The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) decision to end its marriage of convenience with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu & Kashmir - and bring down the state government in the process - will remain a talking point in the months leading up to the next year’s general election.
Three years ago, the BJP had struck the unlikeliest of alliances with the PDP, a party it had openly accused of siding with separatist and even pro-Pakistani forces in the Kashmir Valley. The decision was sold to the public at large as a masterstroke and a radical attempt at bringing peace to the troubled region.
But the coalition government - first led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and later by his daughter Mehboob Mufti - faced heat on multiple fronts including the deteriorating security situation in Kashmir.
Facing a backlash from its core political constituency of Hindu right-wing nationalists, the BJP perhaps thought it best to cut its losses and pull the rug from under the PDP.
But while the BJP chose to walk away, ICICI Bank chief executive Chanda Kochhar was forced to do so - albeit on paid leave.
The private sector bank’s board thought it fit to keep her away from executive office pending a probe against her following allegations of a quid-pro-quo and granting favours in a case involving her husband, his brother, and Videocon chief Venugopal Dhoot.
And while that probe gets underway, more skeletons appear to be tumbling out of the celebrated banker’s closet. The Indian Express reported that Kochhar’s current residence in Mumbai may have had a Videocon connection. The report said that the income tax department is probing the acquisition of the house by Kochhar’s husband in a complex transaction involving firms linked to the Videocon group.
But Kochhar wasn’t the only banker in the news for the wrong reasons. On Wednesday, the Maharashtra Police’s Pune economic offences wing arrested Bank of Maharashtra CEO Ravindra Marathe and other bank officials for allegedly colluding with real estate developer DS Kulkarni in diverting money and cheating shareholders.
News reports, however, suggest that other leading bankers suspect foul play behind these arrests and hint at a possible political nexus, as Bank of Maharashtra was not the lead bank which lent money to the real estate company.
Banking lobby Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) has slammed the spate of arrests and chargesheets filed against bankers by investigating agencies.
Several former bank chiefs including Punjab National Bank’s Usha Ananthasubramanian, Canara Bank’s RK Dubey, United Bank of India’s Archana Bhargava and at least three former senior IDBI Bank executives are facing charges in various cases.
Even as bankers face the heat, a new leak of more than 12,000 documents in the so-called ‘Panama Papers’ pile hit India. The Indian Express published fresh details linking Indians to offshore entities across tax havens that have connections to the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The newspaper cited Sushil Chandra, the chief of the Central Board of Direct Taxes, as saying that the new data will be verified by the tax authorities.
While these new leaks should keep the tax authorities busy, a looming trade war with the US is occupying the Indian commerce ministry as retaliatory tariffs on US imports are set to come into effect from 4 August. These retaliatory tariffs on 30 items are being seen as a counter to US president Donald Trump’s move to hike tariffs on Indian aluminium and steel.
Fears of a trade war between the US and China had investors worried over the past few days but both the Sensex and Nifty managed to close the week in the green.