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Selective lobby session with Jaitley...
There was lot of interest in several BJP leaders visiting Chennai: not for any work relating to governance or explaining policy but for attending the wedding of the daughter of RSS ideologue, S Gurumurthy.

Jaitley’s first visit to the metro came eight months after he took charge as minister. His predecessor P Chidambaram visited the (home) state almost every weekend.  

Jaitley drove straight to meet J Jayalalitha, now on bail after the recent court verdict. He had reason to. After all, the AIADMK has 37 members in the Lok Sabha; and more importantly 11 in the Rajya Sabha where BJP is in a minority. The AIADMK has also been opposing several crucial legislative bills notably the GST. The DMK, PMK and other parties in opposition understandably cried foul over the propriety of the senior member of the cabinet meeting the lady on bail.

CII utilised Jaitley’s visit to have an interactive session to lobby for tax policy and taxation measures in the budget.  Voices from the South are rarely heard in the pre budget meetings the finance minister hosts.

This lawyer with fluent articulation made a succinct presentation. He indicated special steps to step up public investment to providing focus on infrastructure and development.

The finance minister has made good use of the steep fall in crude oil prices by rationalising the pricing of petrol and diesel, direct transfer of cooking gas subsidy to consumer bank accounts and attempting drastic reduction in subsidies.

The meeting was attended by large sections of business leaders from different sectors, something unusual for Chennai.


Ofcourse business asks for special treatment...

As could be expected, the leaders lobbied hard for a special treatment. R Seshasayee of the Hinduja Group wondered if public sector would lead the investment effort. Venu Srinivasan of TVS Motors referred to some of the draconian provisions in the new Companies Act, and requested for their removal.  India Cements’ N Srinivasan was at ease requesting for finance minister’s help in expanding the demand for cement. He suggested the finance minister to step up investments in infrastructure, particularly in roads and reduce interest rates for housing.   

India is the second largest producer of cement after China and way ahead of US. But in the last three years the industry has been operating only at 50-60 per cent capacity yet, in less than two years, cement prices have been increased the price from Rs.250 per bag to Rs.380 per bag in Chennai. In just about 12 years construction costs have shot up from around Rs.750 per square foot to Rs.2300; cement industry can take for much of the credit.


Falling rubber prices and soaring tyre prices...

Another equally prosperous segment is tyre manufacture. MRF’s K M Mammen made his  own plea for interest reduction. With abundant production of rubber, prices have crashed. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, CPM’s Achuthanandan met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi to pleaded among other things for a ban on import of rubber. Has anyone heard of any fall in the prices of tyres?


PC Reddy pleads for PPP in public hospitals...

Appollo’s Pratap Reddy requested for a PPP model for  running the numerous district hospitals. Of course he deserves credit for bringing corporate medical care of quality to Indian middle class but also for making them unaffordable through the huge increases in cost.

Manikam Ramaswami’s lucid presentation evoked interest. He pointed to China accounting for 35 per cent of global textile markets but India just 3.5 per cent, to the high costs of polyester controlled by the limited  number of producers. There is a lot of potential to expand the share of India  three ‘fold and meet the tough a competition from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam...

There was a large contingenct from the media. They could raise issues of public interest and not just lobby. And Jaitley also handles information and broadcasting. Disappointingly, Seshasayee, who presided over the meeting, would not allow even a single query from the media. Jaitley hurriedly moved away avoiding media. Sadly the minister seems to be happy only in communication through the TV, the large contingents of Delhi media or with business lobbies. Delhi seems to be quite distant for the states.

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