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Uddhav Thackeray sworn in as Maharashtra Chief Minister; 6 Cabinet Ministers take oath

MUMBAI, Nov 28: Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray took oath as Maharashtra’s new Chief Minister on Thursday in front of a packed Shivaji Park, the iconic grounds where his father late Bal Thackeray was cremated.

Thackeray was sworn in by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari along with six Cabinet ministers — two each from the Sena, Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

The Cabinet of Shiv Sena's Eknath Shinde and Subhash Desai, NCP’s Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal, and Congress’ Balasaheb Thorat and Nitin Raut, met soon after the ceremony at 8.30 p.m., minutes after Thackerays stopped at the iconic Siddhivinayak temple for thanksgiving.

The cabinet discussed a resolution calling for a special session of the Assembly to prove its majority. Sources in the government said the ministers also discussed possibilities of a farm loan waiver as its very first decision.

With fireworks lighting up the evening sky and Marathi folk songs reverberating over 27 acres in the park in central park Mumbai, the 30-minute ceremony was attended by who’s who of the political, industrial and film world. The prominent national leaders who attended the event included DMK chief M.K. Stalin, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, senior Congress leaders Kapil Sibbal, Abhishek Manu Sanghvi, and Ahmad Patel, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi congratulated Mr. Thackeray while staying away from the ceremony.

“The Sena, NCP and the Congress have come together under extraordinary circumstances, at a time when country faces unprecedented threats from the BJP. Our political atmosphere has become poisonous and the economy has collapsed. I wish you all the very best,”' Ms. Gandhi said in a letter to Mr. Thackeray.

The corporate world, too, was in full attendance led by RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani, Raymond boss Gautam Singhania, and several other prominent developers, actors Milind Gunaji and Amol Kolhe.

The park in the heart of Marathi-belt Dadar was a sight to behold as people walked in by the hundreds to witness the swearing in of the new coalition, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), in the Dadar.

Former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and senior BJP leader Chandrakant Patil who attended the ceremony were were heckled by the crowd of Sena supporters.

Earlier, Thackeray arrived on stage to the sound of a tutari (Maharashtrian bugle). The ceremony was marked with folk songs and dances and fireworks, much in tune with the stage designed by noted art director Nitin Desai. The arena depicted traditional Marathi culture, the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji and his coronation.

After the official event, Thackeray waved and greeted the crowds. He was joined by his wife Rashmi, son Aaditya apart from the entire rank and file of Shiv Sena. Thousands of Sainiks in saffron caps, chanted the traditional Sena chants of “Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji” and “Kon aala re, kon aala? Shiv Senecha wagh aala! (who has come? the Tiger of the Sena has come)”. After the ceremony, people were seen clicking pictures on the stage as well. Jain monks present on the dais blessed the new Chief Minister.

Sena, NCP, Congress seal Maharashtra deal, Uddhav to have only one deputy

NEW DELHI, Nov 27: The Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress hammered out a power-sharing deal in Maharashtra at a marathon meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday according to which Chief Minister-designate Uddhav Thackeray will have only one deputy, NCP leader Praful Patel said.

“There will be only one deputy chief minister. That will be from NCP. Speaker of the Assembly will be from the Congress. Up to two ministers from each party will take oath on Thursday,” Patel said after the meeting of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi coalition.

Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting among the three parties, there had been speculation that there would be two deputy chief ministers – one each from the NCP and the Congress.

Top leaders of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress began the meeting at the YB Chavan auditorium in the afternoon to discuss power sharing formula after staking claim on Tuesday to form the government.

Uddhav Thackeray, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Ahmed Patel were present at the meeting of Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena MLAs.

The Shiv Sena will have 15 ministers in Uddhav Thackeray’s council of ministers in Maharashtra while the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will 13 other ministerial berths besides the deputy CM’s post, sources said. The Congress would also get 13 ministerial berths.

Thackeray, who will take oath as Chief Minister on Thursday, met Pawar separately earlier in the day to fine tune the formation of the new council of ministers. Pawar had also met senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel, K C Venugopal and others before his talks with Thackeray.

Pawar has been at the centre of government formation talks among the three parties ever since the Sena reached out to the NCP and the Congress for an alliance

Earlier in the day, pro tem Speaker Kalidas Kolambkar administered the oath to the newly-elected legislators at a special session of the legislative assembly convened by Govenor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari on the orders of the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the top court had ordered the oath ceremony ahead of a floor test for former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis that was to be held by 5 pm Wednesday. Fadnavis chose to resign on Tuesday instead of facing a trust vote.

Uddhav Thackeray to lead Sena-NCP-Congress govt in Maharashtra, oath likely on Sunday

MUMBAI, Nov 26: The Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress Tuesday evening cleared the decks for Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to become Maharashtra’s new Chief Minister.

The parties formalised their alliance as Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi before endorsing Thackeray to take over the top job in the state.

“Three representatives of ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ will meet the Governor today. Swearing in ceremony to be held at Shivaji Park, Mumbai on 1st December,” said NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

NCP Maharashtra chief Jayant Patil proposed the name of Thackeray to head the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and take over as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Congress legislator Balasaheb Thorat seconded the proposal.

Earlier, Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde moved a resolution to form the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi. NCP’s Nawab Malik and Congress’ Nitin Raut seconded it at the meeting of the three parties at a Mumbai hotel.

NCP workers raised slogans calling party chief Sharad Pawar as “the only one tiger in Maharashtra” when he arrived at Trident Hotel with his daughter Supriya Sule for the tri-partite meeting.

Ahead of the meeting, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said that Pawar has conveyed his desire to have Uddhav Thackeray as the Chief Minister.

The meeting began hours after resignation after BJP’s Devenndra Fadnavis who quit as chief minister on the fourth day of his second term.

Fadnavis chose not to face a floor test that the Supreme Court had ordered for Wednesday. Ahead of Fadnavis’ resignation, his deputy Ajit Pawar of the NCP had also resigned that effectively torpedoed the BJP’s hopes of winning a trust vote.

Fadnavis resigns as Maharashtra chief minister

MUMBAI, Nov 26: Devendra Fadnavis quit as Maharashtra chief minister on Tuesday, hours after the Supreme Court ordered a floor test in the legislative assembly.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar who was sworn in as deputy chief minister on Saturday had tendered his resignation earlier in the day.

“After this [press conference], I will go to Raj Bhavan and tender my resignation. I wish them all the best whoever will form the government. But that will be a very unstable government as there is huge difference of opinions,” Fadnavis said at a media briefing.

Fadnavis had taken oath as Maharashtra chief minister for the second term on Saturday morning with his deputy Ajit Pawar. The move had surprised many and the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress alliance decided to approach the Supreme Court against governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to invite Fadnavis to form a government.

He said that the BJP had staked claim to form a government after Ajit Pawar as the leader of NCP decided to tie-up with BJP. “The government was formed as Ajit Pawar gave a letter of support of all 54 of his party MLAs,” said Fadnavis.

Ajit Pawar resigned amid continuos efforts by the NCP leadership to bring him back to the party fold. “Ajit Pawar met me in the morning today and said he cannot stay in the alliance and resigned. Because of his resignation, we do not have the majority. We had said from the first day that we will not engage in horse trading. We decided to form the government because we thought that the entire NCP group will back us," said Fadnavis.

The BJP had fought the Maharashtra polls in an alliance with Sena but relations between the decades-old allies soured over sharing the chief minister’s post. The BJP emerged as the single largest party after the polls winning 105 seats. Sena won 56, while the NCP and the Congress got 54 and 44 seats.

“Clear majority was given to Mahayuti and BJP got maximum 105 seats. We contested with Shiv Sena, but this mandate was for BJP because BJP won 70 percent seats out of all seats we contested,” Fadnavis said.

Ashok Chavan, former Maharashtra CM and senior Congress leader, tweeted after Fadnavis’ resignation that “today it was proved that the strength of Indian Constitution and democracy is far greater than the power of power and money”.

In its verdict on Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court had said that the three-day old Fadnavis government in the state has to face a floor test on Wednesday.

A three-judge bench said that the vote will be conducted by a protem or temporary speaker and should be telecast live. The voting cannot be conducted by secret ballot, the court added.

“In a situation wherein, if the floor test is delayed, there is a possibility of horse trading, it becomes incumbent upon the Court to act to protect democratic values. An immediate floor test, in such a case, might be the most effective mechanism to do so,” said the court.

Ajit Pawar with us, Uddhav Thackeray to be CM: Sanjay Raut

NEW DELHI, Nov 26: In line with the twists and turns in Maharashtra politics, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on tuesday confirmed that NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who had in a dramatic volte-face backed the BJP, has resigned from his post of Deputy Chief Minister and is now with “us”.

“Ajit dada has resigned and he is with us. Uddhav Thackeray will be the Chief Minister of Maharashtra for five years,” said Raut.

Pawar was sworn-in as the Deputy Chief Minister of the state on Saturday morning. The decision invoked vociferous criticism from the opposition which later moved to the Supreme Court.

Earlier on Tuesday, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Ramana passed the order for conducting floor test by tomorrow evening while giving a decision on a joint petition filed by Congress, Shiv Sena and NCP against Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision of administering an oath to Fadnavis as Chief Minister and NCP’s Ajit Pawar as his deputy during the early hours of Saturday.

Ajit Pawar, the 60-year-old NCP leader who took oath alongside Devendra Fadnavis as Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister, didn’t take charge of his new assignment on Monday and submitted his resignation.

Congress throws 8 questions at BJP after Fadnavis resigns

NEW DELHI, Nov 26: After the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis resigned as the three-day chief minister of Maharashtra on Tuesday, the Congress hit back with eight questions and a demand for an apology.

The opposition party’s spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted the questions minutes after Devendra Fadnavis announced he will step down as the chief minister.

And, just before that his deputy and Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar had put in his papers.

“Those in a minority who abducted ‘people’s opinion’ have been finally unmasked. It is clear now that the BJP’s Chanakyaniti means abduction of democracy. Shri Devendra Fadnavis and Shri Ajit Pawar should apologise to the people of Maharashtra. Their government was based on lies and defection and crashed like a pile of cards,” Surjewala said in a series of tweets.

The Congress leader then directed a set of questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah, accusing them of hurting democracy.

“Today is also the day to ensure the accountability of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and home minister Shri Amit Shah. Reply -: 1. Why did you create a spectacle of democracy in Maharashtra? 2. Why did you use the governor as a puppet? 3. Why did you hurt the president’s dignity?” he asked.

Then came his demands for explanations.

“Shri Narendra Modi and Shri Amit Shah must reply. 4. Why did you paralyse the country’s cabinet? 5. Why the naked orgy of defection and buying and selling? 6. Why did a minority government play a drama as a majority government? 7. Why did you take back cases of corruption? 8. Why did you tear down the Constitution?”

Before Surjewala, senior Congress leaders KC Venugopal had also attacked the BJP.

“This is a victory of constitutional democracy. They thought through horse-trading they can make the government. This is not only a failure of Devendra Fadnavis but also a slap on faces of their masters sitting in Delhi,” said KC Venugopal.

Fadnavis had taken oath as Maharashtra chief minister for the second term on Saturday morning with Ajit Pawar stunning the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, who were on the verge of announcing their claim to power.

The NCP chief Sharad Pawar denied his party had anything to do with his nephew Ajit Pawar’s “personal decision” and the other two parties continued to attack the Bharatiya Janata Party for “murdering” democracy.

Fadnavis must face trust vote by tomorrow: SC

MUMBAI, Nov 26: The Supreme Court on Tuesday fast-forwarded Devendra Fadnavis floor test deadline, ordering the Maharashtra chief minister to clear the trust vote in the state assembly by 5 pm on Wednesday. Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, who had invited Fadnavis to take oath on Saturday morning, had given him till December 7 to prove his majority in the house.

The top court also ordered that Fadnavis’ confidence vote would be conducted by a temporary speaker or pro-tem speaker and must be telecast live. The top court also ruled that voting should not be conducted by a secret ballot.

“There exists a dispute in the role of the judiciary…. At this interim stage, parties must maintain constitutional morality,” ruled a three-judge bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna.

The special bench had been set up over the weekend to first hear the SOS from the coalition of three parties, Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and Congress, on Sunday. It held a longer hearing on Monday.

The coalition, Maha Vikas Aghadi, insists that it has the support of 162 lawmakers from the three parties in the 288-member state assembly. Governor Koshyari’s office told the Supreme Court that Fadnavis had come to him with letters to establish support of 170 legislators.

In staking claim to power, the BJP had heavily relied on the letter of support from NCP legislature party chief Ajit Pawar. But soon after Fadnavis took oath as chief minister, and Ajit Pawar his deputy, a stunned NCP asserted that Ajit Pawar had gone rogue and acted on his own. Before the day was over, Ajit Pawar was also stripped of his newly-acquired post of chief of the NCP’s legislature party.

Fadnavis takes oath as Maharashtra CM, NCP’s Ajit Pawar his deputy

MUMBAI, Nov 23: In a dramatic turn of events, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Devendra Fadnavis took oath as the Maharashtra Chief Minister on Saturday along with Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar as the deputy chief minister.

The BJP staked claim to form the government on Saturday morning after which the governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari asked the Centre to withdraw the rule in Maharashtra.The two were sworn in after the President’s rule, imposed in the state a fortnight ago, was revoked at 5.47 am.

Until late last night the Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena were holding talks to form the next government in Maharashtra. Ajit Pawar was present in this meeting. It was widely expected that the three parties will hold a press conference to announce the modalities of their government.

“I took this decision as the discussions of the alliance of the three parties Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena was not ending. There was a need to give a stable government in Maharashtra,” said Pawar, nephew of NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

It is not yet clear whether Ajit Pawar has split the NCP or he has the backing of his uncle and the entire party.

Sharad Pawar had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi day on Thursday for 40 minutes in Delhi.

“There was a need to form a stable government in Maharashtra. I want to thank Ajit Pawar for giving us this support. Along with Pawar there are section of MLAs and other independent legislators who are supporting us. We will now prove our majority on the floor of the house,” said Fadnavis after taking oath.

“The mandate of the people was for BJP-Sena but since the latter insulted this mandate we took this decision,” he said.

“Congratulations to @Dev_Fadnavis Ji and @AjitPawarSpeaks Ji on taking oath as the CM and Deputy CM of Maharashtra respectively. I am confident they will work diligently for the bright future of Maharashtra,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

While the development derailed the Shiv Sena’s quest for chief ministership, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Mahiu Singhvi described it as surreal.

Saturday morning’s development came as a complete surprise after the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress appeared set to stake claim to power in Maharashtra with Sharad Pawar announcing on Friday that Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will lead the alliance and be its chief ministerial candidate.

Uddhav Thackeray To Head Maharashtra Govt

MUMBAI, Nov 21: Uddhav Thackeray may take over as the new Chief Minister of Maharashtra and lead the unthinkable Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress alliance, which tentatively calls itself the "Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (development front)", sources indicated on Thursday.

Whether the Sena chief will keep his chief ministership for five years or agree to hand over to the NCP after half-term is among the details that are still not ironed out. The Shiv Sena made it clear that it wants Uddhav Thackeray for the entire term, without any rotational arrangement.

A common minimum programme that can accommodate the vastly different agendas of the Sena and the Congress will also be discussed tomorrow as the three parties try to find a way of collaborating for the first time. Late on Thursday night, Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya Thackeray visited Sharad Pawar at his house in Mumbai.

Shiv Sena preps for oath ceremony with plan to sequester MLAs in Rajasthan

MUMBAI, Nov 21: The Shiv Sena that believes it is only days away from leading a three-party coalition government in Maharashtra intends to fly out its lawmakers to Congress-ruled Rajasthan after their meeting with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, people familiar with the development said.

The party had yesterday sent out a message to its MLAs to come for the meeting on Friday with a change of clothes and identity documents such as Aadhaar card.

The NCP, Congress and Sena leadership are expected to meet in Mumbai on Friday or Saturday to give a final shape to the alliance including the power-sharing formula between the three parties.

The Sena leadership is of the opinion that the MLAs should be kept together at a safe location till the new alliance stakes claim to form the government, a Sena functionary said.

The Sena had also debated sending the legislators to neighbouring Goa or Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh but eventually settled for Rajasthan. The Congress party had earlier put up its 44 MLAs at a luxury resort in Jaipur.

“The location is still being finalised. The MLAs will be sent to either Jaipur or Udaipur in Rajasthan till the process here is completed,” a senior Shiv Sena leader confirmed. Senior party MLAs including Eknath Shinde and Thackeray scion Aaditya, who is a legislator from Worli, would stay back in Mumbai.

Abdul Sattar, Sena MLA from Sillod, said the leadership had not indicated the details of the arrangement so far.

“The party has asked the MLAs to come prepared with IDs etc. We have a meeting with Uddhav ji on Friday. After that we will come to know if we will stay in Mumbai or someplace else.”

The Sena had earlier this month moved its lawmakers to a hotel in Bandra and later at a beachfront resort at Madh in Malad for a few days when it was negotiating with the Bharatiya Janata Party, its alliance partner in the state elections. But the Sena walked out of the partnership after the BJP refused to share the chief minister’s post with it.

Its Part Of Politics, Says Priyanka On Removal Of SPG Cover

NEW DELHI, Nov 21: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra today called the government withdrawing SPG security cover to the Gandhi family a political move. "That is a part of politics. It keeps happening," the Congress general secretary told reporters at the party headquarters in New Delhi.

The government, earlier this month, revoked the top level Special Protection Group (SPG) cover of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, basing it on a reassessment of their threat perception. The Gandhis have now been assigned Z Plus category security, which means they will be guarded by far less security personnel and the Delhi Police.

Though there have been protests by the Congress in the ongoing winter session of parliament against the move, the Home Ministry has reportedly said the "matter is closed". Top home ministry sources on Wednesday said there is "no going back on the decision, the Congress can keep asking."

The government has been saying the decision is based on the Home Ministry panel's reassessment of the security threats to the Gandhis.

After the government's move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the lone SPG protectee in the country.

SPG, a crack commando force, comes with armoured vehicles, 24-hour protection at home and an Advance Liaison Team that screens places that the protectees will visit.

The SPG was set up for the security of prime ministers and their families in 1985, a year after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards.

After the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi - Rahul Gandhi's father - the SPG Act was amended to provide security to former PMs and their families for 10 years.

Modi asks CAG to develop ‘innovative methods’ to check frauds in govt departments

NEW DELHI, Nov 21: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday asked auditor CAG to develop technical tools to check frauds in government departments and play a role in making India a USD 5 trillion economy.

He was addressing a conclave of the Comptroller of Auditor General (CAG) on transforming audit and assurance in a digital world.

“CAG should look for innovative methods to deal with occupational fraud,” he said adding that the auditor can play a role in improving governance and efficiency.

Modi said the government wants to move to evidence-backed policy making by 2022 and the CAG can play a role by becoming a think tank and focusing on big data analysis.

“Our target is to make evidence-based policy making a part of governance by 2022,” he said, while stressing that India ia gearing up to become a USD 5 trillion economy.

He asked the CAG to develop technical tools to root out frauds in departments.

Rajnikanth predicts a ‘miracle’ in 2021 Tamil Nadu polls

NEW DELHI, Nov 21: Superstar Rajnikanth put the onus on the people of Tamil Nadu to fashion “wonder and miracle ” in the 2021 assembly elections in the state. He, however, sounded confident about the so-called miracle happening.

“In 2021, people of Tamil Nadu will 100 per cent create a big wonder and miracle in politics,” said Rajnikanth.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami, however, took Rajinikanth’s “wonder” to mean a return for his AIADMK for the third straight term.

“Rajnikanth’s ‘wonder’ remark means AIADMK will come back to power again in 2021 assembly election,” he said.

Asked about his possible alliance with fellow actor and now politician Kamal Haasan and who would be the Chief Minister, Rajinikanth said such issues could be discussed only during poll time, adding he also has to discuss it within his proposed party.

Such issues will be “decided then and upon the prevailing situation. That too, I have to consult my party men after I start a party.. till then I don’t want to talk about these matters,” he added.

On Tuesday, Haasan and Rajnikanth had set off speculation of a political realignment after they indicated their willingness to work together for the state’s welfare.

The first pitch was made by Haasan who backed Rajinikanth over his comments describing Chief Minister K Palaniswami coming to the top post as a “wonder”, saying it was “not a criticism but the reality.” Haasan also said he would join hands with Rajinikanth for Tamil Nadu’s welfare.

Rajnikanth had also echoed similar views.

Self-styled godman Nithyananda has fled the country: Gujarat police

AHMEDABAD, Nov 21: Self-styled godman Swami Nithyananda, booked in a criminal case related to his ashram here, has fled the country, with the Gujarat police working to gather concrete evidence against him after taking two of his disciples in remand, officials said on Thursday.

An FIR was registered on Wednesday against the controversial guru on the charges of kidnapping and wrongful confinement of children to make them collect donations from followers to run his ashram here, Yogini Sarvagyapeetham.

Ahmedabad (Rural) Superintendent of Police R V Asari said Nithyananda has fled abroad, and if required, the Gujarat police will seek his custody through proper channel.

Nithyananda has fled the country after a rape case was registered against him in Karnataka, and it will be a waste of time searching for him here.

“If required, we will go through proper channel to seek his custody from abroad. We will definitely arrest him if he comes back to India," Asari said.

Two of his disciples, Pranpriya and Priyatatva, arrested on Tuesday on kidnapping, illegal confinement and assault, among other charges, were sent to five days police remand by a rural court here on Wednesday evening and are being questioned by the police, Deputy SP (Ahmedabad rural), K T Kamariya said.

He said the police are also investigating the case of a woman missing from Nithyananda’s ashram here after a complaint was registered by her father Janardhana Sharma at the Vivekanand police station.

We have taken two disciples in remand. If we get concrete evidence against the swami during the current investigation, then we will proceed with case against him.

“He has been mentioned as an accused in the FIR, but we still need concrete evidence to proceed against him," Kamariya said.

Gujarat Home Minister Pradipsinh Jadeja told reporters that nobody involved in the case will be spared.

He said the DGP has directed the SP concerned to form a team to investigate the matter in detail.

The police have worked with great sensitivity on the case and have arrested two persons in this connection. Nobody involved in the case will be spared.

“The DGP has directed the SP to form a team to investigate the matter in detail and take strict action against all those involved," Jadeja said.

The two sadhvis were arrested after two children aged 9 to 10 years enrolled at the ashram told the police they were tortured, made to work and kept in illegal confinement at a flat in the city for over ten days.

Similar allegations were made by two other children rescued from the ashram on the basis of a complaint filed by their parents, the police said.

The accused persons have been booked under sections 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent to secretly and wrongfully confine a person), 344 (wrongful confinement for ten or more days), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), and 502 (sale of printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

They have also been booked under section 14 of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, the police officer said.

Nithyananda is also an accused in an alleged rape case filed against him in Karnataka.

The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday had issued notices to the self-styled godman and the state government on a plea filed by a man seeking custody of his two daughters “detained” at his Ahmedabad ashram.

Cong Promises Stable Govt in Maharashtra as Talks with NCP Set to Continue; Sena Says Process Will Wrap up Soon

NEW DELHI, Nov 20: The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance on Wednesday gave its most categorical indication about joining hands with arch rival Shiv Sena, with former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan expressing confidence of forming a "stable" government soon in the state after a marathon meeting of senior leaders of the two parties here.

A few hours after the press conference, Chavan said Congress and NCP leaders will meet on Thursday. "By evening, we will leave for Maharashtra. Day after tomorrow, all three parties (Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena) will meet," he said.

While Chavan hoped that political uncertainty will soon end in Maharashtra, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik was unambiguous about the need to join hands with the Sena, asserting that a government cannot be formed in the state without the three parties uniting.

This is the most emphatic public statement by the Congress-NCP combine about its intent to join hands with the Sena to form government.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting at NCP chief Sharad Pawar's residence here, both leaders said the current spell of President's Rule in the state has brought the administration to a standstill and that the two parties are confident of ending this.

Senior Congress leaders Ahmad Patel and Mallikarjun Kharge were part of the nearly four-hour-long deliberations held at Pawar's residence.

The announcement, which is likely to end whatever little doubt remained over if the Congress will back the Sena or not amid reports of opposition to such an alliance by a section of its leaders, came a day after Pawar met Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Earlier on Wednesday, Pawar called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss farmers' issues in Maharashtra.

However, Chavan added that some aspects of the likely alliance are still being discussed. "We had a long and positive discussion... we are confident that we will soon be able to give a stable government in Maharashtra," he said.

The Sena may get the post of chief minister in such a formation on a rotational basis, NCP sources indicated, with the first half to be given to the Sena and the latter half to the NCP. The Congress is likely to have the deputy chief minister's post for the full five-year term, they added.

A senior NCP leader said the fight between the Sena and the BJP was for over the issue of chief ministership for two-and-half years each. "So, the question of the Sena enjoying the full five-year term does not arise. The second half will have a chief minister from the NCP," he said.

But Congress sources said the issue of the chief minister's post was not discussed in Wednesday's meeting.

Sena leader Sanjay Raut reiterated the demand for a chief minister from his party, claiming the state wishes to see Sena president Uddhav Thackeray in the chair. He added that a decision on government formation would be soon announced.

“When three parties form a government, then the process is long. This process has started today. In the coming two-five days, when the process is completed, a government will be formed in Maharashtra,” he said.

The state plunged into political crisis after the Sena broke its three-decade-old ties with the BJP after the latter refused to accede to its demand of sharing the chief minister's post.

The BJP and the Sena, which fought the October 21 Assembly polls in alliance, had secured a comfortable majority by winning 105 and 56 seats, respectively, in the 288-member assembly.

The Congress and the NCP, pre-poll allies, won 44 and 54 seats, respectively. The Sena then began talks with the Congress-NCP alliance.

Next Maharashtra CM from Shiv Sena, decision on Congress joining govt soon: NCP

MUMBAI, Nov 15: A tie-up between Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress to form the government in Maharashtra seemed likely as the three parties on Thursday said a common minimum programme (CMP) was being finalised.

Significantly, NCP said the next chief minister will be from Sena. “The next chief minister will be from Sena as it is our responsibility to ensure the self-respect of the party [Shiv Sena] that has left its old alliance. Whether Congress will be part of the government or will extend outside support will be decided soon,” said Nawab Malik, NCP’s Mumbai president.

Activities to form the government are expected to gain momentum after Sunday when NCP chief Sharad Pawar is expected to meet Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi.

According to leaders who are privy to the developments, Gandhi and Pawar are likely to meet Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray soon after the scheduled meeting between first two leaders. It is likely to be a crucial meeting that can put the final stamp of agreement on the power-sharing formula.

Meanwhile, former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told newly-elected Bharatiya Janata arty (BJP) MLAs that no party can form the government in the state without BJP.

Maharashtra on Tuesday came under President’s rule after no party could show numbers to form a government, 19 days after the Assembly polls.

For the first time since they began working on the formation of the government, leaders of the three parties sat together and discussed the details of their coalition. Following the meeting, they announced that they had prepared the draft of a CMP for governance, which would now be sent to the heads of all three parties for their consent, following which it would be finalised.

“We have prepared the draft of the CMP. We will now send this to heads of three parties. They will finalise it,” said Eknath Shinde, Sena’s legislative unit head. Top state leaders from all three parties participated in the day-long deliberations.

Insiders said the three parties are expected to finalise the government-formation plan in the next few days.

There are different proposals being discussed between the three parties, according to the leaders who are involved in the process. That include sharing of chief ministership by Sena and NCP for a half tenure each or the chief minister’s post to Sena for the entire tenure, with two deputy chief ministers from NCP and Congress. If Congress doesn’t participate in the government, then the party would stake claim for the Assembly speaker’s post.

A Sena leader said his party wants chief ministership for the entire five-year tenure. In exchange, NCP could be given home and finance departments, he added.

Significantly, the Sena is also considering an option to have chief minister without portfolio, especially if party chief Uddhav Thackeray is taking up the top job. The three parties will identify six key portfolios such as home, finance, urban development and revenue and divide it equally between them. The formula to share ministerial berth is not decided yet. “It could be on the basis of numbers or equal among three partners. We are trying to ensure that there won’t be much disputes if we form the government,” said a top NCP leader.

“We have drawn the list of top six departments, which will be equally distributed among three parties, followed by the other less significant departments. Congress has pressed for equal share of power and is unlikely to settle for anything less than 14 departments. In such a case, NCP may get one department more from Sena, by giving up the demand of rotational chief ministership,” the leader said.

NCP has also suggested a formula of 15 berths each for itself and Sena and 12 for the Congress as the party has got fewer seats comparatively. “Congress is demanding equal distribution of berths among all the three parties with each of them taking 14. But we have said the Congress should take less berths as they have got 10 fewer seats than the Sena and eight less than NCP. Instead, we have suggested one minister berth against four MLAs. If Sena is also getting CM position than the party’s strength will reach up to 16 in the ministerial council,” said a NCP leader.

The party may leave the claim if Thackeray is ready to take the job. In that case, the government will have two deputy chief ministers — one each from NCP and Congress. The Congress and NCP have also suggested Thackeray to take CM position without any other portfolios just like Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. “We have suggested Thackeray to overlook the government as a chief minister and indirectly he will be not answerable for anything. This will help him run the government smoothly,” said another senior NCP leader requesting anonymity.

“If Thackeray is ready to become the chief minister, then both NCP and Congress will demand deputy chief minister position. NCP will also demand for either revenue or finance department, which will be given to the leader in addition to the deputy CM position,” he added.

Congress and NCP held rounds of meetings between them on Wednesday and gave final touch before discussing it with Sena on Thursday. Before it, state unit chiefs of Congress and NCP met Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday morning at a hotel in Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC). The rough draft prepared by the Congress and NCP leaders was finalised during their meeting with Sena leaders Eknath Shinde and Subhash Desai.

The CMP is expected to keep the issue of farmers at the centre of it. The leaders have referred to their respective election manifesto, while finalising the draft. Besides the blanket loan waiver and a scheme for the pay-out for the price difference scheme on the lines of the Bhavantar Yojana launched in Madhya Pradesh, the farmers are expected to get assured cash subsidy per month. The parties have reportedly included points related to the unemployment allowance, meal thali in ₹10 among others. Former chief minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan, who was in charge of manifesto committee in Assembly election has fine tuned the draft.

Sena has won 56 seats, while NCP and Congress have 54 and 44 members in the new Assembly. BJP had emerged as the single largest party with 105 seats.

Meanwhile, addressing BJP MLAs in Mumbai, Fadnavis expressed confidence that no government can be formed in Maharashtra without BJP. “The BJP got a clear mandate in the election. Sena could retain its seats because of us,” he added. He also told legislators to reach out to farmers who are facing losses due to recent unseasonal rains.

BJP leader Ashish Shelar told the media that the party is keenly watching the developments that have been unfolding in the state.

Governor invites Shiv Sena to form govt in Maharashtra after BJP pulls out

MUMBAI, Nov 10: The Shiv Sena has been invited by Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Sunday to form the government in the state after leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party met him earlier in the evening and informed him of the party’s decision to pull out of the race.

The Governor has given the Shiv Sena time till 7:30 pm on Monday to respond to the invitation to form the government in Maharashtra.

Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut asserted on Sunday that if his party chief Uddhav Thackeray had said someone from his party would become the chief minister in Maharashtra, then there would be a Sena CM in any case.

Earlier on Sunday, caretaker chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and other senior BJP leaders met Governor Koshyari and informed him that the party could not stake claim to form the government as ally Shiv Sena was not willing to cooperate.

“We cannot stake claim to form the government as Shiv Sena is not willing to come with us. We have informed this to the governor,” State BJP chief Chandrakant Patil told reporters.

“In the state assembly polls, we contested as part of a grand alliance ‘Mahayuti’ and we got the mandate for this alliance. If Shiv Sena wants to insult this mandate and form the government with Congress and NCP, then we wish them all the luck,” Patil said after the BJP’s second core committee meeting to announce its stand on the Governor’s invitation to form government concluded.

With the political impasse continuing in the state, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has laid down a condition to support the Shiv Sena. Party leader Nawab Malik has said that Sena should first walk out of the NDA if it wants the support of the NCP.

“If the Shiv Sena wants our support, they need to break ties with the NDA. They need to dissociate from the BJP. Their minister in the Central Government (Arvind Sawant) should resign,” Malik said.

On being asked whether he would resign, Union Minister Arvind Sawant said he would abide by the directions given by party chief Uddhav Thackeray.

The newly elected Maharashtra Assembly is a hung house, where the BJP has 105 MLAs, the Shiv Sena has 56, the NCP 54 and the Congress 44 legislators.

Former chief election commissioner TN Seshan dies at 86

NEW DELHI, Nov 10: Former chief election commissioner TN Seshan died on Sunday, former bureaucrat SY Qureshi tweeted. He was 86 years old.

“Sad to announce that Shri TN Seshan passed away a short while ago. He was a true legend and a guiding force for all his successors. I pray for peace to his soul,” Qureshi, who is also an ex-chief of the poll watchdog, wrote on Twitter.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to condoled the former CEC’s demise, “Shri TN Seshan was an outstanding civil servant. He served India with utmost diligence and integrity. His efforts towards electoral reforms have made our democracy stronger and more participative. Pained by his demise. Om Shanti,” he said.

Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan was a 1955 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre and was known for his reforms in the Indian elections.

He had served as the 18th cabinet secretary and won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service in 1996.

SC rules in favour of Ram Temple on disputed Ayodhya site

NEW DELHI, Nov 9: The Supreme Court ruled on Saturday in favour of a Ram temple on a disputed 2.77-acre plot in Ayodhya, in a move cheered by hundreds of millions of people around the country although some Muslim parties questioned the verdict and said they may seek a review of the order passed by a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, who retires on November 17.

The construction of the temple at the place several Hindus believe is the birthplace of Ram also ticks off another item on the checklist of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Many people believe the ruling is the beginning of the end of the festering dispute, if not the end itself.

The court told the Union government to set up, within three months, a trust to oversee the construction of the temple.

“The faith of Hindus has been reaffirmed by the Supreme Court verdict. We had faith before the mosque. We had faith during the mosque and we had faith after the demolition of the mosque and there was continuous worship by the Hindus,” said PS Narasimha, who appeared for the child deity Ram Lalla Virajman in the title dispute. “We are grateful to the institution of judiciary for the extraordinary measures for restituting the historical belief,” he added.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s secretary Zafaryab Jilani, a lawyer, expressed his dissatisfaction over the verdict. “The Ayodhya verdict holds no value for us. We are dissatisfied with the verdict. It has a lot of contradictions. We will seek a review.”

Zufar Faruqi, the chairman of the UP Sunni Waqf Board, struck a different note: “I, as the chairman of the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board, want to make it clear that the Board will not go in any review of the Supreme Court’s order or file any curative petition.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who on Wednesday, warned his ministers not to make extreme comments on the judgment, irrespective of which way it went, welcomed the court’s ruling. “The Honourable Supreme Court has given its verdict on the Ayodhya issue. This verdict shouldn’t be seen as a win or loss for anybody. Be it Ram Bhakti or Rahim Bhakti, it is imperative that we strengthen the spirit of Rashtra Bhakti. May peace and harmony prevail!,” he tweeted.

Addressing the nation later over the SC order, the Prime Minister said the verdict marked a new dawn and gave a message that even toughest issues can be resolved within the framework of the Constitution. “We should learn from this verdict that even if there is some delay, we should remain patient. This is in everyone’s interest,” he said.

An issue of faith for over a hundred years, the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid , or mandir issue, issue has been one of the two major shapers of the political landscape of the country over the past three decades. The other has been the Mandal movement, which has made Other Backward Classes a powerful political constituency. The mandir issue helped revive the BJP’s fortunes in the mid-1980s, and has found a mention in every one of the party’s manifestos since 1991. Given the sensitivity of the issue, and remembering the riots that followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the response from most political parties was measured.

Home minister Amit Shah welcomed the verdict and appealed all communities to accept the SC order, maintain peace and remain committed for “Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat”. Defence minister Rajnath Singh urged everyone to accept the verdict with equanimity and magnanimity.

The Congress said it respected the verdict and was in favour of the construction of a Ram temple. “It is the responsibility of each one of us to reaffirm our tradition of mutual respect and unity among all that has defined our society through the ages,” the Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, quoting a resolution passed by the Congress Working Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body, at a meeting chaired by party chief Sonia Gandhi.

However, there was fear among some Muslim parties that the ruling could strengthen the resolve of Hindus fighting for control of other disputed sites, including ones at Mathura and Varanasi.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi said the verdict was a “victory of belief over facts”. Owaisi said he was not satisfied with the ruling and quoted a former CJI to say the top court is “indeed supreme but not infallible”. National Commission for Minorities chairperson Ghayorul Hasan Rizvi, however, said that Muslims were happy with the order and condemned remarks made by Jilani on considering a review plea.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP, and also of most groups that actively worked for a temple at Ayodhya, said the dispute over the issue must be forgotten. “Forgetting all the things that happened in past, we all should come together to build a grand temple at Ram Janma Bhoomi in Ayodhya,” RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said. “The decision should not be taken as victory or defeat,” he added.

“We believe that the government should take steps to end the dispute in the case after the SC decision.”

Several Hindus believe that a temple to Ram once stood at the disputed site. In the 16th century, one of the generals of Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty, built a mosque at the spot. An Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report referenced by the court points to the existence of a Hindu structure below where the mosque stood (before its demolition in 1992), but the court added that it hasn’t been able to show that this structure was a temple, or that it was demolished to build the mosque.

The court’s ruling comes 136 years after the first case in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue was filed, and nine years after the Allahabad high court delivered a judgment that each of the three main parties, the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla Virajman get an equal portion of the disputed land measuring 2.27 acres. The court based its decision largely on the title claims to the disputed land, choosing to look beyond the ASI report on the matter, but sticking to its previously stated intent of viewing a case that the parties and much of India saw as a faith-based one through the strict legal lens of ownership and possession. As such, it found Ram Lalla Virajman (the personification of the Hindu god), whom it identified as a juristic person, and who is represented by Trilok Nath Pandey, as having a better claim to the title than the Sunni Waqf Board. The latter, it said, can’t exercise the right of “adverse possession” nor establish a “possessory title”.

Under the first, a person who is not the original owner of a property becomes the de facto owner by being in possession of it for at least 12 years during which the original owner did not seek legal recourse, and can, if dispossessed by the original owner, file a case seeing restoration of ownership under the right of adverse possession. The court held that this did not apply in the case because the Muslim parties never really lost possession. The second refers to the ownership of land or property by someone who does not hold a title deed or document that proves ownership – specifically because these documents do not exist, having been lost or destroyed. In this case, the court held that the Muslim parties were not able to establish a possessory title. The Hindus, the court found, had “unimpeded access” to the outer courtyard and, till 1857, even the inner courtyard.

“Hindu worship at Ramchabutra, Sita Rasoi and at other religious places including the setting up of a Bhandar clearly indicated their open, exclusive and unimpeded possession of the outer courtyard. The Muslims have not been in possession of the outer courtyard. On a preponderance of probabilities, there is no evidence to establish that the Muslims abandoned the mosque or ceased to perform namaz in spite of the contestation over their possession of the inner courtyard after 1858,” the SC order said.

The court also seems to have gone by its understanding that namaz was not offered in the structure before 1857 or after 1949 on the basis of documentary and oral evidence. In contrast, similar evidence points to continuous worship by the Hindus, it added. However, its judgment did highlight the fact that both in 1949, when locks were broken and idols installed in the structure, and 1992, when the Babri Masjid was demolished, the Muslims were at the receiving end. To remit the wrong committed – to paraphase the court – the judgment said five acres of land must be given to the Sunni Waqf Board for a mosque, elsewhere in Ayodhya.

“We welcome and humbly accept the verdict of the Supreme Court,” the UP Sunni Waqf Board chairman said. Speaking about the decision on the five acres of land, AIMIM’s Owaisi said: “We have full faith in the Constitution, we were fighting for our right, we don’t need five-acre land as donation. We should reject this five-acre land offer. Don’t patronise us.”

Leaders linked to the Hindu parties welcomed the apex court’s order for an alternative land to the Muslim parties in the case. Ram Lalla deity lawyer CS Vaidyanathan said: “It is a great day for India. The Supreme Court has pronounced a verdict that has balanced the interest of all parties and also tried to ensure that unity and integrity of the nation are preserved and brotherhood is maintained.”

The court also directed that “in the scheme to be framed by the Central Government, appropriate representation may be given in the Trust or body to the Nirmohi Akhara in such manner as the Central Government deems fit”, even though it rejected the claim of the Nirmohi Akhara of being a ‘shebait’ (a devotee who serves the deity).

The Ram Janmabhoomi is not a juristic person, the SC held.

Mahant Dhinendra Das, head of the Nirmohi Akhara, said: “All members of the Nirmohi Akhara will meet and take a collective decision. Only after this meeting we will be able to say anything on the issue.”

Governor invites BJP to form government in Maharashtra

MUMBAI, Nov 9: Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Saturday invited the single largest party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to form the government in the state.

The Maharashtra governor has asked outgoing chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to indicate the willingness and ability of his party to form the government in Maharashtra, a communication from the governor’s office stated. In a letter to Fadnavis, the leader of the elected members of BJP, the Governor asked Fadnavis to indicate willingness to form the next government.

With the tenure of the 13th Assembly in Maharashtra set to end on Saturday midnight, the move is a step forward to end the political impasse in the state.

Bickering allies -- the BJP and Shiv Sena had both said that they were ready to form the new government - with Uddhav Thackeray asserting that he wants to fulfil his promise to Bal Thackeray of forming government, which he can do without Shah and Fadnavis. The BJP and Shiv Sena, which had contested the polls in an alliance, secured 161 seats. But owing to a power-struggle between the two parties, they had not been able to stake claim to form the next government.

According to a statement from Raj Bhavan, the governor decided to explore the possibility of formation of government as 15 days have passed since the declaration of the results and no single party or an alliance has come forward to form the government.

Elections to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly were held on October 21 and the results were declared on October 24. However, even after 15 days had elapsed, no single party or alliance of parties had come forward to form the government.

Navjot Singh Sidhu thanks ‘yaar dildaar’ Imran Khan for opening Kartarpur Corridor

KARTARPUR, Nov 9: Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu regaled the crowds across the border in Kartarpur on Saturday with his urdu couplets as he thanked his ‘yaar dildaar’ Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan for making history and fulfilling the dream of four generations of Sikhs by opening the Corridor to Darbar Sahib in Pakistan.

Speaking at the inauguration of the 4.7 km-long Kartarpur corridor linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in this Punjab district, Sidhu said “aaj jhappi rang le aayi” (today the hug has borne fruit). It was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the row he created by hugging Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa when he visited Pakistan for Imran Khan’s oath taking as the Prime Minister in 2018.

“For the first time since Partition, the fence has been broken down, ab border kholo, dil kholo,” said Sidhu in Punjabi amid slogans of ‘Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal’.

Imran Khan was seen applauding Sidhu’s speech, peppered with couplets in Urdu, several times.

Sidhu was part of the first batch of pilgrims that visited the shrine in Pakistan using the corridor, constructed to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. The batch included among others former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee members and all the 117 MLAs and MPs from Punjab, including ministers were part of the first ‘jatha’.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier inaugurated the passenger terminal building of the corridor on the Indian side, also known as the Integrated Check Post, where pilgrims will get clearance to travel through the newly-built 4.5 km-long corridor.

India had signed an agreement with the neighbouring nation on October 24 on the modalities for operationalisation of the corridor at ‘Zero Point’ of the international boundary at Dera Baba Nanak.

Supreme Court to deliver verdict in Ayodhya title suit on Saturday

NEW DELHI, Nov 8: The Supreme Court will deliver its highly-anticipated verdict on the decades-old dispute over the 2.77 acres of land in Ayodhya on Saturday as authorities enhanced security across the country, especially in the temple town in Uttar Pradesh.

The five-judge bench of the Supreme Court heard a batch of petitions challenging the judgment of Allahabad High Court on September 30, 2010, trifurcating the disputed land in Ayodhya into three equal parts among Ram Lalla, Central Sunni Waqf Board, and Nirmohi Akhara.

These three parties, however, moved the top court challenging the high court verdict and sought the modification of its judgment.

The bench completed the daily hearings in the matter on October 16 and reserved its verdict that has been among India’s most sensitive and divisive political issues, which will now be delivered before Gogoi retires on November 17.

Hindus believe the 16th-century mosque, Babri Masjid, was built over a temple dedicated to Hindu god Ram, whose birthplace is also considered to be at the site.

The mosque was demolished by a mob of thousands in 1992, triggering a cycle of violence and riots across India.

Various religious organisations and political leaders cutting across party lines have appealed for peace and asked both communities to honour the verdict, irrespective of the way the top court rules.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath have also ordered party leaders not to issue provocative statements.

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi met top officials of the Uttar Pradesh government on Friday ahead of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case.

Several states across the country have increased security before the Supreme Court rules on the disputed site and thousands of paramilitary force members and police have been deployed in Ayodhya.

Thousands of Hindu monks and devotees have been arriving in Ayodhya for the judgment.

Police are conducting mock drills, flag marches and drone surveillance in town to prepare for any possible fallout of the judgment.

The district magistrate Court had already imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in Ayodhya in October. Ayodhya’s district magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha had said in an order that Section 144 will be in effect till December 10.

Adityanath has also asked officers to station helicopters in Ayodhya and Lucknow for patrolling and transportation of security personnel. An aircraft will be stationed in Lucknow, he said.

A senior state police official said initially 52 companies of armed police, including 37 PAC and 15 central paramilitary companies, were deployed. Another 40 companies of central paramilitary forces were added later.

Extra deployment of civil police, including 11 additional SPs, 20 deputy SPs, 150 inspectors, 250 sub-inspectors, and 1200 constables, had been done in Ayodhya, the official said adding around 1,500 home guard personnel too were moved to Ayodhya.

“We have deployed forces as per the requirement. Our officers are holding meetings with locals, leaders to maintain peace. Drone cameras were successfully tested to keep a watch on every activity in the region,” additional director general (ADG) of police Ashutosh Pandey, who is in charge of security arrangements in Ayodhya, said.

More than 200 schools near Ayodhya have been chosen to accommodate the forces and for setting up temporary jails, if such a need arose, said a district administration official.

Another police official in Ayodhya said central paramilitary forces will be deployed in red and yellow zones around the disputed site.

He said the red security zone comprised the disputed site, the yellow zone the five-mile (panch koshi) periphery of Ayodhya and the green zone covered the 14-mile (14 Koshi) periphery of the town. The blue zone comprised the adjoining districts of Ayodhya, he said adding this was an old system used to maintain law and order there.

The police were also using its network of 16000 social media volunteers’ in Ayodhya district to keep an eye on activities which could spur trouble, said inspector general of police (law and order), Praveen Kumar.

Saumitra Yadav, superintendent of police of the Government Railway Police (GRP) in Lucknow, said in addition to the existing strength of policemen at stations, 10 sub-inspectors (SI), more than 50 constables and circle office (CO) have been deployed at the Ayodhya junction.

“Besides, we have also established our quick response team (QRT) to meet any exigency ahead of the verdict,” said Yadav.

Yadav said the GRP had chalked out an elaborate plan for Ayodhya junction as well as Faizabad railway station as they were the most sensitive stations.

He said the GRP security plan included round-the-clock checking of unattended vehicles at the parking lots at these stations, frequent checking drives at the stations, trains and in the circulating areas.

“We are also checking the trains stationed at the yard and washing lines and are sensitising the local vendors, coolies and railway staff to immediately report anything lying unattended,” said Arun Kumar Singh, CO GRP Lucknow, who is camping at the Ayodhya junction.

In addition, GRP has also shortlisted some sensitive trains, including Mankapur-Ayodhya passenger train, Varanasi-Lucknow passenger, Gorakhpur-Ayodhya passenger, Lucknow-Varanasi passenger train and other short-distance trains which it said were more sensitive as compared to the other long-distance trains.

“We are carrying out checking drives in all the passenger trains. Also, we would be deploying our escorts on the trains,” said Singh.

Ayodhya verdict won’t be anybody’s victory or loss: Modi

NEW DELHI, Nov 8: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday urged people to “further strengthen the great tradition of peace, unity and goodwill of India” and not see the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit on Saturday as victory or loss.

“The Supreme Court’s decision on Ayodhya is coming tomorrow. For the past few months, the matter was being heard continuously in the Supreme Court, the whole country was watching eagerly. During this period, the efforts made by all sections of the society to maintain an atmosphere of goodwill are greatly appreciated,” the Prime Minister said on Twitter in Hindi.

“Keeping the honour of the judiciary of the country paramount, all the sides of the society, socio-cultural organisations, all the parties who have made efforts to create a harmonious and positive atmosphere in the past are welcome. Even after the decision of the court, we all have to maintain harmony together,” he said.

“Whatever decision of the Supreme Court will come on Ayodhya, it will not be a victory or defeat for anyone. My appeal to the countrymen is that it should be the priority of all of us that this decision should further strengthen the great tradition of peace, unity and goodwill of India,” he added.

The Supreme Court is expected to pronounce its verdict at 10:30am on Saturday.

The five-judge bench of the Supreme Court heard a batch of petitions challenging the judgment of Allahabad High Court on September 30, 2010, trifurcating the disputed land in Ayodhya into three equal parts among Ram Lalla, Central Sunni Waqf Board, and Nirmohi Akhara.

These three parties, however, moved the top court challenging the high court verdict and sought the modification of its judgment.

The bench completed the daily hearings in the matter on October 16 and reserved its verdict that has been among India’s most sensitive and divisive political issues, which will now be delivered before Gogoi retires on November 17.

Congress says Modi, Shah blinded by revenge by withdrawing SPG cover of Gandhi family

NEW DELHI, Nov 8: The Congress on Friday hit out at the Centre after it decided to withdraw the Special Protection Group (SPG) security cover to the party president Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha member Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

The decision was taken on the recommendation of a top security review panel that carries out a threat perception analysis of protected persons. A formal order to accept this panel’s recommendation was issued on Thursday.

The three Gandhis will now be protected by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), people familiar with the development said.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah have been blinded by revenge and personal vendetta,” Congress general secretary in-charge of organisation KC Venugopal.

“They have murdered every democratic tradition today by withdrawing the SPG security cover to Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra,” Venugopal said during a press conference.

He pointed out was former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had amended the law to give cover to the family members of the two former PMs.

Venugopal said former prime minister Manmohan Singh and other senior leaders of the party had written a letter to the cabinet secretary, urging him not to withdraw the SPG cover to the Gandhi family.

“The government is playing with the lives of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi,” Venugopal said.

Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said Modi and Shah should have read a few lines from the Justice JS Verma commission’s report in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Modi and Shah have shown their political level by taking away the Gandhi’s SPG cover, he said.

Congress workers staged a protest near Union home minister Amit Shah’s residence against the government’s decision to withdraw SPG cover of the Gandhi family.

Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut meets Pawar as Fadnavis quits, says can have Sena CM

MUMBAI, Nov 8: Around the time that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was walking out of his meeting at Raj Bhavan, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut reached out to Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar for their third meeting in a fortnight. It didn’t go on for very long.

Raut emerged from Pawar’s residence in South Mumbai long before Fadnavis wrapped up his detailed statement after handing over his resignation letter to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. The governor has asked Fadnavis to continue as acting chief minister till he makes alternative arrangements. There is no clarity what this might be. There has been a buzz that the Sena might just stake claim, quite like the speculation its party leaders have fuelled for days.

Sanjay Raut did not clarify what the Sena’s next step would be.

But what was he doing at Pawar’s residence, a reporter asked him. Raut said they were watching TV; Fadnavis’ press conference. “Both of us heard the entire press conference of Devendra Fadnavis,” Raut, among the most visible Sena face in recent days who used the ally BJP as a dartboard over the last fortnight. He hurled one more.

“We can form the government if we want, and we can install a chief minister from Shiv Sena,” said Sanjay Raut, his response to Fadnavis who had just resigned as chief minister but prophesied that the next chief minister of the state would be from the BJP.

The BJP, Raut said, should try. If the chief minister says that his government will come back, then it must go ahead. Because in a democracy, those with the numbers can form the government.

Raut ducked questions around the possibility of the Shiv Sena staking claim with the support of Sharad Pawar’s party NCP and the Congress. But delivered a sharp counterattack at the BJP when he was asked about Devendra Fadnavis’ charge that Sena leaders had stooped low to mount personal attacks at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Fadnavis had said he was hurt by these attacks on Modi and didn’t expect such attacks from opposition leaders, much less an ally at the Centre and the state.

Raut countered him, asking people to check the records for the last fortnight to spot one statement against Modi or Amit Shah.

“We have not made any statements against PM Modi and Amit Shah. But BJP has a history of forging alliances with those who have been critical of both the leaders,” Sanjay Raut said. He did not elaborate but the barb is seen as a reference to Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala who had been a sharp critic of Modi before he tied up with BJP to join the Manohar Lal Khattar government. Uddhav Thackeray made the same point during his press conference that followed. Thackeray even played out some of the comments that Chautala had made.

Karnataka disqualified MLA claims Yediyurappa gave him Rs 1,000 crore

Nov 6: Disqualified Karnataka MLA Narayana Gowda on Tuesday claimed that Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had promised him Rs 1,000 crore for the development of his Krishnarajpet constituency and the money was being spent for development works.

“Somebody came to me and took me to BS Yediyurappa’s residence at 5 am (before the HD Kumaraswamy government fell). When we entered his home, Yediyurappa was worshiping. Once I entered, he asked me to sit and asked me to support him so that he can become the chief minister once again,” he said while speaking to his supporters here.

“I asked him to allot Rs 700 crores for the development of Krishnarajpet constituency. He said he will give Rs 300 crores more and will give Rs 1,000 crores. He also provided that money afterwards. Don’t you think I should support such a great person, I did it. Right after Yediyurappa said we got nothing to do with disqualified MLAs,” Gowda added.

He also claimed a former JD-S MLA, who was also disqualified, has made a statement in Mandya that “ he supported the Yediyurappa government for the funds to develop his constituency”.

Women can’t progress till ghoonghat exists: Ashok Gehlot

JAIPUR, Nov 6: Stressing on the importance of women empowerment for nation-building, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Tuesday said the custom of ‘ghoonghat’ must be eradicated at the earliest.

Expressing displeasure at the practice of covering women’s faces with a ‘ghoonghat’ or veil in some rural areas, Gehlot said the custom belongs to a bygone era.

“Time has changed now but the practice of ‘ghoonghat’ is still there in villages. What is right in confining a woman to ‘ghoonghat’? Women cannot progress till the ‘ghoonghat’ exists,” he said at a programme on women empowerment in Jaipur organised by an NGO.

Gehlot said women will be able to come forward and play a constructive role in nation-building only when they are not forced to cover their faces.

“Women are empowered. They have the capacity to bring changes in society and their role is very crucial,” he said.

“You (women) move forward with strength, the state government is with you,” he said.

Gehlot also emphasized the importance of completely eradicating the practice of child marriages, saying it destroys the lives of children.

The chief minister said his government is serious about crime against women and therefore decided earlier this year to depute a senior police officer at the district level to monitor cases of crime against women.

“The officer will look after all such cases and will ensure that justice is done,” he said.

Gehlot also said that while the state government has been providing self-defence training to school girls, he has now directed officials to extend the programme to all girls willing to join it.

He also highlighted schemes and programmes of his government and launched a book based on women’s struggles.

State Women and Child Development Minister Mamta Bhupesh was present at the event.

Talking to reporters later, Gehlot praised former prime minister Indira Gandhi as a great leader and cited the Green Revolution and bifurcation of Pakistan among her achievements.

“Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to say that she was ‘Durga’,” he said.

The chief minister also tried to take a political potshot at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, claiming he has not mentioned Gandhi “even once in five-six years”.

“She was a woman who raised the honour of women all over the world. But the prime minister is hesitant in taking her name,” he said.

Replying to a question on the coming civic body polls, Gehlot asserted, “We will win the elections.”

Walk out of NDA if alternative in Maharashtra is to be found: NCP to Sena

NEW DELHI, Nov 5: A political alternative can be worked out in Maharashtra if the Shiv Sena declared that it had snapped the ties with the BJP, the Nationalist Congress Party said here on Tuesday.

It also wanted Arvind Sawant, the lone Sena minister in the Union government, to resign, NCP sources said.

Maharashtra is witnessing a stand-off between the Sena and its ally BJP over power sharing after the two parties won simple majority in the October 21 assembly elections.

“Nothing like it if the BJP gives the Shiv Sena chief minister’s post. But if the BJP is refusing, an alternative can be given. But the Sena should declare that it is no longer associated with the BJP and NDA. Alternative can be provided after that,” NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik said here.

Sources in the Sharad Pawar-led party also said that it told the Sena leadership on Tuesday morning that Sawant, the lone Sena minister in the central government, should resign before a new political alignment for government formation can be explored.

“Sawant should walk out of the government. Only then NCP will open its cards,” the sources said.

No party or alliance has staked claim to form government in Maharashtra after the October 24 poll results, as the BJP and Sena are bickering over chief minister’s post.

The NCP will be forced to think about alternative if the BJP-Shiv Sena combine fails to form government, state NCP chief Jayant Patil had said earlier on Tuesday.

Malik, meanwhile, also hit out at BJP leaders for claiming that some Sena MLAs were in touch with the BJP for a possible switching of loyalties.

“If the BJP wants to play this game of poaching, those who had crossed over to the BJP (before the elections) are now ready to return to their original parties. Some are in touch with us...only 25-30 MLAs will remain in the BJP if poaching begins,” he said.

Message delivered, cops end 11-hour-long protest outside Delhi Police headquarters

NEW DELHI, Nov 5: Nearly 11 hours and many appeals later, hundreds of Delhi police personnel who spent the larger part of the day outside the police headquarters in the national capital after their colleagues were assaulted by lawyers over the past few days ended the unprecedented protest late on Tuesday evening.

When it started just a little after 9 am on Tuesday, there were just about 30-35 policemen, many in their uniform, who stood outside the Delhi Police headquarters. It was a symbolic gesture. They wouldn’t raise slogans but let their silent protest drive home the message.

But that number rose to a few hundred in just a matter of two hours, and kept swelling, witnesses said, to a peak of 2,000 or so around the time Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik stepped out to address them. The protests also grew louder.

Patnaik appealed to them to disperse, reminding them about their responsibility to uphold the law and ask them to trust the judicial inquiry that had been ordered into the violence at Tis Hazari court complex on Saturday over a lawyer parking his car.

Nearly 20 policemen and many lawyers were injured. Two senior police officers were shunted out by the high court the next day and two policemen suspended.

Lawyers had chased and attacked policemen, journalists and civilians in and around south Delhi’s Saket on Sunday. A video showing lawyers slapping a policeman in south Delhi was circulated widely including by senior police officers.

The image of a policeman being humiliated and assaulted had struck a chord, a police officer said. It was so powerful that subordinate police officials stood before television cameras to speak up, occasionally even against their superiors.

“If you want to suspend us, do it. We’ll sit at home. But we haven’t joined this profession to get kicked around,” said Mahendra Singh, a policeman at the protest.

Police chief Amulya Patnaik tried to pacify the protesters. “The last few days have been testing for us. A judicial enquiry is underway and I request you to have faith in the process,” he said, telling them to return to their assignments. It was early afternoon.

Over the next several hours, there were more such appeals, many of them accompanied by a status report on their demands. Like a Rs 25,000 compensation to the injured policemen or a promise to ask the high court to review its order suspending the two policemen.

As the protesters stayed on well after dusk, senior police officers figured it a problem was that this wasn’t really an organised protest. And there were no leaders to negotiate and the list of demands that the protesters spoke about appeared to be getting longer and wider.

So it helped that senior police officers went around to individually ask protesters to leave.

By then, Lt Governor Anil Baijal had held one round of review meeting with the police brass and apart from announcing compensation for the injured policemen, decided to file a review petition in the high court against its order on Sunday.


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