Veteran Congress leader Arjun Singh dead

Respected as a shrewd strategist, Mr Singh was chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, governor of the Punjab at the height of militancy and held several important responsibilities at the centre

New Delhi: Veteran Indian National Congress leader Arjun Singh, who had a long and chequered career as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and a Union Minister, died on Friday after a long illness. He was 81.

Mr Singh was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in the national capital some days ago, suffering chest pain and neuro problems. According to hospital sources, he complained of difficulty in breathing at about 5.30pm. He suffered a heart attack and breathed his last at about 6.15pm.

Earlier today, Mr Singh was among a few senior party leaders who were dropped from the Congress Working Committee, the party's highest policy making body, and he was made a ‘permanent invitee’. He is survived by his wife Saroj Kumari, sons Ajay and Abhimanyu, and daughter Veena. Ajay is a member of the Madhya Pradesh legislative assembly, reports PTI.

A loyalist of the Congress party’s revered Gandhi family, Mr Singh was respected as a shrewd strategist. He was chief minister of Madhya Pradesh between 1980 and 1985 and was appointed governor of the Punjab shortly after he was elected chief minister for a second time.

He was given charge of the Punjab at the height of militancy in the state and helped Rajiv Gandhi, the prime minister, reach an accord with Akali Dal leader Sant Harchand Singh Longowal that came to be known as the Rajiv-Longowal peace accord.

He was later given important responsibilities at the Centre, as minister of commerce, communications and human resources. A staunch secularist, Mr Singh made known his differences with prime minister Narasimha Rao over the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992. He subsequently parted ways with Mr Rao and set up a rebel Congress organisation under the leadership of ND Tiwari in 1994.

Mr Singh rejoined the Congress party after Mr Rao quit as party president. In 1997, he  spearheaded the campaign for the ouster of DMK ministers from the United Front government over the Jain Commission report that led to the fall of the government of prime minister IK Gujral.

He was a close adviser to Sonia Gandhi when she decided to enter politics and took charge of the Congress party as president in 1998. Mr Singh was believed to have worked behind the scenes to make her prime minister after the collapse of the Atal Behari Vajpayee government in April 1999. Mrs Gandhi staked her claim to form the government, but in the end the numbers did not add up.

But the influence he wielded weakened over the years. Still, he was given the HRD ministry in the first UPA government from 2004, and he was instrumental in championing the cause of the backward classes through bills to ensure reservation for them in institutions of excellence. Due to failing health, he was not included in the Union cabinet in the second term of prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

Nevertheless, he made a rare appearance in the Rajya Sabha last year to suggest that the late Narasimha Rao was responsible for letting Warren Anderson, the former Union Carbide chief, leave the country after the Bhopal gas tragedy.

Born in Churhat, in the Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh, in November 1930, Mr Singh studied law. He entered politics to become a member of the Madhya Pradesh assembly in 1957, continuing till 1985. His political career came under a cloud, during his tenure as chief minister, over what became known as the ‘Churhat’ lottery scandal.

In the Congress party, he was elected to the Working Committee at the AICC session in Tirupati in 1992 with the highest margin of votes. He was also a member of the party’s parliamentary board.

Over the past couple of years, he had taken to writing his auto biography. Titled ‘A Grain of Sand in the Hourglass of Time’, Mr Singh had planned to release it shortly.

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Share prices may not record significant gains immediately: Friday Closing Report

Sensex and Nifty will remain listless

The local market opened with decent gains on support from the global arena following easing of crude prices. Banking, auto, metal and capital goods counters witnessed good demand, which contributed to the early gains. A gradual slippage was noticed after the indices touched their intra-day highs in initial trade. The market touched the neutral line a little after 2pm, but bounced back with the indices trading in a narrow range and closing almost unchanged from the Thursday's close.

Yesterday, we had mentioned that the market had rallied strongly for four days (ending 3rd March) and that it is expected to pause now. Today, both the indices ended flat. The Sensex closed three points down at 18,486, while the Nifty finished just three points up at 5,539.

The Sensex opened with a positive gap of 133 points at 18,623, thanks to a huge rally in the US overnight, followed by an equally strong rally in Asia this morning, and the Nifty opened 50 points up at 5,586. Both benchmarks managed to keep the trend of a higher high and a lower low for the fourth consecutive day. The intra-day highs were 18,737 and 5,608 respectively. Towards the end of the trading session both the indices hit their intra-day lows of 18,449 and 5,524 but recovered to close flat. The advance-decline ratio on the National Stock Exchange was 876:791.

In line with the flat closing, the market breadth on the Sensex and Nifty was almost equal. The Sensex had 16 declining stocks, 13 advancing stocks and one stock remained unchanged. The 50-share Nifty had 24 gainers, an equal number of losers and two stocks were unchanged. The broader indices underperformed the Sensex today. The BSE Mid-cap index closed 0.10% lower, while the BSE Small-cap index fell by 0.26%.

The BSE Bankex (up 0.53%), BSE Auto (up 0.44%) and BSE IT (up 0.31%) were the top gainers in the sectoral space. BSE Capital Goods (down 2.06%), BSE PSU (down 0.25%) and BSE Metal (down 0.19%) were the major losers.

Tata Power (up 2.27%), Hero Honda (up 2.15%), Bajaj Auto (up 2%), HDFC (up 1.63%) and Reliance Infrastructure (up 1.38%) were the top performers on the Sensex. Larsen & Toubro (down 3.08%), Jaiprakash Associates (down 2.04%), BHEL (down 1.94%), TCS (down 1.37%) and Bharti Airtel (down 1.19%) were the laggards on the benchmark.

The government has sought Parliament's nod for the sanction of an additional Rs79,590 crore to meet extra expenses related to oil and fertiliser subsidies during the current fiscal, over and above the funds allocated earlier.

The enhanced expenditure includes additional Rs21,000 crore for compensating oil marketing companies, Rs9,000 crore for meeting the defence pension bill and Rs8,000 for fertiliser subsidies, among others.

Markets in Asia finished the day with good gains on optimism that the global recovery will hold, side-stepping the turmoil in West Asia. However, worries about spiralling crude prices kept investors guarded.

The Shanghai Composite gained 1.35%, the Hang Seng rose 1.24%, the Jakarta Composite surged 1.38%, the KLSE Composite advanced 1.04%, the Nikkei 225 gained 1.02%, the Straits Times was up 0.79%, the Seoul Composite jumped 1.73% and the Taiwan Weighted closed 0.53% higher today.

Meanwhile, crude oil for April delivery rose 94 cents to $102.85 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and it was at $102.66 in Singapore. On Thursday, the contract slipped 32 cents, or 0.3%, to $101.91, the first decline in three days.

Brent crude for April settlement was at $115.85, up $1.06, on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. It slid $1.56, or 1.3%, to $114.79 yesterday.

Back home, institutional investors, both foreign as well as domestic, were net buyers of stocks on Thursday. While FIIs pumped in funds worth Rs229.02 crore, DIIs bought equities worth Rs95.52 crore.

Onco Therapies, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Strides Arcolab (up 4.40%) has received the European Union's (approval for Carboplatin 10 mg/ml in the first wave covering select European countries. This is the first European approval out of 22 filings made by the OTL in the year 2010 for products which have a combined market value of over $5 billion. The product will be manufactured at Strides' oncology complex in Bangalore which received approval from European regulatory authorities in June 2010.

Cairn India (up 0.31%) is planning to commence production from the Bhagyam oil field, its second biggest oil field in the Rajasthan block, in the second half of 2011. The commencement of this production will take the total output to 1,75,000 barrels per day (bpd).

The Bhagyam oil field is targeted to produce a peak output of 40,000 bpd by year end which would help the company achieve the approved peak output of 1,75,000 bpd.

Power equipment maker, BGR Energy Systems' (up 0.67%) environment engineering division has secured two orders worth Rs30 crore from UAE-based Power Infrastructure (LLC) to design, engineer, manufacture, supply and commission two condensate polishing units for Adani Power's upcoming super power projects at Tiroda in Maharashtra (2x660 MW) and Kawai in Rajasthan (2x660 MW).

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PC Chacko appointed chairman of JPC on 2G scam

The JPC, having 20-members from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha, came into being a few days back, ending three-months of deadlock in Parliament between the government and the opposition, which latched on to a report of the CAG which spoke of a presumed loss of Rs1.76 lakh crore

New Delhi: Senior Congress member PC Chacko on Friday was made the Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the 2G spectrum issue, setting in motion the probe into what the opposition is alleging as the biggest scam in independent India, reports PTI.

Mr Chacko, aged 65, who represents Thrissur in Kerala in the Lok Sabha, was appointed the head of the 30-member high-level panel by Speaker Meira Kumar, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said.

The JPC, having 20-members from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha, came into being a few days back, ending three-months of deadlock in Parliament between the government and the opposition, which latched on to a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) late last year which spoke of a presumed loss of Rs1.76 lakh crore. The two Houses of Parliament have passed resolutions approving the setting up of the JPC.

A Raja was forced to quit in November as Telecom Minister in the wake of the CAG report and is currently lodged in Tihar jail after being questioned by the CBI. Government says that Raja was being prosecuted for the possibility of criminal culpability.

The JPC will examine irregularities and aberrations, if any, in the implementation of government decisions and policy prescriptions on telecom licences and spectrum from 1998 to 2009. The panel will also make recommendations to ensure appropriate procedures for allocation and pricing of telecom licences. It will examine policy prescriptions and their interpretation by successive governments, including the decisions of the Union Cabinet and the consequences thereof, in the allocation and pricing of licences and spectrum.

The Government had agreed to the JPC after the Opposition threatened to disrupt the Budget session of Parliament as well, after almost the entire winter session was washed out.

 

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