Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.
P Chidambaram Could Be Questioned Soon In INX Media Case
Senior Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram could soon be called in by the Central Bureau of Investigation for questioning in the INX Media bribery and money laundering case, reports suggest. The agency is poised to step up its scrutiny of the former minister’s involvement in the case. Indrani Mukerjea, currently in jail in a murder case, has reportedly accused P Chidambaram of asking her to "help the business of his son and make foreign remittances for the purpose". Mukerjea allegedly paid P Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram $7 lakh as quid pro quo for a Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance.
In a related development, the CBI custody of Karti Chidambaram, who was arrested last week for allegedly taking bribes, was extended on Tuesday by three days. The next hearing on his bail plea will be held on 9 March.
TDP Likely To Snap Ties With BJP
N Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP) may snap ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the Centre clarified that granting special status to Andhra Pradesh was not possible at this time. According to reports, two TDP ministers - Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Y S Chowdhary - will quit from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet soon. All 125 MLAs and 34 MLCs of the party strongly advocated ending the alliance with BJP at the TDP meeting in Vijayawada on Tuesday.
"CM Naidu is now all set to take steps to end the alliance. It will begin with the two central ministers stepping down, most likely on March 10. Withdrawing support to the NDA government at the Centre is likely to happen in the next few days after the two ministers resign," a source was quoted by the Times of India as saying.
Government May Extend Deadline For Aadhaar Linkage
The government is set to extend the 31 March deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to avail various services and government-run welfare schemes. The government has decided to extend the deadline as more time would be required to conclude the hearing in the Aadhaar case in the Supreme Court. A five-judge constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D T Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan is hearing petitions against the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme. The five-judge bench agreed with the government’s decision to extend the deadline. The apex court had in December 2017 extended till 31 March the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar.
PNB Fraud Likely To Cross $2 Billion Mark
India's Punjab National Bank bank fraud is likely to swell beyond the nearly $2 billion mark so far outlined by the lender. According to sources involved in the probe and court documents reviewed by Reuters, the investigating agency has not yet recovered all the papers and loan guarantees linked to the biggest fraud in India’s banking history. The Central Bureau of Investigation has told a Mumbai court that the amount involving diamond tycoon Nirav Modi’s companies was likely to go up. The agency has also told the special court that the PNB did not have all the documents related to letters of undertaking as those were returned to the borrower.
Trump Economic Adviser Gary Cohn Quits After Dispute Over Tariffs
US President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, has quit after a dispute over tariffs imposed on steel and aluminium imports. Cohn, who headed the National Economic Council, had vehemently opposed the move. However, White House officials have said that the dispute over tariffs was not the only reason for his resignation. The fact that he accomplished most of what he wanted to, including massive tax cuts, may have contributed to his decision. Cohn was also unhappy with Trump’s comments on the white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is the latest in a series of high-profile departures from the Trump administration.
Sonia Gandhi Invites Opposition Leaders For Dinner On 13 March
In a bid to cobble together a united front against the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of 2019 elections, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi has invited leaders of all opposition parties for dinner in New Delhi on 13 March. Gandhi’s invitation comes at a time when Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s call for a non-BJP, non-Congress front has received support from multiple parties. N Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party could also attend the Congress leader’s dinner. Some key opposition leaders, including Mamata Banerjee, have not confirmed participation.
North Korea Signals Willingness To Give Up Nukes, South Korea Says
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is willing to negotiate with the United States on abandoning his country’s nuclear weapons if the security of his regime is guaranteed, South Korea has said after a team of envoys met the North’s supreme leader in an unusual diplomatic exchange. North Korea previously insisted, at multiple occasions, that denuclearisation was on the table. Therefore, the reclusive country’s new position is a welcome sign for the South and the United States. President Trump has welcomed North Korea’s willingness to talk with guarded optimism.
Mega Naval Exercise Begins In Andamans
The Indian Navy on Tuesday began an eight-day-long mega naval exercise along with at least eight countries in the region at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. At least 28 warships, including 17 from India and 11 from Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand are participating in the exercise. The exercise - Milan - is taking place in the backdrop of the imposition of a state of emergency in the Maldives and increasing Chinese forays into the Indian Ocean. The exercise was first held in 1995 with the participation of just five navies.
MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS
The Fight To The Finish Against Banking Frauds: After the short-term pain of cleansing the system, Indian banks will emerge stronger.
Blockchain Is A Pipe Dream Despite The Hype: It is riddled with inefficiencies that make it a poor choice compared to superior existing technologies
Indian Enterprises Need Protection To Grow: By giving in to Western pressure to drop all trade barriers, India exposed its enterprises to predatory competition that made capacity building difficult.
For Monetary Policy Cues, Look To SBI Rather Than The RBI Or The MPC: It will take a while for the RBI and the MPC to re-establish their credibility in setting rates for the economy. In the near future, it may be more productive to look at what the SBI is doing to rates than what the RBI is doing.
We hope you enjoyed reading our morning brief. Have a great day ahead!