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Archaic practice confined to dustbin: Modi

NEW DELHI, July 30: Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked “all parties and MPs” who supported the passage of “Triple Talaq” bill for rising to the occasion in order to correct a “historical wrong done to Muslim women,” moments after the legislation crossed the Rajya Sabha hurdle on Tuesday with 99 votes in its favour.

Modi, in his tweet, also called it a “victory of gender justice” that will “further equality in society.”

“An archaic and medieval practice has finally been confined to the dustbin of history! Parliament abolishes Triple Talaq and corrects a historical wrong done to Muslim women. This is a victory of gender justice and will further equality in society. India rejoices today!” He said in his first tweet.

His second tweet on the issue expressed his gratitude for all those who supported the Bill.

“I thank all parties and MPs who have supported the passage of The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 in both Houses of Parliament. They have risen to the occasion and this step of theirs will forever be remembered in India’s history.”

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who piloted the “Triple Talaq” bill congratulated the Prime Minister for “fulfilling his commitment” that was likely to free Muslim women from the “curse of a regressive practice”.

“Today is a great day for India’s democracy. I congratulate PM @narendramodi ji for fulfilling his commitment and ensuring a law to ban Triple Talaq, which will free Muslim women from the curse of this regressive practice,” Amit Shah tweeted.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad showed the victory sign as he emerged out of Parliament. Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and VK Singh said it was a “historic day”.

The Bill outlaws instant triple talaq and provisions for three years jail for violators. The ban, which is already in force through an ordinance, has been a top priority for the NDA government. It was the first Bill introduced in Parliament after the NDA government was re-elected to power.

Priyanka Gandhi asks PM to step in on Unnao accident

NEW DELHI, July 30: In an apparent attack at the BJP, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Tuesday asked why people like BJP MLA and rape accused Kuldeep Singh Sengar are given the “protection of political power”, while their victims are abandoned to battle for their lives alone.

Priyanka Gandhi’s poser in a tweet came a day after the Uttar Pradesh police filed a murder case against Sengar and nine others following a complaint by the Unnao rape survivor’s family, alleging “conspiracy” behind the Sunday’s car crash in which the victim was severely injured and two of her family members were killed.

The Congress leader also tagged portions of the FIR filed along with the tweet.

“Why do we give people like Kuldeep Sengar the strength and protection of political power and abandon their victims to battle for their lives alone?” Priyanka Gandhi tweeted.

“This FIR clearly states that the family was threatened and apprehensive. It even mentions the possibility of a planned accident,” she said, tagging a copy of the FIR.

Unnao Superintendent of Police Madhav Prasad Verma had said on Sunday that the rape survivor, her paternal and maternal aunts along with their advocate met with an accident while on their way to meet her uncle, who is lodged in Rae Bareli jail.

A woman belonging to Makhi police station area in Unnao had alleged that Sengar, a four-time MLA who represents Bangermau in the UP Assembly, raped her teenage daughter at his residence in 2017.

The case had come to light after the victim allegedly attempted self-immolation outside Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence.

Sengar, who is an accused in the rape case, was arrested on April 13 last year.

‘I have failed... sorry’, wrote CCD founder VG Siddhartha in letter to directors

BENGALURU, July 30: Cafe Coffee Day founder VG Siddhartha, who went missing from Mangaluru on Monday, had a few days back written a note to his employees apologising for failing to create ‘a right profitable business model’.

Siddhartha went missing after asking his driver to drop him off at the Netravathi bridge in Mangaluru as he wanted to take a walk. There was no sight of him an hour later and the driver alerted the family, and they in turn informed the authorities.

“I am very sorry to let down all the people who put their trust in me. I fought for a long time but today I gave up as I could not take any more pressure,” Siddhartha, the son-in-law of former Union Minister SM Krishna, wrote in the letter dated July 27.

Siddhartha adds that he could not take any more pressure from one of the private equity partners forcing him to buy back shares, a transaction he had partially completed six months ago by borrowing a large sum of money from a friend. “Tremendous pressure from other lenders lead to me succumbing to the situation,” he adds.

“There was a lot of harassment from the previous DG income tax in the form of attaching our shares on two separate occasions to block our Mindtree deal and then taking position of our Coffee Day shares, although the revised returns have been filed by us. This was very unfair and has led to a serious liquidity crunch,” he explains.

“My intention was never to cheat or mislead anybody, I have failed as an entrepreneur. This is my sincere submission, I hope someday you will understand, forgive and pardon me.

Siddhartha, who started his CCD chain with an outlet in Bengaluru and soon rose 15,000 outlets, enclosed a list of assets and tentative value of each asset with the letter. “As seen our assets outweigh our liabilities and can help repay everybody,” he wrote signing off.

 

Unnao rape survivor’s ‘accident’: BJP MLA booked for murder

LUCKNOW, July 29: A day after the Unnao rape survivor and her lawyer were critically injured and two others (aunts of the survivor) killed in a road accident in Rae Bareli, resulting in widespread outrage, the Uttar Pradesh police on Monday booked Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar (currently in jail; he is the main accused in the rape case), his brother and around two dozen others for murder, attempted murder and criminal conspiracy.

With many people dwelling on the convenient accident — the survivor’s father was murdered, allegedly by Sengar’s brother — the state police, which initially seemed to be leaning towards the theory that there was no foul play in the accident, said it would hand over this case too to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) if there was a demand to do so. Later on Monday, the police forwarded the family’s request for a CBI investigation into the accident to the state government, which will now write to the Centre.

The CBI is currently investigating the rape (the survivor was a minor at the time), and the murder of her father. The survivor and the aunt are also primary witnesses in the rape case.

Scrambling to contain the damage, the Yogi Adityanath-led UP government said it will bear all expenses for the treatment of the rape survivor and her lawyer, Mahendra Singh.

Both are on ventilator support at the trauma unit at King George’s Medical University (KGMU) hospital in Lucknow, doctors said.

“The woman was in shock, apart from the fracture in the leg and collar bone, besides head and chest injury. Hence we have shifted her to ventilator support. Her condition is critical but stable,” said Dr Samir Misra, senior faculty, trauma surgery, at KGMU.

The case of murder, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy against the MLA and the others was filed at the Gurbakshganj police station in Rae Bareli on the basis of a complaint by the rape survivor’s uncle who is in Rae Bareli jail in connection with a case filed under the Arms Act.

“MLA Kuldeep Sengar and his aides use to often threaten my family members to force them to withdraw the (rape) case against him. My wife and others were coming to meet me with papers related to the cases when their vehicle was hit by a truck, on the direction of the MLA,” reads the complaint lodged by the uncle.

On Monday, the mother of the victim too claimed Sengar was behind the accident. “This accident was a conspiracy by the BJP MLA to kill my daughter and family. I want CBI to probe the case,” she said. A person familiar with the matter said the mother had informed Unnao police on July 13 about threats from unidentified people.

“We have lodged an FIR under sections 302(murder), 307(attempt to murder), 506(criminal intimidation) and 120B(criminal conspiracy) of IPC against Sengar, his brother Mahesh Singh Sengar and others,” said superintendent of police(SP), Rae Bareli, Sunil Kumar Singh.

Beside the brother, police have booked Sengar’s aides Vinod Mishra, Haripal Singh, Naveen Singh, Komal Singh, Arun Singh, Gyanendra Singh, Rinku Singh and Avdhesh Singh along with “15-20 unidentified persons” in the matter.

The uncle sought parole to attend the funeral of his wife but Unnao district magistrate Devesh Pandey rejected the application on technical grounds.

Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a four-time MLA who represents Bangarmau in the Uttar Pradesh assembly, was arrested in 2018 for allegedly raping the teenage girl at his residence in 2017. That case too was registered on a complaint by the survivor’s uncle, and the family battled for the one-year period in between.

The woman had attempted to immolate herself outside the chief minister’s residence on April 8, 2018 to draw attention to the case. Her father died in police custody shortly after, following an assault by Sengar’s brother and a delay by police to take him to a hospital.

Director general of police (DGP), UP, OP Singh claimed “prima facie, it is a road accident” but added that an investigation is on and that the police are open to the CBI taking over. The driver of the truck was detained from the spot, while the owner was summoned to join investigations. Police are going through their mobile phone records to determine if they were in touch with a third person before the collision. Both are residents of Fatehpur.

Earlier, additional director general (ADG) of Lucknow Zone, Rajeev Krishna told reporters that the bodyguards assigned to the survivor were not with her because she “herself had asked the security personnel not to accompany her.”

The mother of the survivor said, “My daughter asked the police not to accompany her because there was no space in the car.”

The National Commission for Women took cognizance of the incident and wrote a letter to Uttar Pradesh Police requesting them to ensure a speedy investigation into the matter and take action deemed appropriate for the crime committed.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted: “The accident of the rape victim is shocking. What is the status of the CBI probe? Why is the accused legislator still in the BJP? Can we expect justice from the BJP government without getting answers to these questions first?”

BSP leader Mayawati tweeted: “The accident of the Unnao rape victim in Rae Bareli seems to be a conspiracy to kill her. The Supreme Court should take note of it and punish all the culprits.”

Delhi Commission for Women chairperson Swati Maliwal visited KGMU trauma centre and assured the victim’s mother of providing better medical treatment if she agreed to shift her to Delhi. After Maliwal, Samajwadi Party leader Juhi Singh, Congress MLAs Aradhana Mishra and Aditi Singh too visited the trauma centre and demanded that the government ensure a free and fair probe, besides security for the family.

UP minister of state for Women and Child Development, Swati Singh, additional chief secretary Avnish Awasthi, chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s advisor Mrityunjay Kumar too visited the trauma centre. The government later announced it would foot the bill for the treatment of the victim and her lawyer.

A CBI team also went to the trauma centre, although agency spokesperson RK Gaur said this was to meet the survivor’s family, not to begin investigation.

2 brothers turned millionaires in 7 yrs, sold synthetic milk in Delhi, UP

BHOPAL, July 29: Seven years ago, two brothers from a village in Madhya Pradesh’s Morena district would be seen supplying milk on a motorcycle to a nearby dairy. Today, they are said to be owners of a Rs 2 crore milk chilling plant, milk tankers, three bungalows, SUVs and agricultural land, according to police.

It’s not a magic wand that has changed the fortunes of Devendra Gurjar (42) and Jaiveer Gurjar (40), who live in the village Dhakpura of Morena district, some 465 km from Bhopal. Rather, it is their illegal business of manufacturing synthetic milk and its by-products that are slow poison for consumers, an investigation of Madhya Pradesh police’s special task force (STF) has revealed.

Along with Devendra Gurjar, a few other dairy owners in Chambal whose names appear in an FIR became rich in just five-seven years by allegedly selling synthetic milk not only in Madhya Pradesh but also to renowned companies in Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, the investigation has shown.

Synthetic milk is manufactured by mixing glucose, urea, refined oil, milk powder and water. Other chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, are also used. Some of the by-products manufactured are synthetic cheese and mawa.

Rajesh Bhadoria, STF superintendent of police, said, “During investigations, we found that six of the main persons -- Devendra Gurjar, Jaiveer Gurjar, Ramnaresh Gurjar, Dinesh Sharma, Santosh Singh and Rajeev Gupta – had amassed huge wealth. Their standard of living has changed totally in just a few years. They covered the journey from being small dairy owners to millionaires very fast. We are investigating the economic aspects and will forward the case to the income-tax department too.”

All six have been booked under section 420 (fraud) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, Bhadoria said.

“In Chambal, they used to spend just Rs 6 to make a litre of milk, which sells at Rs 25 in the wholesale market. The profit margin is about 70-75%. They prepare synthetic milk by mixing glucose, urea, refined oil, milk powder and water. Similarly, profit margins were increased for synthetic cheese and mawa,” he said.

Rampal Singh, a resident of Ambah town in Morena district, said, “Here, even a child knows that dairy is a profitable business because of this artificial milk. Earlier, they would adulterate milk but now they have started manufacturing synthetic milk. We have seen the economic progress of these people. Now, they wear jewellery, branded clothes and shoes, and roam around in high-end SUVs. We have been flagging this issue for several years but the administration has woken up now.”

More than 10 big dairies in the Chambal region have been raided jointly by the STF and the food department and sealed after materials used to make spurious milk were recovered. Raids are being conducted in other parts of the state too. Over 65 people have been arrested in this connection in the last six days.

The Madhya Pradesh Milk Federation has banned 200 milk cooperative societies in Chambal.

Ashok Awasthi, STF additional director general of police, said, “In Chambal, daily production of milk is just 11 lakh litres but about 30 lakh litres milk are being supplied. The gap of 19 lakh litres is being filled with spurious milk, which is not only cancerous but also leads to various chronic diseases.”

“Citing this inconsistency, the STF raided the premises of two chilling plants in Bhind -- Girraj Food Supplier and Gopal Chilling Centre -- and one in Morena -- Vankhandeshwari Dairy and Factory -- and found 17,000 litres of spurious milk, 1000 kg synthetic mawa and 1500 kg synthetic cheese last Friday,” the ADG said.

There were abundant quantities of urea, chemicals, glucose, shampoo, refined oil and hydrogen peroxide on the plant premises, but what was missing was real milk, he added.

Terming this a dangerous crime, the Madhya Pradesh government has decided to impose the stringent National Security Act (NSA) on those adulterating milk and dairy products. National Security Act is a law that allows preventive detention for months and for that time, person doesn’t need to be charged. The motive is to prevent the person from committing crime.

According an officer, as there is no strict law in this regard so NSA will help the investigative agency to deter them.

A few days ago, chief minister Kamal Nath had said he would take steps to stop this illegal business totally. The health department has put out a helpline number in all 52 districts of Madhya Pradesh asking for information related to manufacture and supply of synthetic milk.

A Bhopal-based liver specialist, Dr Sanjay Kumar, said, “Consumption of urea can lead to permanent gastric problems, stomach infections, appetite loss and discomfort. If a person consumes adulterated milk for a long period of time, it can also result in cancer.”

BS Yediyurappa wins floor test, Karnataka speaker resigns

BENGALURU, July 29: Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa proved his majority in the assembly by winning a trust vote on Monday, bringing down the curtain on weeks of political turmoil in the southern state that saw the fall of the 14-month-old Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government.

Yediyurappa, who was sworn in as chief minister for the fourth time last Friday, won the floor test with a voice vote and managed to pass two key pieces of legislation – the finance bill and the supplementary budget – in a two-hour proceeding that also saw speaker KR Ramesh Kumar resign.

The House was adjourned till Wednesday, when the new speaker will be elected. The BJP has confirmed that senior leader KG Bopaiah will be its nominee.

Yediyurappa said the administration in the state had come to a standstill during the rule of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government.

“The administration in the state has failed and setting it right will be our first priority,” the 76-year-old leader added, thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah for reposing faith in him.

The Congress-JD(S) alliance, forged hours after the results of the May 2018 assembly election were announced, collapsed after 15 lawmakers resigned from their positions roughly three weeks ago.

The BJP was expected to sail through the trust vote after Kumar disqualified 17 rebel legislators, whose absence during a trust vote last week toppled the coalition government, on Sunday. In the truncated assembly of strength 208, the new halfway mark was 105 – the exact number of MLAs the BJP has.

Two of those rebels from the Congress – Gokak MLA Ramesh Jharkiholi and Athani MLA Mahesh Kamathalli – moved the Supreme Court on Monday against their disqualification, saying the speaker’s decision smacked of “bias” and was “arbitrary,” “grossly illegal” and “violative” of the constitutional mandate. In his order, Kumar had said the lawmakers stood disqualified until the term of the current assembly, due to end in May 2023, and were barred from contesting bypolls, but constitutional experts had said this is bound to be legally challenged.

The next challenge for Yediyurappa is to choose his cabinet and strike a balance on questions of regional, caste and religious representation. Other than the chief minister, the council of ministry can have a maximum of 33 members.

The proceedings in the assembly on Monday began with fireworks.

Introducing the one-line motion as soon as the session began at 11am, Yeddiyurappa reiterated the promise of providing two installments of ₹2,000 to farmer beneficiaries under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi and the waiver of weavers’ loans that he had announced on Friday.

He also reiterated his assurance that he would not “indulge in vindictive politics”. “I believe in forget and forgive,” Yediyurappa said while appealing to the Opposition to extend support to the government.

This was immediately challenged by former chief minister Siddaramaiah, who argued that Yediyurappa had become the chief minister without enjoying the popular mandate. “Unfortunately, Yediyurappa has never been chief minister with the people’s mandate,” Siddaramaiah said. “When you [Yediyurappa] took oath the House strength was still 222, where did the BJP have 112 MLAs to have a majority? They had 105 seats,” he said, opposing the confidence motion.

Former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, who was ousted after losing last Tuesday’s floor test by six votes, said he opposed the “unconstitutional manner” in which the BJP government had been formed. “Now that they are in power, they should place the facts before the people about the failure of the coalition government instead of making allegations,” he added.

The introduction of the finance bill, needed to pay the salaries of state government employees, and the supplementary budget also triggered a heated debate. Both were ultimately passed in a voice vote.

The speaker then proceeded to pre-empt any attempt by the BJP to move a no-confidence motion against him by announcing his resignation. In his speech, Kumar said that any government that was serious about tackling corruption had to recognise that its root was elections.

“It rings hollow if we talk about ending corruption without talking about electoral reforms,” Kumar said. “We don’t need money for electoral reforms, we need a large heart,” he added. Kumar also said that the country needed to re-look Schedule X of the Constitution that deals with defections and the Representation of the People Act, because there were many loopholes in them. “Let’s not mislead the people,” he said, before tendering his resignation.

‘Tell Didi’: Mamata Banerjee’s mass outreach campaign for 2021 assembly polls

NEW DELHI, July 29: Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Monday launched a public outreach campaign – ‘Didi Ke Bolo’ (Tell Didi) with the aim to reach out to at least 80% of the 1.6 crore households in West Bengal over the next 20 months ahead of the 2021 legislative assembly elections in the state.

‘Didi’ means elder sister in Bangla and Hindi, but in current political lexicon, it has come to mean chief minister Banerjee who also heads the TMC.

Banerjee had roped in poll strategist and Janata Dal (U) vice president Prashant Kishor in June in the aftermath of the Lok Sabha election results. BJP had won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the states only four less than the TMC’s 22.

According to sources, Kishor’s Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC) has designed the campaign for the election to the 294-member state assembly scheduled to be held in 2021.

“A team has already been setup in Kolkata, IPAC is still in the process of recruitment. Didi Ke Bolo is a unique initiative by Mamata Didi, to provide a platform to every citizen of West Bengal to directly connect with her. Using this platform, people can reach out to her, by simply calling on a number or logging onto the campaign website with their suggestions and problems. Thus, with this platform she is just a call away from every citizen of West Bengal,” an IPAC executive said.

The TMC chief unveiled a party helpline number and website to reach out to the masses and address their grievances in Kolkata on Monday.

The campaign involves two key components; mass information and communication using both traditional and new-age media channels through the centralized number (9137091370) and the digital platform through which can directly reach out to the CM and her office. The other is through a grassroots outreach programme involving elected representatives and key party functionaries to inform the citizens about the platform about how they can use and benefit from it.

“Under this, over the next 100 days, more than a thousand elected representatives and key party functionaries of TMC will personally visit and spend the night in more than 10,000 villages and urban habitations. During these visits, they will spend at least three hours interacting with people in a ‘Jana Sangjog Sabha’ – to understand their problems and make every possible effort to resolve them on their own. For unresolved issues they will also take the responsibility to bring it to the notice of Mamata Didi,” the IPAC executive added.

Similar launch events of the campaign have also been planned across the state by the elected representatives and key party functionaries of the TMC in over 1,000 locations over the next three to five days.

Karnataka Speaker disqualifies 14 more MLAs

BENGALURU, July 28: Karnataka speaker KR Ramesh Kumar on Sunday disqualified 14 rebel lawmakers whose decision to skip a trust vote last week toppled the state government -- a ruling that came a day ahead of a floor test where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is widely seen to have the edge.

Kumar said the 14 legislators – 11 from the Congress and three from its ally, the Janata Dal (Secular) – stood disqualified until the term of the current assembly, due to end in 2023, and could not even contest bypolls. The decision also forecloses the possibility of any of the rebel legislators being named as ministers in the new government. He said, however, that they would be free to contest if fresh assembly elections were called.

The rebels said they will move the Supreme Court on Monday against this “unconstitutional” decision, and some constitutional experts said the ruling — including the decision to bar them from contesting in bypolls — was based on Kumar’s interpretation of Article 164 1(b) of the Constitution, which deals with disqualification, and was bound to be challenged.

Kumar, who disqualified three other rebel MLAs last Thursday, stressed that he had been impartial but had to hurry because he was asked to preside over Monday’s floor test.

“This cannot be a drama or manipulation or under pressure. I have been consistently behaving in a manner that a gentleman ought to behave,” the speaker said, insisting that he had stuck to the timeline he had set for himself. “The way I am being pressurised mentally as speaker to deal with all these things, I am pushed into a sea of depression,” added Kumar.

The order brings the strength of the 225-member assembly down to 208, and the halfway mark to 105. The BJP has 105 MLAs, and is likely to get the support of independent lawmaker H Nagesh. In last Tuesday’s floor test, the coalition got 99 votes, losing by six votes to mark the end of the 14-month rule as chief minister of HD Kumaraswamy.

“On Monday, 100% I will prove the majority,” chief minister BS Yediyurappa, who was sworn in on Friday, told reporters in Bengaluru. He also announced that he will take up the finance bill, whose passage is necessary to pay government salaries, after the trust vote.

Some BJP leaders said they were unlikely to bring a motion to remove Kumar on Monday. According to the law, such a motion can only be taken up after 14 days and needs a simple majority of the assembly to pass.

The rebels said they will move the apex court on Monday to challenge their disqualification, which they argued was illegal. “We will question everything based on the prevailing law,” said dissident JD(S) lawmaker AH Vishwanath.

Rebel Congress leader Pratapgouda Patil put out a video addressing his constituents and said they need not fear the disqualification order. “We will challenge this in the Supreme Court and we are confident that the court will redress this soon. There is no need for any fear,” he added.

Of the 14 disqualified legislators, 13 had also tendered their resignation roughly three weeks ago that triggered the turmoil in the coalition government. One member, Shrimanth Patil, did not resign but skipped the floor test.

Kumar said he had rejected the resignations because the former MLAs had failed to appear before him to convince of the voluntary and genuine nature of their resignations.

The fate of the lone Bahujan Samaj Party MLA, N Mahesh, continued to be unclear.

Kumar confirmed he received a letter from the BSP expelling him for not attending the trust vote in violation of the party order, but said he was yet to decide on the issue. He also said that he would take a call if a motion to remove him is moved in the assembly. “I have a responsibility of ensuring the passage of the finance bill on Monday,” he said.

The Congress welcomed Kumar’s decision to disqualify the legislators. “I believe this decision will put an end to the shabby culture of selling oneself by disregarding the public mandate for selfish motives and the greed for power,” said former chief minister Siddaramaiah.

In a tweet, the JD(S) welcomed the speaker’s decision. “The speaker has sent a strong message to those who tried to uproot democracy by disqualifying legislators who fell for allurements of power and money, disregarded public mandate and violated the party whip.”

The BJP criticised the ruling. Senior BJP lawmaker JC Madhuswamy said the apex court had only asked the speaker to ascertain if the resignations were genuine or voluntary. “We feel that somewhere he might have exceeded his powers,” he said. “The Supreme Court had said the MLAs could not be compelled, so there is question of whether it was right for the speaker to consider the whip issued by the legislature parties,” he said.

Constitutional expert Babu Mathew, programme coordinator at Bengaluru’s National Law School of India University, said the order was set to be challenged. “The speaker can give a ruling but that is not immune from being challenged in the court,” he said.

Mathew said that the speaker’s decision that the rebels can’t contest by-elections was based on one interpretation of Article 164 (1B) of the Constitution. “This is why I said it is subject to judicial review,” he added.

Retd Army man beaten to death for resisting robbery in Amethi

LUCKNOW, July 28: Around half-a-dozen unidentified assailants thrashed a 65-year-old retired army captain to death after he resisted their attempt to steal scrap lying outside his house in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi on Sunday.

Police said Captain Amanullah and his wife Ameena, 58, were sleeping when they noticed some people picking up the scrap outside their house at Godian Ka Purwa village around 2 am.

“When they objected and tried to alert other villagers, the assailants tied them up and started hitting Amanullah with sticks. An injury on the head proved fatal,” said Prahlad Singh, a police officer.

He added the assailants stole the scrap after killing Amanullah, whose wife escaped unhurt.

“The body has been handed over to the family after carrying out a post-mortem examination. We are trying to get more details about the physical appearances of assailants from the victim’s widow,” Singh said.

Amanullah’s son, Ibrahim, has lodged a case under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 302 (murder) against the unidentified assailants.

Unnao rape survivor critical after truck crashes head-on into car

LUCKNOW, July 28: A woman from Unnao allegedly raped by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Kuldeep Singh Sengar was critically injured and her two relatives killed when a truck collided head-on with their car in Rae Bareli district on Sunday.

The deceased included the woman’s aunt and her sister, while their lawyer was also critically injured in the collision that took place when they were headed to meet the woman’s uncle, who is in Rae Bareli district prison.

The front portion of the car was crushed in the incident near Ataura outpost under Gurubakshganj police station limits of Rae Bareli at around 1pm. The injured were pulled out with the help of locals, and rushed to the district hospital where a woman, in her forties, was declared brought dead, said local police inspector Rakesh Singh. The woman was identified as the sister of the rape survivor’s aunt.

The others were taken to Lucknow’s King George’s Medical University, where the woman’s aunt succumbed to her injuries, another police officer said, adding the lawyer’s condition was critical.

The circumstances of the incident were not immediately clear and state police rushed a forensics team to the site. The BJP’s political rivals called for a federal investigation, saying the crash could be a murder attempt.

Sengar was an influential leader in the Bangarmau constituency, and the family battled for a year before he was named in a police case for the rape. On April 8, 2018, the survivor attempted to immolate herself outside the residence of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath to draw attention to the case.

The following day, her father was allegedly assaulted by Sengar’s brother and his accomplices in police custody, leading to fatal injuries. A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe indicted the MLA and several people connected to him of attempts to frame the survivor’s family in order to pressure her to drop the case.

A witness in the assault, Mohammed Yunus, died a few months later. Sengar has been in prison since outrage over the case grew and federal investigators stepped in.

Inspector general (IG) of police, Law and Order, Praveen Kumar said the survivor’s condition was stated to be out of danger.

Two security personnel provided to the rape survivor were not present at the time of the accident and the matter was being investigated, said Unnao superintendent of police, MK Verma.

“Our government follows a zero tolerance policy on crime. The road mishap is unfortunate. The opposition is smelling rat. We wish to assure our friends in opposition to not get excited and engage in politics,” UP BJP leader Chandramohan said.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said the incident “could be a murder attempt”.

Aradhna Mishra, the Congress MLA from Unnao, said the circumstances of the incident were suspicious. “Congress demands an investigation,” she said.

Supreme Court notice to Centre, 10 states on steps to curb mob lynching

NEW DELHI, July 26: The Supreme Court has asked the Centre and 10 states to explain what they have done to curb mob lynching on a petition that accused states of not implementing the top court’s 11-point prescription to curb such violence.

The top court had last year outlined the steps that need to be taken to deal with an increase in reported cases of mob violence. One of the steps that it had advocated was enactment of a law to deal with the crime that threatens rule of law and the country’s social fabric.

On Friday, a bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi issued notice to the central government, National Human Rights Commission and 10 states including Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan on a follow-up petition filed in the top court.

The top court’s notice comes amid a letter vs letter that has broken out between two groups of celebrities. The first open letter signed by 49 intellectuals, artists and professionals was addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This one asked him to end the lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities.

The government had quickly rejected the charge. Hours before the top court took up the mob violence petition, 62 celebrities responded to the first open letter hitting out at the first group for what was described as “selective outrage” and “false narratives”.

In its order last July, the steps indicated by the court also include steps to tackle hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news, usually the precursor to attacks by lynch mobs.

Among the steps listed by the top court were getting mob violence cases tried by designated fast track courts and completion of trial within six months.

SC Garg confirms resignation request

NEW DELHI, July 25: Senior bureaucrat and former finance secretary Subhash Chandra Garg is likely to take over the charge of power secretary on Friday while he waits for the government’s approval to his request for voluntary retirement, officials said requesting anonymity.

Garg is expected to continue working as the power secretary till the government takes a decision on his request, officials said. He sought voluntary retirement from the government service a day after he was removed from the coveted position of the finance secretary and sent to the power ministry, which is largely perceived to be a punishment.

In a tweet, Garg said: "Handed over charge of Economic Affairs today. Learnt so much in the Finance Ministry and Economic Affairs Dept. Will take charge in Power Ministry tomorrow. Have also applied for Voluntary Retirement from the IAS with effect from 31st October. Last tweet from this handle."

After an abrupt end of his tenure as the senior-most secretary in the finance ministry, Garg sought voluntary retirement from the service on Thursday, officials said. Before shifted to the power ministry, he held the position of the secretary in the Department of Economic affairs (DEA) and was designated as finance secretary since he was the senior-most bureaucrat among the five secretaries in the finance ministry.

According to retired bureaucrats, the position at the finance ministry is considered a high-profile posting in comparison to the position of the power secretary. Garg’s request for voluntary retirement is subject to the acceptance of the government, they said requesting anonymity.

Garg was due to retire in October 31, 2020 on attaining of 60 years of age. He joined the service in 1983 as an IAS officer of the Rajasthan cadre. He was appointed DEA secretary in June 21, 2017. In March this year, he was elevated as the finance secretary after the retirement of Hasmukh Adhia in December 2018.

The Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) secretary Atanu Chakraborty (1985-batch, Gujarat cadre) has replaced Garg in the Wednesday bureaucratic reshuffle. Other secretaries in the finance ministry are Financial Services secretary Rajiv Kumar (1984-batch, Jharkhand cadre), Revenue secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey (1984-batch, Maharashtra cadre), Expenditure secretary GC Murmu (1985-batch, Gujarat cadre) and DIPAM secretary Anil Kumar Khachi (1986-batch, Himachal Pradesh cadre).

One Day They Will Discover: Priyanka Cautions BJP as Curtains Come Down on Kumaraswamy Govt

NEW DELHI, July 24: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the fall of the HD Kumaraswamy government in Karnataka, saying one day they will discover that "everything cannot be bought".

Hitting out at the BJP, Priyanka Gandhi tweeted: "One day the BJP will discover that everything cannot be bought, everyone cannot be bullied and every lie is eventually exposed.” She added that until then, people would have to “endure their unbridled corruption, the systematic dismantling of institutions that protect the people's interests and the weakening of a democracy”.

After a trust vote in the Karnataka Assembly that spanned four days and several twists and turns, Kumaraswamy on Tuesday stepped down as chief minister. When Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar put the confidence motion moved by Kumaraswamy to vote, the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance polled 99 votes and the opposition BJP 105. Nine MLAs, including 17 from the JDS and the Congress, were absent.

The Congress has accused the BJP of horse-trading and engineering the fall of the coalition. A statement by senior Congress leader KC Venugopal read: "The sabotage of a duly-elected government in Karnataka carried out by the BJP is one of the most heinous and subversive instances of blatant political horse tradings the country has ever witnessed.”

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi also criticised the BJP, saying “Democracy, honesty & the people of Karnataka lost” with the fall of the Kumaraswamy government. The BJP, however, hit back, saying: “Your desperation to hold on to power has lost today. It’s a victory of Karnataka over your unholy alliance & greed for power.”

Two BJP MLAs cross-vote in Madhya Pradesh ‘ghar wapsi’

BHOPAL, July 24: Stunning the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is exulting over the collapse of the Congress government in Karnataka, two of its MLAs on Wednesday voted in favour of an amendment to the criminal procedure code in the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha.

Terming it a ghar waapsi (homecoming), Maihar legislator Narayan Tripathi told reporters, “In the previous government, Shivraj Singh Chouhan had made tall promises in my constituency, but delivered nothing. There was also an attempt within the party to sabotage my election. The Congress is my old home and I am headed back to it. I’ll do whatever is the best for my constituency.” The MLA had switched to the BJP in 2014.

With the positive vote of Beohari MLA Sharad Kol as well, the Criminal Law (Madhya Pradesh Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed in the Assembly with the support of 122 MLAs, even though the ruling coalition has the support of 121 MLAs, including Speaker N.P. Prajapati, who didn’t vote. The Congress enjoys the support of one Samajwadi Party, two Bahujan Samaj Party and four independent MLAs, whereas the BJP has 109 MLAs in the Assembly.

Later in the day, Chief Minister Kamal Nath, sitting with the dissenting MLAs, told reporters, “The BJP claims we are a minority government which can fall any day. But today, during the voting on the amendment, two of their MLAs voted in our favour.”

Congratulating the MLAs on their homecoming, Congress leader Jyotiraditya M. Scindia tweeted that their vote in favour of the party showed their faith in its government’s policies. “Moreover, they had shown the mirror to BJP leaders who say ours is a minority government... We have full faith that our government will push forward development with conviction.”

The developments come hours after Nath and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Gopal Bhargava parlayed over the stability of the government. Bhargava had hinted at the government’s wobbly foundation, given the Congress lost the trust vote to the BJP in the Karnataka Assembly on Tuesday.

On the floor of the house, Bhargava claimed one instruction from the top leadership of the BJP was enough to topple the Congress government in the State within 24 hours.

Stating that the Congress was ready to prove its majority any time, Nath hit back: “The number one and two at your top are wise. That’s why they are not giving any orders.”

Contrasting Bhargava’s statement, former Chief Minister and BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chauhan in June had said his party was not attempting to dislodge the government. It may fall on its own “due to infighting”.

The Congress was ready for a floor test in the Assembly any time, but the BJP shied away from it, claimed State Congress media Chief Shobha Oza, “Whenever we had an opportunity to prove our majority, they walked away under some pretext or the other. Even after the budget was presented, they had an opportunity to challenge us. But they didn’t.”

She said the BJP was trying to create a threat perception by claiming the coalition partners could be pulled away easily. “They are just spreading rumours and trying to lure our MLAs for the past seven months. They even tried to lure one of our tribal MLAs with ₹50 crore recently. But our MLAs understand their responsibility in serving the people who voted for them for their Congress ticket.”

BJP State media chief Lokendra Parashar refused to comment.

Karnataka Govt Loses Trust Vote, Kumaraswamy Resigns

BENGALURU, July 23: After the Congress-JD(S) led government in Karnataka lost the trust vote in the Vidhana Soudha on Tuesday, chief minister HD Kumaraswamy submitted his resignation to Governor Vajubhai Vala. The resignation was accepted by Vala.

The coalition got 99 votes against the BJP’s 105 in the floor test. Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar announced that the coalition government led by Kumaraswamy has lost the trust vote by six votes.

Meanwhile, Section 144 (unlawful assembly) was imposed in Bengaluru for 48 hours starting 6 pm on Tuesday.

The Congress-JD(S) coalition has been teetering on the edge for days now, with the resignation of 16 MLAs.

The Karnataka BJP took to Twitter to call it a “game of Karma”

The rebel MLAs of the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition in Karnataka on Tuesday sought four weeks’ time to appear before Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh

Former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy took to Twitter to thank the people of the state after resigning from the post.

Congress leader and former Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah took to Twitter and said that all the MLAs who have fallen for ‘Operation Kamala’ will never be inducted back in the party.

BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa said that he will meet Governor Vajubhai Vala after meeting AMit Shah and PM Modi.

“I will discuss with Prime Minister and our President Amit Shah ji, afterwards I will go and meet Governor. We are going to have a legislature party meet now,” he said.

BSP supremo Mayawati expels lone party MLA N Mahesh for not being present in the Assembly during trust vote.

'Most Heinous Political Horse Trading': KC Venugopal

The subversion of coalition government in Karnataka carried out by the BJP is one of the most heinous political horse tradings the country has ever witnessed, AICC General Secretary In-charge of Karnataka, KC Venugopal said in his statement.

“The coalition government was subverted by the nefarious joint efforts of the Central Government, Governor, State Government of Maharashtra and BJP leadership. BJP facilitated this dirty-dealing political drama by offering a huge amount of black money and ministerial berths to the defected MLAs,” he said in a statement.

“Congress party will hold nation wide protests against the immoral, blatant and brazen political destabilization carried out by the Bharatiya Janata Party,” he added.

Protests Outside Mumbai Hotel Where Rebel MLAs Are Staying

Activists of Mumbai Youth Congress on Tuesday protested outside the five-star hotel in suburban Mumbai where rebel MLAs of Congress and JD (S) from Karnataka have been holed up after resigning from the Assembly.

Police detained the workers who tried to go inside the hotel this evening to "meet" the legislators.

The MLAs have been staying at the hotel in Powai since early this month.

Mumbai Youth Congress vice president Suraj Singh Thakur said the hotel was a public place and the workers wanted to meet the Karnataka legislators.

“We are initially allowed to go inside the hotel. But as soon as we entered the hotel we were taken away by the police. The security at the hotel is more than the Arthur Road or Tihar Jail. Whose money is being used for their (MLAs') accommodation and food in a five-star luxury hotel?” he asked.

Greed won; Democracy, honesty lost: Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI, July 23: Congress's Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday blamed "vested interests" after the party's coalition government in Karnataka failed the test of strength in the state assembly.

Without naming the BJP, he posted: "From its first day, the Cong-JDS alliance in Karnataka was a target for vested interests, both within & outside, who saw the alliance as a threat & an obstacle in their path to power. Their greed won today. Democracy, honesty & the people of Karnataka lost".

The government had come to power last May. Gandhi had been instrumental in stitching up an eleventh-hour coalition with HD Kumaraswamy's Janata Dal Secular to keep the BJP out of power.

On Tuesday, weeks after 13 Congress and three Janata Dal Secular lawmakers quit, the coalition government faced the trust vote and managed to scrape up only 99 votes, way behind the BJP's 105.

Jaishankar rebuts Trump’s Kashmir claim; Oppn demands Modi’s statement

NEW DELHI, July 23: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday that no request was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to US President Donald Trump regarding any mediation in Kashmir.

“I would like to categorically assure the House that no such request has been made by PM Modi,” S Jaishankar said in identical statements in both Houses of Parliament.

In Lok Sabha, the Opposition shouted slogans demanding a statement from Modi and staged a walkout.

Earlier inn Rajya Sabha, the minister said that it has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally.

“The Shimla Agreement & the Lahore declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India & Pakistan bilaterally,” the minister said, a day after Trump in initial remarks with visiting Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday offered to help resolve the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan.

Trump said that Modi had made a similar request when they met a few weeks ago — a claim that was rejected by India.

“If I can help, I would love to be a mediator,” Trump said, following up on Khan’s request during a joint appearance in the White House that he would like the United States to help resolve the Kashmir issue.

The US, however, on Tuesday backtracked saying it would assist in India-Pakistan talks if both sides wanted and that Kashmir was a ‘bilateral issue’.

The United States went on to sternly remind Pakistan of its own responsibility and accountability in the resolution of the dispute, saying it needs to deliver peremptorily on counter-terrorism.

“We believe the foundation for any successful dialogue between India and Pakistan is based on Pakistan taking sustained and irreversible steps against militants and terrorists on its territory,” said a US state department spokesperson.

Modi must tell the nation what transpired in meeting with Trump: Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI, July 23: Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “must tell the nation what transpired” in his meeting with Donald Trump after the US president’s stunning claim that the Indian PM has asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue.

Trump on Monday offered to help resolve the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan in initial remarks with visiting Prime Minister Imran Khan. The US president said that Prime Minister Modi had made a similar request when they met a few weeks ago — a claim that was rejected by India.

“President Trump says Modi asked him to mediate between India & Pakistan on Kashmir! If true, PM Modi has betrayed India’s interests & 1972 Shimla Agreement. A weak Foreign Ministry denial won’t do. PM must tell the nation what transpired in the meeting between him & @POTUS,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

The Congress leader was referring to the foreign ministry’s denial that any such request for mediation came from the Prime Minister.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in the Rajya Sabha that “no such request has been made by PM Modi” and added that it has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally.

“The Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India and Pakistan bilaterally,” the minister said.

The US had before that backtracked saying it would assist in India-Pakistan talks if both sides wanted and that Kashmir was a ‘bilateral issue’. It sternly reminded Pakistan of its own responsibility and accountability in the resolution of the dispute, saying it needs to deliver peremptorily on counter-terrorism.

“We believe the foundation for any successful dialogue between India and Pakistan is based on Pakistan taking sustained and irreversible steps against militants and terrorists on its territory,” said a US state department spokesperson.

Chandrayaan 2 launched successfully

SRIHARIKOTA, July 22: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched its second moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, from Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota on Monday, a week after the lift-off was aborted at the eleventh hour due to a technical snag.

Chandrayaan-2 lifted off onboard Isro’s most powerful launcher, the 640-tonne rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III), from the country’s only launch site Satish Dhawan Space Centre. Lakhs of people watched the launch in India and abroad as the heavy-lift rocket roared off into the skies.

The launcher of Chandrayaan-2, nicknamed ‘Bahubali’, measured 44 metres in height. The three-stage vehicle is capable of launching 4-tonne class of satellites to the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).

The 20-hour countdown to the lift-off, a mission which has been described as one of the most complex ever undertaken by the space agency, had begun on Sunday at 6.43pm.

India deferred its second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2 for the fifth time last Monday, roughly an hour before blast-off after scientists noticed a glitch in the launch vehicle, delaying its bid to become only the fourth country. The lunar landing mission was rescheduled for July 22 after scientists corrected the snag.

The Rs 978 crore project will follow Chang’e-4, launched by China, which in January became the first spacecraft to successfully land on the far side of the moon. Only three countries, the United States, the erstwhile Soviet Union and China, have successfully landed missions on the moon.

The 3,850kg Chandrayaan-2 consists of an orbiter that will circle the moon for about a year, taking images and testing the atmosphere; a lander named Vikram, after India’s space pioneer Vikram Sarabhai; and a rover named Pragyaan, which means wisdom in Sanskrit.

The Rs 375 crore GSLV-Mk III carrying the orbiter, lander, and rover will launch the Rs 603 crore Chandrayaan-2 into an Earth parking orbit 16 minutes into its flight. The distance between the Earth and the moon is about 3.844 lakh km.

The mission will send the rover to the moon’s south pole and Indian scientists hope to directly observe the water ice on the lunar surface, evidence for which was gathered by spectrometers aboard India’s first moon mission in 2008.

Isro has said Chandrayaan-2 will be injected into an Earth parking 170x40400 km orbit. The spacecraft’s orbit will be raised by a series of manoeuvres to put it on Lunar Transfer Trajectory. On entering the Moon’s sphere of influence, on-board thrusters will slow down the spacecraft for Lunar Capture.

From its launch to the soft landing, the entire mission is set to take about 58 days. After the launch, it will take 16 days to raise the orbit and then five days to reach the moon’s orbit. Once there, it will make an orbit around the moon for 27 days, before the lander makes an attempt to de-orbit. After four more days, the lander will land in a difficult manoeuvre that lasts 15 minutes.

The landing of Chandrayaan-2 is Isro’s biggest challenge till now, the 15 minutes when the lander separates and before it soft lands on the moon have been called “terrifying moments” by the agency that has never undertaken such a flight.

Chandrayaan-2 will attempt to soft-land Vikram and Pragyan in a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, at a latitude of about 70° south. Ample solar light for solar power, the nearly flat surface with good visibility for a safe landing and expected the higher presence of water and minerals are the main reasons why the space agency chose Moon’s south-pole for landing.

The rover and the lander will have a life of one lunar day (14 earth days) and for that lunar day, it will conduct scientific experiments. The orbiter, however, has a life of one year.

The first landing pictures may be available within 15 minutes of the lander touching down. However, it will take four hours from the time of landing to the time the rover comes out from the lander.

A National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) instrument for LASER ranging will be carried by the mission as a mark of cooperation between the two space agencies. India will use the Deep Space Network of the US space agency on payment basis for navigation and guidance.

The mission carries 13 Indian scientific instruments for experiments. Imaging of rock will be done to find elements like magnesium, calcium and iron and also for signs of water. Mission will also study the exosphere of the moon.

Isro is following the same launch strategy followed for Chandrayaan-1. However, Chandrayaan 1 was just an orbiter while Chandrayaan-2 has lander and rover components adding complexity to the mission.

During the countdown, the rocket and the spacecraft’s systems will once again undergo checks and fuel will be filled to power the rocket engines.

GSLV-Mk III will also be used for India’s manned space mission slated in 2022.

It is a giant leap in India’s space program and its success will solidify its place among the world’s spacefaring nations with Chandrayaan-2 aimed landing a rover near the unexplored south pole.

Sheila Dikshit cremated with state honours, hundreds pay homage

NEW DELHI, July 21: Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who died of cardiac arrest at a Delhi hospital on Saturday, was cremated with state honours at the Nigambodh Ghat on Sunday afternoon. She was 81.

Hundreds of people turned up to pay homage to former three-time Delhi CM as her body was brought to the Congress headquarters.

Congress workers jostled to have a glimpse of their leader as the body was brought in a glass casket from her Nizamuddin residence to the party headquarters. The truck carrying the casket moved slowly as the road was packed with supporters who chanted ‘Jab tak suraj chand rahega Sheila ji ka naam rahega’.

Several top Congress leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Ahmed Patel and chief ministers Ashok Gehlot and Kamal Nath, paid their last respects to Dikshit at the Congress office.

“She was a friend...almost like an elder sister. This is a big loss to the Congress party,” Sonia Gandhi told reporters.

Dikshit’s body was also taken to the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee’s office for the last time, the place that was central to her politics since 1998.

Earlier in the day, leader form the BJP such as L K Advani and former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visited Dikshit’s residence and paid homage.

Speaker free to decide but Congress can’t compel MLAs to vote in trust vote: SC

NEW DELHI, July 17: In an interim order passed to maintain ‘constitutional balance’, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said while no time frame can be set for the Speaker to take a decision on the resignations of Karnataka rebel MLAs, the lawmakers also could not be forced to attend the trust vote scheduled for Thursday.

“Speaker should be free to take a decision, should not be fettered by any court direction,” the top court bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi said while adding ‘can’t compel MLAs to attend asembly’.

The imperative necessity, at this stage, is to maintain the constitutional balance and the conflicting and competing rights that have been canvassed before us, the top court added.

The Judges added that given the stage at which the case is poised right now “we are of the view that the aforesaid questions should receive an answer only at a later stage of the proceedings.”

Sixteen MLAs — 13 from the Congress and three from JD(S) — have quit since July 7, pushing the Congress-JD(S) coalition government to the brink of collapse.

The rebels had argued in court on Tuesday that their resignations must be accepted by the Speaker and that they could not be “forced to attend the assembly”.

If the resignations are accepted, the 15-month-old coalition would be reduced to a minority in the assembly and leave it poised on the brink of collapse in the climax of a crisis that began on July 6.

The Congress-JD(S) government led by HD Kumaraswamy will face a trust vote in the Karnataka Assembly on Thursday. Last week, Kumaraswamy had said he was ready to face a confidence motion after 16 coalition MLAs resigned.

Karnataka Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar is yet to accept the resignations but if he does so the 15-month-old coalition would be reduced to a minority in the assembly. The strength of the 224-member Assembly would be reduced to 209 if the speaker accepts the 16 resignations

The ruling coalition would need support of 105 MLAs to retain the government but it has a strength on only 100, this excludes the speaker who can only vote in case of a tie. The BJP has the support 105 lawmakers and an independent lawmaker is also supposed to be on their side. One member of the assembly is nominated.

67 dead as red alert sounded in flood affected North-East, Bihar, UP

NEW DELHI, July 17: The death toll in floods in North-East, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh rose to 67 on Tuesday from 45 on Monday, even as the India Metrological Department (IMD) has predicted more rains in these regions.

Close to nine million people in the flood affected regions have been affected with nearly 300,000 living in relief camps.

Union water resources minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat who met chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Tuesday, announced the release of Rs 251 crore as first installment to the state disaster response fund, the Assam’s disaster management authority said.

“The floods in Assam are a concern for the entire country. I would like to assure that the Centre will extend all help to the state to tackle the situation effectively,” Shekhawat said.

Till Tuesday, 22 people have died in floods, including two in landslides in Guwahati, and five deaths were reported from Barpeta, Dhubri, Morigaon and Nagaon. There are 5.25 million people affected in 30 of the state’s 33 districts. Around with 147,000 displaced persons are taking shelter in 695 relief camps, the state disaster management authority said.

The ongoing floods have taken a toll on the animals residing within the Kaziranga National Park, the biggest habitat of one horned rhinos in the world. Four rhinos and an elephant died in the past 24 hours due to floods, according to divisional forest officer RB Saikia, taking the total animal death toll in the park till Tuesday to 30.

In Bihar where 12 of the state’s 38 districts are facing a deluge, chief minister Nitish Kumar told the state assembly that Rs 6000 will be given as relief to six lakh families affected by the floods, through direct benefit transfer Friday onwards.

“Bihar is hit by disasters, like floods or drought every year, but we don’t get adequate funds. The state only received Rs 500 crore (from the Centre)?in the 2017 floods,” he said.

With recovery of nine more bodies on Tuesday, the death toll has reached 33 in Bihar.

In eastern Uttar Pradesh, six deaths were reported due to floods in rivers originating in Nepal. Hundreds of villages in Balrampur, Shravastri and Lakhimpur districts remained under water as Rapti and Sharda rivers continued to flow over the danger mark, the state’s irrigation department said.

Punjab’s Bathinda received 178 mm rainfall in eight hours on Tuesday morning — the city receives 375 mm in a year.

The IMD also issued a red alert (over 240 mm in 24 hours) for Kerala’s six districts, including Idukki, Wayanad, Kannur, Ernakulam and Thrissur, from July 18 onwards. These were some of the most affected districts in the 2018 floods, which were the worst that the state had experienced in a century.

Meanwhile, in Nepal, at least 78 people have died and 40 injured, with around 17,500 displaced due to floods and landslides, authorities said Tuesday.

Daughter accuses BJP MLA dad of witch hunt after marrying Dalit

LUCKNOW, July 11: Sakshi Misra (23) uploaded videos on social media on Wednesday announcing her wedding to Ajitesh Kumar (29) and alleging that her life was in danger from her father and asked the police for security.

Uttar Pradesh BJP legislator Rajesh Misra, whose daughter released a video accusing him of witch hunt after she married a Dalit man, said on Thurday that he was not opposed to the marriage but had other concerns.

“I am not opposed to the marriage of my daughter. My only concern is that the boy is more than nine years older than her. As a father I am also concerned about their future because the boy doesn’t earns much,” said the MLA the MLA from Bithari Chainpur in Bareilly district over phone.

“I can never even imagine to harm my daughter. I want them (the couple)to return home. I have also informed the party high command about the matter,” said Misra.

After the videos went viral, the BJP MLA also issued a statement saying that Sakshi was an adult and had a right to take decisions. ”Neither I nor any member of my family or any acquaintance has intimidated Sakshi... I am busy with my constituency work,” he added.

Sakshi Misra (23) uploaded videos on social media on Wednesday announcing her wedding to Ajitesh Kumar (29) and alleging that her life was in danger from her father and asked the police for security.

In an appeal to her father she asks him to back off and let the couple live peacefully while warning him to ‘stay off Ajitesh and his family’ or face the consequences.

“I have married of my free will and my father has sent out his goons for us… I am tired of running, I seek police protection,” she says in a video where Kumar can be seen sitting next to him.

“If they catch us, they will definitely kill us,” she adds. Kumar also speaks of the alleged goons following them, “We managed a narrow escape this morning after a group people landed at the hotel we were staying in.”

He alleged that Sakshi’s family was out to kill them for ‘honour’ as he was from a Dalit family. “If In another video, she has apprehended threat to her life from her father, brother and an associate, and urged the Bareilly senior superintendent of police to extend security to them.

Sakshi Misra has also appealed to the MPs and MLAs of Bareilly to not help Rajesh Misra as she alleged that her father and others were out to eliminate her.

“Through this video, I want to say that if in future anything happens to me, Abhi or his family, my father, Vicky Bhartol and Rajiv Rana will be responsible for it... Those who are helping my father, stop helping him because our lives are in danger.”

Deputy Inspector General R K Pandey said he had come to know of the video messages and had asked the SSP to extend security to the couple. The DIG said the police do not know where to give her security as she had not disclosed her location

 

They appoint CMs in bars: Ghulam Nabi Azad’s dig at BJP on Karnataka crisis

NEW DELHI, July 9: As the Congress fights to save its coalition government in Karnataka, the party’s leader in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday charged the BJP of orchestrating the resignation of MLAs and accused it of appointing chief ministers “in bars and restaurants”.

The Congress leader’s comments came after photos emerged of independent MLA H Nagesh, who quit the coalition government on Monday, barely a month after he was made minister, boarding a plane at the Bengaluru airport that flew him to Mumbai.

On the tarmac, Nagesh is seen in the photos with two men, one of whom is said to be the personal assistant of Karnataka BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa. While the rank and file of the BJP have denied any involvement in the crisis in the Karnataka government, the Congress says that the photographs at the Bengaluru airport were proof the saffron party’s meddling.

“There is a BJP hand in the Karnataka crisis. Yeddyurappa’s PA was in the plane with rebel MLAs. BJP appoints Chief Ministers in bars and restaurants. They have done this before in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh,” Azad told reporters outside Parliament.

A total of 13 MLAs have flown to Mumbai since the resignation drama began last weekend,

Azad will be heading for Bengaluru to salvage the situation for the Congress after another MLA Roshan Baig submitted his resignation on Tuesday.

Chief minister H D Kumaraswamy’s embattled government got a breather on Tuesday with Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar’s office saying the resignation letters by 8 MLAs of the 13 MLAs were not in the prescribed format and would have to be submitted afresh.

Kumar also scheduled appointments on July 12 and 15 with five of the 13 MLAs to talk about their resignation letters.

70% job reservation in private sector for locals in MP: Kamal Nath

BHOPAL, July 9: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath Tuesday said the state government is mulling a law to ensure 70 per cent jobs to local youths in the private sector.

Speaking in the state assembly, Nath said the proposed law will ensure that unemployed youth of the state gets adequate representation in the private sector.

While intervening in a question related to increasing the age relaxation for those from outside Madhya Pradesh in the government jobs, the CM the administration will not allow any injustice to youth of the state, who were disappointed in the past due to high unemployment.

“We will bring the law to ensure 70% reservation for domiciles of MP in private jobs. The law will make it mandatory for both private and government sectors to give more employment to domiciles of MP,” he said.

“We have already made the changes in the Industrial Promotional Policy. Now, industries will get the incentives and other advantage for investment in MP only when they provide 70% employment to residents of MP. We are now going to make a law in this regard.”

The Congress in its manifesto for 2018 assembly elections has promised reservation for locals in jobs. After taking oath as chief minister, Nath had announced the change in industry policies, which provided financial incentives to reserving 70% of jobs in private sector for locals.

The BJP dismissed Kamal Nath’s announcement as a gimmick.

Former MP chief minister and BJP national vice-president, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, said the Congress had also promised to provide an unemployment allowance to youth of MP but did nothing.

This formulation of law is just a political gimmick to evade the questions related to rising unemployment or cheating with youth in the name of Yuva Swabhiman Yojana, which was an utter failure,” he said.

But the proposed law may not go down well with industries looking for specific skilled employees.

Rahul Sharma, director of a private recruitment agency in Bhopal, said the law could turn out to be deterrent.

“I am in this field for more than a decade and I know there is a huge dearth of skilled workers in Madhya Pradesh. Even for a job of a call centre, we recruited candidates from others states. The government should come up with industrial oriented course and develop a talent pool before introducing this law. Otherwise, the law will be act as a deterrent for industries,” he said.

Drunk on power: Priyanka Gandhi lashes out at BJP after assault incidents

NEW DELHI, July 7: Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra Sunday claimed some BJP leaders were “drunk on power” as they thrash government employees for doing their duty and asked if any action will be taken against them.

Taking to Twitter, she said while one thrashes a government employee using a cricket bat and another fires and uses lathis to hit a toll employee.

Her reaction came after security men accompanying BJP MP and scheduled castes commission chairman Ram Shankar Katheria on Saturday opened fire in the air and allegedly thrashed employees at a toll post here.

“BJP leaders were supposed to serve the people of the country after winning elections, but they are instead thrashing employees,” Priyanka Gandhi said.

“Drunk on power some leader uses a bat to beat up an employee, while another resorts to firing and uses lathis against a toll employee for demanding toll fee. Are there any chances of strict action against these people,” she tweeted in Hindi. The Congress general secretary was referring to the incident on June 26 when BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya’s MLA son Akash was arrested in Indore for allegedly assaulting a municipal corporation official with a bat.

Jyotiraditya Scindia, Mumbai Congress chief Deora resign from party posts

NEW DELHI, July 7: Congress general secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia on Sunday announced that he has submitted his resignation to Rahul Gandhi, hours after the party’s Mumbai chief, Milind Deora, stepped down from his post.

“Accepting the people’s verdict and taking accountability, I had submitted my resignation as General Secretary of AICC to Shri @RahulGandhi,” Scindia tweeted. “I thank him for entrusting me with this responsibility and for giving me the opportunity to serve our party.”

Scindia, 42, later clarified that he met Gandhi about 10 days ago and submitted his resignation.

“I am not a leader who gives orders to others. I think when there is a responsibility, there comes accountability as well. I am responsible if performance is not good and therefore I took the decision to resign,” he said.

Scindia and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were appointed general secretaries incharge of western and eastern Uttar Pradesh, respectively, on January 23 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Deora, 42, quit his post and said he looked forward to playing a role at the national level to help stabilise the Congress. He, too, expressed his desire to quit shortly after meeting Gandhi in New Delhi on June 26. “The same has been conveyed to party general secretaries Mallikarjun Kharge and KC Venugopal,” Deora said in a statement.

Deora was named the Mumbai Congress chief on March 25 in place of Sanjay Nirupam. His appointment was then seen as an attempt to end an infighting within the party.

Deora suggested the formation of a three-member panel to lead the party’s city unit for the assembly polls in Maharashtra due this year. “I had accepted the position in the interest of the party. I felt I should resign after meeting Rahul Gandhi. I suggested a panel and am being consulted by leaders to identify names. I look forward to playing a national role to help stabilise the party,” he said.

Nirupam opposed the idea of appointing the panel, saying it is “not at all appropriate” and will “ruin the party further”. He took a swipe at Deora. “A resignation is done when someone wants to reject something. But here a moment later, a national level position is being sought. Is this a resignation or a ladder to climb up? The party should be cautious with such ‘hard-working’ people,” Nirupam tweeted.

Gandhi, 49, brought finality to his decision to step down as the party president last week when he tweeted a four-page farewell note listing the reasons why he resigned. He went public with the letter after the party refused to accept his resignation. The Congress Working Committee is expected to meet soon to take a call on Gandhi’s resignation and his possible successor.

A series of resignations have followed since the Congress’s rout in April-May elections in which it managed to win 52 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. So far, general secretaries Harish Rawat and Deepak Babaria, foreign affairs department office-bearer Partap Singh Bajwa, legal cell head Vivek Tankha, farmer cell chief Nana Patole and Scheduled Castes department chairman Nitin Raut have resigned.

State chiefs Raj Babbar (UP), Niranjan Patnaik (Odisha), Ashok Chavan (Maharashtra) and Girish Chodankar (Goa) have also put in their papers.

Cong-JD (S) coalition in Karnataka on verge of collapse after 12 MLAs resign

BENGALURU, July 6: The Congress-Janata Dal(Secular) government of Karnataka plunged into a crisis on Saturday after 12 MLAs of the ruling coalition handed their resignations to the assembly speaker in a new headache for the grand old party, which is still trying to recover from its heavy defeat in the general election and the resignation of its president Rahul Gandhi.

Out of the 12 legislators who submitted their resignations to Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar, nine were from the Congress and three from the JD(S). They submitted papers to quit the House five days after Congress MLA Anand Singh submitted his own resignation over differences he had with the government over the sale of mining land. Singh’s resignation hasn’t been accepted by the Speaker so far.

On Saturday, the legislators were not able to meet the Speaker, who was not in his chamber, and left their resignations with aides in his office.

If the 13 resignations, including that of Singh, are accepted, the effective strength of the 224-member House would be reduced to 211. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with 105 MLAs, will fall just two short of a simple majority. The coalition’s strength will come down to 106, including the Speaker.

Seven-time MLA Ramalinga Reddy told reporters as he entered Vidhana Soudha that he felt he had been sidelined and that’s why he had decided to resign.

“Congress working president {of Karnataka} Eshwar Khandre met me and tried to convince me {not to resign}. I have said in the past that I feel I’m big being sidelined and discriminated {against}. I have nothing against the Congress or the party high command,” he said.

The Congress-JD (S) coalition has been restive since it was formed in May last year after assembly elections from which the BJP emerged as the largest party in the House, but lacked a majority on its own. Reports have frequently surfaced of differences between the two partners, which came together to forestall a BJP bid for power in the only southern state it has ever ruled.

In the April-May general election, the two parties won just one Lok Sabha seat each. The BJP swept 25, contributing to the party’s landslide win. Rahul Gandhi, whose party was reduced to just 52 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, confirmed his resignation as the Congress president this week.

After the resignations, if they are accepted, the coalition will have the support of 106 MLAs – 69 from the Congress, including the Speaker, 34 from the JD(S), one Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA and two independents.

The nine Congress MLAs who submitted their resignations were Reddy (a former home minister), Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumathahalli, ST Somashekhar, BA Basavaraj, BC Patil, Pratapgouda Patil, Shivaram Hebbar, and Munirathna, the Speaker’s office said. The three JD(S) MLAs were AH Vishwanath, who resigned as the party’s state president just last month, K Gopalaiah and Narayana Gowda. The MLAs flew to Mumbai in the evening on a chartered flight.

Addressing reporters after the meeting of senior party leaders in New Delhi on Saturday evening, Congress media incharge Randeep Surjewala said: “We deprecate the efforts of the BJP to buy our legislators, to pressurise legislators into resigning in order to bring down an elected government in Karnataka.” The Congress alleged that the BJP was “orchestrating the defections”.

BJP leader DV Sadananda Gowda said the MLAs decided to resign as they thought it was not in the interest of the people of the state and their constituency to be part of the current government. “If the Governor calls us, certainly we are ready to form the government as we are the single largest party. We have got 105 people with us,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.

The latest development came at a time when both chief minister and JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy and Congress state president Dinesh Gundu Rao are out of India. Kumaraswamy is in the US and Gundu Rao in Europe on personal visits.

Congress’s Karnataka minister and local troubleshooter DK Shivakumar met the MLAs outside the Governor’s house. All India Congress Committee general secretary KC Venugopal arrived in the city to hold talks with senior Congress leaders, including former chief minister Siddaramaiah, who dismissed talk of a crisis.

“Nothing will happen... Venugopal will come (to Bengaluru)...nothing will happen, government will continue,” Siddaramaiah said earlier in the day.

“How will it (government) be unstable? Resignations have to get accepted, right? They have not been accepted yet.”

JD(S) patriarch HD Deve Gowda said the ball was in the Speaker’s court.

The BJP, which has come under attack from the Congress-JD(S) combine for allegedly trying to destabilise the government by luring MLAs to its fold, said it had nothing to do with the resignations.

State BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa said the party would take an “appropriate decision at the appropriate time”. Asked if BJP would move to stake a claim before the Governor for forming government, Yeddyurappa said: “We will not do such things. We will wait and watch the developments that are unfolding.”

A senior BJP leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said more such resignations could follow next week. “We will most likely move a no-confidence motion in the upcoming session,” the leader said. The monsoon session of the assembly is set to begin on July 12.

Cong attacks BJP over Karnataka, says efforts to denigrate democracy won’t work

NEW DELHI, July 6: The Congress on Saturday accused the BJP of trying to bring down its coalition government in Karnataka by “buying” MLAs and asserted that the new word for the ‘aaya ram gaya ram’ phenomenon is “MODI -- mischievously orchestrated defections in India”.

The strong reaction of the party came after 13 legislators of the ruling Congress-JD(S) alliance in Karnataka submitted their resignation to the Speaker.

The ruling coalition, which has 118 members, faces the risk of losing majority in the 224-member Assembly if the resignations are accepted.

“The new word for ‘aaya ram gaya ram’ is MODI -- mischievously orchestrated defections in India. The Karnataka government which is a joint government having complete majority under our democratic setup is now being sought to be pulled down by defections and resignations,” Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters here.

“MLAs are being bought in broad daylight. We deprecate the efforts of the BJP to buy over legislators, to pressurise legislators, to bring down an elected government in Karnataka,” he said, asserting that the BJP has made such moves in other states in the past as well.

The ‘aaya ram, gaya ram’ phenomenon refers to the practice of MLAs defecting to other parties.

The JD(S)-Congress coalition’s total strength, including those who have put in their papers, is 118 (Congress-78, JD(S)-37, BSP-1 and Independents-2), besides the Speaker.

The BJP has 105 MLAs in the House.

Sure to form govt, says Amit Shah as 12 Cong-JDS MLAs quit in Karnataka

HYDERABAD, July 6: Bharatiya Janata Party national president Amit Shah on Saturday expressed confidence that the party would certainly conquer the southern states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala in the near future.

“The BJP is already the single largest party in Karnataka. If not immediately, we are sure to form the government there. And in the coming years, we have the potential to come to power in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala as well,” Shah said, addressing a huge gathering of party workers at Shamshabad on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

Shah, who visited Hyderabad for the first time after the party returned to power for the second successive time at the Centre, kicked off the party’s membership drive in Telangana.

Among those who joined the BJP was former chief minister of combined Andhra Pradesh Nadendla Bhaskar Rao, who was instrumental in setting up the Telugu Desam Party along with N T Rama Rao in 1982 and later in dethroning the latter in a coup in August 1984. Retired IAS officer R V Chandravadan also joined the party.

Expressing happiness over the way the BJP had strengthened its position in Telangana by winning more than 19 per cent of votes in the recent general elections, the party president recalled that in as many as 17 states in the country, the BJP had secured more than 50 per cent vote share in the elections. “I am sure by next elections, the BJP would win 50 per cent votes in Telangana as well,” he said. Shah welcomed experienced and good leaders from other parties into the BJP.

“There is a need for Sajjan Sanghatan (consolidation of good people) in the party. We welcome leaders from other parties having faith in our party philosophy and the leadership. In fact, there is a need for all sections of people joining the BJP to strengthen the hands of the leadership,” he said.

The BJP president called upon the leaders and cadre in Telangana to expand the party network in the entire state by enrolling more members. “At present, the BJP has 12 lakh members in Telangana, but it is not sufficient. I told the party leaders to take it up to 30 lakh by enrolling another 18 lakh members in the coming months,” he said.

He suggested that the BJP should have its presence in every polling booth, village, block and district. “They should actively take the programmes of the party as well as the Narendra Modi government such as Swachch Abhiyan and tree plantation to the people. Each worker should plant at least five trees, so that by next elections, there should be greenery in every village,” he said.

Shah said the BJP was the only political party in the country which was founded on a strong philosophy, ideology and commitment to make India an economic super power in the world, while all the other parties, including the Congress were based on personalities, families and caste and communal theories.

“Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is going to be the third largest economy in the world with five trillion dollars by 2022,” he said.

Earlier, Shah went to the house of a tribal woman, Sony Naik at Ranganayaka hamlet of Mamidipalli block in the outskirts of the city and enrolled her as a BJP member. She offered tea and snacks to the BJP president, who accepted the same and spent some time with her family.

Is the British Raj back in India? asks 82-yr-old ‘stopped’ from boarding train

LUCKNOW, July 6: An 82-year- old train passenger draped in ‘unstitched cloth’ and ‘dhoti’ was denied entry into Delhi-bound Kanpur-New Delhi Shatabdi Express on Thursday morning, despite having a confirmed ticket.

The passenger Ram Awadh Das accused the Government Railways Police (GRP) of not letting him board the train as he was dressed ‘differently’. However, he did not mention it (that he was denied entry because of his dress) in the written complaint to North Central Railways (NCR).

“I am shocked. It seems as if we are still living in the British era. Though I had the ticket, still the GRP personnel and the coach attendant denied me entry into the train as I was dressed differently. I am aghast and pained at their behaviour,” said Ram Awadh Das, a seer who hails from Barabanki and was going from Etawah to Ghaziabad.

Das said he kept on insisting that he had a confirmed ticket but to no avail.. “They said ‘Baba tum galat train mein chadh gaye ho (you have stepped into a wrong train). Your train is in Kanpur and will reach Etawah in next couple of hours’,” he added.

The incident was reported at Etawah station from where Ram Awadh Das, whose PNR no. was 2164371556 and who had a confirmed seat (No 71) in C2 coach, was supposed to board. Das had a reservation from Etawah to Ghaziabad, where he was going to see his followers.

“Baba visits our residence in Etawah every rainy season to carry out a religious ceremony and then he was supposed to board Shatabdi to leave for Ghaziabad,” said Sujata Dubey, a staunch follower of Ram Awadh Das. She said Das originally belonged to Barabanki district.

In the written complaint, the seer blamed the GRP personnel and an attendant for not letting him board the train.

“By the time I reached another coach, the train left,” states the seer’s complaint filed at Etawah station.

Chief public relation officer (CPRO) NCR Ajit Kumar Singh said as per the inquiry the elderly passenger had wrongly boarded power car and was told to board another coach. Since the train had just two-minute stoppage at Etawah station, it left by the time he managed to reach another coach.

However, Singh said there was need to counsel the staff at the station and to sensitise them towards elderly train passengers. They should have guided him to the right coach.

Few have the courage: Priyanka Gandhi on Rahul’s decision to step down

NEW DELHI, July 4: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Thursday tweeted her admiration of brother Rahul Gandhi, a day after he brought finality to his decision to step down as party president by writing a farewell note to party workers and supporters.

“Few have the courage that you do @rahulgandhi. Deepest respect for your decision,” wrote Priyanka who was appointed Congress general secretary days before the Lok Sabha elections.

The 49-year-old Congress president went public with the letter on Wednesday after party colleagues refused to accept the resignation he offered at the May 25 meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making committee, after its general election defeat.

Earlier in the day, Gandhi told reporters in the Parliament House complex that he had already resigned and the CWC should find a replacement for him soon.

“I am no longer the Congress president. I have already resigned. The CWC should convene a meeting immediately and decide on the new Congress president,” he said, when asked about the future course of the party.

Congress must change radically: Rahul Gandhi says will fight, not lead

NEW DELHI, July 3: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi brought finality to his decision to step down as party president on Wednesday when he tweeted a four-page farewell note listing the reasons why he resigned. The 49-year-old went public with the letter after party colleagues refused to accept the resignation he offered at the May 25 meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making committee, after its back-to-back general election defeat.

Soon after sending the tweet, Gandhi changed his Twitter bio and removed its description of him being the Congress president. It now describes him as a member of the party and a member of Parliament. The note also paves the way for others in the top leadership of the 134-year-old party to be held accountable, along with him, for the election rout.

“It would be unjust to hold others accountable, but ignore my own responsibility as President of the party,” Gandhi, who succeeded his mother Sonia as the party president in December 2017, wrote in the signed note he posted on Twitter.

“Many of my colleagues suggested that I nominate the next Congress president. While it is important for someone new to lead our party, it would not be correct for me to select that person,” he added.

With Gandhi going public with the letter, a meeting of the CWC is expected soon to decide its future course of action.

Earlier in the day, Gandhi told reporters in the Parliament House complex that he had already resigned and the CWC should find a replacement for him soon.

“I am no longer the Congress president. I have already resigned. The CWC should convene a meeting immediately and decide on the new Congress president,” he said, when asked about the future course of the party.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) used Gandhi’s move to take a swipe at the Congress. “It is a brand new drama of the party and we have nothing to do with it,” Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.

Gandhi stunned the top Congress leadership at the May 25 meeting of the CWC when he first conveyed his decision to quit after the party’s rout in the Lok Sabha polls, in which it managed to win just 52 seats in the 543-member House against the ruling party’s tally of 303.

He asked the CWC to appoint a new chief, but the decision-making body rejected the offer and passed a resolution authorising him to revamp the organisation.

Since then, Gandhi has had limited interactions with party colleagues and in all his meetings remained adamant on stepping down.

Even the party’s five chief ministers -- Amarinder Singh (Punjab), Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan), Kamal Nath (Madhya Pradesh), Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh) and V Narayanasamy (Puducherry) -- failed to persuade Gandhi to reconsider his decision during their nearly two-hour-long meeting with him on Monday.

Several Congress functionaries too submitted their resignations to put pressure on him to change his mind, but to no avail.

As questions about his status continued, Gandhi finally turned to the social media to get his farewell message out.

“It is an honour for me to serve the Congress Party, whose values and ideals have served as the lifeblood of our beautiful nation. I owe the country and my organisation a debt of tremendous gratitude and love,” he said.

This time, the Congress Twitter handle also amplified his message.

In this, Gandhi signalled that he wasn’t going to be the only one without a leadership role when the exercise of rebuilding the party starts. “Rebuilding the party requires hard decisions and numerous people will have to be made accountable for the failure of 2019,” he said.

Gandhi also took a sharp dig at his party colleagues for the electoral drubbing the Congress received, saying he had stood completely alone in the fight against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).

“I personally fought the Prime Minister, the RSS and the institutions they have captured with all my being. I fought because I love India. And I fought to defend the ideals India was built upon. At times, I stood completely alone and am extremely proud of it,” he wrote.

“I have learned so much from the spirit and dedication of our workers and party members, men and women who have taught me about love and decency,” he added.

Gandhi has been upset over the party’s dismal performance in the general elections and spoken about the lack of support from party colleagues.

At the fractious May 25 meeting, Gandhi slammed the veterans for “placing the interests” of their sons above the party. He also mentioned that some leaders had even lost the election from their strongholds even as he criticised a section of the so-called GenNext for hankering for posts.

In his note, Gandhi said the BJP used state institutions to help it win the polls.

“We didn’t fight a political party in the 2019 election. Rather, we fought the entire machinery of the Indian state, every institution of which was marshalled against the opposition.”

He also stressed the importance of institutional neutrality in conducting elections. “A free and fair election requires the neutrality of a country’s institutions; an election cannot be fair without arbiters – a free press, an independent judiciary, and a transparent election commission that is objective and neutral. Nor can an election be free if one party has a complete monopoly on financial resources,” Gandhi wrote.

‘It is now crystal clear that our once cherished institutional neutrality no longer exists in India.”

Attacking the RSS, he said its stated objective of capturing the country’s institutional structure had been met. “Our democracy has been fundamentally weakened. There is a real danger that from now on, elections will go from being a determinant of India’s future to a mere ritual.”

In an apparent reference to alleged wrongdoing in the Rafale jet fighter deal on which he ran his election campaign, Gandhi said the Prime Minister’s win “does not negate the breadth of corruption allegations” against him. “No amount of money and propaganda can ever hide the light of the truth,” he said.

The BJP and National Democratic Alliance government have denied any corruption in the deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from French military plane maker Dassault Aviation.

Not guilty, pleads Rahul Gandhi in Mumbai court in RSS defamation case

MUMBAI, July 4: Rahul Gandhi appeared at a court in Mumbai on Thursday morning for a defamation case hearing, filed against him by a Mumbai-based lawyer and RSS worker. Rahul Gandhi pleaded not guilty and has been released on a surety of Rs 15,000, said advocate Kushal Mor representing Gandhi.. Former MP Eknath Gaikwad has given the surety.

The court had issued summons against Rahul Gandhi and CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury for their alleged defamatory comments linking journalist Gauri Lankesh’s killing with the “BJP-RSS ideology”.

Gauri Lankesh was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru in September 2017, allegedly by members of a right-wing extremist group.

In his complaint, Dhrutiman Joshi alleged that after the murder, which took place on evening of September 6, 2017, Rahul Gandhi said that “anybody who speaks against the ideology of the BJP, against the ideology of the RSS is pressured, beaten, attacked and even killed".

The complaint alleged that Yechury said that it was “RSS ideology and RSS men” who killed the journalist.

The defamation complainant was filed in September 2017. The court has observed that the Rahul Gandhi and Sitaram Yechury should not have made such statements without verified facts.

The court issued summons against Rahul Gandhi and Yechury but dismissed the complaint against Sonia Gandhi and the CPI(M), saying a party cannot be held liable for comments made by individuals.

Rahul Gandhi is facing another defamation case at Bhiwandi in neighbouring Thane district, filed by a local RSS worker, for allegedly blaming the Sangh for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.

Sack them, says Modi after Indore BJP MLA, workers beat municipal official

NEW DELHI, July 2: Akash Vijayvargiya, the BJP’s Indore legislator who thrashed a municipal official, received a tongue lashing in-absentia from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday who made it clear that he had taken a very dim view of his conduct.

Akash’s father and BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya was present at the meeting, occupying a seat in one of the back rows.

Modi did not name either of them at the meeting of BJP’s parliamentary party that has lawmakers from the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. But he left no one in doubt what had provoked the sharp reprimand.

PM Modi referred to the video clip of the assault . “I see people hitting them… Did people vote us for this,” Modi said.

He told the party to identify local BJP leaders who had participated in the assault and the celebrations that followed Akash’s release from jail and remove them. BJP president JP Nadda, who was also present, made a note.

“The PM in BJP parliamentary party meeting today said any kind of misbehaviour that brings down party’s name is unacceptable. He said that action should be taken if someone has done something wrong. He also said that is applicable on everyone,” BJP MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

Modi’s assessment of Akash’s conduct is at sharp variance with that of his father Kailash Vijayvargiya who told reporters yesterday that it wasn’t such a big issue. “Both Akash and IMC (Indore Municipal Commission) commissioner are novices,” the BJP general secretary had said.

Akash was arrested on June 26 after he allegedly hit a municipal officer who was leading a team to demolish a structure which belonged to a BJP worker, with a cricket bat.

Akash Vijayvargiya who spent a few days in jail before getting out on bail, later pledged to follow “Mahatma Gandhi’s path of non-violence” and never pick up a bat “for such an act”.

But Akash Vijayvargiya isn’t the only lawmaker to have landed in the middle of a huge controversy for beating up officials.

Also in Madhya Pradesh, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader and his associates allegedly assaulted the Satna chief municipal officer after he allegedly resisted pressure to hush up financial irregularities.

19 dead in Mumbai after highest rain in 24 hours since 2005 flood

MUMBAI, July 2: Officials said on Tuesday the death toll in the wall collapse incident in Mumbai’s Malad went up to 19 as the city received the second highest July rain over a 24-hour period in 44 years after the 2005 flood.

The heavy rains have disrupted road, rail and air traffic in the financial capital, prompting officials to shut schools and offices, though financial markets were open.

Six more people were killed in Maharashtra’s Pune after a wall of an educational institute in collapsed on Tuesday and three others died in a similar incident in Thane district, taking the death toll in rain-related accidents in the state to 27.

Officials in Mumbai said the compound wall of BMC’s reservoir at Pimpri Pada near Shivneri High School on Rani Sati Marg in Malad (East) collapsed on a few shanties late on Monday night, trapping several people. The incident was reported at around 1am on Tuesday after which the Mumbai Fire Brigade (MFB) and NDRF officials reached the spot.

Indian Govt launches drive for water conservation

NEW DELHI, July 1: With some parts of the country reporting water shortage, Union Jal Shakti Minister on Monday launched a conservation campaign, with an emphasis on 1592 stressed blocks in 256 districts.

The 'Jal Shakti Abhiyan' will focus on five aspects, water conservation and rainwater harvesting, renovation of traditional and other water bodies, reuse of water and recharging of structures, watershed development and intensive afforestation, Drinking Water Sanitation Secretary Parameswaran Iyer said.

Officers from the central government, led by additional secretaries and joint secretaries, have been assigned to these 256 districts, he said. The district administration will also nominate two members to join these teams.

The conservation efforts will be supplemented by initiatives like developing block and district water conservation plans and 'krishi vigyan kendra melas' to promote efficient water use for irrigation and better crop choices.

In urban areas, plans with time-bound targets will be developed for wastewater reuse for industrial and agricultural purposes. Plans will be developed for at least one urban water body for groundwater recharge in the block or the city. Scientists and IITs will also be mobilised at the national level to support the teams, he said.

The government plans to run water conservation, similar to the Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan with Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday pitching for the conservation of rainwater, saying there is a pressing need to make it a mass movement on the lines of the cleanliness drive.

In his first address in the second edition of the monthly show 'Mann ki Baat', the prime minister also said 'one-size-fits-all' approach is not required in the conservation of water.

35 killed after bus plunges into gorge in J-K’s Kishtwar

JAMMU, July 1: At least 35 people were killed and 17 others were injured when an overloaded mini bus veered off the road and fell into a deep gorge in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday morning.

“Thirty five people have died and 17 others were injured when a mini bus bearing registration number JK 17/6787 met with an accident in Keshwan area Kishtwar district on Monday. The accident occurred near Sirgwari,” said Kishtwar deputy magistrate Angrez Singh Rana. He said the exact cause of the accident remains a subject of investigation but the mini bus was overloaded. Helicopters have been requisitioned from Jammu to evacuate the seriously injured for specialised medical treatment at GMC Jammu, he added.

Kishtwar is around 230 Kms from Jammu.

Kishtwar SSP, Shakti Pathak said, “The condition of road was bad and the vehicle was apparently overloaded. It seems driver lost the control on a curve and the vehicle rolled down into a gorge. Twenty of the passengers died on the spot and there were more deaths of the injured at district hospital.”

Locals were the first responders to the accident. The injured have been shifted to District Hospital Kishtwar, the local added.

On June 27, 11 students from Poonch died in a road accident on Mughal Road when an overspeeding Tempo Traveller skidded off the road and plunged into a gorge. Among the 11 dead, nine were girls.

The students were on an excursion from Surankote tehsil in Poonch district to Mugal road.

 



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