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Nathuram Godse was a patriot: BJP’s Pragya Thakur; sparks outrage

NEW DELHI, May 16: Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, was a deshbhakt (patriot), the BJP’s Pragya Thakur said on Thursday setting up another controversy. Pragya Thakur, who had been banned from campaigning earlier for her hate comments, had earlier found herself in the middle of a row after her comments against the former chief of Mumbai’s anti-terrorism squad Hemant Karkare and the Babri Masjid.

“Nathuram Godse was a patriot, is a patriot and will remain a patriot. People calling him a terrorist should look within. Such people will be given a befitting reply in these elections,” said Pragya Thakur.

She was asked for her response to Makkal Needhi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan’s recent speech where he had described Godse as ‘India’s first extremist’.

Nathuram Godse, a right-wing activist, had assassinated Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948. Eight men were convicted in the murder trial inside Red Fort by a special court, constituted by an order of the central government. Godse and co-conspirator Narayan Apte were hanged for the murder of the Father of the Nation on November 15, 1949.

Pragya Thakur was last month named the BJP candidate from Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal in a surprise choice against the Congress’s former chief minister Digvijaya Singh. Pragya Thakur is facing trial in the 2008 Malegaon blast case where six people died and at least 100 were injured.

Her nomination was seen by the Congress as an effort to polarise the national elections but the choice was strongly defended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has on more than one occasion, pitched the decision as a “befitting reply to individuals who linked a whole religion and culture to terror”.

As opposition leaders rushed to pummel the BJP and its Bhopal candidate, the Bharatiya Janata Party swiftly moved into damage-control mode.“The BJP does not agree with this statement. We condemn it. She should apologise publicly for this statement,” BJP’s GVL Narasimha Rao said in a statement.

“An apology will not do,” said Shama Mohd of the Congress. She demanded that the apology should come from Modi who had selected Pragya Thakur as a candidate.

Asaduddin Owaisi of the AIMIM also targeted Modi. “Remember, Narendra Modi has defended and endorsed Pragya’s candidature. This is not a ‘lunatic fringe’ & is definitely not her “personal opinion”, it is the BJP standing by Independent India’s first terrorist. In few years, Sri Sri Godse will also be recommended with a Bharat Ratna,” he tweeted.

Pragya Thakur had to apologise earlier for her claim that her curse had killed Hemant Karkare, the Mumbai police officer who died fighting terrorists during the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks. Karkare was the chief of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad that charged Thakur in the Malegaon case. The BJP had distanced itself from this statement.

Pragya Thakur next stoked a controversy for her statement that she was “proud” of her participation in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya in 1992.

BJP leader calls Mahatma Gandhi ‘Pakistan’s father of nation’, suspended

BHOPAL, May 17: A day after BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, called Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse, a patriot, a state level spokesperson of BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Anil Saumitra, has created another controversy by saying that Mahatma Gandhi was Pakistan’s father of the nation.

In a Facebook post Saumitra said, “He (Mahatma Gandhi) was father of the nation of Pakistan. India has produced crores of sons like him, some good and some bad”.

In a quick damage control move, the BJP suspended Saumitra from the primary membership of the party. BJP spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai confirmed the development and said, “Saumitra has been suspended from the party by the BJP state president Rakesh Singh.”

Explaining the reason behind the action, a BJP leader said the people of the country had an emotional attachment with Mahatma Gandhi and such a statement was likely to cause damage to the party’s poll prospects in the last phase of polling that takes place on May 19.

The same leader pointed out that even in the case of Pragya Thakur, despite her apology, the party was unhappy with her. “It is for this reason that party president Amit Shah tweeted on Friday that remarks on Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin by three BJP leaders – Singh, Union Minister Anantkumar Hegde and Karnataka MP Nalin Kumar Kateel – were not in line with the party’s ideology and that the party’s disciplinary committee had given them 10 days to explain their comments.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi too spoke in similar vein while talking to a private news channel in Khargone on Friday afternoon that though Thakur had apologised he would never be able to forgive her.

While Thakur apologised for her utterance, Saumitra continued to defend his post. Saumitra said, “There is no concept of ‘father’ of a nation in Indian culture, we are all sons of Bharat Mata. The word ‘father’ of the nation was coined by the Congress party and it has continued till date.”

Trying to justify his words that Mahatma Gandhi was Pakistan’s father of the nation, Saumitra said that Mahatma Gandhi helped in the creation of Pakistan, and helped both Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Saumitra also said that BJP was the true follower of Gandhian tradition, like Swachhata Mission, Swadeshi, which the Congress party never followed.

Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi said BJP leaders have always tried to belittle Mahatma Gandhi in anyway possible, which includes glorifying Godse. Sometime back the Hindu Mahasabha tried to build Godse’s temple in Gwalior.

‘Amitabh Bachchan would have been better choice’: Priyanka Gandhi jabs Modi

MIRZAPUR, May 17: Priyanka Gandhi, who is campaigning in eastern Uttar Pradesh, on Friday critiqued the Centre’s many welfare schemes to insist that the half-baked schemes had not touched the lives of people.

“It would have been better to have gone for an actor,” the 47-year-old said at a roadshow in Uttar Pradesh’s Mirzapur in Purvanchal region, where the party’s Lalitesh Pati Tripathi is contesting against Apna Dal leader and sitting member of Parliament Anupriya Patel. Her comments come ahead of the seventh and last phase of polling in the Lok Sabha election on Sunday.

“Ab aap samajh lijiye ke apne duniye ke sabse bade abhineta ko apna PM bana diya hai. Isse accha toh aap Amitabh Bachchan ko hi bana dete. Karna toh kisi ne kuch nahi tha aapke liye (You should think that you have voted for the world’s greatest actor as your PM. It would have been better that if you have elected (Bollywood superstar) Amitabh Bachchan. Nobody would have worked for your good anyway),” Priyanka Gandhi said.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra held a mega roadshow in Uttar Pradesh’s Mirzapur on Friday. Lalitesh Pati Tripathi, Congress candidate was also present in the roadshow who is up against Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal (S).

The Mirzapur parliamentary constituency is one of the two Lok Sabha seats where the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally Apna Dal was successful in the general election in 2014.

The Congress has won five times in Mirzapur, Samajwadi Party four times, Bharatiya Janata Party twice, the last time in 1998, and the Bahujan Samaj Party has also been successful twice since elections held in 1957. The Congress party, once dominant on the Mirzapur seat has not won an election after 1984.

“This election is an election in which we are fighting to save our democracy and our democratic institutions and every citizen must cast his vote responsibly,” she said.

Sonia Gandhi invites non-NDA parties for meet on May 23

Sonia GandhiNEW DELHI, May 16: UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi will be chairing a meeting of Opposition leaders in New Delhi on May 23, the day election results will be announced. UPA ally DMK on Thursday confirmed the meeting, saying that party chief M K Stalin has received an invite from Gandhi.

The UPA chairperson, who has not been seen on the campaign trail this election season, has reportedly been silently reaching out to leaders from non-NDA parties.

In the hope that the results will throw a splintered verdict, Gandhi has reportedly entrusted Kamal Nath and a couple of senior party leaders to reach out to BJD chief Naveen Patnaik, YS Congress’s Jagan Mohan Reddy and TRS’s K Chandrashekar Rao. Informal talks are said to have begun with all of these leaders.

It is interesting to note that the Congress is willing to work with Y S Jagan, who walked out of the party after the death of his father and former chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh, Y S Rajashekar Reddy. Any deal with the YSR Congress is also likely to upset Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu, who is locked in a direct fight with Jagan in the state assembly elections.

Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana combined has over 60 Lok Sabha seats.

Rahul Gandhi meets Alwar gang-rape survivor, says ‘justice will be done’

JAIPUR, May 16: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday met the woman who was gang-raped in Rajasthan’s Alwar on April 26. He promised swift action against the culprits and said “justice will be done”.

“I spoke to Ashok Gehlot Ji after I heard about the incident. This is not a political issue for me. Justice will be done and action will be taken against culprits,” said Rahul Gandhi in Alwar. He said a message should be sent that ‘this will not be tolerated.”

The Congress chief was accompanied by CM Ashok Gehlot, state Congress chief Sachin Pilot, AICC general secretary Avinash Pande and Alwar MP candidate Jitendra Singh. Rahul Gandhi was scheduled to visit the survivor on Wednesday but had to postpone it due to bad weather.

On Narendra Modi’s charges of negligence by state government in the case, Rahul Gandhi said, “I am not here to do politics over the issue. I am here to meet the family and they will get justice”

On April 26, five men had raped a married Dalit woman in front of her husband, and later circulated the video on social media. All the accused have been arrested. The Congress government in Rajasthan has faced criticism over lack of prompt action in the case. The Rajasthan police allegedly delayed the filing of a First Information Report (FIR). An FIR was filed only after a purported video of the sexual assault began circulating on social media.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had referred to the gang-rape incident at a poll rally and attacked the Congress. He has also asked Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati she had not withdrawn support from the Congress government in Rajasthan. Mayawati had hit back at PM Modi accusing him of indulging in “dirty politics”.

Ashok Gehlot on Thursday accused Modi of doing politics over the issue said an FIR was lodged on May 2. “He (Modi) speaks lies, which is unfortunate. The entire BJP is protesting, shows who is doing politics,” Gehlot said.

The incident triggered widespread protests in Alwar, Jaipur, Dausa and nearby areas and a protest march led by BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Kirori Lal Meena had turned violent in Dausa on Tuesday, leaving over half a dozen people injured.

Rahul Gandhi Tried to Mock Modi with New Word 'Modilie'

NEW DELHI, May 16: On Wednesday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi shared a screenshot of what seemed like the Oxford Dictionary website. Gandhi took a jibe at Modi by sharing a screenshot of the word, "Modilie" which has been defined as "to constantly Modify the truth".

With this screenshot, Gandhi subtly taunted Modi as he has done before by accusing him of lying to the people of the country on for not fulfilling promises he'd made. He wrote, "There’s a new word in the English Dictionary. Attached is a snapshot of the entry :)"

The image, from what we can understand, is a photoshopped version of the website, which contain minor differences from the actual version.

The screenshot shows that there are some variations of the world as well; for example, "Modiilying" has been defined as "to lie incessantly and habitually" and the word "Modiliar" can be defined as "to lie without respite".

On Thursday, Oxford dictionary replied to Rahul Ganhi's tweet stating that they had proof that such a word did not exist. They wrote, "We can confirm that the image showing the entry ‘Modilie’ is fake and does not exist in any of our Oxford Dictionaries."

Priyanka Gandhi holds grand roadshow in Varanasi

VARANASI, May 15: In a big show of strength in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra held a roadshow in Varanasi on Wednesday evening.

Priyanka Gandhi began the roadshow, which had a route similar to Modi's jamboree last month, by garlanding the statue of Madan Mohan Malviya at the gates of the Banaras Hindu University.

Modi had held a roadshow in Varanasi on April 25, a day before he filed his nomination papers.

Priyanka Gandhi was accompanied by Congress's Varanasi candidate Ajay Rai, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, senior party leader Rajiv Shukla and Savitri Bai Phoole -- who recently joined the party after leaving the BJP.

As the procession wound its way through the temple town, Priyanka Gandhi, who was dressed in a red saree, and the other leaders waved at the large crowd which had gathered on both sides of the roads.

While some onlookers compared her roadshow with that of Modi's, Congress workers raised slogans against the prime minister.

The local unit of the Congress had made elaborate arrangements to pull in the crowds for the roadshow, a party leader said.

Like that of Modi's jamboree, Priyanka Gandhi's roadshow also passed through all prominent places such as Assi Ghat, Lanka, Gadoliya and ended at Dashashwamedh Ghat.

Thereafter, Priyanka Gandhi offered prayers at the Kanshi Vishawnath temple and met saints in the town.

Later, she also visited the Kaal Bhairav temple in Kotwali area.

This was Priyanka Gandhi's second visit to Varanasi since she was appointed Congress general secretary and in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

She had last visited Varanasi in March for her 'Ganga Yatra' when she undertook a boat ride from Balua Ghat Ramnagar to Dashashwamedh Ghat.

Stalin asks KCR to garner support for Congress

CHENNAI, May 13: DMK president M.K. Stalin on Monday told Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) that “he [Stalin] would remain a link between him and the Congress party”.

When Rao, who earlier visited the Srirangam temple in Tiruchi, called on Stalin at his Alwarpet residence in the evening, the DMK leader made it clear that it would not augur well for the country if the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to power at the Centre.

While Rao left without talking to waiting media personnel, sources in the DMK said that the Telangana Chief Minister, who had propounded the idea of a Federal Front, was insistent that regional parties have their voice heard in the future government.

“Throughout the meeting, Stalin stuck to his stand on the Congress. Rao urged him and the DMK to ensure prominence for regional parties, and look at the political situation not just from the point of view of the Congress,” the sources added.

Asked whether Rao had come to seek support for the BJP, the sources merely said that the Telangana Chief Minister “reiterated that regional parties should take a decision together”.

On his part, Stalin requested Rao to speak to friends and political leaders in various States to garner support for the Congress, in case there was a shortfall in seats required to form a government.

Priyanka Gandhi mocks Modi’s cloud theory, says he’s on people’s radar

INDORE, May 14: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra Monday took a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his statement about IAF aircrafts evading Pakistan radars during the Balakot air strike due to the “cloudy weather”.

At a roadshow in Indore’s Rajwada Chowk, the Congress leader, reading from a piece of paper, said: “During his five-year tenure as the prime minister, Modi has only given jumlas (rhetoric) to the people.” “He believed that he won’t come on people’s radar due to the cloudy weather,” said the Congress general secretary in Hindi amid cheers from the crowd that had thronged the traffic junction.

In an interview aired on Saturday, Modi had said, “The weather was not good on the day of air strike. There was a thought that crept in the minds of the experts that the day of strike should be changed. However, I suggested that the clouds could actually help our planes escape the radars.” The Congress leader further said that Modi promised a corruption-free government but went ahead and perpetrated a “Rs 30,000 crore Rafale scam”.

“He is such a big defence expert that he alone decided that the Rafale aircraft will be manufactured by a company that has never built one ever. It was given land as well. But be it rain or sunshine, people came to know what is the truth of this man’s politics,” she claimed.

Taking on Modi for berating the achievements of former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, she said Modi was like the school student who knowing that he would lose the race, deliberately falls and starts blaming others for it.

She further alleged that the prime minister had no time for the poor and the one time she saw a photograph of him holding a child in his arms, it turned out to be that of BJP chief Amit Shah’s grandchild and not of some ordinary citizen.

Modi is a “cowardly” politician as he does not have the courage to listen to the voice of the public, she claimed.

Love will win, says Rahul Gandhi after voting in Delhi

NEW DELHI, May 12: ‘Love will win’, was Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s message after casting vote in New Delhi on Sunday for the sixth round of the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections in 59 constituencies across 7 states.

“The election was fought on several issues – unemployment, farm distress, demonetization, Rafale… Narendra Modi used hatred in the campaign and we used love and I am confident love will win,” the president said after casting his vote in New Delhi constituency where party’s Ajay Maken is a candidate against BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi and AAP’s Brijesh Goyal.

As many as 1.43 crore people are expected to vote on Sunday in a high-stakes triangular fight to elect Delhi’s seven Lok Sabha representatives, where BJP is looking to retain all seats, the ruling AAP trying to make its debut and the Congress attempting to regain its lost base.

A total of 13,819 polling stations have set up at 2,700 locations in Delhi, with one model polling station in each of the 70 assembly segments. Seventeen polling stations are being staffed only by women.

As many as 469 polling locations have been identified as critical and 60,000 personnel, including those of the Delhi Police, Home Guards and paramilitary are providing security.

Rs 1,000-cr drugs seized in Greater Noida in country’s biggest raid

NOIDA, May 12: In the country’s biggest ever narcotics seizure, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on Thursday recovered 1,818kg of pseudoephedrine from a house in Greater Noida and arrested two Nigerian nationals, and one South African national.

Officers said that the house, which belongs to an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer was being used as a drug-manufacturing unit. The approximate value of the seized drugs are estimated to be more than Rs 1,000 crore.

Madhav Singh, zonal director, NCB, said the seizure is India’s biggest-ever narcotics haul and the world’s largest pseudoephedrine seizure in the past three years.

According to NCB officials, on Thursday morning following a tip off, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) intercepted a 31-year-old woman passenger, Nomsa Lutalo, from South Africa, at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport.

The woman was to board a flight to Johannesburg via Dubai.

“On checking her bags, they found 24.7 kg pseudoephedrine from her bags. On questioning, the woman said she had been handed the consignment in Greater Noida by two people from Nigeria. She said she was asked to carry the same to Johannesburg and was promised good money in exchange,” Singh said.

Based on Lutalo’s interrogation, an NCB team conducted a raid at the identified premise in Sector P4 of Greater Noida the same day.

“A man, Henry Ideofor (35) and a woman, Chimando Okora (30) were living in the house. Both are from Nigeria. During searches, we found several canisters and boxes in the house, containing 1,818 kg of pseudoephedrine. We also recovered 1.9 kg cocaine,” Singh said.

He said that pseudoephedrine is a precursor used for manufacturing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The export of pseudoephedrine requires a no-objection certificate from the narcotics commissioner.

The UN Convention Against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988, identifies 23 precursors that need to be controlled. Pseudoephedrine is one of them, the officer said.

During questioning, the Nigerian nationals told officials that they bought the chemical from various illicit sources and were storing it to manufacture drugs. “They also used to manufacture fake heroin and transport it out of the country, illegally. They claim to have also distributed the drugs in Delhi-NCR. The precursor and manufactured drugs were mostly sent to countries in Africa, the two said,” Singh said.

Ideofor and Okora told officials they had taken the house on rent and had been living there since 2015. Investigations revealed that the house belongs to Devendra PN Pandey, an IPS officer posted with the UP Police’s Economic Offences Wing in Lucknow.

When contacted, Pandey said he had rented out the house through a property dealer and was unaware of the activities going on there.

“I had no knowledge of the drug business being run from my house. I have not even received any rent for the past year and had made complaint to the circle officer against the two Nigerian nationals. The rent agreement also clearly mentions that the residents will be responsible for any illegal activity,” he said.

Pandey said he had bought the property for Rs7.2 lakh in 2000.

Mamata will play key role in forming new government: Chandrababu Naidu

LALGARH, May 8: Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee will play a big role in the formation of the new government at the Centre, said Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Wednesday.

Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief Naidu visited the former Maoist-dominated Lalgarh in West Bengal to attend a rally in support of Birbaha Soren (Tudu), TMC candidate from Jhargram constituency. Naidu also addressed another rally in Haldia, Tamluk constituency.

“The West Bengal chief minister is a Bengal tiger now, and after the elections, she will become the tiger of the nation. The BJP is going to be defeated miserably and Mamata Banerjee will play a big role in the formation of the new government by wining all the 42 seats in the state,” said Naidu in Lalgarh.

“Once this place was controlled by Left-wing extremists. But now, it is totally controlled by the chief minister of Bengal. There is peace now and a lot of development work has been done. The people of the region are living in peace. It is a model to be followed,” he added.

On Thursday, Naidu and Banerjee are supposed to share the dias in Kharagpur, which comes under the Medinipur Lok Sabha constituency and goes to polls on May 12. TMC candidate and Rajya Sabha MP Manas Bhuniya will contest against Bharatiya Janata Party state president Dilip Ghosh here.

Earlier in the day, Naidu had met Congress President Rahul Gandhi in and discussed plans to hold a meeting of Opposition parties on May 21, two days before the results of the ongoing seven-phased Lok Sabha elections are announced.

Nehru took your homework: Priyanka Gandhi jibes Modi at Delhi roadshow

NEW DELHI, May 8: Keeping aside her identities of “Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s sister”, “former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s daughter” and the “Congress general secretary”, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra Wednesday chose to hit the narrow lanes of Brahampuri as a “Delhi girl”, challenging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fight the last two phases of the parliamentary elections on the issues of demonetisation, goods and services tax, women’s safety and youth unemployment.

“Modi ji came to Delhi only five years ago but I was born here. For 47 years, I have lived here and seen every nook and corner of this city. I can tell you what the people of Delhi want. You (Modi) wouldn’t know, since you are cooped up in your Race Course Road bungalow,” she said.

Modi, at a rally on Sunday, had challenged the Congress to fight the final rounds of the Lok Sabha elections on Rajiv Gandhi’s image. His remark calling the former PM “corrupt number one” had given rise to a political slugfest.

Standing atop a mini-bus Wednesday, Priyanka said, “The BJP is like that student who doesn’t do his homework and when the teacher asks, he says that (Jawaharlal) Nehru ji took my sheet and hid it and Indira (Gandhi) ji tore my homework and made paper boats of it.”

Priyanka led her first campaign in the national capital for former Delhi chief minister and Congress candidate from North East Delhi Sheila Dikshit.

“I am confident that voters living in all of these (along the route that Priyanka took) areas will make the Congress win with a huge margin,” Dikshit said.

Waving at the people who had turned up in huge numbers, despite the sweltering heat, to see her, Priyanka covered a distance of over 2.5km from Jag Pravesh Chandra Hospital to the Yamuna Vihar bus depot.

“People say she (Priyanka) is a spitting image of her grandmother, Indira ji. They are right. She looks so much like the Indira Gandhi I remember— the hair, the cotton saree and the confidence,” 78-year-old Mehrusina Begum, who had come for the roadshow with her 10-year-old grandson, said.

As Priyanka entered the bylanes of the Muslim dominated colonies, voters pledged their support for the Congress throwing rose petals on the route to welcome her.

Despite many in the crowd claiming that the voters in areas such as Shahdara, Seelampur, Brahampuri, and Yamuna Vihar have always pledged their allegiance to the Congress, some believed that the triangular fight with the AAP and the BJP is likely to split the anti-BJP votes.

Along the route of the roadshow, posters of, “Dear Sheila ji, you rejected the alliance (with the AAP), we reject you”, could also be seen.

“We wanted that the BJP be defeated this time but the Congress said no to an alliance with AAP. The anti-BJP votes will get split and it will benefit the BJP,” 19-year-old Mohammad Azhar said.

Role of regional parties discussed, not PM pick: Vijayan after meeting KCR

Thiruvananthapuram, May 7: With 16 days left for the results of the Lok Sabha election to be declared, Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhara Rao, who is eager to don the kingmaker’s role at the Centre, called on his counterpart in Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday and discussed the ‘national political scenario’.

“Yesterday’s meeting with KC Rao was significant. We discussed the national political scenario. According to KC Rao, both the fronts may not get a majority. So, the regional parties will play a prominent role. There were no discussions about the PM candidate,” Kerala CM said.

“The two had a fruitful discussion. They discussed the prevailing political situation and the post-poll scenario. As the Left parties, he is also keen to explore possibilities of a non-BJP and non-Congress government at the Centre,” said sources close to Vijayan’s office.

Political parties do approach the CPI(M) headquarters AKG Bhawan for such talks but this time Rao, who is popularly known as KCR, made it a point to meet Pinarayi Vijayan directly buttressing the latter’s growing clout in the party.

Since its prospects are not looking bright in erstwhile strongholds of West Bengal and Tripura, the CPI(M) has pinned much hope on Kerala, said party insiders.

Before the meeting, Rao offered prayers at the Sree Padmanabhaswami temple at the state capital.

This is the first in the series of meetings Rao has planned in the next five days. He will also meet DMK chief MK Stalin and other leaders from southern India. Like KCR, many Left leaders in Kerala feel neither the Congress nor the BJP will have the numbers to form the next government at the Centre and that regional parties will play a key role.

There are 123 Lok Sabha seats in the five southern states and regional satraps like Rao are eyeing these numbers, said CPI(M) sources.

But after the Sabarimala temple imbroglio, the party is facing much heat in its last resort as well. The state had witnessed violent protests after it tried to implement the Supreme Court’s September 28, 2018, verdict, which allowed women of all ages to worship at the hilltop shrine.

Angry devotees believe that the state government’s new affidavit favouring women’s into the shrine dedicated to Lord Ayyappa entry led to the verdict and it took “undue haste” in implementing it. This time, there was a massive turnout of women in the April 23 election in the state.

Review plea by 21 parties to verify more VVPAT votes rejected by Supreme Court in 60 secs

NEW DELHI, May 7: The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a review petition filed by 21 opposition parties seeking verification of 50 per cent EVMs and VVPAT machines during counting of Lok Sabha election votes scheduled for May 23.

In the hearing that lasted barely a minute, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, “We will not review our order.”

Citing issues with electronic voting machines (EVM) in the first few phases of polling for the Lok Sabha election, 21 opposition parties had filed a review petition in the Supreme Court demanding verification of 50% EVMs using voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips.

The petition claimed that after the first phase of polling, in many cases, EVMs were found to be defective and faulty. “It has been reported that in some cases where voters would vote for one party, EVMs would record their vote having been cast for another party,” the review petition said.

The Election Commission of India (EC) has consistently maintained that the glitches experienced in the first three phases of the seven-phase election are within acceptable limits in terms of number of defects.

Justices declare Chief is innocent

NEW DELHI, May 6: A three-member in-house committee of Supreme Court judges led by justice SA Bobde on Monday unanimously cleared Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment charges levelled by a former court employee, in a decision that was criticised by several leading lawyers for its lack of transparency and process.

The proceedings were ex parte (without the party concerned) after the complainant walked out of her third meeting with the panel citing lack of procedure.

The committee submitted its report to justice Arun Mishra, but refused to share its findings with even the complainant. It also cited a 2003 judgement in a case filed by lawyer Indira Jaising seeking the report of an in-house committee that looked into allegations of sexual harassment against judges of the Karnataka High Court.

Jaising said on Monday that the judgment was before the Right to Information Act and “cannot have any application in today’s time”.

The complainant, who said she was disappointed and dejected by the report, has said she will decide on her next step after consulting her legal advisors.

56-inch boxer punched his coach LK Advani in face: Rahul Gandhi

BHIWANI, May 6: In one of his sharpest attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi called him a “56-inch boxer” who was elected to fight the country’s problems but he instead began delivering punches to the country’s farmers and traders in the form of schemes such as Goods and Services Tax (GST) and demonetisation.

The Congress president made these comments during his ‘Ab Hoga Nyay’ rally in Haryana’s Bhiwani district in support of Congress Lok Sabha candidate Shruti Choudhry.

Calling Bhiwani district the upcoming boxing capital of the world - Olympian and Congress’s Delhi candidate Vijender Singh belongs from here - Rahul Gandhi said the country also elected a “56-inch boxer” during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to fight unemployment and corruption.

“The 56-inch chest boxer came in the election ring amid loud cheers from the public. However, instead of fighting farmers’ issues, corruption and unemployment, the boxer punched his coach Lal Krishna Advani in the face first. Boxer ring mein aayaa... apne coach Advani ji ki taraf dekha... ek ghoosa unke muh par maara... He then punched his other team members Nitin Gadkari and Arun Jaitley. The boxer then came out of the ring and went in between the public to deliver blows to small shopkeepers in the form of GST and demonetisation. The farmers in the public confronted him and reminded him that he promised to fight for them, but he punched the farmers, too,” Rahul said.

The Congress president said that in the five years of Modi’s government, he did not even know what he was fighting. “Modi ji you were not supposed fight the public of the country. You were also not supposed to fight the opposition. You needed to fight unemployment and corruption but you failed,” he said.

Slamming PM Modi for allegedly promising Rs 15 lakh to every citizen, Rahul said the promise was not feasible at all for the country. “For our NYAY scheme, we consulted top economists who took four months to chalk out the scheme. They told us that giving Rs 72,000 per year to 25 crore people was possible in our country’s economy,” he said.

KCR, Chandrababu Naidu go all-out to woo partners ahead of Lok Sabha poll results

HYDERABAD, May 6: The chief ministers of the Telugu states — K Chandrashekar Rao of Telangana and N Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh — are competing with each other to play the role of a kingmaker in forming the next government at the Centre after the declaration of results on May 23.

While KCR, as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president is popularly called, is hopeful that a federal front of non-Congress and non-BJP parties would emerge as a front-runner for power after the elections, Naidu is going all out in his efforts to bring all the non-BJP parties under one umbrella to form the next government at the Centre.

As part of his mission, KCR embarked on a tour of Kerala and Tamil Nadu on Monday afternoon. He met Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the evening to discuss “contemporary politics” in view of the Lok Sabha elections.

On May 13, the TRS chief will meet Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president MK Stalin at the latter’s residence in Chennai as part of his efforts to form the federal front. The CMO spokesman further said KCR had received a call from Janata Dal (S) leader and Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy. After his Kerala and Tamil Nadu tour, KCR might go to Bengaluru to revive talks with Kumaraswamy.

Interestingly, both the DMK and the JD(S) have an electoral understanding with the Congress in the ongoing general elections in their respective states. KCR is hoping that both the DMK and the JD(S) would join the non-Congress, non-BJP federal front in a post-poll scenario where regional parties would emerge as the key players, a senior TRS leader familiar with the development said.

Though the TRS president’s further programmes are not yet scheduled, he is expected to visit Odisha and West Bengal, too, before the announcement of the election results so as to consolidate the support of the Biju Janata Dal and the Trinamool Congress for the federal front. “The Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party combine in UP is a natural partner for the federal front, as they are already against both the BJP and the Congress,” the TRS leader said.

On the other hand, the TDP chief also left for New Delhi on Monday evening. According to TDP sources, Naidu will spend a day in the capital mobilising support for his demand to count at least 50 per cent of the VVPAT slips along with the EVMs during the counting. The review petition is coming up for hearing in Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Later, Naidu is expected to leave for West Bengal on Wednesday morning and take part in a few election rallies of the TMC for two days, before returning to Vijayawada on Thursday night.

According to a senior TDP leader, Naidu will continue his efforts to sustain the anti-BJP coalition as an effective alternative to the NDA. “We believe there will only be one alternative to the NDA, which has to include the Congress and there is no place for a third front. Going by the trends of the four phases of elections held so far, the anti-BJP front will emerge as a potential force and will form the government at the Centre,” he said.

Keeping in mind the opposition from some regional parties to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s candidature for the prime minister’s post, Naidu already made it clear that the PM candidate would be decided only after the elections by a core group of parties. He also asserted that he would be part of the core group and that he himself was not a candidate for the top post.

Karma awaits you (Modi): Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI, May 5: Congress president Rahul Gandhi has hit back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his comments against his father, former PM Rajiv Gandhi. Modi had said that life of Rahul Gandhi’s father ended as “corrupt number 1”.

“Modi Ji, The battle is over. Your Karma awaits you. Projecting your inner beliefs about yourself onto my father won’t protect you. All my love and a huge hug,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

His sister and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi targeted the PM and said the people of Amethi will give a befitting reply to Modi.

The Congress has also slammed Modi’s comments and said they were hurtful. “Why did he say that? We are ashamed of the statement, I am a Gujarati too & come from Gandhi ji’s state. People of this state can lie so much & speak such lowly things, this saddens us,” said Sam Pitroda, Indian Overseas Congress chief and a close aide of Rahul Gandhi.

Modi, at a rally in UP’s Pratapgarh on Saturday, had accused Rahul Gandhi of trying to tarnish his image over the Rafale fighter jet deal. “Your father was termed ‘Mr Clean’ by his courtiers, but his life ended as ‘Bhrastachari number 1’ (corrupt number 1),” Modi was quoted as saying.

The prime minister said that only BJP can give a stable government at the Centre and the opposition wants to tarnish his image and form a weak government.

In show of unity, Mayawati backs Congress in Amethi, Raebareli

NEW DELHI, May 5: Mayawati today countered Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remark that Congress and the Samajwadi Party were using her, with a strong message of unity. The Congress, which had been kept out of the Uttar Pradesh alliance, mainly because of her reservations, will get every alliance vote in Amethi and Raebareli, she said.

The alliance is not contesting the two Congress strongholds - now with Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and his mother and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi - which go to polls on May 6.

"I am confident that every single vote from our gathbandhan, under any condition, will go to the two Congress leaders (from Amethi and Raebareli)," Mayawati was quoted as saying.

Days after Congress's Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, in a very unusual move, met the Samajwadi Party workers in Raebareli on Thursday, Prime Minister Modi had said Akhilesh Yadav was colluding with the Congress behind Mayawati's back. Alleging that SP and the BSP would be at each other's throats after the election results come out, Modi said, "The SP is going soft on the Congress, but its alliance partner BSP chief Mayawati is attacking the Congress... Congress leaders are happily sharing the stage with Samajwadi Party in rallies. These people have betrayed Behenji so cunningly that she cannot even see through the games."

Modi, who had time and again accused several opposition leaders of vying for the top post, said, "It was said you (Mayawati) will be made the prime minister, but now Behenji has understood that the SP and the Congress are playing a big game with her".

The alliance is not contesting the two Congress strongholds - now with Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and his mother and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi - which go to polls on May 6.

Over the last week, Mayawati had been furious with the Congress after a candidate from her party had changed camp in Madhya Pradesh. She had even threatened that she would pull out support from the Kamal Nath government, which has a wafer-thin majority, and accused the Congress of being hand-in-glove with the BJP.

But her today's statement marked a significant turnaround. "He (PM Modi) tried everything in his might to destroy the mahagathbandhan. In keeping with his phoot daalo, raj karo (divide and rule) strategy, he said several erroneous things at his election rally in Pratapgarh yesterday. He wants the SP-BSP-RLD to fight with each other," Mayawati said today.

The alliance between Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh - which sends the largest number of lawmakers to parliament - is seen as a challenge to the BJP, which won 71 of the state's 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.

The Congress's solo entry in the game - after being denied entry in the alliance team - is seen to lessen the chances of the gathbandhan by splitting the anti-BJP vote.

Yesterday, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had addressed a meeting of Samajwadi workers in Raebareli, from where Sonia Gandhi is seeking re-election. Akhilesh Yadav once said Priyanka Gandhi's entry into politics in 2014 would have changed the scenario in the state. Earlier, he had mocked the Congress, saying they are part of the alliance since they have been given the two seats.

Today, SP Chief Akhilesh Yadav also reacted to the prime minister's speech, saying, "Modi's language has changed because BJP is lagging behind in previous phases of elections. BJP can see no other way. They're not talking about development, farmers' income. PM just wants to mislead people. SP-BSP-RLD will decide who will form the government and be the PM".

Modi's rule most traumatic, devastating: Manmohan Singh

NEW DELHI, May 5: Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be shown exit door as his five-year rule has been “most traumatic and devastating” for India’s youths, farmers, traders and every democratic institution, his predecessor Manmohan Singh said Sunday.

Singh dismissed the notion that there was a wave in favour of Modi and asserted that the people have made up their minds to vote out the government that “does not believe in inclusive growth and is only worried about its political existence at the altar of disharmony”.

In one of his most fierce attacks on the Modi dispensation, Singh alleged that the past five years only witnessed “stench” of corruption peaking to “unimaginable proportions”, adding demonetisation was perhaps the “biggest scam” of independent India.

Incidentally, the BJP campaign in the run-up to the 2014 elections had centred on various alleged scams, including in the allocations of 2G spectrum and coal blocks, during the 10-year tenure of the Singh-led UPA government.

The former prime minister also called Modi’s Pakistan policy “slipshod”, which he said was marred by a series of “flip-flops” -- from going to Pakistan uninvited to inviting “rogue” ISI to the Pathankot air base in connection with the probe into a terrorist attack.

Singh, known as the architect of India’s economic reforms in 1990s, felt the country is headed for a slowdown and accused the Modi regime of leaving the country’s economy in “dire straits”.

He said people are “fed up” with the daily rhetoric and cosmetic change by the current dispensation and there is an undercurrent against this “illusion and boastful self aggrandizement”.

In a bid to counter the BJP’s focus on the issues of nationalism and terrorism in this election, the former prime minister sought to question Modi’s commitment. He said it was “distressing” to note that Modi was “filming movies” in the Jim Corbett National Park instead of chairing any meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in the immediate aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

He claimed the “gross intelligence failure” in Pulwama speaks volumes about this government’s preparedness to tackle terror.

“Let’s not forget that Narendra Modi’s slipshod policy on Pakistan has been marred by a series of flip-flops- from going to Pakistan uninvited to inviting the rogue ISI to investigate the Pathankot Air Base terror attack. Does it not speak volumes about the strategic failures of Modi Government on national security front,” he asked.

Singh said the Modi government’s record on national security is “dismal” as incidents of terrorism have seen a quantum jump.

“A lie spoken a hundred times does not become the truth,” he said on Modi’s plank of nationalism, adding that terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir alone have gone up by 176 per cent and ceasefire violations at the border with Pakistan up 1,000 per cent in the past five years.

He said that division and hate have become synonymous with the BJP and it thrives on societal fissures.

“A government which does not believe in inclusive growth and is only worried about its political existence at the altar of disharmony should be immediately shown the exit door,” he noted.

He alleged that in the past five years the stench of corruption has peaked to “unimaginable proportions” and “there is a definite collusion of people holding political positions and scamsters who fled the country after defrauding banks”.

Singh said the BJP’s “political distress” emanates from its “failed track record” and claimed the party is searching for new narratives everyday. “This reflects the bankruptcy of a national security vision for the country.” “Five years of Modi Government is a sad story of governance and accountability failure. In the year 2014, Modiji came to power on the promise of ‘acche din’. His five years rule has ended up being the most traumatic and devastating for India’s youth, farmers, traders, businesses and every democratic institution,” he said.

“Our socio-political ambience has lost cohesiveness. People are fed up with the daily loud rhetoric of cosmetic change. There is a sense of deep despair and disillusionment amongst the masses. People have made up their minds to reject the Modi Government and the BJP so that the future of India is safe and secure,” Singh said.

The former Prime Minister said one man would not do any justice to the aspirations and hopes of the people by imposing the thought process and will of ‘one person’ on a diverse country like India. “Representation in India is very important. A single man can neither represent all the desires of 130 crore people of India and can also not solve the variety of problems faced by them. The idea of ‘one man as the monolith of knowledge’ cannot be applied to India,” he said on whether a presidential form of election is good for democracy.

On foreign policy, he said India has always been guided by national interests and not for “image building of any individual”.

Foreign policy entails “gravitas”, a sense of diplomacy and restraint, sensitivity towards the concerns of the host nation and ultimately furthering the interests of India, but “regrettably, this government’s foreign policy is founded upon anything but a mature comprehension of diplomacy”, he said.

PMO monitoring Rafale deal can’t be seen as interference: Govt's new affidavit

NEW DELHI, May 4: In fresh affidavits filed in the Supreme Court, the Centre has stated that the monitoring of Rafale deal by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) cannot be seen as interference in any way, according to a news agency.

The Centre, in its affidavit stated that the Supreme Court’s December 14, 2018, “judgment upholding the 36 Rafale jets deal was correct” and also said that “unsubstantiated media reports and/or part internal file notings deliberately projected in a selective manner cannot form basis for review”.

In its affidavit, the Centre stated: “Monitoring of progress by PMO of this Government to Government process cannot be construed as interference or parallel negotiations.”

In its affidavit, the Centre also stated that the “then Hon’ble Raksha Mantri had recorded on file that …'it appears that PMO and French President’s office are monitoring the progress of the issues which was an outcome of the summit meeting’.”

Earlier, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to respond to the Rafale review petition by Saturday, refusing to give it an extension of the four weeks that it had asked for.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, while hearing the petition on April 30, had refused to allow the Centre’s plea that it be granted four weeks to file its responses.

The SC had earlier rejected the government’s counter on the admissibility of some documents used by petitioners. The petitioners are seeking a review of the top court’s verdict last December rejecting a court-ordered probe into the deal to buy Rafale fighter jets.

The SC judgment had rejected the argument that the documents should not be considered during the hearing because these were sensitive in nature and had been obtained through “unauthorised photocopying and leakage”.

Former Union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan have filed a petition seeking review of the December 14, 2018 verdict of the apex court giving clean chit to the Rafale deal.

Besides the trio, AAP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh has also filed a separate review petition in the case.

5 killed as cyclone Fani batters Odisha

BHUVNESHWAR, May 3: Extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani on Friday ripped through Puri, the Ground Zero of the cyclone this morning, as heavy rains coupled with howling winds pummelled the pilgrim town for over four hours.

India Meteorological Department said the Cyclone Fani — the strongest to hit India in five years — is gradually weakening and moving towards West Bengal after which it will enter Bangladesh. Heavy rains, along with strong winds, will continue throughout Friday in Odisha, where more than a million people have been evacuated.

Sustained winds of 180-190 km per hour bent and broke almost all coconut trees, ripped through the asbestos and tin roofs of several houses including that of Puri district collector and superintendent of police while bringing down the boundary walls of several schools and colleges.

The storm which wreaked havoc in Puri between 8 am and 12.30 pm before moving to rest of the State claimed five lives across the state.

In Puri, the circuit house, the residences of the district collector, the superintendent of police were ripped apart by the raging winds. As the winds raged, hundreds of tin and aluminium signboards were wrenched away as wind battered the area. Almost all the trees in the town were broken or uprooted.

In Nayagarh district, a 35-year-old woman died after a wall of her kutcha house collapsed during heavy rains, the other casualties while two were reported dead in Bhubaneswar and one in Puri.

A 65-year-old woman died at a cyclone shelter in Devendranarayanpur under Rajnagar block of Kendrapara district.

“We have evacuated 10.5 lakh people to over 4800 cyclone shelters and schools from different districts ahead of the landfall of Fani. We could minimise the death toll due to maximum evacuation,” said special relief commissioner Bishnupada Sethi. People in these cyclone shelters are being given cooked food and dry food.

Power supply and telecommunications was off in Puri soon after the cyclone struck. More than 1600 km long of low tension line and high tension lines have been completely damaged by the storm. Several power transformers were badly damaged.

A district official said it would take at least a day to restore telecommunication lines. Another 7 days would be needed to restore power supply.

In Bhubaneswar, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences reported extensive damage hours after cyclone Fani moved away from Puri. Many water tanks were blown away while electric poles were uprooted.

A 32-year-old woman in Bhubaneswar named her daughter Fani soon after she was born in Railway Hospital today. The woman works as a helper at Coach Repair Workshop, Mancheswar. Doctors said both the mother and child are fine.

6 surgical strikes in UPA tenure: Cong backs Manmohan Singh with dates

NEW DELHI, May 2: India conducted “six surgical strikes” across the border into Pakistan between 2008 and 2014. Congress leader Rajiv Shukla made this revelation at a press conference in New Delhi.

During the press conference, Shukla went on to list the dates when the strikes were carried out.

The first strike, according to the dates Rajiv Shukla gave out, was conducted on June 19, 2008, in Bhattal Sector in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch. The second was conducted from August 30-September 1, 2011, in the Sharda sector across the Neelam River Valley in Kel, ANI quoted him as saying.

He said that a third surgical strike took place on January 6, 2013, at Sawan Patra Checkpost; another on July 27 and July 28, 2013, at Nazapir Sector; a fifth one on August 6, 2013 at Neelam Valley; and the sixth one on January 14, 2014.

This is not the first time that the Congress has said that surgical strikes were conducted during the UPA tenure. However, this is the first time that exact dates have been given out by the Congress for the surgical strikes that it claims were carried out during the UPA tenure.

Shukla’s revelations come close on the heels of former prime minister Manmohan Singh saying in an exclusive interview to Hindustan Times that multiple surgical strikes had taken place during his tenure as PM.

“...our armed forces were always given a free hand to operationally respond to every threat. Multiple surgical strikes took place during our tenure too. For us, military operations were meant for strategic deterrence and giving a befitting reply to anti-India forces than to be used for vote garnering exercises,” former PM Manmohan Singh said in the interview.

The UPA was in power between 2004 and 2014. Before this, the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led NDA government had ruled between 1999 and 2004.

Of late, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his election rallies, has been mentioning the recent air strikes on a Jaish-e-Mohammad camp at Balakot in Pakistan after the February 14 Pulwama suicide bombing. This has not gone down too well with the Congress which has often claimed that surgical strikes were conducted during its tenure as well.

15 commandos killed in blast by Maoists in Maharashtra

NAGPUR, May 1: Fifteen jawans of C-60, an anti-Maoist squad of Gadchiroli police, and a driver were killed in a powerful landmine blast on Wednesday on Dadapur Road in Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra.

The explosion occurred this afternoon when the jawans were out on an operation. Just when the two vehicles of the security forces were passing through the Dadapur Road towards Korchi, located about 250 km from Nagpur, the Maoists triggered the blast.

Many jawans were also injured in the incident. The improvised explosive device (IED) blast is believed to be a retaliation after 40 Maoists were gunned down by security forces on April 22 last year near Bhamragarh in the district.

Officials said reinforcements have been rushed to the spot and the injured have been shifted to a civil hospital in Gadchiroli.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack on security personnel. “Strongly condemn the despicable attack on our security personnel in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra. I salute all the brave personnel. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten. My thoughts & solidarity are with the bereaved families. The perpetrators of such violence will not be spared,” PM Modi tweeted.

Earlier in the day, Maoists torched at least three dozen vehicles belonging to private contractors in Kurkheda, Gadchiroli.

The incidents took place on a day the state is celebrating its foundation day, Maharashtra Day. The Maoists were in the final stages of observing a week-long protest to mark the first anniversary of 40 of their men who were gunned down by security forces on April 22, 2018.

The targeted vehicles were engaged in construction works for the Purada-Yerkad sector of National Highway 136 near Dadapur village.

Last month, a BJP legislator and four others were killed when Maoists attacked their convoy in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar. The incident happened on April 9, just two days before the region votes in the first phase of the 2019 general election.

EC bans Pragya Thakur from campaigning for 72 hours for Karkare, Babri remarks

NEW DELHI, May 1: The Election Commission on Wednesday banned BJP’s Bhopal candidate Pragya Thakur from campaigning for 72 hours over her remarks on the death of Hemant Karkare in the Mumbai attacks as well as her remarks on the Babri Masjid demolition.

In its order, the Election Commission said that though Pragya Thakur had apologised for her remarks and had provided the explanations as asked for, it did not find them satisfactory and found that she had violated the provisions of the Model Code of conduct by making the statement regarding the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

“...the Commission has carefully gone through the contents and averments made in the aforesaid reply of Sadhavi Pragya Singh Thakur and found it provocative and also on religious lines that have the propensity of spreading hatred among various communities...,” the Election Commission said in its order.

“Commission has barred her from holding any public meetings, public processions, public rallies, road shows and interviews, public utterances in media (Electronic, print, social media)in connection with ongoing elections for 72 hours starting 6 am on 2 May 2019,” the order said.

Sadhvi Pragya Thakur had triggered nationwide outrage after her comments that former Mumbai anti-terror squad chief Hemant Karkare died during the 26/11 attacks as a result of her “curse”. Thakur is among the main accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts and is also the BJP’s candidate from Bhopal. Hemant Karkare was killed in the line of duty during the 26/11 attack on Mumbai.

“He would ask me how and why it [Malegaon blasts] happened and I used to reply that only God knows... He hurled abuses on me, harassed me, insulted me a lot,” she had said in an address to party wokrers in Bhopal. “Maine kaha, tera sarvnash hoga [I said, may you perish],” she added.

A day later, she apologised for her comments saying, “I felt that the enemies of the country were being benefited from it, therefore I take back my statement and apologise for it, it was my personal pain. He [Karkare] died from the bullets of terrorists from the enemy country, he is certainly a martyr.”

Later, she had triggered another controversy when she claimed in a television interview that she was “proud of her role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid” in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya. She was booked by police for violating the model code of conduct.


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