Nitish is all geared up to take on Modi
The pieces of the 2024 jigsaw are beginning to fall into place. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is emerging as the primary challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the next year’s Lok Sabha elections. He has left little doubt that he wants to be the face of the opposition. Sources close to him say that he is already the leader of Mahagathbandhan in Bihar, comprising the Congress, the three Left parties and Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, besides the Janata Dal (United). All he needs is a green signal from his allies, especially the Congress, to make the alliance go national by including other regional parties. He had met Sonia Gandhi before Mallikarjun Kharge became the Congress president and asked her to initiate efforts to unite the opposition. She asked him to wait till the end of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Now that the yatra has ended, Nitish has called upon the Congress to start talks with opposition parties. At a CPI(ML) function on Saturday, Nitish called upon the Congress to use the momentum of the Bharat Jodo Yatra to unite the opposition. He said he was getting calls from other opposition parties, and the Congress must make its move. Congress leader Salman Khursheed who was present at the meeting said, “Jo aap chahate hain, wahi sab chahte hain. Par pyaar mein ek samasya hoti hai ki pehle kaun kahega I love you.” Sources said the Congress would call for opposition unity at its Raipur plenary between February 24-26, and things will start rolling from there. Meanwhile, the Mahagatbandhan government in Bihar will hold a public meeting at Purnea on February 25, while the Congress will be in the middle of its plenary. Opposition unity will be the focus of both meetings, sources said.
$100-bn Aircraft Deal
A missed opportunity to boost Atmanirbharta?
The mega deal signed by the Tatas to acquire 470 aircraft, with an option of buying 370 more, has surprised industry watchers. Experts say for such a large number of aircraft, the salt-to-steel group could have set up a production unit in India which could have created many jobs. They point out that the Tatas had decided to set up a plant in India to manufacture 40 C-295 military transport aircraft. Tata Advanced Systems had signed an industrial partnership with Airbus Defence and Space to acquire 56 transport aircraft. 16 of these aircrafts are to be received in a flyaway condition, and 40 are to be built in India. For this purpose, a manufacturing unit has been set up in Vadodara, Gujarat. Experts say when it makes sense to set up a production unit for 40 aircraft, why not for 400?
They point out that neighbouring China is already making Airbus aircraft locally. India’s aviation sector has been growing at an impressive rate. It had crossed a 25% annual growth rate, and post-Covid recovery has been swift, with traffic growing by 15% over the last year. The country’s economy, too, is growing at a fast pace. India will soon be the world’s most populous country. The country’s largest airline, Indigo, operates around 300 aircraft and plans to add 500 more to its fleet. The Indian civil aviation sector currently operates 800-900 aircraft, compared to 4500-5000 aircraft in China. With India overtaking China in terms of population along with steady economic growth, the country would need hundreds of aircraft in the coming years. In this situation, would it not have been right to think about making India a manufacturing hub of civilian aircraft, experts wonder.