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The year that saw rise of Congress and agitations

Looking back at 2017… One sees a politically eventful year, a year made up a series of events that have led to a mobilisation of various sections, especially the farmers and the Dalits. The discontent in these sections was successfully harnessed in the form of agitations that not only put the government’s problem solving skills to test but also created a situation wherein the agitators managed to get the upper hand as they entered into agreements with the government.The year that has passed has seen the Congress rise like the phoenix. The party that was reduced to redundancy in last elections has grown to be a force to be reckoned with. The opposition party has managed to catch the fancy of the rural population with its incessant raising of the farmers’ issues. It today has the distinction of being a state that is home to four of Rahul Gandhi’s close aides; CP Joshi, Bhanwar Jitendra Singh, Sachin Pilot and the newly added Ashok Gehlot.Congress also made its relevance felt nationally by striking emotional cord. The name for Rahul Gandhi as AICC president was proposed in Jaipur. It was projected as the logical action in the city where Rahul took charge as party vice-president.All through 2017 the die has been cast. It has laid the foundation for the years to come. The year that passes by has managed to fuel discontent to such a level that the run down to the assembly polls at the end of 2018 will be interspersed with protests and agitation.Discontent among the castes was on the rise all through the year. With no concerted effort to contain, it escalated and spread. The Gurjars, Jats and Meenas under Kirori; have an axe to grind with the present government. Rajputs and Brahmins have their own issues. This caste cauldron, while being a political irritant spells trouble for the social fabric too.As the year prepares to fade out, both BJP and Congress have decided to adopt the Gujarat model. The poll preparation will be on the lines adopted in Gujarat. Congress with its offensive campaign and the BJP plans to decentralise to the booth level to ensure each vote.

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BJP all set to ‘show strength’ in refinery foundation ceremony

The programme schedule of foundation ceremony of Pachpadra refinery by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 14 is not out yet but the administration has made the preparations faster. Here, the Bharatiya Janata Party has started to formulate a strategy to show its strength in the program of the prime minister. Despite years of the strong hold, Congress in Marwar won only two of the 33 assembly seats in the last assembly elections. That is why BJP has focused on Marwar to keep the victory alive. In order to make Marwar ‘Congress-free’, the BJP state president himself has visited Barmer and Jodhpur five times in the last three months. Efforts are being made to strengthen the BJP from booth functioning to the state level.State president of BJP, Ashok Parnami arrived in Jodhpur on Saturday afternoon. He took a meeting of the Jodhpur division MLAs regarding Prime Minister’s program. In this meeting, while giving the lesson to strengthen the BJP in their area, they have been given the target of mobilizing supporters of Modi in the program. The BJP wants to showcase a big power in the presence of the Prime Minister during this program. The MLAs of Jodhpur, Barmer, Jaisalmer, Pali, Jalore and Sirohi have been given a target to bring crowds in buses along with the activists in the program. While Talking to media, he targeted the Congress and especially the former chief minister, Ashok Gehlot, about the refinery. Describing the leadership of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje as proficient, he said that she has done good for the people by saving 40,000 crores in refinery cost.It is worth mentioning that former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot presented the Pachpadra refinery as his ambitious project before the last assembly elections. Then the Congress had also demonstrated power at the earlier foundation ceremony. On the same lines, describing as the huge achievement of the Vasundhara government for reducing the cost of this project and renewing the MOU with HPCL, BJP is working on the strategy to surround the previous government.Here, Barmer-Jaisalmer former MP Harish Chaudhary has also come out in front opposing the re-foundation ceremony of the refinery by the Prime Minister. He said that the then national president of the Congress, Sonia Gandhi, has done foundation ceremony of the refinery on September 22, 2013. Now, what is the justification to again have a foundation ceremony by the Prime Minister? He said that the strategy is being formulated to protest the foundation ceremony. Soon, it will be announced at the state level to protest against this program.

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Vidya Balan: It has to be something like Ijaazat with Shah Rukh Khan
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Varun Dhawan buys a plush new apartment; girlfriend Natasha Dalal attends housewarming party
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Rajkot readies to welcome Vijay Rupani, roadshow to be held

The BJP unit in Rajkot has made all preparations to welcome Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on Sunday. Rupani, in his second consecutive term as CM, will reach his hometown Rajkot for the first time after being appointed on the post recently. He will participate in a roadshow from airport and later attend a felicitation ceremony by the BJP.Rajkot city BJP president Kamlesh Mirani said, “This is an auspicious moment for Rajkot as our leader is coming to his hometown for first time after being elected as CM. BJP came to power under his leadership. Entire Rajkot should take an opportunity to welcome him.”On preparations, he said, “We have arranged a grand roadshow from airport to main city to welcome Rupani. Flower petals will be showered on him during the entire route and dances by different troupes have been organised. Decorations and Rangoli will be made by artists and our workers.”The CM has been in Gandhinagar since the first phase of polls on December 9. He could not visit Rajkot as he was busy with campaigning for the second phase, counting of votes, election of CM and deputy CM, swearing in of ministers and portfolio allocation. He also attended several meetings with party leaders.Spokesperson of BJP and leader from Rajkot, Raju Dhruv, said, “This is really and emotional moment for us. We had run a campaign ‘Rajkot ka beta, Gujarat ka neta’ (Rajkot’s son will be Gujarat’s leader). Our mission was successful and under the leadership of Vijaybhai, Entire Rajkot is excited to welcome him and the party has arranged an extravaganza.”He added, “Not only party leaders but industrialists, educationists, social workers, religious and different community leaders are also going to welcome and felicitate Vijaybhai for his victory in this ceremony. We have made all preparations.”

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Vidya Balan: It has to be something like Ijaazat with Shah Rukh Khan
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“Stop behaving like Aaradhya,” says Amitabh Bachchan to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Watch viral video!
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Telugu actor Vijay Sai found dead in his apartment; Did he commit suicide?
Varun Dhawan buys a plush new apartment; girlfriend Natasha Dalal attends housewarming party
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PM to launch Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao nationwide on Jan 22

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Jhunjhunu on January 22. He will formally launch ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ mission that will be now implemented in every district in the country. The PM will also inaugurate ‘national nutrition mission’. Till now, ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ mission is running in 161 districts including 14 from Rajasthan. Jhunjhunu, which once boasted the highest sex ratio has the lowest sex ratio in the state, now. The ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ mission that began from Haryana two years ago has brought a welcome change in people’s attitude. On the third anniversary, it will be implemented in the entire country.The changed face of 10 districtsIn Rajasthan, 14 districts were selected for the mission, where the sex ratio was highest. After two years, at least ten districts have shown remarkable progress. Jhunjhunu has converted from the lowest sex ratio district to the highest sex ratio district in the country. Still, four districts, which had shown improvement in the first year of the mission, are back to square one. Sawai Madhopur, Karauli, Bharatpur and Jaisalmer are at the bottom. Yet, Rajasthan has been able to maintain its number one position in ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ mission for which the state recently received Nari Shakti award from the President.Prime Minister Modi will facilitate 10 districts collectors from different parts of the country who did excellent work in the implementation of the mission. The PM will also directly communicate with officials in every district through video conferencing. Rajasthan’s women and child development department will be the nodal agency for the entire programme.The other flagship programme ‘national nutrition mission’ will also be expanded in every state. Earlier, it was operational in only eight states. In Rajasthan, it will cover 24 districts in place of 19 districts, at present. Later, in a phased manner, all districts in the country will be covered by 2019-20. In the current financial year, 315 districts, next year 235 and remaining will be covered in 2019-20.The mission will focus to remove stunting, malnutrition, anemia and low weight at birth through better coordination and monitoring. The states will be encouraged to achieve the targets. “A video conference was held with district officials regarding the Prime Minister’s visit. They have been given necessary instruction. The PM will launch Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and national nutrition missions on January 22. At present these programmes are operation only a few states,” said Shuchi Sharma, director, ICDS.

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Vidya Balan: It has to be something like Ijaazat with Shah Rukh Khan
Here’s how “well-behaved” Shashi Kapoor was different from Raj Kapoor & Shammi Kapoor, writes Shobhaa De
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Will Alia Bhatt say yes to Priyanka Chopra?
Salman Khan cheers up teary-eyed Katrina Kaif during ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ promotions
Not just Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli: Here are other B-Town beauties who bowled over cricketing stars

SPG calls for Mehsana bandh on Monday

The Patel reservation outfit Sardar Patel Group (SPG) also has come in support with Nitin Patel. The SPG president Lalji Patel and his team reached Nitin Patel’s house on Saturday and gave a close call for Mehsana on Monday. However, Nitin Patel placated them to not to give such a call.Lalji Patel said, “This is an insult to Nitin Patel. He was the only BJP leader who struggled against Patel agitators during polls and worked hard to keep Patel community’s votes intact for BJP. What kind of reward BJP gave him? We are with Nitin Patel as he is the senior most leader in BJP who comes from Patel community. We give a close call for Mehsana on Monday.”The vice-president of SPG, Purvin Patel, said, “This is the time to show the strength of Patel community in politics. This is the incident that proves that BJP has been sidelining Patel leaders who are influential. The BJP has stabbed into the back of Patel community. This injustice should not be tolerated anymore.” However, Nitin Patel placated them to not to observe close on Monday. Patel said, “People’s sympathy for me is really touching. But, a close call should not be given as it would create problems for common people.”The Mehsana city BJP president, Kaushik Vyas, also said, “There is no Mehsana close call from BJP and that should be avoided. We do not support any close call and also request people that they should not join in any close calls.”

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Envoy in Hafiz Saeed rally: Palestine recalls ambassador in Pak, says ‘unintended mistake’ but not justified

The Palestinian Authority today described as “unintended mistake”, but “not justified” the presence of its ambassador to Pakistan at an event also attended by Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed and decided to recall him immediately.India today issued a strong demarche to Palestine after its Ambassador to Pakistan, Walid Abu Ali, was seen sharing stage with JuD chief Saeed during an event in Rawalpindi organised to express solidarity with Jerusalem. “On the basis of the principled and firm Palestinian position, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates considered the participation of our Ambassador in Pakistan in a mass rally in solidarity with Jerusalem, held in Rawalpindi on Friday and in the presence of individuals accused of supporting terrorism is an unintended mistake, but not justified,” a statement from the Palestinian Authority (PA) said.”Accordingly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, under the direct instructions of the President of the State of Palestine, decided to recall the Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan immediately,” it said. The statement from the PA described Palestine as a “real partner” of India in its war against terrorism and also expressed its appreciation for New Delhi’s vote in favour of the resolution at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on the issue of Jerusalem.Also readEnvoy in Hafiz Saeed’s rally: Palestine issues ‘regret’, recalls himThe statement quoted the Spokesman of the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates stressing on the “commitment of the State of Palestine and its keenness to maintain strong and friendly relations with the Republic of India, as well as its support to the efforts made by the Republic of India in its war against terrorism”. “In that regard the State of Palestine affirms its stand with the Republic of India in dealing with its terrorist threats, as our nations are real partners in the war against terrorism,” it said.India’s vote in favour of a UNGA resolution that made US President Donald Trump’s unilateral announcement declaring Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel “null and void” was also appreciated by the PA in its announcement. “The State of Palestine highly appreciates India?s support in its tireless efforts to end the Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent State of Palestine on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and this is especially seen in the honourable position that India has taken by voting in favour of the resolution in the United Nation General Assembly last week,” it further added.The External Affairs Ministry (MEA) had earlier today condemned the act by the Palestinian Ambassador in strong words and called it “unacceptable”. “The government has strongly conveyed to the Palestinian side that the Palestinian Ambassador’s association with terrorist Hafiz Saeed, who is proscribed by the United Nations, at an event in Rawalpindi on December 29 is unacceptable,” the MEA said. Here’s the full statement: The Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates stressed on the commitment of the State of Palestine and keenness to maintain strong and friendly relations with the Republic of India, as well as its support to the efforts made by the Republic of India in its war against terrorism and in that regard the State of Palestine affirms its stand with the Republic of India in dealing with its terrorist threats, as our nations are real partners in the war against terrorism.The State of Palestine highly appreciates India’s support in its tireless efforts to end the Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent State of Palestine on the 1967 boarders with East Jerusalem as its capital and this is especially seen in the honorable position that India has taken by voting in favor of the resolution in the United Nation General Assembly last week.On the basis of the principled and firm Palestinian position, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates considered the participation of our ambassador in Pakistan in a mass rally in solidarity with Jerusalem, held in Rawalpindi on Friday and in the presence of individuals accused of supporting terrorism is an unintended mistake, but not justified. Accordingly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates under the direct instructions of the President of the State of Palestine to recall the Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan immediately.

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Here’s how “well-behaved” Shashi Kapoor was different from Raj Kapoor & Shammi Kapoor, writes Shobhaa De
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India facing possible mental health epidemic, warns President Kovind

President Ram Nath Kovind today said India was facing a possible “mental health epidemic” and stressed the need for providing access to treatment facilities to those suffering from mental disorders by 2022.Speaking at the 22nd convocation of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences here (NIMHANS), he called for addressing the shortage of mental health professionals. “For those who are getting their degrees at the convocation, the real challenge has just begun. They are going into a world where their skills are acutely needed more than ever before,” the president said. “India does not simply have a mental health challenge… it is facing a possible mental health epidemic,” he said.Pointing out several reasons for this, he said the country was experiencing technological, economic and demographic changes that were transforming the nature of diseases.Kovind said in 2022, India would be celebrating its 75th anniversary of Independence and it should be ensured that by then at least those suffering from serious mental disorders have been diagnosed and have access to treatment facilities. “Let us take this up as a national mission,” he said.Also readDispleased with food packets being distributed, Prez Kovind stops speech midway The government, non-government sectors and all related public and private institutions need to contribute to this effort, he said, and asked the NIMHANS, as the country’s premier health institute, to draw a road map and to be the navigator towards achieving this goal. Observing that the shortage of mental health professionals was another major gap that the country has to address, Kovind said there were just about 5,000 psychiatrists and less than 2,000 clinical psychologists in the country. These numbers were very small, he said.”Especially for the purpose of diagnosis of mental illnesses, it will be advisable to use (the services of) physicians, psychologists who teach in colleges and educational institutions as well as auxiliary nurses and midwives who are at the front line of public health system across the country,” he said. On the NIMAHNS’s mental health survey, the president said the findings were alarming as 10 per cent of Indians have one or more mental health problem.In a nation of 1.3 billion people, that was a staggering figure. The number of Indians suffering from mental health problem was larger than the entire population of Japan, he said. He said the one of the biggest problems faced by those with mental and neurological issues was the stigma which lead to the matter being ignored or not discussed. In some cases it led to self diagnosis that could worsen the situation, he said, adding, “our society has to fight this culture of stigma”.”We need to talk about mental health issues and treat ailments such as depression and stress as diseases that can be cured,” he said. Other than conventional treatment, the role of counselling services and practices such as yoga and vipassana in helping those with mental health problems should also be explored with greater vigour, the president said. Karnataka Governor Vahubhai Vala, Union ministers Ananth Kumar and JP Nadda were present at the event during which sub- speciality block for Neurosciences, Medical Cyclotron facility and Intra-operative MRI with three operation theaters were inaugurated.

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CM Vasundhara Raje orders party members to fight by-polls on Dholpur model

During the meeting, Raje instructed all the in-charge minister and organisation officials to remain in the Assembly for five days in a week till the completion of the by-elections. During this period, they will meet with booth and the mandal executives and create an environment favourable for the BJP. CM Raje said that the in-charge minister and organisation officer should work in his own Assembly constituency for the remaining two days of the week. During the meeting, BJP state president Ashok Parnami said that the state election committee has sent a panel of probable three candidates for the by-elections to the parliamentary board.”
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–><!–end of breadcrumbx–>CM Vasundhara Raje orders party members to fight by-polls on Dholpur model Jaipur_bjp__meeting
CM Vasundhara Raje, State BJP President, Ashok Parnami, with party members during the BJP meeting at party headquarters on Friday. – Santosh Sharma, DNA<!– /11440465/DNA_Article_Right_300x250_ATF –><!–bnr300–>Share

<!–end of artlbotbor–><!–end of artlsocl–>Written Bydna Correspondent <!–end of artlbotbor–>Saturday 30 December 2017 4:10 ISTMust readVasundhara Raje ensures ‘smooth landing’ for PM Modi at BarmerNow, Veg khao, paisa bachao: Air India style<!–end of artlmustredbx–><!–end of articllftpbx–>Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will contest Alwar and Ajmer Lok Sabha and Mandalgarh Assembly by-elections on Dholpur model. The BJP’s organisation in-charge and minister in charge will remain in the allotted constituency for five days in a week till the polls are held in all the three by-electoral constituencies. Chief minister Vasundhara Raje instructed the same during the meeting held on Friday at the BJP state headquarters.The meeting was held to chalk out a blueprint for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed Rajasthan tour and for by-polls preparations.The by-elections in the Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha constituency and Mandalgarh Assembly constituency will be held on January 29. Nearly 17 Assembly constituencies are connected with these parliamentary seats. In the wake of these events, BJP has appointed ministers as election in-charge and organisation officers in each Assembly constituency.During the meeting, Raje instructed all the in-charge minister and organisation officials to remain in the Assembly for five days in a week till the completion of the by-elections. During this period, they will meet with booth and the mandal executives and create an environment favourable for the BJP. CM Raje said that the in-charge minister and organisation officer should work in his own Assembly constituency for the remaining two days of the week. During the meeting, BJP state president Ashok Parnami said that the state election committee has sent a panel of probable three candidates for the by-elections to the parliamentary board.

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Who spoiled the party? Cong initiates inquiry

With the election dust settling down, the Congress, which lost to the BJP in a close contest, has started initiating action against those who indulged in anti-party activities in the run up to the polls, and may have sabotaged the party’s prospects.In a letter to all 176 Congress candidates, who contested in the state assembly elections, and the party’s city and district chiefs, state party president Bharatsinh Solanki demanded that all such activities that may have come to their notice and had hurt the party in the elections be brought to his attention.”You are requested to send across the details by January 2,” Solanki directed the party leaders in the letter dated December 25.Action would be initiated against leaders and workers who had indulged in anti-party work during the polls, based on the feedback, Congress officials said.The letters were sent a couple of days after Congress president Rahul Gandhi had publicly stated in Ahmedabad during his visit last week that 90 per cent of leaders and workers had worked for the party in the elections, and action would be taken against the 10 per cent who had not.The Congress lost a number of seats which it was expected to win. In fact, its four top leaders, viz. Shaktisinh Gohil, Arjun Modhwadia, Siddharth Patel and Tushar Chaudhary, ended up on the losing side, with many blaming internal differences as one of the reasons for the loss.The 2017 Gujarat assembly elections were the closest the state has seen in well over two decades. The BJP won the sixth straight election in the state, but with a tally of just 99 seats, its lowest in six polls, while Congress won 77 seats. However, the elections were far closer than the numbers suggest, with as many as 27 seats being decided with a victory margin of less than 3,000 votes.

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Kamala Mills fire: 5 BMC officials suspended, one transferred

Five Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials were today suspended after a fire in Mumbai’s Kamala Mills Compound that killed 14 people. The assistant commissioner of the ward has also been transferred.Earlier, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had directed BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta to conduct an inquiry and “to take strong action against erring officials immediately”. The fire that started at “1 Above”, a rooftop pub, and spread to Mojo pub on the third floor one level below in the Trade House Building in Kamala Mills compound in Lower Parel area, a popular night spot as well as commercial hub housing several offices including national television channels. The fire that spread after midnight also injured 21 people. Also read5 factors that show Mumbai’s Kamala Mills fire was a tragedy waiting to happenThe massive blaze engulfed the entire building in about 30 minutes and took several hours to be put out. The cause of the fire is not known.Teams of fire brigade and police rushed to the spot and 35 injured people were pulled out from inside the pub and taken to hospital, a police official said.Also readKamala Mills Fire: Two young men enter into death trap to save aunt, never to come backPolice have booked Hratesh Sanghvi, Jigar Sanghvi and Abhijeet Manka of C Grade Hospitality, which manages the pub, along with others, under various charges including cuplable homicide not amounting to murder.They are also charged IPC sections 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others).Also readMumbai’s Kamala Mills Fire | When midnight birthday bash turned into a funeral Two of those booked have been detained.There have been allegations that civic authorities have turned a blind eye to construction irregularities and violation of fire safety norms in the compound.Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind expressed anguish over the tragedy.”Anguished by the fire in Mumbai. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of grief. I pray that those injured recover quickly,” the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted.BJP MP Kirit Somaiya said he had asked Fadnavis and the BMC commissioner to order a special fire audit of all such pubs and hooka parlours in Mumbai.”Several such establishments at the Mills compound are illegal, part of which was regularised lately. The place where the blaze took place was illegal,” he claimed.

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Permissions to rooftop restaurants will be made more stringent, BJP’s answer to Kamala Mills tragedy that killed 14

The fire that engulfed Kamala Mills late Thursday and claimed 14 lives has left the city reeling and leaving its citizens asking questions.On Friday, Mumbai BJP President Ashish Shelar said that one needed to review several parameters before handing over permissions to rooftop restaurants in future, while the owners of the Mojo, which is located a floor below 1 Above, where the fire broke out said, “We are extremely saddened by the incident. Mojo’s has all its fire safety norms, certificates and procedures in place. The staff are thoroughly trained in fire drills hence our staff were able to evacuate all our guests and themselves out to safety with zero injury. There were NO cylinders on our premises. We are fully complying with the authorities to help in anyway we can.”Also readMumbai fire| Kamala Mills is a death trap, BMC responsible for ‘murder,’ says BJP’s Kirit SomaiyaIf you look at Mumbai’s history when it comes to fire-related tragedies, they have mostly been due to lack of fire-safety norms. The BMC and the fire brigade on Friday suggested that 1 Above had flouted the norms while setting up the rooftop bar. A similar case was reported when Escobar, a popular nightclub in Bandra was gutted in October 2014. Then, too, it was discovered that the pub had flouted fire-safety regulations. With Yuva Sena Chief Aaditya Thackeray announced that he was working towards making Mumbai a 24×7 city, people rejoiced. However, if this dream is to be a success, there is a major need to ensure restaurants and hang out spots meet all necessary norms, and those who flout them are immediately shut down.Also readKamala Mills Fire: ‘Postmortem reveals all the deaths due to suffocation’ in MumbaiIn 2013, a building in Kemps Corner caught fire resulting in the deaths of seven people. At the time, fire officials stated that the building, which was constructed in 1984, had no refuge floors for emergencies. But fire isn’t the only problem that has plagued Mumbai. Earlier this year, a stampede at Elphinstone Road station that killed 23 and injured over 30, highlighted the high-handedness of the railway authorities. The pedestrian bridge that would shake due to the high influx of individuals moving in and out of the station was dangerous, and the perils had been highlighted to authorities for the past several years. However, it was only after the stampede that the authorities sprung into action.Earlier this week, another incident, this time on Mumbai’s Harbour Line shocked the citizens of the island city. Services were stopped after a power failure near CBD Belapur. However, a video shared by veteran railway journalist Rajendra Aklekar highlighted how an accident was waiting to happen. The video shows a train moving, but the electric cables that usually power the locomotives dangerously close to the coaches, which could have resulted in a major accident.People still talk of the spirit of Mumbai. There was never any spirit. The city is reeling and nobody seems to care. It’s an ‘I need to rush so that I am first’ syndrome that is taking the city nowhere.Related Photos
5 Pics
In Pics: Massive midnight fire at Mumbai’s Kamala Mills Compound kills 14; many restaurants gutted And with this attitude, forget Shanghai. Mumbai will no longer be Mumbai.

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Bad loans in Gujarat fall by Rs 4,023 cr

In what could be a major turnaround, bad loans in Gujarat have dropped by Rs4,023 crore in three months. This is a mix of recovery of loans, writing of loans and transferring them to Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARCs), according to bankers. Industry players say that if the share of recovery of loans is significant, then it is a welcome change in the economy.According the State-Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) report for the July-September quarter of the fiscal 2017-18, gross Non-Performing Assets (NPA), or bad loans, in Gujarat stand at Rs 31,318.7 crore, a reduction of Rs 4,022.92 crore over NPA of Rs 35,341.62 crore in April-June quarter. Total bank advances in the state stand at Rs 4,89,833 crore, compared to Rs 4,77,480 crore. While advances rose by about 2.6 per cent in three months, NPAs dipped by 12.5 per cent. Bad loans now constitute 6.39 per cent of the total advances in the state, compared to 7.4 per cent in the previous quarter.Vikramaditya Singh Khichi, Field General Manager of Dena Bank, told media persons that this is a net result of recovery of loans as well as loan write-offs as well as transferring loans to ARCs. Dena Bank is a leading bank in Gujarat.It is unprecedented in the recent history of Gujarat that bad loans dropped by such a big margin.Between April-June and July-September quarters of the fiscal 2016-17, bad loans dropped marginally by Rs 457.54 crore from Rs 29,734.12 crore to Rs 29,276.58 crore. Overall, the trend has been on the upswing, with NPA rising dangerously by 74 per cet in the previous eight quarters and by 19 per cent in a year.If bad loans have been genuinely recovered, that is a major improvement in the economy. The development reflects the health of Gujarat’s economic landscape. However, NPAs also fall if they are transferred to ARC or other similar mechanisms being under taken,” said Jaimin Vasa, vice-president of the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry.Bankers say that national banking regulator the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has put many banks on its watch list for their asset quality. “The move has resulted in many banks suspending their expansion operations as well as other operations and focused on recovery of loans. This has resulted in improvement in the recovery of loans,” said an official of a Public Sector Bank in Gujarat.Despite the fall in bad loans, the present level represents a danger signal as the percentage NPA is still above 5 per cent, which is a threshold of danger. For at least nine consecutive quarters now the NPA is over 5 per cent mark.

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BJP gets into huddle mode, discusses bypoll candidates

State BJP discussed the names of probable candidates for Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha and Mandalgarh assembly by-elections. The state election committee has prepared a panel of three probable candidates on the basis of feedback from party office-bearers. This panel will now be sent to the BJP central command to have final say.For bypoll preparations a meeting of state election committee was organised at a hotel on Thursday which was chaired by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, BJP state in-charge Avinash Rai Khanna, state president Ashok Parnami, state general secretary (organisation) Chandra Shekhar and national joint secretary (organisation) V Satish.In this meeting, feedback was taken on probable candidates from party office-bearers of all the three constituenciesMandal and district presidents, MLAs, Ministers, UIT Chairmen and other senior leaders were invited from Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha constituencies and Mandalgarh assembly constituency in the meeting. In the meeting, names of probable candidates were discussed for the by-election from the party workers. Firstly the opinion was taken in the name of probable candidates for the Ajmer Lok Sabha by-election. This was followed by opinion from the party office-bearers of Alwar Lok Sabha and the Mandalgarh Legislative Assembly area. During the meeting senior leaders asked the names of the three probable candidates from these local leaders on the basis of their win-ability in by-election. Organisation had asked the names of three probable candidates on a slip from these office-bearers. Based on their preference, all the officials present in the meeting wrote names of three-three probable candidates on the slip. The BJP will now form a panel of top three candidates on the basis of slips received. This panel will be sent to the central BJP. BJP’s parliamentary board will thereafter select candidate for these by-elections. During the meeting, CM Raje and state in-charge Khanna instructed the party workers to mobilise the preparation for the byelections. Raje said that like in the Dhaulpur byelection, the party will also win in the three by-elections by the record margin.Probable candidates’ namesAjmer Lok SabhaFormer MP Sanwarlal Jat’s son Ram Swaroop Lamba, Ajmer District President BP Saraswat, Pushkar MLA Suresh Rawat and Deepak Bhakar.Alwar Lok SabhaMahant Balaknath, MLA Ramhet Yadav, minister Jaswant Yadav, former MP Ghasiram’s daughter Ritu Yadav, Sanjay Sharma.Mandalgarh AssemblyBhilwara District president Shakti Singh Hada, Sanjay Dhakad

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BJP moves privilege motion against Rahul Gandhi over ‘Jaitlie’ remark

Irked by Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s tweet twisting Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s name as ‘Jaitlie’, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) moved a privilege motion against him in Rajya Sabha on Thursday.BJP member Bhupender Yadav took up the issue soon after the House endorsed External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s statement on Kulbhushan Jadhav.Moving the motion under Rule 187, Yadav urged Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu to take notice of the alleged breach of Jaitley’s privilege, who is also the Leader of the House.”All the members of this House have dignity. The name of Leader of the House Arun Jaitley has been intentionally published by the Congress president with malafide intentions to defame this House,” Yadav said.”The way the name of Leader of the House has been tweeted by the Congress president, it comes in the category of (breach of) privilege. There are precedents such as that of NC Chatterjee in 1954. I request you to go to this precedent and issue notice to Rahul Gandhi,” Yadav said.Naidu said he would take a view after examining the motion.Referring to Jaitley’s statement on Wednesday that led to end the week-long logjam in Parliament, Rahul Gandhi had tweeted, “Dear Mr Jaitlie (sic) – thank you for reminding India that our PM never means what he says or says what he means.”In his statement Jaitley had clarified Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s position vis-à-vis his ‘conspiring with Pakistan’ comments made during Gujarat campaign against his predecessor Manmohan Singh.”The statement (by Modi) did not question nor did he mean to question the commitment to the nation of Manmohan Singh or Hamid Ansari, the former vice president. Any such perception is completely erroneous. We hold these leaders in high esteem as also their commitment to the nation,” Jaitley had said.The finance minister made the statement as part of an understanding with the Congress party reached after several rounds of back channel parleys, that had led to continues stalling of the Rajya Sabha and disruptions in Lok Sabha for several days.The Congress also reciprocated by disapproving Mani Shankar Aiyar’s “Neech” comment regarding PM Modi.TWEET GONE WRONG?Rahul Gandhi had tweeted hitting at Arun Jaitley over his clarification of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment against former PM Manmohan Singh.

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Triple talaq: AIMPLB says will take steps through democratic means to ‘amend, improve or scrap’ new bill

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) today expressed serious reservations over the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill which was passed by the Lok Sabha and said it will take steps through democratic means to “amend, improve or scrap” it.The Shia Waqf Board, meanwhile, called for making the punishment to those indulging in ‘triple talaq’ more stringent.”We will take whatever steps required through democratic means to amend, improve or scrap it. There is no move to go to court as of now…The bill was brought in a haste,” AIMPLB spokesperson Maulana Khalil-ur-Rehman Sajjad Nomani told PTI.Also readTriple talaq bill passed in Lok Sabha; support Bill, but needs strengthing, says CongressHe said the board should have been taken into confidence on the issue.”Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad while tabling the bill also quoted the board and a lady MP of the ruling party tried to answer the queries raised by the Board in a letter to the prime minister proving that the government recognises the board. So the board should have been taken into confidence,” Nomani said.Also readDidn’t consult Muslim bodies before drafting triple talaq bill: PP ChaudharyHowever, AIMPLB member Zafaryab Jilani hinted that the board may approach the supreme court against the triple talaq bill once it is passed by the Parliament.”An option is always open to challenge the law passed (by the Parliament), which is against the Supreme Court’s judgement and the Indian Constitution, in the Supreme Court.”Convenor of our legal committee has also suggested that it can be challenged in the court. However, we will decide our future course of action once the Bill is passed and law is enacted,” Jilani told a news channel.AIMPLB wanted that the triple talaq bill should not be in conflict with either the Constitution, supreme court order or Muslim personal law board, he said.”We had demanded that Bill should have been prepared only after consultation of representatives of Muslim women organisations, All India Muslim Personal Board, but it doesn’t mean that we were against the Bill.”We just wanted that Bill should not be in conflict with either Constitution of India, Supreme Court Judgement or Muslim Personal Law Board,” he said.The president of the All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board (AIMWPLB), Shaista Amber welcomed the tabling of the bill but insisted that it should be in the light of Quran.”We welcome the tabling of the bill and this has given lots of hope to the women as triple talaq is an evil which has been haunting them,” she said.Amber, however, added that any law enacted in this regard should be in the light of the Quran and Constitution to make it acceptable to the community.President of the Shia Waqf Board, Wasim Rizvi however said that he had sent a letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making the punishment to those indulging in the practice more stringent.”I have urged the Prime Minister through a letter that a jail term of 10 years to those indulging in triple talaq and lodging a criminal case against them,” Rizvi said.

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Centre tables Triple Talaq Bill in Lok Sabha; support Bill, but needs strengthing, says Congress

The Congress said it supports the triple talaq bill introduced in the Lok Sabha but wants it to be strengthened to safeguard the rights of divorced Muslim women so they live a life of dignity with adequate subsistence allowance.Earlier, the bill to make instant triple talaq illegal and void and awarding a jail term of up to three years to the husband, was introduced in the Lok Sabha amid protests by several opposition parties.Introducing the bill, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said it was a “historic day”.But before he introduced the legislation, several opposition parties opposed its introduction saying it was arbitrary in nature and a faulty proposal.Members from RJD, AIMIM, BJD, Indian Union Muslim League and AIADMK, who had given notice to oppose its introduction spoke against the measure. But members from the Congress and the Left, who were also opposing it from their benches, were not allowed to speak as they had not given notice. SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav was also seen opposing the bill.The TMC, which had opposed the draft bill earlier, was silent.Activists of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), offer sweets to each other as they celebrate the tabling of the Muslim women bill – ReutersWhile JPN Yadav of RJD questioned the proposed three-year jail term, AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi said Parliament lacks the legislative competence to pass the law as it violated fundamental rights.He said while the bill talks only about Muslim women being abandoned, the government should also worry about nearly 20 lakh women of various religions who are abandoned by their husbands, “including our bhabhi from Gujarat”.Muslim League’s E T Mohammed Bashir said the proposed law was violative of personal laws and was a politically motivated move.B Mahtab (BJD) said while he would not talk about the merits of the bill, its framing was “faulty and “flawed”. He said if the proposed law makes the practice of instant triple talaq illegal and void, how can a person be jailed for pronouncing ‘talaq-e-biddat’.A Anwar Raja of the AIADMK opposed the bill.Maulana Rabe Hasani Nadvi, President of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), General Secretary Wali Rahmani, Khalid Saifullaha Rahmani Assistant General Secretary, Fazlurrahman, Secretary and senior member Zafaryab Jjilani, AIMIM President Assaduddin Owaisi during a meeting on issue of Triple Talaq in Lucknow on Sunday – PTISoon after the introduction of the bill was approved, Prasad wondered whether Parliament can remain silent if the fundamental rights of women were being trampled upon.He said the legislation was not aimed against any religion but was framed to provide a sense of justice, security and honour to women.He said the law was required as even after the Supreme Court had struck down the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ in August, it was continuing. He claimed that as recently as today, a woman in Rampur was given instant triple talaq by her husband for getting up late.Parliament has to decide whether the victims of triple talaq have fundamental rights or not, he said after some opposition members claimed it violated the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.”It is a historic day. We are making history today,” Prasad said.The proposed law would only be applicable on instant triple talaq or ‘talaq-e-biddat’ and give power to the victim to approach a magistrate seeking “subsistence allowance” for herself and minor children.The woman can also seek the custody of her minor children from the magistrate who will take a final call on the issue.Under the law, instant triple talaq in any form — spoken, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp — would be bad or illegal and void.According to the proposed law which would be applicable to the entire country except in Jammu and Kashmir, giving instant talaq would attract a jail term of upto three years and a fine. It would be a cognisable, non-bailable offence.LAW WILL BE AN INTRUSION INTO PERSONAL LIVES: KURSHIDAlthough the Congress backed the bill and asked for a few changes, senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid, a former union law minister, struck a discordant note, insisting the proposed law will be an “intrusion” into the personal lives of individuals and bring divorce, a civil issue, into the realm of criminal law.Among other things, the ‘Muslim women Protection of Rights on Marriage’ Bill provides for a 3-year jail term to those found guilty of pronouncing instant triple talaq to their wives.Congress’s communications department incharge Randeep Surjewala said Parliament must ensure the protection of rights of Muslim women and children under all circumstances.He said the Congress was the first political party to welcome the Supreme Court verdict banning triple talaq, and had hailed it as a decisive step towards women empowerment and victory for the rights of muslim women.”The Congress has always believed that the issue of instant triple talaq ‘Talaq-e-biddat’ is about gender justice and gender equity. The Congress will support any and every law abolishing instant triple talaq.”The present bill needs to be strengthened to safeguard the rights of women to a life of dignity with adequate subsistence allowance. Parliament must ensure protection of rights of Muslim women and children under all circumstances,” he said.Khurshid, however, said,”It is an instrusion into the personal lives of individuals. Taking criminal law into the family, you have to be careful. To make divorce in any form a criminal matter is unacceptable anywhere in the world.” Khurshid, also a Supreme Court lawyer, said divorce or consequences of divorce, are areas of civil law and not criminal law, which comes in only when there is violence.”Criminal law is kept out of family as far as possible, which is a general policy everywhere. Why are we bringing criminal law into something which is a non-existing factor? Triple talaq is no institution or institutional fact of life, the Supreme Court has made it very clear,” he said.Surjewala said Section 5 of the bill merely states that Muslim women are entitled to subsistence allowance without defining subsistence allowance and explaining the method of calculating it.It also does not clarify whether the maintenance awarded to a Muslim woman under Sections 3 and 4 of ‘The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986’ will be deducted from the proposed subsistence allowance or will it be in addition to that. He said there was no clarity on whether a divorced Muslim woman be entitled to one of the two.”Why should onus of proving instant triple talaq be on women? Like in every other law, the onus of proving the pronouncement of instant triple talaq would be on the victim.”Why can’t this law then envisage a presumption in favour of the woman, putting the onus of proof on the husband to establish that instant triple talaq was not pronounced by him,” he said.Surjewala said the bill should ensure payment of maintenance and/or subsistence allowance to women and children if the husband is in jail for 3 years, as evisaged under the proposed law.All Muslim women’s groups have asked an obvious question as to who will pay the maintenance and subsistence allowance once the husband is in jail, he said.The Congress leader also asked whether such a woman and her children would have the right to proceed against the estate–movable and immovable property of the husband, as the proposed law does not provide for it.”Where no such property exists or the property is owned by more than one stakeholder or is under mortgage/charge, does it mean that women and children would then have no maintenance?” he asked.Terming the bill as “very important” and “significant”, Congress spokesperson Sushmita Dev said her party will work with the government to bolster the rights of muslim women.She said the Congress party will stand by any progressive legislation that adds to empowerment of women. “But the bill needs to be watertight when it comes to the financial security and dignity of women,” she said.Dev also wondered whether under the proposed law the burden of proof that instant triple talaq has been granted be on women and whether they be able to prove the charge before a magistrate.This bill is silent on how to arrive at a maintenance allowance, she said.

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Sonia Gandhi holidays in Goa as son Rahul leads Congress in protests against govt

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who earlier this month retired as the Congress President as her son Rahul took over, is vacationing in Goa and was seen riding a bicycle in the coastal city. A picture of the longest serving Congress President riding her bicycle and posing for photos with tourists was posted by actor Riteish Deshmukh.Some pictures of the Raebareli MP in Goa were also posted by news18.com. The report said that Sonia left for Goa on December 26 and is expected to be back in the first week of January.While Sonia is spending time in Goa, her son Rahul today led the party in celebrating Congress’ 133rd foundation day. He also participated in a protest by the Congress MPs in front of Gandhi statu inside Parliament premises over Union Minister Ananth Kumar Hegde’s comments on the Constitution.He took charge of the party from his mother on December 16. On December 15, a day before Rahul’s elevation, Sonia had said that “my role is to retire,” triggering speculation that she might quit active politics. The party, however, soon clarified that she was retiring from party, not politics.Her daughter Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra also announced that her mother would again contest from Raebareli Parliamentary constituency in Uttar Pradesh.Also readCongress Foundation Day | Constitution under threat, it’s our duty to defend it, says Rahul GandhiSonia, 71, took charge of the Congress party in 1998 and and served at the post for 19 years.

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Congress Foundation Day | Constitution under threat, it’s our duty to defend it, says Rahul Gandhi

In yet another stinging attack against the Narendra Modi government, Congress President Rahul Gandhi today said that, ‘ the BJP operates on the basic idea that lies can be used for political benefit and it is the difference between us and them.’Addressing the party members on the 133rd Foundation Day of the Congress at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday, Gandhi said that his party may suffer or lose elections but would not give up truth.He also attacked the government over the Constitution row. “The Constitution, the foundation of our country is under threat, it is under attack directly, statements are being made by senior members of BJP and it is under attack surreptitiously from the back and its our duty, duty of Congress party and every single Indian to defend it,’ Gandhi said.Keeping up the ante against the government, Gandhi said, ‘What is happening today in or country is a web of deceit, The BJP operates on the basic idea that lies can be used for political benefit and it is the difference between us and them, we might not do well, we might even lose but we will not give up the truth.”He also highlighted the Congress’s “glorious” history, claiming the central idea of the party was truth and “we will continue to fight for it”.

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Inter-faith marriage disrupted : BJP removes Ghaziabad chief Ajay Sharma

The BJP has removed its Ghaziabad city unit president Ajay Sharma from the post for disrupting the marriage of a Hindu woman with a Muslim man in the Rajnagar area here claiming that it was a case of “love jihad”.Sharma has been removed from the post and Ghaziabad city unit general secretary Man Singh Goswami has been appointed as the officiating city president, according to a letter by BJP Uttar Pradesh State General Secretary Vidyasagar Sonkar.”I have received the letter from the state head office and will obey the instructions,” Sharma said.A large group of BJP workers led by Sharma, and some people belonging to right-wing groups protested outside the marriage venue on December 22.The marriage between the man and the woman, who were friends and worked in a multinational company, was later solemnized in a court.Police said they used mild force to disperse the protesters.

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CM Vijay Rupani inaugurates Science Congress

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy CM Nitin Patel swung into action soon after the swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday by staying back in Gujarat instead of going to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Himachal Pradesh CM, who is also from the BJP, and his cabinet members.Surprisingly, Rupani did not call a cabinet meeting as the general practice after swearing-in, and portfolio distribution among ministers is awaited.In his first public programme after assuming the charge of CMO in the new term, on Wednesday, Rupani inaugurated 25th National Children’s Science Congress at Science City in Ahmedabad. It was attended by 900 children from 30 states and six Asian countries, scientists, educationists and others. Addressing the gathering, Rupani said, “Former president Abdul Kalam gave slogan of Jay Vigyan that was added to former PM Lal Bahadur Shashtri’s slogan Jay Jawan, Jay Kisan. Kalam came from a very ordinary background but became a great scientist. His vision for India is showing us the path of progress. We should take inspiration from his life. This Science Congress has laid foundation stone for India’s progress that would bring our nation in top three position in world in the sector of science and technology.”His deputy Nitin Patel took charge of his office and held a meeting with officials to review process of purchase of groundnuts by government at minimum support price.Rupani also reached his residence in the afternoon and cleared pending files of the state government that were piled up on his desk after the model code of conduct came into force.

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Plea seeks FIR against Mani Shankar Aiyar

The police should lodge an FIR to investigate a meeting involving former prime minister Manmohan Singh, among others, which was allegedly held at suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house to swing the Gujarat elections, an application filed in a Delhi court has stated.The application, filed by BJP leader and advocate Ajay Agarwal, a resident of Jungpura Extension near Aiyar’s house, claimed that on December 6, he saw Hamid Ansari, Manmohan Singh, Sohail Mahmood, and ex-foreign minister of Pakistan Khurshid Kasuri, among others, at Aiyar’s residence.He also claimed that there was heavy security and the car of the Pakistani High Commissioner was parked at the back side of the house. Upon enquiry, he got to know about the meeting, which continued till late at night, Agarwal said.He further said that the former president and PM broke the protocol and attended the meeting with representatives of the neighbouring country, despite knowledge of the political relations between the countries. According to the plea, the meeting was attended by former Army chief Deepak Kapoor, former foreign minister K Natwar Singh, and former diplomats Salman Haidar, TCA Raghavan, Sharat Sabharwal, K Shankar Bajpai, and Chinmaya Gharekhan, among others.The application stated that both the ex-president and the ex-PM were privy to top-secret information and they were duty bound to not share this with anyone. But the duo was found attending meetings to discuss the Indo-Pak affairs, he said.

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ED seizes Rs 26 crore assets of arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) today said it has seized assets worth Rs 26.61 crore of controversial arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari and others for alleged violation of the FEMA law.It said it has seized the properties “in lieu of undisclosed assets held abroad by him” and the action has been carried out under section 37A of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).Section 37A of the FEMA stipulates that if certain foreign exchange, foreign security or immovable property is held outside India in violation of this law, the equivalent value of asset can be seized within India. The ED had booked Bhandari, reported to have left India for a foreign location sometime ago, under criminal charges of the PMLA law in February this year as also under the FEMA.The Delhi Police had also booked him for alleged violation of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) last year. Bhandari’s case first came to light after the I-T department conducted searches against him in April last year and recovered certain “sensitive” official defence documents from his premises. As part of these raids, the taxman is also said to have recovered certain emails that talk about renovation of a costly apartment in London in 2010 which was allegedly owned by Robert Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress President Rahul Gandhi.Also readED attaches assets Rs. 21 crore of arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari case in black money caseVadra’s legal firm has denied that he owned the London property directly or indirectly. It also denied Vadra has any business ties with an arms consultant or his aides. The tax department had last year also shared a “seizure memo record” with the defence ministry to apprise it about the contents of these “sensitive” documents.

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Parliament: PM Modi didn’t question Manmohan Singh’s commitment to India, says Jaitely; Congress replies with thanks

Days after the bitter war of words between the Congress and the BJP during Gujarat Assembly Elections, it seems both parties have reached a truce in Parliament on Wednesday.Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while addressing the Rajya Sabha said that, ‘PM (Narendra Modi) in his speeches didn’t question, nor meant to question the commitment to this nation of either former PM Manmohan Singh or Former Vice President Hamid Ansari, any such perception is erroneous, we hold these leaders in high esteem, as well as their commitment to India.’Jaitley’s statement in the Upper House comes after the continuous demand by the Congress lawmakers for an apology by the Prime Minister for his ‘Pakistan meddling in Gujarat polls’ remarks in which he had named his predecessor Manmohan Singh also.In a quick reply, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said, ‘Thank leader of the house for clarification on what has been issue of contention. I,on behalf of my party, say that we disassociate from any comments made by any member during elections that may have hurt PM’s dignity,also we don’t want any such thing to be said in future.’During an election rally on December 11, PM Modi had raised questions over a reported appeal by former director-general of the Pakistan Army Sardar Arshad Rafiq, that Congress leader Ahmed Patel be made Gujarat’s Chief Minister in case the Congress wins the elections.He had also said that, ‘There were media reports on Saturday about a three-hour closed-door meeting at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house. It was attended by Pakistan’s high commissioner, Pakistan’s former foreign minister, India’s former vice president Hamid Ansari and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.’He had also linked the ‘secret meeting’ with now-suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s ‘neech’ remark.”The next day, Mani Shankar Aiyar said Modi was ‘neech’. This is a serious matter,” he said.The Congress was demanding PM’s apology on the issue during the Winter Session of Parliament.”Either the government should prove the claim or the Prime Minister must apologise… Nothing short of an apology will satisfy us,” Congress leader Anand Sharma had said prior to the beginning of the Winter Session.

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Jairam Thakur to take oath as Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister today; PM Modi to attend grand ceremony

BJP leader Jairam Thakur is all set to take oath as the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh on Wednesday.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP president Amit Shah, former deputy Prime Minister LK Advani and several Union ministers and chief ministers are expected to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Jai Ram Thakur at the historic Ridge Maidan in Shimla at 11 AM.Governor Aacharya Devvrat will administer the oath of office and secrecy to Thakur. Along with Thakur, a few MLA will reportedly swear-in as Cabinet Ministers today. The five-time BJP MLA from Seraj constituency of the hilly state was elected to lead the state after the party’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal failed to register a win from his constituency.The BJP have ousted the Congress from power in Himachal Pradesh by winning 44 out of the 68 seats in the recently held Assembly polls.Along with many senior leaders and workers of BJP state unit, thousands of people are expected to witness the swearing-in ceremony.Also readHimachal Elections: After PK Dhumal’s loss, Jairam Thakur summoned to Delhi; likely to be CMFor the first time in the history of the state, Prime Minister will attend an oath taking ceremony.Massive security and other arrangements have been made ahead of the grand function. Besides seating arrangements, eight to ten LED screens have been installed outside the venue. SPG will look after the security arrangements.Also readHimachal CM designate Jai Ram Thakur lists out priorities Union Health Minister JP Nadda, Former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Incharge for Party Affairs Mangal Pandey have reviewed the arrangements in Ridge Maidan.

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Five fresh faces in new Vijay Rupani cabinet

In the 20-member cabinet of Vijay Rupani, there are five new faces. These faces includes a senior leader like RC Faldu and four-time MLA Raman Patkar.Ishwar Parmar, Kishor Kanani and Vibhavari Dave got their second term as MLA.Many senior leaders and ministers lost in the recent Assembly polls with the total tally of 99 members in the house. So, BJP was almost pushed to cherry-pick some fresh faces in the Cabinet. MLA from Jamnagar (South) seat and former Gujarat BJP president RC Faldu were lucky enough to secure the berth in the Cabinet this time. Faldu had lost the polls in 2012 elections but succeeded in winning this time when the Patel community was up in arms against the BJP, especially in the Saurashtra region. Faldu was elected as an MLA twice in the past polls held in 1998 and 2002.Raman Patkar, Scheduled Tribe leader and MLA from Umbergaon seat in Valsad district, is four-time MLA and has been elected again. He waited for a longer time than Ishwar Parmar, Vibhavari Dave and Kishor Kanani. All three have been inducted in Cabinet by Rupani in their second term. Of these three, Parmar was lucky enough to get a cabinet position as no any senior Scheduled Caste leader from BJP could win the polls.

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1,700 pvt schools remain confused over fee structure

Days after the Delhi High Court stayed the order passed by the state Education Department, which enabled private schools to increase fees by 15 percent, left the latter in a fix. The 1,700 private schools in the capital are now confused over the fee structure of their entry-level classes for which admission to begin on Wednesday.”The Directorate of Education (DoE) has not issued anything on the fee structure as of now. There is immense confusion among the private schools on what to charge and what not to charge,” said SK Bhattacharya, president of Action Committee Unaided Recognized Private School.In October, the Delhi government had enabled the schools to increase their fee by 15 percent, apparently, to enable them to pay the teachers salary as per the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission. Soon after that many schools had issued notices declaring increase of fees. Many schools even saw a face-off between school authorities and parents.”What about the rights of the teachers? Like any other profession the schools also have to give hike to them every year. What can be done in this scenario?” Bhattacharya asked, adding the government school immediately make things clear for them.

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Vijay Rupani-Nitin Patel 2.0

Bharatiya Janata Party’s celebrations in Gujarat were muted despite retaining the power, but the party made up for it at the Tuesday’s swearing in ceremony of Vijay Rupani and his Cabinet. The saffron show, where Rupani, his deputy Nitin Patel and 18 other ministers, became sweeter with the presence of the architects of victory, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.Vijay Rupani now becomes the second CM from BJP in Gujarat after Narendra Modi, who was given an opportunity to helm the affairs of the state back-to-back. The CM, deputy CM and other ministers were administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor OP Kohli in a grand ceremony held at Helipad ground in secretariat complex in Gandhinagar.Apart from Modi and Shah, other BJP leaders who attended the ceremony were veteran leader LK Advani, union ministers Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Ananth Kumar, Ram Vilas Paswan, Ravi Shankar Prasad, and others. The CMs of BJP-ruled states also appeared on the VVIP dais, including UP CM Yogi Aditya Nath, MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis among others. The swearing-in ceremony started at 11:30 am when PM and other invited guests arrived. Three separate stages were raised at the venue — one for swearing in, and two others for VVIPs and religious leaders.Both Rupani and Modi sought blessings of religious leaders before the swearing in started. Rupani also met and greeted his seniors and other leaders including Advani, union ministers, former CM Keshubhai Patel, Anandiben Patel and CMs of other states. Former union minister Shankersinh Vaghela , who quit Congress on the eve of the elections, was a surprise guest. Vaghela has adorned the Gujarat throne from BJP before he moved to the Congress.Also present at the ceremony was a virtual who’s who in Gujarat- businessmen, industrialists, social workers, educationists, judges of high court, other officials and representatives from all walks of life who were invited by the Gujarat government for this ceremony.There was no political speech by any leader addressing a crowd of nearly 10,000 people and entire ceremony winded up in one and half hour.

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After Congress, Shiv Sena to hold internal polls to elect party president

The Shiv Sena will hold internal polls to elect its party president on January 23 which happens to be the birth anniversary of its founder (late) Bal Thackeray.According to sources, incumbent Sena president Uddhav Thackeray will be re-elected at the party meeting to be held at Rang Sharda auditorium in suburban Mumbai, as there will be no other nomination for the post.Uddhav Thackeray took charge as the party president on January 23, 2013, after the death of his father Bal Thackeray (86) in November 2012.”Uddhav had refused the post of ‘Shiv Sena Pramukh’ saying it will be only Balasaheb who will remain as Pramukh or the chief. Uddhav dissolved the post of executive president which he served in Balasaheb’s lifetime and took the post of ‘Paksh Pramukh’ (Shiv Sena party president),” sources said today.Once the procedure of electing the party president is completed, Uddhavji will choose his new team.”He may either retain the old team or give a chance to new faces,” sources said.The election will be held to comply with the Election Commission’s (EC’s) directives to political parties to hold internal organisational elections, according to sources.

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Gurjars, 4 other communities to get 1% reservation in NBC category

Thousands of unemployed youths can look forward to getting a government job now. Thanks to a timely and wise decision by Vasundhara Raje government of granting one per cent separate reservation to Gurjars and four other communities in Most Backward Class (MBC) category. Gurjar community may be skeptical about the move but it has paved way to fill up 72,000 posts in the government; the recruitment process for which was stuck because of reservation tangle.For last two years, 72,000 posts in 13 different categories and departments could not be filled because of OBC reservation act. Among them 55,000 posts were those for which notification had been issued. In fact, the government had to extend application deadline five times for level 2 of REET teachers’ recruitment 2016, whereas second grade teachers’ recruitment result was not declared for six months.The recruitment process was stalled only because of reservation issue but now everything is clear as Raje government has made a provision by which Gurjars and four other communities will enjoy one per cent separate reservation in MBC and continue to receive OBC reservation benefits as well.Though, the Gurjar community is still not convinced and threatening to launch stir once again.Notably, the SBC reservation got stuck in the court. The state government had to cancel it. After that, Raje government brought OBC bill to give 5 per cent reservation to Gurjars but before a notification could be issued the matter reached court.Since the overall reservation limit went up to 54%, Supreme Court quashed the bill reiterating its stand that reservation cannot go beyond the cap of 50%. The government discussed the matter with Gurjars and tried to convince them to agree to accept MBC but they refused.However, the government released notification of MBC. Now, the unemployed are eagerly waiting for opening up of the recruitment process.Social justice and empowerment minister, Arun Chaturvedi hailed the decision claiming that MBC will restart stalled recruitment process at speedy level.State president of Berojgar Ekikrat Mahasangh, Upen Yadav, however, demanded that the government should not lose time to restart recruitment process at the same time appointments in old recruitments should be given immediately to fulfill its promise.But, Gurjar leader, Himmat Singh alleged cheating. “The government has duped us. The one percent reservation was available even during the Gehlot government. Instead of keeping youths unemployed, the government could have given this benefit earlier. Our agitation is for 5 per cent reservation will continue. We will oppose the government in upcoming by polls and in assembly elections,” he said.

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New faces in new Gujarat government

The Chief Minister-elect, Vijay Rupani, and his deputy, Nitin Patel, will get young members of their team to run the state government this time. BJP leaders are of the opinion that young members in the cabinet may leave a good impression on the common people. The government may have at least seven to eight young faces this time.The young faces that may find a place in the Rupani’s cabinet are BJP’s Gujarat president Jitu Vaghani, Vibhavari Dave, Shashikant Pandya, Hitu Kanodia, Manisha Vakil, Ishwar Parmar, and Dushyant Patel. These all leaders are of the age of 40 to 45 years. These elected candidates of BJP can hold different portfolios as minister of state (MoS). Whereas the former cabinet minister Jayesh Radadiya, 34, also is the young leader who is believed to be repeated as cabinet level minister in this government.A senior leader of BJP said, “The party believes that there should be a combination of experienced and young members in cabinet of Gujarat government. The young members may have fresh ideas and zeal to work with efficiency. Another reason to bring in more young faces is that many of our senior leaders have lost in the polls, who could have been made ministers otherwise.””We had selected around 8 to 10 members who may be in the cabinet and sent that list to the high command. The high command will take the final call on the selection, but it is the ideology of BJP to give more chance to young leaders who can influence the masses,” added the senior leader.Besides the young members, there are several senior MLAs who could have been included in the cabinet of the Gujarat government. Some such faces are Ganpat Vasava, Babu Bokhiria, RC Faldu, Saurabh Patel, Kaushik Patel, Pradipsinh Jadeja as cabinet-level ministers while Dr Nimaben Acharya, Vasan Ahir, Parbat Patel, Rajendrasinh Chavda, Karsan Solanki, Vallabh Kakadia, Pankaj Desai, CK Raulji, Jaydhrathsinh Parmar, Bachu Khabad, Kishor Kanani and Raman Patkar may get the place in cabinet as minister of state.Fresh facesThe new faces that may find a place in the Cabinet are Jitu Vaghani, Vibhavari Dave, Shashikant Pandya, Hitu Kanodia, Manisha Vakil, Ishwar Parmar, and Dushyant Patel.

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Join Naxalites so we can shoot you, MoS Hansraj Ahir tells docs on leave

Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir on Monday was so inflamed with the absence of a civil surgeon at an inauguration ceremony in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district on Christmas Day that he suggested that absentee doctors should turn into Naxalites so they can be shot dead since they clearly didn’t have any regard for democratically elected leaders.Ahir made the statement while inaugurating the Amrut Dindayal medical store on the birthday of former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee. “I am a minister chosen by democracy. Despite knowing that I am coming to Chandrapur, what’s the point of going on leave?If there is no faith in democracy, join Naxalism. We will pump bullets into them.” Chandrapur is a Naxal-affected area in western Maharashtra.When DNA contacted the minister, he justified his comment saying that the doctor was the organiser of the event and should have been present. “Have you ever heard of the organiser being absent at his own function? So I said what I did. What’s so controversial about it?” he said, refusing to withdraw his remark.Ahir said government medical officers should behave decorously with elected representatives. “They cannot get away with everything. If they are government servants, they have to believe in democracy and work accordingly,” he said.The Opposition condemned Ahir’s statement. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said the BJP minister spoke of democracy with a dictatorial mindset. “The minister should be booked under section 506 of IPC. Immediate action should be taken against him,” Malik said. The section pertains to to criminal intimidation.Congress MLA Vijay Wadettiwar said the remark from a union minister was “very unfortunate”. “We strongly condemn it. If any doctor is going on leave on a public holiday, what is the big deal? Doctors are entitled to a family life. The minister should withdraw his statement and apologise to the medical fraternity which tirelessly works for the people.”Dr Jayesh Lele, president of the Indian Medical Association, stated that ministers can make any statement and get away.

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Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel International airport to be abuzz with VVIPs today

Over 50 flights including 10 charter planes carrying VVIPs are scheduled to arrive at the Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel International (SVPI) airport here on Tuesday morning.Chief ministers of different states as well as cabinet ministers will arrive on Tuesday to attend the swearing-in ceremony where Vijay Rupani will take oath as Chief Minister and Nitin Patel as Deputy Chief Minister of Gujarat respectively for the second consecutive term.Highly placed sources at the airport said, “We have got information for about 50 flights having CMs as well as Union ministers and have made arrangements accordingly. PM Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah will also be arriving for the ceremony.”All ministers will be arriving in the morning, which is a peak time at airport and may clash with the regular flight schedule. However, airport officials claim that operations will run smoothly and there will not be any issues faced by passengers.A source said, “Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP National General Secretary Dr Anil Jain, Union Minister of road, transport and highways Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for consumer affairs Ramvilas Paswan, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Anupriya Patel would participate.”

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee: Master orator and statesman par excellence turns 93 today

Former Prime Minister of India and stalwart of the BJP, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is celebrating his 93rd on Monday.A political persona known for his exemplary leadership and contribution to Indian politics, Vajpayee is the only non-Congress leader who served the nation as the prime minister and completed his full term.As the BJP veteran turn 93, here is a review of his political journey:Vajpayee was born to Krishna Devi and Krishna Bihari Vajpayee on 25 December, 1924, in Gwalior. He completed his schooling from Saraswati Shishu Mandir, Gorkhi, Bara, Gwalior and went on to Victoria College (now Laxmi Bai College), where he graduated with distinction in Hindi, English and Sanskrit. He then completed his post-graduation with an M.A. in Political Science from DAV College, Kanpur, and was awarded a first-class degree.His activism started with Arya Kumar Sabha of Gwalior, the youth wing of the Arya Samaj, of which he became the General Secretary in 1944. He also joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a swayamsevak in 1939. Influenced by Babasaheb Apte, he attended the Officers Training Camp of the RSS during 1940-44 and became a “full-time worker” in 1947, technically a pracharak.He gave up studying law due to the partition riots, and was sent as a vistarak (probationary pracharak) to Uttar Pradesh and quickly began working for the newspapers of Deendayal Upadhyaya, Rashtradharma (a Hindi monthly), Panchjanya (a Hindi weekly) and the dailies Swadesh and Veer Arjun.Vajpayee’s first exposure to politics was in August 1942, when he and his elder brother Prem were arrested for 23 days during the Quit India Movement, when he was released only after giving a written undertaking, expressly declaring not to participate in any of the anti-British struggle.In 1951, he was seconded by the RSS, along with Deendayal Upadhyaya, to work for the newly formed Bharatiya Jana Sangh, a Hindu right-wing political party associated with the RSS. He was appointed as a national secretary of the party in charge of the Northern region, based in Delhi. He soon became a follower and aide of party leader Syama Prasad Mukherjee.In 1954, Vajpayee was with Mookerjee when he went on a fast-unto-death in Kashmir to protest against perceived inferior treatment of non-Kashmiri Indian visitors to the state. Mookerjee died in prison during this strike. In 1957, Vajpayee lost to Raja Mahendra Pratap in Mathura for the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament of India, but was eventually elected from Balrampur.After the death of Deendayal Upadhyaya, the mantle of the leadership of Jana Sangh fell on the shoulders of a young Vajpayee, who became the national president in 1968 and, along with Nanaji Deshmukh, Balraj Madhok and LK Advani, led the Jana Sangh to national prominence.From 1975 to 1977, Vajpayee was arrested along with several other opposition leaders during the Internal Emergency imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of the Indian National Congress party. In 1977, heeding the call of social reformer Jayaprakash Narayan for all the opposition parties to unite against the Congress, Vajpayee merged the Jana Sangh into the newly formed grand-alliance, the Janata Party.Following Janata’s victory in the 1977 general elections, he became the Minister of External Affairs in Prime Minister Morarji Desai’s cabinet. As foreign minister, that year Vajpayee became the first person to deliver a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in Hindi.By the time the Janata government crumbled in 1979, Vajpayee had established himself as an experienced statesman and a respected political leader. However, the Janata Party was dissolved soon after Morarji Desai resigned as Prime Minister in 1979.Subsequently, Vajpayee joined many of his Bharatiya Jana Sangh and RSS colleagues, particularly L. K. Advani and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, to form the BJP in 1980. He became the party’s first President, and emerged as a strong critic of the Congress (R) government that followed the Janata government.Vajpayee has served as the Prime Minister of India between 1996 and 2004 in three non-consecutive terms.In the 1996 general elections, the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha. The then president Shankar Dayal Sharma invited Vajpayee to form the government. Vajpayee was sworn in as the 10th Prime Minister of India, but the BJP failed to muster enough support from other parties to obtain a majority. He resigned after 13 days, when it became clear that he could not garner a majority.The 1998 general elections again put the BJP ahead of others. This time, a cohesive bloc of political parties joined the BJP to form the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and Vajpayee was sworn in as the Prime Minister.However, in mid-1999, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) under J Jayalalithaa withdrew its support to the government. The government lost the ensuing vote of confidence motion in the Lok Sabha by a single vote on 17 April 1999.As the Opposition was unable to come up with the numbers to form the new government, the Lok Sabha was again dissolved and fresh elections were held. Vajpayee remaining the Prime Minister until the elections were held.In the 1999 general elections, the BJP-led NDA won 303 seats out of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, in the aftermath of the Kargil operations, thereby securing a comfortable and stable majority. On 13 October 1999, Atal Bihari Vajpayee took oath as Prime Minister of India for the third time.A parliamentarian for over four decades, Vajpayee has been elected to the Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament of India) ten times, and twice to the Rajya Sabha (upper house). He also served as the Member of Parliament for Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, until 2009, when he retired from active politics due to health concerns.On 25 December, 2014, the office of the President of India announced the Bharat Ratna award, India’s highest civilian honour, to Vajpayee. In a special gesture, the President of India conferred Bharat Ratna to Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his residence on 27 March 2015.Furthermore, the Centre under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 announced that Vajpayee’s birthday would be celebrated as Good Governance Day annually.

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Speak up Delhi: Autorickshaw finance mafia – a menace staring at govt’s face

Last week Delhi Government suspended licenses of two automobile dealers— Bagga Link Services Limited and JS Automobiles— after complaints filed by social workers and Presidents of Autorickshaw Unions for charging extra money from the customers. The government, in a show cause notice, asked the two dealers to reply with the reason for the extra charge else their licenses will be cancelled.An autorickshaw which should cost close to Rs 1,80,000 on road is sold for Rs 5,50,000 in the market. There are several extra charges on top which include logistic charges, annual maintenance charges etc. An extra handling charge was also added along with the GST since August, about which most of the drivers did not know.In petitions filed by Narendra Giri, President of the Pragatisheel Auto Union, and social workers from different NGOs, in the High Court, the discrepancies and the stronghold of auto finance mafia were highlighted which led to the temporary suspension of the two market leaders in autorickshaw dealing.“Supreme Court had passed 1,00,000 auto rickshaws in 2011, out which 55,000 were already on the road, 35,000 more were issued between 2011 and 2014. The last 10,000 got delayed and then were eyed by finance mafias. Those who bought had to pay hefty amounts as procuring ‘Letters of Intent’ to secure an auto unit became a difficult task. But most importantly, buyers had to pay additional charges with GST etc, thus in-total, the Autorickshaws have become very expensive,” said Giri.Even though the license was suspended for a short while, the Union members now look for stronger steps by the government. They are demanding cancellation of these dealer’s license and formation of a committee which looks into these permit procurements.EXPERT SPEAKThese dealers had been charging logistic charges of Rs10,000 which was not required, but nobody ever highlighted/questioned. Out NGO challenged this in the High Court. In 2010, I also filed a PIL against Auto finance mafia in High Court, which raised two main points of Permit trading i.e., auto rickshaw black marketing, and true ownership of Autorickshaws i.e. where drivers are driving autos granted on other’s names. The PIL was first dismissed in HC on technical grounds, then moved to Supreme Court which then sent to back to High Court, we are still awaiting a response on this Rakesh Aggarwal, Secretary, Nyaya Bhoomi, a registered NGO working for the welfare of societyIn complaint letters written to the Prime Minister’s and Lieutenant Governor’s office, we highlighted the extra costs that we have to pay for getting an autorickshaw. I requested them to take strong actions against these dealers who are charging optional AMC (auto maintenance charges) to everyone, handling charges etc since GST came. We have also raised a complaint against Rajesh Kumar Meena, MLO, Transport, who had a partnership with these dealers and earned money out of poor drivers’ pockets. I hope this suspension is not just the only step taken against these dealers and their licenses are cancelled tooYashpal Arora, General Secretary, Azad Hind Auto/Taxi Chalak UnionVOICES“I have been driving an autorickshaw since last seven years, I bought this second hand rickshaw for Rs 2 lakhs, whereas a new one should come much lower than this. It was easy then but, now, it has become very difficult to procure a new one”— Vipin Kumar, autorickshaw driver“A new autorickshaw costed me Rs 5 Lakhs, I had to sell my land in the village for this. But now the earning is not much as people generally do not pay by the meter and ask us to reduce the rates.”— Faizan Ahmed, autorickshaw driver“Recently a social worker told me that I can get a new rickshaw for Rs 1,80,000, but I paid three times of this price in August. How could nobody ever knew this? I hope they take away the licenses of the dealers who have been ripping poor drivers.”— Bikram Singh, autorickshaw driver “It was so difficult to get a permit for the autorickshaw and the ‘Letter of Intent’, as the mafia members already take so many permits on different names. The ones who need them the most always have to run around and pay more than needed.”— Sandeep Verma, autorickshaw driver “I had to sell my father’s land in Uttar Pradesh to buy myself an auto. Now they tell me that it was not required after running around for months first to sell the land and then to get the permit. Those people should be punished harsher than just seven days suspension”— Rakesh Kumar, autorickshaw driver

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Gujarat jitters: Maha govt to soothe farmers’ nerves

After BJP’s poor performance in cotton belt of Gujarat in the recent Assembly elections, the Fadnavis government in Maharashtra has decided not to allow a repeat of it in the state. To nip the anger of the cotton growing farmers in the bud, it is planning to dole out compensation and relief to the farmers before the state and Lok Sabha elections.Large parts of Maharashtra — Vidharba, North Maharashtra and Marathwada — are major cotton growing belts in Maharashtra. In 2014, the BJP got as many as 56 seats out of its total 120 seats in this region. This year, due to the bollworm insecticide, majority of the farmers’ cotton crops got damaged and they suffered huge losses.The BJP is expecting that its announcement of Rs 37,000 per hectare compensation for non-irrigated cotton farms and Rs 38,500 for farmers whose crops were damaged by bollworms will help it stave off any setback in elections.“Besides, the farmers are not getting fair price for their produce. Currently, cotton has been sold at Rs 4,500-Rs 5,000 per quintal against Rs 6,000-7,000 during Congress regime. There is a huge anger among farmers and that will reflect in the coming elections against the BJP government,” said Nawab Malik, spokesperson of NCP.Malik said in Gujarat elections also, the BJP, out of 127 rural — cotton and peanut growing belt — seats, got only 56, while the Congress outperformed with 71 seats. The Congress’ total tally is 80 in the 182-member Gujarat assembly.“We expect same in Maharashtra in rural belt. Despite being PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah’s home state, farmers decisively voted against BJP in Gujarat. Chief Minister Fadnavis had promised the farm loan waiver. What happened? Hardly any one benefitted,” said Ashok Chavan, Maharashtra Congress chief.“The Congress and the NCP are trying to fan out the uneasiness in the sector. They even called a Halla Bol protest there recently. However, we are confident of applying balm on the anger,” said a senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity.GUJARAT LESSONSThe BJP mainly lost in the rural belt in the recent Gujarat Assembly polls. Of the Congress’ total tally of 80 in Gujarat, 71 seats are from rural sectors. BJP wants to avoid any repeat of this in Maharashtra’s rural belt.

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Yoga does not have a religious connotation: Venkaiah Naidu

Vice President Venkaiah Naidu on Sunday said Yoga is a holistic approach to well being and it does not have a religious connotation. “Yoga connects physical health with mental equilibrium and emotional tranquillity, it promotes concentration and focused attention. It has physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions,” he noted.Naidu was speaking on the of the inaugural ceremony of the centennial celebration of Yoga Institute situated in the western suburb.Naidu informed the gathering that Sage Patanjali who compiled the first yoga philosophy defines yoga as an ability to control one’s own random thoughts and achieve a stillness, a calmness that creates inner harmony. This philosophy is usually referred to as Ashtanga Yoga. He explained “the components of this yogic philosophy form the ethical principles that are so universal: Non –violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, fidelity and not being avaricious.”The Vice President informed that the emphasis on physical exercises emerged around 11TH century AD in a branch of yoga called Hatha yoga.He said ”these exercises have gained worldwide importance and prominence over the years. We in India felt that this treasure house of knowledge should be shared with the entire world. We are so pleased that in 2014, the United Nations General Assembly has established 21st June as the international day of Yoga. This resolution has given a new impetus to the popularisation of this ancient science.”

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AIIMS doctors write to PM Modi for redress of safety & infra issues

Resident doctors of AIIMS backed protests by their counterparts in Rajasthan for higher pay and promotions, and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “live their life for a day” to understand their stress.The AIIMS Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) wrote to the PM on Sunday and urged him to understand the pressure on doctors at government hospitals due to poor infrastructure and misbehaviour of patients’ families and attendants during emergency situations.”We are lucky to have an active PM like you… Now RDA AIIMS requests you to put (on) white apron and spend one day as a government doctor to understand the tremendous amount of pressure we face, the agony of patients who did not get treatment, the dying healthcare system due to lack of resources and infrastructure,” AIIMS RDA president Harjit Singh Bhatti wrote in the letter.He said it will also set an example to ministers who level allegations against doctors for cheap publicity. “Your one day as a government doctor can be a turning point for the healthcare system as it will restore faith in the medical profession,” the letter read.THEIR GRIEVANCESThe docs urged the PM to understand the pressure on them at govt hospitals due to poor infrastructure and misbehaviour of patients’ families during emergencies.

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Real tribute to Guru Gobind Singh is to follow his path: Manmohan Singh

The real tribute to Guru Gobind Singh would be to follow his path of harmony, religious tolerance, peace and brotherhood, former prime minister Manmohan Singh said today.Speaking on the concluding day of Guru Gobind Singh’s 350th birth anniversary commemoration celebrations here, the senior Congress leader noted that the tenth Sikh Guru never discriminated against any religion, but respected all human beings, regardless of colour, caste and creed.The real tribute to Guru Gobind Singh would be to follow his path and bring an end to gender discrimination, he said.”As true Sikhs, we should not discriminate between men and women, and should provide equal opportunities of education to both genders, thus enabling them to become ideal citizens of the society,” Manmohan said.The former PM, accompanied by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, was addressing a gathering opposite the Keshgarh Sahib Gurdwara.Manmohan said the Sikh community was never in conflict with Islam and asserted that Guru Gobind Singh and other Sikh Gurus fought against social injustice by Mughal rulers and stood for human rights regardless of race, caste, religion or gender.The economist also sought people’s cooperation to stamp out the menace of drugs from the society.Also speaking at the event, Amarinder Singh announced the revival of Anandpur Sahib Urban Development Authority, along with his government’s decision to set up Skills University at Chamkaur Sahib in the name of Guru Gobind Singh.He said he would also request the Centre to declare Guru Gobind Singh Marg in Punjab and the rest of the country as a national highway.Underlining the Punjab government’s commitment to the upliftment of this holy place, the chief minister said the revival of Sri Anandpur Sahib Urban Development Authority would pave way for upgradation of its basic infrastructure and amenities.Former Union minister Preneet Kaur, AICC leaders Asha Kumari, Harish Chaudhary and Ambika Soni, state Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, PPCC president Sunil Jakhar, Speaker Punjab Vidhan Sabha and MLA Sri Anandpur Sahib Rana K P Singh, among others, were also present on the occasion.

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Use of Sri Lanka President Rajpaksa’s portrait by rival leads to tussle

The use of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s portrait by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party has led to a tussle with its rival faction which is claiming that the picture of a member of another party cannot be used for campaigning.The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) reportedly used the portrait of Rajapaksa for campaigning for the upcoming council elections.A senior minister representing the government from the SLFP said it is be illegal to use the image of Rajapaksa for campaigning as he is a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and not the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).”They can’t use the image of a member of another party for campaigning,” the senior minister said.The Rajapaksa loyalists who are in the SLPP remain careful not to identify themselves officially with the SLPP as they run the risk of being removed by the SLFP for breach of party discipline by promoting interests of another party.Both factions, however, say that their common enemy is the United National Party (UNP) of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.The party was split with Rajapaksa loyalists who call themselves the Joint Opposition forming a new party SLPP.The SLFP’s mainstream is currently led by President Maithripala Sirisena. The two factions went separate ways after the failure of the unification talks in order to face the February 10 election for 341 local councils.Both factions accuse each other of trying illegally to use the image of Rajapaksa, the man who ended the war with the LTTE.”We object to the use of the former President’s image by the SLFP,” Ranjith Soysa, a Rajapaksa loyalist legislator said.The two factions would go into coalition arrangements after the elections to gain control of the councils.

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Muzaffarnagar riots case: Court quashes NBWs against four including Suresh Rana and Sangit Som

Defence counsel Anil Jindal requested the court that the warrents be quashed. The accused are facing charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for violating prohibitory orders deterring public servants from discharging their duties and wrongful restraint. It is alleged that the accused participated in a mahapanchayat and incited violence through their speeches in the last week of August 2013.”
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Sunday 24 December 2017 17:12 ISTMust readMore girls rescued from rape accused Baba Virender Dev Dikshit’s Farrukhabad ashram’Not Indian Vedic tradition’- Andhra Pradesh asks temples not to celebrate New Year<!–end of artlmustredbx–><!–end of articllftpbx–> A local court has quashed non-bailable warrants issued against Uttar Pradesh minister Suresh Rana, BJP MLA Sangit Som and BJP MP Bhartendu Singh in connection with a 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots case.The NBWs were issued on November 15 following permission from the state government to prosecute them. Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Madhu Gupta yesterday quashed non-bailable warrants against four persons–Rana, Som, Singh and a man identified as Chandra Pal. Their lawyer in a plea had contended they had already been given bail under section 153a of the IPC (promoting enmity between different groups).Defence counsel Anil Jindal requested the court that the warrents be quashed. The accused are facing charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for violating prohibitory orders deterring public servants from discharging their duties and wrongful restraint. It is alleged that the accused participated in a mahapanchayat and incited violence through their speeches in the last week of August 2013.

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President Ram Nath Kovind arrives in Hyderabad for his first southern sojourn

President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday arrived here as part of the annual southern sojourn.Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Governor E S L Narasimhan, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, his cabinet colleagues and senior officials received the president and his wife Savita Kovind at Hakimpet Air Force Station.”The president, who arrived in the city today as part of the winter sojourn, will stay at the Rashtrapathi Nilayam located in Bollarum in Secunderabad till December 27,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (North Zone) B Sumathi told PTI.Kovind is scheduled to visit Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday to inaugurate the Indian Economic Association (IEA) summit at the Acharya Nagarjuna University at 10.30 am.He will later visit the Andhra Pradesh government’s Transitional Headquarters (secretariat) at Velagapudi, where he will inaugurate the AP Fibre Grid project.Kovind is also scheduled to inspect the Real-Time Governance Centre at the Andhra Pradesh secretariat.

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Those who did not fight for Cong will face action: Rahul Gandhi

Those within Congress who did not work to make party candidates win will have to face disciplinary action, said Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Ahmedabad on Saturday. He also assured that those who had worked for the party will be rewarded and that the grand old party also has a bright future.Addressing the party workers in Ahmedabad after a review meeting with the party leaders and MLAs, the newly elected party President said, “90% of workers fought for the party. 10% did not help the party. We will act against them, whoever they are, however big they may be. Everything will happen in a gradual manner.”Rahul thanked workers for their fine show even if the party did not get majority. Terming the performance a victory of sorts, he said that it was an uneven fight with BJP putting all the might of central and state governments besides ‘money power’, while Congress had only truth to rely upon.”We fought with love and we have won,” he said adding that during the course of the campaign, Congress was successful in bursting myth about development during Narendra Modi’s rule in Gujarat. “Inspite of asking so many questions, the PM was not able to reply,” he said.Gujarat Congress in-charge Ashok Gehlot said that PM Modi and BJP President Amit Shah had a tough time countering the onslaught of Congress and they had to take resort to sea plane and ‘Son of the Soil’ aspects to emotionally appeal to the masses. He said that the situation has changed in Gujarat and the countdown has begun for BJP, which will be reflected in the 2019 polls.THANKS PARTYMENRahul gave credit to AICC General Secretary and in-charge of Gujarat Ashok Gehlot as well as the party leadership for the results and termed the party manifesto a landmark document

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Likely faces in Vijay Rupani’s cabinet

With the BJP all set to form the government in Gujarat for a sixth consecutive term, top party leaders are busy carryingout the cherry-picking exercise to select the faces for Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s cabinet.Including Rupani as the CM and Nitin Patel as his deputy, sources said, seven other members are likely to be picked as cabinet rank ministers, while 11 to 12 may be selected for state-level minister rank.The final list will be release on December 26, moments before the swearing-in ceremony of the cabinet members in Gandhinagar.In the meanwhile, sources said, senior party leaders, including BJP state chief Jitu Vaghani, CM Rupani and Dy CM Patel, are going to meet for a couple of times to work out a list keeping factors like castes, regions and gender in mind. Here are the names that are likely to find a place in the BJP’s final list of cabinet ministers and ministers of states:GANPAT VASAVAThe tribal face of the BJP and former minister of tribal and forests in Rupani’s government, Vasava is a promising figure. No other tribal leader from BJP of his cadre has been elected in recent polls. He can get the same portfolio again.BABU BOKHIRIADefeated Congress stalwart Arjun Modhwadia for the second time. He was a cabinet minister in last term and is a strong OBC leader in Saurashtra. He can get water supplies and water resources portfolio once more.RC FALDUA former Saurashtra BJP president and a senior leader from the Patel community, Faldu can become the agriculture minister. His clean image and docile nature can earn him a position in Rupani’s cabinet.SAURABH PATELThe industrialist had been dropped last time. But in the absence of other strong leaders, Rupani won’t be able to ignore him this time. Patel is credited with making the Vibrant Gujarat Summit successful. Finance and energy are his forte.JAYESH RADADIAHe and his father Vitthal Radadiya have good hold over the Patel community in Saurashtra region and that is needed more now to placate Patels who are up in arms against the BJP With 2019 polls nearing, can retain civil supplies.DILIP THAKOROBC leader from North Gujarat. May get a berth ahead of 2019 polls. May get social justice and empowermentKAUSHIK PATELFormer revenue minister in Keshubhai Patel’s government, Kaushik Patel is a Kadva Patel leader from North Gujarat. Likely to enter the cabinet and get the revenue portfolio.PRADIPSINH JADEJAA Kshatriya Rajput leader from Ahmedabad, can be elevated to cabinet minister from MoS. Jadeja is believed to be close to BJP president Amit Shah. May get legal and justice parliamentary affairs and urban development portfolios.BHUPENDRASINH CHUDASAMAIf not chosen for the cabinet, he can be made the speaker in Gujarat assembly, thanks to his experience and knowledge of proceedings of the House. His soft-spoken nature can also bag him the new job.

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Prepare for 2019, Rahul Gandhi tells cadres

Prepare for the 2019 general elections, was the message Congress president Rahul Gandhi gave his party workers at a convention in Ahmedabad on Saturday. He told party men that if they work together, they can win people’s mandate.The convention was held after an internal review meeting of party office-bearers and newly elected MLAs in Gujarat. The reasons why Congress did not get majority in the House were discussed at the convention.Talking to party workers, Rahul talked about the challenges he faced during the recently concluded election.Rahul said the biggest challenge before him was to make party leaders and workers realise that the Congress can win in Gujarat. “I told everyone we can win. Seventy per cent of the message was well-received. Rest 30 per cent was not received. And you saw the results — the difference was only about 10 seats. The party now is confident,” he said.He alleged that the BJP has been using false propaganda to defame Congress leaders in Gujarat over the past 20 years. Rahul said he had to convince party leaders that if they think they can win, they will win.Gandhi advised his newly elected MLAs to take up issues faced by the masses, as the BJP government will continue to be of a few selected industrialists. “It is now your duty to protect the interest of the masses. This government will be of 8-10 industrialists. It will continue to forcibly acquire land from the people. It is now the Congress’s duty to protect the people. I will stand behind you,” he said.Rahul called upon the MLAs to be the party’s ambassadors and fight for the interest of the disadvantaged sections. “The fight has not ended. It will continue. We have to fight for the causes of farmers, youth, women,” he urged them.

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Lalu Prasad Yadav’s conviction becomes breather for the BJP

RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav’s conviction in fodder scam provided the much needed adrenaline boost to the BJP that was facing Congress heat on its “anti-corruption” plank after the 2G verdict and quashing of the case against former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan by the Bombay High Court.Leading the BJP attack, cabinet minister JP Nadda targeted both, the Congress and the RJD. “The alliance between Congress and Lalu Yadav’s party is an alliance of corruption,connivance and cheating the people of India, it is clear from the verdict of the court,” he said.He also blamed Lalu Prasad for politicising the verdict. “He is even now politicising the issue instead of accepting the verdict, just to deviate attention he is leveling allegations of conspiracy against the BJP,” Nadda said.After his conviction by the special CBI court, Lalu had blamed the onslaught of bias driven propaganda by the BJP and its nexus with the CBI for the verdict.Lalu’s long time adversary, deputy chief minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi, who was one of the petitioners in the fodder scam PIL which resulted in a CBI inquiry and monitoring of the case by the Patna High Court, accused Lalu of playing politics.”Lalu was convicted for the first time during the UPA regime & is now blaming BJP? How can the BJP influence a judicial process? The Court has convicted Lalu not BJP,” Modi said in Patna.”This had to happen. You reap what you sow,” Modi added.Senior BJP leader from Bihar, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who also was one of the prime movers of the case against Lalu, described the verdict as a lesson that law will catch up if you commit corruption.”For me, it is a matter of some personal assurance that I had the privilege to argue the PIL in Patna High Court in the early 90s leading to the institution of the CBI inquiry, which was strongly opposed by the then state government headed by Lalu Prasad Yadav.”Lesson of today’s conviction of Lalu Prasad is that law will catch up with you if you commit corruption,” Ravi Shankar added.Defiant Lalu lashes out on TwitterNew Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav was defiant even as the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Court in Ranchi convicted him in the fodder scam. Yadav took to Twitter and shot off eleven tweets in 22 minutes. He slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and termed its politics as “immoral and malicious” and said that the “wily” party was using rhetoric to hide its “misdeeds” and to sully public perception of the opposition. Yadav also likened his circumstances and conviction to that of former South African President and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, American civil rights activist Martin Luther King and even Babasaheb Ambedkar.

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Ashok Chavan may get second term as MPCC chief

The Bombay High Court’s rejection of the Governor’s prosecution order in the Adarsh scam has brightened Ashok Chavan’s chances of getting yet another term as the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) supremo.The state unit has already completed the election process, authorising the party high command to decide Chavan’s fate. However, insiders in the party admit that the court order has come as a major slap on the BJP’s face which will have to rework its strategy to target Chavan.This apart, Chavan was instrumental in organising protests against the BJP-led government in November and December in six revenue divisions, where he travelled extensively. By and large, the party leaders say Chavan had brought factions together to take on the BJP on issues such as farmers plight, lapses in the implementation of crop loan waiver, deteriorating law and order and finances.Subsequently, the state Congress unit and the state Nationalist Congress Party jointly took out a march and organised a rally at Nagpur on the second day of the winter session on December 12 hinting at an alliance in the run-up to the next Assembly elections slated for 2019.Further, Chavan’s stock soared after Congress won 73 of 81 seats in the Nanded Municipal Corporation, where BJP had made it a prestige issue and cornered him in his home town.MPCC spokesman Ratnakar Mahajan told DNA,” Clearly, Chavan will now strive for the responsibility bestowed upon him with renewed vigour as the Bombay high court has set aside the Governor’s sanction to act against him in the Adarsh case. The party’s high command is expected to continue with him as the state unit president for another term.”Newly-anointed All India Congress Committee president Rahul Gandhi is soon expected to take a call in this regard.Already, the party high command has given a green signal to Chavan to organise a mass contact programme in all 288 Assembly constituencies across the state in January. Chavan had already begun preparations for the same.The party MPs, legislators, party office bearers will address public rallies, hold protest marches and reach out to voters at the booth level in a bid to further strengthen the party’s organisation to take on the BJP.Congress had won 42 Assembly seats and bagged only two seats in the 2014 elections. Thereafter, the party has been struggling to regain its stronghold and come second in successive elections held for civic and local bodies in the state.Past protestsAshok Chavan was instrumental in organising protests against the BJP-led government in November and December in six revenue divisions that he travelled.

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State has to play neutral role to ensure all citizens get equal protection under law: Hamid Ansari

Former vice-president Hamid Ansari today called for ensuring basic principles of the Constitution so that every citizen can be assured equal protection under the law.Speaking at a discussion on, ‘Is Secularism Dead in India’, at Jadavpur University, Ansari said the state has to play a neutral position to make this possible. “There has to be a neutral standard which the state has to observe not in theory but in practice, equal protection has to be imbibed in the agents of state,” Ansari said. “Who can guarantee my neighbour eats the same food as I do, his faith is the same as my faith. If anything that impedes the reality of our plurality, that should not be allowed to remain there,” he said. Speaking about secularism, Ansari said it was a subject so relevant in this country.”And I dare say not only to citizens of this country but to the world which is indicative of concern in the wider international community,” he said. The fact that we are a plural society is not a matter of debate, Ansari said.From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Bengal to Gujarat, in every direction the plurality, complexity, diversity of society is self-evident, the former vice-president added. “There is diversity in every conceivable manner, diversity of language and diversity in food habits,” he said. Ansari, who was the vice-president of India from 2007-2017, jokingly described his tenure as ex-officio chairmanof Rajya Sabha “as the referee in a hockey match”.Also readDon’t politicise Urdu; it’s the language of everyone in India: Former VP Hamid AnsariHistorian and Trinamool Congress MP Sugata Bose during in his address said secularism as set of values enables society to ride over prejudice to creatively accommodate differences and respect multiple identities.Bose said the most urgent task now is to rescue religion from bigots and nationalism from chauvinists. “We must take stand against religious bigotry and majoritarianism that is stoking our land. Majority of our people are ‘dharmabhirus’ not ‘dharmandhos,” he said. Talking about Swami Vivekananda and Rishi Aurobinda’s preachings, Bose said, “We need to engage their teachings but not allow distortion of their views for narrow political gains.”

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Today father, next who?: Sushil Modi on Lalu Yadav’s conviction

As you sow, so you reap — this was Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi’s reaction to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad’s conviction in a fodder scam case by a CBI court in Ranchi today.Modi was one of the petitioners, on whose PIL the Patna High Court had, in 1996, ordered a CBI inquiry into the cases relating to the fodder scam.In a series of tweets, Modi pointed at the money- laundering cases slapped against the “whole family” of Prasad and hinted that the RJD president’s son and former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav could be the next in line in the “process of going to jail”.”Jo boya so paya. Boya ped babul ka to aam kahan se hoi. Yeh to hona hi tha (As you sow, so you reap. If you plant a Babul tree, how will you get mangoes. This had to happen),” the BJP leader said in his first tweet after the court verdict.This was followed by another tweet: “I was one of the petitioner in fodder scam PIL which resulted in CBI inquiry & and monitoring by Patna H Court (sic).”Also readFrom Tejashwi Yadav to Ravi Shankar Prasad: Who said what after Lalu Yadav’s conviction in fodder scam”Process of going to jail started. Today father, next who? Lalu knows? Whole family involved in corruption. Either fodder scam or benami property? Today chara Next LaRa? (sic),” read another tweet.Modi also came down heavily on RJD national vice- president Shivanand Tiwary, who was a co-petitioner in the PIL which led to the CBI inquiry into the fodder scam, saying he was “defending the indefensible” by coming out in support of Prasad.Also readEven Mandela, Ambedkar are villains for some: Defiant Lalu Yadav after fodder scam conviction”Lalu had to go to jail because of PIL filed by Shivanand, Lalan Singh and myself but now Shivanand defending the indefensible (sic),” he said.Lalan Singh, a JD(U) leader, is currently a state minister.Also readTimeline of fodder scam case which rocked Lalu Prasad Yadav’s political careerTiwary, who was expelled from the RJD shortly before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls for anti-party activities, had told a news channel that he felt he had “committed a sin” by filing the PIL, “which paved way the for Nitish Kumar to come to power in the state”.”Lalu enjoys a mass support, which nothing can erode. He has already been convicted and sentenced in one of the fodder scam cases. He is being sent to jail again and again as a part of a conspiracy,” he said.Meanwhile, senior RJD leader Jagdanand Singh said the party was united and waiting for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, when its workers and leaders would fulfil the dreams of Prasad, who fought for social justice.”The party will continue with its fight and struggle for social justice, right from the streets to Parliament, under the leadership of Tejashwi Prasad Yadav,” he said, while appealing to the partymen to register their protest in a peaceful manner.Singh also alleged that those who could not vote Prasad out of power had hatched a conspiracy against him.

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Vijay Rupani to take oath as Gujarat CM on December 26; PM Modi, Amit Shah to attend ceremony

Incumbent Vijay Rupani will take oath as Gujarat Chief Mminister for a second term on December 26 at a ceremony which is likely to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharataiya Janta Party (BJP) President Amit Shah. His deputy Nitin Patel and the council of ministers will also take oath at the ceremony planned at 11 am at Gandhinagar Sachivalaya Ground.Chief Ministers of all the BJP ruled states have also been invited as guests to attend the swearing-in ceremony.Yesterday, BJP announced that Rupani, a confidante of party chief Amit Shah, would continue as the Gujarat chief minister for a second term.Also readAction will be taken against those who didn’t help party in Gujarat: Rahul Gandhi The announcement was made by Union minister Arun Jaitley, the party’s central observer, after a meeting of state BJP legislature party here.”A proposal to elect Rupani as leader of state BJP legislature party and Nitin Patel as deputy leader of state legislature party has been adopted,” Jaitley told a press conference. Patel is the incumbent deputy chief minister.Also readVijay Rupani’s journey from student leader to CM for second timeThough the BJP retained power in the key western state for a record sixth straight term, there was speculation about Rupani’s continuance due to the party’s narrow victory over challenger Congress.Rupani’s proximity to the top party leadership, his clean and caste neutral image apparently tilted the scales in his favour.Also readOld guard is new guard: Vijay Rupani-Nitin Patel to helm GujaratThe BJP won 99 seats in the 182-member Assembly, the first time its tally slipped below hundred since 1995, while the Congress clocked its best in many years clinching 77. Together with its allies, the Congress has the backing of 80 MLAs.(With PTI inputs)

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Action will be taken against those who didn’t help party in Gujarat: Rahul Gandhi

Addressing Congress party workers in Ahmedabad, days after narrowly losing in the Gujarat assembly election, Rahul Gandhi hinted that internal discord was the primary reason behind their defeat. Congress President said that if the party had worked unitedly, they would have emerged victorious. However, according to Rahul Gandhi’s assessment, while around 80-85% workers gave their best shot, some remained aloof or worked against the party and resulted in the eventual defeat. Congress significantly increased their seat tally and vote share in the recently concluded Assembly election restricting BJP to 99 seats in the assembly. However, even as Congress party did reasonaly well, many of its top leaders had to bite the dust. Alluding to it, Rahul Gandhi said that a new set of leaders have emerged who will be raising their voices in the Assembly. Congress President predicted that the party would win the next election under their leadership and get 135 seats. Also readRahul Gandhi offers prayers at Somnath temple in GujaratHe also said that Congress may have lost the election, but has scored a moral victory because BJP had lot more resource to fight the polls. Also according to Congress President, they spoke the language of love during the elections, while BJP spoke the language of rage. Congress lost many seats by extremely narrow margin in the recently concluded election. The state-leadership is currently taking a stock of the results and Rahul Gandhi joined them on the third day of introspection session. He held review meet with leaders from all four regions of Gujarat. Congress did significantly well in Saurashtra, but couldn’t maintain that surge in other regions. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi today visited the Somnath temple in Gir Somnath district, ahead of his meeting with party leaders to introspect on the Gujarat Assembly polls. The Congress leader landed at Keshod Airport in Saurashtra and offered prayers at the temple which is about 420 km from the state capital. Gandhi ad visited the Somnath temple during the recent election campaign and his name was found written on the entry register meant for non-Hindus, kicking up a row. The Congress had called it “fake” and the BJP insisted that the leader declare his religious faith before people.With PTI inputs

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A Raja and Kanimozhi reach Chennai after 2G acquittal, get rousing welcome from DMK cadres

DMK leaders Kanimozhi and A Raja were given warm welcome by party cadres in Chennai after getting acquitted by special CBI court in the 2G court. The airport was throng with party supporters donning the traditional DMK colours. There were large number of supporters also present near DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s house. Both Rajya Sabha MP Kanimojhi and former Union Minister A Raja met Karunanidhi.They were welcomed by party leader and Karunanidhi’s MK Stalin. The verdict has come as a huge relief for DMK which has suffered electoral reverses and relegated to sidelines after name of their party leaders got tangled in the 2G case. DMK leader M K Stalin on Friday said the verdict in the 2G spectrum allocation case has come as a “blow” to those who wanted to “taint” the party.Hailing the acquittal of Kanimozhi and A Raja, he said the party has now emerged like “gold refined by fire.” Quoting certain observations made by the special judge in the verdict, Stalin said it showed the case was “fabricated with an aim of targeting and sidelining DMK” at the national level. “The DMK, after having faced insults and slander for baseless false charges, swam through the river of fire, and after seven years has emerged as gold refined by fire,” Stalin, DMK working president, said in a letter to partymen.The DMK was always confident of telling the truth to the world, Stalin said a day after the special court in Delhi acquitted party leaders Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP, and former Telecom minister A Raja. The DMK leader said Raja as then Telecom minister, adopted “progressive measures” in allocating 2G spectrum aimed at the welfare of the poorer sections of the society. This, Stalin claimed, led to an increase in mobile phone users even while bringing the rates down. He said CAG Vinod Rai had made charges of “presumptive loss” of Rs 1.76 lakh crore in spectrum allocation and even those who were aware of the differences between “practicality and presumption blew up” the matter. “Those with political vendetta, and media known for sensationalism blew up the issue against DMK in the electoral field,” he said in an apparent reference to the 2011 Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu which the AIADMK and its allies swept.Raja was always confident of getting justice through a legal battle and he himself put forward “strong arguments” before the court even as “Kanimozhi also proved she was not guilty,” Stalin, also state leader of opposition, added. Party president and his father M Karunanidhi was overjoyed when he was told about the outcome of the case, Stalin said.With PTI inputs

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BJP reacts to ‘Lie Hard’ remark of Rahul Gandhi, says Congress President indulging in cheap barbs

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday accused Congress President Rahul Gandhi of indulging in cheap barbs and lowering political discourse in his bid to gain power.The attack from party spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao came after Gandhi fired a fresh salvo at the saffron party, saying if the BJP had a film franchise it would be called “Lie Hard”.”Rahul Gandhi, is this the low level of political discourse that you are capable of? To gain power by all means, would you indulge in such cheap barbs?” Rao asked in a tweet.He claimed that whatever Gandhi might say, his party would not return to power as people know its “corrupt face”.Also readRahul Gandhi offers prayers at Somnath temple in GujaratCongress President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday mocked at BJP and said if the party had a film franchise it would be called “Lie Hard”.Meanwhile, Rahul visited Gujarat’s Somnath temple on Saturday ahead of a review meeting with newly-elected MLAs and party workers following Gujarat assembly election results.After his Somnath Temple visit on November 29, a controversy erupted after Rahul’s name along with senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel was allegedly mentioned as non-Hindus in the visitor book of the temple. (With inputs from ANI)

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Jerusalem vote will affect UN budget, fear diplomats

Braving threats of retaliation from Washington, India and 128 countries voted in favour of the resolution in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that called upon the US to withdraw its decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But officials now say that it could have been a ploy by the US to scale down its budgetary commitments to the UN.The Committee on Contributions at the UN uses estimates of each member state’s gross national product (GNP) and a number of adjustments, including data for external debt and for low per capita incomes for their financial commitments to the regular and peace-keeping budget of the world body. The percentage shares range from a minimum of 0.001% to a maximum of 22%, and a maximum of 0.01% for those nations designated as “least developed countries.The US is the biggest economy in the world with the highest share of 22%, followed by Japan with 9.68% and China (7.921%). According to the assessment made for the years 2016-18, India has to contribute 0.737% to the UN regular budget, placing it at 24th position in the list of highest contributors. Officials here attributed the US’s intransigence coupled with unparalleled threatening communications to countries to a ploy to scale down its commitments to the UN and its various programmes particularly the peace-keeping efforts. The US contributions to the UN regular budget in 2017 stood at $611 million. It is also committed to providing $2 billion annually to peacekeeping, and hundreds of millions more to programs, including the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program. The US had already conveyed to cut $150 million next year to peace-keeping budget.At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump asserted, “Let them vote against us, we’ll save a lot. We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars and nobody knows what they’re doing.” Expressing “deep regret” over recent decisions over the status of Jerusalem, the resolution did not specifically mention the US, but states that the final status of the city will be “resolved through negotiations in line with relevant United Nations resolutions”.Officials here agree that the US communications to the smaller nations intimidating them to vote in its favour were highly inappropriate and the only explanation could be the US attempting to run away from its financial commitments. The resolution, which was tabled by Turkey and Yemen and supported by a slew of Muslim and non-aligned movement countries, was approved by 128 votes – two-thirds of the 193-member UNGA. While 35 countries abstained, only nine countries voted against the resolution – the US, Israel, Honduras, Guatemala, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Togo and Micronesia. Twenty-one countries did not vote at all.While officials here stated that India’s position on Palestine was unchanged, the lack of reiteration of East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital over past many months had raised questions. The ambassadors of Arab countries posted to Delhi meeting with the minister of state for external affairs, M.J. Akbar to discuss the issue. Arab countries were also apprehensive of India’s stand, apprehending that Modi government may change its policy in the wake of hosting Israeli PM early next year in New Delhi. Diplomats, who attended the meeting said there was no explicit demand made by the Arab envoys to take a stronger position, but they only reminded Akbar to convey the PM the 2016 Manama Declaration, which India signed with Arab countries, recognising East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and also called for the sanctity of UNSC resolutions.India’s positionAccording to the assessment made for the years 2016-18 by the United Nations, India has to contribute 0.737% to the UN regular budget, placing it at 24th position.

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2G scam verdict: ‘Vindicated’ Rahul Gandhi says BJP’s foundation based on ‘lies’

Launching a no-holds barred attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday said the saffron party’s whole architecture and foundation were based on “lies.””The whole architecture and foundation of the BJP are based on lies,” said Mr Gandhi. He was speaking after chairing his first Congress working committee (CWC) meeting as the Congress president with his mother Sonia Gandhi seated next to him.”I think 2G has been a vindication (of Congress’ stand),” Rahul Gandhi told reporters when asked about the special CBI court’s Thursday verdict acquitting all the accused. “Everyone knows about 2G, the truth has come out in front of you.”Also readRahul Gandhi chairs first CWC meeting after being elected Congress President “If you see the Modi model in Gujarat, it was a clear lie. When we went to Gujarat, the people said there is no model, they said what is going on is stealing of people’s resources. The promise of 15 lakhs in every bank account, Demonetisation, ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ everything is a lie,” he added.Rahul today chaired the CWC meeting for the first time after being elected as the party chief earlier this month. Also readGujarat Elections 2017: Rahul Gandhi says PM Modi has credibility problem, BJP ridicules Sonia Gandhi, who served as the party president for 19 years, arrived a little before Rahul for the meeting and was also felicitated by the CWC members. The CWC also paid their respects to former Union Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi who passed away last month. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, senior party leaders Motilal Vora, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Janardan Dwivedi, Mallikarjun Kharge, Karan Singh, Anand Sharma, Mohsina Kidwai, Ambika Soni, CP Joshi, Kamal Nath, BK Hariprasad and Oscar Fernandes are also attending the meeting, along with party in- charges for various states.Rahul Gandhi was elected unopposed as the Congress chief on December 11 and assumed the party’s reins on December 16.(With PTI inputs)

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Thane: Days after a tragic death of a horse, activists demand registration of animals

Days after a horse died after drowning in Thane’s Masunda lake, animal rights activists are shocked over the negligence as the horse was not registered.Many are angry because despite a Government Resolution (GR), letters from Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and 10 years of correspondence by an animal right activists, none of the horses in the city are licensed.“Working equines come under the purview of Performing Animals Rules (PRA) and therefore should be registered in accordance with the rules. Apart from this licensing with the police or local authorities will ensure that horses go through yearly medical fitness checks, which is otherwise completely ignored by the owners,” said Shakuntala Majumdar, President, Thane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Animals (TSPCA).She also said that despite the fact that she has been pursuing this issue with Thane police since 2010 nothing has been done yet.Majumdar informed, “Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) had written to Thane Police Commissioner in 2010 asking valid licenses be issued to all the horses used for joy rides in Thane after which even a GR was issued and TSPCA has been regularly following up the issue yet nothing has been done so far,” she said adding that having license will also make them responsible owners as they will be answerable in case of any such incidents.In fact in absence of any registration or license horses in Thane are regularly abandoned and even left when they are injured.“We have had several animals that were found injured or abandoned and were treated at TSPCA and we even rehabilitated some of these horses,” she said adding that to check on abandoning by owners they had even suggested that the horses be micro-chipped, which which has a unique ID number that can be read using a device.

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India is being polarised; community is losing confidence in government: Top Catholic body

The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) Cardinal Baselios Cleemis on Friday stated that India is getting polarized due to religious affiliation, and the community was losing confidence in the government.In an Indian Express report, Cardinal Cleemis also said that the country was being devided on basis of religious beliefs, which was a bad thing for a democratic nation. “I want my country to be united in a secular fabric. But now, this country is being polarised due to religious affiliations. We should fight against it,” he added.Cleemis’ remarks comes a week after carol singers in a village near Satna in Madhya Pradesh were detained following Bajrang Dal activists alleging they were indulging in forced conversions.Also readCarol singers and priests detained in MP: Bajrang Dal claims forced conversation, Catholic organisations fumeCleemis led a delegation of the CBCI, which met Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday to express their “pain and anguish and seek justice”. Cleemis said Singh’s “spontaneous response” was positive and he assured immediate action. “He said he will see to it that justice is done. I hope he will do his best,” he said, adding that the allegations of forced conversion were baseless.He wanted the government to “decide serious measures to safeguard the interest of citizens. “Make sure that innocent people are treated properly and given protection. The culprits should be punished for their bad acts and for damaging the image of the country. We should stay together, united in diversity,” he said, while speaking to the daily.

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UGC’s letter on trips to North East upsets Delhi University faculty

A letter from the UGC to the Vice-Chancellors of all the central universities encouraging them to organise excursions to northeast states has created an uproar among the faculty members at the Delhi University (DU) with many of them terming it a “political move”.In the letter, Jitendra K Tripathi, Joint Secretary, University Grants Commission (UGC), directed the universities to implement the ‘action points’ that emerged out of a recent meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the tourism sector. “Universities to be encouraged to organise excursions to the North East,” the letter said. The regulatory body also urged the universities to make tourism a part of course curriculum of students to sensitise them about the sector.University officials, however, said that by mentioning a particular part of the country where the Assembly elections are scheduled next year, in its letter, the incumbent government is trying to”propagate its political agenda”.”I have been teaching in a central university since the last fifteen years but this is the first time that a government is asking educational institutes to take its students on a trip to a prescribed place,” said Rajib Ray, president of Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA).Four northeastern states — Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram – will go to the polls next year.

Huge sigh of relief rocks the courtroom

The area surrounding the courtroom where Special Judge OP Saini was going to deliver his verdict in the 2G scam case was packed with family members, friends and supporters of the 17 accused.Even as former Telecom Minister A Raja’s supporters attempted to squeeze past the heavily guarded entryway, a loud roar from the interior momentarily stopped time. Confusion turned to happiness when advocates led by Vijay Agarwal — he represents Kareem Moranis — among a few others representing the accused, rushed out in the crowd shouting “acquitted, acquitted, acquitted” at the top of their voices.Similarly, the mood inside the courtroom shifted in a fraction once the judge pronounced his verdict. An uproar and huge sigh of relief rocked the courtroom as all the 17 accused, including former Telecom Minister A Raja and DMK leader and MP Kanimozhi, jumped on their toes moments later.Roars of “thank you” reverberated the jam-packed courtroom at Central Delhi’s Patiala House Court as Kanimozhi bowed down before the judge to express her gratitude. Raja, dressed in a white shirt, quickly climbed atop a chair once outside the courtroom and acknowledged the frenzied crowd waiting for him.Scenes of emotional outpouring of happiness could be spotted in various clusters across the court complex even as DB group founder, Shahid Balwa, broke down in the court.Not long after the verdict was known, fireworks were heard across the din of people congratulating each other, prompting the special judge to inquire about the cause of the commotion.And suddenly just like that, it was all over. After seven years, the 2G scam, which was touted as the 2nd biggest scam in the world by the Times Magazine after the 1972 Watergate Scandal which led to the resignation of US President Richard Nixon, came to an end.It seemed all the worry and apprehension that plagued the accused and their kin melted and happy smiling faces were found to be seen all around.All the prayers came to fruition, some were even found chanting and praying with rosaries inside the courtroom when the curtains fell after the brief 27-minute court proceedings. During this time the Special CBI Judge came to the bench thrice to deliver the verdict in the three separate cases registered.”Giving the record of the case, it is a very brief judgment that I have given,” Special Judge Saini said presenting the 1,552-paged judgment. He first announced the verdict in two cases, one each of CBI and Enforcement Directorate, followed by the last case pertaining to Essar.Speaking to DNA, Kanimozhi said, “Finally I got justice. I am innocent. I have been saying so from the first day.” Meanwhile, Raja could not contain his excitement and happiness as he received wishes from all corners.Karim Morani, who was accompanied by his wife, daughters and two brothers said that justice has prevailed. RK Chandolia’s family members and Raja’s erstwhile private secretary also expressed their happiness on the verdict.”It was not a 2G scam but a 2G revolution that A Raja had brought. We have finally got justice and our stand has been vindicated,” Harsha, Chandolia’s daughter said.Touted as 2nd biggest scamThe 2G scam, which was touted as the 2nd biggest scam in the world by the Times Magazine after the 1972 Watergate Scandal which led to the resignation of US President Richard Nixon.

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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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