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BJP MPs to Chidu: Stop discussions on Aadhaar in panel

In a controversial move, on Wednesday, several BJP members in the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs asked its chairman P Chidambaram to stop discussions on the subject of privacy and national security of Aadhaar.A united opposition strongly objected to the BJP’s move in the committee meeting on Wednesday, highly-placed sources said.”The Committee was strongly divided on the issue with BJP members on one side and all the opposition parties’ members on the other side. The opposition was unequivocal in its stand that the subject matter on Aadhaar cannot be set aside or withdrawn. The meeting ended without any headway,” the source said.A BJP member was of the opinion that the subject can also be taken up by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, but the opposition members refused the proposition.Before taking up the issue in the meeting, about five to six BJP MPs — all members of the standing committee — had written a letter to Chidambaram, asking him to recuse himself from the matter, since he represented Jairam Ramesh as a counsel, who has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court on Aadhaar, sources added.A committee member said, the committee already has had four meetings on the same subject matter of privacy and security of Aadhaar, but did not face any issues by the BJP.

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Modi’s Pak comment: How Vijay Goel’s meeting with Manmohan Singh broke ice between govt and opposition

It was a meeting between Union minister Vijay Goel and Manmohan Singh last week that initiated the process to break the government-opposition deadlock in the Rajya Sabha, a top government official said today.The proceedings of both the Houses of Parliament were disrupted for nearly two weeks over remarks by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Gujarat Assembly election campaign.He had criticised his predecessor Singh for attending a secret” dinner with senior Pakistan officials at former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar’s residence. According to the official, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Goel reached out to the former prime minister and showed him the copy of Modi’s speech and convinced him that no derogatory references were made to him.Also readParliament: PM Modi didn’t question Manmohan Singh’s commitment to India, says Jaitely; Congress replies with thanks”Singh then agreed to end the deadlock with a statement from the government,” the official claimed. Goel’s meeting with Singh was followed by a meeting of Leader of the Upper house Arun Jaitley and Goel with Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and Congress leader Anand Sharma at Azad’s residence. The process culminated in a statement today by Jaitley, who said the prime minister has never questioned Singh’s integrity and commitment to the nation.However, ahead of Jaitley’s statement, there was a small disagreement between the two sides over its formulation that was resolved with the intervention of Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu. Naidu suggested to the government to drop the contentious word and the government relented, they said.Reacting to Jaitley’s statement, Azad said the Congress does not approve of any remarks made against the prime minister, apparently in a reference to the “neech” remark made by Aiyar.

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Cong slams govt for gas price hike, water woes

The Opposition Congress has come down heavily on the state government for increasing gas prices for industries and stopping water supply to farms in north Gujarat.State-owned Gujarat Gas hiked gas prices for industrial consumers by about 10% from December 23. For the ceramic units in Morbi, the price was revised from Rs24.87 per standard cubic metre (scm) to Rs27.37 per scm. For industries in other regions, price was hiked from Rs 26.59 per scm to Rs29.17 per scm.The ceramic industry of Morbi, which was getting gas at a cheaper rate than other industries, and continues to be charged less, has opposed the hike saying it would put additional burden of Rs80 lakh on them.State Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said that the price hike would hurt thousands of ceramic units.He also said that more than 10,000 jeera farmers of Banaskantha were staring at huge losses due to sudden stoppage of Narmada water supply under the pretext of canal repairing. Doshi questioned if the steps were taken in view of reverses suffered by BJP in Morbi as well as Banaskantha.HIKE HURDLESState-owned Gujarat Gas hiked gas prices for industrial consumers by about 10% from December 23. For the ceramic units in Morbi, the price was revised from Rs24.87 per standard cubic metre (scm) to Rs27.37 per scm.

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Congress to demand debate in Parliament today

As the CBI special court verdict on 2G cases came as a big relief for the Congress and its newly-elected president Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hit out at the NDA government for its “massive propaganda” against the UPA, insisting this was “without any foundation”.Like the Bofors scandal that haunted the grand old party for decades, the alleged 2G scam had given a handle to adversaries and in fact, created a public perception against then UPA government in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, resulting in the worst-ever electoral debacle of the party.Soon after the “unexpected” verdict, the Congress leaders huddled together and decided to up the ante against the government and move a motion seeking a debate on the issue in Parliament on Friday. It also decided to demand an apology from PM Modi, FM Jaitley and former comptroller and auditor general (CAG) Vinod Rai.Congress president Rahul Gandhi dialed Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK patriarch K Karunanidhi, telling her that truth has triumphed. Later, many Congress leaders including Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad visited her residence to express solidarity.Manmohan Singh, whose image of impeccable integrity was hit badly after the 2G scam said after the court order, “I do not want to boast (about) anything. The court’s judgment has to be respected. I am glad that the court has pronounced unambiguously. All the massive propaganda which was being done against the UPA was without any foundation. The judgment speaks for itself.”Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal demanded an apology from former comptroller and auditor general (CAG) Vinod Rai and asserted that what he has been saying from day one about zero loss was vindicated. He insisted that there was no case from the beginning and a “scam of lies”.Many other former Union ministers and senior Congress leaders such as P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma, Kamal Nath, and Azad were also quick to target the BJP for what they called “propaganda against the UPA.””Will all such conspirators, whose ‘sardars’ (leaders) including prime minister Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley and their “pichhlagu and pitthu” (stooge) Vinod Rai, should their accountability not be fixed,” asked Congress communication department chief Randeep Surjewala.

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Shed ‘raaj-hatth’, clarify remarks against Manmohan: Congress to PM Modi

The Congress today asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to shed his “raaj-hatth” (stubborness) and clarify in Parliament his ‘conspiracy with Pakistan’ remarks against his predecessor Manmohan Singh to end the stalemate and enable a discussion on issues such as the Rafale deal.With no end in sight to the current impasse on the issue, the proceedings in Parliament continued to be disrupted.Congress leader Anand Sharma held the “obduracy” of the prime minister and the attitude of the government as being responsible for the impasse in Parliament, that continued with a washout of the proceedings in the Rajya Sabha for a fourth day today.He also accused the government of wanting to continue the standoff so that issues of critical concern to the people are not taken up.Sharma alleged that the government does not want the opposition to raise issues of acts of “commission and omission” and the wrong decisions of the prime minister.He said that the government does not want that it is exposed on the floor of the House on issues such as the Rafale scam which the opposition wants to discuss.”It is the responsibility of the PM to clear doubts regarding his accusations. It is his duty to restore the dignity of the office and in the interest of parliamentary democracy that this deadlock comes to an end,” Sharma told reporters.”We urge the prime minister to shed his ‘raaj-hatth’ (stubbordness) and clarify his remarks against Singh and Ansari, which he made to win Gujarat polls,” Sharma said.The stalemate, he said, continues primarily because of the attitude of the government and obduracy of the prime pinister, who refuses to register the seriousness of the situation resulting from his “baseless and unwarranted aspersions” for electoral gains.He said, as one who is occupying the constitutional office, it is the duty of the prime minister to restore the dignity of the office of the institution.Whatever is said in politics, never before a prime minister has pointed any finger of suspicion on the commitment to the country of former prime ministers or former vice presidents or even the former Army chief.”It is in national interest, in interest of parliamentary democracy that this deadlock is brought to an end.”It is unfortunate that prime minister has still not apologised for his ill-thought accusations against the former PM Manmohan Singh who was PM for 10 years and dedicated his life for this country,” he said.Sharma, however, said it is being conveyed by government that the prime minister is not willing to take back his words.He “disappointed” the opposition today when it was his day for the Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress leader said.Sharma said the opposition also wants to raise other issues concerning the economy and job losses.The Indian economy has suffered losses due to some “wreckless” decisions of the prime minister, he alleged.

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Blood young faces, boost BJP roots: PM Modi is ‘atal’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned emotional at the BJP’s continued electoral successes, fondly referred to his association with former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and called for strengthening the party at its roots. The PM pitched for young faces ahead of the 2019 general elections.Addressing the BJP parliamentary party here on Wednesday, he also urged leaders not to be affected by the Opposition’s “disinformation” campaign against the party, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said.Rahul Gandhi said on Tuesday that Gujarat’s election outcome was “a moral victory” for the Congress and “a massive jolt” for the BJP, and has “raised questions on Modi’s credibility”. The BJP won a sixth straight term in Gujarat on Monday, but got 16 seats less, compared to the 2012 Assembly electionsModi asserted that it was a big win for his party in his home state. No party in power at the Centre has done this well in elections across the country in over three years of tenure as the BJP has , he said, referring to the BJP’s winning streak in Assembly elections.”This is no mean achievement. We have won for the sixth time in a row and are spread in 19 states, a feat that even Congress could not achieve during Indira Gandhi’s peak when her party ruled in 18 states,” PM Modi reportedly told BJP parliamentarians.He exhorted them to start preparing for the 2019 polls by strengthening party’s base.Modi also referred to his association with party president Amit Shah, who was present at the meeting, and spoke about how he groomed Shah, 14 years younger to the Prime Minister, they said.In his address, Shah attacked the Congress over its claim of a moral victory in the Gujarat polls, saying it was a “laughable exercise” for the opposition party to see victory in defeat.BJP MPs who attended the meeting said, the PM traced the party’s journey from 2 seats in 1984 to the present and became emotional when he fondly recalled Vajpayee and said that had he been healthy, he would have been happy to see the party rise to such glorious heights.Modi remembered how Vajpayee congratulated him in person when the party did well in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat when he had joined the BJP from the the RSS and was not widely known in the party.The PM got emotional for a second time when he spoke about the faith the people of Gujarat have put in the party and him and increased its vote share to 50%.Giving his own example of travelling to eight states immediately after wrapping Gujarat campaign on December 12 and at the same time delivering responsibility as the PM, Modi asked the MPs to shirk off laid back attitude and work for the country and the party.”Hum yahan satta bhogney ke liye nahi aaye hain, balki desh ko aagey le jaane ke liye chuney gaye hain. Mein abhi 8 rajyon ka daura kareke aaya hun, agar aap mujhse aur kaam chahte hain to mujhe bataiye mein tayyar hun. (We have not come here to indulge in fruits of power but have come to serve the country and take it forward. I have just come back after visiting 8 states, if you want me to do work more, I’m ready to do it), the PM reportedly told BJP MPs.

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Amidst Rahul’s rising stock, TMC says Mamata has finest credentials to take on BJP in 2019

Young leaders from across the country were reaching out to Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee for her guidance to take on the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, party leader Derek O’Brien said today.A day after Banerjee reportedly had telephonic conversations with Patidar quota agitation spearhead in Gujarat Hardik Patel and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, O’Brien said the young leaders were certain to gain from the TMC chief, who had the “finest credentials” to take on the BJP in 2019.”I am not surprised that young leaders from across the country are reaching out to her (Banerjee) for her guidance and to learn from her experiences. She has the finest credentials to take on the BJP in 2019,” he told DNA.According to O’Brien, the TMC chief was sure that the saffron party could be defeated in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls if all the anti-BJP forces came together.”Her experience, track record, role in people’s movements over the last four decades, the experience as a cabinet minister and the resounding mandate of last year (in the West Bengal Assembly polls) makes her the most credible face to take on the BJP,” The Rajya Sabha member said.”If we were to look at the future of the Opposition, Mamata Banerjee has the best credentials. She has the experience, credentials and integrity. Bengal will have an important role to play now and in 2019,” O’Brien added.Apart from Patel and Mevani, OBC leader Alpesh Thakore also played a crucial role in the Gujarat election in putting up a tough fight against the BJP, which had ruled the state for 22 years.Whereas Thakore won on a Congress ticket and Mevani won as an Independent candidate backed by the party, the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), led by Patel, extensively campaigned against the BJP in Gujarat.With PTI Inputs

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Gujarat Elections 2017 | I will join a party that approaches me first: Bhupendrasinh Khant

Defeating BJP’s Vikramsinh Dindor and Alpeshbhai Damor of Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) supported by the Congress, independent candidate from Morva Hadaf located in Panchmahal district won with 4,366 votes, thereby giving a shock to many.All eyes were on this seat as BJP had replaced its sitting MLA whereas Congress gave up the seat for an ally. While Bhupendrasinh Khant wanted to contest on Congress seat, he contested as an independent candidate when Congress gave up its seat to Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP).Speaking with DNA a day after the victory, Khant said that he is willing to join a party. He says, “As of now, I am happy being in the Opposition. No party has yet approached me. The party which approaches me first, I will join them.”Determined to wrest the seat, which his mother won in 2012, Khant garnered 58,513 votes as against BJP’s Dindor who got 54,147 votes. The seat was won by Khant’s mother Savita in 2012 with a margin of 11,289 votes. She had defeated BJP’s Bijalbhai Damor. While Savita 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 by-election, Congress fielded Savita’s son Bhupendrasinh in the hope of winning back the seat on sympathy but lost. Interestingly, this year BJP changed its sitting MLA Nimisha Suthar to field Vikramsinh Dindor.Speaking about priorities, Khant said, “I will mainly focus on roads, drinking water and education. These are some of the core issues that people here have been facing for many years. I am happy that I won despite contesting as an independent candidate and shows people’s trust in me.”

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Centre defends Special Court move to try politicians

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley supported the Supreme Court’s recent direction to the Centre to set up special courts to deal with criminal cases involving legislators and politicians, as Opposition MPs raised concerns on “singling out” elected representatives.Jaitley said “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion” and urged political parties to rise and set an example. As elected representatives, can lawmakers say that their trial should be delayed? he asked.”You are class apart… you are lawmakers. You should set the example,” he said, responding to Opposition parties led by the Congress and the Samajwadi Party on the issue.CM Ramesh from TDP also came out in support of fast-track courts. SP leader Naresh Agrawal was the first to express his concerns, stating that Article 14 of the Constitution provides for equality before the law, and that elected representatives are at par with other citizens.”While there are no special courts for criminals, setting up one for elected representatives would create misleading perception about politicians,” he said.He also questioned the government’s affidavit supporting setting up of fast-track courts.Congress leader Anand Sharma also joined in but clarified that there is no question of delaying prosecution of anyone. It would tantamount to profiling and excessive vilification of lawmakers if a perception is created that fast-track courts are needed for elected representatives alone, he said.The government, he said, should ensure that enough funds are allocated to set up enough courts for fast-track trial of all.”But singling out only elected representatives will create a public perception that would otherwise have an inherent potential of being abused by the government of the day,” he said.Majeed Memon from NCP said if a certain section is treated separately, it may be bordering on infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution that assures equality to all.Lawyer KTS Tulsi, a nominated member, asked who would do justice to undertrials languishing in jail for 10-15 years.Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) asked if the government would also set up special courts to prosecute those who have defrauded the country of Rs 8.5 lakh crore.Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said he would give a ruling on the point of order at an appropriate time.

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Election controversy clouds Winter Session of Parliament : BJP and Congress to spar over Pakistan dinner controversy

Senior Congress leaders on Tuesday demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologise for the insinuation he made involving former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when the latter attended a dinner party organized by veteran Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar that was also attended Pakistan’s former Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri.Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma, while speaking in the Rajya Sabha, said that the Congress wants Prime Minister to express regret and clarify the statement in the Parliament. “Prime Minister should undo what he has done. He should take back his words,” said Anand Sharma.The Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Gulam Nabi Azad, along with Sharma met Finance Minister Arun Jately and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar to discuss the matter. Highly placed sources in the government said that Prime Minister Modi is neither going to reply on this issue, although there is a small possibility that Finance Minister Arun Jately may respond on this issue on the floor of the house. BJP is also expected to be aggressive on the issue and may recall previous incidents of Narendra Modi being attacked by Congress leaders.Sources in the Congress said that proposition has been suggested to the Centre they are waiting for the government’s response. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to be in Lok Sabha on Wednesday and Rajya Sabha on Thursday. PM Modi had insinuated that Pakistan was trying to influence the assembly elections in Pakistan.The dinner organized by former Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyyar was also attended by former Vice President Hamid Ansari, former Army Chief and many retired bureaucrats from the Indian side.

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How BJP’s victory in Gujarat and Himachal will impact Bengal political equations

The BJP’s victory in the assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh has unsettled political equations in West Bengal and it was likely to have far-reaching consequences in politics of the state, say political leaders.Some leaders believe that the Mamata Banerjee-led party could tone down its shrillness in countering the saffron party whose win has given the BJP state leadership and cadres a strong footing to prepare ground for the next year’s panchayat polls.”The results would have a major impact in Bengal politics. It will kickstart a churn in state politics in days to come where BJP will be in an advantageous position,” BJP leader Mukul Roy said.Party sources said several TMC leaders were likely to join the BJP in the days to come and the ruling party would find it hard to keep its house in order.Roy, once the second-in-command of the TMC, joined the BJP last month.The West Bengal BJP leaders are also hopeful that the poll results would impact the Sabang assembly bypoll scheduled on December 21.Last night, the BJP took out a victory rally in Sabang to celebrate its success in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat where the party bagged 44 and 99 seats respectively.”Our next target is Bengal. And this victory for sure will galvanise the cadres at the grassroots level ahead of the Panchayat polls. We are confident that the people of Bengal want freedom from the misrule of this corrupt TMC government,” state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said.The TMC, however, dismissed the BJP’s claims as baseless and devoid of any political logic.”The Gujarat poll results will not have any impact on Bengal politics. If you analyse the Gujarat results, you will see that the BJP’s Gujarat model of development has fallen flat as it faced a drubbing in rural areas,” TMC’s Rajya Sabha MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy told PTI.However, a section of the TMC leadership, who preferred anonymity, expressed apprehension that the BJP might use central agencies like the CBI and the ED to corner TMC leaders whose names have cropped up in corruption cases.Yesterday, a senior TMC MP told PTI that the party would coordinate with other parties, if need be, in opposing the BJP for its anti-people policies, but would not show resistance on issues that did not affect the common man.”We will play the role of a constructive opposition in Parliament. We will not become a second fiddle to the Congress in opposing the government on each and every issue,” he said.The Congress, which is hoping to cash in on the party’s improved performance in Gujarat, said the TMC’s change in stance in Parliament was an indication that the party was going soft on the BJP to save its own leaders.”The TMC is known for its double standards. It knows very well that most of its leaders might be arrested in corruption cases. So, they are trying to please the BJP by trying to maintain distance with Congress,” Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Abdul Mannan of the Congress said.

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Gujarat Elections 2017 | Congress is a strong opposition now

Congress may have lost, but it has a very strong mandate as the Opposition. Thus despite a loss, Congress has gained enormously in stature. Its vote share and the tally both have gone up in the state. For the first time since 1995, Congress gave a tough fight to BJP in PM’s home state.BJP had claimed it will win more than 150 seats, but the party has been limited to double digits, albeit one short of a century. This is a huge morale gain for the Congress.But, then there is so much that the party still needs to do. For instance, the party failed to cash in on 22 years of anti-incumbency and massive agitations against the government. Four of its stalwarts had to bite dust. As a result, the party has good numbers in the House, but doesn’t have a capable leader to lead the resistance in the legislature. Mohansinh Rathva was assigned the task in the outgoing Assembly, but failed to make an impact. The party may have to look beyond Rathva and the job could go to a young face like Paresh Dhanani whom Rahul Gandhi could trust as his close confidante. Increased tally also augurs well in terms of Rajya Sabha voting that took centre stage in August.Resurgence?Increased tally also augurs well in terms of Rajya Sabha voting that took centrestage in August.Congress failed to cash in on 22 years of anti-incumbency.

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Gujarat Elections 2017 | Amit Shah says drop in seats due to Congress’s ‘malicious’ campaign

Deriding the Congress for having “outsourced” its election efforts in Gujarat — an obvious reference to Hardik Patel and company — a visibly elated Amit Shah explained away the drop in seats to the “malicious” Congress campaign and the casteism that it raked up.Speaking to mediapersons after the results became clear, Shah rejected the Patidar phenomenon or the Hardik Patel factor as consequential enough to have caused a problem for the party. “This victory for the party in two states is a win for the tireless efforts put in by crores of BJP workers. It is a victory of the policies of the Prime Minister and that of the pro-poor schemes of the Central government. It is a victory of politics of development and performance over dynasticism, casteism and appeasement. Since Narendra Modi has become the PM, he is trying to weed out these three demons that have ill-affected the polity of India, and after UP results, these results have proved that a new era of politics of performance has dawned after 70 years of independence,” he said.”I offer a heartfelt gratitude to the people of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh that they gave us another opportunity to serve them,” he added.”Casteism was fanned in India, and in such a vicious atmosphere, increasing vote share as well is a big achievement. I have not seen such levels of nasty campaigning in my whole political career: using bad words for the Prime Minister, things have come to this.””We have won in areas which are supposed to be the bastions of Hardik and company,” he said.Shah took solace in the increase in the vote share of the party compared to 2012. “We are going to make a government in Gujarat for the sixth time. Last elections, we got 47.85 per cent votes, and this time we have 49.10 per cent. Under such a hugely casteist campaign by the Opposition, people’s support for the BJP has gone up,” he said.He added, “The result is that all main leaders of Congress have lost. People have put faith in Narendra Modi and they want to join the bandwagon of Modi’s developmental politics. We have another four states elections to face in the near future and in these four states, we shall certainly make governments. In 2019, we shall achieve the PM’s vision of New India.”

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Congress to raise ‘Pakistan interference’ remark in Parliament

Congress sources said on Monday that they would raise ‘Pakistan-interference-in-Gujarat-polls’ remark in both houses of Parliament, as the Winter Session resumes after the weekend.During the last phase of electioneering in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, quoting media reports, on December 10, said former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Vice-President Hamid Ansari, former Army General Deepak Kapoor had secretly discussed Gujarat elections with ex-Pakistani diplomats at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s residence in Delhi.The allegation has sparked a political furore.Congress, since then, has been demanding an apology from the prime minister.Last week, on the first day of the session, senior Congress leader and Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad raised the issue in Rajya Sabha.

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Assembly Elections 2017: Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti asssures EVMs cannot be tampered with

After the Congress, the AAP and Patidar leader Hardik Patel expressed apprehension that the EVMs may have been tampered, the Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti on Monday assured that the electronic voting machines (EVMs) cannot be tampered with.The CEC said, “Questions being raised about EVMs have already been answered by us in the media. VVPATs were there in every polling stations in Gujarat, which enabled voters to see whom they voted for, so issues being raised aren’t right. I assure that EVMS cannot be tampered with.” Joti added that the Gujarat Chief Electoral officer had made all arrangements at all places in counting halls in the state.Former Chief Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla also asserted that political parties or candidate tended to cry foul and blame the electronic voting machines (EVMs) when they are losing the elections. “I have observed that when a political party or a candidate lose, they tend to blame the machine and I think that’s unfair,” Naveen Chawla told ANI.He added that people should have faith not only in the Election Commission (EC) but also the courts, who have called the EVM has one of the technological wonders.”We must have faith in the EC and also in the courts as all of them have examined different aspects of EVM as well,” said the former CEC.Even Bihar CM Nitish Kumar mocked at Opposition for criticising EVMs. “Some may criticise the EVMs out of fear of defeat, but the EVMs have made elections transparent and impartial. Now, nobody can deprive anybody of the right to cast votes,” Kumar, who has predicted a comfortable majority for the BJP in Gujarat, tweeted in Hindi. According to early trends, the Congress was giving tough fight to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in both the states.The counting of votes for 68 Assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh and 182 constituencies in Gujarat began at 8 am today.The hill state went to polls on November 9 while elections were held in two phases in Gujarat on November 9 and 14 respectively.(With ANI inputs)

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Sonia Gandhi and the unexpected rise and stunning fall of Congress

Sonia Gandhi, who today handed over the reins of the Congress to her son, Rahul Gandhi, was once seen as an unlikely heir to the Gandhi political legacy, but crowned her innings by becoming the longest serving president of India’s grand old party.Her exit was as subdued as her entry was spirited.”I am going to retire,” the 71-year-old Member of Parliament told reporters yesterday, sending party leaders into a tizzy and hastening to explain that she was not quitting politics. But Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law is known to spring surprises. If her successor was often described as the reluctant heir of the family, she was even more loath to take up a political role.Legend has it that when Congress leaders pressed Rajiv Gandhi to occupy the prime minister’s chair after the assassination of his mother Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi begged him not to, fearful about her family’s safety. Seven years later, when he was killed, she turned away when party leaders urged her to lead the Congress. Also readPM taking us back to medieval times, says Congress President Rahul Gandhi It was another seven years later, when the party was in tatters at the Centre and in power only in four states, that she agreed to pick up the reins of the party. She was persuaded to do so after senior leaders left the Congress and set up their own regional outfits. When the Congress was in shambles, Sonia Gandhi — described by sections of the media as the most powerful woman in India — steered it to victory in 2004, ousting the NDA.That wasn’t all. When it appeared that she would occupy the highest office in South Block, she told the surprised media that she had chosen Manmohan Singh as the prime minister of the United Progressive Alliance government.Also readHimanta Biswa Sarma congratulates Rahul’s elevation; says will continue to have political contests with himToday, party leaders look back at her presidency with pride, hailing unity and strength as the hallmarks of her record breaking 19-year tenure. Sonia Gandhi took a back seat after several rounds of illness recently, for which she had be hospitalised. Also readSonia Gandhi’s emotional message to party as Rahul Gandhi becomes Congress chiefShe exits active Congress politics on a high note and as one of the tallest leaders of the party in recent years. Sonia Gandhi’s sharpest weapon was her silence. She spoke little, and seldom in public, but wielded enormous power in the Congress. In cotton saris that reminded old-timers of her mother- in-law, she has over the years addressed public rallies in her accented Hindi, suitably blunting the opposition BJP’s campaign against her Italian roots.Under her stewardship, the Congress led the Centre for two terms from 2004 to 2014 and returned to power in a host of states. The then party president achieved this by successfully stitching electoral alliance with like-minded parties. UPA-1 and UPA II were fine examples of Sonia Gandhi’s ability to bring non-BJP forces together. Her prediction of the Congress returning at the Centre on its own, made at the party’s Pachmarhi conference, never came true though. That said, Gandhi braved tremendous odds to earn her place in Indian politics, as she conquered the limitations of language and her foreign origin to win the hearts of people. Born to Italian parents in Lusiana, Vicenza (Italy), on December 9, 1946, Gandhi met Rajiv Gandhi in England where she was studying. The young language student and the son of then Indian prime minister were married 1968. Contemporary history recalls how she cradled her mother- in-law’s body after she was gunned down by her bodyguards, and later tried to persuade her husband not to take up the prime minister’s post. After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in May, 1991, she shunned active politics, but after repeated cajoling by Congress leaders took the primary membership of Congress in 1997. Amid consequent widespread demands from rank and file to lead a shaky party, she entered public life in 1998, a move that was widely and loudly welcomed in the party. She was first elected as an MP from Amethi in 1999, following which she became the Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House. She later shifted to Rae Bareli to accommodate her son in Amethi.In 2004, she led the electoral campaign of her party which secured the largest number of seats and formed a coalition government. When she nominated Singh as the prime minister, her standing went up by several notches. Her supporters called it an act of sacrifice while some saw it as a political masterstroke.Gandhi, however, continued to wield power in the party as the chairperson of the UPA and the leader of the Congress party in Parliament, leading its strategy inside and outside the Houses. She also introduced the concept of National Advisory Council (NAC), a forum that made periodic recommendations to the government and often dubbed as a “dual power centre” by the opposition. As its chairperson, Gandhi took up issues related to environment, gender, empowerment of the disadvantaged and right to information. At a personal level, Sonia Gandhi has authored two books on her husband, Rajiv and Rajiv’s World, and has edited two volumes of letters exchanged between Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Her other interests include reading, Indian art — contemporary, classical as well as tribal — handlooms and handicrafts and music. She has a diploma in conservation of oil paintings from the National Museum in New Delhi. While she may find time to pursue her passions now, her son is set for tough times with the Congress at a historic electoral low in its entire history. In power only in five states now, and facing difficult elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the Congress, everyone agrees, is facing its worst existential crisis ever. Congress leaders feel that she will continue to play the role of a mentor to the party for times to come. She may also continue as the chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary party and the UPA alliance. As a Congress leader says, “Even now, Rahul Gandhi is bound to consult his mother on every important party related decision he takes.”

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No show on Day 1 of Winter Session as RS and LS adjourned

The proceedings of the Lok Sabha on the first day of the Winter Session were adjourned today after the House paid tributes to three sitting and seven former members who died during the inter-session period.Rajya Sabha also adjourned for the day as uproar by Cong members continued. Opposition leaders protested the rejection of their notice in the Rajya Sabha demanding an explanation and apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his “conspiracy with Pakistan” remark involving his predecessor Manmohan Singh.The House would now meet on Monday.Also readWinter Session of Parliament begins, Congress seeks PM Modi’s apology over Pakistan remarkAs soon as the House assembled, newly-elected Congress member from Gurdaspur Sunil Kumar Jakhar was administered the oath, which he took in Punjabi.Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted Jakhar with a handshake when the former greeted him with folded hands after taking oath.Also readManmohan Singh meets Venkaiah Naidu on eve of Parliament sessionThe Gurdaspur bypoll was necessitated following the demise of BJP member and cine star Vinod Khanna.After the oath of the new member, Modi introduced new ministers to the House. These included Dharmendra Pradhan, Piyush Goyal and Nirmala Sitharaman who were elevated as Cabinet ministers in the September 3 rejig of the council of ministers.The new faces are ministers of state (independent charge) R K Singh, Hardeep Puri, K J Alphonse and ministers of state Shiv Pratap Shukla, Virendra Kumar, Ananth Hegde, Gajendra Shekhawat and Satyapal Singh.Making obituary references, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan informed members that three sitting Lok Sabha MPs — Sultan Ahmed (TMC), Chand Nath (BJP) and Tasleem Uddin (RJD) had passed away recently.Seven other former members — Vikram Mahajan, Ram Singh, R Keishing, P C Barman, Dhanraj Singh, Amal Datta and Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi also died during the inter-session period.The House was also introduced to the new Secretary General, Snehlata Shrivastava, who took over on December 1. A former IAS officer, she is the first woman Secretary General of the Lok Sabha.Before the proceedings began, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met leaders of various parties.When the Prime Minister entered the House, he greeted the members from the opposition benches with a ‘namaste’ and bowing his head.Rajya Sabha also adjourned for the day as uproar by Cong members continued. Opposition leaders today protested the rejection of their notice in the Rajya Sabha demanding an explanation and apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his “conspiracy with Pakistan” remark involving his predecessor Manmohan Singh.The leaders termed the comment “unfortunate” and told reporters outside the House it was “disappointing” that Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu did not allow a discussion on the notice.They also objected to the “illegal disqualification” of rebel Janata Dal (United) leaders Sharad Yadav and Ali Anwar Ansari.In place of Yadav and Ansari, Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar should be disqualified for breaking away from the grand alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress, they said.”We gave a notice, but the chairman adjourned the House and did not let us raise the issue. We are disappointed. The chairman should have given us permission. This is a national… International issue,” Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters.At an election rally in Gujarat on Sunday, Modi had suggested that Pakistan was trying to influence the state assembly polls.He had claimed that some Pakistani officials and Manmohan Singh met at Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house over dinner on December 6.Azad said the prime minister should come to the Rajya Sabha and explain his remarks to its members.His party colleague Anand Sharma, Naresh Agarwal of the SP and D Raja of the CPI said the people concerned should be punished if the allegations levelled by Modi were true.”But if it is false, if he levelled such a big allegation to polarise the people in view of the Gujarat polls, then he should apologise not only to the House but also to the people of the country,” Azad said.Raja said it was “not correct” on Modi’s part to cast aspersions on Singh.The CPI national secretary said Modi should have called up his predecessor if he had any information on the “conspiracy” issue.”He should have done it, but the way he raised the issue in an election campaign… It is highly objectionable. It is not good for democracy,” Raja said, asking the government to respect the Opposition.Sharma said it was “undemocratic” that the Opposition’s voice was being “muzzled”.He said the prime minister was “aware” of the notice and could have “used the opportunity to clarify his remarks, express regret and apologise”.”But the prime minister and the dispensation are arrogant and confrontational. And this is most unfortunate. This attitude does not augur well for democracy. It is an ominous development on the first day itself,” Sharma said.

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Winter Session to mull over 25 bills

The government and Opposition are warming up to face each other in Parliament Winter Session to be held from December 15, a day after the end of Gujarat polls. While Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar has called a meeting of the leaders of various parties on Thursday evening, Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has also convened a meeting of Opposition leaders to evolve a joint strategy. With 14 sittings, a heavy agenda awaits the session — there are 25 bills to be tabled for discussion. 14 bills are scheduled to be introduced, one is listed for withdrawal.To ensure a smooth session, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has also convened a meeting of party leaders in the Lok Sabha.The first actual working day of the Winter Session will be Monday as the Houses will adjourn on Friday as a mark of respect to the members who died since monsoon session. The working day coinciding with Gujarat and Himachal poll results is expected to be heated as the ruling BJP and the Congress-led Opposition has several issues to lock the horns.The agenda of the session is to discuss crucial bills including the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, Good and Services Tax (Compensation to State) Amendment Bill, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, to name a few.While the Centre has been keen on passing the bill to outlaw triple talaq, the Opposition has been rallying under the Women’s Reservation Bill that has not been passed for decades. The Bill provides reservation of one-third to women, and was introduced by the UPA in May 2008. Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said that the Opposition will not leave the Centre with any chance of not passing the bill.”You (government) will have to give the women reservation. The Congress party will not leave you with any choice,” Gandhi said while meeting members of the Mahila Congress.Gandhi’s mother, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi had met the Prime Minister in September, urging him to pass the bill. While Sonia said that the bill had been passed in the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010, when the UPA was in power, the Centre said that the Congress was aiming for the optics.The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has come under attack from the Opposition for delaying the dates of the Winter Session to accommodate the Gujarat Assembly elections. Usually, the Winter Session convenes from the last week of November and ends in the third week of December. A two-day holiday for Christmas has been approved.

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‘Chintan Shivir’ not an excursion, blueprint of ‘new Haryana’ to be prepared: ML Khattar

Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar today said the ‘Chintan Shivir’ (brainstorming session) at the Timber Trail resort in Himachal Pradesh would not be an “excursion” and asserted that a blueprint of a “new Haryana” would be prepared.The session, set to be held from December 15 to 17, faced flak from the opposition, which dubbed it as “holidaying in the hills”.”Blueprint of a new Haryana would be prepared through deliberations on development at the Shivir,” Khattar said here, adding, “Various ongoing development works and other schemes will also be reviewed.”The BJP government is making all out efforts to bring a positive change in the system, the chief minister said.”A blueprint to take the state and the society further ahead on the path of economic development in the next two years would be prepared during the Shivir. Various welfare policies and laws would also be deliberated upon in the Shivir,” he said in Rohtak.Asked about the opposition’s criticism that the session to be held at a luxury private resort was a waste of public money, Khattar said, “The chintan shivir is not being organised for the purpose of excursion.”Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said the ruling BJP’s concern should have been the deteriorating law and order situation in the state and not “holidaying in the hills”. He alleged that the government was wasting public money.Taking a dig at Hooda, Haryana Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Minister O P Dhankar said it was a tradition in the BJP to take collective decision from ‘chintan’ (brainstorming).Meanwhile, speaking to reporters about the claim made in a new show of a US-based science channel that the ‘Ram Setu’ between India and Sri Lanka was man-made, Khattar said “Shri Ram Setu’s existence has been confirmed, but it is unfortunate that the leaders of the Congress party are refusing these facts.”Khattar attacked the opposition parties in Haryana, saying they dub organising festivals like Gita Jayanti as futile exercises.He also hit out at the opposition for negating the existence of mythical Saraswati river. “The Congress has always been negating the mythological, literary and historical facts,” he said.”The leaders of the Congress party should think twice before making any statement. It seems that they have no interest in spreading the values in the society and it has become their habit to make comments on our mythological and literary heritage which have earned recognition at international level,” he added.

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Will leave Modi govt with no choice but to pass Women’s Reservation Bill: Rahul Gandhi

Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi said today that the party would leave the Centre with no choice but to ensure the passage of a Bill which provides for 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies, and hinted at major changes within the party organisation in favour of them.Addressing the All India Mahila Congress-organised “I am Courage” event, he said that the Congress would build pressure on the ruling party for an early passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill or the Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill in Parliament.Gandhi, who will formally take over as the Congress president later this week, said as the party “don’t have a woman president anymore, we have to compensate for that”.He said that the party had exerted pressure on the government for bringing pro-people changes in the Goods and Services Tax, which he had earlier described as ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’.”The same way we will give a clear message to the government that it will have to bring women reservation. The Congress party will not give any choice to it. We will fulfil the role of the opposition party in doing so,” he said.This was Gandhi’s first address at a public function after being elected the Congress president.He said he has done so since he accorded importance to women, who will have to play an important role in spreading the Congress ideology across the country.Gandhi said on one hand is the ideology of the BJP and the RSS, where women have no role and cannot enter their functions, while on the other side is the Congress ideology.Hinting at a larger role for women in the Congress party, he said, “I have come here to give one clear message that the biggest change in the party will be for women.” Gandhi’s comments for a bigger role for women in the party came amid speculation that his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra may also play some active political role in the party under his leadership.”We have to work on transforming the Congress party and a fundamental part of that transformation, in my mind, is going to be the role of women in the Congress party at every single level. There is a central difference between the people we fight, between the BJP and us,” he said while narrating how women were around Mahatma Gandhi and never seen at RSS events.The Congress president-elect said there should be a road map for the coming times and will have to systematically and actively prepare women at every level in the party to contest elections and ensure they have their representation.”We have to mention Congress President Sonia Gandhi Ji who has pushed your agenda, sometimes silently but mostly openly and she has helped push a number of women forward.Unfortunately we don’t have a woman president anymore. So we have to compensate for that and see woman chief ministers in states. We will work on that together,” he said.Gandhi also lauded the Congress general secretary and secretaries in Gujarat, who launched a vigorous campaign in the state and connected very well with the workers and the people of the state, and said their act needs to be replicated in other states too.”I have seen the way the merger of the Congress state unit and people of Gujarat, I want such work to be replicated in every state – respect public and hear them out and together systematically contest elections,” he said.He also also lauded the role of Sheila Dikshit as the Delhi chief minister for many years for which the party respects her, but who had to suffer a “nasty and untruthful” campaign against her.Among others who were present at the function include Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, former union ministers Anand Sharma and and Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev.Former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and former union minister Mohsina Kidwai inaugurated the “I am Courage” workshop today.

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Centre calls for all-party meet

The Centre has called for an all-party meeting on Thursday, a day ahead of the beginning of the Winter Session of the Parliament. The meet, called for by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar, will be held at the Parliament Library in order to prepare a roadmap for the Session, which ends on January 5.Kumar had asked for the cooperation from across parties, specially from the Opposition, so that the session could carry on uninterrupted. The Centre has come under increasing attacks from the Opposition after the Winter Session of the Parliament was delayed because of the Gujarat polls.There are several significant bills that are up for this session. These include the bill on triple talaq and another on the constitutional status to the backward class commission.The Opposition, on the other hand, is convening its own members on the same day at the Parliament office of its senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. The Congress is likely to send senior members including Anand Sharma, Mallikarjun Kharge, apart from Azad to the meet.

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Nitish Kumar faces flak on Sameeksha Yatra Day 1

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar started his ‘Vikas Karyon ki Sameeksha Yatra’ on Tuesday to take feedback from the masses about implementation of developmental works and social awareness campaigns run by the state government.His Sameeksha Yatra commenced from West Champaran’s Patilar village, the same village from where he commenced his ‘Vikas Yatra’ in 2009. “The purpose of the yatra is to take stock of the progress on the ground. The government runs on the feedback of the people,” said Nitish, who has undertaken almost 10 yatras in the last 12 years.The CM, however, had to face protests by the people on Day 1 itself. Sugarcane farmers in Bagaha police district raised slogans to draw the CM’s attention to their condition. The CM said a proper platform would be given to them to put forth their grievances. In the same district, a section of women also protested against exclusive progress of certain villages. They alleged that the officials only worked for development of those areas where the CM’s visits were scheduled.On Tuesday, Nitish laid the foundation stone as well as inaugurated developmental schemes worth over Rs 100 crore in West Champaran. “The CM will take stock of implementation of Saat Nischay (seven resolves) scheme, total prohibition, Right to People’s Grievance Redressal Act and the Right to Public Service Act. He will also check the awareness campaigns run to discourage dowry and child marriage across the length and breadth of Bihar,” said a senior Bihar government official.The Opposition targeted Nitish’s yatra as a “gimmick” and Leader of the Opposition in Bihar legislative assembly Tejashwi Prasad Yadav said, “The school building he had laid the foundation stone could not get four-wall in eight years, a primary-health centre is being launched thrice… What Vikas? He should undertake Prayashcitt (repentance) Yatra and Deemak (termite) Yatra.”Sources said Nitish is likely to face more protests, especially from contractual employees, who are demanding regularisation of job and equal pay for equal work, and have created ruckus at Nitish’s yatras over the last few years.

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Gujarat Elections 2017 | Money power: 397 crorepatis in fray for Gujarat polls

Close to 400 or nearly a quarter of the candidates contesting in the Gujarat Assembly elections are crorepatis, according to an analysis of their poll affidavits by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Gujarat Election Watch (GEW).Of the 1,828 contesting candidates, election affidavits of 83 candidates were not analysed. Affidavits of 1,745 candidates were analysed, of whom 397 have declared assets worth Rs1 crore or more.Of the 977 candidates contesting in the first phase, 198 have declared assets of more than Rs1 crore. Of the 851 candidates in the fray in the second phase, 199 are crorepatis as per the disclosures made by them in their election affidavits.The BJP, which has won the last five Assembly elections in the state and is vying for the sixth one, has fielded 142 crorepati candidates. The Opposition, which has been out of power since 22 years and is hoping to end its losing streak, has given tickets to 127 such candidates.The analysis reveals that crorepati candidates also rule the roost in the smaller outfits. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has fielded 17 crorepatis, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) 13, and the Bahujam Samaj Party (BSP) five.As many as 56 of the independent candidates in the fray are also worth more than Rs 1 crore, while the remaining such candidates belong to lesser known outfits.The analysis reveals that 131 of the 397 candidates have declared assets worth over Rs5 crore, while 124 others have shown that the own movable and immovable assets in the range of Rs2 crore to Rs5 crore.In a sharp contrast, six candidates have declared that they have ‘zero’ movable or immovable assets. All six are in the fray as independent candidates.The analysis shows that 13 candidates have declared that their annual income is more than Rs1 crore, based on the last Income Tax returns filed by them.Daskroi Congress candidate richestPankaj Patel, the Congress nominee from Daskroi seat in Ahmedabad district, is the richest candidate in fray in the Gujarat elections. Patel, who is taking on sitting MLA Babu Jamna Patel, has declared assets worth Rs231.93 crore in his election affidavit.Congress MLA Indranil Rajguru, who is contesting against chief minister Vijay Rupani from Rajkot West seat, is the second richest with assets worth Rs141.22 crore.Former finance and energy minister Saurabh Patel, who is fighting from Botad seat in Saurashtra, has declared assets worth Rs123.78 crore, making him the third richest candidate.BJP candidate from Wadhwan seat in Surendranagar, Dhanjibhai Patel, is the fourth richest with assets of Rs113.47 crore.Ashok Lal, Congress candidate from Jamnagar South seat, has declared assets of Rs109.03 crore, and is the fifth richest.60% candidates class 12 or belowIn terms of educational qualifications, of the total 1,828 candidates trying their luck in the assembly polls, 1,098 nominees have passed class 12 or below. These 1,098 nominees have either passed only 5th, 8th, 10th or 12th class. 119 candidates mentioned that they were only literate, while 23 others declared that they were illiterate.118 women in frayAlso, there are only 118 women candidates in the fray, which is just 6% of the overall number, according to the analysis.Of the total candidates, 658 are in the age group of 25 and 40 years, 889 between ages of 41 and 60, and 193 of them between 61 and 80.(with agency inputs)In crores397 candidates have declared assets worth Rs1 croreFirst phase977 candidates contesting in the first phase, 198 have declared assets of more than Rs1 crore.Second phase851 candidates in the fray in the second phase, 199 are crorepatisPartywise break upBJP: 142CONG: 127NCP: 17AAP: 13BSP: 5INDEPENDENT: 56

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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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On Sonia’s 71st birthday, Congress leaders throng her residence to greet her

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who is set to handle over the party’s mantle to her son Rahul Gandhi after steering it for 19 years, today turned 71 and party leaders and workers thronged her residence to greet her on her birthday.Gandhi also met a number of leaders including former prime minister Manmohan Singh, and accepted their greetings.Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and several former chief ministers and officer bearers also greeted Gandhi.Congressmen gathered outside Sonia Gandhi’s 10 Janpath residence since morning and celebrated her birthday by dancing to the beats of drums. Many carried posters and placards wishing Sonia Gandhi.Former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat tried his hands at the drums as folk dancers performed outside Gandhi’s house.Also readGujarat elections 2017: Touched by gift for Mom, Rahul gets Sonia to talk to temple trusteeFormer chief ministers Sheila Dikshit, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, former Union ministers including Anand Sharma, Jyotiraditya Scindia and RPN Singh, and party general secretaries including Janardan Dwivedi, Ambika Soni and Mohan Prakash were also present.Prime Minister Narendra Modi also wished Gandhi with a tweet, saying “Birthday greetings to Congress President Smt Sonia Gandhi. I pray for her long life and good health. Many Congress leaders also wished her with bouquets.Also readPM Narendra Modi wishes Sonia Gandhi on her birthday”I extend my warm birthday greetings to Congress President Smt Sonia Gandhi ji. Wish her a healthy, happy and long life, said Ashok Gehlot, party s general secretary incharge of Gujarat.Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also greeted Gandhi, saying, Warm birthday greetings to Congress President Sonia Gandhi ji. On the occasion of your birthday, I wish for your good health and long life.”Sonia Gandhi was born on December 9, 1946 in Lusiana, Vicenza in Italy.She has held the post of Congress President since 1998 and has been a Lok Sabha MP since 1999. She is all set to hand over the party’s reins to Rahul Gandhi.

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BJP’s Prasad Lad wins MLC bypoll, beats Oppn by 15 votes

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday proved that their claim of 15-20 MLAs from Opposition being in touch with them was not hot air as the BJP candidate Prasad Lad won bye-election for legislative council seat with at least 15 more votes from Opposition MLAs.The bye-election was due after Narayan Rane resigned as MLC and also left Congress party. Dilip Mane, the congress candidate got 73 votes despite the fact that Congress and NCP together had 83 votes. Two votes were invalid while two AIMIM MLAs Waris Pathan and Imtiaz Zaleel did not vote.BJP has 122 MLAs while Shiv Sena has 62, Congress 42 and NCP has 41 MLAs. The Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) has three MLAs while Bahujan Vikas Aghadi has 3 MLAs. AIMIM has two while Samajwadi Party has one MLA in Abu Azami.MNS has one MLA, Rashtriya Samaj Party has one mla, RPI has one MLA and Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh and CPI (M) has one mla while there are seven independents. Lad was expected to get 194, but got 209 votes, which means at least 15 MLAs cross-voted in favour of BJP. If claim by Congress leader Sharad Ranpise that two invalid votes are of BJP MLAs is true, then two more votes from Opposition have gone in Lad’s favour.VOTES ON THE CARDSLad won at least 15 more votes from Opposition MLAs, suggesting support for the BJP The election was due after Narayan Rane resigned Cong’s Dilip Mane got 73 votes although his party and NCP had 83 votes BJP has 122 MLAs while Shiv Sena has 62, Congress 42 and NCP has 41 MLAs
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I am busy with elections, Prakash Mehta tells Lokayukta

Maharashtra housing minister and senior BJP leader Prakash Mehta has excused himself from attending Lokayukta hearing on Wednesday in connection with alleged land scam saying he was busy in Gujarat elections and subsequently in the winter session of state assembly.Mehta had demanded the four week period to attend the next hearing. However, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said that the Housing Minister was running from the inquiry. “It shows that Mehta wants to escape from the actions against him. We hope there will be fair probe against Mehta,” Malik said.Mehta was accused of giving permission for the slum redevelopment project (SRA) at Tardeo despite negative remark by senior housing department bureaucrat. Opposition had alleged that minister violated the rule book to give a windfall gain of Rs 500 crore to the developer. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had ordered Lokayukta inquiry into the issue.Lokayukta had called housing minister for hearing on December 6. However, Mehta conveyed to the Lokayukta that he would not be able to attend any hearing for next four weeks.”The housing minister told Lokayukta that he was busy in campaigning of his party BJP in Gujarat elections. Besides, there will be winter session of state assembly. Therefore, the minister sought four weeks’ time to attend next hearing,” said sources from Lokayukta office.The Lokayukta had sent letter to the minister seeking clarification over objections raised by Opposition leaders.In the meanwhile, sources close to Mehta claimed he was trying to ensure his response to Lokayukta was properly framed since this was a quasi-judicial authority.
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Scion walks into waiting throne

Rahul Gandhi is set to be Congress president in place of his mother Sonia Gandhi as he filed his nomination for the post and the deadline for doing so expectedly ended on Monday without any challenger emerging.This concludes a year-long organisational election process and heralds a generational shift in the leadership of the 132-year-old party.Rahul filed papers at the Congress’s 24 Akbar Road headquarters here. The party sought to project the election as democratic to counter the BJP’s charges of dynastic politics.The Congress had missed many deadlines and the Election Commission had asked it to conclude the election process by December 31.Sonia was the first to nominate her son. She signed the papers at her next door home. As many as 89 nominations were filed, all of them in favour of Rahul, signed by 890 delegates representing 30 state Congress units.Celebrations for Rahul’s coronation have been kept for December 28 to coincide it with the party’s foundation day.Rahul first met former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former President Pranab Mukherjee to seek their blessings and then went to the party office where he hugged senior party leaders Sheila Dikshit and Mohsina Kidwai.The party said that two more exercises — scrutiny of nominations on December 5 and withdrawal of nominations on December 11 – were still to be done. But Rahul’s elevation is a mere formality.The 47-year-old has been the Congress’s vice-president for almost five years. Sonia has been the party’s longest serving president. She has been leading the Congress for 19 years since 1998.Since early morning, almost all prominent Congress leaders had assembled at the party headquarters. Rahul held meetings with office bearers. Insiders said that he sat alone for 30 minutes before filing nominations.At about 11:04 am, the time selected by soothsayers as auspicious, he walked into a hall where nominations were to be filed.As per the party constitution, every nomination requires 10 elected delegates as proposers and seconders. The recently concluded organisational polls have elected 7,500 delegates, each representing a block from all over the country.While Akbar Road was jam-packed with party workers and leaders, the message from Rahul’s office was to keep celebrations sombre. Party office bearers were seen asking Youth Congress activists not to burn fire crackers.”Rahul ji has been the darling of the Congress… Rahul Gandhi will carry on the great traditions of the Congress party,” the normally taciturn Manmohan Singh told reporters.”We are very happy that Rahul Gandhi ji has filed his nomination… I am confident that Rahul will turn out a very successful leader. And under his leadership, the Congress will regain power,” Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said.
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Maha BJP says account hacked after anti-Fadnavis tweet, approaches cyber-crime branch

The BJP has approached the cyber-crime branch after a tweet went from its Maharashtra official handle criticising the Fadnavis government. A tweet was circulated form the BJP Maharashtra handle which stated there was a requirement of more than 2 lakh employees, but the state had decided to cut 30% of the work force. PM Modi, Congress VP Rahul Gandhi, Maha Congress General Secretary Sachin Sawant and Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam were tagged in the tweet.Written in poor English, the tweet had said, “More than 2 lackhs (sic) Employee required in state and @Dev_Fadnavis Government taken cut off 30% employees. #MakeInMaharashtra or #FoolInMahasrashtra.”Also readRahul Gandhi’s Twitter account hacked, Congress calls it sinister conspiracy to abuse and intimidate After the tweet, leader of Opposition in state assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil has tweeted that Congress has been pointing it out for last 30 months but finally the BJP had ‘admitted’ they were ‘fooling the state’.BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhye has filed a complaint with cyber-crime branch and demanded an inquiry.”We feel the state BJP unit’s Twitter handle was hacked to post this message. We have asked the Cyber Crime cell of the Mumbai Police to investigate the matter,” state BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhye told PTI. A BJP state unit press release said that the account was looked after by coordination Ashish Merkhed and there was no official tweet from the party on Sunday, which is why they had decided to approach the cyber-crime branch with a complaint to ascertain whether its Twitter handle had been hacked.
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RK Nagay By-poll: DMK likely to win by-elections says senior DMK leader Durai Murugan

Senior DMK leader Durai Murugan on Sunday said the chances of his party’s victory in the December 21 bypoll to the RK Nagar assembly segment, were bright.He was speaking to reporters at the airport in Coimbatore.On MDMK’s decision to extend support to DMK in the by-election, the Deputy Leader of Opposition in Tamil Nadu Assembly said, the party will welcome anybody’s support.He wanted to know whether the state government was taking any steps to provide relief in the cyclone-hit Kanyakumari district.The DMK strong man alleged that the state government was busy erecting banners and cut outs and had no time to for relief measures.Also readAIADMK fields its presidium chairman E Madhusudhanan for RK Nagar bypollIn RK Nagar assembly constituency, DMK’s N Marudu Ganesh is pitted against E Madusudanan of the ruling mainstream AIADMK.Rival AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran is also in the fray.Also readRK Nagar Bypoll: AIADMK Parliamentary board to decide candidateDMK’s allies Congress and IUML have already extended their support to the main opposition party.Besides, parties including the CPI, CPI(M) and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi have declared their support to DMK.
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Gujarat people believe in vikaswaad, not caste-based politics: Amit Shah takes dig at Congress

BJP President Amit Shah said that the Patidar agitation had created an illusion ahead of the Gujarat polls, but said that it would soon be shattered because the Congress’ formula is ‘constitutionally impossible.In an interview with The Indian Express, the BJP president said that it had become clear that the Congress’ promise on reservations would not be made possible. “There is a sea change in the Patidar community, as this has become clear to most of them.”Expressing confidence in winning at least 150 out of 182 assembly seats in Gujarat, Shah also said that Gujarat believed in vikaswaad and caste-based politics was a thing of the past. Accusing the Congress of running a caste-based campaign, Shah said that apart from this they had no other issue.Also readGujarat Elections 2017 | PM Modi to be back for two days today, Rahul Gandhi on 5thCongress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who has led the campaign in Gujarat, has constantly spoken on the poor execution of the Goods and Service Tax. However, Shah maintained that the recent tweaking in the GST had nothing to do with the Gujarat elections. “We have never said it (the Gujarat election) is a referendum on GST. But if the Opposition wants to make it so, we have no objections,” Shah said.The BJP President, however, did not dismiss the sentiments behind the agitations of new-age caste leaders Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani. He said that all parties should ignore political ideologies and put their heads together to find a solution to the issue. “It will be a long drawn-out process that requires prolonged discussions,” he said.Also readGujarat Elections 2017 | Patidar youth rally behind Hardik Patel, seniors still with BJPVoting is scheduled for December 9 and 14, and results will be declared on December 18
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Gujarat Elections 2017 | Provide jammers near booths: Congress

Expressing fears of EVM tampering, the Opposition Congress asked the Election Commission (EC) to install jammers near polling booths and the strong rooms where the EVMs would be stored after polling.The demand was made before the EC on Saturday, the first day of its two-day visit to Gujarat, to review preparations for the upcoming Assembly elections.“We have also sought measures to control mobile phone services within 200 metres of the polling stations,” Balubhai Patel, chairman of Congress’s Election Coordination Committee, said. The Congress sought deployment of more paramilitary personnel in sensitive polling booths.Claiming that many officers ranging from police inspectors to prant officers have been posted at the same place as in 2012 elections, the opposition party demanded that they be moved to different places to ensure free and fair conduct of polls.“There are 7,000 students from just Ahmedabad and adjacent places who are living outside Gujarat. We have asked the Election Commission to make alternate voting arrangement such as postal ballot or online voting for such voters,” Parindu Bhagat, in-charge of BJP’s Legal Cell, said.The BJP delegation also complained that some Election Observers were causing undue harassment by going out of the way, and demanded that they stick to their role for ensuring free and fair conduct of the elections.
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Twitterati have a field day mocking Opposition after BJP sweeps UP civic polls

In what comes as a major boost to the BJP ahead of the Gujarat Assembly polls, the saffron party today swept the Uttar Pradesh civic polls.In the polls which were being dubbed as Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s first electoral test, the BJP bagged several prestigious mayoral seats including Ayodhya, Varanasi, Lucknow, Gorakhpur and was leading in several others.Of the BJP 16 mayoral seats results of which were declared, the Bharatiya Janata Party (​BJP) scored win in 14 seats. Thew BSP, which fought the civic polls on its symbol after 17 years, won two seats.The Congress faced a humiliating defeat Amethi, a bastion of the Lok Sabha constituency of its vice president Rahul Gandhi. The Congress lost in Jais and Gauriganj where Nagar Palika polls were held. In Amethi and Musafirkhana, where Nagar Panchayat polls were held, the party had not fielded candidates.While the top BJP leaders took to Twitter to congratulate Yogi and other state level functionaries of the party, there was somewhat a silence on the Opposition side.Also readTwitterati have a field day mocking Opposition after BJP sweeps UP civic pollsThe results gave another day to twitterati to mock the Opposition leaders. Here are some of the reactions on micro-blogging site after the UP civic poll results:Also readUP civic polls 2017: BJP’s Sanyukta Bhatia creates history, becomes Lucknow’s first woman mayor in 100 years
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Vijay Kelkar Committee report on balanced regional development: Debate likely in the winter session of State legislature

The Vijay Kelkar committee report on balanced regional development in Maharashtra and the action taken report are expected to come up for discussion during the two week winter session of the state legislature slated to begin on December 11 at Nagpur. Opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, who have organised a morcha at the legislature on a number of issues including farmers plight, government’s inept handling of the implementation of crop loan waiver scheme and deteriorating finances, have made a fresh demand for special debate saying that its implementation was necessary to boost the regional development. Opposition’s demand comes at a time when leading water expert Madhav Chitale has mooted separate Marathwada state while former state advocate general Shrihari Aney along with some local leaders has been pursuing demand for statehood for Vidarbha region.Though not part of recommendations, but in the chapter on perspectives of stakeholders, the committee recorded views like demand for autonomy for Vidarbha or sentiments aired in support of creating a separate state, if the government is unable to remove the injustice of underdevelopment and deprivation.The Vijay Kelkar committee, which was constituted by the Congress-NCP government to suggest ways for balanced regional development in the state, had proposed reworking the development paradigm and resource allocation in a radical manner. The panel had suggested major overhaul in allocation of plan funds for regions, and had 146 major recommendations. The around 600-page report was tabled in the legislature in December 2014. The panel was constituted in 2011 and submitted its report in 2013.Leader of opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde told DNA, “The report came up for discussion in the winter session held in December 2014 but the government has yet to hold debate on its action taken report. NCP and the opposition in general will press for such a debate when the government is not providing enough attention on the removal of regional imbalance.’’Congress party’s deputy leader in the council Sharad Ranpise said even though the government had appointed a committee comprising ministers to study the report and made suggestions, it lacks political will for its implementation. ”The government needs to put the implementation of Kelkar committee report on fast track to achieve regional balance,” he noted.On its part, the BJP spokesman Ganesh Hake defended a slew of initiatives taken by the party led government in last three years to boost development of Maharashtra. He informed the government’s focus has been to complete long pending irrigation projects, strengthen transport infrastructure, transform agriculture and attract more investments especially in less developed areas. The committee had formulated a model for financial allocation that aims to remove the irrigation backlog in next eight years and that of other sectors like health, education and connectivity by the end of the 14th plan or say the next 12 years. Further, the committee had suggested the region wise allocation of funds including Vidarbha (33.24%), Marathwada (25.31%) and rest of Maharashtra (40.71%), a paradigm change from the current ratios of 23.03%, 18.75% and 58%. Further, the committee had pressed the need to restructure regional development boards, which will be headed by the chief minister, and preparing five-year perspective and annual plans for the regions; establish a project appraisal board for managing large public private partnership (PPP) projects, and make power available in Vidarbha at cheap rate.
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Biswa Bangla row: Mukul Roy summoned by court after Abhishek Banerjee files defamation case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee on Tuesday filed a criminal defamation case against former TMC Rajya Sabha MP, now BJP leader, Mukul Roy.The case was filed at Bankshall Court in Kolkata. On the basis of Abhishek’s complaint and the documents submitted, Bankshall Court has issued a summon to Roy on December 20. Post filing the case, Abhishek said that he had been hurt by the allegations levelled by Roy. He also gave a challenge to Roy saying, “If I say something, people might choose to believe me or not. Similarly with Roy. Now it is up to the court to decide and pass a verdict. Then everyone will believe what the truth is. He has alleged that I am the owner of business entities named Biswa Bangla and Jago Bangla. If he cannot prove it, he should leave his seat and Bengal. If he can prove it fair and square, I will leave politics.”Roy, however, interacting to mediapersons maintained that he had not said anything without documents. “These papers are that of the corporate affairs ministry. If it is tried in any court of the country, I will be able to prove that what I had said is true,” he said. Reacting to Abhishek’s comments he said, “These are attempts to divert people’s attention from the issue. He is a young man and is immature that is why he throws these challenges.”
ALSO READ Mukul Roy moves Delhi HC against West Bengal govt over alleged tapping of his phoneHe added that earlier Alipurduar District Court had passed an injunction prohibiting Roy from making public statements against Abhishek following a petition by him but Roy repeated it again at a press conference on November 25. “Now I have filed a criminal case against him. I have my full faith on the judiciary. People are watching. We have shown how to win convincingly through ballot. We will do the same in this legal battle as well,” he added.Along with Abhishek, also present at the court was party MLA Smita Bakshi’s son Soumya Bakshi. Abhishek’s lawyer said that the defamation case has been filed under section 202 of the Indian Penal Code.
ALSO READ Why Mukul Roy is getting ‘Y-plus’ security? Trinamool leader files plea in Calcutta High CourtInterestingly, Roy too, had filed a similar case against Abhishek last week at Patiala House Court in New Delhi saying that the legal notice which was sent to him was defamatory. It will be heard on December 1. State BJP leadership refused to comment on the issue. “It is Roy who has alleged and the case is against him. The party is with him but he himself will have to prove the credibility of his allegations,” said a senior state BJP leader.In another development, the Biswa Bangla Biswabidyalay Bill (Biswa Bangla University Bill) was tabled by state education minister Partha Chatterjee at the West Bengal state Assembly while Opposition members opposed the title of the bill. Left Front and Congress members suggested that the bill should referred to the select committee which was turned down by speaker Biman Banerjee. Chatterjee said that the name had nothing to do with the Biswa Bangla logo. The proposed university would be located at Bolpur in Shantiniketan. Opposition members said that they opposed the use ‘Biswa Bangla’, which was a tainted phrase, in the name of a university at Shantiniketan because it amounted to an insult to Rabindranath Tagore.

Winter session of Bihar Assembly likely to be stormy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The winter session of the Bihar legislature, commencing from November 27, is likely to be a stormy one with the Opposition ready to target the government over the multi-crore Srijan Scam and Toilet Scam, which surfaced in the state over the last few months.The session will witness five sittings, and the government is likely to introduce some important bills besides the second complementary budget.The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which is the single largest party with 80 MLAs but sits in the Opposition after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar dumped the Mahagathbandhan to join hands with the BJP, held a meeting of the legislators on Sunday evening. “We will not interrupt the Assembly if we get satisfactory answers for the adjournment motions moved by us,” said Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, the leader of the Opposition in the Bihar legislative assembly.The Opposition has plans to target the government over “deteriorating law and order in the state, scams, health facilities and education.” “We will show a mirror to the claims of good governance made by the NDA government,” said a Congress leader. The three MLAs of CPI (ML-L) will also target the government over “increased crime graph and communal violence.”Meanwhile, leaders of the JD-U and BJP said the treasury benches were ready with their answers for the Opposition. “The developmental works done by the Nitish government will be an answer to all their questions,” said a JD-U leader. The JD-U and BJP will hold their legislature party meets on Monday.Assembly speaker Vijay Choudhary and Council chairperson Harun Rashid have sought cooperation from all members of the smooth functioning of the House. The session will conclude on December 1.

PM Narendra Modi, FM Arun Jaitley wish citizens on Constitution Day

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As Indians marks the Constitution Day on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to “salute the great women and men who gave India a Constitution we are proud of.”The Prime Minister was joined by members of his Cabinet as well as the Opposition leaders who wished the citizens on the occasion marking the day on which the Constitution of India was agreed to by the Constituent Assembly in 1949.November 26 was was earlier commemorated as the National Law Day, but the government in 2015 decided to celebrate it as Constitution Day.
ALSO READ Judiciary, executive and legislature need to be careful to not cross into each other’s spaces: President Kovind Wishing the citizens on the occasion, PM Modi tweeted a short video, accompanied by the caption, “On Constitution Day, we salute the great women and men who gave India a Constitution we are proud of.”Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also greeted the nation on the day and tweeted, “#ConstitutionDay greetings to everyone. On this day in 1949 Constitution of India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly. Let us cherish the core principles of our constitution, remember its framers & rededicate ourselves to the ideals of our constitution on this historic day.”His Cabinet Colleague and Minister of Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani tweeted, “Greetings to everyone on National Constitution Day. We remember Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar & every individual who framed our Constitution. Their contribution towards empowering our democracy is invaluable.”Vice President Venkaiah Naidu also wished the countrymen on the occasion. “Let us all gratefully commemorate today, adoption of Constitution of India, Holy Book of every citizen of country. It is a living document which provides fundamental rights to citizens and a balanced separation of powers between executive, judiciary and legislature,” he tweeted. HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu and Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore were among those who wished the nation on the Constitution Day. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah tweeted, “On this day in 1949, the Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution of India. Today, I renew my pledge to uphold the Constitution.”Congress leaders Manish Tewari cautioned against losing “Tolerance to bold,daring,outrageous & even provocative creativity.””On Constitution Day what has happened to the Preambular Value-“Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith & Worship”. Any nation that looses Tolerance to bold,daring,outrageous & even provocative creativity ultimately fossilises intellectually & Socially . We are almost there,” he said on Twitter.

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.

Winter session of Parliament to be held from December 15 to January 5

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs has decided to hold the Winter Session of Parliament from December 15 to January 5.”This will be a 14-day session, 25th and 26th December will be Christmas holidays”, said parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar on Friday.”I request political parties to cooperate and make the winter session successful and fruitful. We expect that we will have attendance on all 14 days, including the New Year’s day,” Kumar said.The Committee met on Friday in the morning to finalise the schedule and agenda for the Winter Session. Earlier on Wednesday, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that the schedule of the Winter Session and the Assembly Elections won’t overlap.The Opposition, especially the Congress had been attacking the government for delaying the Winter Session.The Congress party had alleged that in view of the Gujarat Assembly Elections, the Centre is trying to evade a discussion on issues the Opposition want to raise during Winter Session like scams of ministers, Rafale deal, GST and note ban.The BJP, however, rejected the Congress’s tirade as a “chorus of baseless allegations” and insisted that previous governments, including the UPA, had also scheduled sessions after state polls as politicians were busy campaigning.On Thursday, Sitaram Yechury, the Marxist leader, while speaking at an event also attacked the government for delaying the Winter Session of Parliament.Yechury accused the government of “playing with parliamentary democracy for the sake of victory in a state assembly election”.

Opposition takes on Maharashtra govt over cotton prices, to raise farmers issues in Winter session

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Opposition in Maharashtra has criticised the BJP-led government for not implementing Dr. Swaminathan report for fair prices to cotton producers and will be raising this issue in the upcoming winter session of the state assembly in Nagpur.Farmers are selling the cotton at Rs 4000-4500 per quintal against Rs 6000-7000 per quintal.NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said that during the last Lok Sabha elections, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to implement Dr. Swaminathan report for fair prices to cotton grower farmers.As per this report, the farmers should get input cost plus 50% profit to their cotton crops. However, BJP has been in power for last three years but there is no sign of this said report is likely to be implemented.Interestingly, on the contrary, central government recently had submitted an affidavit in Supreme Court saying it is difficult to implement Dr. Swaminathan report.”During Congress and NCP regime, farmers were getting Rs 6000-7000 per quintal rate to cotton production, but BJP leaders were demanding Rs 8000 to 9000 per quintal. Now, the cotton rates are only Rs 4000 per quintal cotton. Farmers are suffering huge losses due to an anti-farmer policy of this government,” Malik added.Opposition leader in Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde said that there is huge unrest among the farmers. “Farmers are even unable to recover their expenditures. The labor and pesticide spraying cost have gone up in many folds. Besides, this year, pink bollworm had badly damaged the cotton crops. Due to bollworm, the production of cotton has gone drastically down. Farmers had spent a huge amount of money on costly pesticide but in return, they did not get anything,” said Munde.Munde further said this current depressing prices for cotton production has brought distress among the farmers’ community. “People are frustrated and out of debt and failed government policies and a mirage of farm loan waiver, each day eight farmers are committing suicide. Since the day the farm loan waiver scheme was announced, 1020 farmers had committed suicides in Maharashtra. I strongly condemn this farmer killing government policies and demand fair prices to farmers and compensations to those whose crops were damaged because of bollworm and other reasons,” he said. Munde said if the government fails to do so, then “we will not allow both the House of the assembly to functions in Nagpur.”

Fadnavis in Catch-22 situation over fielding Narayan Rane for Council elections

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and BJP leadership are in Catch-22 situation over fielding former Congress leader Narayan Rane for State Legislative Council elections scheduled on December 7.CM Fadnavis has assured Narayan Rane the cabinet berth in his cabinet before Maharashtra state assembly’s winter session, starting from December 11. However, CM is confused whether Rane should be fielded in this council elections or not.The reason behind is that Sena has opposed Rane’s inductions in a cabinet. Sena is also likely to join hands with Congress and NCP to defeat its arch-rival Rane. Sena is not leaving any opportunity to corner BJP and criticise its every decision. And, Rane elections will be blessing in disguise for Sena to harm the prospect of BJP on large scale.On the other hand, BJP’s total 122 MLAs votes are not enough to get Rane elected. Even, the small BJP affiliated parties and independent MLAs extend their support still BJP is short of 10-12 votes. Besides, CM Fadnavis also afraid of disgruntled elements within in his own party.“If major chunk of dissatisfied BJP ministers and MLAs votes against the BJP nominated candidates – Rane in secrete ballet voting, then this will be big political disaster for CM. Therefore, CM is cautious over this peculiar decisions,” said political observer.“Sena’s support is inevitable in this crucial and prestigious polls. If Rane losses the elections that is not only failure of Rane alone but the chief minister Fadnavis and BJP also. Rane’s defeat can make the big headlines and that can go against the BJP ahead of Gujarat elections voting dates — December 9 and 14. That is why, CM Fadnavis and BJP, both are in catch-22 situations over Rane,” said senior BJP minister adding that CM is finding truce with Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and finding way to come out from this labyrinth situations.Moreover, the loss of Rane can also cause more trouble to BJP in winter session. Congress and the NCP has decided to put the joint Opposition front to corner BJP government on various issues. To show the strength of Oppositions, the mega joint rally of Congress and NCP has been also arranged on December 12. It willl be addressed by NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

‘Aur maarna padta toh suraksha bal maartey,’ Mulayam Singh Yadav justifies 1990 firing on karsevaks in Ayodhya

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday justified his order to open fire on karsevaks marching towards Ayodhya in 1990, saying if even more people were required to be killed for the sake of country’s unity and integrity, the security forces would have done it.”Desh ki ekta ke liye aur bhi maarna padta toh suraksha bal maartey (if even more people were required to be killed for the sake of country’s unity and integrity, the security forces would have done it),” he said.He was speaking at an event to celebrate his 79th birthday at the party headquarters in Lucknow.The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister said 28 people lost their lives in the police firing at Ayodhya on 30 October, 1990.Over one lakh kar sevaks from across the country had assembled in Ayodhya for the construction of a temple at the disputed Ram Janmaabhoomi-Babri Mosque site when Mulayam, as the state’s Chief Minister, had ordered the firing to stop them from proceeding.The firing had earned him the nickname of ‘Mullah Mulayam’ and established him as a leader sympathetic to Muslims, which accounts for nearly 20 per cent of UP’s population. The community has since been considered his party’s voter base along with the influential Yadav caste.Justifying his action to save the Babri Masjid, which was ultimately demolished on December 6, 1992, Mulayam said, “A number of Muslims had taken up arms saying if their place of worship ceased to exist, then what would remain in the country.”Yadav said that during a discussion with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former prime minister had claimed that 56 persons were killed in Ayodhya.”I had arguments with him. In reality 28 were killed. I came to know the toll six months later and I helped them in my own way,” he said.Mulayam claimed that the Samajwadi Party still enjoyed the support of Muslims and it was the partymen’s fault that they did not get their votes. “They (Muslims) are still voting for the party (SP) and not against it. It’s the shortcoming of our youth.”He said it was matter of shame that the party won only 47 of the 403 Assembly seats this time, adding that even after ordering firing “when the Opposition termed me as a hatyara (killer)”, the SP succeeded in winning over 100 seats in 1993.”They (youths) now are not like those we had in 1993. When a leader could not ensure victory on his village booth, what will be the party’s fate. I want to see a strong party and leaders should also mend their ways by ensuring better connect with the masses,” he said.Mulayam was the Uttar Pradesh chief minister during Ram Janmabhoomi movement spearheaded by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in 1990. His party lost the 1991 Assembly elections in the state to the BJP.

Gujarat elections 2017: Unrest in Congress over urban seats in Ahmedabad

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress supporters continue to be angry and protests against the party still prevail in Ahmedabad over the distribution of urban seats for the upcoming state Assembly election. The party members are arguing for strong candidates before the high command.According to the sources, on Tuesday, a delegation made a presentation before the high command in Delhi showing their displeasure over local candidate Sabir Kablivala. Kablivala lost the election in 2012 from Jamalpur Khadia constituency. Locals and supporters from Congress are not in favour of his selection. Councillor Sahnawaj Shaikh and former leader of opposition at Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) have also demanded a ticket from Jamalpur-Khadia seat.For Bapunagar, sources said that former leader of AMC, Himmatsinh Patel, is likely to get mandate to contest elections. It is to be noted that Patel has lost two Assembly elections and one parliament election. And per Rahul Gandhi’s close confidantes, a candidate who has already lost two elections in a row will not get a ticket. Dinesh Sharma, an existing leader of Opposition is a Hindi speaker and a strong candidate from Bapunagar, but his selection is not going unopposed.Asarva is reserved seat and there is a fight between former Councillor Rajshree Kesari and former councillor Mangal Surajkar. Both are scheduled caste candidates. In 2012, Surajkar lost the election. Being a reserved seat, Congress has very few strong options.BONE OF CONTENTAccording to the sources, on Tuesday, a delegation made a presentation before the high command in Delhi showing their displeasure over local candidate Sabir Kablivala. Locals and supporters from Congress are not in favour of his selection. He lost the elections in 2012 and many don’t want him.

Congress youth wing deletes chai meme tweet targeting PM Modi, BJP says ‘damage done’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There was a storm in the teacup for the Congress when its youth wing tweeted a ‘chai’ meme targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.Yuva Desh, the Twitter handle later deleted the tweet, but not before it sparked huge outrage in political circles.’Damage is done,’ said BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi. “Now Yuva Desh deleting the tweet means nothing, damage is done, be it intentional or unintentional. This also clearly shows the feudal mindset of Congress,” Trivedi was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad slammed the Opposition party for its ‘thinking towards the poor’.Sambit Patra, another senior BJP leader, said that the ‘chai’ meme tweet would have similar impact on Gujarat Elections.It should be noted that it was in 2014, when senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyyar had made remarks about PM Modi’s humble origin. At a major Congress event, Aiyyar had said that, “Narendra 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.”The Congress, however, distanced itself from the tweet by its youth wing. Party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “INC (Congress) strongly disapproves & rejects such humour through memes. Differences on policy and opinion aside, Congress culture imbibes respect for PM and all political opponents.”Suraj Hegde, the Youth Congress in-charge, tried to put blame on ‘volunteers’. “We condemn this and are apologetic. We are trying to find out who did that tweet as mainly volunteers run that page,” Hegde told ANI. This is however, not the first time they tweeted such thing. Their Twitter timeline is full of similar tweets.Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also took to Twitter and expressed his anguish. “This blatantly classist and anti-poor Tweet by the Youth Congress shows their mindset towards India’s poor. Does Crown Prince @OfficeOfRG support this?,” he tweetedOmar Abdullah, the National Conference leader and former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, termed the chai meme as ‘political suicide.’

TMC MP Derek O’Brien proposes formula to take on Modi might in 2019

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Trinamool Congress Member of Parliament Derek O’Brien believes he has found a way to take the BJP on. The next national election, he says, should not be treated as a battle between Narendra Modi and a single candidate, but as 29 contests in the states.The opposition should fight the BJP from 29 different regional platforms over diverse issues, O’Brien writes in his new book ‘Inside Parliament: Views From The Front Row’. “The election should be fought in the idiom and language and with the issues and themes of individual states,” he elaborated to PTI today. A united opposition needs to chalk out its poll strategy by pitching all opposition leaders against Modi, he added. “Make this a national election that is a sum of state elections. Make Modi and the BJP fight 29 different regional elections in the idiom and language and with the issues and themes of the individual states,” O’Brien said. O’Brien chalked out the opposition strategy for 2019 in the new publication, which he described as the “real book” out of the 53 that he had written.”Don’t let the BJP make it a contest around polarising issues,” beef, pseudo-nationalism or some such prime-time, made-for-TV-and-Twitter agenda,” O’ Brien said. In an essay titled “The BJP is beatable in 2019”, O’Brien suggested that the opposition consider where the BJP juggernaut was stopped in 2014 — “in Bengal by Mamata Banerjee, in Odisha by Naveen Patnaik, in Tamil Nadu by Jayalalithaa and also where the Congress has beaten the BJP in recent times in Punjab, led by Amarinder Singh”.To win the 2019 general polls, the opposition should counter allegations of corruptions by raising the issue of competence, he said. “I am convinced that they (the BJP) are beatable,” he writes. The government is trying to pen “a false narrative around a ten-letter word — corruption — which the opposition must counter with another ten-letter word — competence — to win the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as BJP cannot win on any competence quotient”, he said. The leader of the TMC in the Rajya Sabha has set up a “common constructive agenda” for opposition unity.”The BJP is trying to use this ten-letter word, corruption, since demonetisation. The opposition needs to use another ten letter word, competence, to counter the BJP. You have to ask questions about their competence about jobs, competence about the economy, competence about handling the situation after demonetisation, competence about how GST has been rolled out,” O’Brien suggests in his book. Opposition parties should not get distracted by “polarisation narratives” such as food habits and religion. “All these will benefit the BJP… This is an agreement all opposition parties need to have. Either inside Parliament or outside,” he told PTI.O’Brien also had some specific advice for the Congress. It urged the party not to give too much heed to the Left. “Too much of listening to the Left will put the Congress in trouble,” he said. To cite a case, he said the TMC had got the sense the Congress was ready to march with it after ten days of demonetization. “The Left bullied them in delaying that march. Because they thought the TMC will take the lead so they were looking at it in a very narrow way. (Sitaram) Yechury in Parliament and the Left were trying to slow them down. So I am glad that they stopped listening to the Left,” he said.He recalled the time when demonetization was announced last year.”We marched with Mamata Banerjee. But we were wondering what’s going on. Only two parties marched with us: Shiv Sena and Omar Abdulla’s NC. Hardly one month later, every one was marching down to Rashtrapati Bhavan,” he said. Hinting at political equations between Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, O’Brien stated that Gandhi was the cementing factor of opposition unity, while Banerjee was the acceptable leader who could bridge gaps between conflicting parties within the opposition. The book, with 50 essays, has been published by HarperCollins and will be launched on November 23 in Delhi.

Gujarat Election 2017: Congress to announce its first list today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Opposition Congress is likely to announce its first list of candidates for the upcoming assembly elections on Sunday, just two days before the last day for submission of nominations for the first phase of polls on December 9.The party had originally announced that it would declare its first list on November 15. However, talks with potential allies such as Nationalist Congress Party and Sharad Yadav-led Janata Dal (U) over ticket distribution, and delay in reaching an agreement with PAAS, delayed finalisation of candidates. OBC leader Alpesh Thakor too is believed to be pressing for more tickets for his candidates. Party sources, however, said the initial list, comprising most of the sitting MLAs, as well as top party leaders in the state such as Shaktisinh Gohil, Arjun Modhwadia, Siddharth Patel, and others would be announced on Sunday.

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.

Tejashwi Prasad Yadav thanks Rahul Gandhi for ‘wonderful lunch’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had a lunch meeting with Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, the former deputy CM of Bihar and younger son of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad Yadav, in Delhi on Friday, triggering speculations about changing political equations in Bihar.The meet comes a day after Tejashwi, also the leader of Opposition in Bihar legislative assembly, took on Rahul’s adversaries, dubbing Prime Minister Narendra Modi as ‘Gappu’ in lieu of the saffron party calling Rahul ‘Pappu’.”Despite being out of power, the so-called Pappu is climbing the popularity graph, while Gappu is misusing government machinery and spending crores on IT cell, and yet his popularity is falling,” Tejashwi had said in a series of tweets on Thursday.The news of the luncheon meet was shared by Tejashwi on his official Twitter handle along with photographs on Friday afternoon. The Yadav leader thanked Rahul and said, “Thank you @OfficeOfRG for taking me out for wonderful lunch. Feel appreciated and grateful. Again thanks for taking out time out of your tight schedule.” He, however, did not elaborate on the meeting.”The two share an easy rapport. Earlier this month, Rahul ji had wished Tejashwi over the phone on his birthday,” said an RJD leader in Bihar.At a time when Rahul is busy stumping for Gujarat election, and in light of the corruption charges levelled against Tejashwi and his family members and the ongoing inquiry in the land for Railways’ hotel scam, the meeting assumes much significance.Rahul’s Congress was a part of the Grand Alliance government, which came to power in Bihar in November 2015, in which Tejashwi was the deputy CM. Even after its disintegration, both RJD and Congress have been supporting each other in Bihar.

Moody’s ratings, Pew survey, ease of doing business: Facelift for Modi before Gujarat Assembly polls

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has been the target of opposition attack for the “bad condition” of the economy. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi has been spearheading the attack holding Prime Minister Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley responsible for slow growth of the economy which according to him is “getting worse” with each passing day. But, recent developments — World Bank’s Doing Business report 2018, Pew research on Modi’s popularity and now Moody’s decision to upgrade India’s ratings–have been a shot in the arm for PM Modi and the fact that this all has been happening before Gujarat Assembly Polls 2017 in December, gives BJP immense reasons to cheer. Gujarat will vote on December 9 and December 14. The result of the Gujarat Assembly Polls would have a bearing on the Lok Sabha Polls 2019. A victory for BJP in Gujarat means Modi’s popularity remains intact but a loss would help the opposition stitch the United Front and build a narrative against Modi’s policies and decisions–demonetisation and implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST).Moody’s ratings boost for ModiUS-based Moody’s has upgraded India’s sovereign credit rating by a notch to ‘Baa2’ with a stable outlook citing improved growth prospects driven by economic and institutional reforms. Moody’s had last upgraded India’s rating to ‘Baa3’ in 2004. Narendra Modi-led government has every reason to cheer the developments as it comes as a boost to the steps Centre has taken to the front of economic and institutional reforms. “The decision to upgrade the ratings is underpinned by Moody’s expectation that continued progress on economic and institutional reforms will, over time, enhance India’s high growth potential and its large and stable financing base for government debt, and will likely contribute to a gradual decline in the general government debt burden over the medium term,” Moody s said in a statement.Modi Popularity remains intact claims BJPBJP has already gone into the aggressive mode to claim the success of reforms Modi government at the Centre has taken. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity has risen “unabated” across the country and people’s satisfaction with the economy is at an “all-time high”, BJP chief Amit Shah said on Friday, citing a survey by the Pew Research Center.”The findings of Pew Global research are very significant. After Modi Government came to power, people’s trust in Government, Democracy, and confidence that the nation is going in the right direction has gone up drastically,” Shah said in a series of tweets. Modi remains the most popular national figure in Indian politics tested in the survey. His popularity is relatively unchanged in the north, has risen in the west and the south and is down slightly in the east, according to the survey’s findings.World Bank’s ‘ease of doing business’ rankingIndia has jumped 30 places to 100th rank in the World Bank’s ‘ease of doing business’ ranking, helped by a slew of reforms in taxation, licensing, investor protection and bankruptcy resolution. This is a major shot in the arm for the government which is fighting a battle of perception with the opposition attacking it over, what it calls the faulty implementation of demonetization and GST. The World Bank, in the report published last month, praised India and the work done in last two and three years but acknowledged that more still needs to be done. BJP claimed that India is the only major economy, which the World Bank has hailed for making structural changes. This is the highest jump of rank for any country in this year’s report. In 6 out of 10 indicators, India has improved its ranking. In 3 parameters, India has improved in 9 out of 10 indicators. In 3 indicators, India is in the top 30. Opposition at unease as reports paint rosy picture for economy in futureNot just one report, but three major reports clearly indicate that policy decisions on the economic front taken by the government have started bearing fruits and going by the indication, and the results are going to improve in the coming months. If this continues, oppositions narrative on economic front would fall flat. In such a scenario, Congress and other opposition parties would need other issues to corner Modi, but then, they don’t have anything else as big as the economy on their agenda. On the other hand, Narendra Modi seems to have calculated the timings of demonetisation and GST rollout strategically–the downside phase of the economy did not hurt the party during any assembly elections. Now, before Gujarat Assembly Election, BJP is ready again to ride the Modi popularity. (With inputs from agencies)

Preparing list of TMC leaders involved in attack on BJP workers, says Dilip Ghosh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Referring to the attacks on BJP workers allegedly by TMC cadres, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said that they are keeping a tab on people who are attacking BJP supporters. “The ruling dispensation was rattled at the increasing popularity of BJP in Bengal. Their leaders and workers are joining BJP almost everyday. TMC leaders are unable to stand this. Which is why they are launching attacks on BJP supporters. A list of those who are involved in these attacks on us is being prepared,” Ghosh said on Wednesday at the NJP station as he was on his way to Malda as part of his tour to districts for strengthening party organisation. He was however, quick to add that they did not believe in vindictive politics and would like to reply in a democratic manner.He also alleged that TMC was launching the attack on BJP with the help of police. “TMC has lost its popularity among people and their leaders are unable to face people so they are taking the help of police to do everything for TMC from extorting money to beat up Opposition leaders,” he said.Referring to the situation at the hills he said, “The condition of the hills is equally pathetic. None of the TMC leaders including Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee can go to the hills at the moment and the party is using Central force to protect the police personnel who are made to sit idle there. I had been there and people have urged me to request the Centre to withdraw forces from there,” Ghosh added.On Wednesday, several students from South 24 Parganas defected from TMCP, the students’ wing of Trinamool Congress to BJP under the leadership of former TMCP leader Monty Jaiswal, in the presence of newly-inducted BJP leader Mukul Roy. Jaiswal said that not only from TMCP, many from the TMC youth wing too would be joining BJP. It was found out that soon a unit of ABVP, the students arm of the saffron brigade, would be opened in Behala.

Tamil Nadu Governor in political storm over admin meet

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has stirred a new political controversy in the state by holding a discussion with Coimbatore district officials, as the Opposition parties — led by the DMK — have termed it a gross interference in the state’s rights. The ruling AIADMK, however, did not see any threat to the state’s autonomy.In spite of the opposition parties flaying him for holding the meeting on Tuesday, Purohit swept a bus bay as part of a cleanliness drive under the Swachh Bharat initiative on Wednesday and also held a discussion with NGOs and resident welfare associations working on solid waste management.In a strong message to the opposition, the governor declared that he would visit the district as well as the other districts every year. He also expressed hope that Coimbatore would soon become the cleanest city in the country.The governor’s meeting evoked comparison with neighbouring Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi who has earned the wrath of the ruling Congress government for interfering in its administration.Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy said that the disease of governor interfering in the elected government’s administration has spread to Tamil Nadu too. He alleged Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using the governors and lieutenant governors to undermine the opposition party run governments in the state and the union territories.

Farmers agitation takes violent turn, 5 injured

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An agitation by sugarcane farmers, who were demanding an increase in the fair and remunerative price (FRP), took a violent turn in Shevgaon region on Wednesday with police firing plastic bullets, lobbing teargas and resorting to lathi charges to rein in restive protesters. Two farmers, three police officers were injured in firing and stone pelting and two constables were seriously injured.The agitation was led by the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and other farmer outfits. Ahmednagar police have invoked Section 144 in seven villages after firing plastic bullets, tear gas and lathi charge. Police have registered offences against 13 farmers in this incident.Meanwhile, Minister for cooperation Subhash Deshmukh has appealed farmers’ organisations to sort out issues through talks. Deshmukh stated that Centre government already has announced fair and remunerative price for sugarcane which Rs 250 more than last year.Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) leader and Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetti when contacted blamed it on administration and sugar factories. He said that despite the fact that farmers in and around Gangamai Sugar factory in Shevgaon, had gathered in a peaceful manner and have been agitating for last six days, police took action against leaders at wee hours, which agitated the farmers and it resulted in worsening the situation. He said that while government asks to resolve the matter peacefully, while the police is going hard on the protesters. Shetti said Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana’s western Maharashtra president Prakashtatya Balwadkar along with Amar Kadam and local workers were arrested by police in wee hours.Meanwhile, leader of Opposition in state assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil has criticised the state government for wrongly handling the farmers’ agitation. Demanding an inquiry in to police firing at agitating farmers, Vikhe-Patil also demanded action against those involved in it.According to statement issued by Ahmednagar Superintendent of Police two farmers Uddhav Mapari and Baburao Dukare have been injured while two constables have been seriously injured. According to police statement farmers had resorted to rasta roko last week but withdrew it after discussions with local revenue officials. Police told that on Wednesday agitators resorted to stone pelting, setting ablaze vehicles while led to lathi charge, use of tear gas and plastic bullets and pump action gun.

Mukul Roy to approach Delhi HC with allegations that TMC tapping into his phone conversations

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former TMC MP Mukul Roy is likely to approach the Delhi High Court with claims that his phones are being tapped by the West Bengal government.Sources say that Roy is likely to move court on November 17. “It is not only in my case. If you talk to political leaders across all parties, many will tell you that it is true. Even leaders of the ruling disposition are not spared from this, but nobody will admit it on record,” Roy had said earlier. Political analysts say that since Roy had been the second in command in the TMC for a long time, he knew of what was happening inside the party. “It will be easy for him to make attacks such as these,” an analyst said. TMC leaders, however, were not ready to put too much importance on allegations of Roy and termed them publicity stunts. “He has left the party and is trying to be afloat by saying such things. He has to be in news and prove his worth it to the party he has recently joined. He has to eat, hasn’t he?” said party national secretary general on the sidelines of the rally put up by north Kolkata district youth TMC on Monday.Interestingly, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had levelled similar charges several times in the past. When she was at the Opposition she said that the then government had tapped her phone lines, and after becoming CM, she alleged that the Centre was indulging in phone tapping to intercept information.

Lalu Prasad Yadav hints Tejashwi will be RJD’s 2020 CM candidate, backtracks

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On Friday, Rashtriya Janata Dal President Lalu Prasad Yadav theoretically handed over his political legacy to his younger son Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, when he hinted that he will be naming him as the party’s chief ministerial candidate in the 2020 Bihar Assembly polls.Interacting with media, Lalu lauded Tejashwi’s leadership and said, “He is better than others in leadership skills and we will fight the 2020 Assembly election under him.” He added that Tejashwi is a popular leader and it was time to bring the youth forward.Tejashwi has already served as the deputy chief minister of Bihar under CM Nitish Kumar in the Mahagathbandhan government, before it disintegrated in July this year. Presently, the 28-year-old is the leader of the Opposition in Bihar legislative Assembly, where his party has a maximum 80 MLAs.Lalu was replying to queries on comments made by recently re-elected state RJD chief Ram Chandra Purve, who said, “The RJD will form the next government in Bihar under the leadership of Tejashwi.” Lalu added to that and said, “Tejashwi speaks better than most of us and has the ability to lead. And I am not saying that just because he is my son.”However, Lalu’s statement triggered notes of discord within the party with senior leaders like party vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and former Bihar finance minister Abdul Bari Siddiqui claiming that it was too early to declare who would lead the party in the next polls. “No decision has been taken yet. Purbe may have expressed his personal sentiments,” they said.Following their statement, Lalu too rephrased his statement saying, “There is a lot of time for the election. The CM face will be decided by the party when the time comes.”

I am still unable to understand GST, won’t speak about it: Madhya Pradesh Food Minister Om Prakash Dhurve

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid Opposition parties targeting government over the Goods and Service Tax (GST), Madhya Pradesh Food and Civil Supplies minister has said that he has still not understood the new tax regime.The minister made the remark during a discussion on note-ban and GST on Wednesday, ahead of the crucial meeting of the GST Council slated to be held on Friday.”I am still unable to understand the GST… therefore, I won’t speak anything on this topic. Chartered Accountants, Businessmen are not understanding GST (GST mai khud hi nahi samajh paa raha hoon, to iss sambandh mein nahi bolunga. Bade bade CA nahin samajh paa rahe hain, vyapari nahin samajh paa rahe hain), said Om Prakash Dhurve.The minister also said that he will be satisfied and feel better when he will understand it slowly.
ALSO READ DeMo, GST have crippled Surat’s textile, diamond hubs, says Rahul GandhiMeanwhile, the GST Council meeting, chaired by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, is likely to witness deliberations on a number of topics, including extended liberalization given to small traders, rate cuts on A/C restaurants from 18% to 12%, and the issue of benami properties.With the 23rd meeting of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on the cards, exporters, small traders and those in the restaurant business are hoping for a much-needed relief to come their way.
ALSO READ GST, Aadhaar to transform Indian economy, to take it to a new level: UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan PandeyPunjab, Karnataka and Puducherry, where the Congress is in power, jointly voiced their reservations over glitches with the GST tax-filing network, demanding that real estate and petroleum products be brought under the new regime and the tax rate be kept at no more than 18%.In the run-up to the assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the opposition party and its leaders have been targeting the government over difficulties faced by some businesses under the GST regime, with party vice-president Rahul Gandhi even calling it a “Gabbar-Singh Tax (GST)”.

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.

Rahul Gandhi’s ‘chai pe charcha’ in Surat? Congress VP stops for a quick tea break, shares ‘bread-pakoras’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday took a quick tea break from his busy schedule at a roadside stall in Surat.Gandhi was seen having tea and ‘bread-pakoras’ at a roadside stall with his team and some locals during his Gujarat election campaign.On the first anniversary of Demonetization, Gandhi is in Gujarat to observe the day as ‘Black Day’ and participate in the candle-light vigil by Opposition parties in Vivekanand statue in Chowk Bazar area.Ahead of the upcoming state assembly elections, Gandhi had informal meetings with few industry workers, representatives and traders. Gandhi is likely to meet the traders in the Adajan area of the country’s textile and diamond hub.“There was an attack on India’s economy one year back,” Gandhi told reporters in the poll-bound state.”I interacted with the people here and they told me that notebandi (demonetisation) and then GST have broken Surat’s legs. The industry has been finished by the twin blows not only here, but in the entire country,” he added.(With inputs from PTI)

Demonetization Anniversary: Rahul Gandhi attacks Modi, says PM’s ‘thoughtless act’ destroyed livelihoods of honest Indians

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On demonetization’s first-anniversary, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi hit-out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying, livelihoods of millions of Indians were destroyed by PM’s thoughtless act.”Demonetisation is a tragedy. We stand with millions of honest Indians, whose lives and livelihoods were destroyed by PM’s thoughtless act,” said Rahul Gandhi in a tweet.The Congress and other Opposition parties have also planned countrywide protests in the form of processions, rallies, and candle-light marches to mark the first demonetization anniversary on Wednesday, as their leaders would observe it as ‘black day’The Congress, which described the note ban decision as the ‘biggest scam’ and ‘the largest government-abetted money laundering scheme’, has asked all its state units to organise protests, processions and marches to mark the day.It has also asked all its leaders to participate in such protests and ‘strongly’ highlight the demerits of the decision, which it said is a ‘colossal and completely avoidable failure’.The Congress, on its website, also put out an article on demonetization, dubbing it as a “Modi-Made Disaster”.”Even the undeclared emergency in India’s newsrooms have failed to contain the news spreading like wildfire through India. Demonetisation was a colossal and completely avoidable failure and the largest government-abetted money laundering scheme in history,” the article said.It further alleged that demonetization failed to curb black money as 99% of banned Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were returned. This was expected as black money is not usually stored in currency, but property, bullion and more easily convertible currency like dollars.Meanwhile, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley contested Congress leader Manmohan Singh for calling demonetization an ‘organized loot’, insisting the exercise was an ‘ethical drive and a moral step’ that made corruption difficult.The loot is what happened in 2G scam, Commonwealth games and allocation of coal blocks, whereas demonetization was an economic exercise based on ethical and moral rationales, Jaitley told reporters here.”An anti-black money drive is (an) ethical drive, a moral step. And what is moraly and ethically correct has to be politically correct,” the minister said, targeting the former prime minister.

Manmohan Singh in Gujarat as BJP gears up for ‘Anti-Black Money’ Day

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Opposition is heading for a showdown with the BJP government at the Centre ahead of the first anniversary of demonetization on November 8. Senior Congress leader and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will make a rare appearance in poll-bound Gujarat on Tuesday itself. The Congress has decided to field Singh, an economist of repute, to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his home state.A fierce demonetization critique, Singh will fly to Ahmedabad to hold a media conference to speak on India’s economy. PM Modi announced on November 8 last year the scrapping of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes as part of the government’s efforts to fight black money and corruption.A total of 18 Opposition parties have decided to observe November 8 as “Black Day” with protests and rallies across states to highlight “the cash crunch and economic slowdown”, with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi meeting industrialists in Gujarat’s Surat to highlight their “woes”. The ruling BJP will be hold “Anti-Black Money Day” celebrations across the country.Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday that some people have problems in accepting the fact that transactions through the digital mode and banking instruments, spurred because of demonetization, as compared to cash dealings, are going to witness a rapid growth.PM Modi said in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh on Sunday that Congress was “angry” with demonetization because the decision has disturbed the party’s sleep and it is slipping into “mourning” by giving a public protest call. He said “they had big bags and garages full of notes which were banned due to the decision.” “The Congress cannot scare me by burning my effigies… My fight against corruption will not stop, he said.The Congress has asked all its general secretaries to fan across states to lend their voice to anti-demonetization protests. The party has also complied the “ill-effects” of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), another initiative of the Modi government. A booklet prepared by the Congress lists PM Modi’s speeches since November 2016, showing “fluctuating” narratives.PM Modi has accused former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of not going for demonetization when needed, and said he would not have had to carry out the big task if she had taken the step years ago. The PM has also accused former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and said the latter refused to combat the menace of corruption.The Opposition has said demonetization has slowed India’s growth and wiped out jobs, while the government says the move has brought down cash in the economy, spurred digitisation, expanded the tax base and fought black money.

PM Modi meets ailing DMK supremo Karunanidhi, Stalin says no politics discussed

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi today met ailing DMK supremo M Karunanidhi, a former Tamil Nadu chief minister, even as the regional party said no politics was discussed during the meeting.This was the first meeting between the two leaders after Modi became the prime minister in May 2014.The meeting at Karunanidhi’s Gopalapuram residence during which Modi enquired about his health lasted about 20 minutes.Modi sat next to wheelchair-bound Karunanidhi, 93, and held his hands.”Met former Tamil Nadu CM, Thiru M Karunanidhi and enquired about his [email protected],” Modi wrote on his official Twitter page.The opposition DMK indicated that not much should be read of the meeting and that it was a “courtesy call.””The prime minister did not come with any political intentions nor did he talk politics. He only enquired about Kalaignar’s (Karunandhi) health,” M K Stalin, who is Karunanidhi’s son and DMK working president, told reporters.Modi called on Karaunanidhi as he was a senior Dravidian leader and only came to enquire about his health, he said.The DMK leader said only the media was thinking that there was a political angle to today’s meeting.”Kalaignar (Karunanidhi) is a very senior leader in Indian politics. Mr Modi has respect for Kalaignar,” DMK spokesperson T K S Elangovan said.He said in the past, when both were chief ministers, they used to greet each other during meetings in Delhi and this has been the practice.”This is a courtesy call,” he said, adding, the meeting was only to greet the leader who is recuperating.Stalin welcomed Modi at the gate of the residence and honoured him with a red shawl.Stalin, also Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, in his official twitter page said that Modi during the meeting wished Karunanidhi a “speedy and full recovery.””Hon’ble PM @narendramodi made a courtesy call on Dr @kalaignar89…The PM enquired about his health & wished him a speedy & full recovery,” Stalin wrote.During his visit, Modi was accompanied by state Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan and state BJP chief Tamilisai Soundararajan.Soundarrajan told reporters that the prime minister invited Karunanidhi to visit Delhi.DMK leaders, including Kanimozhi, who is the daughter of Karunanidhi and a Rajya Sabha MP, were among those present during the meeting.Later, Karunanidhi made a brief appearance outside and waved at his supporters who cheered him.Karunanidhi, who was taken ill in October 2016 due to a drug-induced allergy, was twice admitted to a private hospital in December last.He has been since confined to his house, but made one rare appearance on October 19 this year when he visited an exhibition here held to showcase the 75-year journey of DMK’s mouthpiece, ‘Murasoli.Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had called on the nonagenarian DMK patriarch at his residence in December, 2016.

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