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35 killed in Indore temple stepwell roof collapse

INDORE, March 31: State Disaster Emergency and Response Force deputy inspector general Mahesh Chandra Jain said the army joined the rescue operation late on Thursday.

The toll from the stepwell roof collapse at Indore’s Beleshwar Mahadev Jhulelal temple has mounted to 35 with the recovery of 21 more bodies even as the rescue operation continued, officials said on Friday.

The roof covered with stone slabs collapsed around 11:30am on Thursday when dozens of people were at the temple for special Ram Navami prayers.

The stepwell leads to a pool of water nine feet deep. It was full of mud which was being pumped out

At least 15 people were rescued immediately and were pulled up with the help of ropes. But several drowned and died of suffocation.

State Disaster Emergency and Response Force deputy inspector general Mahesh Chandra Jain said the army joined the rescue operation late on Thursday. “Seventy army soldiers started the rescue and recovered... bodies buried under the debris of the roof in the stepwell.”

He added they were facing difficulties in rescue operation because water is continuously coming out of the stepwell.

A video of a woman falling into the stepwell while trying to come out with the help of a ladder went viral on social media, raising questions about the rescue operation. Officials said a magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the matter.

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who met the injured at a hospital, announced ₹5 lakh compensation to the families of those killed. Officials said they will also get ₹2 lakh each from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.

Laxminarayan Sharma, the temple head priest, said they annually organise havan and puja on Ram Navami outside the temple. “But this year construction work was going on. So the puja was organised inside the temple. I also fell but came out of the stepwell.” He added the roof was constructed without any concrete and was supported by putting stone slabs and concrete by fitting iron rods.

The families of those killed have demanded action against the temple trust.

'I Am Not Surrendering': Fugitive Amritpal Singh Goes Live On YouTube

NEW DELHI, March 30: For the second day in a row, radical Sikh preacher Amritpal Singh, who has dodged police for last 13 days, released a video on YouTube, saying he will not surrender.

The 30-year-old separatist, who styles himself after the Sikh terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, went missing following a police crackdown against him and members of his pro-Khalistan 'Waris Punjab De' outfit on March 18, about three weeks after he and his supporters stormed the Ajnala police station near Amritsar to secure the release of an arrested man.

The Jathedar of Akal Takht (the highest temporal seat of Sikhs) has asked fugitive Amritpal Singh to surrender before police and cooperate with investigation.

Last week, the Punjab and Haryana High Court slammed the Punjab police and questioned how Amritpal Singh could give them the slip repeatedly.

"You have 80,000 cops. What were they doing. How did Amritpal Singh escape?" the High Court asked the Punjab government, calling it an intelligence failure.

The Punjab government on Tuesday told the Punjab and Haryana High Court that they are close to catching Amritpal Singh.

On Monday, a new picture of Amritpal Singh with his key aide Papalpreet Singh surfaced on social media. Officials said the picture was taken a day after the police operation against the radical Sikh preacher began.

According to official sources, Amritpal Singh has been maintaining close links with Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and some terrorist groups based abroad, news agency PTI reported.

The Khalistani leader is believed to be close to of UK-based Khalistani terrorist Avtar Singh Khanda and he is believed to be a key factor behind his rise to prominence. He was allegedly building a "private militia" of youth from drug deaddiction centres, to be used for violent protests.

Amritpal Singh and his associates have been charged under several criminal cases related to spreading disharmony among classes, attempt to murder, attack on police personnel and creating obstructions in the lawful discharge of duty by public servants.

14 Dead After Falling Into Well As Indore Temple Floor Collapses

INDORE, March 30: Fourteen people have died after more than 30 people fell into a stepwell at an Indore temple this morning. The roof of the well, which housed the shrine, had collapsed due to heavy footfall on the occasion of Ram Navami.

Seventeen people have been rescued and many of them hospitalised as rescue work at Beleshwar Mahadev temple continues.

The incident at Beleshwar Mahadev temple took place amid a rush of devotees on Ram Navami. Visuals from the spot indicate that the floor of the temple caved in owing to heavy footfall, throwing people into the well. The videos showed devotees being brought out using ropes and ladders.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan earlier said all efforts are being made to rescue those who fell into the well. "It is an unfortunate incident but the rescue operation is underway," he said earlier. The rescue operation ended late afternoon.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said he was pained by the mishap.

Indore collector T Raja earlier said rescue work is on and the administration is closely monitoring the situation.

When Politicians Stop Using Religion, Hate Speech Will End: Supreme Court

NEW DELHI, March 29: The Supreme Court on Wednesday took serious exception to hate speeches saying these will end the moment politics and religions are separated and politicians stop using religion in politics.

Terming hate speeches a "vicious circle", the top court said these utterings are being made by fringe elements and people should restrain themselves from doing so.

A bench of justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna referred to speeches of former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, saying people from remote areas and every nook and corner used to gather to hear them.

"Major problem arises when politicians are mixing politics with religion. The moment politics and religion are segregated, this will end. When politicians stop using religion, all this will stop. We have said in our recent verdict also that mixing politics with religion is dangerous for democracy," Justice Joseph said.

Wondering as to how many people can courts initiate contempt action, the bench said why cannot the people of India take a pledge to not vilify other citizens or communities.

"Everyday fringe elements are making speeches to vilify others including on TV and public forums," the bench said while hearing a contempt petition against various state authorities including Maharashtra for failing to register FIRs against those making such speeches.

When Solicitor General Tushar Mehta pointed out a derogatory speech made in Kerala by a man against a particular community and questioned that petitioner Shaheen Abdullah has selectively pointed out the incidents of hate speeches in the country, this triggered sharp exchanges between the court and Mehta.

He also pointed out a statement made by a DMK party leader and said why has the petitioner's counsel not made him and those states party in the contempt petition.

The bench referred to those speeches and said "every action has equal reaction" and emphasised, "We are following the Constitution and orders in every case are bricks in the structure of rule of law.

We are hearing the contempt petition because states are not taking action in time. This is because the state has become impotent, powerless and does not act in time. Why should we have a state at all if it is silent?"

Mehta then said, "Can't say that about any state but Centre is not. Centre has banned PFI. Please issue notice to state of Kerala so that they can respond to this." As the court asked Mehta to continue with his submissions, he said, "Please do not do this. This will have wider ramification. Why are we shying away from looking at the clip? Why can't the court allow me to play the video clip of the speeches? Why Kerala can't be issued notice and made a party to the petition. Let us not be selective. I am trying to show the clip which is in public domain. This court could have taken suo motu cognisance of these speeches."

The bench replied, "Let us not make this a drama. This is legal proceedings" and added, "There is a method to see the video clip. This applies to all equally. If you (Mehta) want, you can include it in your submission."

The hearing of the contempt petition saw some strong observations from the court in which it said, "Hate speeches are like a vicious circle. One person will make it and then another will make it. When our constitution was founded, there were no such speeches. Now there are cracks coming up in the idea of fraternity. There has to be some restraint. Some sought of mechanism needs to be developed by the state so that we can curb this kind of statements." Justice Nagarathna said,

"We need to look where we as a country are going? There were orators like Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the midnight speech. People from remote areas and every nook and corner used to come hear these leaders. Now fringe elements from all sides are making these statements and we are now asked to take contempt action against these people." She said that how can a court curtail "intellectual deprivation" which comes from lack of knowledge and education.

"How many contempt after contempt we can take against these people. That's why I asked the other day, how the court will deal with this. Why do you (petitioner) start with the apex court? Should not there be some restraint on speeches else we will not become the India we desire for. Why cannot the citizens of this country take a pledge to not vilify others and what kind of pleasures we are deriving by making these speeches," she said.

The top court, which allowed an intervention application, filed by an organisation "Hindu Samaj", which had held rallies in Maharashtra told its counsel, "Statements are being made by some people, which the vast majority of the community do not subscribe to. They are saying things which are denigrating and demolishing the dignity of others on a regular basis. Statements are made like 'Go to Pakistan'. People of other communities chose this country. They are like your brothers and sisters. We are trying to say that don't go to that level."

The bench chiding the counsel for speeches in such rallies said, "Do you have the right to break the law of land? If you break the rule of law of the land it will befall on your head like a tumble of bricks. If you want real development of the country and want it to become a superpower, then we need to have respect for rule of law and then only we can make our country a better place to live in."

Advocate Nizam Pasha, appearing for the petitioner, said that hate does not have any religion and he is here for vindication of rights.

"We are not whataboutery and anyone can come with a grievance. Names of hate speech givers are coming again and again. Court can call for a status report on action taken by the states against hate speeches", he submitted and referred to the data and speeches made in different states.

Pasha said that 50 rallies have been conducted in Maharashtra in the last four months where hate speeches have been made.

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the Centre, said that according to the law laid down by this court, if there is a cognizable offence made out, state cannot object and is bound to register the FIR.

The top court posted the matter for further hearing on April 28 and sought response of Maharashtra government on the plea.

On Tuesday, the top court had said abjuring hate speech is a fundamental requisite for maintenance of communal harmony in the country, and asked the Centre what actions have been taken after the lodging of FIRs in hate speech cases.

Observing that merely registering complaints is not going to solve the problem of hate speeches, it reminded the Centre on the need to take action against persons making such statements.

Holding that the Constitution envisages India as a secular nation, the top court on October 21 had directed the Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments to come down hard on cases of hate speech, and registering criminal cases against culprits without waiting for a complaint to be filed.

Karnataka Election On May 10

NEW DELHI, March 29: Karnataka will vote on May 10 to elect a new government and members to its 224-seat assembly, the Election Commission announced on Wednesday. The results will be declared on May 13.

The announcement comes amid a high-stakes political battle between the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S). The BJP, led by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, hopes to retain power in the state, fending off allegations of corruption and communal polarisation. The election will also test the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party's policies at the national and state level.

Addressing a news conference, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said the elections have been scheduled on a Wednesday, and not on a Monday or Friday, to encourage greater participation of voters and discourage them from leaving town for a long weekend holiday.

The last assembly election in Karnataka was held in May 2018, which resulted in a hung assembly. The BJP emerged as the single-largest party with 104 seats but fell short of a majority. The Congress and JD-S formed a post-poll coalition with 80 and 37 seats respectively and formed the government with Mr Kumaraswamy as the Chief Minister.

However, in July 2019, the coalition collapsed after several MLAs resigned from their parties and joined the BJP. The BJP then formed the government with BS Yediyurappa as the Chief Minister. He resigned in July 2021 and was replaced by Mr Bommai. The Karnataka assembly currently has 121 MLAs of the ruling BJP, while Congress has 70 and its ally JD(S) has 30 seats.

The BJP has been trying to consolidate its support base among the dominant communities of Lingayats and Vokkaligas, who together account for about 40 per cent of the state's population. The party has recently increased the reservation for these communities in education and government jobs, scrapping a 4 per cent reservation for Muslims that was introduced by the previous Congress government.

The Congress, on the other hand, has been accusing the BJP of indulging in communal politics and corruption. The party has promised to provide ₹ 3,000 per month to unemployed graduates for two years if it comes to power. The party has also been trying to woo the backward classes, minorities and Dalits, who form a significant chunk of the electorate.

The JD-S has been playing the role of a kingmaker in Karnataka politics. The party has been maintaining an equidistant stance from both the BJP and the Congress, keeping its options open for a post-poll alliance. The party has also been focusing on its core issues of farmers' welfare and regional development.

In Rahul Gandhi's Conviction, Shashi Tharoor Sees A 'Silver Lining'

NEW DELHI, March 26: Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor today said the "silver lining" to the two-year jail sentence of Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case is that it has brought forth an "unprecedented opposition unity".

"We have seen regional parties in opposition that in each of their states has regarded the Congress as an opponent, actually come out and stand by our side," he said in an interview.

"We have seen Kejriwal in Delhi, Mamata Banerjee in Bengal, K Chandrasekhar Rao in Hyderabad. These are not figures that in the past had associated in any way with the Congress," he told NDTV in an exclusive interview.

It was, he said, the "exhibit number one in the law of unintended consequences of the BJP action".

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and his Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee had condemned the BJP-led government without naming Rahul Gandhi, saying it was a dark day for democracy. "We have differences with the Congress, but it is not right to implicate Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case like this," tweeted Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Tharoor called the charges against Gandhi "preposterous" as neither fugitive businessmen Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi are backward. They moved their "ill-gotten gains abroad" and live in the "lap of luxury".

"Saying they belong to backward classes... and the comment an assault on OBCs, is stretching common sense to a breaking point," he added, "He(Rahul Gandhi) was pointing specially to these three individuals".

Gandhi's "How come all thieves have the common surname Modi" comment had landed him with a two-year jail term and disqualification from parliament. The Gujarat court has granted him bail and 30 days' time to file an appeal.

Tharoor also objected to the sentence -- the highest possible under the charge. The case against Mr Gandhi is weak, and "we have good lawyers and the complainant has a very weak case," he added.

"The actual statement lends itself to a more innocent interpretation... and a fourth Modi, Purnesh Modi, cannot demonstrate that he was targetted in any shape or form," Tharoor said.

Gandhi's lawyer has argued the court proceedings were "flawed" from the beginning. He argued that PM Modi and not MLA Purnesh Modi, should have been the complainant in the case because Mr Gandhi had targeted him in his speech.

Rahul Gandhi asks who has invested Rs 20,000 cr in Adani's shell companies

NEW DELHI, March 25: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has asked that who had invested Rs 20,000 crore in Adani's shell companies. He said that this whole drama is being orchestrated to defend the Prime Minister from the simple question- Who's ₹20,000 crore went to Adani's shell companies? I am not scared of these threats, disqualifications or prison sentences.

Rahul Gandhi, who has been disqualified from Lok Sabha, said that he had asked only one question on Adani… and would continue to ask questions and fight for democracy in India…'

Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, Rahul Gandhi said "My speech made in Parliament was expunged, and later I wrote a detailed reply to the Lok Sabha Speaker. Some ministers lied about me, that I sought help from foreign powers. But there is no such thing I have done. I will not stop asking questions, I will keep questioning the relationship between PM Modi and Adani."

"I have said many times before that democracy is being attacked in the country. We are seeing examples of this each day. I asked questions in the Parliament regarding the relationship between Modi and Adani.

He said he was not interested in anything but the truth. "I only speak the truth, it is my work and I will keep doing it even if I get disqualified or get arrested."

Rahul said "the Prime Minister is scared of my next speech on Adani, and I have seen it in his eyes. That is why, first the distraction and then the disqualification."

"Even if they disqualify me permanently, I will keep doing my work. it does not matter if I am inside the Parliament or not. I will keep fighting for the country."

He said "My job is to defend the democratic nature of the country which means defending the institutions of the country, defending the voice of the poor people of the country and telling people the truth about people like Adani who are exploiting the relationship they have with the PM."

Rahul said he gave documents about defence industry, (change of rules in) airports, statements made in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Immediately after that, the BJP started its work. "I wrote to speaker with detailed explanation with documents. After that, BJP ministers lied about me in Parliament. The whole game was to distract from real issues, whose money came in Adani group?"

'Fighting For India, Will Pay Any Price': Rahul Gandhi On Disqualification

NEW DELHI, March 24: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in his first reaction after he was disqualified as a member of parliament today, said he is "ready to pay any cost". The move came a day after his conviction in a defamation case for a remark seen as an insult to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"I am fighting for the voice of India. I am ready to pay any price," he tweeted in Hindi.

The former Congress President was disqualified as a member of parliament on Friday after he was sentenced to two years in jail in a 2019 defamation case.

The Lok Sabha Secretariat also declared his constituency in Kerala's Wayanad vacant. The Election Commission can now announce a special election for the seat. Gandhi will get a month to vacate his government bungalow in Delhi.

The Congress alleged a 'conspiracy' behind the move, claiming Gandhi was being silenced as he was posing tough questions to the government. The BJP called the move 'lawful, and said an independent court had given the verdict on his remark, where they claim he insulted the entire Other backward Classes (OBC) community.

The 52-year-old was convicted by a court and sentenced to prison for two years in Gujarat on Thursday for a 2019 speech in which he linked PM Modi's last name with two fugitive businessmen, remarking how the "thieves" shared the same last name.

The court also granted him bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal to a higher court. But according to the law, any MP convicted of a crime and sentenced to at least two years in jail stands to be disqualified.

The move has caused a huge outcry, with leaders of several opposition parties, including some who don't share friendly relations with the grand old party, expressing shock and decrying the "murder of democracy". Some called it a dictatorial move.

Rahu Gandhi's team has said they will challenge the verdict in a higher court. If the order is not cancelled, Gandhi will not be allowed to contest elections for the next eight years.

Rahul Gandhi Gets 2 Years Jail In 'Modi Surname' Case, 30 Days To Appeal

NEW DELHI/Surat, March 23: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison on Thursday in a 2019 criminal defamation case over his remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surname by a court in Gujarat's Surat. However, he was granted bail and his sentence was suspended for 30 days to let him appeal the decision.

The case was filed against Gandhi by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi for saying "How come all thieves have the common surname Modi?"

The Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad made the remarks while addressing a rally in Karnataka ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, targetting PM Modi over his last name which he shares with fugitive businessmen Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi.

In his first comment after the verdict, Gandhi quoted Mahatma Gandhi, tweeting in Hindi, "My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it."

His sister and Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted, "Scared rulers are pulling out all stops to suppress the voice of @RahulGandhi ji. My brother has never been afraid, nor will he ever be. He will continue to speak the truth. Will continue to raise the voice of the people of the country. The power of truth and the love of crores of countrymen are with him."

Gandhi arrived in Surat earlier in the day for the verdict and was received by top leaders of the Congress's Gujarat unit. He returned to Delhi in the evening.

Supporters and members of the party turned out at various spots in Surat as a show of strength and support for Gandhi, with posters extolling him as 'Sher-e-Hindustan' (Lion of India) and placards declaring that the "Congress will not bow before the dictatorship of the BJP" on display.

Following the conviction, Gandhi earned a rare show of support from Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) boss Arvind Kejriwal, who tweeted he "disagreed" with the verdict.

"A conspiracy is being hatched to eliminate non-BJP leaders and parties by prosecuting them. We have differences with the Congress, but it is not right to implicate Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case like this. It is the job of the public and the opposition to ask questions. We respect the court but disagree with the decision," he wrote.

The court of Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma had last week concluded hearing final arguments from both sides and said it was ready to pronounce its judgment in the four-year-old defamation case, Gandhi's lawyer Kirit Panwala had said.

"Truth is put to test and is harassed, but truth alone prevails. Several false cases have been filed against Gandhi, but he will emerge from all these. We will get justice," said senior Congress leader and MLA Arjun Modhwadia on Thursday.

Gandhi had last appeared before the Surat court in the case, in October 2021 to record his statement.

In his complaint, BJP MLA Purnesh Modi alleged that Gandhi, while addressing the poll rally in 2019, defamed the entire Modi community.

Purnesh Modi was a minister in the first tenure of the Bhupendra Patel government. He was re-elected from the Surat West Assembly seat in the December elections.

Gandhi's lawyer has argued the court proceedings were "flawed" from the beginning. The lawyer also argued that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and not MLA Purnesh Modi, should have been the complainant in the case because the PM was the main target of Gandhi's speech.

Rahul Gandhi Disqualified As MP After 'Bizarre' Sentence, Says Kapil Sibal

NEW DELHI, March 23: Legal luminary and former Union law minister Kapil Sibal today said while Congress's Rahul Gandhi stands automatically disqualified as an MP with his two-year jail sentence, the sentence itself is "bizarre".

Gandhi has received a two-year jail sentence from a court in Gujarat over his remark on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has got bail, and has been given 30 days' time to file an appeal against the verdict.

Through the day there has been speculation on whether Gandhi's conviction would bar him from the Lok Sabha.

Sibal, a former member of the Congress and one of the most prominent advocates in the country, was emphatic that Gandhi stands disqualified under the law.

"If it (the court) only suspends the sentence that's not enough. There has to be a suspension or stay of conviction. He (Rahul Gandhi) can stay on as a member of parliament only if there is a stay on the conviction," said Sibal.

The law states that if one is convicted in any offence for two years then the seat will be vacant, he explained. "The law requires it and naturally the Speaker will move in accordance with the law," he added.

In the Lily Thomas versus Union of India case in 2013, the Supreme Court had ruled that "any MP, MLA or MLC who is convicted of a crime and given a minimum of 2 years' jail loses membership of the House with immediate effect".

The court had scrapped the Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, which allowed elected representatives three months to appeal against their conviction, calling it "unconstitutional".

But Sibal also called the Surat court's verdict "bizarre".

"For a statement made in respect of certain individuals, for him to be convicted for two years -- it is totally bizarre," said the senior leader, who had quit the Congress in May last year amid much bitterness and started his new platform "Insaaf ki Sipahi (platform for justice)".

Asked about the BJP stance that Gandhi's comment was against a caste and community, he shot back, "What community? It was against an individual. They may say anything, but I'm telling you it was against an individual".

In its judgment, the Surat court had said although Gandhi was "warned and advised by the Supreme Court", there is no evidence of any change in his conduct.

"The accused is an MP who addresses the people in the capacity of an MP and impacts a large part of the society and therefore the effects of this crime is much comprehensive in this case. Giving him a reduced sentence would set a bad precedent and send a negative message in society. Keeping that mind the accused is being given the sentence of 2 years of imprisonment," the court had said.

Targetting PM Modi over his last name – which he shares with fugitive businessmen Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi -- Rahul Gandhi had apparently said, "How come all thieves have the common surname Modi?" Shortly after, a police case was filed against him by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi.

The Congress has said Gandhi will contest the verdict. The party has also questioned how the court can give such harsh punishment "after a 20-minute hearing".

Congress Calls Opposition Meet Tomorrow Over Rahul Gandhi's Jail Sentence

NEW DELHI, March 23: Smarting from the Rahul Gandhi conviction in a defamation case, the Congress has called a conferral of opposition leaders tomorrow. The meeting is expected to begin at 10 am.

Rahul Gandhi, 52, was found guilty of defamation for a 2019 campaign trail remark implying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a criminal. However, he was granted bail and his sentence was suspended for 30 days to let him appeal the decision.

"This is not just a legal issue, it is also a very serious political issue, which is related to the future of our democracy. This is a great example of Modi government's politics of vengeance, politics of threats, politics of intimidation and politics of harassment," senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh told reporters after the party met this evening to discuss its strategy.

The Surat court's verdict is the latest legal action against opposition party figures and institutions seen as critical of the Modi government.

Ramesh said the meeting at Congress chief M Kharge's residence lasted around two hours and it was decided that the Party chief would hold a meeting with all Pradesh Congress chiefs and Congress Legislature Party leaders in the evening and plan agitations in states.

Around 11:30 or noon tomorrow, all opposition parties will march from Parliament to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, said the Congress. The party said it has sought time from President Droupadi Murmu to present their case.

Beginning Monday, the principal opposition party will also hold protests in Delhi and in other states over the matter .

"We will fight this legally as well. We will use the rights that the law gives us, but this is also a political contest. We will fight it directly, we will not back down, we will not be afraid, we will also make it a big political issue," Ramesh added.

The defamation case verdict is "erroneous and unsustainable" and will be challenged in a higher court, the Congress has said, expressing hope that the judgment will be stayed and quashed.

The Supreme Court in a 2013 verdict had said that any MP or MLA stands disqualified from the time of his conviction if a sentence of two or more years is pronounced.

The case against Rahul Gandhi stemmed from a remark made during the 2019 election campaign in which the 52-year-old had asked why "all thieves have Modi as (their) common surname".

In his first comment after the verdict, Mr Gandhi quoted Mahatma Gandhi, tweeting in Hindi, "My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it."

Tremors Felt In North India After Strong Earthquake In Afghanistan

NEW DELHI, March 21: Strong tremors, lasting for several seconds, were felt in several north Indian states after a 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Hindu Kush region in Afghanistan on Tuesday evening. This was the second earthquake to hit Afghanistan today.

The quake struck 133 km southeast of Fayzabad in Afghanistan, according to National Centre for Seismology.

Tremors were felt across various cities in Pakistan.

Videos shared on social media show people gathered on the streets and people reported objects falling inside their homes.

Many people came to open spaces in residential buildings as tremors were felt for a while.

Soon, #earthquake found itself on the trending spot. People in India started posting pictures from their homes, showcasing how things shook. It soon devolved into a meme fest.

'Unprecedented': Rahul Gandhi's 10-Point Reply To Delhi Police Notice

NEW DELHI, March 19: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday sent a four-page preliminary reply to the Delhi Police's notice about his "women still being sexually assaulted" remark made during the Bharat Jodo Yatra while questioning the process adopted by the authorities and a sudden urgency after a 45-day delay.

The Congress leader gave the 10-point reply hours after a Delhi Police team knocked on his doors for the third time in five days. He also sought 8 to 10 days to give a detailed response to the questions posed by Delhi police over his January 30 remarks, the sources said.

The police team headed by Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Sagar Preet Hooda arrived at Rahul Gandhi's 12, Tughlaq Lane, residence around 10 am and was able to meet the Congress leader after two hours, officials said, adding the team left around 1 pm.

According to the police, Gandhi stated in Srinagar during the Bharat Jodo Yatra that "I have heard that women are still being sexually assaulted", and since the Yatra had passed through Delhi also, they wanted to ascertain if any victim had approached the Congress leader here so that they can initiate a probe into the matter.

"The police had asked him to give details of these victims so that security could be provided to them," an official said.

Sending a preliminary reply a little before 4 pm, Rahul Gandhi termed the police action "unprecedented" and asked whether this had anything to do with his position taken both inside and outside Parliament on the Adani issue, sources said.

According to them, Gandhi also asked what was the urgency on the part of the Delhi Police in making two visits in as many days after an initial gap of 45 days after he made his speech in Srinagar.

The former Congress chief, the sources said, asked whether any other political party, including the ruling party, has been subjected to such kind of scrutiny or questioning over their political campaigns.

An angry Congress has condemned the Delhi Police action and attacked the Central government, calling it the "worst case of harassment and political vendetta", but the BJP rejected the charge and said the police was "only discharging its lawful duty".

RBI Chief Cautions Banks On Asset-Liability Mismatch Amid SVB Crisis

MUMBAI, March 17: Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das has cautioned banks against any build-up of asset-liability mismatches, saying both are detrimental to financial stability and hinted that the ongoing crisis in the US banking system seems to have emanated from such mismatches.

Delivering the annual KP Hormis (Federal Bank founder) commemorative lecture in Kochi this evening, the Governor was quick to acknowledge and assure that the domestic financial sector is stable and the worst of inflation is behind us.

Amid the continuing volatility in exchange rates, especially due to the excessive appreciation of the US dollar, and its impact on the external debt servicing ability of nations, Das said, "We have nothing to fear as our external debt is manageable and thus appreciation of the greenback does not pose any problem to us".

The RBI Governor focused most of the speech on India's G20 presidency and in this context, he called for more coordinated attempts by the group of the world's 20 largest economies to help those countries with high external debt risks due to the US dollar rise.

He said the grouping must provide climate change financing to most affected countries on a war footing.

On the US baking crisis where two mid-sized banks (Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic Bank) with over $200 billion in balance sheets each went bust last week, he said the ongoing crisis drives home the importance of robust regulations that focus on sustainable growth and not excessive build-up either on the asset side or liability side.

Das, without naming the US bank, said that on the face of it, one of them had unmanageable deposits in excess of their assets side business.

Das, who has been an open critic of private digital currencies, said the ongoing US banking crisis also clearly shows the risks of private cryptocurrencies to the financial system.

Rajasthan Creates 19 New Districts In Poll Year

JAIPUR, March 17: The Rajasthan government today announced it will create 19 new districts and three more divisional headquarters to serve the needs of people who live far away from the divisional headquarters.

The ruling Congress government's move in an election year, however, received criticism from the BJP, which alleged the real intention behind the decision by the Ashok Gehlot government is to meet "personal political ends".

"Rajasthan is the biggest state in the country in terms of geographical area. In some cases, the distance to the district headquarters is more than a 100 km. People are unable to reach district headquarters easily and the administration, too, is unable to reach each and every family," Gehlot, the Chief Minister, said in the Rajasthan assembly today.

Rajasthan currently has 33 districts. The three new divisional headquarters are Pali, Sikar and Banswara.

"If the districts are smaller, than it helps in maintaining effective law and order and better administration can be provided," Gehlot told the assembly.

Former Chief Minister and BJP leader Vasundhara Raje said Gehlot decided to carve out the new districts "to fulfil political ends".

"The way in which new districts have been announced has put the (state) budget and economic structure at stake. Many important issues have been overlooked in announcing the new districts," Ms Raje said, adding the move will cause more administrative challenges rather than making it easier.

Gehlot proposed a budget of ₹ 2,000 crore for infrastructure development and human resources in the first phase of creating the new districts. Fifteen years ago, Ms Raje when she was the Chief Minister had created Pratapgarh as a district.

The ruling Congress and the BJP have already started warming up campaigns ahead of the election scheduled later this year. Both parties were seen last month reaching out to the electorally significant Gujjar community in Rajasthan.

Gujjars, who constitute around 9 to 12 per cent of the state population and are significant in 40 to 50 assembly seats in eastern Rajasthan, are a critical vote bank for both the Congress and the BJP.

The Congress, however, has a rebel crisis at hand ahead of the election. Gehlot and Sachin Pilot have been on loggerheads for long, and though there's an effort to project unity, both have been quick to provocation with subtle jibes at each other.

Gehlot has set the target of winning 156 seats, the same number it achieved in 1998 when the Congress came to power in the state under his leadership.

Supreme Court Question's Governor Role In Sena Case

NEW DELHI, March 15: A Governor must exercise power cautiously and be aware that calling for a trust vote could bring down the government, the Supreme Court said today in sharp remarks while hearing a case on the Shiv Sena coup. Calling for a trust vote just on grounds of differences within a ruling party can topple an elected government, said the court.

Hearing the Sena versus Sena case, the Supreme Court made strong observations on Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari's role in the Maharashtra vote that unseated the Uddhav Thackeray-led government last year.

"The Governor must be conscious that calling for a trust vote may lead to the toppling of the government," said a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud.

"The Governor should not enter any area which precipitates the fall of a government. People will start ditching the ruling party and the Governor will end up toppling the ruling party. This will be a sad spectacle for democracy," said the judges, adding that governors must exercise their powers with the greatest circumspection.

The three-year-old Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena-NCP-Congress coalition in Maharashtra lost power after a coup in the Shiv Sena by Eknath Shinde, who went on to form a new government with the BJP in June.

Koshyari had asked for a test of majority, but Thackeray resigned, facing defeat, making way for Shinde to take power.

The factions led by Thackeray and Eknath Shinde have since been fighting for recognition as the "real Shiv Sena".

Last month, the Election Commission handed over the Shiv Sena name and poll symbol to the Eknath Shinde faction.

Thackeray, despite losing control of the party founded by his father Bal Thackeray, continues to fight the Shinde faction in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is hearing petitions that question the foundation of the Shinde government, arguing that Shinde and 15 other rebels were disqualified at the time of the trust vote.

Chief Justice Chandrachud commented during the hearing: "They broke bread for three years. They broke bread with (Congress) and NCP for three years. What happened overnight after three years of happy marriage?"

The Governor, he said, has to ask himself this question - "What were you fellas doing for three years? If it was one month after the election takes place and they suddenly bypassed the BJP and joined INC, that's different. Three years you cohabit and suddenly one fine day group of 34 say there is discontent. Enjoying the spoils of office and suddenly one day you just..."

What was the basis for a floor test, the bench asked repeatedly.

"Governor's trust vote is where the majority in the house is shaken. Where was there anything to indicate that?" Justice Chandrachud questioned.

"Difference of opinion among MLAs within a party can be on any ground like payment of development fund or deviation from party ethos but can that be a sufficient ground for the governor to call for the floor test? Governor cannot lend his office to effectuate a particular result."

When the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that the rebels had lost confidence in Uddhav Thackeray, Justice Chandrachud said: "Discontent in the party by itself will not justify governor calling a trust vote."

The Chief Justice said the Governor cannot be oblivious of the fact that in a three-party coalition, dissent took place only in one.

UP Doctors' Daughter, 16, Raped By Instagram Friend After Hookah Bar Date

KANPUR, March 6: A man in Uttar Pradesh's Kanpur was arrested for allegedly raping a minor girl after spiking her cold drink at a hookah bar. The 16-year-old girl, daughter of a doctor couple, was connected with the accused on the social media platform Instagram.

The girl's father has filed a case against the man, Vinay Thakur, who is also from Kanpur, and seven others. Vinay Thakur called the girl to MG Cafe in Karrahi on March 4, where they smoked hookah, the father's complaint said. Vinay slipped some sedative in the girl's drink, took her out and raped her, it said. He then took the girl to another deserted place where seven of his friends joined him, and they tried to gang-rape the girl, the complaint added.

The girl resisted the assault, during which the accused bit her all over her body. The father reached the police station to file a complaint after the girl managed to get home and narrate her ordeal. The police are now investigating the matter.

According to local media reports, the accused thrashed and scratched her, leaving scars on her cheek and forehead, when she resisted. The girl also reportedly informed her father that the accused Instagram friend had made an obscene video of her and was blackmailing her for the past few days. She said the accused was threatening to make the video viral.

Local media also reported the parents informing the police that Vinay Thakur had earlier carved his name on the girl's chest with a blade so that she couldn't marry anyone else. He had also threatened her with a lighter, and burnt her hair, they added.

The girl was reportedly preparing for engineering entrance examinations in Rajasthan's Kota, and Vinay had even followed her there, and beat her up in a hotel room, the parents alleged. They also claimed that he used to transfer the money they sent her for sustenance to his own bank account.

Manish Sisodia Sent To Jail, Wants 'Meditation Cell', Court Allows Gita

NEW DELHI, March 6: Senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Manish Sisodia, arrested in the liquor policy case, has been moved to Tihar Jail No 1 after a special court today sent him to judicial custody till March 20.

Sisodia was produced in the special court this afternoon after his CBI custody ended. Special judge MK Nagpal sent him to judicial custody after noting that the CBI had not demanded further custody and that they may do so later if required.

The court has allowed the AAP leader to carry medicines prescribed during his medical examination. He has also been allowed to carry a pair of spectacles, a diary, a pen, and a copy of Bhagavad Gita. As requested by Mr Sisodia's counsel, the court has directed the jail authorities to consider the request of keeping him in the meditation cell.

The AAP No 2 has applied for bail and his request will be taken up on Friday. He was arrested on February 26 and sent to the CBI's custody for five days. The court later extended the custody by two days. The CBI, sources had earlier said, may not seek further custody.

Sisodia, 51, has said in this bail petition that CBI officials were asking him the same questions over and over, and that was causing him mental harassment.

His lawyer has said keeping him in custody will "serve no fruitful purpose" as all recoveries in the case have been made. He has also said the "inefficiency of the agency" to complete the probe cannot be ground for remand.

The CBI, on its part, has said that Mr Sisodia had been uncooperative and evasive during the questioning. They have also cited time lost in his medical examination and the Supreme Court hearing of his bail plea.

The AAP leader had approached the top court for relief following his arrest. The Supreme Court, however, refused to intervene and asked him to approach the High Court. He has resigned as Delhi's Deputy Chief Minister and given up the 18 portfolios he earlier held.

Sisodia faces allegations of corruption in the liquor policy that was scrapped after Delhi Lt Governor VK Saxena recommended a CBI probe.

The Arvind Kejriwal government was accused of bending rules and providing undue benefits to liquor vend licensees.

The Delhi government has rubbished the allegations, saying that the BJP was misusing investigating agencies for political motives. Kejriwal has said the now-scrapped liquor policy was the "most transparent policy in the country".

Amitabh Bachchan Injured During Project K Action Scene In Hyderabad

HYDERABAD, March 6: Actor Amitabh Bachchan suffered a muscle tear to his right rib cage while shooting Project K in Hyderabad. The 80-year-old star revealed in a blog post that his rib cartilage "popped" on set while he filmed an action shot, injuring him. He received medical care in Hyderabad and is now recovering at Jalsa, his home in Mumbai. He is "mobile a bit for essential activities" but otherwise resting, Amitabh Bachchan revealed.

"Yes, painful," he wrote in his blog on Tumbler, "On movement and breathing, will take some weeks they say before some normalisation will occur." He ended the post, shared on Sunday, with a plea to fans not to gather at Jalsa as usual - a Sunday meet and greet with fans outside his home has been Big B's Sunday ritual for decades.

In his post, Amitabh Bachchan wrote: "In Hyderabad at the shoot for Project K, during an action shot, I have got injured - rib cartilage popped broke and muscle tear to the right rib cage, canceled shoot, did Doctor consult and scan by CT at the AIG Hospital in Hyderabad and flown back home. Strapping has been done and rest been advocated. Yes painful. On movement and breathing, will take some weeks they say before some normalisation will occur. Some medication is on also for pain."

"So all work that was to be done has been suspended and canceled dropped postponed for the moment until healing occurs," Amitabh Bachchan continued, "I rest at Jalsa and am mobile a bit for all the essential activities, but yes in rest and generally lying around."

"It shall be difficult or let me say I shall be unable to meet, the well wishers at Jalsa Gate this evening. So do not come and do inform as much as you can to those that intend coming. All else is well," Big B ended his post.

Project K co-stars Prabhas, Deepika Padukone and Disha Patani, and is expected to release next year.

40 Bank Customers Lose Lakhs In 3 Days. They Had Just Clicked On A Link

MUMBAI, March 5: At least 40 customers of a private bank in Mumbai were cheated of lakhs of rupees within three days after they clicked on a link sent via fake text messages to update their KYC and PAN details.

The Know Your Customer (KYC) process is mandatory for bank customers to verify their identity.

In an advisory, Mumbai Police has cautioned citizens against clicking on such links asking bank customers for their confidential details.

Fraudsters are sending such fake SMS with phishing links to the customers stating that their bank account is blocked for not updating their KYC/ PAN card details, according to the advisory .

Such links direct the customers to a fake website of their bank where they are asked to enter their customer ID, password, and other confidential details.

Among the 40 victims who have reported the alleged frauds was TV actor Shweta Memon.

In her complaint, Ms Memon said last Thursday she had clicked on a link from the fake text message, believing it was from her bank. On the portal that opened, she entered her customer ID, passwords, and OTP.

She said she also received a phone call from a woman posing as a bank official, who asked her to insert another OTP she received on her mobile number. Following this, ₹ 57,636 was debited from her account.

Manish Sisodia's Custody Extended, CBI Told Not To Repeat Questions

NEW DELHI, March 4: Manish Sisodia, former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister, will be in CBI custody for at least two more days, a court ruled on Saturday.

The Aam Aadmi Party leader, who is being probed over the now-scrapped Delhi liquor sales policy, had applied for bail and his request will now be considered Friday.

Special judge MK Nagpal directed the CBI to produce the Aam Aadmi Party leader before the court on Monday.

The CBI had sought three more days of custody of Sisodia after producing him before the court at the end of his three-day remand granted earlier.

In his bail request, Manish Sisodia said that keeping him in custody will "serve no fruitful purpose" as all the recoveries in the case have already been made.

Sisodia's lawyer said the "inefficiency of the agency" to complete the probe cannot be ground for remand, and he cannot be asked to incriminate himself.

After the order was pronounced, Sisodia told the court that although the CBI was treating him well in its custody, he was repeatedly being asked the same questions, amounting to mental harassment.

The court then asked the CBI not to ask him the same questions.

Sisodia faces corruption allegation in framing the liquor policy for the national capital, which was scrapped after Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena flagged it to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The 51-year-old was arrested by the CBI on Sunday. He resigned from the Delhi cabinet on Tuesday.

A day after his arrest, Sisodia had challenged the CBI's move in the Supreme Court.

The court, however, told him he should have gone to the high court, after which Sisodia withdrew his application and said he will go to the trial court.

The Delhi Police, Rapid Action Force, and Central Reserve Police Force were deployed in large numbers outside the CBI headquarters for the hearing.

On Election Commission Appointments, India's Supreme Court's Massive Order

NEW DELHI, March 2: Election Commissioners will be appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India, the Supreme Court ruled today in a landmark order aimed at insulating the top election body from political interference.

But in what many believe gives the government an out, the court said the order will hold good "until a law is made by parliament".

The Chief Election Commissioner and the two election commissioners, who oversee polls across the country, will be appointed by the President on the advice of a panel that gives the opposition and the judiciary a say in the process. If there is no Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the single largest opposition party will be on the panel, the Supreme Court said.

"Elections should undoubtedly be fair and the buck stops with the Election Commission of India to ensure its purity is maintained," said a five-judge Constitution bench led by Justice KM Joseph.

"In democracy, the purity of elections must be maintained or else it would lead to disastrous consequences," said the unanimous verdict that comes before a string of state polls and the 2024 national election. Democracy is fragile and will collapse if lip service is paid to rule of law, the judges said.

"As long as the party that is voted into power is concerned, there is, not unnaturally, a near insatiable quest to continue in the saddle. A pliable Election Commission, an unfair and biased overseer of the foundational exercise of adult franchise, which lies at the heart of democracy, who obliges the powers that be, perhaps offers the surest gateway to acquisition and retention of power," said the Supreme Court.

While delivering the far-reaching verdict, the Supreme Court called for the Election Commission to have an independent secretariat, rule-making powers, an independent budget, and protection from impeachment. The court said the Election Commission should draw funds directly from the Consolidated Fund of India, instead of having to go to the Prime Minister's Officer and the Law Ministry for funds and approvals.

"The Election Commission must act within the constitutional framework and law and cannot act in an unfair manner," the court said, adding that an Election Commission that didn't have a free and fair role in the process "guarantees breakdown of rule of law, which is the bedrock of the democracy".

"There cannot be any doubt that the Election Commission of India is to perform the arduous and unenviable task of remaining aloof from all forms of subjugation by and interference from the executive."

The Supreme Court had in earlier hearings stressed on a "fair and transparent mechanism" so that the "best man" is appointed as the Chief Election Commissioner of the country.

In the current system, the President appoints the Chief Election Commissioner and two commissioners for six years on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, and they are usually former bureaucrats.

Petitions had sought a collegium-like system for appointing election commissioners, arguing that the existing process was driven by "whims and fancies of the executive".

The petitions said unlike the appointments of the CBI director or corruption watchdog Lokpal, where the leader of the Opposition and judiciary have a say, the Centre unilaterally appointed members of the Election Commission.

The Supreme Court had questioned the Centre on the "tearing hurry" with which it appointed former IAS officer Arun Goel as an Election Commissioner at "lightning speed", within 24 hours. The judges had asked to see the files, saying they wanted to know if there was any "hanky-panky".

Arun Goel, a 1985-batch IAS officer, took voluntary retirement on November 18 and was appointed Election Commissioner a day later. He took charge on November 21. He is in line to be the next Chief Election Commissioner in 2025, when the current chief's term ends.

The Supreme Court, on examining the file, asked how the Ministry of Law and Justice shortlisted four names for Election Commissioner. None of them would get even six years as Election Commissioner, it said.

The opposition Congress called for the resignation of all three Election Commissioners. "They can be appointed and eligible if the selection committee decides. There will be an attempt by the government to amend the Supreme Court decision, try to weaken the order," said Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, calling the Supreme Court order "historic".

Other opposition parties also welcomed the ruling. "Huge. So Extremely Compromised (EC) can again strive to become Extremely Competent," Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien posted.

BJP's 3/3: Keeps Nagaland, Tripura, Reunites With Meghalaya Ally

NEW DELHI, March 2: The BJP and its allies look set to score a perfect three in the latest round of elections in northeastern states. It has won Tripura and is close to victory in Nagaland. It may also form government in Meghalaya, renewing its alliance with Conrad Sangma.

The BJP-IPFT (Indigenous Progressive Front of Tripura) alliance returned to power in Tripura winning 33 of the state's 60 seats. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, "The double engine government will keep working for the state's progress. I laud our party workers for their hardwork which ensured this result".

The score of the alliance, however, is down by 11 from 2018, when the BJP alone won 36 seats and the IPFT, eight.

Erstwhile royal Pradyot Kishore Debbarma's Tipra Motha, which made its debut in this election, won 13 seats. The party, which is pushing for a Greater Tipraland, appears to have grabbed the IPFT's tribal support.

Meghalaya was heading for a hung house when Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, whose National People's Party is leading the field, dialled the BJP's chief strategist Amit Shah. The two parties had decided to go it alone in the election after a rift over corruption allegation against Sangma's NPP.

"Sri @SangmaConrad, Chief Minister of Meghalaya, called @AmitShah ji, Hon'ble Home Minister, and sought his support and blessings in forming the new Government," tweeted Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam Chief Minister and the BJP's pointsperson in the northeast.

Sangma and Sarma had a meeting yesterday in Guwahati where, sources said, the alliance was discussed. The two parties, together, are leading in 28 seats -- some way below the halfway mark of 31 in the 60-member house.

"We will wait for the final results and then decide how to go forward, Sangma had told reporters.

The Left, which ruled the state for 35 years, and its new ally Congress, are leading on 14 seats, down by two.

Meghalaya's new entrant Trinamool Congress is leading on five seats, and defying exit poll predictions, the Congress is leading on five seats.

In Nagaland, the BJP and its partner NDPP (Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party) are leading on 37 seats – seven more than the last time. The state also has got a woman MLA – a first since Independence.

Jailed for making India proud: Kejriwal slams Centre over Sisodia's arrest

NEW DELHI, March 1: Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party over the arrest of his party colleague Manish Sisodia in the excise policy case.

“Two people who brought laurels to India have been jailed by PM. Excise Policy just an excuse, there was no scam. PM wanted to stop good work in Delhi..Manish Sisodia was arrested as he did good work in education, Satyendar Jain was arrested as he did good work in health”, Kejriwal said in his first address after Sisodia and another jailed minister Satyendar Jain resigned.

“If Manish Sisodia joins BJP today, won't he be released tomorrow? All cases will be withdrawn. If Satyendar Jain joins BJP today, all cases will be withdrawn & he'd be released from jail tomorrow. Issue isn't corruption but to stop work & send CBI-ED after opposition”, he added.

Assuring that the Delhi government's work will not stop, Kejriwal said that Saurabh Bharadwaj and Atishi, who have been recommended for inclusion in the council of ministers, will carry forward the legacy.

Sisodia, who served as the deputy chief minister and held 18 out of 33 portfolios in the Delhi government, resigned after being remanded to CBI custody in connection with the case pertaining to alleged irregularities in the implementation of Delhi excise policy.

“It has been decided that AAP will do door-to-door campaigning & go to every house, speak to every person. We'll explain to them how PM is going to the extreme like Indira Gandhi did once...People will give an answer, they're watching everything and are angry”, Kejriwal said.

Haircut, Trimmed Beard: Rahul Gandhi's New Look Ahead Of Cambridge Lecture

NEW DELHI, March 1: Rahul Gandhi has trimmed his hair and beard for the first time since his Bharat Jodo Yatra, ahead of his lecture at Cambridge University. The Congress leader landed in London on Tuesday for a week's tour that includes the student-only lecture at the University of Cambridge, his alma mater.

Rahul Gandhi, a Visiting Fellow of the Cambridge Judge Business School (Cambridge JBS), will speak on the subject "Learning to Listen in the 21st Century".

Images of the Congress MP with cropped hair and a styled beard were shared by many on social media, with some using the hashtag #NewLook.

The 52-year-old had let his hair and beard grow out during his 12-state march, covering some 4,000 km in over four months.

At Cambridge, Rahul Gandhi plans to hold closed-door sessions on "Big Data and Democracy" and "India-China relations" with Professor Shruti Kapila, an Indian-origin Fellow, Tutor and Director of Studies at the university's Corpus Christi College and Co-Director of the Global Humanities Initiative.

"Our @CambridgeMBA programme is pleased to welcome India's leading Opposition leader and MP Rahul Gandhi of the Indian National Congress," Cambridge JBS tweeted on Tuesday.

The Congress leader shared the tweet and wrote: "Looking forward to visiting my alma mater Cambridge University and delivering a lecture at @CambridgeJBS. Happy to engage with some of the brightest minds in various domains, including geopolitics, international relations, big data and democracy."

The Congress leader last addressed the University of Cambridge at an event at Corpus Christi College entitled "India at 75" during a visit to the UK in May.

Rahul Gandhi left for the UK soon after the Congress's three-day leadership meet in Chhattisgarh's Raipur.


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