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Ananth Kumar passes away

BENGALURU, Nov 12: BJP leader and Union minister Ananth Kumar died at 2 am today at a hospital in Bengaluru, his office has confirmed. He was 59. Kumar was undergoing treatment for cancer at a hospital in Bengaluru. Kumar is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Karnataka government declared a 3-day mourning period for Ananth Kumar.

Born in a middle class family on July 22, 1959, in Bengaluru to Narayan Shastri, a railway employee, and Girija N Shastry, Ananth Kumar’s early education began under the guidance of his mother who herself was a graduate.

Graduate in Arts and Law, Kumar’s journey into public life began due to his association with the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a student organisation of the Sangh Pariwar, which he served in various capacities, including the state secretary and the national secretary.

Looking for bigger ground in politics, Kumar joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1987, where he went on to to take up the responsibilities of state secretary, state president of the Yuva Morcha, general secretary and national secretary.

Kumar began his parliamentary career when he got elected to Lok Sabha in 1996 from Bangalore South, the constituency which remained his strong fort till his passing sway, by winning it for six consecutive times.

He enjoyed the credit of being the “youngest” minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet in 1998. He served as the Civil Aviation minister, also Minister for Tourism, Sports, Youth Affairs & Culture, Urban development & poverty alleviation.

Kumar, who also held positions in various parliamentary committees, was serving as the Union Cabinet Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Chemicals and Fertilizers in the Narendra Modi led government, after winning the 15th Lok Sabha election from Bengaluru south by defeating IT Czar Nandan Nilekani.

Opposition grand alliance reaches seat-sharing agreement in Telangana

NEW DELHI, Nov 8: After several rounds of hectic deliberations, the four alliance partners of the Maha Kootami (grand alliance) in Telangana on Thursday came to an agreement on sea-sharing for the December 7 assembly elections.

Congress general secretary in-charge of Telangana affairs RC Khuntia announced in New Delhi that the Congress would contest 94 seats in the 119-member assembly, leaving 25 seats for the allies - 14 for the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), eight for Telangana Jana Samithi and three for Communist Party of India.

In effect, however, the Congress will be contesting only in 93 seats, as it allotted one seat to Telangana Inti Party president Cheruku Sudhakar. “He would be contesting on the Congress symbol, as his party has not got the official symbol from Election Commission,” the Congress leader said.

Khuntia said the first list of 74 Congress candidates, along with that of Maha Kootami partners, would be released in New Delhi on Saturday morning. “We are in the process of finalizing the candidates for the remaining 20 seats and it would be done shortly,” he said.

In the morning, the TDP’s Telangana leaders met party president N Chandrababu Naidu at Amaravati and discussed the Congress’s offer allocating 14 assembly seats for the party. “While there is no issue with regard to the number of seats, discussions are still going on with regard to a couple of seats for which both the TDP and the Congress are staking claim,” Telangana TDP leader and former MP Ravula Chandrasekhar Reddy said.

He said Maha Kootami would be a reality and was going to give sleepless nights to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi.

TJS president M Kodandaram did hard bargaining for at least 10 seats, but was forced to remain content with eight seats. “We have asked for those seats where we have the strength to win,” a TJS leader said on condition of anonymity.

The CPI, which was offered three seats by the Congress, is demanding at least another two seats, but the Congress is firm. In lieu of the assembly seats, the Congress offered the Left party two seats in the legislative alliance in the coming days.

Demonetisation a ‘shrewd scheme’ to help PM’s ‘suit-booted friends’: Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI, Nov 8: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Thursday alleged that demonetisation was a planned “brutal conspiracy” and a “shrewd scheme” to convert the black money of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “suit-booted friends”.

On the second anniversary of demonetisation, he also said that there was nothing innocent about this “scam” and claimed that drawing any other meaning out of it was an insult to the intelligence of the nation.

Gandhi’s remarks came after former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s scathing assessment of the demonetisation exercise. He said the “scars and wounds” it caused are getting more visible with time and the decision’s second anniversary is a day to remember how “economic misadventures” can roil the nation.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley made a strong defence, saying demonetisation resulted in formalisation of economy and increased tax base, with the government earmarking more resources for the poor and infrastructure development.

“Note ban was a premeditated brutal conspiracy. This scam was a shrewd scheme to convert the black money of Prime Minister’s suit-booted friends to white. Nothing was innocent in this scam. Drawing any other meaning of it would be an insult of the intelligence of the nation,” Gandhi tweeted in Hindi.

Bypoll boost for Opposition unity as Congress-JD(S) win 4 of 5 seats

NEW DELHI, Nov 6: The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance on Tuesday won two of three Lok Sabha seats and both assembly seats with hefty margins in the November 3 Karnataka by-elections, securing a morale booster in what the former called just a teaser ahead of next year’s general elections.

An unexpected victory in the Ballari Lok Sabha constituency was particularly sweet tor the alliance, which wrested the seat from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after a hiatus of nearly one-and-a-half decades. It also won the Mandya Lok Sabha seat and the Ramanagara and Jamakhandi assembly seats.

Karnataka BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa’s son Raghavendra scored the only win for the BJP by defeating JD(S)’s S Madhu Bangarappa by 52,148 votes in Shivamogga. The seat was won by BS Yeddyurappa in 2014 by a margin of nearly 350,000 votes.

Celebrating “ the sweeping victory” of the coalition in a Twitter post, the Congress called it a “teaser for what is in store for the BJP next year”.

“Congratulations to all the workers & leaders of the Congress party in Karnataka on the decisive victory of the Congress-JD(S) alliance in the By-Polls in the state. I thank each & every one of you, for your dedication & hard work that made this victory possible,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi said separately.

Acknowledging the setbacks for the BJP, Yeddyurappa alleged the result reflected the large amounts of money and liquor the ruling alliance had spent ahead of voting. “The painful fact is that we have faced a setback in Ballari and Jamakhandi. I feel this is a warning and we need to begin work there right away,” he said. “Our aim is to win many seats in the Lok Sabha polls and ensure Prime Minister Narendra Modi wins at the Centre. We need to start that work now.”

The by-elections were the first litmus test for the alliance, which was formed after the May assembly elections in which the BJP won the most number of seats but fell short of a majority in the 224-member house. To thwart the BJP’s bid for power, the Congress, the senior partner, agreed to a coalition in which it accepted the JD (S)’s HD Kumaraswamy as chief minister. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted that the 4-1 result “looks like a Test series win under Virat Kohli. Coalition has delivered.”

Tougher tests are to follow with assembly elections due this month and in December in the Hindi-speaking heartland states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Telangana in the south, and Mizoram in the North-east.

In the race for the Ballari Lok Sabha seat, Congress’s VS Ugrappa beat BJP’s J Shantha by over 243,000 votes. In the Mandya parliamentary constituency , JD(S)’s LR Shivaramegowda defeated BJP’s TR Siddaramaiah with a margin of 324,943 votes.

Ballari had been a bastion of the BJP since 2004, when its candidate G Karunakara Reddy, brother of mining baron G Janardhan Reddy, won the seat. Mandya is at the heart of the Vokkaliga belt of the Old Mysore region and has traditionally seen a direct contest between the Congress and JD(S).

AS Nyamagouda of the Congress defeated Kulkarni Shrikant Subrao of the BJP in Jamkhandi by a margin of 39,480 votes. Chief minister Kumaraswamy’s wife Anitha won the Ramanagara assembly constituency, defeating the BJP’s L Chandrashekhar by 109,137 votes.

The defeat in Ramanagara was specially galling for the BJP, which suffered an embarrassment when its candidate L Chandrashekar, a Congress rebel, withdrew from the race two days before voting. Chandrashekar was listed on the electronic voting machine as the BJP candidate and received around 16,000 votes.

JD(S) leader and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda thanked the “people of Karnataka for supporting development-centric administration of JDS-INC government. People of the state have given their response to those who were trying to destabilise the state government.”

There is no doubt that the coalition would continue, Deve Gowda said. “It is now time for us to sit with Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other leaders to discuss how we can take this forward,” he said.

After emerging as the single-largest party in the May 12 assembly elections, the BJP made a failed bid to form government in the only southern state it has ruled in the past. State BJP president and former chief minister Yeddyurappa and senior leader B Sreeramulu were sworn in as members of the assembly after resigning their membership of the Lok Sabha from Shivamogga and Ballari, respectively.

For a similar reason, JD(S) CS Puttaraju, now Karnataka’s minor irrigation minister, also gave up his Lok Sabha membership from Mandya. Among the assembly seats, the Ramanagara seat, one of two which chief minister Kumaraswamy contested, fell vacant after he retained neighbouring Channapatna. Siddu Nyamgoud of the Congress, who won the Jamkhandi seat in May, died in a road accident days after being elected, resulting in the vacancy.

While the BJP put up candidates in all five seats, the Congress-JD(S) alliance worked out a seat-sharing arrangement as a result of which the Congress contested one parliamentary and assembly seat each and the JD(S) the remaining three. Former CM Siddaramaiah of the Congress said the results were a clear indication of the public mood ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. “This election shows what decision the people will take in 2019. I want to thank voters across all five seats and the workers and leaders of our parties for this result.”

Delhi’s Signature Bridge, twice the size of Qutub Minar, opens

NEW DELHI, Nov 5: After a delay of eight years, Delhi’s much-awaited Signature Bridge was finally inaugurated on Sunday by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and deputy CM Manish Sisodia. The iconic bridge, which will be thrown open for vehicles on Monday, is expected to significantly reduce traffic in areas of north and northeast Delhi.

A Delhi Public Works Department (PWD) project, the bridge was constructed by the Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation (DTTDC) at an expenditure of ₹1,518.37 crore. The new landmark is double the height of Qutub Minar.

One of the most delayed infrastructure projects in Delhi, the Signature Bridge is expected to reduce the travel time by at least half an hour for commuters going to Ghaziabad and areas near Uttar Pradesh border via Bhajanpura, Khajuri Khas, Yamuna Vihar in northeast Delhi from Wazirabad, Mukherjee Nagar and Burari in north Delhi.

“Every day I had to wade through heavy traffic near old Wazirabad Bridge to reach my office in Mukherjee Nagar. With the opening of the Signature Bridge it seems that my traffic woes are finally set to come to an end,” said Mubeen Khan, a Yamuna Vihar resident.

DTTDC officials, however, said that after Diwali the bridge would be closed between 11pm and 5am for around a month in order to carry out work on the glass façade atop the pylon. The façade, which will be used as a viewing gallery, would give visitors a bird’s-eye view of the city from a height of 154m. The viewing gallery will be opened for the public in February next year, officials said.

The bridge is expected to not only help motorists going towards northeast Delhi, but would also decongest the Outer Ring Road, Shahdara Bridge, ISBT Kashmiri Gate, Khajuri Khas, Bhajanpura, Old Wazirabad Bridge and Pusta Road.

Alok Kaushik, a banker, said the bridge would significantly take the traffic off from the Outer Ring Road and help the commuters going towards Noida, central and south Delhi.

“One can witness perennial traffic jam at Wazirabad Crossing and Majnu Ka Tila. Gaziabad or Loni bound commuters coming from Azadpur side had to either take Wazirabad Bridge or Shahdara flyover going via ISBT Kashmiri Gate. But with the Signature Bridge being operational, all this traffic will be shifted there. Noida and south Delhi bound commuters will get a smooth flow on Outer Ring Road,” Kaushik, who uses the stretch daily, said.

The western and eastern approaches (1.5km and 1.8km respectively) to the bridge will connect nearby areas like Timarpur, Nehru Vihar, Wazirabad, Aruna Nagar, Mukherjee Nagar on Ring Road to Bhajanpura on Mangal Pandey Marg.

Girl, 4, gang-raped in Lucknow hospital

LUCKNOW, Nov 5: A four-year-old girl was gang-raped while being treated in an intensive care unit in India, it has been claimed.

Police official Mahesh Srivastava said the girl told her grandmother she was raped by a hospital attendant and four others when she was alone on Saturday night.

He said one man was in custody and police were looking for others.

Detectives have also asked for CCTV footage and are trying to determine why the girl was left alone in the ICU.

Mr Srivastava said the girl had been in the hospital for four days and was being treated for a snake bite.

The hospital is located 155 miles southwest of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh.

India has been shaken by a series of sexual assaults in recent years, including the gang-rape and murder of a student on a moving New Delhi bus in 2012.

The attack shocked the country where widespread violence against women had long been quietly accepted.

Although the government has passed a series of laws increasing punishment for rape of an adult to 20 years in prison, sexual assaults are still being reported regularly.

Following outrage over the recent rape and killings of young girls and other attacks on children, India's government approved the death penalty for anyone convicted of raping children under 12.


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