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Rahul Gandhi appointed Congress president, to take charge on Dec 16

NEW DELHI, Dec 11: The Congress on Monday declared Rahul Gandhi as its president in an elevation that marks a generational shift in the country’s oldest political party that is going through a difficult phase due to a series of electoral setbacks.

The 47-year-old leader was elected unopposed and will replace his mother Sonia Gandhi. The change of guard brings down the curtains on more than 19 years of uninterrupted tenure of Sonia, who holds the record of being the longest-serving Congress president after assuming the post on March 14, 1998.

“Since the withdrawal of date/time is over and as there is only one candidate, as per Article XVII (d) of the Constitution of Indian National Congress, I hereby declare Shri Rahul Gandhi elected as president of the Indian National Congress,” returning officer Mullappally Ramachandran said.

Ramachandran told reporters Rahul will receive the certificate of election from the party’s poll panel during a ceremony at the Congress headquarters in Delhi on December 16.

Ramachandran said as many as 89 sets of valid nomination papers proposing Rahul’s name for the post were received by the party’s central election authority that oversaw the organisational polls. He had filed his papers on December 4.

Rahul’s elevation comes nearly five years after he was anointed as the Congress vice-president in January 2013. He is the sixth member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to occupy the top post in the 131-year-old party.

The announcement, which came in the absence of Rahul who is campaigning in Gujarat, was received by Congress supporters by bursting of crackers, waving of party flag and beating of drums.

Slogans such as “Agla Pradhan Mantri Kaisa Ho, Rahul Gandhi Jaisa Ho. (How should our next Prime Minister be… he should be like Rahul Gandhi) and Long Live Rahul Gandhi” rented the air outside the party office at 24, Akbar Road.

“The entire Indian National Congress family would like to convey our best wishes to incoming President Rahul Gandhi, and wish him a successful tenure as he continues to lead from the front,” the party said on its official Twitter handle.

Rahul’s daunting task will be to revive and rebuild the Congress to make it fighting fit for the 2019 elections. A good show in Gujarat, where he is leading the party campaign, will certainly give a good start to his new innings.

“The entire country has lots of expectations from Rahul Gandhi. He has shown his mettle much before he was elected,” senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

Manmohan Singh asks Modi to apologise for Pakistan collusion remark

NEW DELHI, Dec 11: In a sharp counter-offensive on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his ‘conspiracy with Pakistan’ remark, former premier Manmohan Singh on Monday said he was setting a “dangerous precedent” with his “ill-thought transgression” and asked him to apologise to the nation.

In a strongly-worded statement, Singh rejected as “innuendos and falsehoods” Modi’s comments, saying he did not discuss the Gujarat assembly elections with anyone at the dinner hosted by Mani Shankar Aiyar for Pakistan’s former foreign minister Kurshid Kasuri here.

“I sincerely hope that Prime Minister will show the maturity and gravitas expected of the high office he holds instead of concentrating his energy solely on erroneously conceived brownie points.

“I sincerely hope that he will apologize to the Nation for his ill thought transgression to restore the dignity of the office he occupies,” he said.

Singh said he was “deeply pained and anguished” by the “falsehood and canards” being spread to score political points by the prime minister in what he said was a “lost cause” in Gujarat.

“Fearing imminent defeat in Gujarat, desperation of Prime Minister to hurl every abuse and latch on to every straw is palpable. Sadly and regrettably, Sh. Modi is setting a dangerous precedent by his insatiable desire to tarnish every constitutional office, including that of a former Prime Minister and Army Chief,” he alleged.

Addressing an election rally in Palanpur in Gujarat on Sunday, Modi suggested that Pakistan was trying to influence the assembly polls in the state.

He claimed that some Pakistani officials and Manmohan Singh met at Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house over dinner on December 6. This was a day before Aiyar’s “neech” jibe against Modi that led to his suspension.

The Congress Party, Singh said, needs no sermons on “nationalism” from a party and prime minister, whose “compromised” track record on fighting terrorism is well known, while reminding Modi of his “uninvited” visit to Pakistan after terrorist attacks in Udhampur and Gurdaspur.

“Let him also tell the country the reason for inviting the infamous ISI of Pakistan to our strategic Air Base in Pathankot to investigate a terror attack that emanated from Pakistan,” he said.

Claiming that his track record of public service to the country over the last five decades is known to all, he said no one, including Modi, can “lamely question it to gain lost political ground”.

Singh said the Gujarat issue was never raised by anyone present at the dinner and the discussion was confined to India-Pakistan relations.

He said besides himself and former vice president Hamid Ansari, others present at Aiyar’s dinner hosted for Kasuri, were the Pakistan High Commissioner, Natwar Singh, KS Bajpai, Ajai Shukla, Sharad Sabharwal, Gen. Deepak Kapoor, TCA Raghavan, Satinder K Lambah, MK Bhadrakumar, CR Gharekhan, Prem Shankar Jha, Salman Haider and Rahul Khushwant Singh.

“None of them could be accused of indulging in any anti- national activities,” he said.

Rahul Gandhi Set To Be Congress President; Files Nomination

NEW DELHI, Dec 4: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is set to take over as the party’s president on December 11 after he was the only one to file the nomination for the post on Monday, the last day to do so.

Gandhi will take over the reins of the party from his mother Sonia Gandhi who has steered the party for the past 19 years.

He will be the sixth member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to occupy the party’s highest position in its 131 years of existence.

Gandhi was made the Congress’s deputy chief in January 2013.

“Rahulji has been the darling of the Congress ... He will carry on the great tradition of the Congress party,” former prime minister Manmohan Singh gushed, as jubilant Congress workers thronged the party headquarters in the national capital.

The official announcement of Gandhi’s appointment will come on December 11, the last day for withdrawing nominations.

The Congress central election authority, which oversees organisational polls, received as many as 89 sets of nomination papers for Gandhi, including from proposers such as his mother, former prime minister Singh and other Congress Working Committee members.

The papers will be checked on Tuesday.

Gandhi, 47, visited the homes of Singh, former President Pranab Mukherjee, and his mother to seek blessings before filing his nomination around 11am.

His presidency is expected to mark a generational shift in the party that is struggling with a series of electoral setbacks, including its worst drubbing when it won just 44 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls after 10 years in power.

Gandhi’s task will be to revive and rebuild the Congress to make it fighting fit for the 2019 elections. A good show in the Gujarat assembly polls this December, where he is leading the party campaign from the front, will give a good start to his new innings.

The Congress’s fortunes hinge on its revival in the states. After Gujarat, his next challenges will be to retain Karnataka and dethrone the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan before the 2019 parliamentary elections.

Congress leaders suggest Gandhi may now go for an overhaul, while striking a balance between young leaders and the old guard, which had reservations about his style of functioning in the past.

The parliamentarian for Amethi has long had the reputation of being a reluctant leader, though analysts say he has displayed greater political acumen since the 2014 election defeat.

Sonia Gandhi enjoys a good rapport with most parties other than the BJP. Gandhi’s ability to stitchand maintain alliances will likely to test his political acumen, the analysts added.

My Family Shiv Bhakts, Won't Do Dalali Over Religion: Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI: After a day of bitter acrimony between the BJP and Congress over Somnath temple signature controversy, Rahul Gandhi spoke up on the issue. The Congress vice president accused the BJP workers of creating the controversy by writing his name in the second book and accused the party of using religion for political gains.

A video of his address, made at a closed-door session with traders at Amreli, shows Gandhi saying all his family members were devotees of Lord Shiva. He said he did not need anybody's certificate about his religion, nor would he do "dalali" (wheeling-dealing) over religion.

"My grandmother (late Indira Gandhi) and my family are Shiv Bhakts. But we keep such things private. We generally do not speak about them. Because, we think it is a very personal matter and we don't need anyone else's certificate about it," he said. "We do not want to commercialise this thing. We don't want to do 'dalali' over it. We do not want to use it for political purposes too," he said.

Gandhi's party had been vocal about the issue after news that Gandhi was logged into a register for non-Hindus at the temple created a storm on Twitter. Congress leaders accused the ruling BJP of circulating a "fake entry" to discredit Gandhi.

Gandhi supported the allegation today, saying, "I will tell you what had happened (yesterday). I went inside the temple. Then I signed the visitors' book. After that, BJP people wrote my name in the second book."

Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki has hinted that BJP president Amit Shah, who is a trustee of the temple, could be behind what he called a "conspiracy". "They have stooped to such a low level that now they want to term us non-Hindus," he was quoted as saying.

The BJP has dismissed the allegation, saying Gandhi's aide had signed the register - a claim that was seconded by the temple.

Gandhi's repeated visits to temples during the election campaign in Gujarat has irked many BJP leaders, who have claimed that it is a sign of desperation of the Congress, which has been out of power in the state for more than two decades. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has derided his temple visits, saying at one of the temples, the Congress leader was told off for "sitting as if he's doing Namaaz".

Rahul Gandhi had then claimed that he was a devotee of Lord Shiva -- a comment that was greeted with jeers by some BJP leaders.

Journalist shot dead by unidentified assailants in Uttar Pradesh

KANPUR, Nov 30: A 35-year-old year-old journalist, Naveen Gupta, was shot dead by unidentified assailants in Kanpur’s Bilhaur on Thursday, police said.

Gupta, a contributor for the leading Hindi daily Hindustan, is survived by his wife and a four-year-old son.

Gupta was shot dead at about 7 pm when he had gone out to attend nature’s call behind his brother’s garments shop.

His brother and other people rushed out on hearing gun shots and found Gupta’s body lying in a pool of blood. Five bullets hit him on the face and chest, police added. The motive behind the murder was not immediately known.

Director general of police Sulkhan Singh has asked Kanpur police to solve the murder and arrest the perpetrators at the earliest.

The killing has brought the focus back on the perilous conditions journalists in India work in.

India was ranked a lowly 136 among 180 countries in the latest world press freedom rankings released in April with the dismal scenario blamed on “Modi’s nationalism” and growing “self-censorship” in the mainstream media.

Legislature, executive and judiciary should operate within their boundaries: Modi

NEW DELHI, Nov 26: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said the legislature, the executive and the judiciary should respect “boundaries” laid out in the Constitution and work together to strengthen Indian democracy.

The comments come at a time when the government and the judiciary are locked in a long-running debate over so-called judicial activism, and a few minutes after law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra expressed differing views on the appointment of judges and public interest litigations (PIL).

“Today when we are talking about maintaining a balance between the three arms of the Constitution, we must remember that this balance is the backbone of the Constitution,” Modi said.

The balance had helped the country stay on the course of democracy even during Emergency, he added, addressing the valedictory session of the two-day National Law Day event.

To drive home the point, he quoted BR Ambedkar as saying, “Legislature should have the independence of making laws, the executive should have independence in taking decisions and Supreme Court should have the independence of interpreting the Constitution.”

Earlier, while addressing the same gathering, law minister Prasad said that PILs cannot be a substitute for governance. While the political class accepted the SC’s decision to strike down the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC), there should be an audit of quality of judges appointed since 1993, Prasad said.

“If a PM and law minister cannot be trusted with appointment of judges, it’s a huge question and judiciary and polity of his country will have to look into it,” he said.

The law minister was to be a member of the NJAC, proposed by the Modi government to replace the collegium system of appointing judges.

The CJI, who spoke after Prasad, said the Supreme Court believed in “constitutional sovereignty” and the power of judicial review was meant to strike a balance.

“We recognise, respect and accept the separation of powers,” the CJI said, adding the court had refused to hear several PILs as they dealt with policy matters or were in the legislative domain.

“We are not really interested to bring any kind of policy…But the moment the policies are formed, we are allowed to interpret and see that they are implemented,” he said.

While not participating in this debate directly, Modi said the Constitution was like the guardian of a family, with the government, judiciary and bureaucracy as its members. “…Are we, the members of the family, working according to the boundaries which the Constitution expects us to do?” he asked.

Political parties, he said, had come up with several self-regulatory provisions such as the model code of conduct ahead of elections. “Many laws have been passed in Parliament for transparency, propriety of the political system,” the PM said.

The Constitution Day, or the National Law Day, is celebrated to mark the day the statute was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949. The Constitution was fully adopted two months later on January 26, celebrated as Republic Day.

Rahul hits back at RM; Says PM bypassed procedure in Rafale deal

NEW DELHI, Nov 18: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday hit out at defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman over the Rafale deal and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of bypassing procedure in finalising the purchase of 36 fighter jets with the French.

In a tweet, the Congress leader posed three questions to Sitharaman who on Friday defended the Rs 59,000-crore deal and described as shameful that the previous government, led by the Congress, failed to serve the military’s interests and was now “bickering” over the price.

Referring to Sitharaman as RM, short for Raksha Mantri (defence minister), Gandhi tweeted, “Dear RM, what’s shameful is your boss silencing you.

“Please tell us: 1. Final price of each Rafale jet? 2. Did PM take CCS permission before announcing purchase in Paris? 3. Why PM bypassed experienced HAL & gave the deal to AA rated businessman with no defence experience?”

The opposition party says the deal, announced during Modi’s visit to France in 2015 and signed a year later, is overpriced, violates procedures and is tailored to help an industrialist.

The party has also said each fighter would cost Rs 1,570 crore compared to Rs 526 crore under the older deal.

The per unit cost of a jet was “absolutely” and “undoubtedly” lesser than what the UPA regime was negotiating, Sitharaman said.

Due process of clearance from the cabinet committee on security was followed with active participation of then defence minister Manohar Parrikar, she had said, adding the Congress’ charges were politically motivated.

India floated a global tender in August 2007 to buy 126 planes but it stood cancelled after Modi declared in April 2015 India would buy 36 Rafales from France under a government-to-government deal.

Indian Air Force chief BS Dhanoa, too, has denied that the jets were overpriced. “Technology may not be going to the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) but it is coming to the Defence Research and Development Organisation and then to a lot of Indians,” the air chief marshal said on Thursday.

The Congress has sought to link the Rafale agreement with Dassault to a partnership between the French company and Reliance Defence Limited (RDL). RDL has dismissed the charges as “baseless and unfounded” and threatened to take legal action against any party disseminating “defamatory allegations”.

 

6 LeT militants killed in J-K

SRINAGAR, Nov 18: Security forces shot dead six Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants, including the nephew of a Pakistan-based terror mastermind accused of planning the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in north Kashmir on Saturday, the state’s top police official and the army said.

One elite air force commando was also killed in the operation in Bandipora, only the second time the crack Garud force has suffered any casuality during anti-insurgency operations in Kashmir. Two commandos were killed last month.

Another soldier was injured in Saturday’s encounter.

Director general of police SP Vaid confirmed on Twitter that one of the militants killed, identified only as ‘Owaid’, was the nephew of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack.

The slain militants were from Pakistan, he added.

Lakhvi, a close relative of LeT founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, is accused of planning and executing strikes on India’s financial capital on November 26, 2008 that killed 166 people and wounded hundreds.

“Great success for security forces!” Vaid tweeted, adding that weapons and ammunition had been recovered.

Other than Owaid, Vaid said LeT commanders Zargam and Mehmood were also killed. Mehmood is accused of murdering a Border Security Force (BSF) constable in his home in Hajin, Bandipora, when he was on leave from duty in September.

Saturday’s encounter was the latest in a series of high-profile operations by the security forces that has resulted in the deaths of at least 7 other militants this month alone. In August, government forces gunned down Abu Dujana, a top LeT commander in the Valley.

The militants killed this year include Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar’s nephew Tallah Rashid, JeM’s Mehmood Bhai, LeT’s Waseem Shah as well as Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, the successor of Burhan Wani as the Hizbul Mujahideen’s Kashmir chief. Wani’s killing last year had sparked months-long street protests in the Valley that left more than a 100 people, most of them civilians dead.

Earlier this month, Vaid had said around 170 militants had been killed by security forces in Kashmir till October – claiming it to be a record of sorts in the past decade. Last year, around 150 militants were killed in the state, official data show.

Kashmir police recently said there are around 200 active militants in the Kashmir Valley, with around 110 of them being local youth.

A senior Bandipora police officer told Hindustan Times that police had information about a group of Pakistani militants who operated in the area and moved around -- sometimes individually or together.

On the basis of a tip-off, the police, army and central paramilitary forces cordoned off and launched a search operation in Chandergeer village in Hajin area. The search operation resulted in an encounter when the militants fired on the search party of the security forces, who retaliated, police said.

About 70 security personnel have also been killed in the state this year in militancy-related incidents, sources said.

Kashmir’s joint separatist leadership -- comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik -- called for a shutdown on Sunday in protest against the encounters in the last one week.

In a statement the leaders said the Indian government “should stop the killings and instead resolve the internationally acknowledged Kashmir issue in accordance with internationally accepted means of dispute resolution so that precious human lives are not lost and peace and security prevails in the region”.

 

My mission is to transform the nation, people's lives: Modi

NEW DELHI, Nov 4: Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a session of the India's Business Reforms event at the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra in New Delhi on Saturday and said his mission was to transform the nation and improve people's lives.

The meeting was also attended by Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva, Cabinet Secretary R.K. Sinha, Principal Secretary Nripendra Misra, DIPP Secretary Ramesh Abhishek, among other dignitaries.

Here are the highlights from the event.

Minister of Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu: "All the flagship programmes of the Prime Minister are inter-connected. GDP growth rates will be significantly higher in coming years, thanks to the improved ease of doing business. Ease of trading and ensuring all impediments for entrepreneurs are unshackled, is what we are working on now."

World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva: "We are here to celebrate a very impressive achievement. In 15 years of the history of the ease of doing business, such a jump of 30 ranks is very rare. In cricket, I understand that hitting a century is a big milestone."

"Today is also the anniversary of Guru Nanak, reminds me of his words that whatever seed is sown, the plant will grow thus."

"World Bank recognises that high-level ownership and championship of reforms is very important. And what better example for that than Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is here."

"In last three decades, India's per capita income has quadrupled. I have no doubt India when it hits its century of independence in 2047, will be a high/middle income country."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: "The World Bank has recognised the tremendous work done by us to improve the ease of doing business. In the short time of 3 years, we have moved up 42 ranks. Over last 3 years, I have been constantly telling the domestic and foreign investor community that we, in India, are making serious efforts to make it easier to do business. India has delivered with the highest improvement in rank in a year."

"This is important as it's an indicator of good governance, a benchmark for quality and transparency, because ease of doing business also means ease of life. As you know, I have nothing else to do. I have one mission in life — transforming the nation and its people's lives."

"After coming up 42 positions from 142, I don't feel like sleeping. We have created critical mass for a swift take-off. This report doesn't take into account the GST system that impacts many aspects of doing business. When GST was brought in, they said: Mar gaye! We said we will see for 3 months and analyse the difficulties and resolve them. And the GST Council did that. Where States had differences, committees of Ministers and officials were formed."

"Almost all issues flagged by traders and businesses are being positively fixed. And If no state objects to the moves in the Council's meeting on November 9 and 10, then businesses will get genuine relief on their concerns."

"Many other reforms that have happened, need gestation and stabilisation time before the World Bank considers them. There are many reforms that the World Bank and the government are yet to find common ground. This gives me the confidence that we will do better even in the next year's report."

"I wish to list some more global recognition. We have moved 32 places up in the world competitiveness index of WEF. This is the highest rise. We are among top FDI investment destinations listed by UNCTAD."

"Some people don't understand the improvement in India's ranking. They are not bothered. Even today they are questioning the country's ranking. I want to ask such people: if insolvency code and other reforms were done in your time, would this ranking not have come in your regime?"

"From 2004, when World Bank rankings started, to 2014, whose government was in place? I am a PM who has never seen the World Bank building. While earlier, there were those who knew the World Bank very well. It is not easy to take all stakeholders along. But in last 3 years, there's been a sea of change both in State governments and the Centre."

"For two years, I kept hearing about big-bang reforms, big-bang reforms. That has stopped. We reformed FDI in 21 sectors. More than 90 per cent of FDI is on automatic route."

"FDI inflow of 55.6 billion in 2015-16 was an all time-high. Then it touched 60 billion, an ever-high peak. In August 2017, the total FDI inflow stood at 9.64 billion — highest ever in any month."

"The past mindset of excessive control has been replaced with minimum govt, maximum governance. We have abolished 1,200 archaic laws. Similarly, 1000s of important reforms have been carried out by States as well. These don't get reflected in the World Bank report. This ranking may be called ease of doing business, but I believe it also means ease of living life."

"Most of the parameters picked in the ranking affects the lives of our ordinary citizens and youth. Now you can register your company in just one day. Railway reservations have improved, passports are now received faster. Ease of doing is important for large businesses, but is critical for small businesses. The issues they face need to be addressed. If required, we will be happy to share our experiences with other countries."

 

NTPC boiler blast toll rises to 26; Rahul visits Raebareli

NTPC boiler blast toll rises to 26; Rahul visits RaebareliRAE BARELI, Nov 2: The toll in the massive explosion in a boiler at the state-run power giant NTPC's Unchahar plant here has risen to 26, a senior official said on Thursday.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has taken a break from his ongoing 'Navsarjan Yatra' in poll-bound Gujarat and is visiting Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh to meet the families of victims of the explosion.

Raebareli is the parliamentary constitutency of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who has expressed shock at the "terrible tragedy".

While Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is abroad, Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma will be visiting Rae Bareli today.

UP Principal Secretary (Home) Arvind Kumar told reporters in Lucknow that the toll in the NTPC boiler blast has risen to 26.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved an ex- gratia of Rs 2 lakh each for the next of kin of those who have lost their lives due to the accident at the NTPC plant in Raebareli, Uttar Pradesh.

The PM has also approved Rs 50,000 each for those injured due to the accident.

The NTPC has initiated a probe to ascertain the reasons behind the blast. The chief minister had yesterday announced Rs 2 lakh compensation for the families of those killed and Rs 50,000 for the grievously injured.

In a statement, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has said that at unit number six of its Unchahar plant, there was a sudden abnormal sound at 20-meter elevation around 3:30 yesterday afternoon.

There was an opening in corner number two from which gases and steam "escaped" affecting the people working around the area, the central public sector undertaking said.

It added that around 80 people were rushed to the NTPC Hospital, most of whom were discharged after first-aid.

The 1,550-MW plant supplies electricity to nine states, according to officials, and employs around 870 people.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that he was "deeply pained" by the accident at the power plant.

Union Power Minister R K Singh, through social media posts, expressed deep anguish at the loss of lives and said that he had directed NTPC Chairman and Managing Director Gurdeep Singh to rush to the site.

Demonetisation foolish step, GST faulty, says Chidambaram

Mumbai, Oct 28: Terming note ban as foolish step and GST design faulty, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram today said both the decisions of the government have derailed the economy.

The Centre should have admitted that it had made a mistake to scrap high value currency notes last year, the former finance minister said, adding that the present GST design is faulty.

With "demonetisation and GST, they have derailed the economy," Chidambaram said at a Congress meeting this evening.

"We had to put the economy back on the rails. But who will put it back on rails now? Don't look at us. I am looking at you (the voters). You have to decide who will put the economy back on the rails," the former finance minister said and expressed the optimism that the country will have a government which will be able to correct these mistakes.

"That government will say the maximum tax in GST will be 18 per cent and no tax will be higher than 18 per cent. That government will say 90 per cent of traders and businessmen who are small and medium businessmen, it is ok if you file your returns once in six months. But when that government will be in place is entirely in your hands," he told Congress workers.

Stating that every businesses is affected by GST, Chidambaram said, "We told them don't do this in a hurry but wait for some time, while traders, and businessmen told them to delay it till September (but to no avail)."

He also said the government implemented GST in a hurry that when businessmen file returns, the whole GST network breaks down.

Noting that the government had brought about as many as 135 changes to the official objectives of demonetisation, he said, "now I am waiting to see when they will make 135 changes to GST. Every day the finance minister is announcing some changes and exemption to the GST framework."

He also said the opposition parties, including the Congress, and the Trinamool Congress have decided to observe November 8 as 'Black Day' and to counter this, BJP will observe November 8 as 'Anti-Black Money Day'.

Admitting that GST is a good tax and a good idea, he said unfortunately this government has given GST a bad name, which is why its appropriate to call it 'Gabbar Singh Tax' and not goods and services tax, Chidambaram said.

From the start, be its design, concept, and rate structure, the GST in the present form is wrong, Chidamabaram said, adding "this government has cheated the people by bringing the GST bills as a money bill" because they don't have majority in the Rajya Sabha.

"The moral of the story is that just because government got absolute majority, it does not mean it will always do the right thing," the Rajya Sabha MP said.

Describing note-ban as a decision driven by total ignorance, he said it was a foolish move, but this government does not have the honesty to admit it made a mistake.

"I think the whole scheme was to help some people who had black money to convert it into white money. It is one of the biggest scams," he said adding "I am sure someday, somebody will enquire into it".

He said none of the objectives of demonetisation -- counterfeit notes, stopping terror funding and black money, as claimed by government have been served.

"Therefore, they shifted the goal posts. No longer they speak about terrorism and fake currency and then they said it was to being in a cashless economy which was an afterthought," he said.

Blaming the government for being completely insensitive to what the people are going through he said "the result is jobless growth. There is some growth but there are no jobs being created".

GST will bring down prices and benefit poor, middle class: Modi

NEW DELHI, Oct 26: GST will bring down goods prices and will benefit the poor and middle class of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today.

"GST is giving the country a new business culture and consumers will be biggest beneficiary of the new indirect tax regime," Prime Minster said while inaugurating the International Conference on Consumer Protection for East, South & South-East Asia in Delhi.

Modi said GST will help the poor and the middle class as prices will come down due to competition among companies following implementation of GST.

"GST will boost competition between companies, which will decrease prices of goods in turn benefiting poor and middle class consumers," Modi said.

Besides GST, Prime Minister said consumer protection is one of the priorities of the government.

"Government is making efforts to ensure inflation is kept under check and the consumer saves money," he said.

"Our priority to consumer protection is in line with our resolve of New India, we'll change it to consumer prosperity on our way ahead," he added.

"New consumer protection act is being made, consumer empowerment will be major part of it and guidelines on misleading ads will be stricter," Modi said.

Will Observe Death Anniversary of Rs 500, 1000 Notes on November 8: Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI, Oct 26: Speaking at PHD chambers in the national capital, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said that his party will observe the death anniversary of Rs 500, 1000 notes on November 8, the day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the high denomination notes as illegal tender last year.

“In a couple of weeks from now, we’ll observe the death anniversary of Rs 500 & Rs 1000 notes. November 8 is the Barsi of notebandi (Demonetisation),” said Rahul Gandhi.

Speaking on Goods and Services Tax (GST) and demonetisation, Rahul Gandhi said these two steps have crippled the economy of our nation and ruined many small businesses which are a backbone of our nation.

A couple of days ago, the 47-year-old Congress leader mocked PM Modi over demonetisation. On November 8, 2016, PM Modi came on television to say ‘Dear all, I am your PM and I do not like the Rs 500 and 1000 notes. Therefore, I have decided to scrap these notes from mid-night today,” he said.

The Congress vice president who might be elevated to the post of president of his party soon went on to say that with the demonetisation move PM Modi had attacked the nation with an axe, adding, "After announcing demonetisation, for the first three days, PM Modi himself did not understand what was going on.”

Earlier today, the Gandhi scion lashed out at Arun Jaitley for failing to resurrect country’s economy. "The economy of our nation is in ICU because of demonetisation and GST,” he said.

“Businesses are drowning, but Mr. Jaitley has the nerve to go on TV every other day saying things are just fine,” Rahul Gandhi said.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday had said that the Indian economy is on a strong wicket with sound macroeconomic fundamentals.

At a press briefing to detail state of the economy, he said India has been the fastest growing major economy for the last three years and the attempt is to maintain high growth rate in coming years.

Rahul Gandhi Loves Sports; Is Black Belt In Aikido

NEW DELHI, Oct 26: Responding to a question at the annual meet of the PHD chambers of Commerce here on Thursday, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi disclosed that he loves sports and was black belt in Aikido.

He was responding to a question by former Olympian turned professional boxer Vijendra Singh as to why politicians did not take part in sports.

“My wife and I want to know when Rahul bhaiyya will get married,” asked the boxer at the Q&A session soon after Gandhi’s valedictory address here.

In the bargain, the boxer and the rest of the audience got to know that Gandhi is a black belt in the Japanese martial art of Aikido.

Reluctant to answer, Gandhi tried to brush off the question, calling it an old one. But the boxer, whose wedding Gandhi attended a few years ago, persisted and asked if he [Mr. Gandhi] would get married and then become Prime Minister. “I believe in destiny, and when it [marriage] has to happen, it will happen,” he said. Gandhi’s answer evoked a round of applause.

The former Olympian turned professional boxer also asked why politicians did not take part in sports. Gandhi said he did not include himself in that category of politicians.

“I do exercise, run and swim, and I am a black belt in Aikido, but [I] don’t speak about it publicly. Sports is very important for me and I spend at least an hour doing sports,” he said, and agreed to a suggestion that he should put short videos of these activities on his social media platforms.

To another question whether he would prefer to have younger faces whenever his party comes to power, Gandhi said, “Any Congress government in the future will be a much younger government, but there is value to experience.”

Mentioning former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram as examples of experience and wisdom, he said, “We will have a large majority of younger people but we will have support from our traditional wisdom.”

Text of Rahul Gandhi's speech at PHD Chamber of Commerce

NEW DELHI, Oct 26: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi addressed the annual general meeting of PHD Chamber of Commerce here today.

Shri Gopal Jiwarajka,

Shri Anil Khaitan,

Shri Rajeev Talwar,

Shri Saurabh Sanyal,

Members of PHD Chamber,

Friends,

I would like to welcome all of you here.

I am honoured to be speaking to the esteemed members of the PHD Chamber of Commerce. Thank you for inviting me here.

A little over three years ago Mr Narendra Modi was given a tremendous honour by our country. Many of our people reposed their faith in him.

Many Indians believed that he had the ability and understanding to develop and implement a vision for the coming decade. They expected an Indian vision. Today it is fair to say that expectation lies shattered.

I remember Mr Narendra Modi’s first speech to Parliament. Even I as a Lok Sabha member was curious – what’s going to say? I wanted to understand what he would lay out as the vision going forward?

And as he wound his way through his long speech, going on and on about Sikkim, about organic farming, and in middle of speech a colleague of mine nudged me and he came and whispered in my ears "there is nothing here”. The speech was full of tag lines like lab to land, real time data, soil health cards.

But as we walked away from there and this was large number of us, there was a sense of disappointment. We had expected a concrete way forward. In fact when we went there, we expected our Prime Minister to give a vision and I came away happy in one way and quite upset in another. I came away happy because I felt that we would have a good shot at challenging the Prime Minister. I felt upset that the India deserved a solid vision and it didn’t get one that day.

But what really disturbed me was the condescending tone that ran through his entire speech like a thread.

And that tone has embedded itself in the psyche of this government and it has become the bedrock of its immense arrogance.

Business thrives with trust. Every single business transaction is based on trust. Trust is what you deal in. From trust emerges a safe and predictable environment.

Business is about bringing people together, about creating harmony, about creating trust and competition.

And the truth is, trust in this government is dead. For some reason the PM and his government are absolutely convinced that every single person in India is a thief.

Trust goes two ways - the government does not believe in its people and now after three years, the people have withdrawn their trust in this government.

How does one develop trust - only by listening. But today there is no one in the government ready to listen to the pain of our people. Globally, India is being asked if it still believes in its values of compassion and non-violence.

People looked up to us for our values and leadership. But today they laugh as we are busy debating whether one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal, was actually built by Indians?

In a couple of weeks from now we will observe the death anniversary of the 500 and thousand rupee note. November the 8th is the barsi of ‘notebandi’ – when Shri Narendra Modi personally wiped out 86% of the currency in circulation overnight.

It was a move, taken without thought, without consultation or concern for its consequences.

The Prime Minister failed to grasp a basic concept of the Indian economy – all cash is not black and all black is not cash.

Without understanding this basic concept, the Prime Minister used his vast powers to unleash terror on the citizens of India.

To make millions of Indian citizens stand in queues for over two months, desperately running from one ATM to another, many dying in the process, millions losing jobs and livelihood – to do all that you surely need someone with a big chest, but a very small heart.

Demonetization crippled SMEs and has destroyed the unorganised sector, forcing workers to leave urban employment and go back to their villages looking for MNREGA work.

And now GST, or Gabbar Singh Tax, is so badly conceptualized, it is only adding to the distrust.

Their GST is wrecked with holes, moth eaten. Flawed in its structure. Punitive in its design. It is forcing businesses to incur massive transaction costs that are destroying them.

It is creating a 21st century computerised and connected License Raj. GST as this government has formulated has already unleashed a tsunami of tax terrorism and it is only going to worst.

Small, micro and medium businesses are screaming in pain, they are drowning and Mr. Arun Jaitley - with his impeccable logic - has the nerve to go on TV every other day and tell people that things are just fine. The government refuses to listen, everybody is shouting, every other day you see, Mr Jaitley saying -everything is ok and he pulls up out a graph and shows us that after 2019 things will become normal again.

The way this regime is working, or not working, shall we say, has lead to a double tap killing of the Indian economy. Commandos in hostage situations fire what is called a double tap, two quick, closely placed shots fired at the chest to ensure that their terrorist target is dead.

Modi and his government have fired a double tap at the heart of our economy, first notebandi and then a badly conceptualised and implemented GST.

And it continues.

The situation of joblessness in the country is extremely worrying. The government is creating a massive army of unemployed youth, which is toxic and dangerous. Instead of admitting they cannot and are not providing jobs they are riling communities against each other in a bloody rage.

As we all know, GDP growth has been slowing.

Private investment has collapsed. Agriculture growth is at its lowest ebb.

Exports have been declining. In 2014, India’s GDP was growing at 6.6% but today according to the old method of measurement it rests at a 4.2% .

Not only are insufficient number of jobs being created, real wages have been stagnant for 3 years. Indian citizens cannot meet their basic expenses, leave alone spend on consumption, that is required to boost the Indian economy.

Bank lending is at its lowest levels in sixty years. Investment at a 15 year low. Power generation at a decade low and unemployment is skyrocketing.

As if that was not enough, recent research by respected economists has shown that inequality in India is now at its highest levels in 100 years.

We are staring at a disaster. I am not talking of technology making jobs redundant as is happening in the west. This is a pure man-made disaster or in Modi ji’s terminology a MMD- ‘Modi Made Disaster.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite the current mess in the economy, what I want to say here today is this:

The Indian economy can be revived.

Under the UPA regime, between 2004 and 2011, 140 million people came out of poverty. That is 20 million people every year.

For the first time in our history, India, if it is steered correctly and faithfully, has the opportunity to wipe out poverty.

If India is able to lift another 350 million people out of poverty by 2030, it would be an achievement that the entire human race can be proud of.

Doing this would require us to grow by more than 8 per cent in the next 13 years and this is the challenge.

India has done it before and can do it again.

However, no amount of growth though, is enough for India if it’s not accompanied by the creation of jobs. It doesn’t matter how much you grow, how fast you grow. If you are not creating jobs, you are not solving the problem.

We are a nation of small, micro and medium businesses. Nearly 6 crore of these enterprises are engaged in business in our country.

You are our backbone - but you get very little support.

These businesses are India's traditional network. These networks have been with us for thousands of years, they represent our nation's innovative capabilities, our knowledge and our vast understanding.

These networks are situated in thousands of clusters across the country, they are rich with knowledge and skill and make up the heart of our economic legacy. We need targeted cluster development programs at a massive scale across the country.

It is this reservoir of skill and innovation that needs to be unlocked and freed from the oppressive and unpredictable bureaucratic red tape it faces everyday.

Let us start by accepting the simple reality that China out performs us in the creation of jobs. China creates 50,000 jobs every single day. India is creating 450.

Let me be very clear, the only force capable of meeting the Chinese challenge is this network of small, micro and medium businesses. Nobody else, nobody else can do this job. I have no doubt in my mind that you are the only force that has the skills, knowledge and understanding to take on the Chinese and beat them at their own game.

Today the national discussion is only about growth. India can no longer carry on without a clear focus and strategy on the creation of jobs.

We need to link these small, micro and medium businesses to our banking systems.

We need to infuse them with credit and create a completely new deal for these businesses in finance.

Today they receive almost no bank credit even though:

They account for 40% of India’s economic output and half of India’s exports. More importantly, they account for 80% of all non-agriculture employment.

Yet all SMEs combined get as much credit from banks as the ten largest businesses. Even though this money generates 30 times more employment. The truth is even yesterdays bank recapitalisation announcement targets only India’s big corporates while throwing crumbs at MSMEs. Imagine how much employment we could create if we actually made capital available to you in the same way we do for biggest companies in the country.

We urgently need to give these networks access to the political system - the same access that big business already enjoy. They too need to be heard.

They have been blasted by Modiji's lethal double tap. Why is the government treating their most powerful weapon in the fight against unemployment without dignity?

Why does the government disrespect them and treat them like thieves? They must stop painting you as evil and must seek your cooperation in rebooting the economy.

Startup India is welcome for the economy, but it cannot be accompanied by ‘Shut Up India’ in society. What gives Startup India its strength is freedom of expression, thought and dissent. You choke this and you choke entrepreneurship.

You are the source of this nation’s creative and entrepreneurial energy. It is the imperative of those in government to listen to your voice; whoever they may be.

I am here today to say that we trust you. We understand the terror you feel at the unpredictable nature of this computerised license raj.

Your struggles are the struggles of this nation, your pride is our pride, your growth and well and well being, is the growth and well being of each one of us.

The Congress party will always support you, it will always have the humility to listen to your voices and it will stand shoulder to shoulder with you as you build the foundation of a resurgent India.

Thank You.

Attack on Swiss couple leaves them with broken bones; Sushma seeks report

NEW DELHI, Oct 25: The Uttar Pradesh Police late on Wednesday arrested a suspect for an attack on a Swiss couple who were chased and hit with sticks and stones in the ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri, 40km from Agra, on Sunday afternoon.

Quentin Jeremy Clerc, 24, fractured his skull and suffered nerve damage while his girlfriend Marie Droz, also 24, was left with broken bones in the attack that brings into focus security of foreign tourists.

Clerc and Droz are from Switzerland and were visiting Fatehpur Sikri as tourists.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said she had sought a report from the state government and a team from the ministry would reach out to the couple from Lausanne, undergoing treatment in a Delhi hospital.

The assault has the tourism industry worried even as the external affairs ministry officials visited the couple at Delhi’s AIIMS, where the couple is undergoing treatment.

“Such incidents will scare tourists away. As it is there is so much controversy around the Taj. Hopefully Yogi ji would do something about it,” a tourist operator said.

Police said four accused were identified and one of them was arrested on the Rajasthan-Uttar Pradesh border.

Chandra Prakash, ADG-Crime, said the Agra police registered an FIR in Fatehpur Sikri. “The investigation is on and teams have been constituted to nab the remaining culprits who are absconding,” he said in Lucknow.

He also said action might be taken against officials at Fatehpur Sikri police station for not alerting seniors about the assault on the foreign nationals.

The arrest in the case came hours before chief minister Yogi Adityanath reached Agra for a visit to Taj Mahal, days after he and his party colleagues tried to talk down the significance of the Mughal monument, one of most popular tourist destinations of the country and a huge money-spinner.

Fatehpur Sikri police station in-charge Pradeep Kumar said the couple was walking along a train track when locals assaulted them. The arrested suspect is the brother of the main accused.

Media reports said a group of four men followed the couple and tried to take selfies with Droz. Soon, the harassment turned into a full blown assault. The couple was taken to a local health centre before being shifted to Delhi.

“Initially they did not want to file a complaint and the case was made out by the police on its own,” Kumar said.

Police have been left surprised by the “unusual attack” and are not sure if it is the work of lapkas, or local goons who are known to get aggressive with tourists if they don’t part with money.

“We are busy gathering facts. It’s very unusual,” a police officer said.

Though not as popular as the Taj but Fatehpur Sikri, which was the capital of the Mughal empire between 1572 and 1585 during the reign of Emperor Akbar, gets its fair share of tourists.

In 2014, a German woman said she was molested by a hotel manager in Agra. In 2007, two Japanese tourists were gang-raped in the city.

NIA carries out searches at residence of Salahuddin's son Syed Shahid Yousuf

NEW DELHI, Oct 25: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday carried out searches at the residence of Syed Shahid Yousuf, son of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin, at Budgam in central Kashmir and seized phones, laptops and other documents, officials said.

Shahid, who was arrested by the NIA on October 24 for allegedly receiving funds from overseas for subversive activities in the Kashmir Valley, is at present in the custody of the agency for seven days.

NIA officials said a team of the agency sleuths carried out searches at Shahid's residence at Soibug in Budgam district of central Kashmir and seized his five mobile phones, a laptop and some incriminating documents.

According to NIA, 42-year-old Shahid, who works in the agricultural department of the Jammu and Kashmir government, has given the names of overseas Hizbul Mujahideen members involved in fund-raising for the terror outfit.

The NIA claimed during questioning that Shahid "admitted to having received funds from cadres of the Hizbul Mujahideen on the direction of his father, Mohammed Yusuf Shah alias Syed Salahuddin, for fomenting terrorist activities in the Valley".

The NIA said he also "revealed the names of his associates abroad who were linked with the Mujahideen and involved in raising, collecting and transferring funds from other countries to India".

It alleged that Shahid used to receive funds through a US-based international wire transfer company from Aijaz Ahmed Bhat, another accused in the case who is absconding and is based in Saudi Arabia.

The agency alleged that Shahid was "one of several Indian contacts of Bhat" who had been in telephonic contact with him for receiving money transfer codes.

The NIA claimed so far he had received a total of nearly Rs 4.5 lakh through eight international wire transfers.

The case, registered by the NIA in April 2011, relates to the transfer of money from Pakistan to Jammu and Kashmir through hawala channels via Delhi, which the agency believed was used in funding terrorism and secessionist activities.

The NIA has so far filed two charge sheets against six people including G M Bhat, a close aide of pro-Pakistan separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mohammed Siddiq Ganai, Ghulam Jeelani Liloo and Farooq Ahmed Dagga. All four are in judicial custody.

Two others - Mohammed Maqbool Pandit and Bhat - were also charge sheeted by the NIA but are absconding. An Interpol Red Corner notice has been issued against them.

Shahid's father Salahuddin, based in Pakistan, was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the US Department of State in June 2017.

Besides heading terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, he is the chairman of the United Jehad Council (UJC), a conglomerate of terrorist outfits operating in the Kashmir Valley.

Will not speak on ‘Shah-zada’, says Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI, Oct 20: Days after a court restrained news portal The Wire from publishing or broadcasting reports based on an article published by it regarding a company of BJP chief Amit Shah’s son, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday said he would neither speak about “Shah-zada” not allow others to speak about him.

“Mitron (friends), will not speak about ‘Shah-zada’, nor will let anyone speak,” he tweeted in Hindi, referring to an interim injunction granted by an Ahmedabad court on a criminal defamation case filed against The Wire by Jay Shah, the son of the BJP president.

Gandhi also tagged a news report report entitled, “Ahmedabad Court injunction: ‘The Wire’ barred from writing on Jay Shah”.

Zada, zade or zadi are Persian suffixes used as part of titles for members of royalty, denoting the sons and daughters of a king.

Additional Senior Civil Judge of Ahmedabad (rural) court had granted an injunction on Jay Shah’s plea on Monday restraining the defendants from publishing, printing, telecasting, broadcasting or holding debates in any language on the basis of the article published by the news portal, pending hearing and disposal of the matter.

The Wire had recently published an article claiming a company owned by Jay Shah saw a huge rise in its turnover after BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014.

Following the publication of the article, Congress demanded the removal of Amit Shah as BJP president and constitution of a two-member judicial commission of inquiry comprising judges of the Supreme Court to go into his son’s business dealings.

Both the Congress and Gandhi, its vice president, repeatedly questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “silence” on the issue.

Mr. Gandhi earlier took a swipe at the BJP and the government over the latter extending legal help to Jay Shah in the defamation case. “The State’s legal help for Shah—zada! Why this, why this Kolaveri Da?,” he had earlier tweeted.

Tushar Mehta, Additional Solicitor General of India, a top law officer of the Centre, will appear for Jay Shah in the defamation case.

 

Congress wins Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll with record margin

GURDASPUR, Oct 14: The Congress party has wrested the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha by-election with its nominee Sunil Jakhar winning the seat with a margin of 193219 votes trouncing his nearest rival SAD-BJP candidate Swaran Salaria and literally routing Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) Suresh Khajuria on Sunday.

Right from the beginning of the counting of votes, Jakhar had maintained a steady increase over his rivals giving indication of his victory.

Congress had laid its bet on Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Sunil Jakhar even risking annoyance of Rajya Sabha Member Parliament and former PPCC president Partap Singh Bajwa who hails from Qadian in Gurdaspur district while BJP picked up industrialist Swaran Salaria over Kavita Khanna, widow of Vinod Khanna, and AAP fielded retired army officer Suresh Khajuria banking on his Rajput lineage.

Jakhar and Salaria polled 499752 and 306533 votes respectively while Khajuria could manage only 23579 votes. Among independent candidates Pavinder Singh received the highest 6825 votes and the lowest 996 votes were polled to Satnam Singh.

Interestingly, 7587 votes were registered under None Of The Above (NOTA) category.

Gurdaspur Lok Sabha parliamentary seat fell vacant after demise of BJP's Vinod Khanna's death. The voting was held on October 11.

Reacting on his victory, Jakhar told media persons that his victory was people's endorsement to Congress party's policies and development in the state while adding that the same also indicated at people's disenchantment from Center's Modi government.

Chief minister Amarinder Singh in his reaction said, "Jakhar's victory has comes as a strong rebuttal to the persistent Akali efforts and campaign of the past six months to undermine the work being done by his government in the state and for AAP this election marks the end of its political ambitions in Punjab".

Yashwant Sinha Alleges Many BJP Lapses In Handling Jay Shah Case

PATNA, Oct 11: After his recent slapdown of the government's handling of the economy, former union minister Yashwant Sinha today said that his party has "lost the moral high ground" due to a corruption scandal involving the son of its chief Amit Shah. Yashwant Sinha, 79, said that the BJP appears guilty of many lapses: producing senior ministers to defend Mr Shah's son, entrepreneur Jay Shah, and farming out a top government lawyer, Tushar Mehta, to represent Jay Shah in court.

Jay Shah has suedThe Wire, a news website, for 100 crores for defamation for reporting his firm's revenues escalated by 16,000 times after the BJP came to power. The report also questioned allegedly unsecured loans given to Jay Shah's firms, including from a state-run firm that reports to the Power Ministry.

"The way the loan was given to Jai Shah by the Power Ministry and the way (minister) Piyush Goyal defended him, it gives the impression that there's something wrong," said Mr Sinha, whose son, Jayant Sinha, is a minister in the union government.

"Even Additional Solicitor General (Tushar Mehta) representing a private individual in court is something that never happened before," Mr Sinha, a former finance minister, said in Patna. Mr Mehta said he sought and obtained the clearance of the Law Ministry to advise Jay Shah.

"The government should order an inquiry because too many government departments are involved," said Mr Sinha, backing what the opposition has demanded. "The BJP has lost the high moral ground of zero tolerance on corruption," he added.

Last month, Sinha provoked his party by expounding in detail on the economic slowdown which he attributed to the poor timing and handling of the key reforms of demonetisation and the new national sales tax or GST. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, whom he singled out for sharp criticism, responded by describing the party veteran as "a job applicant at 80."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a lengthy speech last week said that pessimists were misrepresenting the slowdown of one quarter (5.7 percent growth for the last quarter) to claim an economic failure.

Top Jaish terrorist Khalid killed in encounter in J&K

SRINAGAR, Oct 9: In a breakthrough, a joint team of security forces on Monday killed top Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist Khalid in Ladoora area of North Kashmir, police said.

Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police S P Vaid said it was a major breakthrough for the security forces as the terrorist was involved in many attacks on security camps in North Kashmir as well as targeting policemen in particular.

"He was killed in a joint operation by the Jammu and Kashmir Police's Special Operation Group, local police, the CRPF and the Army," he said.

Khalid, who is a Pakistani national, had been operational in the area for last two to three years and was also instrumental in arranging recruits for the terror outfit, police said.

He had recently carried out an attack on a Special Police Officer and his seven-year-old son at Handwara, they said and added that Khalid was a A++ category top ranking terrorist and carried a cash reward of nearly Rs 7 lakh.

Giving details of the encounter, the police said security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Ladoora area following information about the presence of terrorists in the area.

The search operation turned into a gun battle when the terrorists opened fire on the search party, the police said, adding more troops were rushed to the area to prevent the terrorists from escaping.

The Jaish commander was killed in the encounter, they said.

The police is also probing his role in the recent attack carried out by the Jaish-e-Mohammed on BSF battalion headquarters near high-security Srinagar airport and attack on the District Police Lines at Pulwama.

It is expected that he was a part of the conspiracy behind these dastardly attacks, the police said.

Gorakhpur: 16 more children die in the last 24 hours

LUCKNOW, Oct 9: Sixteen children, out of which ten were infants, died at the Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College in UP's Gorakhpur. Ten out of the sixteen children were admitted in the NICU, while the other six were admitted in the ICU.

According to reports, 20 patients -- including six from Deoria, two from Kushinagar, four each from Gorakhpur and Maharajganj, and one patient each from Basti and Balrampur -- afflicted with encephalitis have been admitted to the hospital in the last 24 hours.

Around a dozen patients of encephalitis were being treated at the BRD college.

After this incident, the count of dead in BRD Medical College has gone up to 310.

Officials said that around 1,470 patients, mostly with cases of encephalitis, have been admitted in BRD Medical College this year.

In August this year, BRD Medical College was in news when around 63 children died within a span of one week due to unavailability of oxygen. FIR against nine people including the owner of the oxygen supplying company was lodged.

Doctors said that the latest deaths did not occur due to lack of oxygen, treatment or anything else but the fact that they were brought to the hospital in a very critical condition.

Rahul unquestioned choice to lead Congress: Randeep Singh Surjewala

NEW DELHI, Oct 4: Rahul Gandhi continues to be the “unquestioned choice” of all workers and leaders for the post of party president, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said here on Wednesday.

He was responding to a question on the subject against the backdrop of the organisational elections under way in the Congress right now.

Asked if the party would welcome a situation in which a worker or a leader chooses to contest the top organisational post, Mr. Surjewala said Mr. Gandhi is “democratic enough” and the party “resilient enough” to welcome any of its workers or leaders who wish to contest any post, including that of the president. In this context, he cited examples of similar contests.

Asked whether Mr. Gandhi would be anointed president by the end-October, Mr. Surjewala said the question would be answered when the organisational polls conclude.

Congress can fix unemployment issue in 6 months: Rahul

AMETHI, Oct 4: Mr. Gandhi targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi over unemployment and asked him to address the issue instead of “wasting time” of the countrymen.

On a visit to his Lok Sabha constituency Amethi, he said Mr. Modi should say if he was unable to address the problems like unemployment.

“Farmers and youth are the two main issues concerning India and if Modiji cannot address these, he should say so and the Congress will come and do it in six months,” Mr. Gandhi said at a ‘chaupal’ (village gathering).

 



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