAA PROTESTERS

Defying the Allahabad High Court order to remove the anti-CAA protestors'
hoardings "forthwith", the Yogi Adityanath government is contemplating to
challenge the order in the Supreme Court after Holi.
Speaking to a news channel, media adviser to the chief minister Shalabh Mani
Tripathi said: "We are examining the Allahabad High Court order. It is being
examined to see on what basis was the order passed to remove the posters.
Our experts are looking into it; The CM will take a decision accordingly."
Admitting that the court was above all, Tripathi said the government is
looking into options. "It is equally true that none of the people who
damaged the public property would be spared," he said.
In its 14-page order, the division bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and
Justice Ramesh Sinha observed that the action amounted to "unwarranted
interference in privacy of people" and hence was violative of Article 21 of
the Constitution. The court has directed the Lucknow District Magistrate and
Police Commissioner to immediately remove the hoardings and submit a
compliance report with the Registrar General of the High Court by March 16.


ITALY IMPOSES A NATIONWIDE LOCKDOWN

On Monday evening, Italy imposed nationwide travel restrictions and a ban on
public gatherings, becoming the first European country to do so to stem the
spread of the novel coronavirus.
With the death toll in Italy climbing to 463, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte
has promised a "massive shock therapy" to help deal with the immediate
economic impact of the crisis.
"The future of Italy is in our hands. We all do our part, giving up
something for the good of the community. At stake is the health of our loved
ones, our parents, our children, our grandparents," Conte said in a tweet.
So far, 9,172 people have been infected by the virus in Italy, with 1,598
fresh cases reported on Tuesday.
Italy has enacted measures to clamp down movement and close public spaces.
Quarantine measures that were already implemented in the northern Lombardy
region, the country's richest, as well as in parts of neighbouring
provinces, have now been expanded to the whole country.
People have been told to travel only for work, health emergencies or else
stay at home at least for the next three weeks. Under the clampdown, anyone
wanting to travel will have to ask for permission by declaring their reasons
and carry the document with them. Italians wanting to leave the country will
also have to follow a similar procedure.
Until April 3, schools and universities will remain closed. Outdoor events,
sports, and large gatherings have been banned.


OIL PRICES JUMP 8% ON STIMULUS HOPES, SPENDING CUTS BY US PRODUCERS

Oil prices jumped over 8% on Tuesday, bouncing from the biggest rout in
nearly 30 years a day earlier, as the possibility of economic stimulus
encouraged buying and US producers slashed spending in a move that could cut
output.
While Indian Stock markets were closed yesterday on account of Holi,
equities across the world gained back some of what was lost on Monday.
US shale producers deepened spending cuts that could reduce production.
Russian oil minister Alexander Novak said he did not rule out joint measures
with OPEC to stabilize the market, adding that the next OPEC+ meeting was
planned for May-June.
Saudi Arabia's energy minister, however, told Reuters he did not see a need
to hold an OPEC+ meeting in May-June if there was no agreement on measures
to deal with the impact of the coronavirus on oil demand and prices. "I fail
to see the wisdom for holding meetings in May-June that would only
demonstrate our failure in attending to what we should have done in a crisis
like this and taking the necessary measures," Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman
said.
"Price wars and pandemics are nothing new to the commodity markets, but both
occurring simultaneously is something we have yet to witness in our
careers," RBC analysts said in a note.
Sentiment was also lifted after Chinese President Xi Jinping made his first
visit to Wuhan since the coronavirus outbreak.


GEHLOT SLAMS SCINDIA, SAYS SOONER SUCH PEOPLE LEAVE THE BETTER

Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot on Tuesday slammed Jyotiraditya Scindia for
quitting the Congress saying he betrayed the party and the ideology and the
sooner such people left the party the better.
Gehlot, who is in a similar tug of war with Deputy CM Sachin Pilot in
Rajasthan as Scindia was with Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath, said, "Scindia
has betrayed the trust of the people as well as the ideology. Such people
prove that they can't thrive without power. Sooner they leave the better."
Gehlot said joining hands with the BJP at a time of national crisis spoke
volumes about a leader's self-indulgent political ambitions.
"Especially when the BJP is ruining the economy, democratic institutions,
social fabric and the judiciary," Gehlot said.


BJP ATTACKS PRIYANKA GANDHI OVER SALE OF PAINTING TO RANA KAPOOR

The BJP on Tuesday attacked Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra
alleging that she sold a painting to Yes Bank founder Rana Kapoor at an
exorbitant price of Rs 2 crore.
Addressing a press conference at the BJP office, party spokesperson Sambit
Patra said wherever there is corruption, there has to be the Congress party.
The painting, an image of Rajiv Gandhi, which Priyanka Gandhi sold to Rana
Kapoor was gifted by MF Hussain in 1985 to the then PM on the centenary year
of the Congress.
Patra questioned how does a painting gifted to Rajiv Gandhi as Congress
chief become property of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Patra said the BJP demands the entire episode involving sale of painting by
Priyanka should be investigated as "she got money from Kapoor's account
which had the money from criminal proceeds.


JHARKHAND POLICE INITIATE PROBE INTO CONTROVERSIAL VIDEO BY NEWS CHANNEL
EDITOR

The Jharkhand Police is probing a video doing the rounds on social media
where the editor of a Hindi news channel is seen exhorting people to
"economically boycott rioters", official sources said on Tuesday.
Taking to Twitter, Chief Minister Hemant Soren said the government has taken
cognisance of the event, and asserted that any attempt to disrupt communal
harmony will not be tolerated.
A CMO official said Soren asked police to initiate a probe after the video
went viral on Twitter.
Suresh Chavhanke, the editor of Sudarshan News, had shared the video of an
event on the microblogging site where he is heard asking the saffron-clad
attendees to take an oath to boycott "rioters" by refusing them jobs and not
buying things from them. Chavhanke, in his tweet, also said that the mayor,
former ministers, businessmen and industrialists undertook the pledge at a
city hotel. He requested netizens to take a similar oath and shared the
video.
Shortly after the video went viral, Soren said appropriate action would be
taken after investigation.


AIRLINES CONTINUE TO LEVY HEFTY CHARGES FOR CANCELLATIONS

With the coronavirus outbreak affecting travel plans across the globe,
airlines are levying hefty charges to cancel or reschedule domestic or
international air tickets.
While some airlines , including IndiGo and GoAir, have announced some relief
measures, fliers are far from satisfied. Other airlines, including SpiceJet
and Air India, have not yet announced any official policy.
Although Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has stated that Air India will
waive the cancellation charges, those who have approached the airline for
cancellations are being levied charges with employees reportedly saying
there has been no official directive as yet.
The lack of clarity on the policy and the resistance of many airline to
waive cancellation charges have added to the confusion.


THERMAL PLANTS' JAN LOAD FACTOR AT 5-YR LOW AS SLOWDOWN HITS POWER DEMAND

The average plant load factor (PLF) of thermal power generation units is on
a decline in the country. At 57.61 per cent, the PLF in January touched a
five-year low.
In 2019, the PLF witnessed double-digit slump in most months. The fall
corresponds to a decline in electricity demand, which recorded just a 0.28
per cent growth in the year - the lowest since 2014.
India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) has revised the power sector outlook to
negative for financial year 2020-21 (FY21) from stable. This is because of
muted growth in demand and rising dues of distribution companies (discoms)
as a result of limited improvement in their financial profile since the
launch of the Financial Restructuring Plan and Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana
(UDAY).
Weakening consumer sentiment in the light of declining GDP growth could
result in subdued power demand for FY21, an Ind-Ra report said.
The fall in PLF of thermal units over the years is also a result of the
increasing share of renewable energy sources in the overall energy mix. The
share of renewables in the total energy mix during the April-December 2019
period was 13 per cent.
If electricity demand continues to fall, it might hurt renewables the most.
Given its seasonal nature, it is easier to replace. Most states backed out
of renewable energy in the previous year and have not paid them on time.
Andhra Pradesh is fighting a legal battle with renewable power producers
over payment. Tamil Nadu, a wind-rich state, has been delaying payment to
renewable units for years now.


MOHUN BAGAN BID ADIEU TO I-LEAGUE WITH RECORD-EQUALLING SECOND TITLE WIN

Mohun Bagan, after winning 1-0 against Aizawl FC at the Kalyani Stadium on
Tuesday owing to a solitary Baba Diawara goal, won their second I-League
title with still four matches to play in the season.
By adding another three points to their tally and securing a mathematical
title win after 16 matches, Mohun Bagan equalled Dempo SC's record (2009/10)
of winning the I-League title at its earliest.
The 2014/15 league winners, who are on their way out of I-League after the
proposed merger with ATK went through, bid goodbye to the second-tier
domestic league by winning it after racking up 39 points from just 16
matches. They had finished fifth last season when Chennai City had won the
league.
The title in their pocket, Mohun Bagan will now enter their second leg
Kolkata Derby match against arch rivals East Bengal on Sunday with a
psychological advantage. They had beaten East Bengal 2-1 in the first leg on
January 19.


INDICATORS

(Indian markets were closed yesterday on account of Holi)
Nasdaq 8,344 (+394) Dow 25,018 (+1,167), S&P 2,882 (+136)
US$-Rs. 74.00 GBP-Rs. 96.19, Euro-Rs. 83.99, UAE Dhm-Rs.20.14, Can$-Rs.
54.05, Aus$- Rs. 48.36
GBP 0.76 /US$, Euro 0.88 /US$, Jap.Yen 104.39 /US$, Aus$ 1.52 /US$, Sing
1.38 /US$, Bang Taka 83.25 /US$, Can$ 1.36 /US$, Mal Ring 4.23 /US$,
Pak Re 156.69 /US$, Phil Peso 50.47 /US$, Russian Rouble 72.17 /US$, NZ$
1.58 /US$, Thai Baht 31.39 /US$, Ukraine Hryvnia 24.95 /US$, Norway NOK 9.54
/US$
Bitcoin - USD 7,949
Dollar Index 96.16 Brent Crude 38.59 BDI 616
Gold world Spot Price USD/aoz 1,657 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 4,380 /
4,280, Silver (Rs. Per KG) 50,000


THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. -
Albert Einstein


OFF TRACK

The boss phoned his deputy and asked: "Is everything okay at the office?"
"Yes, it's all under control. It's been a very busy day, I haven't stopped
for a minute," says the deputy.
"Can you do me a favor?" the boss asked.
"Of course, anything, what is it?"
"Hurry up and take your shot, I'm right behind you on the 7th hole," says
the boss.

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