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below the line

| Updated on March 14, 2021

Duty call

When duty calls, India’s oil marketing companies answer. Last Thursday, the three public sector oil marketing companies curiously released separate but identical statements praising the government’s push for LPG adoption. Yet, new figures show a second month of fall in LPG consumption, as high prices dampened demand. After soaring through January and February, retail prices of petrol and diesel also suspiciously stabilised even as crude oil continues to rise. Coinciding with the election season in multiple States, this has raised eyebrows even as the government continues to claim that it does not interfere with retail fuel prices.

#boycottchina

When everyone is battling it out in social media, why be left out? What used to be a tariff war among telecom operators has now become a desh-bhakti war on social media. While those supporting Reliance Jio called for #boycottAirtel for the company giving a ₹300-crore project to Chinese equipment-maker Huawei, Airtel adherents wanted to shun IPL, which is sponsored by another Chinese company — Vivo. The Tweet war lasted till the day the DoT came out with a list of ‘trusted and non-trusted’ equipment-makers.

Probe sans complaint

How do you set up a special investigation team to probe a scandal that has rocked the BJP Government in Karnataka when no formal complaint has been filed so far? This is exactly what has happened in the case of a minister who is allegedly involved in a scandal involving a woman who had approached him for a job.

Curiously, per the terms of reference, SIT will focus only on the alleged “political conspiracy” and the not the main reason behind the scandal. The minister has resigned but still it has left everyone guessing as to who the scapegoat(s) will be from the Opposition. And, what if it turns out to be a rival from within the ruling party?

No permanent foes in politics

There are no permanent friends or foes in politics, they say. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which fought against 'oppressive Andhra rulers' and succeeded in getting a separate State, is now batting for Andhra Pradesh. TRS Working President and Telangana IT Minister KT Rama Rao created a flutter by throwing his weight behind the ongoing movement in Andhra Pradesh against the proposed privatisation of Vizag Steel Plant. KTR, who is also the son of Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, cites the reason: “They are selling it for scrap. If we keep mum now, no one will come to our rescue when they start selling PSUs in Telangana.” Political experts see this as a clever strategy by the TRS to corner the BJP, which is trying to increase its base in the two Telugu States.

PV's daughter in the fray

TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao’s decision to field Surabhi Vani Devi, daughter of former Prime Minister the late PV Narasimha Rao, as an MLC candidate, has taken the Congress by surprise. Opposition leaders are hard pressed to counter the move by KCR, who celebrated the Congress veteran Narasimha Rao and his contribution to the nation and the Telugus. The only way they could react was to simply allege that Surabhi Devi was being made scapegoat by the TRS chief. The outcome of the MLC election should end the debate on whether it was a masterstroke or if she was made a scapegoat.

Flight plan disrupted

Even before Jet Airways can fly again, some of its rivals are trying to make it difficult for the Kalrock-Jalan combine to execute their plan. Some rival airlines, with close links to the ruling party at the Centre, are alleged to be lobbying hard to block reallocation of Jet’s erstwhile slots.

When Jet was grounded, its lucrative slots were given to some private airlines. Without these slots, the Kalrock-Jalan consortium will find it difficult to revive Jet. That’s a win for rivals because not only they keep the slots, but also their market share.

New package

The latest Karnataka Budget announced a ₹25-crore package for research on yellow leaf disease (YLD) in arecanut. Some taluks in the State have been badly hit by YLD. Though the announcement was welcomed by many, farmers are sceptical. They argue that the disease has been troubling the plantations for decades. Central research institutes have failed to come up with a solution. A Central minister, who hails from the arecanut-growing region, had promised a solution a few years ago but nothing has happened. Just packages will come and the disease will remain, they rue.

From cynosure to mote

On the Covid management front, Kerala’s precipitous fall from being the cynosure of all eyes to a mote in at least some, bears retelling. A lot of crocodile tears have been shed over how this has come about. The State seemed to tick all boxes initially with its strict track-trace-treat regimen. But all hell broke loose when the festival season in September intervened and some restrictions were relaxed on popular demand.

The result? Active cases galloped to 97,417 on October 24, 2020. Thankfully, they didn't rise but stubbornly refused to plateau because of the crowding associated with local body elections in December. They didn’t relent even as they wilfully obliged other States. It took until February for daily new infections to decline meaningfully. Active cases now stand drastically reduced to 32,174 as on March 13. Observers worry if the campaigning for Assembly elections underway might reverse this trend and that the State might end up with the 'black eye' yet again.

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Published on March 14, 2021

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