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Author: Anand Mishra

BJP will see a pan-India win over Congress in 2019, says Prakash Javadekar

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, the minister in-charge for BJP for Karnataka is on a three day visit the state from December 23. Before he left the national capital, DNA speaks to him about his views on Gujarat polls, its impact on other elections and BJP’s position in election year 2018 vis a vis that of Congress.2018 BJP faces elections in many states where it has been in power for long time. How do you see anti-incumbency playing out there.We will win hands down in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan but before that along with Karnataka, three North Eastern states- Tripura, Meghalya and Mizoram will go to polls and we will do wonderful in all these three states also. So by 2019, we will have 22 plus states with us. Out of four states, we will win at least three or even all four we can win. We will retain Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. So by 2019, it will be a pan India BJP hurting Congress.Is the defection of Himanta Biswa Sarma, the Congress leader from Assam to BJP two years back is a big boost for BJP in North East?Congress is not serious to retain their folks and good people. People are coming to us and in our party, we give good roles. In Manipur, N Biren Singh (current BJP Chief Minister) was a senior Congress minister, was the right hand of Ibobi Singh (then Chief Minister) but anybody can see the changed Birender Singh now aftern he joined BJP. So people change completely when join BJP. The way he has united Nagas, Kukis and Maitis altogether in keeping peace in the state is really a very difficult task that he has completed..Tripura is a Left bastion. In another Left-ruled state Kerala, BJP has tried hard to expand but not with much success. What is your hope in Tripura?In Tripura, there is a mass upsurge against the Communist government. Besides people from both Trinamool Congress and Congress are leaving their parties and joining the BJP. So it will be a fight between Left and the BJP the Communists. We will give a surprise there. We will win Tripura also.You are the Minister in-charge of BJP for Karnataka. What BJP’s hopes this time in Karnataka, which it lost to Congress in 2013.BJP is 100 percent going to win in Karnataka this time. Last time we lost not for any other fault but because we were a fractured party. Our party had got divided into three factions. Now everybody is together. Everybody has learnt the lesson. Congress has, in last five years, given anti people governance, bad governance. They have made Bengaluru city a pot-holed city, a garbage city. And therefore people are angry, the farmers, the youth are angry.They (the state government) have allowed terrorism. Law and Order is so bad that day in a day out Hindu activists are being killed by terror outfits and Karnatka government has not nabbed even a single accused. They have failed miserably. So People are angry and we are going to win. People will give us decisive mandate.BJP has not done so well in rural areas in Gujarat polls. Will Gujarat rural divide will also be seen in Karnataka, where there are 150 rural seats.In Karnataka, people will unitedly vote for us because the rural support was always with us there and in Lok Sabha Bengaluru city and other cities voted us. This time urban areas are also voting for BJP because they have suffered heavily at the hands of Congress. Gujarat was a different ball game. It was not rural- urban issue. It was the worst kind of politics done by Congress, which was piggybacking on Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani. They tried to divide the society. Here also in Karnataka, they are trying to divide the society on caste and other lines. But I am very happy that Karnaktaka is standing united and they will defeat this divide politics. They (Congress) want to divide and rule, we want to unite and make Karnatka progress. That is what is our slogan.In Gujarat we were fighting for sixth term. After winning five terms consecutively, winning the sixth term is a rare feat no other party could achieve. Congress has never been able to do it anywhere. And therefore we will win this time.How do you see the corruption issue panning out in Karnataka with B S Yeddyurappa as your prime face vis a vis corruption charges against him in past?Corruption (under Siddaramaiah government) and the death of various honest officials and their testimonials is the real issue. Congress is looting the sate Left, Right and Centre. People remember B S Yeddyruappa’s government as a good governance model and so those bogus charges do not stick to BJP.In Karnataka, Yeddyurappa is considered a strong Lingayat face. What about other communities like Vokaligga.He is strong Karnataka leader and he is loved by all communities. All are coming together. First time you will see people are not voting their caste but casting their vote in Karnataka for development.2G case verdict has enthused Congress. How do you assess its impact electorally?What has happened in 2G. Licenses got cancelled because it was a clear case of corruption. The Supreme Court judgement (that had cancelled 122 2G spectrum licences in 2012) is important. What this CBI court has done, they are going to challenge. So let us wait for future. But the issue is very simple. In 2G, Congress did corruption. There was a bad policy. And therefore our stand was vindicated when the licenses were cancelled. And when we auctioned, we exactly received 1lakh 76 thousand crore rupees in auctions.So the BJP will continue to target Congress on corruption in Karnataka even after 2G verdict.Yes: Absolutely.There has been internal dissension in BJP state unit. BS Yeddyruappa versus others particularly with K S Ishwarappa.There were different opinions but we listened to everybody and chalked out a common strategy and therefore now there is now a united BJP team and there is no issue now.Why did BJP declare Yeddyurappa the CM face in Karnatka so much in advance. In many states did not declare CM face at all while in some like Himachal declared it at the last moment.It’s a strategy not a policy issue. Every state election is a different election. So every state will have a different strategy. And therefore here, we have already made it very clear that Yeddyurappa ji will be CM.Will the BJP declare CM faces in other states including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh as well?Election in those states fall in December, which is one year away. So Let us talk about these four states that are going to polls now. So like in Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya, whether we will have alliances or whether we will declare CM face is a state specific strategy issue and that will define our targets.Since Congress has also declared that incumbent Chief Minister Siddharmaiah is the party face, do you see it as a clash of personalities in Karnataka?It’s not a fight just between two personalities. It’s a fight between personalities, parties and principles. And on all these three, principles, personalities and parties, we are much ahead of Congress.Anything that you want to say on your own.The politics of Modi ji has won the hearts of people. It’s politics of development. He is responding to the aspirations of the poor class—like good health service, good houses, good education. Now the poor class are also aspirational class and they are voting for Modi ji. That is our most treasured trove. The plan of the poor, which was with the Congress has already shifted to Modi ji after demonetization, Mudra Yojana, Ujjawala gas and many other schemes that are directly benefitting the people,Rahul Gandhi on Friday said that the BJP has a foundation of lies and Modi vision got exposed in Gujarat. Your Take?This narrative of one liner scripted by somebody else does not work in the long term. BJP has proved and Modi ji has provided a good governance. We have brought a change in the society at many levels and therefore the people are with us.What is BJP’s over-all plank in these state polls.Over all plank is development. Overall plank is new India. That is what we are aiming at.There have been accusations by the Opposition and in the run up polls, BJP goes all out for polarization. What do you say?We donot believe in polarization. The only plank is development, growth and prosperity for all sections of society.

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DNA EXCLUSIVE | The energy is back in Congress, says Salman Khurshid

Former Law Minister Salman Khurshid could not escape defeat in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when the Congress slumped to just 44 seats from 206 in 2009, and the party managed only two wins in his home state UP—Raebareli and Amethi, the pocket boroughs of the Gandhi family.As the party girds for elections in six states next year, Khurshid, a former Cabinet minister, tells DNA’s Anand Mishra that Congress will win the 2019 LS polls and feels the CBI court’s verdict on 2G spectrum case is “truth” panning out at a time when Modi’s magic, is “on the slide”. Edited excerpts:What is the takeaway from Guajrat polls. Some in Congress believed it was the best chance ever for party to win the state but it did not happen…What is more important is the manner in which you lose or the extent to which you lose. The manner in which you fail to win, or grow towards winning, is the matter. Essentially, it’s a feel of energy. Energy is back. If you ask are we re-energised, the answer is yes.What has brought this energy? There is no immediate reason visible for it.There are a variety of reasons for it. One is new leadership. Everyone is pitching to make Rahul Gandhi’s new leadership successful. Circumstances are changing. People are becoming aware of the truth of what the present government is all about. All that is happening. A combination of all this has given us new energy. In sum total 2017 has not been a bad year for us.What is there to celebrate for Congress from Gujarat election outcome?Gujart elections have brought us back into the normal course of fighting elections. It does not matter whether you win or lose with a whisker. We have shown that we are back with strength. This is what we have shown and that is a very important message for the party.2018 is an election year. How will Congress perform in these polls. In many of the states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, BJP is in power for a long time. How will you win those elections when the party organisation in disarray.We will do well. Circumstances for those elections are much better. This is a phenomenon of Indian politics that organisations come together despite not being in power for a long time and when you see a sense that you are in a winning strick, the organisation falls in place. An organisation without victory is a very difficult thing. So it is good, it is necessary but I do not think this is the only factor.B S Yeddyurappa, who had brought BJP in power in Karnataka in 2008 is back. Can Congress put up a formidable challenge as you had won the last election only against a divided BJP. Is he a problem for you?There is no such problem. Circumstances are much better for us in all the elections including Karnataka and we should do well.How does the 2G scam verdict by the CBI Special Court pan out for Congress? How will the verdict help you contest state elections in 2018.How does truth pan out for anyone. What has happened is amplification of truth. There is nothing better in life than truth. After this we will fight with greater vigour in times to come.BJP says Modi magic worked when it wins elections, Congress says Modi magic is over. What do you think?It’s sliding. The magic is gone, persuasive power still remains. Let us see how much it slides between now and next general elections.Is there any surge in Rahul Gandhi’s image when you say Modi’s image is on slide? Not many people think so?Rahul Gandhi always had enormous potentials. People were disbelieving it. Now they are beginning to believe it. Therefore it has given him a good start. But obviously he has a huge responsibility ahead and we are all confident that he will fulfil it.Where do you see Congress with 44 Lok Sabha seats now going in 2019 general elections?Congress will be in power in 2019, I promise you.

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Focus shifts to Karnataka and Northeast polls

Gujarat secured. Himachal Pradesh wrested. The BJP has shifted its focus, strategising for Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Karnataka where elections will take place next year.The party believes that a dip in groundnut prices, which cost it dearly in Gujarat’s rural pockets, will help it in Congress-ruled Karnataka, where it has been highlighting “no steps” taken by the Siddaramaiah government to compensate farmers.”In Gujarat, we had assured farmers that the entire produce will be bought by February, and prices have only dipped marginally. In Karnataka, the Congress is doing nothing to restore groundnut prices or buy the produce from farmers. It will be a major issue during the Assembly polls there,” said a Union Minister, who declined to be named.Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address a rally in Karnataka on January 28, concluding a 75-day Nav Karnataka Nirman Parivartan Yatra. Undertaken by the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, BS Yeddyurappa, it was launched by party chief Amit Shah. Modi is expected to attack the “failure and corruption” in Siddaramaiah.Modi also made a brief stopover in Mangalore on Monday, which was interpreted as a message that Karnataka is next on the radar.BJP leaders insisted that the party is serious about making a concerted bid to wrest Karnataka, which is the gateway to South India. Karnataka was incidentally the first Southern state to witness a lotus bloom in 2008. The BJP’s poll in-charge for Karnataka, Prakash Javadekar, will visit the state for four days from December 23 to December 26. Meanwhile, Modi visited Mizoram and Meghalaya last week and inaugurated various development projects.He also inaugurated a new BJP Meghalaya unit office there.The BJP is already in power in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh in the Northeast and has set up a North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) in 2016.Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland will go to the polls in February 2018, and later in the year in October, elections will take place in Mizoram.The BJP is looking at adding all three states to its tally. The BJP has already sent in research teams in the three states. The Congress, on the other hand, is up for a tough contest in an effort to save its presence in the region.In Tripura, both parties are in for a tough contest against the Communist Party of India (Marxist) whose Manik Sarkar has had an uncontested run for the last 19 years. While the BJP will focus on development in the state where over 65% of the people live below the poverty line, the Congress’s poll pitch will be inclusive development to woo the tribal vote.In Meghalaya, apart from the Jaintia vote bank, the BJP will focus on wooing Christians. Modi has focused on scams. In contrast, the BJP has allies in the Nagaland, where it will face severe attacks on the Naga Peace Framework, and face questions on the territorial integrity of neighbouring Assam, Manipur and Mizoram.Battles aheadThe BJP is already in power in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh in the Northeast and has set up a North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) in 2016. Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland will go to the polls in Feb 2018, and later in the year, Mizoram will go to polls

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Gujarat elections 2017: Will Congress’s Patidar gambit yield electoral results in Guj?

When Congress announced its intent to provide quota to Patidar community in poll-bound Gujarat this month, many wondered whether the party was back to committing the same mistake that it had committed in Maharashtra, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in past polls.If what all exit polls suggested about BJP’s win in Gujarat, it is clear that Congress quota gambit has once again not paid rich dividends.Like its past promises to provide reservation to Marathas in Maharastra and Jaat in Haryana failed to yield much electoral gains to it in 2014 Lok Sabha poll, even the quota promise to Patidars seem to have led to a kind of counter polarisation among the reserved classes.Releasing party manifesto in Ahmedabad on December 4, Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki, announced reservation in jobs and education to Patidars under a special category. It said that a special bill will be brought to provide quotas to those who are not presently entitled by quota and the quota given to OBCs, STs, SCs will not be touched. Congress said that Patidars will get quota under special category.Congress said that if it won the Gujarat elections, it would pass a proposal for reservations under Articles 31-C and 46 of the Constitution.”We will consult all stakeholders on reservation to Patidars and a commission will be constituted for this purpose,” Solanki said adding that a bill will be introduced in the assembly.Hardik Patel accepted the formula, elating Congress leaders. Votes of Patidars could have influenced results in more than 60 of 182 Assembly constituencies. If the exit polls are correct, then this did not happen. Possibly it also led to a kind of polarisation for BJP among OBCs. It should not be forgotten that though Hardik and Alpesh Thakor, both backed Congress, Alpesh has risen in stature, countering the former’s agitation for reservation for Patidars.BJP is learnt to have worked seriously on the sizeable Koli community among OBCs to offset the losses from its erstwhile core vote Patidars going towards the Congress. A few months before Lok Sabha poll, the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra granted reservation benefits to the dominant Maratha caste there. It had announced to provide 16 percent to reservation to Maratha to five percent to Muslims in jobs and education.Amid the raging demand for Jaat reservation in Haryana, the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre then announced quota to the dominant peasant community in nine states. While both the measures could not stand legal scrutiny, the move also failed to bring any electoral gains to Congress. BJP not only romped home in both states in Lok Sabha elections but also won with huge margins in subsequent assembly elections there in 2015, replacing the Congress-NCP and Congress government in both states. In the Jaat dominated regions of North India, Congress stands marginalised.Many Congress leaders in private argue that such quota promises proved counter productive.POWER OF PATIDAR?Votes of Patidars could have influenced results in more than 60 of 182 Assembly constituencies. If the exit polls are correct, then this did not happen. Possibly it also led to a kind of polarisation for BJP among OBCs. It should not be forgotten that though Hardik and Alpesh Thakor, both backed Congress, Alpesh has risen in stature.

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Gujarat Elections 2017 | Independents brew trouble for BJP, Congress in Panchmahal

Independents keep both BJP and Congress on toes in a number of constituencies in Panchmahal, which has seven Assembly seats Thasra, Balasinor, Lunawada, Shehra, Morva Hadaf (ST), Godhra, and Kalol.The most curious case here in Morva Hadaf, where BJP replaced its sitting MLA and Congress gave up the seat for an ally.Determined to wrest the seat, which her mother won in 2012 but did not live to know of it, Bhupendrasinh Khant is in fray as an independent candidate as the seat Congress, which had fielded him in 2013 bye-poll is contesting the seat.Under an alliance with Chhotubhai Vasava, Congress gave this seat to Vasava’s Bhartiya Tribal Party, which has fielded Alpeshbhai Damor from the seat.Only MLA from JDU, who turned rebel and is now backing Sharad Yadav faction of the party, Chhotubhai has been agitating in favour of demand for Bhilistan, a separate state comprising of tribal dominated parts of Guajrat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharasthra.While Chhotubhai has his influence in few seats in Bharuch, the BTP has not much of presence in Panchamahal region. Besides its candidate is also not a much known personality.Chhotubhai Vasva, the JDU MLA from Jhagadia had bargained hard for seats and Congress which was about to field Khant here, gave the seat to BTP at the last moment.The seat was won by Bhupendrasinh’s mother Savita Khant in 2012 by a margin of 11,289 votes. She had defeated BJP’s Bijalbhai Damor. While Savita Khant had got 56,886 votes, Damor had got 45,597 votes. But Savita Khant died on the day results were declared days after having passed into coma on the day of the elections.In 2013 bye-election, Congress fielded Savita’s son Bhupendrasinh Khant in the hope of winning back the seat on sympathy wave but lost it. BJP won the seat with a new candidate Nimisha Suthar, who got 64,840 votes and Khant 47,126 votes.This time again, the BJP changed its sitting MLA and uthar and fielded Vikramsingh Dindor in her place in the wake of a controversy over the non-tribal origin of Suthar’s husband. Dindor was earlier in Congress and his nomination has not gone down well with the local BJP leaders.In Godhra, the headquarter of Panchmahal, an Independent candidate with long time BJP connection Jaswant Parmar, a surgeon by profession has already turned the contest triangular and could upset many a political calculations in both Congress and BJP owing to his association with the dominant Bakshi Panch community in the seat.In Lunawada, two independent candidates are making quite a wave. Two-term sitting MLA from Congress Heerabhai Patel was denied a ticket with the party fielding Paranjayadityasinhji Parmar, the son-in-law of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh. Parmar belongs to Santrampur, 40 kilometers away from Lunawada and faces an outsider tag.In this seat, BJP earlier planned to field Jawan Singh Chauhan but finally the ticket went to Manoj Patel. Former BJP MP Bhupendra Singh Solanki was also a strong contender for the seat. Earlier the BJP District President J P Patel wanted to contest the seat but he was asked not to do so because he was not a resident of Lunawada. Hence the ticket went to Manoj Patel, a Patidar, closely related to him.In Lunawala seat, it’s Patidar Brahmin Bania versus the OBC all the time.Ratan Sinh Rathod, an OBC candidate with erswhile Congress roots is contesting the seat as an independent, who is being backed by Jawan Singh Chauhan. OBC groups in the constituency have now collected a “Fada” (community fund) to finance the electioneering of Rathod.Both Bhupendra Sinh Solanki and and Ratan Sinh Rathod are giving sleepless nights to BJP and Congress candidates.

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Unava stands testimony to communal harmony

As the campaign wrapped up for the second and last phase of polls in Gujarat, Khadim of Mira Datar Saiiyed, Altafmiya spoke about the warmth that Muslims and local Patidars exchanged even today, notwithstanding the scars of 2002 post Godhra riots, which saw Muslims from Unjha deserting homes and settling here.In the Prime Minister Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi blitgkreig campaign Modi, Mandir and Mandal dominated the poll discourse in Gujarat, but the Muslim factor got pushed into the background in the one of most keenly contested elections.But amid the polarised campaign in Gujarat, a shrine of Hazrat Sayyad Ali Mira Datar located in Unava, 80 km away from Ahmedabad, stands testimony of the communal harmony.The shrine in a fort like structure near river Pushpavati, falls in Prime Minister Modi’s hometown Mehsana. Modi’s native village Vadnagar falls in Unjha constituency, of which Unava is a part.The Muslim population in Unava is around 7,000, outnumbered by Hindus, who are 30,000 in number. They include Patidars, the OBCs, Thakors. Around 2,000 Muslims had migrated to Unava from areas like Patan, Mehsana, Unjha and Shivpur and their properties are still here.”The influential Patidars living there have asked the Muslims to come back. After some time maybe,” says Haaji Abdul Islam.He discusses with gusto, the impact that the GST could make on poll results but insists there is no communal tension in the area now. “Our farms are close to each other. After 2002, there were no communal riots here. The Patels come to our rescue when we need to get some work done from the government. They are influential and helpful,” says Fazoo Mian.He also recalls that Gujarat Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel had represented the Unjha Assembly seat in 1985 and in 1990, had got a water tank constructed in the name of Datar Baba.The community, though mostly inclined to vote for Congress, wants to move beyond 2002 riots, talking of its good relationship with neigbouring Hindus.A youth Aftab says, “2002 riots is an old issue. Most of the doctors have their residences and clinics in Patidar areas. So if somebody from our family falls sick, we go there even at midnightThere are nine doors of pure silver including “Jannati Darwaja” to enter the dargah. It is believed that whoever is “possesed by evils, gets cured if he or she comes to dargah with devotion. It was due to his miraculous powers of healing that the honorific of Meera Datar was added to Sayyad Ali. The fortlike structure in which the dargah is located once had a flour grinding mill called ‘Daadi Maa Ki Chakki”, which was later removed and a gumbad was constructed in its place. Those who visit the shine believe that if anyone possessed of an evil spirit takes seven round of the gumbad, his evil spirit is gone. The devotees believe that a visit at the shrine can free oneself form black magic, unknown mysterious diseases, incurable physical and psychiatric problems.In 2012, the state government, an NGO named Altruist and the trustees of the dargah had joined hands to help the mentally ill, who visit the shrine in hope of relief.The faith healers at the dargah, who called themselves ‘Mujawars’ says they are descendants of Saiyad Ali.Since Hindus also visit the shrines in large numbers, apart from 70 rooms for guests in dargah compound, there are four guest houses for Hindus and specially for Jain Hindus.In Unjha, BJP has fielded octogenarian Narayanbhai Lalludas Patel, who has won the seat consecutively for last five term while Congress has fielded Ashaben Patel.As the contest promises to be a keen one this time with Patidars inclined towards Congress, both Muslims and Patels, who in 2002 were on the cross roads, seems standing together as far as their political preferences are concerned.”Patels are always with BJP. But Modi government has implemented GST. After that there is some anger against the government among Patidar businessmen. Let us see what happens this time,” says Fazoo Mian.

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Gujarat Elections 2017: How pride, Padmavati and prosperity can play a role on Dholera seat

The Kshatriya-dominated Dholera township in Dhandhuka Tehsil and constituency, which PM Narendra Modi planned to develop into a world class city is a complex maze of prosperity, caste pride and farmers’ protest.While the ancient port-city in the Gulf of Khambhat is waking up to a slush of investments from developers after the then Gujarat CM Modi conceptualised to develop it into the country’s first and only Smart Component City, the residents of Dholera were up in arms against any screening of the contentious Hindi movie ‘Padmavati’.’All the Chudasma Kshatriya samaj members have met the BJP leadership here telling them in clear terms that the movie should not be be screened in any city or village till its controversial aspects are not resolved,” Vivek Ramanuj, a civil engineer from the village said.A few months ago, a peasants’ body Khedut Samaj (Gujarat) protested on the issue of irrigation and wrote to CM Vijay Rupani against what they called was the “refusal”of the officials to provide Narmada waters to farm fields in Dholera.Ghanshyam Singh, a kirana shop owner here said, “Since the Dholera Special Investment Region Development Authority (SIRDA) project came, rentals have shot up with the influx of professionals from outside.”He remembers before the ship breaking yard got shifted to Alang, the work helped the villagers. The SIR Act provides the framework for converting 22 villages of the area into an industrial hub. The government will take 50% land from each household and use that to develop roads and power, so the value of the remaining land will significantly improve.Both BJP and Congress have fielded candidates from the same community. While BJP has repeated its sitting MLA Lajjibhai Patel, Congress has experimented with a local lawyer Rajesh Koli in the seat which was represented by the powerful BJP leader Bharat Pandya twice in 1998 and 2002. Gujarat’s 13th CM Dilip Parikh had also won from the seat in 1995 from the same party earlier. He was defeated in 1998 by Pandya when Parikh deserted BJP and contested on a ticket from Shankersinh Vaghela’s All India Rashtriya Janata Party.The Kshatriyas of Dholera betray a clear support for BJP but it is Kolis, which will be more crucial in deciding the outcome of the Dhanduka Assembly seat.Dhanduka is a BJP bastion where Congress had won the seat last in 1985. Besides the seat being a traditional BJP strong, rebel factor could be a problem here for Congress as Rajesh Koli was not the natural choice of the local party unit.

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A parivar that parts ways: Sharad Yadav to float new Janata

History repeats itself, and in case of Janata Parivar, it repeats all the more often. The rebel faction of Janata Dal (United), whose leader Sharad Yadav had to forego his Rajya Sabha membership this week, is all set to get a new name.As leaders come together to part ways again, giving rise to new formations, their fascination with the ‘Janata’ word remains, though the parties in most states count little as far people’s mandate is concerned.Yadav’s faction has decided to move the Election Commission (EC), seeking a new name for their party, which will necessarily include ‘Janata’ word in it and if possible a symbol of wheel (pahiya) plus to reflect the party’s connect with farmers and workers in tandem with its socialist democratic ideology.The names that are under consideration are Apna Janata Dal, Loktantrik Janata Dal, Lok Shahi Janata Dal, Samajwadi Janata Dal and Jantantrik Janata Dal.After the EC allots it a name, the party will have to seek a symbol within three months. While it cannot reclaim the original ‘chakra’ symbol of Janata Dal, the effort is to get a symbol of wheel (pahia) added as either a tool or a person reflecting pro-farmer, pro-labour credentials.The exercise had well begun after the EC last month recognised the Nitish Kumar faction as the real JD(U) and allotted the ‘arrow’ symbol to it.While the Sharad faction has challenged the EC decision in the court, there was a rethinking after Yadav and another party MP Ali Anwar Ansari were disqualified from Rajya Sabha membership last week. Both had rebelled against Nitish Kumar’s decision to junk the opposition grand alliance in Bihar and join hands with the BJP a few months ago.The split, which is now set to be formalised is only one link in the long chain of such splits in Janata Parivar since its inception on January 23, 1977 with the grand objective to root out Congress.The disintegration began soon. Chaudhary Charan Singh, the Deputy Prime Minister of the then government broke away and formed Lok Dal along with Raj Narain in 1979.On October 11, 1988, Lok Dal, Congress (S) and Jan Morcha, part of Janata Party, merged together to form Janata Dal under the leadership of VP Singh, which came to power in 1989.On November 5, 1990, two days before VP Singh government lost vote of confidence with BJP withdrawing support to the National Front government, Chandrasekhar and Devi Lal came together to form Samajwadi Janata Party.In 1991, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Chandra Shekhar parted ways from VP Singh and formed Samajwadi Janata Party. In 1994 Nitish Kumar and George Fernandes founded Samata Party headed by Brahmanand Mandal. On July 5, 1997, Lalu Prasad formed Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar, breaking away from Janata Dal.Biju Patnaik, a Janata Dal MP parted ways from the parent party and formed Biju Janata Dal in December 1997 in protest against the party’s decision not to ally with the BJP.In 1999, Janata Dal further split, when JH Patel led faction with Sharad Yadav decided to back NDA government. HD Deve Gowda, who had become Prime Minister in 1996, opposed the decision and founded Janata Dal Secular in Karnataka. Patel and Sharad Yadav’s party then became Janata Dal United.On December 23, 1999 Samata Party of Nitish Kumar and George Fernandes as well as Lok Shakti of Ram Krishna Hegde decided to contest election on the arrow symbol of JDU and decided to keep the green and white flag of Samata Party.In 2000, Ram Vilas Paswan split from Janata Dal of Sharad Yadav and formed Lok Janshakti Party.On October 30 2003, Samata Party and JDU formally merged together. Interestingly the merger of these Bihar parties happened to take on the then Lalu Prasad led Rashtriya Janata Dal . This was after Samata Party rebels like Raghunath Jha and Brahmanand Mandal were made to join RJD by Lalu Prasad.In March 2013, the JD-U suffered another split when Upendra Kushwaha broke away and formed Rashtriya Lok Samata Party after his relations with Nitish Kumar soared.In April 2015, an effort was made to bring together six splinter groups of Janata Parivar—JDU, RJD, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (Secular), Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal and Kamal Morarka-led Samajwadi Janata Party. The plan did not not take off. Two years later Sharad Yadav, who was then in the forefront of unity plan, parted ways from Nitish Kumar’s JD(U).Interestingly, Bhartiya Jan Sangh, which was also part of Janata Party in 1977 and later broke away and Bhartiya Janta Party, has charted an independent path since 1977, rising to new heights and formed in 2014 first single party government in last 30 years.Though Janata Party disintegrated, Subramanian Swamy continued heading it till it finally merged with the BJP in August 2013.Of the splinter Janata Party’s parties, Biju Janata Dal is in power in Odisha and Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) in Bihar while Samajwadi Party now headed by Akhilesh Yadav is the main opposition party in Uttar Pradesh. Deve Gowda’s JD(S) is third force in Karnataka after BJP and Congress.SPLITS & MERGERS1977: Janata Party takes birth; objective: defeat Congress 1979: Chaudhary Charan Singh, Dy PM of the then govt breaks away, forms Lok Dal along with Raj Narain. 1988: Lok Dal, Congress (S), Jan Morcha, a part of Janata Party, merge to form Janata Dal 1989: Janata Dal under VP Singh comes to power. 1990: Chandrasekhar, Devi Lal form Samajwadi Janata Party; VP Singh govt falls. 1991: Mulayam, Chandrase-khar part ways from VP Singh, form Samajwadi Janata Party. 1994: Nitish Kumar, George Fernandes form Samata Party. 1997: Lalu Prasad forms Rashtriya Janata Dal. 1997: Biju Patnaik breaks away, forms Biju Janata Dal. 1999: Deve Gowda forms Janata Dal (Secular) 1999: Sharad Yadav forms Janata Dal (United).

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Gujarat elections 2017: BJP’s star punch in Dalit constituency in Sabarkantha

“Lankesh lives 5 kms from here,” prompt comes the reply from Atul Bhai when asked about the residence of Arvind Trivedi, the actor who had played the famed role of ‘Ravan” in Ramanand Sagar’s magnum opera “Ramayana”.At a time when political discourse in Gujarat gets frequent mention of Ram temple in Ayodhya, the man who played Ravan is very popular in Idar. Trivedi frequently organises the scriptural reading of “Sundar Kaand” of Ramayana. This is perhaps the first election in which he is not campaigning anywhere owing to health reasons.Punching with star power its election exercise in Idar, BJP has fielded noted actor Hiteshbhai Kanodia, son of Gujarati film legend Nareshbhai Kanodia from the reserved constituency of Idar in Sabarkantha. Hitesh, a popular youth icon in Gujrat film industry has featured in BJP’s Hu chhu Vikas, hu chhu Gujarat’ (I am Vikas, I am Gujarat) campaign to counter Congress’Vikas gando thayo chhe’ (development has gone crazy) campaign.Congress candidate Manilal Vaghela could find the going tough in this saffron party stronghold where BJP’s Raman Lal Vora has been winning the seat since 1995. Vora, Gujarat Assembly Speaker and BJP’s Dalilt face in the state has been shifted to Dasada Assembly seat. Since he has represented the Idar seat for over two decades, Vora is also being involved in campaigning in Idar.74-year-old Naresh Kanodia, who is camping in Idar to campaign for his son, says that theirs is not only a film family but also political family, which has been connected with masses.Hitesh used to play his child roles in Gujarati films. The father is now playing his role not only in reel but also real life.”Vora ji has done so much work in this constituency that no body can defeat the BJP here. BJP has fielded our family for the tenth time. My son is a superstar in Gujarati films and a serious candidate here,” he says drawing parallel from the success that NT Rama Rao had got in Tamil Nadu Politics.Naresh Kanodia also took part in BJP’s Gujarat’s Gaurav Yatra in central Guajrat and campaigned in Kheda, Anand, Panchmahal and Dasad.The Idar candidate Hitesh alias Hitubhai has acted in over 100 films and earlier used to play child roles in the movies in which his father was the protagonist. Hitesh had contested the 2012 assembly polls from Kadi seat but lost by less than 1,200 votes. He had got over 83 thousand votes then. In 2007, his father Naresh Bhai Kanodi had lost the Karjan seat in Baroda by a little over 2,000 votes after winning the seat once in 2002.Naresh Bhai’s brother Mahesh Kumar Kanodia had been a four term four-term Lok Sabha MP from Patan Parliamentary seat in North Gujarat in 1991, 1996, 1998 and 2004. He is a well-known singer, who could sing in 32 voices along with Naresh Kanodia.Since 1962, Congress has won the Idar assembly seat only thrice out of the 12 polls, the last being in 1980. Congress is this time riding on Patel anger and banking on Hardik Patel’s reach among Patidats, Alpesh Thakore’s among OBC and Jingesh Mewani’s following among dalits to wrest this seat from BJP after close to four decades.The seat was with Janata Dal, when Vora wrested it for BJP in 1995. Congress candidate Manilal Vahgela had contested the seat in 2007 polls as well but lost to Vora of over 21 thousand votes.In 2012, Congress fielded Ramabhai Solanki but Vora again won the seat, albeit with a reduced margin of over 11 thousand votes., though even this time Vohra increased his votes as in every elections. The contest is all the more bi-polar this time.Sajan Ben Shyamal, the care taker of his house belongs to Thakor (OBC) community. There is a glint in her eyes when asked about Alpesh Thakor, the young OBC leader of the community. A resident of Sardarpura village, she says that most of her community men either work as labours in field of Padtiars or work as housemaids. She says that people of her community of are thinking of voting for Congress now.In Sudatpura village, where a dozen residents are RSS pracharaks, Kamlesh Patel, whose house is in front of Swaminarayan Temple says that he has been voting for the BJP for generations and will do so. “Yes we want anamat. But I did not go to see Hardik Patel when he visited the Town Hall here because he had joined Congress. We had been voting for BJP for generations,” he sums up.Yash Patel, who will turn a voter in 2019, says earlier 80 percent of Patidars votes went to BJP, which could be fifty fifty this time.Since the area has also good number of Patidars, BJP has roped in prominent Patel leader Parshottam Rupala to campaign in Idar on November 11, three days before polling on November 14.Idar, is a manufacturing hub for handmade wooden toys, tiles and is dotted with several architectural monuments.Arvind Trivedi and his brother Upendra Trivedi, a prolific Gujarati cinema actor, who belong to village Kakadia near Idar town brought the area in limelight. Upendra breathed his last in 2015.Arvind who shot into international fame with his ‘Ravan” role had campaigned for BJP in many past elections but of late not keeping well. He left for Mumbai only last week.Trivedi,’s residence “Annapuprna” on Idar Ambaji road is a visual treat and kind of a milestone.An ardent devotee of Lord Rama, the ‘chaupai (four-line verses) of Ramayana are written across the boundary wall of his residence besides a temple of Lord Shiva called “Lankeshwar Mahadev” at his residence.

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Gujarat Elections 2017 | Tale of 2 politicos: Marginalised, veterans watching from sidelines

The destinies of two Gujarat politics veterans —Shankersinh Vaghela and Keshubhai Patel — have striking similarities, intertwined with ironies and accidents, and crisscrossing each other’s paths. And now, when Gujarat is in the midst of its most keenly contested election of the last two decades, both have been relegated to the background.Vaghela, who chose to go alone and “experiment”, has not found takers for his newly formed party Jan Vikalp. And Keshubhai, once the tallest Patel leader, remained conspicuous by his absence as the Patidar agitation raged in the state and threatened to disrupt the political course and discourse.While Vaghela is known as an organisation man, having influence on the OBC votes on seats in and around Gandhinagar, Keshubhai, a Leuva Patel, has his influence in the Saurasthra region and outside.Keshubhai, a member of BJP since 1980, formed a new party, Gujarat Parivartan Party, in 2012 after breaking a 32-year association with BJP. Vaghela, who had joined the BJP in 1970, after an association of 26 years with the party, formed the Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP) in 1996.After two years, Vaghela joined the Congress in 1998, only to chart out an independent path again after a 17-year association. As his Jan Vikalp Morcha formed in 1977 seems to be going nowhere, his next move will be a closely watched one in Gujarat.So, when Vaghela organised a meeting in the Bapunagar area of Ahmedabad a couple of months ago, announcing that he will lead a new political front, many recalled its striking similarity with a rally organised by Keshubhai in the same locality in 2012, to mark the culmination of his Parivartan Yatra against the Narendra Modi-led government.Keshubhai and Vaghela were elected from the Visavadar and Kapadwanj Assembly seats in 2012. Vaghela had earlier lost Lok Sabha polls in 2009 as a Congress candidate from Panchmahal. Keshubhai later resigned from his Assembly seat in 2014, due to medical reasons.Neither Keshubhai nor Vaghela are contesting any Assembly seat this year. Both veterans with long association with RSS are now in the political wilderness. Keshubhai kept a low profile after his Gujarat Parivartan Party bombed in 2012 elections, and did his “ghar wapsi”, merging his Gujarat Parivartan Party with the BJP.After breaking away from the Congress in July, Vaghela voted for loyalist Bawant Singh Rajput, who was fighting on a BJP ticket against Congress veteran Ahmed Patel in the keenly contested Rajya Sabha polls in August this year.When asked about his experience in both parties, Vaghela says he was “comfortable” working in both BJP and Congress and unabashedly accepts that his “son was about to join BJP”. He, however, insists he has no plan to join any party.Born in a Rajput family, Vaghela, 77, also, flags the differences between him and Keshubhai.”Keshubhai is sitting at home due to sickness and some family tragedy. I am politically active, though not in any political contest this time.” Asked whether he would contest 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Vaghela says: “That I will decide then. But one thing is clear. I have not retired from politics.”A Master of Arts from the Gujarat University, while Vaghela mastered the art of politics, many around him say he was too assertive a leader to get along with others.Keshubhai served as the chief minister of Gujarat in 1995 and then again in 1998 and 2001. A six-time MLA, he has the image of a reticent politician, unlike the flamboyant Vaghela.Vaghela had joined the RSS in 1970, a decade after Keshubhai. While Vaghela, once considered a master strategist, is called ‘Baapu’, Patel is called ‘Dhartiputra”.Both live in Gujarat capital Gandhinagar, once contributed to the strengthening of the BJP, and then tried to help Congress dislodge the BJP government in the state unsuccessfully.While Keshubhai did not join Congress, Vaghela served as the Leader of Opposition in Gujarat from December 2012 to July 2017, before quitting Congress altogether on July 21 this year. Before that in BJP, Vaghela had served as its general secretary and its Gujarat unit president for 11 long years.The unstated aim of Vaghela’s outfit was to defeat the Congress after he quit when the party did not declare him its CM face and did give him a “free hand” in running the state affairs. A bitter Vaghela left no stone unturned to ensure the defeat of Ahmad Patel in the recently concluded Rajya Sabha polls. Ahmed Patel, however, won.Likewise, Keshubhai also “blessed” the Congress after parting from BJP but BJP came to power with greater Patel support in 2007 and 2012.Both Vaghela and Keshubhai, at different times, stood in Opposition to Modi. It was believed that Modi had put his weight behind Keshubhai way back in 1995, when the BJP got a majority with 121 MLAs in the 182-member Assembly of Gujarat. While most legislators then preferred Vaghela as a leader, the BJP leadership chose to anoint Keshubhai as the chief minister.Months later in September that year, Vaghela rebelled with the support of 47 MLAs. Later, a compromise was worked out in which Keshubhai had to quit and Vaghela loyalist Suresh Mehta became the CM. Modi was shifted out of Gujarat for some time.But the truce was shortlived as Vaghela soon afterwards walked out of BJP with his supporters and the Suresh Mehta government fell. Then Vaghela served as CM for a year, from October 1996 to October 1997, with Congress support.He was succeeded by Dilip Parikh for a brief spell.Vaghela, who then vowed to defeat Modi-led BJP in the state was once very close to him and people in Gandhinagar still remember how both used to ride together on Vaghela’s Royal Enfield bike in the city. So was the proximity of Modi to Keshubhai that the former was said to have tilted the balance in favour of Keshubhai in 1995.Later, the BJP again came to power with Keshubhai as the CM in 1998 as BJP got a decisive mandate (117 of 182), with Congress getting 53, and Vaghela’s RJP merely 4 seats. Following the defeat of BJP in the by-elections for the Sabarkantha Lok Sabha and Sabarmati Assembly seats and a amid a view that governance was suffering and the party was getting weak, pressure was mounted on Keshubhai to quit. He resigned in 2001 and Modi became the CM. That was time for Keshubhai to rebel

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Gujarat elections 2017 | Cong should not have fallen into BJP’s Hindutva trap: Shankersinh Vaghela

Shankersinh Vaghela (77) once a potential chief ministerial candidate both in the BJP and then in the Congress is now waging a lonely, almost lost battle in the bi-polar political arena of Gujarat. DNA catches up with the ‘Bapu’ of Gujarat politics in Gandhinagar.Vaghela is unfazed with virtually no possibility of any of his 100 candidates winning a seat or tepid response in his public rallies, insisting no one should run away from doing an “experiment” He praised both Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, saying some people with an influence on the Congress high command, forced him to quit.This time you, rather your candidates are in the fray for the first time without the backing of any major party. Do you feel the difference?The big difference is that having seen the functioning of both major national parties, I am now going for this new experiment. Sycophancy rules in the national parties in the name of the high command. While political parties are must in a democracy, there is no democracy in political parties. You saw leaders in both parties avoiding party workers when they faced anger after ticket distribution. What kind of candidates are you fielding that you have to seek protection against them? Then what will such elected representatives do to people?How do you see this election campaign going on in Gujarat. Have you seen such sharp election campaigns in the past.What election campaign? Where are the people’s issues. One is calling the other ‘chor’, the other is calling back the first ‘Mahchor’. So are the people expected to choose between ‘thag’ and ‘mahathag’.You quit Congress ahead of Assembly polls. Now there is a buzz that Rahul Gandhi is getting quite some traction in Gujarat and the election is a tight one. Rahul Gandhi has visited a number of temples. Your views?There was no need for Congress to fall into this Hidutva trap of BJP. If the discourse is between “Naram Hindu” (soft Hindutva) and “Garam Hindu” (hard core Hindutva), it is the latter which will have the last laugh. Congress should instead have focused on people’s issues, jobs, development. Congress has squandered an opportunity.But why did you leave Congress? Do you think your presence could have helped Congress and you would also have been a beneficiary?Yes, Congress would have come to power had my association with it continued. I told Rahul Gandhi that I will deliver 90 plus seats without any financial support for the party. He had agreed. But then some people in the party, who are in hand in glove with BJP , created some doubts. Congress leadership did not show the inclination to prevent me from deserting the party. Now they have lost the plot. In the second phase, the Congress has gone for chaotic seat distribution.A number of leaders who left the Congress castigated Rahul Gandhi. What are your views on him? Do you see Congress benefitting after his becoming party President or rather losing traction?He is a very good person. He is not crooked person like many in politics. He is an open man and the Congress will benefit after the command passes on to a single hand. Earlier, with two power centres, some people with vested interests used to have influence on decisions even after he had decided something. Now the crooked people will be out. Even in my case, he had agreed to hand over the decision to me in Gujarat. But then some people prevailed.What about Sonia Gandhi?She carried herself with utmost grace. She had married Rajiv Gandhi on a pre-condition that he will not join politics. But destiny had it otherwise. So she is here. But the thing is they are not controlling the party. One particular leader of Congress in every state is running the show. If you do not bow before him, you are out.Who are those people?We all know.Do you regret having left the Congress?There is no question of regretting when you take a decision after thinking about the pros and cons. A political party must come to power to serve the people. I saw lack of will in Congress to capture power. I was not there to sit in the Opposition. Even when I was with Jansangh, I used to impress upon the fact that we must come to power to serve people. When I was convinced that the manner in which it is operating, Congress will not come to power in the state, I left. Since I had RSS or Jansangh roots, it seems they could not trust me. Then what was the option?What impact do you see of Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mewani on the polls. All three are backing Congress.They have created an atmosphere, a buzz. Congress will benefit due to this Patidar agitation. OBC and Dalits already supported the Congress. But Patidar impact will only be felt in four five pockets. BJP has a number of senior Patel leaders. They will retain their seats like Nitin Patel in Mehsan, Saurabh Patel in Botda, Jitu Bhagnani in Bhavnagar.Is Modi magic working for BJP?When one reaches a peak, a climbdown is the natural corollary. (Chadte sooraj ko dheere dheere dhalna hi hota hai). Modi reached his peak when he became Prime Minister in 2014.Who according to you is winning this election?BJP has been in power for 22 years. They have an edge, though their seats will come down from what they had got in 2012. Demonetisation and GST have shaken BJP in industrial hubs but Congress is not prepared enough to make a change.Is it a Rahul versus Modi battle.This is media creationYou have worked in both BJP and Congress in past. Which party would you like to go back? In which party, you are more comfortable.I have been comfortable in both parties. The difference between BJP and Congress is that while I was in the making of the former, the latter was made by some one else.I will not join any political party as such but will be available to work for any of them if people from BJP and Congress approach me. It will be issue based support. I am open to work with both.Your son also left Congress along with you. But neither your nor your son is contesting election this time. Where will he go?Ans-He was going to join BJP. I prevailed upon him not to do so. He will take his own call. He is a matured person.Anything you would like to suggest?Ans- The Election Commission should do something to ensure that people holding top posts like PM or CM do not misuse their official position in election. The exemption given to them should be curtailed. Besides political parties, lot needs to be done to correct ticket distribution process. A primary system like one prevailing in US should be followed here in ticket distribution in which party presidents and top leadership should have miniscule role.

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Gujarat Elections 2017 | Godhra, where locals are back to basics of life even as scars remain

It’s 6 PM in Godhra. A power cut has plunged the road that stretches out in front of the railway station into darkness. This is the same stretch that earned infamy around 15 years ago after a coach full of kar sevaks was burnt down in Godhra on the other side of the railway station. Fifty-nine people had died in the incident.The rains that poured under the impact of cyclone Ockhi makes the ride on the rundown road tougher.At a time when ‘Janeudhaari Brahmin’ and ‘Babar bhakt’ remarks are back in the political discourse in the run-up to the Assembly elections in Gujarat, Godhra is trying hard to keep pace.The election fight this time is between two leaders with Janata Dal roots — C K Raulji and Rajendra Patel — who are contesting on BJP and Congress tickets, respectively.Muslims are clearly inclined towards the Congress, but what can trouble the BJP more is the rebel factor from within. However, the BJP has made good inroads into the backward Bakshi Panch community, which has 90,000 votes as against the 55,000 Muslim votes in the seat.Local Muslims are angry with five-term MLA C K Raulji, who had won the seat on Congress ticketon two consecutive previous elections but has now shifted gear and joined the BJP.In Muslim areas, there is a hesitance to talk about Godhra. They have other important issues to worry about.At Nala Baharpura, where the famous washerman of Godhra, Chand Dobhi, lived, residents dread rains, as in every rainy season, their dwellings on the embankment rather than on the river course get submerged with rising water table.Chand Mohammad, who died in October this year, had shot into limelight in 2008 when the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi sent emissaries to meet him during a meeting in Godhra, recalling how he had served him as a laundry man for a decade in 1970s, when he lived in Godhra as RSS pracharak.While his family has yet to get the promised land, more than 250 families living in the area look for respite from the water submergence issue.”We have to leave our homes for days and take shelter in highlands during the rainy season. No one cares about our problem. We simply don’t matter,” says sexagenarian Ibrahim, who has been living in the area since 1980.At Signal Falia, where many of the convicts of the 2002 burning of the Sabarmati Express live, an interesting story has played out. Maria, the Pakistani wife of a Godhra carnage convict Irfan Pada, is fighting a court battle to continue her stay in India after the birth of their daughter Savera here in 2015. In January last year, the Gujarat High Court asked her to apply for an Indian citizenship. She is still battling the issue.Pada was convicted in the Godhra train burning incident and sentenced to life along with 19 others. A special trial court had on March 1, 2011, convicted 31 people, awarding the death penalty to 11 of them and acquitting 63. The High Court in October this year, reduced the death sentence of the 11 convicts to ‘life in prison.’There were a total of 134 accused in the case, out of which 14 were released due to lack of evidence, five were juveniles, five died during court proceedings of over nine years, 16 are absconding, and the trial was conducted against 94 accused.One of the 63 acquitted is Abdul Assu Mistri, who sells tea at Gondra Mohalla on Indore Baroda Highway in Godhra. A resident of Idgah Mohalla, Mistri says he has to spend nine years in jail from 2002 to 2011, which has wrecked his family. He is now worried about the future of his two sons and daughters.Over a thousand garages are lined up in Godhra. Muslim youths are considered expert mechanics and vehicles are brought here from far away places for repair work. But there is no industry in the region and youth from both communities migrate in larger numbers in search of employment. Sitting MLA Raulji, after joining the BJP, impressed upon the party leadership the need to create jobs in the area.The nearby Halol is an auto hub, but Godhra is not a beneficiary as locals are not employed, says Mehfooz Patel.Vipul Soni, a swarnkar from Ahmedbad, however, says the road between Ahmedabad and Godhra was a narrow one and the connectivity improved a lot under the Modi regime in Gujarat. “Development has happened under Modi and people will still vote in Modi’s name,” he says confidently.Considered a veteran from Godhra, Raulji who is from the Kshatriya community and a close confidante of former Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela, did not vote for Congress leader Ahmed Patel in the keenly fought Rajya Sabha elections this year and was subsequently expelled from the Congress for cross-voting.After Raulji joined the BJP, party’s state chief Jitu Vaghani went to town declaring it was the beginning of the annihilation of the Congress. Raulji has even if he did not get minority votes, it will not affect his chances of winning the seat.Raulji, who first won the seat in 1990 on a Janata Dal ticket, won from Godhra on a BJP ticket in the 1991 bypoll and again in 1995.Besides antagonising around 55,000 Muslim voters in the city, Raulji’s second sojourn with the BJP has also ruffled feathers in the party.A popular face in the area, Jaswant Parmar, who heads his party’s Bakshi Panch (an OBC caste) Morcha in the state and was a key contender for the ticket, has now entered the fray as an independent.The Bakshi Panch community, who is mostly engaged in agriculture, has around 90,000 members in the rural part of the constituency.Rural Godhra has around 25,000 tribals and 12,000 Dalits. Patidars, Sindhis, Baniyas, Sonis (swarnkar), Rajputs, Brahmins and others put together make around 50,000, a little less than Muslims in urban centres.Parmar, who is a surgeon by profession and runs a clinic in Godhra town, can also cut into some city votes. Parmar was associated with RSS for long and his mother is a senior leader in BJP.Congress candidate Rajendra Patel had won the seat once in 1998 on a Janata Dal ticket, defeating Congress’s Abdulrahim Khalpa, the last Muslim MLA from the region — he had won the seat for three consecutive terms in 1975, 1980 and 1985.Patel, a leader from the Bakshi Panch community, has the image of a rabble-rouser and believes in aggressive backward politics. With a Kshatriya canidate from from BJP and a Bakshi Panch candidate from Congress, the role of independent Jaswant Parmar, who also belongs to Bakshi Panch community could turn crucial in election outcome.
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Gujarat elections 2017: Will Saurabh Patel card help BJP win Botad?

Can Gujarat BJP’s flamboyant leader Saurabh Patel who was once considered a successor to PM Narendra Modi and then to Anandiben Patel in the state pull a coup of sorts and rescue BJP in Patidar bastion of Botad.Saurabh has been away from the limelight since Vijay Rupani replaced Anandiben Patel as CM. Armed with an MBA degree from USA, Saurabh is the son-in-law of Ramnikbhai, the elder brother of late Dhirubhai Ambani. In Patel villages in the constituency, which has both Kadva and Leuva Patel, there is a discerning anger against the BJP. To make the matters worse for the ruling party, Congress has fielded a Leuva Pate leader DM Patel.But the development works done by Saurabh in the constituency when he represented it thrice before shifting to Akota Assembly seat in 2012, are recalled by people. BJP dropped its sitting MLA Maniya Thakarshibhai Devjibhai, who had won the seat with 86,184 votes in 2012 assembly polls. Complaints are galore in the constituency that the development pace triggered in the constituency by Patel, then a high- profile minister in Gujarat government, came to a halt between 2012 and 2017.That both the BJP and Congress are so keen on the constituency is clear from the fact that while BJP risked two seats dropping one sitting MLA and shifting the other, the Congress also brought in DM Patel, replacing Manhar Patel it earlier named for Botad just hours before the deadline for nomination filing expired to give a challenge the Gujarat’s former minister.At Sitaram Nagar in Botad, a BJP supporter Kalpesh Darbari says, “BJP would have lost the election had it not brought in Saurahbhai. DM Patel was initially in Congress. He then joined BJP and became Chairman in the marketing yard. This time he is back in Congress and contesting as MLA. But he is a light weight in comparison to Saurabhbhai.”In the nearby Sethadi village dominated by Patels, the issue of Patidar agitation for reservation kicks up a heated debate. “Saurabh Patel will not get our votes due to lotus (BJP’s poll symbol) this time. Yes we had earlier been voting for BJP but not this time,” says Jayesh Lania.In Nagalpad, Ankesh Patel who works in Morbi Ceramics, said, “Saurabh Patel will get some votes from the community, which has been a traditional BJP supporter. Darbaris, Prajapatis, Brahmins, Baniya, Dalvadis, Rawaldeo and some other smaller castes of OBC give a favourable response towards BJP.”At Nagalpad, Kalubhai Samant says “500 to 600 Rawaldeo community members went to Saurabh Patel recently and requested for a boundary wall to their shamshan. He has agreed.” He says he ”samaj” has been voting for BJP for long and there is no change even now.In the Koli- Patel (OBC) dominated Dhanduka Assembly segment BJP MLA Kolipatel Laljibhai Chatrubhai is contesting against Congress’ Rajesh Koli, a lawyer. Youth Congress worker overseeing the social media campaign of the constituency says he is baffled how Rajesh Koli’s name was announced as the district president of Congress Harpal Singh and Raju Bhai were stronger candidates.PADMAVATI AND PAANIAt Rayaka Village, the Rajput youths talk with gusto about Padmavati controversy. “We had protested against the release of the film. We are happy that the film was not released,” says Harpal Singh. Maganbhai in Botad recalls how the area faced acute water crisis which was resolved after Saurabh represented the constituency.
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Gujarat Elections 2017 | Patidar, GST factor to impact Mehsana battle

Mood in the spice city of Gujarat is pungent over GST and the ruling party could find the taste unpalatable as it contests the poll in the epicentre of Patidar agitation.But, non-Patidar voters have high praise for the work done by PM Narendra Modi in Mehsana, whose village Vadnagar is under Unjha Assembly seat, where people from several houses are NRIs.Coupled with GST woes is Patidar’s reservation agitation in both Unjha as well as the district town Mehsana from where Gujarat’s Deputy CM Nitin Patel contests.Mehsana is billed as the toughest test for the BJP in Gujarat owing to larger number of influential Kadva Patel voters, who are also believed to have funded Hardik Patel’s agitations across the state.Resultantly, the BJP has depended on its senior Patel leaders and has also attempted to reach out to OBCs, which may not find Hardik Patel’s aggressive Patel quota stir suiting their interests.In Mehansa, while Congress’ hopes are high owing to Patidar factor, BJP has banked on its formidable and flamboyant face Nitin Patel, who is contesting the seat for the second term.As one enters Mehsana from Ahmedabad, the bill boards of BJP has only face apart from Nitin Patel on it—that of Modi.In the background is the buzz that even Nitin Patel could be declared as CM face as BJP seeks to counter Patel anger. BJP has so far downplayed such speculation.A number of non-Patel voters to which DNA talked, however, vouched for “Vikas” in Gujarat when Modi was CM and said they will vote for BJP, whoever is the candidate.50-year-old Garmej Singh, a settler from Bhuli in Dhanbad, who has road roller business in Mehsana says that the contest is no doubt not one-sided this time but “jeetenge Modiji hi”.A youth Hardik Patel claims all Patels will not vote for Congress on Hardik’s call while BJP will get votes of all other communities. Besides he cities “Nitinbhai’s personal connect” as a major boost for BJP in Mehsana.Even as APMC in both Mehsana town and Unjha have their chairman from BJP, the mood of traders in both places shows all is now well. In Mehsana APMC, Mukeshbhai Modi says that Patel youths, who have borne the brunt of agitation are angry but is hopeful that elders will see reason and stick to the BJP, which they have been supporting for two decades. “Had BJP fielded anybody else than Nitinbhai, it was a sure loss but he has worked a lot for Mehsana,” he says while noteban is not an issue, GST is indeed creating heartburns.In Unjha APMC, Jigneshbhai says, “We have nothing to do with BJP or Congress. But who brought this GST. All the traders are harassed. Our business went down. We will let it known.”
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Gujarat elections 2017 | PM Modi to speak to 5,500 block-level Mahila workers

To deepen the outreach of BJP among women, who are believed to be a caste neutral constituency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will directly speak to 5500 block-level workers of Gujarat BJP Mahila Morcha on Friday.The move comes at a time when caste is ringing louder in Assembly election campaign of Gujarat and BJP’s rival Congress has sewn up an umbrella alliance with various caste and tribe leaders from among the OBC, Dalit, tribal and assertive Patel community.In 2014 Lok Sabha polls as well, women are said to have played an important role in BJP’s stupendous victory and the party has never been shy of flaunting its work towards empowering the women.Ironically, both Congress and BJP have together fielded only 21 candidates in the Assembly polls of Guajrat this time, which, constitute of around percent of total votes.Of the 977 candidates contesting for the first phase of polls only 57 are women. BJP general secretary in-charge for Gujarat Bupendra Yadav said that Modi will interact with 5500 block level workers of BJP Mahila Morcha in the state between 4.30 to 5 PM after they complete download of NaMo App by 4.30 on December 1. “The Prime Minister will hold a direct dialogue with them,” Yadav said. A party source said that Modi could also some of the questions during what is supposed to be a live video call.The BJP has been highlighting its contributions like PM Modi naming Anandiben Patel, a woman as Chief Minister of Gujrat when he demitted office after 2014 Lok Sabha polls to become Prime Minister.Sumitra Mahajan becoming Lok Sabha Speaker and Modi government giving two top portolios in the South Bloc—External Affiars Ministry to Sushma Swaraj and Defence Ministry to Nirmala Sitharaman, both of whom are also now members of the coveted Cabinet Committee on Security, are also highlighted by the BJP leaders.The BJP has also sought to reach out to Muslim women with its repeated assertion of support to the abolition of the practice of triple talaq. The government has also announced to discuss the issue in upcoming Winter session.During the interaction with BJP Mahila workers, the Prime Minister is expected to do a pep talk and encourage them to reach out to women in larger numbers.This is the first time in last two decades that BJP is seeing a keen contest in Gujarat.BJP leaders during interactions in Gujarat have repeatedly highlighted the schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, Common Service Centre involving 33,000 women, 50 percent reservation in panchayat and other such decisions as Modi government’s push towards ensuring gender justice and women empowerment.On October 14, Swaraj interacted with one lakh women from across Gujarat in a Mahila Town Hall programme in Ahmedabad, which was hosted by BJP Gujarat Mahila Morcha via video conferencing as well as in person. Gujarat Mahila Morcha has also held a large number conferences in the run up to Gujarat polls.When Rahul Gandhi in October kicked up a controversy with his “women in shorts” not seen in RSS remarks, BJP’s female ministers including Swaraj were in the fore front, dubbing Gandhi’s remarks as “insult” to women.At a rally in Ahmedabad on October 14, Swaraj had reminded Gandhi that BJP had given four women chief ministers and four women governors to the country and that there are six women who were cabinet ministers in the BJP-led government.Swaraj, Union Minister Uma Bharti, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, former Guajrat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and cine star turned Lok Sabha MP Hema Malini figure in the list of BJP star campaigners.Anandiben Patel, is, however, yet to campaign anywhere. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha MP Sushmita Dev, former Union Ministers Kumari Selja and Ambika Soni, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and film star turned politician Nagma figure in the list of star campaigners.
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Gujarat Elections 2017: In unique outreach, PM Narendra Modi to ‘video chat’ with 5,500 women BJP workers

To deepen the outreach of BJP among women, who are believed to be a caste neutral constituency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will directly speak to 5,500 block level workers of Gujarat BJP Mahila Morcha on Friday.The move comes at a time when caste is ringing louder in Assembly election campaign of Gujarat and BJP’s rival Congress has sewn up an umbrella alliance with various caste and tribe leaders from among the OBC, Dalit, tribal and assertive Patel community.In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls as well, women were said to have played an important role in the BJP’s stupendous victory and the party has never been shy of flaunting its work towards empowering the women.Also readGujarat elections 2017 | Narendra Modi: Rahul GST brainwave is a Grand Stupid ThoughtIronically, both the Congress and the BJP have together fielded only 21 candidates in the Assembly polls this time. Of the 977 candidates contesting for the first phase of polls, only 57 are women.BJP general secretary in-charge for Gujarat Bupendra Yadav said that PM Modi will interact with 5,500 block level workers of BJP Mahila Morcha in the state between 4.30 to 5 PM after they complete download of NaMo App by 4.30 on December 1.Also readI sold tea, but not India: PM Narendra Modi to Congress“The Prime Minister will hold a direct dialogue with them,” Yadav said. A party source said that PM Modi could also some of the questions during what is supposed to be a live video call.The BJP has been highlighting its contributions like PM Modi naming Anandiben Patel, a woman as Chief Minister of Gujrat when he demitted office after 2014 Lok Sabha polls to become Prime Minister.Also readWatch: Child dressed as PM Modi leaves him awestruck at event in NavasariSumitra Mahajan becoming the Lok Sabha Speaker and Modi government giving two top portfolios in the South Bloc—External Affairs Ministry to Sushma Swaraj and Defence Ministry to Nirmala Sitharaman, both of whom are also now members of the coveted Cabinet Committee on Security, are also highlighted by the BJP leaders.The BJP has also sought to reach out to Muslim women with its repeated assertion of support to the abolition of the practice of triple talaq.The government has also announced to discuss the issue in upcoming Winter session. During the interaction with BJP Mahila workers, the Prime Minister is expected to do a pep talk and encourage them to reach out to women in larger numbers.This is the first time in last two decades that BJP is seeing a keen contest in Gujarat.BJP leaders during interactions in Gujarat have repeatedly highlighted the schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, Common Service Centre involving 33,000 women, 50 per cent reservation in panchayat and other such decisions as Modi government’s push towards ensuring gender justice and women empowerment.On October 14, Swaraj interacted with one lakh women from across Gujarat in a Mahila Town Hall programme in Ahmedabad, which was hosted by BJP Gujarat Mahila Morcha via video conferencing as well as in person.Gujarat Mahila Morcha has also held a large number conferences in the run up to Gujarat polls.When Rahul Gandhi in October kicked up a controversy with his “women in shorts” not seen in RSS remarks, BJP’s female ministers including Swaraj were in the fore front, dubbing Gandhi’s remarks as “insult” to women.At a rally in Ahmedabad on October 14, Swaraj had reminded Gandhi that BJP had given four women chief ministers and four women governors to the country and that there are six women who were cabinet ministers in the BJP-led government.Swaraj, Union Minister Uma Bharti, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, former Guajrat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and cine star turned Lok Sabha MP Hema Malini figure in the list of BJP star campaigners. Anandiben Patel, is, however, yet to campaign anywhere.Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha MP Sushmita Dev, former Union Ministers Kumari Selja and Ambika Soni, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and film star turned politician Nagma figure in the list of star campaigners.
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Rahul Gandhi’s calls to Sharad Yadav sealed Congress-Vasava deal in Gujarat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It was two phone calls made by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to rebel Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav that sealed the deal between the Congress and Chhotubhai Vasava’s Bhartiya Tribal Party for Gujarat assembly polls days after wrangling.The deal was finally done this week but not without tantrums and a fair amount of troubleshooting.Sources say that Congress, which was looking at Vasava, working state President of Sharad Yadav-led faction of JDU as a natural ally in Gujarat assembly polls after the latter’ decisive vote tilted the scale in favour of its veteran Ahmed Patel in Rajya Sabha elections in August, was in for a rude shock as Vasava made a demand for 25 seats.For Congress, a tie-up with Vasava, a consecutive six-term MLA from Jhagadia assembly seat in Bharuch, the home town of Ahmed Patel, was important as Vasava exercised considerable influence on tribal votes even beyond Jhagadia.Congress, which had earlier offered up to three seats to Vasava was baffled as Vasava demanded 25 seats, saying that the influence of his Bhilistan Sena and Bhartiya Tribal Party spreads across East Gujarat.
ALSO READ Gujarat elections 2017: Why Rahul Gandhi’s temple visits may not bear fruit in DwarkaLeaders from Vasava camp had, however, indicated that he would settle for 15 seats. That was also too much for Congress to share.Congress general secretary in-charge for Gujarat Ashok Gehlot and Congress Gujarat chief Bharat Singh Solanki had already met Sharad Yadav twice in last fortnight.
ALSO READ In Gujarat, Rahul Gandhi rakes up Rohith Vemula suicide, says ‘Hindustan ki sarkar’ murdered himYadav was also asked to find time for campaign and accordingly, Yadav will be campaigning in the state from December 4 to December 7. Besides other regions, the rebel JDU leader will also be campaigning in Dwarka-Jamnagar belt, where Yadav community is in significant number.However, as the seat sharing with Vasava remained inconclusive, Rahul called up Yadav twice asking him to speak to Vasava to ensure that some “reasonable” demand is made from the tribal leader.
ALSO READ BJP at vantage point in Gujarat tribal areasAs the undivided JDU for last many years was contesting only around five seats recently, finally a deal was struck with Congress agreeing to give the Bhartiya Tribal Party the seats of Jhagadia, Dediapada, Mangrol, Morva Hadaf and Waghodia, all of which are reserved for the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category.Besides, the Vasava’s close aide Anil Bhagat, who is an office bearer in rebel JDU faction of Sharad Yadav has been offered the Congress ticket from Ankleshwar.There has also been an agreement to field another candidate from Vasava’s party Karni Bhaai from Rajkot East but Congress later declared Mithul Donga as its candidate. These seven seats were earlier supposed to go to Vasava’s party.Congress MLA from Rajkot East Indranil Rajguru has been shifted this time to Rajkot West to take on BJP’s Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.Vasava’s party is contesting the election on party symbol auto rickshaw. This was decided after Election Commission decided to recognise Nitish Kumar faction’s claim on Janata Dal United and allotted him the party symbol arrow.Vasava, who is an MLA from Jhagadia in Bharuch had tilted the balance in favour of Congress veteran Ahmed Patel by voting in his favour in the high-pitched Rajya Sabha elections concluded sometime back.The tribal belt that spreads along Gujarat’s eastern border from Dangs in deep South to Banaskantha in the North had earlier been a Congress strong hold but the BJP has made deep inroads in it last few years with sustained efforts by the ruling party as well its mentor RSS to reach out to tribals.Congress had won 16 out of 27 of tribal seats in this region in 2012 assembly polls. Even at the height of post Gohdra polarisation in 2002, BJP could only win 13 of the 26 seats before delimitation.In the last Lok Sabha polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won all 26 Lok Sabha seats from the state including the ones in tribal-dominated area as Prime Minister Narendra Modi juggernaut rolled out. Nitish’ arrow to hit Vasava-Congress allianceMeanwhile Nitish Kumar’s JDU will be fielding candidates in 50 seats, a move which according to Sharad camp is expected to benefit the BJP.The Sharad camp also cites that JDU has fielded another candidate named Chhotubhai in Jhagadia, where Chhotubhai Vasava is contesting to spread confusion.JDU general secretary K C Tyagi, however, said “we are not fighting Guajrat elections to ensure anyone’s victory or defeat. We have been fighting in Gujarat separately for long even when George Fernades and Sharad Yadav were President of the JDU. We did not fight in alliance in Gujarat earlier also. Earlier also we fought over 50 candidates.”He, nevertheless, recalled Nitish Kumar was the first to support Hardik Patel wand also alleged that Congress has “betrayed Paatidaars” by giving them just a few tickets.“We have people lining up JDU for ticket in Gujarat. We are fighting this election to expand our party organisation and meet the demands of party workers. A dozen Bihar Cabinet Ministers will campaign there,” Tyagi said.

Winter session of Parliament begins December 15: Triple talaq, Bill to grant Constitutional Status to NCBC to come up

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Winter Session of Parliament will begin on December 15 a day after Gujarat election is over and conclude on January 5 during which key bills on triple talaq and constitutional status to the backward class commission will be taken up for passage.Announcing the dates for the parliament session recommended by CCPA after its meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar sought the cooperation of the Opposition parties to make the winter session meaningful. “CCPA met under the chairmanship of Home Minister Rajnath Singh and proposed that we will have winter session from December 15 to January 5,” Kumar said.Rejecting Congress attack that the government has delayed the winter session to avoid facing tough questions on demonetization, GST and unemployment issues before Gujarat polls for fear of being exposed, Kumar reminded that earlier also many times including during the rule of Cong Prime Ministers Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, winter session have been delayed and begun even from January to avoid overlapping with polls.Replying to questions, Kumar said that the issues of National Commission for Backward Classes and triple talaq are two very important issues.“The country expects that the bills pertaining to these two issues will come to Parliament in this Winter Session. If that is the aspiration of the country, Government will have to respond to it,” Kumar said.The NCBC bill, which seeks to give a Constitutional status to the national body, which recommends reservations norms for backward classes is pending before Parliament and a select committee headed by BJP leader Bhupendra Yadav has already submitted its report to Parliament on the issue in Monsoon Session.While the bill to grant constitutional status to NCBC was passed by Lok Sabha without any amenmdnet but the same could be passed in Rajya Sabha only after an amendment, dropping a clause of the bill as Opposition parties forced four amendments into it.As the bill cannot be sent to President for assent now because two different versions of the bills have been passed by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the bill may have to go to Lok Sabha again.In wake of some recent controversial triple talaq incidents, the government is bringing a bill, seeking to make it a punishable offence as the practice has continued despite the Supreme Court order against it.The two issues will be discussed threadbare during the three-week-long session. The session will have 14 working days. December 25, which falls on Monday and December 26 will be holidays on account of Christmas.The Parliamentary Affairs Minister said that he was hopeful that all members of Parliament will attend the session on all the working days as key issues are to discussed and bills to be passed.The announcement of Winter session dates comes daysafter a political row that saw top leaders from Government and Opposition trading barbs on each other.This could fail to relent the Opposition which has been alleging that the government wants to “run away” from facing the heat on key issues during Gujarat polls, which end on December 14, a day before the session commences now. Congress sources said that they would raise the issue in Parliament.

‘Chai-Wala versus Bar-Wala’: All out war on social media between Congress-BJP over Meme-Tweet

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On defensive after a tweet of Youth Congress’s online magazine Yuva Desh mocking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tea-seller origin, Congress on Wednesday went all out against BJP after its MP Paresh Rawal took ‘bar-wala’ jibe, which he deleted finally, conceding it was ‘in bad taste’.“Our Chai-Wala is any better than your Bar-Wala,” Rawal, who is MP from Ahmedabad East said on Twitter reacting to ‘chaiwallah’ remark for Modi in a meme on Yuva Desh handle.”The meme, now deleted, showed PM Modi speaking to US President Donald Trump and Britain’s PM Theresa May in Hindi speech bubbles. PM Modi is seen asking, “Have you guys seen how may-may’s made on me by the opposition?”. Trump corrects PM Modi and responds, “It is called memes not maymays”, while Britain’s PM is seen responding with remarks, “you sell tea”.As BJP went all guns blazing, an apparently embarrassed Congress on Tuesday disapproved of the tweet with Congress’ media in-charge Randeep Surjewala tweeting “INC strongly disapproves and rejects such humour through memes. Differences on policy and opinion aside, Congress culture imbibes respect for the PM and all political opponents (sic).”The discomfiture in Congress with the meme was all the more palpable as it came just days after Rahul Gandhi’s advice to Congress party’s social media cadre in Gujarat, not to disrespect the PM’s post.Congress has been wary of any personal attack on Modi’s origins.In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar had mocked Modi’s tea-seller origin saying that while Modi will never become the Prime Minister of the country. But if he wants to distribute tea here, we will find a place for him. Many in the Congress felt the remark antagonized the poor.Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani termed the tweet of ‘Yuva Desh’ as “classist and anti-poor” and asked Rahul Gandhi if he supports this kind of tweet.Whereas, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked Sonia Gandhi and Rahul as to whether they ‘still believe that only u have a divine right to rule India’. He also said Congress ‘thinking towards the poor stands exposed’A day after the embarrassment, Congress on Wednesday got its chance.Latching on to the tweet of Rawal, Surjewala remarked “To what cheapness and filth, the BJP MP of Gujarat has stooped. Is this the BJP’s definition of the honour of women. Modiji apologise and take action…”Rawal later tweeted, ‘deleted the tweet as it’s in bad taste n I apologise for hurting feelings’.However, when a twitter user asked him why does he not delete his Twitter handle itself, Rawal replied: “Cong ke delete hote hi account bhi automatically delete Ho jayega.”The all-out war on social media has broken out between BJP and Congress in the run up to Gujarat polls as the medium is playing a big role in the high-octane election campaign by both sides.Rawal’s earlier tweet about tying author Arundhati Roy to army jeep instead of a stone pelter, had also kicked in a controversy in May this year.

Gujarat Elections 2017: List of Cong star campaigners indicate massive OBC outreach, Alpesh Thakore and Sam Pitroda included

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress which is reaching out to OBCs through social coalitions in Gujarat in this assembly poll, has included young OBC leader from the state Alpesh Thakore in its list of start campaigners, which also has Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.Thakore’s name figures in the last of the 40-member star campaigner list.Thakore, who is founder of the OSS (OBC, SC and ST) Ekta March and is one of triumvirate with Patdiar leader Hardik Patel and Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani , joined Congress after meeting party Vice President Rahul Gandhi in New Deli in the last week of October.Congress has named Thakore a star campaigner apparently to blunt the BJP outreach to OBCs as the ruling party has made elaborate plans to rope in the community as a counter to Congress’ bid to wean away a chunk of Patel votes by siding with Hardik.Along with a host of senior Congress leaders from Centre and the state, the list also has Sam Pitroda, who had organised Rahul Gandhi’s US tour. Pitroda figures on number eight in the list of campaigners.Pitroda, who headed India’s National Knowledge Commission, and served as advisor to former prime minister Manmohan Singh on public information infrastructure and innovation, is currently the Chairman of Congress Overseas Department.Born to Gujarati parents Pitroda, who was a close aide of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, will travel a number of cities to campaign for Congress had early this month flagged his OBC origin in Gujarat saying “I am a Vishwakarma and the son of a carpenter. Reservation helps in uplifting those who are underprivileged, but that does not stop anyone from achieving his or her own goals.”Even in December 2011 ahead of UP assembly polls 2012, he had accompanied Rahul Gandhi in the Hindi heartland.Rahul had then, trying to reach out to Most Backward Classes, said, “Twenty years back Rajiv Gandhi thought of bringing mobile phones to India. Do you know who brought them? Sam Pitroda, who is a Vishkarma, “Barahi” (carpenter). He brought mobile phones to your houses.”The start campaigner list also includes names of film actress turned Congress leader Nagma and and cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, who left the BJP and joined Congress in January this year before Punjab elections and is a now a minister in Captain Amarinder Singh government.

‘Son’rise imminent in Congress: Here’s why Rahul Gandhi is being elevated before Guj polls

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rahul Gandhi will be Congress President next month, irrespective of the outcome of Gujarat assembly polls, with the party’s top decision-making body Congress Working Committee on Monday finalizing its organisational election schedule. With no contestant in sight, Rahul taking over the party could be a finality as soon as December 5 after scrutiny of nomination papers, a day after the nomination filing exercise ends on December 4.The schedule for election that will end up with Rahul’s formal elevation was approved by the CWC on a day, when a split in Hardik Patel camp was evident on the issue of aligning with Congress and NCP, who also ruled out any truck with Rahul Gandhi’s party for Gujarat polls.
ALSO READ ‘Rahul as Congress president will help PM Modi in making India ‘Congress-Mukt’,’ says Anil Vij Responding to questions on Gujarat poll outcome vis a vis Rahul’s elevation, Congress Communication chief Randeep Surjewala ruled out any “worry” in Congress over it, insisting the election in Gujarat is between 6.5 crore people of the state and the BJP, between the “money muscle power of BJP’ and ‘people’s power with Congress’.There is a view in the Congress that the party will definitely perform better from the past in this Assembly election in Gujarat and possibly this is the best time carry out the long-pending elevation of Rahul Gandhi.
ALSO READ The lowdown on Congress’ plan to make Rahul Gandhi party president before Gujarat electionsThat the very election schedule of Congress runs through the poll dates in Gujarat is an indication that the party did not want to do it either much before the election in the state, or soon after election results to give critics an opportunity to target him.Rahul Gandhi has been spearheading this assembly election campaign in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home turf in Gujarat and his meetings have been drawing good crowds.At the CWC meeting which she chaired, Sonia Gandhi gave a farewell speech of sorts asking the party cadres to do their best to bring out positive results in Gujarat.“Rahul and many of you colleagues here and in Gujarat are working hard for a positive result in that State. Let us do our best to prove that people are not fooled and that they will make the right decision and defeat the present dispensation there,” Sonia Gandhi said. Replying to questions about the next role of Sonia Gandhi amid speculation that she could be continue as Chairperson of Congress Parliamentary Party or as the head of an Opposition grouping like UPA, Surjewala merely said, “Sonia Gandhi is our leader and mentor. She has always guided the Congress party. Her able leadership will always be available not only to Rahul Gandhi but entire Congress.”Sonia Gandhi had become Congress President on March 14, 1998. Gandhi had donned the mantle of UPA Chairperson on May 16, 2004.Rahul, a three-term Lok Sabha MP from family pocket borough Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, became AICC general secretary in September 2007, before he was elevated as Congress Vice President on January 19, 2013.Off late, the appointments in AICC were being not only decided but even announced with the signature of Rahul Gandhi. Last week, the appointment letter for Congress state chief for Jharkhand was also issued by Rahul Gandhi.While Gandhi will formally become party President only next month, the organizational structure in AICC already shows a generational change with a number of young leaders from Team Rahul taking over as Secretaries and General Secretaries.With the organizational polls next month, the party is now formally bracing for a generational change in leadership after a gap of nearly 20 years.

Parliamentary panel to look into airlines’ treatment of flyers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the wake of a huge row over manhandling of a passenger by IndiGo Airlines last month, a Parliamentary committee will be examining the issue of “behaviour of airline personnel towards passengers” on Monday.The Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee of Transport, Tourism and Culture headed by Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’ Brien has called the Secretary of Ministry of Civil Aviation, along with representatives of Airports Authority of India, Directorate General of Civil Aviation and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, on Monday.The panel has also asked public carrier Air India and private airlines, including Indigo, to appear before it and explain their views on the matter. Representatives from Jet Airways, Spicejet, Go Air, Vistara and Air Asia will also appear. The panel has sought their views on passenger amenities and behaviour of airline personnel towards passengers.The panel is expected to examine the issue comprehensively. The 31-member panel has 21 MPs.An internal inquiry report by IndiGo, after the incident in October, had said it was actually the “whistleblower”, who circulated the video, who was to be blamed for the incident.After the Indigo incident, public carrier Air India had come out with a hilarious photo, saying “we raise our hands only to say Namaste”, taking an apparent dig at the private airline.Even lawmakers have been found to be on the wrong side of the fence a number of times. Last year, there was a huge row when five airlines — Air India, IndiGo, SpiceJet, Jet Airways and GoAir — put a ban on Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad after he admitted to having bashed up an elderly AI employee.The issue had led to a huge political controversy. Sena had sided with Gaikwad, who ultimately wrote a letter to Civil Aviation Minister A Gajapati Raju, expressing regret but offering no apology.

Cheap! Shashi Tharoor sorry after ‘Chhillar’ jibe, says he praised Manushi’s answer

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even before the dust could settle on his ‘maharaja’ comments amid row over the movie Padmavati, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor waded into a fresh controversy on Sunday over a tweet while he alluded to the surname of Haryana girl Manushi Chhillar who won Miss World crown this week after 17 years since Priyanka Chopra had won it last in 2000.Tharoor, while mocking the government’s demonetisation decision, referred to Chhillar’s achievement saying, “What a mistake to demonetise our currency! BJP should have realised that Indian cash dominates the globe: look, even our Chhillar has become Miss World!” However, Tharoor was quick to apologise after being slammed on social media.His tweet read: “Guess the pun IS the lowest form of humour, & the bilingual pun lower still! Apologies to the many who seem to have been righteously offended by a light-hearted tweet today. Certainly no offence was meant to a bright young girl whose answer i’ve separately praised. Please: Chill! (sic).”In Hindi, the word chillar means (loose change).The National Commission of Women (NCW) said it will summon the Congress leader for his ‘derogatory and degrading’ tweet on newly-crowned Miss World 2017 Manushi Chhillar.A series of tweets by NCW read, “NCW condemn the tweet of @INCIndia leader @ShashiTharoor. He degraded the achievement of daughter of #haryana and #India who got glory to the country. Will he call his own daughter chillar? He must apologize immediately. NCWIndia will summon Shashi Tharoor to commission on his derogatory tweet.”Bharatiya Janata Party also accused Tharoor of “demeaning” a Haryana subname.BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra tweeted, “Is it real tweet of Sh Tharoor? This is ridiculing the great achievement of Ms Chhillar! Repeat of “Cattle Class” comment? Should apologise demeaning a Haryana Surname!”Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) Chairman Anupam Kher called Tharoor a “fool” and asked why his standard had gone so low.”Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” Best wishes on #InternationalMensDay.:),” Kher further tweeted.One twitterati reminded Tharoor of the difference between Hindi word chillar and Chillar, the surname of the Haryana girl.This is not the first time that Tharoor has got into a Twitter controversy.The ‘cattle class” remark was made by Tharoor way back in 2009, when he had tweeted in a reply that he would travel “cattle class” in solidarity with all our “holy cows.” As it sparked off a political storm and widespread outrage on social media, Congress disapproved the remarks from party podium. Tharoor had later tweeted an apology.The two-term MP from Thiruvananthapuram has served as Union Minister and was also under Secretary General of the United Nations for Communications and Public Information.At the height of the JNU row in 2016, he said said that Bhagat Singh was a young man who had great passion for motherland, Kanhaiya has the same. Congress was quick to distance itself then.Addressing a literary event in Mumbai this week, Tharoor said, “Every single one of these so-called valorous maharajas, who today are after a Mumbai filmmaker because their honour is at stake, they were less concerned about their honour when the British were trampling all over it and they scurried to accommodate themselves.”Not only the Rajput groups were up in arms over his remarks but even Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, himself a Maharaja, reacted sharply saying he thinks that Tharoor should “study history”.Tharoor later said said he did not wish to offend the Rajput community.

The lowdown on Congress’ plan to make Rahul Gandhi party president before Gujarat elections

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rahul Gandhi could be made Congress President as early as in the first week of December with party’s apex decision making body—Congress Working Committee set to meet on Monday to take a call on the issue.The CWC meeting on November 20 takes place amid growing view in the party, particularly its young leaders to elevate, Gandhi to the top position at a time the party braces for a generational change in leadership after a gap of nearly 20 years and Congress President Sonia Gandhi under medical treatment for some years.Sonia Gandhi had become Congress President on March 14, 1998 and could have completed 20 years, a record of sort had she continued till March next year.
ALSO READ ‘Why no questions on PM Modi over Rafale deal,’ Rahul Gandhi asks media The agenda of the CWC meeting is to finalise the schedule for party President’s election. According to a tentative schedule sent by Congress Election Committee, nomination filing exercise could begin from November 21 and candidates can withdraw their names till December 1. The polls, if necessary, will be held on December 8 and counting could be carried out on December 11.Talking to reporters regarding CWC meeting, party general secretary (Organisation) Janardan Dwivedi said, that dates for election of Congress President will fixed on Monday.He said that if only one nomination is filed, Gandhi’s elevation can be announced on date of withdrawal of nominations since there is no other nomination for contesting the President’s post. This means that Rahul who is spearheading the party’s campaign in Gujarat assembly polls will be party President before polling begins in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home turf on December 9. The elections are likely to go uncontested but if somebody files nomination, then the Congress Vice President’s elevation can take a few more days as formalities will to be completed and the result could be clear only after the last day of withdrawal of nominations.Up till now no Congress leader has dropped indications about contesting against Gandhi, though the Congress Vice President has been a strong votary of internal elections in the party from the top to the bottom rung.Elections for Congress President’s post have happened only twice post-independence- Sharad Pawar and Rajesh Pilot had filed nominations against incumbent President Sitaram Kesri in 1997 and lost badly. Later in 2001, senior Congress leader from Uttar Pradesh Jitendra Prasada filed his nomination for the top post against incumbent Sonia Gandhi and again he lost badly.With the Election Commission having set a deadline of December 31 for Congress to complete its organizational elections, the party was running short time. Quite recently the Chairman of Congress’ Central Election Authority Mullappally Ramchandran , who was looking after the party’s organizational polls, had written to Sonia Gandhi to convene CWC to announce the election schedule for the new Congress President early.The entire election schedule will be around a fortnight long. The CWC meeting begins the final action towards elevation of Rahul Gandhi the state Congress committees have already submitted resolutions to the leadership seeking Rahul Gandhi as new President.The Congress Vice President’s elevation has been in speculation for more than three years. When recently it became clear that Congress has finally decided on Rahul Gandhi’s Presidency, there was a view that he should be taking over as Party President only after November 19, the 100th birth anniversary of Indira Gandhi.Now the spotlight will on Sonia Gandhi’s next role at a time when Congress is trying to arrive at maximum possible Opposition unity and a number of Opposition leaders, having indicated their preference for Sonia remaining in the lead role for Opposition unity.There are speculations that she could continue to be Congress Parliamentary Party Chairman or UPA Chairperson, a post she earlier also held during the last two UPA alliances led by Congress. Gandhi had UPA Chiarperson on May 16, 2004.Rahul, a three term Lok Sabha MP from family pocket borough Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, became AICC general secretary in September 2007, before he was elevated as Congress Vice President on January 19, 2013.Rahul (47) also mentored Youth Congress and party’s student wing NSUI as AICC general secretary in-charge.

Congress to hold on to list for longer

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress is likely to hold back on announcing its list for Gujarat Assembly polls for a few more days till there is clarity on its on-going talks with Patidar leaders led by Hardik Patel even as Central Election Committee of Congress chaired by party chief Sonia Gandhi held deliberations for the second time on Friday.Sources said that a group of leaders from Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti met Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel and AICC in-charge for Gujarat Ashok Gehlot separately.Emerging from the CEC meeting, Gehlot told reporters that a discussion had been completed on almost all the seats but the list of candidates will be released in a day or two as talks on an alliance with Sharad Pawar’s NCP and JDU were also going on.”All the 182 seats may have been discussed but we will have to leave our claim on some seats when the alliance happens,” he said adding that both JDU and NCP want to have an alliance with Congress and vice versa.On a day when the Election Commission recognised Nitish Kumar’s JD-U as the party and allotted the arrow symbol to it, Gehlot said that that it has now split into two and Congress is talking to Sharad Yadav regarding the alliance with Chhotu Bhaavi Vasava led party in Gujarat.”We are also talking to NCP and when the discussions are complete, we will release our list,” he said.NCP had in the high pitched Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat a few months had sided with BJP. Both its MLAs in Gujarat had voted for the BJP and Ahmed Patel could emerge victorious only after Vasava’s vote in its favour and Election Commission declaring two other votes null and void.PAAS leader Hardik Patel has met senior leader of NCP Praful Patel a number of times in recent days, fueling speculations.Gujarat goes to poll in two phases on December 9 and December 14. The election result will be declared on December 18. In first phase 89 of 182 seats will go to polls and the party is keen to declare candidates all the 89 seats at least on November 16.

Nitish Kumar wins arrow war with Sharad Yadav

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The faction led by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is the real Janata Dal (United) and is entitled to use the “arrow” symbol, the Election Commission said on Friday, dealing a blow to his estranged colleague Sharad Yadav whose group that has decided to contest the Gujarat elections in alliance with the Congress.The poll body gave the order after hearing both parties on the petition of lone Guiarat MLA from JD-U, Chhotubhai Vasava, who is the working president of Yadav’s faction. The faction had approached the Election Commission on September 17, less than two months after Nitish dumped the Bihar’s ruling grand alliance with Congress and RJD and joined hands with BJP to form a government.Yadav had opposed the switch and claimed that his faction was the real JD-U that later petitioned the poll body seeking the “arrow” symbol for itself. Nitish’s camp, represented by advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, filed a counter submission. Senior Congress leader and lawyer Kapil Sibal appeared for Yadav’s faction. The Election Commission said that it had “elaborate oral submissions from both” and concluded in its order that Nitish’s group has demonstrated overwhelming majority support in the legislature wing as well as in the national council of the party.The move comes at a time when both factions of JD-U have announced to field candidates in its erstwhile influence pockets in Gujarat. Nitish’s faction has decided to contest on its own.

Janata Dal United’s symbol war ends, Election Commission awards arrow to Nitish Kumar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ending suspense over who controls the real Janata Dal United, the Election Commission on Friday has recognised the faction led by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s claim over the arrow symbol.The order follows a month-long tussle between the groups led by Kumar and former JD-U chief Sharad Yadav.“The group led by Nitish Kumar is hereby recognised as the Janata Dal (United) in terms of paragraph-15 of the Symbols Order. Consequently the group led by Nitish Kumar is entitled to use the reserved symbol Arrow of the party as a recognized party in Bihar,” the Election Commission said in its order today.The order has come after the poll panel conducted the hearing with parties on the petition of lone Guiarat MLA from JDU Chhotubhai Vasava, who is working president of Sharad Yadav faction of JDU.The faction had approached the Election Commission after Nitish Kumar junked the alliance with the grand alliance of Congress-RJD and JDU in Bihar and joined hands with BJP in July.Yadav opposed the move and made the claim that his faction of the JDU was the ‘real JDU’.He later petitioned the EC seeking the Arrow symbol for itself. Nitish Kumar camp filed a counter submission in its favour.The Election Commission, however, in its order concluded that that the Nitish Kumar group has demonstrated overwhelming majority support in the legislature wing as well as the majority in the national council of the party, which is the apex organizational body of the party.The move comes at a time when both factions of JDU have announced to field candidates in its erstwhile influence pockets in Gujarat assembly polls. While Sharad faction is seeking to forge alliance with Congress, Nitish faction has decided to contest on its own. The Nitish Kumar faction had this month written to the EC not to allow Arrow symbol to Sharad faction for Gujarat polls.The EC has also taken note of it saying “in view of the above urgency in the matter on account of the current general election to the Legislative Assembly of Gujarat, which is already in progress since November 14, the Commission passes the following order in the matter.”

Bridge security: Parl panel to summon Railways’ top officials

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indicating its seriousness towards the issue of railway bridge safety, a parliamentary panel has asked top railway officials to appear before it. This is the second time the railway officials have been summoned in the past fortnight.The parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways, headed by Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay, has called the representatives of the Ministry of Railways to hear them on issues ranging from safety measures in railway operations to maintenance of bridges of foot over bridges that fall under the purview of the Railways.The committee, which first met on October 12, took up the issue as the matter of railway bridge security raised concerns in wake of the incident in Mumbai where 23 people were killed in a stampede at Elphinstone Road railway station. A few days later, a portion of a foot over bridge at Charni Road station in the city left two people injured.The panel first took up the issue on November 6 in which top officials of railway board were grilled about the security measures being taken by the department about railway bridges and their current status across the country.As a number of queries raised by members could not be answered on sport, the panel has again summoned the railway officials before it on November 20.Top Railway Board officials will brief the panel about both the issues—the safety measures undertaken by the department with regard to railway operations and also the maintenance of railway bridges.The parliamentary panel had in its earlier meeting also expressed its concern over the spate of train derailment incidents in the past few months.

Gujarat elections 2017: BJP fields Ram Vilas Paswan for its ‘Dalit outreach’ to take on Jignesh Mevani

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With Congress getting support of prominent Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani in the upcoming Gujarat elections, the BJP has decided to up its game and field Union Minister and influential national Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan for its campaign.The Union Minister of Food and Public Distribution, Consumer Affairs and the founder of Lok Janshakti Party was, however, not part of BJP’s mega campaign during the UP Assembly polls earlier this year.But this time around, not only will Paswan campaign for the BJP, he is seen as the answer for Mevani. The minister will have a packed schedule in Gujarat.Paswan will be addressing a press conference at BJP Media Centre at Sola in Ahmedabad on Saturday and will also participate in BJP’s door to door round programme as part of Gujarat Gaurav Sampark Abhiyan.He will also address a public meeting in Danilimda assembly seat, where Dalits constitute 20 per cent of total votes.Besides, the BJP has also roped in its own Dalit leaders. Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot, who is a Rajya Sabha MP from Madhya Pradesh and Minister of State for Water Resources Arjun Ram Meghwal, MP from Bikaner in Rajasthan are already camping there.Besides, Lok Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh’s Kaushambi Vinod Kumar Sonkar is also in Gujarat. He was last year appointed as National President of BJP’s SC Morcha ahead of UP Assembly elections last year.All the three leaders are prominent Dalit leaders of BJP in their respective states.The tour programme of Paswan, has come at time when Mevani, who has led Dalit agitations across the state against the incumbent BJP government, has now announced that he will ask his supporters not to vote for BJP and met Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi over a week ago.Paswan had strongly been defending the Narendra Modi government’s track record vis s vis Dalit upliftment and backed the government categorically even after the Una Dalit bashing incident, insulating BJP from it and saying that no government in independent India has done as much for Dalits as the Modi government. He also had said that it was PM Modi, who gave Dalit icon BR Ambedkar his real due.The media-savvy Paswan is addressing the press from key Gujarat city Ahmedabad, where Mevani resides and had organised a ‘Dalit Asmita Yatra’ from Ahmedabad to Una in August last year after the attack on some Dalits in Una by alleged cow vigilantes in July 2016.There are 13 seats reserved for Dalits in Gujarat and they comprise of 7 per cent of total electorates in the state.

Parliamentary Panel summons railway officials within a fortnight; grills them on safety

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indicating its seriousness towards the issue of railway bridge safety, a Parliamentary panel has called top railway officials before it. Interestingly, this is the second time the railway officials have been summoned in the past fortnight. A parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways headed by Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay has called the representatives of the Ministry of Railways to hear them on issues ranging from safety measures in railway Operations to maintenance of bridges of foot over bridges that fall under the purview of the Indian Railways.The committee, which first met on October 12, took up the issue as the matter of railway bridge security raised concerns in wake of the incident in Mumbai where 23 people were killed in a stampede at Elphinstone Road railway station. A few days later, a portion of a foot over bridge at Charni Road station in the city left two people injured.The panel first took up the issue on November 6 in which top officials of railway board were grilled about the security measures being taken by the department about railway bridges and their current status across the country.As a number of queries raised by members could not be answered on sport, the panel has again summoned the railway officials before it on November 20. Top Railway Board officials will brief the panel about both the issues—the safety measures undertaken by the department with regard to railway operations and also the maintenance of bridges in Indian railways.The Parliamentary panel had in its earlier meeting also expressed its concern over the spate of train derailment incidents in the past few months. After a series of train derailment incidents, the then Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had also made an offer to resign and was subsequently shifted out of Railway Ministry in a Cabinet reshuffle in September. According to an analysis, the death toll from train derailments was the highest in 2016-17.

Congress yet to decide on Hardik Patel seats

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress top brass, while finalising names of around 80 candidates for the Gujarat Assembly polls on Friday, kept most of Patel dominated seats out of the ambit of the decision as no final word is yet out on its arrangement with Patidar leader Hardik Patel.There were some issues with regard to candidates on four seats seats and hence, they were not finalised, sources said. The names that were deliberated were single names on the Assembly seats and which came before the CEC after deliberations and scrutiny at the level of the screening committee and below. The party had also got independent feedback about the candidates.Emerging after the meeting, Gujarat Congress chief Bharat Singh Solanki said that the first list of party candidates will be declared on November 16. A source in the party said the Congress would like the BJP to declare its candidates first as a section in the party believes that given the complex web of social arithmetic at play in Gujarat polls this time, such a strategy will help it name its candidates take on the BJP candidates.Congress is trying do a balancing act between its old Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim (KHAM) with its newly-cultivated association with Patels, who have under Hardik Patel’s leader protested against the BJP government in the state over the issue of reservation for them.Hardik Patel has asked for a categorical response from Congress on Patidar reservation issue.

Let the ‘sacrifice’ happen, declares Sharad Yadav

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid indications of an early decision on his disqualification from the membership of Rajya Sabha, senior JDU leader Sharad Yadav, who has rebelled against party chief Nitish Kumar’s decision to align with the NDA, said “no post or position holds importance when the fight is over issues”.Yadav, as well as another Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar Ansari, had on Wednesday appeared before Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venakaiah Naidu, who is hearing a petition filed by Leader of JDU in Rajya Sabha RCP Singh, seeking their disqualification from the party.Reportedly, Yadav has been told that the RS is looking at the issue only with the perspective of 10th Schedule of the Constitution regarding his disqualification for acting against the party line and it is separate from the issue which is the real JDU, a matter being contested by both Yadav and the Nitish camp before the EC.”Natural justice should be followed in the matter, though for me, post and position does not hold significance when it comes to issues. When one fights on issues, one has to make all sorts of sacrifices. If the sacrifice happens, so let be it,” Yadav told DNA.Yadav’ remarks come in the backdrop of indications that the Rajya Sabha Chairman could decide the disqualification matter soon without referring the matter to Parliament’s Ethics Committee.Matter gets worseYadav had received a communication from RS office in which his request to allow a lawyer to appear on his behalf on the matter was rejected citing absence of any such precedent in past

Parliament panel grills FinMin officials over impact of DeMO

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after the political slugfest between the NDA and Opposition parties on the first anniversary of demonetization, a Parliamentary panel on Thursday saw a similar political divide as members grilled senior officials of the Finance Ministry.The Parliament Standing Committee on Finance headed by Congress leader M Veerappa Moily, which could not adopt its draft report in August last year due to opposition by members mainly from the BJP over certain passages, has now decided to widen its ambit and go into sector-wise impact of demonetization.Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg, Banking Secretary Rajiv Kumar and CBDT Chairman Sushil Chandra, who appeared before the panel, were repeatedly asked by members belonging to the Opposition parties as whether there was no other way available to achieve the objectives stated by the government behind the demonetization decision.Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia could not appear due to his engagements in the two-day GST Council meeting that began in Guwahati on Thursday. Sources say that the panel will now call senior officials of the Telecom Ministry on November 16 to ask about the status of Internet reach of people in India to adopt digital payments. Industry bodies like FICCI and ASSOCHAM will also be called to brief the panel on the impact of digital money push on trade and commerce.In view of reports of demonetization having impacted the sale of agricultural produce and thereby hitting farmers, the panel has also decided to call representatives of various state governments before it. Representatives of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises will be called to assess the impact of demonetization on employment.”The Committee is in no hurry to submit its report. RBI has given new details. The panel will now call before it representatives of respective sectors. It will examine the impact of the decision on economic growth, production, employment and agriculture, besides the limited issue of decision to demonetise the old currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 and the subsequent digitisation drive,” a source in the panel said.This means that the committee is unlikely to submit its report before the conclusion of the Gujarat polls in which Opposition parties have sought to make demonetization a major issue.The representatives from the government claimed that demonetization has led to reduction in cash circulation in economy and increase in savings. They also argued that the money that has flowed into banks after demonetization has increased liquidity and will give a boost to investment in infrastructure as banks have lowered lending rates.Members from Opposition parties in the panel, however, argued that none of the objectives of demonetization, which included checking black money and counterfeit currency, curbing terror funding and promoting digitalisation of payments, could be achieved.They also said that that ‘Brand India’ has suffered and the country, which was on way to becoming the world’s fastest-growing major economy, has lost out hugely to China due the impact of demonetization on economic activities.Opposition members said that China’s export grew at the expense of India’s, sources said.Opposition members also referred to the slowing of the GDP growth in the first quarter of the fiscal year to a three-year low of 5.7 per cent to buttress their argument.

‘Ready for sacrifice’: Sharad Yadav says no position holds importance when fight is over issues

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid indications of an early decision on his disqualification from the membership of Rajya Sabha, senior JD(U leader Sharad Yadav, who has rebelled against party chief Nitish Kumar’s decision to align with NDA, said: “no post or position holds importance when the fight is over issues”.Yadav, as well as another Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar Ansari, had on Wednesday appeared before Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venakaiah Naidu, who is hearing a petition filed by Leader of JD(U) in Rajya Sabha RCP Singh, seeking their disqualification from the party.It is learnt that Yadav has been told that the Rajya Sabha is looking at the issue only with the perspective of 10th Schedule of the Constitution regarding his disqualification for acting against the party line and it is separate from the issue which is the real JD(U), a matter being contested by both Sharad Yadav and Nitish camp before Election Commission.“Natural justice should be followed in the matter, though for me post and position does not hold significance when it comes to issues. When one fights on issues, one has to make all sorts of sacrifices and I am ready for it. If the sacrifice happens, so let be it. I had resigned from Lok Sabha twice,” Yadav told DNA. “Yadav’s remarks come in the backdrop of indications that the Rajya Sabha Chairman could decide the disqualification matter soon without referring the matter to Parliament’s Ethics Committee this time.Earlier on Tuesday evening Yadav had received a communication from Rajya Sabha office in which his request to allow a lawyer to appear on his behalf on the matter was rejected citing absence of any such precedent in past.Yadav camp’s argument is that the general practice in such matters has also been that such disputes regarding disqualification are referred to Ethics Committee of Parliament and if past precedents are to be followed, the committee route should not be bypassed.Before this Yadav had sought eight weeks extension from the Rajya Sabha Secretariat last month to appear before it citing his engagements in assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh but he was given only eight days’ extension with a rider that no further extension will be given in the case.The eighth-day timeline ended on November 8 and there are indications that Yadav may find it difficult to save his membership in Rajya Sabha.Ansari, however, questioned the remit of Rajya Sabha Chairman in deciding the matter.”Action regarding disqualification can be taken under 10th Schedule by Rajya Sabha Chairman only in case violation of whip of Parliamentary Party in the House. In other matters, it is for the party to take disciplinary action and in our matter, even this is still disputed as to which is the real party,” he told DNA.

YSRC MP defection row now before Privilege Committee

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The defection dispute between YSR Congress and TRS in Telangana has now reached the Privilege Committee, with Speaker Sumitra Mahajan referring a notice to disqualify Lok Sabha MP P Srinivasa Reddy to the panel headed by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi.In May 2016, Reddy, an MP from Khammam Parliamentary seat had quit YSR Congress and joined Telangana Rashtra Samiti, saying he wanted to support the “good” work done by the K Chandrasekhar Rao”s party, which is the ruling party in Telangana.Reddy, who was the president of YSR Congress in Telangana, joined TRS along with the last remaining MLA of the party. By then, two other YSR Congress legislators had already switched side.The defection by Reddy was a big blow to the Jaganmohan Reddy-led YSR Congress, which earlier lost a number of its legislators to N Chandrababu Naidu’s ruling Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh.A week ago, Jagan’s party sought intervention of President Ram Nath Kovind, seeking disqualification of its 21 legislators, who defected to TDP. The matter is also being heard in the Andhra Pradesh High Court.Leader of YSRC in the Lower House Mekapati Raja Mohan Reddy had submitted a petition before Mahajan, seeking action against Srinivasa Reddy under the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution of India and rule 6 of the Members of Lok Sabha (Disqualification on Ground of Defection) Rules, 1985.As per the law, the Speaker can disqualify a member belonging to any political party if he or she votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by such political party or by any person or authority authorised by it in this behalf.The Speaker on November 3 referred the matter to the Privilege Committee of the Lower House under rule 7(4) of the Members of Lok Sabha Rules, 1985 for making a preliminary enquiry and submitting a report to her.The YSR Congress party had ceased to exist in Telangana after all its three MLAs and the lone MP joined the TRS last year.

Sharad Yadav, Nitish KumarJD(U) factions to come face-to-face in Gujarat Assembly polls

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a move that could help BJP in some seats in Gujarat, Nitish Kumar led JD(U) on Saturday announced its intention to contest its traditional four to five seats in the state, two days after the breakaway faction of the party led by Sharad Yadav announced to contest Gujarat polls in alliance with Congress to check division of Opposition votes.Announcing the decision, JD(U) general KC Tyagi on Saturday urged the Election Commission to reject Yadav faction’s claim over the party symbol without delay. The move is apparently aimed at preventing the Sharad Yadav faction from contesting assembly polls in Gujarat on JD(U)’s Arrow symbol.The lone JD(U) MLA in the state Chhotubhai Vasava is now with Sharad Yadav camp and voted for Congress leader Ahmed Patel in the recently concluded high-pitched Rajya Sabha polls there. His vote in fact tilted the balance in favour of Patel after two votes of Congress MLAs in support of BJP got rejected.There are some pockets in Gujarat, where the socialist party has had base but it has shrunk considerably by now. In 1990, Janata Dal (Gujarat) had won 90 assembly seats and its leader Chimanbhai Patel became Chief Minister with the help of Congress. In 1998 Assembly polls, JD(G) won four seats, then two seats in 2002 (as JD-U) and from them only one from the Scheduled Tribe reserve seat Jhagadai, which has been held by Vasava since 1990 (six times).In 1991 Lok Sabha polls, JD(G) won one Parliamentary seat. In 1984 general elections post Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Janata Party had won 16.59 percent votes, which rose to 27.80 in 1989 when VP Singh became Prime Minister. In 1991, JD(G) got 13.07 percent votes. Since then Gujarat vote sharing has been a bipolar affair between Congress and BJP. JD(U) has some areas of influence in Bharuch and Surat. Pitching for minimum division of votes in the Opposition, Yadav had on Thursday said that JD(U)’s Gujarat unit led by Vasava and Congress Gujarat unit will discuss the alliance. Vasava was recently the acting president of Yadav faction of JD(U).

Sharad Yadav seeks eight weeks, gets 8 days to present in Rajya Sabha

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Doing some plain talk, Rajya Sabha Secretariat has given eight days extension to rebel JDU leader Sharad Yadav to explain his stand over JDU’s disqualification notice against him, stating “no further extension will be given in the case.”Yadav, who has gone against party President and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s decision to junk the JDU-RJD-Congress grand alliance in Bihar and join hands with the BJP in July this year, is facing the threat of disqualification as Rajya Sabha member.Yadav was served a notice on October 18 by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat to appear and explain his position before Upper House Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu by October 30.Last month, leader of JDU in Rajya Sabha RCP Singh wrote to Naidu seeking Yadav’s disqualification.Yadav wrote to the Secretariat on October 23 seeking eight weeks time to appear before it citing his travel in next few weeks in relation to upcoming assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat.He requested the Rajya Sabha Chairman to “kindly postpone” his appearance in person before him in this context for the aforementioned period.In reply, the Rajya Sabha Secretariat on October 24 stated that the Chairman considered his request and directed that Yadav should appear before him before November 8 to represent his case. “It may be noted that no further extension will be given in this case,” the missive from Rajya Sabha Secretariat said.Yadav was renominated for Rajya Sabha in May last year and around four and half years of his term remains.In August, he was removed from the post of Leader of House in the Upper House over the charge of “indulging in anti party activities” and the party later followed it up with seeking his disqualification from the Rajya Sabha on the ground of defection.Yadav, who claims his faction of the party to be the “real JDU” has organised a number of programmes against the BJP and also attended an anti-BJP rally organised by RJD chief Lalu Prasad in Patna on August 27.JDU general secretary KC Tyagi, however, argues that with “more than 90 per cent party leaders are with Nitish Kumar,” Yadav’s claim has “no basis” and is confident that his disqualification will be just a matter of time.

Bofors: CBI wanted to file appeal, but DoP disagreed

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With the Supreme Court set to hear a plea seeking restoration of charges against the Hinduja brother in the Bofors kickback case next week, spotlight is back on the three-decade old controversy, especially after Fairfax Group chairman Michael J Hershman’s interview to the DNA, in which he claimed that the then Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government had sabotaged his investigation.While Hershman’s fresh allegation on Bofors matter has kicked up a political row, documents available with DNA show how different officers in the CBI then took different stands on the issue and while a number of officers were in favour of filing an SLP against the Delhi High Court judgment to drop charges against the Hinduja brothers, others chose to ignore these views.Among those who disagreed was the then Director of Prosecution (DoP) SK Sharma, a Congress-led UPA government appointee.The plea for restoration of charges against Hinduja brothers filed by lawyer Ajay Agrawal, a BJP leader who unsuccessfully contested against Congress President Sonia Gandhi from Raebareli in last Lok Sabha polls, is set to be heard next week.Documents, including a note recorded in the file by Joint Director, Economic Offiences Wing), CBI, in August 2005, show that therecommendation of all the officers connected to the case investigation, including the investigating officer, was that an SLP should be filed in the Supreme Court of India to get set aside the HC judgment and for”restoration of the case from the point immediately after framing of charges in the trial court.”As per the note, a CBI officer also said that, in his view, the relevant issues, which should have been considered were whether Justice RS Sodhi, who deliver the HC judgment, had jurisdiction to recall the earlier order of Justice JD Kapoor of the Delhi High Court, who had on February 4, 2004 and also whether the High Court was justified in examining the case in depth, with reference to authenticity of documents at the stage of framing of charges.The officer also called for seeking the opinion of the Ministry of Law and Justice/Attorney General of India.The then DOP SK Sharma, who, incidentally, was given several extensions post-retirement by the UPA Government, opined on September 2, 2005 – almost a fortnight before the limitation for filing the SLP was to expire, saying,”Viewed from every angle, I am of the view that the judgment of the High Court lays down the correct proposition of law and accordingly, I am not inclined to recommend the SLP against the order.”Sharma, also, however, said that keeping in view the importance and sensitivity of the case, he would like to suggest that reference may be made to Ministry of Law and Justice through Department of Personnel and Training to determine the issue authoritatively in consultation with the then Additional Solicitor General B Dutta, who had appeared for CBI in the Delhi High Court.Later KP Pathak, another Additional Solicitor General, in his opinion dated October 7, 2005, said that even with regard to Ottavio Quattrochi, the Italian businessman who faced criminal charges for acting as a conduit for bribes in Bofors scandal, there was no authentic evidence to connect him with the alleged offence and that the case against him would not stand scrutiny in a court of law.Talking to DNA, advocate Agrawal alleged that it was due to the influence of the UPA government that the SLP was not filed against the judgment of the High Court.

LK Advani backed Pranab Mukherjee as Prez nominee

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Nearly a month before BJP named PA Sangma its Presidential nominee to contest against UPA’s Pranab Mukherjee, in June, 2012, LK Advani had favoured Mukherjee as the “unanimous choice” for the post, according to the book penned by Mukherjee.In the book, The Coalition Years 1996-2015, which was released on Friday, Mukherjee says that on May 27, 2012, renowned journalist and MoS for External Affairs MJ Akbar had apprised him of his informal discussions earlier that day with Advani and former Union minister Jaswant Singh regarding his candidature.Mukherjee claims that Akbar insisted that both Advani and Singh were supportive of his candidature. “They had told him (Akbar) that if the Congress officially nominated me, they would extend their support, thus making me the unanimous choice,” Mukherjee says in the book.Interestingly, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, a close confidante of Advani, had in the last week of April, 2012, announced that the BJP will not back Mukherjee’s candidature as he was an active Congress leader.Also, the then NDA ally JDU had formally announced support for Mukherjee’s candidature in the last week of June that year, but Nitish Kumar had distanced himself from Swaraj’s views much earlier.In the period between April and May, despite Swaraj’s categorical remarks, there was intense speculation that Mukherjee could emerge as a consensus candidate.Mukherjee further says in the book that the conversation between Akbar and BJP leaders was not made public, and he thought it was imprudent to do so as the Congress was yet to take a decision in this regard. It was only on May 29 that Congress President’s political secretary, Ahmed Patel, informed him that Sonia Gandhi had “perhaps finalised” his name as UPA’s Presidential nominee.The confusion over the issue remained till June 14, when he was told about the party’s decision to nominate him.In the book, Mukherjee also presents an interesting account of how he went to meet the then Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, despite being told by the party to not do so, after the Sena leader announced support for his candidature and invited him for an interaction at his residence.Thackeray later told Mukherjee that he found him “distinctly different from other Congress politicians”. “Sonia Gandhi was not enthusiastic about my meeting with Thackeray and had advised me to avoid it, if possible,” he says, adding that Sharad Pawar’s advice was completely different and he insisted that Mukherjee must meet Thackeray.He further says that when he returned to Delhi afterwards, Congress leader Girija Vyas informed him that Sonia Gandhi and Ahmed Patel were “upset” about his meeting with Thackeray.Mukherjee, who held key portfolios in UPA I and UPA II governments, also briefly mentions the “differences” between him and P. Chidambaram, which had escalated in 2011, when they were Finance Minister and Home Minister, respectively.Noting that Chidambaram entered politics much later than him, Mukherjee recalls that the latter’s second Union Budget, presented in 1997-1998, was not the “dream budget” as it was dubbed, though it “did not exactly morph into a nightmare”. According to Mukherjee, Chidambaram is intellectually sharp and well-informed, though he sometimes “appears to be arrogant” because of his very strong convictions and “style of presentation”.On the front of economy, he says his differences with Chidambaram might have been due to the “differing perspectives on the economy”. In the book, Mukherjee also praises former Prime Minister P V Narsimha Rao, saying he provided “stellar leadership” to India at a critical juncture.

Pranab Mukherjee defends amending I-T Act retrospectively

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former President Pranab Mukherjee, whose decision as the Finance Minister to amend the Income-Tax (I-T) Act retrospectively in 2012, in the backdrop of the Vodafone case, had led to an uproar, has strongly defended the move, saying it was borne out his conviction that India’s Direct Tax Policy should not discriminate between domestic and foreign entities.In his book ‘The Coalition Years 1996-2015’, which was released on Friday, Mukherjee says he remained resolute on the decision, despite being advised to take the middle path. Retrospective tax has been one of the most contentious issues in corporate world in the last five years. It is related to a tax dispute between Vodaphone and tax department.A huge controversy had broken out on the issue as soon as Mukherjee had announced in his Budget Speech of 2012-13 that he proposed to amend the I-T Act, 1961, with retrospective effect, to undo the Supreme Court (SC) judgment in the Vodafone tax case.This was after the SC, in January, 2012, set aside a Bombay High Court judgment directing the Vodafone International Holding to pay Rs 11,000 crore as income tax on a deal made abroad. The SC order created an unusual situation, wherein the tax department was required to return several thousands of crores to several companies.Making a strong defence of his decision, Mukherjee notes in his book that “despite the angst that my proposal generated at the time, and even now, both from within my party and outside, I wonder why every succeeding Finance Minister in the last five years has maintained the same stance”.Mukherjee further recalls that while the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was convinced that the proposed amendment in the I-T Act would impact the FDI inflow in the country, Sonia Gandhi, Kapil Sibal, and P Chidambaram also expressed the apprehension later that the retrospective amendments would create a negative sentiment for FDI.Without naming anyone, Mukherjee says two more of his Cabinet colleagues advised him to take the middle path and to reconsider the decision, but he remained resolute.”Days ahead of introducing the Finance Bill in the Parliament in 2012, several colleagues, including one along with a high-ranking Vodaphone official, approached me, seeking a reconsideration of the move to retrospectively amend laws,” he recalls.He further says that he was convinced that the certainty of payment of taxes needed to be embedded in India’s tax policy and just because some foreign investors chose to structure their investments through tax havens, they should not be allowed to get away without paying taxes.Mukherjee also argues that the budgetary proposal to amend the IT Act with retrospective effect from 1962 was an enabling provision to protect the fiscal interests of the country and avert a crisis. “This retrospective arrangement was not merely to check the erosion of revenues in present cases but also to prevent the outgo of revenue in old cases. As Finance Minister, I was convinced of my duty to protect the interests of the country from the revenue point of view,” he says in the book.He further mentions how he tried to explain to the then PM Singh that India was not a “no tax” or “low tax” country and that it could not be a case of someone paying no tax at all. He also writes that he explained to Congress leaders that FDI comes when there is profitability and not on account of zero tax.

Huge transactions by shell firms found, probe ordered

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In what could be just the tip of the iceberg, the Centre has stumbled upon a large number of suspicious banking transactions worth thousands of crores of rupees parked by shell companies. These suspect firms soon withdrew the amounts, either just before they were de-registered early this year or soon after demonetisation on November 8 last year.According to documents accessed by DNA, at least nine such companies have more than 100 bank accounts. The one topping the list so far — Gold Sukh Trade India Ltd — had 2,134 bank accounts. Some companies had even more than 900 bank accounts.In one of the banks, 429 companies, with zero balance each on November 8, 2016, have deposited and withdrawn over Rs 11 crore and left again a cumulative balance of just Rs 42,000 on the date of freezing, an official statement said.How meticulous had been the operation of these companies against which the Modi government has declared a war can be gauged from their modus operandi.These companies had multiple accounts with minuscule or negative balance till November 8 last year, which then deposited and withdrew amounts going into crores from these accounts. They were thereafter again left dormant.TECHNEXT Vyapar Ltd, which had negative balance on November 8, 2016, deposited over Rs 99 crore and withdrew almost the entire amount, leaving a paltry Rs 55 when the account was frozen.Taking note of the “iceberg of corruption, black money and black deeds” of these and many more such companies, the government has asked investigation agencies to complete investigations in a time-bound manner. “The country and honest citizen may well look forward to a cleaner tomorrow,” the statement said.Document with DNA show that among the companies that had more than 100 accounts and deposited and withdrew amounts during demonetisation till they were frozen are Ashwin Vanaspati Ind Pvt Ltd, (915 bank accounts), Anujay Exim Pvt Ltd (313), Radha Krishna Payal Bhandar Pvt Ltd (298), Shanti Infrastructure and Colonisers Pvt Ltd (234), Aptive II Solutions Pvt Ltd (180), Marvel Consulting Engineers Pvt Ltd (172), AR Industrial Traders (161) and Swarnalabh Trade Link Ltd (147 bank accounts).The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has noted that Bank of Baroda has given a list of 1,701 such companies and their 8,633 accounts, which have thrown up “details, which may be of interest to Department of Financial Services and RBI to see how this happened in case of defaulting companies and struck off companies”.It further said, “this also highlights the need for Ministry of Corporate Affairs/Registrar of Companies to conduct inquiries into the affairs of these companies and associated companies. So is the need for Income Tax and other regulatory agencies.”IDBI bank, which has a major chunk of amounts involved as per information so far, has furnished a list of 3,330 companies with 3,634 accounts. They had a balance of Rs 13.29 crore on November 8 last year. They deposited Rs 3,792.40 crore and withdrew Rs 3,794.04 crore before the strike-off. They deposited Rs 21.30 crore and withdrew Rs 249.45 crore even after strike-off, leaving a negative balance of Rs 215 50 crore.159 companies with zero balance accounts in IDBI, which had a balance of Rs 2 crore left before strike-off, deposited Rs 1.95 crore and withdrew Rs 227.50 crore after strike-off, leaving a negative balance of Rs 223.54 crore.Canara Bank has given a list of 717 companies and 784 accounts in current accounts and 15 companies and 153 accounts in term deposits, which deposited and withdrew money during demonetisation. Further in Canara Bank, 429 companies with zero balance on November 8 last year, deposited and withdrew Rs 11 crore and left again with cumulative balance of just Rs 4,200.The Ministry of Corporate Affairs had requested the Indian Banks Association (IBA) to get information from banks on account operations of 2,09,032 such struck-off companies and restrictions on their bank accounts as per the relevant section of the Companies Act, 2013. After their names were struck off, the operation of bank accounts of these shell companies were restricted to discharge of their liabilities only.Thirteen banks, directly shared information, throwing up transactions in about 5,800 companies, who were operating 13,140 accounts.Four banks have stated that there are no such accounts. The figures available are just 2.5 per cent of the total shell companies forced to shut shop. As more figures come, the amount of black money that could be unearthed will only grow bigger and bigger.A perusal of the figures furnished by nine banks, shows that after separating the loan accounts, the companies had meagre balances amounting to Rs 22.05 crore on November 8 but they deposited Rs 4,573.87 crore and then withdrew Rs 4,552 crore of this money from the date of demonetisation till they were struck off. With loan accounts, there was a negative balance of Rs 80.79 crore.Sources in the government say that while a large number of these shell companies were used to park and then withdraw black money through banking channels in the two-month window after demonetisation, a number of companies in collusion with officials also managed to do the same through their accounts after the registration of their companies was struck off earlier this year.SHELL-SHOCKEDAt least nine shell companies have more than 100 bank accounts
Gold Sukh Trade India Ltd had 2,134 bank accounts

DNA SPECIAL: Law soon to make consumer the king

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Making consumer the king, Union Cabinet will soon give its nod to a bill that seeks to bring sweeping changes in the existing consumber protection law and prescribe graded punishment for manufacturers, sellers and service providers of a product which is faulty or end up causing harm to consumers.After the vetting from Law Ministry, the Consumer Affairs Ministry headed by Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has sent the Consumer Protection Bill, 2017 to Cabinet Secretriate, two years after it was introduced in Lok Sabha in August 2015.A copy of the 70-pages bill accessed by the DNA shows that any manufacturer or service provider can be punished with imprisonment for up to two years with fine up to 10 lakh rupees and for five years imprisonment and fine up to 50 lakh for any subsequent offence for making an false or misleading advertisement which is prejudcial to the interest of the consumers.Punishment for manufacturing for sale or stroring, selling and distributing or importing products containing adulterant and spurious goods, if results in death of consumerss, can lead to punishment “up to life imprisonment and not less than seven years” and with fine not less than 10 lakh rupees.In case of grievous injury to consumers, the punishment is imprisoment up to seven years and fine up to five lakh rupees, in case of non-grievous injury, it is imprisoment up to one year and fine up to three lakh rupees.Even in case of no injury, the offence regarding containing prodcuts “adulterant” will lead to imprisonment up to six months and fine up to one lakh rupees. In the first conviction, the offence could lead to supension of license for up to two years and in case of second or subsequent conviction, license of such people can be cancelled. These have been cognizable and non-bailable offences.The bill makes product manfacturer will face liability “even if he proves that he was not negligent or fraudulent in making the express warranty of a product” and the consumer will be entitled to compensation for any harm caused by a defective product.The conditions are if the product contains a manufacturing defect, is defective in design, there is a deviation from manufacturing specifications, the product does not conform to the express warranty and it fails to contain adequate instructions or correct usage to prevant any harm or any warning regarding imporper and correct usage.The service provider faces liability among other things for “conscious withholding of any information, which caused harm” and if it did not conform to express warranty or the terms and the conditions of contract. A prodcut seller is liable if he has altered or modified the product and this was the substantial factor in causing harm or made an express warranty of a product different from the one made by the manufacturer and the product failed to conform to that.The Bill will lead top creation of a powerful Central Consumer Protection Authority to investigate into matters relating to violations of rights of consumers, unfair trade practices and false or misleading advertisements. It will look into consumer complaints, issue safety notices for goods and services, and pass orders for recall of goods and against misleading advertisements.As per the bill, the Authority can, besides acting on complaint of consumbers or any directive of the central government, can take up investigations even su motu or “of its own motion” to determine whether there exists a prima facie case of violation of consumer rights, any unfair trade practice, any false or misleading advertisement. Similarly the bill entail setting up of Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions at the district, state and national levels for adjudicating consumer complaints.Once it comes in force, the Consumer Protection Act 1986 prevaing so far, will undergo a massive change, revolutionising consumer rights in India. The bill’s provision will be application throughout India barring Jammu and Kashmir.After going through Standing Committee and GoM routes, the70-pages bill is finally ready to be taken up by Parliament once the Cabinet gives its nod. Food and Consumer Affairs Paswan says the government is keen to bring the bill in Winter Session.Whoever fails to comply with the direction of the Authority will face imprisonment not less than six months or a fine which may extend to 20 lakh rupees or both.The Authority, which has been vested with the power of reviewing the existing law in this regard and recommend appropriate remedial measures at later stages, shall also recommend adoption of “international covenants and best international practices on consumer rights” to ensure their effective enforcement.Besides, the authority, which will consist of a Chief Commissioner and not less than five Commissioners appointed by the central government and is headquartered in the NCR region, also have the power to pass orders for recall goods if it is satisfied about violation of consumer rights and unfair trade practice by a person.Under the new law, the consumer will be entitled compensation if any harm is caused to him by a defective product manufactured by a product manufacturer or serviced by a product service provider or sold by a product seller. While the product seller will beOne of key recommendation of the Standing Committee on the bill was however, done away with later as the GoM headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley decided that celebrities endorsing products with unrealistic and dodgy claims will not have to go to jail but instead face a fine of up to Rs 50 lakh and a ban on appearing for advertisements for up to three years.NGOs and various rights groups had opposed the change but the government arrived at a decision arguing that the provision for jailing celebrities for endorsing dodgy products exist nowhere in the world.KEY PROVISIONS OF NEW BILLImprisoment up to life term and not less than seven years and with not less than Rs 10 lakh for manufacturing for sale, storing, selling, distributing, importing products containing adulterant or spurious goods.
Any manufacturer or service provider can be punished with imprisonment five years imprisonment and fine up to 50 lakh for any subsequent offence for making an false or misleading advertisement which is prejudcial to the interest of the consumers.
Manufacturer will face liability even if he proves that he was not negligent or fraudulent in making the express warranty of a product and the consumer will be entitled to compensation for any harm caused by a defective product.

New guidelines for social audit to boost Food Security Scheme

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In order to check foodgrain pilferage from PDS shops and ensure delivery of the benefits food security, the Government on Monday came out with detailed guidelines for social audit of the central scheme. A ministry official told DNA that in order to ensure transparency in the implementation of the PDS, the central and the state Act, the state government shall make available all records to the general public.The department for consumer affairs, food and public distribution held three meetings through video conferencing with officials of all states. On July 27, August 17 and August 31st this year pertaining to various aspects of grievance redressal mechanism and transparency related to the implementation of the various provisions of the National Food Security Act.During the meetings, most of the states felt that the since under NFSA, the main issue is timely distribution of foodgrains to eligible households as per the norms of the Act with regard to monthly entitlements and applicable prices, there was no need to go for as detailed and cost intensive social audit as is being done in case of the flagship rural job scheme MGNREGA. They were of the view that a simpler social audit process can be evolved for NFSA.Accordingly, the Department of Food and Public Distribution has come out with a new set of guidelines, which draw heavily from the rules on social audit of the government of Chhattisgarh that ensure participation of local bodies in audit of all the documents of the fair price shops, twice in a year.A ministry official said that the new guidelines also prescribe that in addition of the audit of fair price shops, the process of social audit should also include eliciting views, grievances and suggestions from the public on key parameters related to their functioning.The new guidelines have a provision for making making public reports of the social audit and action taken there one. It also mandates placing the same on the PDS portal.As per the guidelines all records related to allotment, storage and distribution of ration commodities under Public Distribution System, at Fair Price Shops will be placed at Gram Sabhas, which will be held on August 15 and January 26 every year. After audit of documents at Gram Sabha, the report along with the recommendation shall be submitted to block level vigilance committee.After examination by block level vigilance committee, the recommendation will be forwarded to district level vigilance committee for further action.Equal distributionDepartment for consumer affairs, food and public distribution met officials of all states. Department of Food and Public Distribution has sets rules to ensure participation of local bodies twice a year.

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