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Delhi

Congress pips BJP in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, MP; TRS retains Telangana

Delivering a severe blow to the BJP in the Hindi heartland months ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress on Tuesday dislodged it from power in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and was just two seats short of majority in Madhya Pradesh as counting of votes progressed in Assembly elections in five states.

Celebrations at the Congress headquarters in New Delhi as results of the Assembly elections in five states come in, on December 11, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
Celebrations at the Congress headquarters in New Delhi as results of the Assembly elections in five states come in, on December 11, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
Delivering a severe blow to the BJP in the Hindi heartland just months  ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress on Tuesday dislodged it from power in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and was just two seats short of majority in Madhya Pradesh as counting of votes progressed in Assembly elections in five states held between November 12 and December 7.
 
In a bid to outsmart the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after its experience in Goa and Manipur, the Congress moved in late on Tuesday writing to Madhya Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel seeking an appointment to stake claim to form the next government. State Congress Chief Kamal Nath wrote to Patel claiming the Congress has emerged as the single-largest party with "majority support".
 
In Telangana, the ruling Telangana Rashtriya Samithi's (TRS) gamble of early elections paid off with the party scoring a landslide 4win getting 88 seats out of 119 at stake, thrashing the Congress-led People's Front. 
 
The Congress also lost its last bastion in the Northeast -- Mizoram -- when it was defeated convincingly by the Mizo National Front (MNF) ending the party's decade-long hold over power in the state.
 
As the BJP suffered its worst defeat since coming to power at the Centre in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- the main campaigner for the party -- tweeted late in the night that he accepted the verdict with humility and would work with greater vigour for the people. 
 
The highlight of the day was the ding-dong battle between the ruling BJP and the Congress in Madhya Pradesh where leads alternated between the two sides, with Congress getting a slight edge by winning 87 seats and leading in 26 in the 230-member House. The Congress was ahead in 113 including those won and the BJP in 109 which included 83 wins.
 
The Congress had won 58 seats in the last election. A nearly 3 per cent swing in votes against BJP hit the party hard in the elections where agrarian unrest, unemployment and the ill effects of demonetisation dominated the campaign.
 
The Congress, which may be falling short of the magic figure of 116, could look to get backing from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is leading in 2 seats, and the Samajwadi Party (SP), which has won one seat, besides Independents, most of whom are Congress rebels and have won three seats while leading in one. The SP said it will back the Congress, and the BSP may follow suit.
 
Facing a stiff anti-incumbency, the BJP under Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, which had won 165 seats in 2013, was pushed down to 109 seats with 82 wins and leading in 28 seats. The party has been in power for the last 15 years in the state. 
 
In the neighbouring Chhattisgarh, where also the BJP had been in power for three terms, the Congress took a sweet revenge by sweeping back to power with a three-fourths majority of 68 seats out of 90. The BJP won 15 seats. The alliance of former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi-led Janta Congress Chhattisgarh and Mayawati-led BSP fared poorly winning six and was leading in one seat. 
 
In the 2013 elections, the BJP had won 49 seats against the Congress' 39. The saffron party saw a huge negative swing of 8 per cent from 41 per cent it had secured in the last elections, while Congress' fortunes improved drastically when it got 3 per cent more votes at 42 per cent.
 
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Rajasthan proved true to the 20-year-old tradition of voting out the ruling party. The battle was won by the Congress which has bagged 99 seats, while the ruling BJP won 73 seats. The Congress, which is just short of the halfway mark of 100 of the 199 seats where election was held, saw its ally Rashtriya Lok Dal winning one seat. The BSP won six seats and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) won 2 seats. The two parties had fought against both Congress and BJP. 
 
In the final analysis, the BJP put up a better-than-expected fight as opinion polls had written off the party even before the contest had started.
 
The Bharatiya Tribal Party won two seats and the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party bagged 3. Independents, comprising mostly Congress and BJP rebels, had a field day when 12 of them won and another was leading.
 
The Congress, which had a disastrous performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and suffered successive defeats in various Assembly elections, smiled for the first time defeating the BJP in a direct contest in three crucial states in north India. 
 
Party president Rahul Gandhi, who campaigned vigorously, said the Assembly election results were a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's non-performance on issues of unemployment, agrarian distress, corruption and negating the ill effects of demonetisation. 
 
This was countered by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who said issues in state elections are entirely different. The BJP won Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in 2003 but lost the Lok sabha elections the next year, he said. 
 
The general elections in 2019 would be fought around the performance of Modi where people will vote for the tried and tested leadership against a non-ideological opposition coalition, which is bound to collapse sooner than later, he added.
 
Riding a pro-incumbency wave, the TRS headed by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, scored a scintilating victory in Telangana making mincemeat of the Congress-led "Praja Kutami" that included the TDP, CPI and the Telangana Jana Samithi. The inclusion of the TDP apparently backfired as the TRS made a bogey of the presence of "outsider" from Andhra Pradesh in Telangana politics. 
 
In the 119-member Assembly, the TRS won 88 seats while the Congress managed to win only 19. TRS ally AIMIM led by Asaduddin Owaisi won seven of eight seats it contested. The TDP secured two seats, while the All India Forward Bloc bagged one. An Independent managed to win a seat, while TJS and CPI -- part of the Congress alliance -- drew a blank. 
 
In the Northeast, the Congress lost its last state Mizoram where the MNF decimated the ruling party winning 26 of the 40 seats at stake. The Congress won five, while Independents won in 8 seats. The BJP, which is in power in six of the northeastern states either directly or through allies, opened its account in the Christian-dominated Mizoram by winning a lone seat. 
 
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh resigned taking moral responsibility for the BJP's stunning defeat in Assembly election, while his Rajasthan counterpart Vasundhara Raje also conceded defeat.
 
Mizoram's Congress Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla also resigned after the humiliating defeat.
 
TRS chief K. Chandrashekhar Rao said he would play a crucial role in national politics.
 
IANS
 

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Stalin holds talks with Sonia, Rahul ahead of opposition meet

Ahead of the crucial meeting of opposition parties in their bid to forge an anti-BJP front, DMK President M. K. Stalin met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday and discussed a range of issues.

DMK President M K Stalin with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on December 9, 2018.
DMK President M K Stalin with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on December 9, 2018.
Ahead of the crucial meeting of opposition parties in their bid to forge an anti-BJP front, DMK President M. K. Stalin met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday and discussed a range of issues.
 
Informing about Stalin's visit on micro-blogging site Twitter, Rahul Gandhi said: "We had a warm and cordial meeting and discussed a range of issues. 
 
"I look forward to continuing our dialogue and to strengthening our alliance that has stood the test of time." 
 
Stalin met Sonia Gandhi on the day of her 72nd birthday along with former Union Minister D. Raja and Kanimozhi. 
 
The December 10 meeting in the national capital has been called by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu, aimed at brainstorming over a possible front to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
 
A host of opposition leaders are expected to participate in the meet that was earlier scheduled for November 22 but was postponed because of the Assembly polls to the states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Mizoram and Rajasthan.
 
IANS
 

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C. P. Joshi apologises for remark, BJP demands his expulsion

Rebuked by his own party and facing backlash from the BJP, former Union Minister and Congress veteran C. P. Joshi on Friday apologised for his remarks that "only Brahmins can speak about Hindu religion, not Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister Uma Bharti".

C. P. Joshi (File photo)
C. P. Joshi (File photo)
Rebuked by his own party and facing backlash from the BJP, former Union Minister and Congress veteran C. P. Joshi on Friday apologised for his remarks that "only Brahmins can speak about Hindu religion, not Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister Uma Bharti".
 
In a video gone viral, Joshi is seen saying: "It is strange that Uma Bharti, who is of the Lodhi community is talking about Hindu religion, Narendra Modi is of some other religion and he talks about Hindu religion.
 
"In this country, if anyone knows about religion, it is the pandits and the Brahmins." The video has been shared by several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and Ministers on social media, condemning Joshi and the Congress. 
 
Strongly disapproving the comments, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said Joshi's remarks were against the ideology of the party and he should apologise for them.
 
"Respecting the principles of the party and sentiments of its workers, Joshi would definitely realise his mistake. He should express remorse for his statement," said Gandhi and warned party leaders to refrain from making any statements which may hurt sentiments of any section of the society.
 
Soon after Gandhi's rebuke, Joshi issued an apology. 
 
"Respecting the ideals of the Congress and the sentiments of the party workers, I express remorse for my statement if it caused any hurt to the sentiments of any section of the society," he said in a brief statement.
 
Taking strong offence to the remarks, the BJP accused the Congress of indulging in casteist and divisional politics and demanded Joshi's expulsion from the party. 
 
"Joshi's remarks reflect the Congress' casteist and communal politics. Joshi has mentioned Uma Bharti's caste, he has mentioned Modi's caste, don't people from the Lodh community deserve respect. The Congress' strategy of dividing people will not yield any results," said BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra. 
 
Describing Gandhi's admonition of Joshi as "merely a drama", Patra dared the Congress chief to expel him. 
 
"If Gandhi is really hurt by the comments as he says, then he should immediately expel Joshi from the Congress," added Patra. 
 
Sharing Joshi's video on Twitter, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan accused the Congress of pursuing the politics of "divide and rule". 
 
"The Congress which claims to have fought against the British is following their footsteps and pursuing the politics of divide and rule," said the Petroleum Minister. 
 
IANS
 

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SC takes exception to 'leak' of Verma's response, adjourns CBI hearing to Nov 29

Taking exception to a leak of CBI Director Alok Verma's response to the CVC's report submitted in a sealed cover before it a day ago, the Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned hearing of the case till November 29.

Taking exception to a leak of CBI Director Alok Verma's response to the CVC's report submitted in a sealed cover before it a day ago, the Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned hearing of the case till November 29.
 
A visibly unhappy Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, in a brief order, said "for reasons not to be recorded, we are not inclined to hear the matter today (Tuesday)" after a news portal carried extracts of Verma's response.
 
Gogoi also said one of the two judges on the bench -- Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice K. M. Joseph -- "will be away from tonight".
 
Venting its anguish over the manner in which applications mentioned before the court on Monday reached the media, CJI Gogoi said: "This court is not a platform. This is a place where adjudication of rights takes place. We intend to set it right." 
 
The CJI also referred to the mentioning of the application by CBI DIG Manish Kumar Sinha who was supervising the probe into allegations of corruption against Special Director Rakesh Asthana. 
 
DIG Sinha, while questioning his dramatic transfer to Nagpur on the night of October 23, has pointed a finger at National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval for allegedly interfering in the investigation against Asthana. 
 
At the outset, the Chief Justice, disallowing the customary mentioning, asked senior counsel Fali Nariman to look at a report which was given to him.
 
"It is only for you (Nariman) to read yourself, it is not for the counsel for Alok Verma" (Nariman is appearing for Verma)," Gogoi told the senior counsel.
 
Addressing him as the "most respected senior member of the institution", Gogoi added: "If you wish to respond to this, we will adjourn the hearing from an hour or so." 
 
However, Nariman expressing his ignorance over the publication, said: "I was also disturbed on seeing it. I will request the court to summon the person who carried this report."
 
He also added while the "media is free, but at the same time it has to be responsible. It has to be both. It is my reading of the media. Responsible means responsible and not responsible to someone".
 
Referring to the media reports that a mentioning was made on Monday seeking more time to file Verma's response to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)'s report, Nariman clarified that the lawyer who made the request was totally unauthorised and he (Nariman) was not even informed about it.
 
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"It was not informed to me. I was not aware. Nobody asked him to make mentioning. We worked whole night to prepare (Verma's) response. It was totally unauthorised."
 
"I was as disturbed," Nariman said when he saw newspaper reports in the morning.
 
Later in the day, Nariman told the court the report that appeared in the news portal was of November 17, whereas we filed the response on November 19.
 
Refusing to moderate its position on papers meant for the court reaching the media even before it could be dealt with by them, CJI Gogoi said: "We expect high a degree of confidentiality." 
 
The court was apparently perturbed over the "integrity" of the investigating agency getting "compromised" due to wide media coverage of the DIG Sinha's application naming high and mighty in the matter relating to Special Direrctor Rakesh Asthana. 
 
Even as advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan, who had sought accommodation of a few hours in filing the reply of Alok Verma to "not so complimentary" findings of the CVC, tried to explain the position, Nariman said that he had approached the court a day before without any authorisation. 
 
The CJI was so irked with the situation that had emerged by the alleged "leak" of Verma's response to court and the contents of DIG Sinha finding space in media columns that he refused to hear any one including Solicitor General till the issue before the court is sorted out.
 
IANS
 

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Sabarimala becomes a police fortress

With the Lord Ayyappa shrine opening for a day on Monday, Sabarimala town has been virtually taken over by some 2,300 Kerala Police personnel after protests marred the last pilgrimage season.

 
Security tightened ahead of reopening of Sabarimala Temple
With the Lord Ayyappa shrine opening for a day on Monday, this temple town has been virtually taken over by some 2,300 Kerala Police personnel after protests marred the last pilgrimage season.
 
The pilgrims will be allowed to go up the pathway only on Monday afternoon, an official said.
 
The temple opens its door at 5 p.m. and closes on Tuesday at 10 p.m.
 
Pathanamthitta District Collector P. B. Nooh has declared prohibitory orders in and around the temple town banning the gathering of four or more persons to foil street protests.
 
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and numerous Hindu groups are up in arms against the September 28 verdict of the Supreme Court that allowed women of all age groups to enter the temple.
 
The Kerala government has said it will implement the ruling, pitting it against the protesters.
 
All the roads leading from Nilackal to the base camp of the temple town Pamba are barricaded and have been declared out of bounds till Monday morning by the police.
 
The police are checking each and every vehicle that passes in and around the temple town. On Sunday, after protests, the police allowed the media to travel till Nilackal.
 
Kerala BJP spokesperson M. T. Ramesh warned the police against examining the holy kit (Irrumudi Kettu) that is carried on the head by the pilgrims.
 
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Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that there appeared to be some shady goings on as the media had never before been banned into the temple town.
 
"If the media is kept away, then the authorities want to hide something," he said.
 
State Congress President Mulapally Ramachandran said: "Parties like CPI, academics, intelligentsia and socio-cultural icons should prevail upon (Chief Minister Pinarayi) Vijayan to see that he handles this very sensitive issue in a more mature way." 
 
The Sabarimala Karma Samithi has written to media groups not to depute lady journalists to cover Monday's events at the temple that are generally out of bounds for women in the age group 10 to 50.
 
The Samithi is angry that when the temple opened for the monthly prayers last month, attempts by two women journalists to do their job from the temple top were thwarted by protesters. 
 
The representatives of the Pandalam Royal family, the custodian of the jewellery of the Sabarimala temple, said the temple was passing through "tough times" as the temple town had been taken over by the police. 
 
"We will hold a special prayer and singing of hymns when the temple opens," said Sreekumar Varma.
 
Pathanamthitta district Superintendent of Police T. Narayanan said on Sunday that, as of now, there had been no request from women to enter the shrine.
 
As of Sunday , the police have registered 545 cases and arrested 3,731 persons who protested last month when the temple opened for six days. 
 
Only around 100 are still in jail, while the rest have secured bail.
 
IANS
 

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Modi won't survive if Rafale probed, says Rahul; Reliance rebuts charges

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday alleged that French defence major Dassault Aviation had paid "kickback" to Reliance to secure the Rafale deal, and claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not survive if the "huge corruption" in the purchase was probed.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi addressing a press conference in New Delhi, on November 2, 2018.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi addressing a press conference in New Delhi, on November 2, 2018.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday alleged that French defence major Dassault Aviation had paid "kickback" to Reliance to secure the Rafale deal, and claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not survive if the "huge corruption" in the purchase was probed.
 
Reliance has, however, rubbished the allegations as "blatant lies".
 
Rejecting Gandhi's allegations, Reliance accused the Congress of resorting to "blatant lies" and "distorted facts" to mount an "unwarranted campaign of calumny and falsehoods" against the Group and its Chairman Anil Ambani. 
 
"If an inquiry starts on this (Rafale deal), Modi is not going to survive it, guaranteed," Gandhi said here alleging the deal to procure 36 Rafale jets was "done by Modi to give Ambani Rs 30,000 crore".
 
Gandhi cited two reasons for his claims: "One, because of corruption. Two, because it is very clear who the decision maker was. 
 
"Nobody would be able to say that some General in the Air Force or the Defence Minister or some bureaucrat from the Defence Ministry (was the decision maker)."
 
Gandhi said that if there was nothing to hide, Modi would have ordered an inquiry into the decision to purchase the fighter jets from France.
 
"But Modi is silent. He has lost his sleep because of tension as he knows he will be caught."
 
Claiming Dassault Aviation "invested Rs 284 crore" in a "loss making" Indian company, Gandhi said it was the "first installment of kickback" that was paid by the French defence major to secure the deal.
 
He said that Dassault CEO Eric Trappier's claim that his company chose Reliance as its offsets partner because it had land available next to an airport, had been belied as it had been revealed that the land was bought by the money that was "invested by Dassault".
 
Gandhi alleged Trappier was "lying" to save Modi who in April 2015 had announced the inter-governmental deal to buy the jets in "complete violation" of defence procurement policies.
 
He also alleged that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Alok Kumar Verma was "removed" because he was looking into the documents pertaining to the deal that could "nail" Modi.
 
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"It is obvious that there is enough material in public domain to nail Modi," he said alleging that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's recent visit to France was a part of a cover-up which the Modi government was indulging in to prevent the truth from coming out.
 
Gandhi also said that Modi was "terrified" and would never agree for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the deal. 
 
Strongly denying Gandhi's allegations, Reliance Infrastructure said it was "deeply unfortunate" that the group and its chairman were continuously being dragged into a political battle ahead of the state and general elections.
 
It said that Dassault's investment in Reliance Airport Developers Ltd (RADL) had no link with the Rafale contract.
 
"Congress attacks on Anil Ambani in his individual capacity are shameful and deplorable," the company said in a statement, adding that Anil Ambani had not entered into any transactions personally with Dassault nor had he derived any personal benefit from any transactions.
 
It said that RADL transaction was completed in full compliance with applicable FDI and all other regulations and that the information was in public domain since December 2017, nearly a year ago. 
 
"It is clear that the Congress' consistent allegation that Anil Ambani has received contracts worth Rs 30,000 crore is a blatant attempt to mislead the public for their own political gains and is a concoction of lies," it said rejecting Congress' allegation that "land at Mihan, Nagpur was bought from funds provided by Dassault". 
 
"Any suggestion of any payment to Anil Ambani is absolutely false and mischievous," it said, adding that payment for the land at Mihan was made from 2015 to 2017, much before the investment by Dassault in RADL. 
 
The company said the Indian and French governments, Dassault and Reliance have clarified on multiple occasions that there was no offset contract for Rs 30,000 crore to Reliance, related to purchase of 36 aircraft.
 
IANS

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Govt. mum on allegations against Akbar, Congress demands his resignation

The government on Wednesday continued to maintain silence on the allegations of sexual misconduct against Union Minister M.J. Akbar even as the Congress sought his resignation.

M J Akbar (File photo: IANS)
M J Akbar (File photo: IANS)
The government on Wednesday continued to maintain silence on the allegations of sexual misconduct against Union Minister M.J. Akbar even as the Congress sought his resignation.
 
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who briefed reporters about cabinet decisions, refused to answer any question other than those pertaining to cabinet decisions, including that on Akbar and the #MeToo campaign. 
 
"Today the issue is cabinet decisions, please concentrate on that," he said in response to a question about allegations against Akbar. 
 
"The issue is cabinet decisions," Prasad again said when reporters pressed for an answer from him on the issue.
 
On Tuesday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj did not answer media queries about allegations concerning Akbar. As reporters persisted with their questions and asked if there will be a probe, she walked past them without giving an answer. 
 
At least six women journalists have accused Akbar, a former editor, of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour.
 
Meanwhile, the Congress on Wednesday asked Akbar to either come clean about the charges against him or resign. It also sought an independent probe into the charges against Akbar.
 
"Akbar has a stature as a journalist, apart from being a Minister. He should offer a satisfactory explanation either through a statement or personally, or resign forthwith," Congress spokesperson S. Jaipal Reddy told the media here. 
 
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"How can he be in the Ministry with such serious allegations levelled by responsible journalists who have worked with him. Let there be an inquiry. We demand an inquiry against Akbar," said Reddy.
 
The Congress also targeted the Modi government, including External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, for keeping mum on the issue. 
 
"We had hoped that women cutting across political lines will come out in support of these brave women who have now come out and revealed their ordeal and tragic stories. Unfortunately, Sushma Swaraj, to whom many look up to for inspiration, has chosen to stay quiet," said Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi.
 
"It also raises a finger at the government that talks of women empowerment and safety but maintains a dubious silence on the matter," she said.
 
Chaturvedi also demanded an apology from BJP MP Udit Raj, who on Tuesday sought to question why women were coming out with their stories 10 years after the alleged incidents and dubbed it as the "beginning of wrong practice".
 
"We strongly condemn Udit Raj's shameless comments. But considering the fact that his party (BJP) has refused to take cognisance of the remarks, it can be taken as an endorsement... Udit Raj should be made to apologise," added Chaturvedi. 
 
IANS
 

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SC opens Sabarimala gates to women of all ages

The Supreme Court on Friday opened the gates of the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala dedicated to Lord Ayyappa to women of all ages, lifting the prohibition on women in the age group of 10-50 saying it was violative of their fundamental rights and constitutional guarantees.

The Supreme Court on Friday opened the gates of the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala dedicated to Lord Ayyappa to women of all ages, lifting the prohibition on women in the age group of 10-50 saying it was violative of their fundamental rights and constitutional guarantees.
 
In a majority 4:1 judgment, the top court also read down the provision of Kerala laws that protected the prohibition and said it could not be covered under practices essential and integral to religious practice. 
 
Justice Indu Malhotra, the only woman judge in the five-judges bench, gave a dissenting judgment.
 
Chief Justice Dipak Misra reading out the judgment, also on behalf of Justice A. M. Khanwilkar, said that subversion of women's rights under the garb of physiological phenomenon cannot be allowed.
 
"All devotees are equal and there cannot be any discrimination on the basis of gender," Misra said.
 
Justice Rohinton F. Nariman in a separate but concurring judgment said that people of all faiths visit the temples -- worshipers are not of separate denomination.
 
"Religion cannot become a cover to exclude and deny women their right to worship," Justice D.Y. Chandrachud also said in a separate but concurring judgment.
 
Holding that the Sabarimala temple is not a denominational temple peculiar to any sect, the court said that the Ayyappa temple belongs to Hindus and does not constitute a separate entity. 
 
The apex court also read down the provision of Kerala laws that protected the practice of prohibiting the entry of women in the age group of 10 to 50 years.
 
Justice Indu Malhotra said: "What constitutes essential practices of religion is to be decided by worshippers and it is not for the judiciary to adjudicate.
 
"It is not for courts to decide if such practices should be struck down. Rationality cannot be used to judge faith. All followers must be allowed to follow their own faith as per their own beliefs in a secular polity."
 
IANS
 

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SC upholds Aadhaar but with modifications

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar document but with modifications. It ruled it will not be required for opening bank accounts, admission in schools or to get mobile phone connections.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar document but with modifications. It ruled it will not be required for opening bank accounts, admission in schools or to get mobile phone connections.
 
The court said this in a majority judgment given by Justice A.K. Sikri, also speaking for Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar as they upheld the tabling of Aadhaar as a money bill.
 
Uniqueness was the fundamental difference between Aadhaar and other identity proof, the bench said.
 
Aadhaar cannot be duplicated and it was a unique identification, the judges said.
 
"We are of the view that there are sufficient safeguards to protect data collected under Aadhaar scheme."
 
The apex court struck down Section 57 of Aadhaar Act which allows private entities to demand Aadhaar to access services.
 
However, no person will be denied benefits under social welfare scheme because of the failure of authentication through Aadhaar, the judges said.
 
"We direct the government to ensure that illegal migrants are not issued Aadhaar," they said, adding that as of today they did not find anything in Aadhaar Act which violated the right to privacy of individual citizen.
 

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Modi, Hasina jointly launch work on oil pipeline, rail projects

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday jointly launched the construction works of a cross-border oil pipeline and two rail projects, with the former describing the two countries as members of the same family.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina jointly unveiling e-plaques for the ground-breaking ceremony of two projects -- India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and Dhaka-Tongi-Joydebpur Railway Project -- via video conference, in New Delhi on September 18, 2018.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina jointly unveiling e-plaques for the ground-breaking ceremony of two projects -- India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and Dhaka-Tongi-Joydebpur Railway Project -- via video conference, in New Delhi on September 18, 2018.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday jointly launched the construction works of a cross-border oil pipeline and two rail projects, with the former describing the two countries as members of the same family.
 
Hasina and Modi joined the event in the evening via video-conferencing from Dhaka and New Delhi, respectively.
 
The 130-km India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline connecting Siliguri in India with Parbatipur in Bangladesh will transport petroleum products from Numaligarh Refinery in Assam. Of the total length, 125 km will be constructed in Bangladesh and 5 km in India.
 
"Geographically we may be neighbours, but in our hearts we are members of the same family," Modi said while addressing the programme.
 
"We have shown the world, what can be achieved when neighbours work together," he said, adding that there had been unprecedented progress in cooperation between the two sides in the last few years.
 
At the same event, the ground-breaking ceremony of two rail projects to improve Dhaka's connectivity with Tongi and Joydebpur, two towns on the outskirts of the capital city, was also held.
 
Officials said 48.80 km of the two new dual gauge rail lines would be constructed on the Dhaka-Tongi route while a 12.28 km new dual gauge railway double line would be built on the Tongi-Joydevpur route. 
 
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The launch of the projects came a little over a week after both the Prime Ministers inaugurated two railway projects and an electricity project connecting the two countries on September 10.
 
Stating that the pipeline will further boost bilateral cooperation, Modi said that energy was the cornerstone of any country's development.
 
"The pipeline will help in the development of the northern Bangladesh. Though it is being done with grant-financing from India, the project will be dedicated to the people and government of Bangladesh once completed," he said.
 
Modi said the railway project will bring relief to road traffic in Bangladesh.
 
Speaking from Dhaka, Hasina said that ever since she formed her government in Bangladesh in 2009, she has been working relentlessly to deepen ties with India.
 
She thanked Modi for the new projects which she said will help in Bangladesh's development.
 
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan joined the video conference from Delhi and Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali from Dhaka. 
 
iANS
 

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India's PSLV-C42 launches two British satellites into orbit

India's workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C42) took off from the First Launch Pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota on Sunday night with two earth observation satellites from the United Kingdom and successfully placed them in their intended orbits.

 
ISRO's PSLV-C42launches British satellites NovaSAR and S1-4 into orbit
 
 
India's workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C42) took off from the First Launch Pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota tonight with two earth observation satellites from the United Kingdom and successfully placed them in their intended orbits.
 
The satellites, NovaSAR and S1-4, together weighing nearly 889 kg, of Surrey Satellite Technologies Limited (SSTL), United Kingdom were launched under commercial arrangement with Antrix Corporation Limited, the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  
NovaSAR is an S-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite intended for forest mapping, land use and ice cover monitoring, and flood and disaster monitoring. It will be operated from SSTL’s Spacecraft Operations Centre in Guildford, UK.
 
S1-4 is a high resolution Optical Earth Observation Satellite that will be used for surveying resources, environment monitoring, urban management and for the disaster monitoring.
 
PSLV-C42 lifted off at 10.08 pm (IST). Both satellites were injected into the Sun Synchronous Orbit, about 17 minutes later, at an altitude of 583 km.
 
This was the 44th flight of PSLV and the 12th flight of the Core Alone version of the vehicle. Core Alone is its lightest version without the six strap-on motors. It is used for launching smaller payloads.
 
The PSLV launch vehicle consists of four stages, each of which is a self-contained vehicle capable of functioning independently with own propulsion systems.
 
During the previous launch (PSLV-C41, 12 April 2018), the ‘XL’ version of PSLV with six strap-on motors was used. The vehicle successfully launched the IRNSS-1I navigation satellite to a Sub-Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit.
 
Preparations began at Sriharikota in mid-July with the process of vehicle integration setting the tone for the launch. Many centres of ISRO contributed to this mission with the vehicle being designed and developed by Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram.
 
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The second and fourth stage liquid engines came from Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, Thiruvananthapuram and ISRO Propulsion Complex, Mahendragiri (TN).
 
The vehicle’s guidance system is from ISRO’s Inertial Systems Unit, Thiruvananthapuram, while SDSC SHAR was responsible for solid motor preparation, vehicle integration and launch infrastructure. ISRO’s Telemetry Tracking and Command Network provided tracking support.
 
ISRO Chairman Dr K Sivan congratulated the team soon after the successful mission.
 
“I am extremely happy that the PSLV-C42 precisely launched two of our customer satellites at 583 km orbit.  This was a unique night mission executed for the first time by us. The PSLV has proven yet again as a user-friendly vehicle in all aspects. The credit goes to the entire ISRO team and industries. This success will give added energy for industries to make PSLV by themselves. We are going to have 18 missions in the next six months, virtually one launch every two weeks,” Dr Sivan said.
 
Thousands of skilled personnel from ISRO and industries, including many youngsters, played a crucial role in this mission. The Project Director of PSLV is R Hutton, who was also the Mission Director.
 
 “The PSLV-C42 marks the latest technology and commercial collaboration between India and the UK with the launch of the combination of high resolution optical and radar (SAR) satellites from us,” says Sir Martin Sweeting, Group Executive Chairman, SSTL
 
As on date, ISRO has launched 239 foreign satellites of 28 countries.
 
NNN
 

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Government to stick to expenditure, fiscal deficit targets

Virtually ruling out any immediate cut in fuel prices, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said after a review meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the government would stick to its capital expenditure targets for achieving a higher trajectory of growth while maintaining the budgeted 3.3 per cent fiscal deficit target in the current year.

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Virtually ruling out any immediate cut in fuel prices, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said after a review meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the government would stick to its capital expenditure targets for achieving a higher trajectory of growth while maintaining the budgeted 3.3 per cent fiscal deficit target in the current year.
 
"The government is confident and committed to strictly maintaining the 3.3 per cent fiscal deficit target. As far as capital expenditure is concerned for maintaining the high trajectory growth, we will end the year without any cuts and will maintain 100 per cent capital expenditure, necessary for high trajectory growth," he told reporters after a three-hour meeting at the Prime Minister's official residence.
 
The Finance Minister parried reporters' questions whether the issue of petroleum prices, which have hit the roof, and whether the possibility of a cut in prices were discussed, saying it was essentially an internal discussion relating to the departments of the Finance Ministry. 
 
The government has been maintaining that it was difficult to cut the excise duty on imported crude because it has to maintain expenditure on various social welfare schemes announced in the budget.
 
Saturday's meeting came a day after the Prime Minister discussed with Jaitley and Finance Ministry officials the current economic situation after which the Finance Minister announced five measures to curb the widening current account deficit besides a policy to limit non-essential imports and to encourage exports.
 
Jaitley said the primary focus of Friday's meeting was the current account deficit and how to narrow it down.
 
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"Today, the Economic Affair Department, Revenue Department, Expenditure Department and Department of Investment and Public Asset Management made detailed presentations before the Prime Minister. After the presentations, the Prime Minister expressed satisfaction with respect to broad parameters in relation to the economy and macroeconomic data so far emerging this year.
 
"We are confident of achieving higher growth rate than was projected in the budget. Inflation is broadly under control and in direct tax collections, we are moving ahead of schedule. Despite the stiff target, we are now seeing the impact of anti-black money measures we have taken: demonetisation and GST. There is a phenomenal increase in the base of the number of people filing tax returns," he said. 
 
The Finance Minister said the CBDT is clear that it would be able to collect in excess of the budgeted tax. 
 
"In regard to GST and indirect taxes, the GST is settling down and with the pickup in consumption, it will show on the GST collections in future months. Between the indirect and direct taxes, we will comfortably meet the target, if not surpass it. As far as non-tax revenue is concerned, the entire programme of divestment and strategic sales for this year, just as we exceeded the target last year, we are confident of not only meeting the disinvestment target, but exceeding it.
 
"On the basis of all these analyses, we are optimistic of our growth and tax collections. As far as the fiscal deficit is concerned, we will be able to stick to 3.3 per cent," Jaitley said.
 
IANS
 

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Jaitley helped Mallya to flee, must quit: Rahul

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday demanded Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's resignation after accusing him of colluding with fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya "and giving him a free passage" to flee the country.

 
Jaitley-Mallya meet: Rahul demands FM's resignation
 
 
Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday demanded Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's resignation after accusing him of colluding with fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya "and giving him a free passage" to flee the country.
 
Addressing the media at the Congress headquarters here, Gandhi asked why the Minister did not inform the investigating agencies about Mallya's plans to leave India.
 
"There is a clear-cut collusion. He (Jaitley) should have confessed (about the meeting) and he should resign," said Gandhi. 
 
At the media conference, party MP P. L. Punia claimed to give an eyewitness account of the meeting between Jaitley and Mallya in the Central Hall of Parliament before the businessman fled the country on March 2, 2016. 
 
"The Finance Minister talks to an absconder (Mallya) and the absconder tells the Finance Minister that I am going to London. The Finance Minister neither told the CBI, the ED or the police, why? 
 
"He was given a free passage to leave the country by the Finance Minister," said Gandhi and alleged that the logistics of Mallya going out of the country were discussed at the meeting. 
 
"The Finance Minister has colluded with a criminal." 
 
Punia claimed the meeting between Jaitley and Mallya lasted 15-20 minutes and alleged that Mallya took Jaitley's permission after holding consultations with him about his planned flight abroad. 
 
"The meeting happened on March 1, 2016, a day after the Union Budget was presented. In the Central Hall, initially Mallya and Jaitley were standing and were talking intently. Then they moved to the benches in the Central Hall and were seated and talking," said Punia. 
 
"Later, on March 3 morning, news appeared that Mallya left the country on March 2. My first reaction was that I had seen them together in Central Hall a day earlier," said Punia.
 
The MP said he had referred about the meeting in his interactions with the media.
 
"I am surprised that for last two and a half years, the Finance Minister never referred to this meeting. It was not a short meeting but a formal meeting. There is CCTV facility in Parliament and their meeting can be verified from the footages. 
 
"It is very clear that Mallya took his (Jaitley's) permission after holding consultations. It is our charge and inference that he (Mallya) went with his (Jaitley's) concurrence. 
 
"It is a serious issue. Either he (Jaitley) quits politics or I will quit," said Punia. 
 
Ridiculing Jaitley, Gandhi said: "Yesterday Jaitley said Mallya had approached him informally. He writes long blogs, but forgot to write about this in any of his blogs." 
 
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He also questioned why Jaitley did not inform the CBI, ED or the police that Mallya had told him about his plans to go to London. 
 
"Our first question is an absconder tells the Finance Minister that I am going to London and the Finance Minister doesn't refer it to CBI, ED or the police. 
 
"Our second question is there was a lookout notice against Mallya which was diluted to an inform notice. Who changed it? This can be done only by one who controls the CBI," he alleged. 
 
He also demanded to know if the decision was taken by Jaitley himself or the "order came from the top".
 
Referring to Jaitley claiming that his meeting with Mallya was in the corridor of the Central Hall of Parliament, Gandhi demanded to know why Jaitley did not tell the CBI about this.
 
"The Prime Minister takes the decisions and Jaitley listens to him. Did he (Jaitley) allow him to flee or the order was from the top?"
 
On a question if the meeting was a coincidence, Gandhi replied: "How can it be a coincidence? The Finance Minister is responsible for taking action against economic offenders. 
 
"It is clear-cut collusion, the Finance Minister has colluded with a criminal running away from the country. He was told by the criminal that he is going to run away but the Finance Minister did nothing. He has colluded with the criminal. whatever we can do we will do," said Gandhi, adding that the "government is lying on Rafale, they are lying on Mallya".
 
IANS

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After years of battle by activists, SC decriminalises homosexuality

In a historic verdict that the gay community rejoiced, the Supreme Court on Thursday decriminalised homosexuality between consenting adults by declaring as "manifestly arbitrary" Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the penal provision which criminalised gay sex.

LGBTIQ supporters celebrate after the Supreme Court in Delhi, in a landmark decision, decriminalised homosexuality by declaring Section 377, the penal provision which criminalised gay sex, as
LGBTIQ supporters celebrate after the Supreme Court in Delhi, in a landmark decision, decriminalised homosexuality by declaring Section 377, the penal provision which criminalised gay sex, as "manifestly arbitrary"; in Mumbai on September 6, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
In a historic verdict that the gay community rejoiced, the Supreme Court on Thursday decriminalised homosexuality between consenting adults by declaring as "manifestly arbitrary" Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the penal provision which criminalised gay sex.
 
In separate but unanimous verdicts, a five-judge Constitution Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Rohinton Nariman, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra struck down the British era law insofar as it criminalised consensual sexual acts of adults in private.
 
Chief Justice Misra began reading out the eagerly awaited verdict, quoting German thinker Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who had said: "I am what I am, so take me as I am."
 
Misra said attitudes and mentality have to change to accept others' identity and accept what they are, and not what they should be. 
 
"It is the constitutional and not social morality which will prevail. An individual has full liberty over his or her body and his or her sexual orientation is a matter of one's choice.
 
"Time to bid adieu to prejudicial perceptions deeply ingrained in social mindset. Time to empower LGBTIQ community against discrimination," said the Chief Justice, giving a final ruling on an issue that has been embroiled in legal battles since 1994.
 
Section 377 will not apply to consensual same-sex acts between homosexuals, heterosexuals, lesbians, the court said, clarifying that sexual act without consent and bestiality will continue to be an offence.
 
The bench said it was no longer an offence for LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, intersex and queer/questioning) community to engage in consensual sex between two adults in private. 
 
Justice Indu Malhotra said history owed an apology to the LGBTIQ community for all that they have suffered on account of the ignorance of the majority about homosexuality. "LGBTIQ people have a right to live unshackled from the shadow."
 
In a concurring judgement, Justice Nariman said homosexuality was "not a mental disorder or disease".
 
He said the LGBTIQ community had an equal right to live with dignity and were entitled to equal protection of law. He directed the Centre to give wide publicity to the judgment to remove the stigma attached to homosexuality.
 
Justice Chandrachud said to deny the LGBTIQ community their right to sexual orientation was a denial of their citizenship and a violation of their privacy.
 
"Sexual minorities in India have lived in fear, hiding as second class citizens," he said. "The state has no business to intrude on such matters".
 
The verdict assumes significance as in an earlier round of litigation in 2013, the top court had reversed a Delhi High Court ruling decriminalising homosexuality.
 
The Delhi High Court in July 2009 legalised homosexual acts between consenting adults. 
 
But in December 2013, the Supreme Court set aside High Court ruling saying that it was for the legislature to look into desirability of deleting Section 377 of IPC. 
 
The matter was resurrected in July 2016 when a fresh petition was filed by members of the LGBTIQ community -- dancer N.S. Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hotelier Aman Nath and business executive Ayesha Kapur. It was marked to a Constitution Bench.
 
Thursday's verdict sparked street celebrations in the LGBTIQ community across the country. The film world and activists too expressed their joy. 
 
An overwhelmed Ritu Dalmia told IANS: "Today, for the first time, I feel we are living in a functional democracy. It is a good day for human rights, for the country and for the Constitution."
 
West Bengal's Manabi Bandopadhyay, India's first transgender college principal, said the ruling will be "helpful for the next generation of LGBTIQ (community)".
 
 
India decriminalizes gay sex
 
 
The verdict was, however, greeted in silence by most political parties barring the Congress. 
 
"We join the people of India and LGBTIQ community in their victory over prejudice. We welcome the progressive and decisive verdict from the Supreme Court and hope this is the beginning of a more equal and inclusive society," the Congress tweeted. 
 
Congress Lok Sabha member Shashi Tharoor said the "government has no space in bedrooms".
 
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is yet to react, its ideological fountainhead, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), said it agreed with the court's view but does not endorse homosexuality.
 
"Like Supreme Court, we also do not consider this to be a crime. The same sex marriages and relations are not compatible with norms of nature. So, we do not support such relations. Indian society also does not have the tradition to recognise such relations," the RSS said in a statement.
 
Bollywood stars like Aamir Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham and Karan Johar expressed their joy.
 
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta, whose film "Aligarh" made a crucial statement on a gay professor, wrote: "The verdict is clear. Two consenting adults irrespective of sex, religion, cast and gender cannot be rendered criminals by the law."
 
National award-winning film editor Apoorva Asrani, a prominent voice against Section 377, told IANS: "Seventy-one years after a majority of Indians achieved complete independence, the LGBTIQ community is finally free. It's been a lifetime of suppressing true desires and then living in fear of criminal prosecution."
 
The UN also welcomed the verdict, saying it will help eliminate stigma and discrimination against the LGBTIQ community.
 
"LGBTIQ persons across the world continue to be the targets of violent attacks and are affected by multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination based on age, gender, ethnicity, disability and social status," the UN said in a statement.
 
IANS

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NRC process fair, transparent, there will be no discrimination: Rajnath

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday assured Parliament that there will be no discrimination or unnecessary harassment in the updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and said the entire process has been fair and transparent.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday assured Parliament that there will be no discrimination or unnecessary harassment in the updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and said the entire process has been fair and transparent.
 
Reiterating that the matter pertained to national security, he condemned alleged attempts by a "few" (persons) to create an atmosphere of fear based on rumours and propaganda on the social media and internationalise the issue.
 
Responding to a Short Duration Discussion on the issue in the Rajya Sabha, which saw disruptions and adjournments for a couple of days, the Minister said the Central and Assam governments are committed to adding the names of all genuine Indians in the list in a time-bound manner.
 
"I am reiterating that it is not the final NRC. It is just a draft NRC. Adequate opportunity will be provided to everyone for making claims and raising objections. Despite this, if anybody's name remains out of the list, he can approach the Foreigners Tribunal," Rajnath Singh said.
 
He also assured that there would be no coercive action against anybody in any situation.
 
The Minister said that the NRC updation was being carried out in a totally fair, transparent, non-discriminatory and legal manner.
 
"The entire process is being carried out under Supreme Court supervision. It is monitoring on a routine basis. Nobody will be harassed. There has been no discrimination, and there will be no discrimination," he said while dismissing allegations by some opposition parties.
 
He said that the draft NRC had been published on July 30 in accordance with Assam Accord of 1985 when Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister.
 
The decision to update it was taken in 2005 by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he added.
 
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The Minister, a senior BJP leader, also hit out at some political parties, saying they are "trying to create an atmosphere of fear" among the people.
 
"It is unfortunate that some persons with vested interest are running a propaganda on the social media so that the issue can be internationalised and communal harmony affected," he said.
 
"It is a matter of national security... no attempts should be made to create communal disharmony... I expect cooperation from all," Rajnath Singh added.
 
Later, Ripun Bora of the Congress suggested in the house that the Central government convene an all-party meeting.
 
He said that a wrong message had been sent that the Congress is against the NRC. 
 
"With the Home Minister's statement, it is now clear that it was the Congress which initiated the NRC. Rajiv Gandhi understood the danger to Assam. To protect the people of the state, the Assam accord was signed," he said.
 
IANS
 

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Mamata meets Sonia, opposition leaders to stitch anti-BJP alliance for 2019 polls

Seeking to rally opposition parties, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday met UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and leaders of other parties in Delhi on Wednesday and declared that her priority is to defeat the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections next year with the issue of prime ministership to be settled collectively later.

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee meeting Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, in New Delhi on August 1, 2018. (Photo: IANS/Congress)
West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee meeting Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, in New Delhi on August 1, 2018. (Photo: IANS/Congress)
Seeking to rally opposition parties, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday met UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and leaders of several other parties and declared that her priority is to defeat the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections next year with the issue of prime ministership to be settled collectively later.
 
She also kept up her attack on the BJP over the exclusion of 40 lakh names from the National Register of Citizens for Assam, saying they were playing with fire and were using offensive language against those excluded. 
 
Banerjee personally invited Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders for the January 19 mega rally she has planned in Kolkota.
 
The Kolkata rally is expected to help Banerjee emerge as the pivot of opposition efforts to dislodge the Narendra Modi government in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
 
"There will be collective face. Ours is a collective family. Priority is to defeat BJP. If, to defeat BJP, we can fight collectively inside Parliament then why can we not outside...I haven't come to talk about my state," Banerjee said after her meeting with Sonia Gandhi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi. 
 
The meeting with the Gandhis capped a day of hectic activities in Parliament House where Banerjee met leaders of various parties including Shiv Sena, AIADMK, Samajwadi Party, TDP, YSCRP, DMK, RJD, Kerala Congress-Mani. She also called on JD-S leader and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda in Karnataka Bhavan and senior BJP leader L. K. Advani in his chamber in Parliament. 
 
While Shiv Sena is a constituent of the the BJP-led NDA, AIADMK is friendly towards it. 
 
"Whenever I come to Delhi I meet Soniaji as I have very old relation with Rajivji. We have discussed political matters also. How we can fight together," she said, indicating that Congress would be part of anti-BJP front. 
 
"I don't want to interfere in Congress matter or what Congress will decide... Wherever, whoever is strong should fight," she said in reply to a question whether TMC will ally with Congress in West Bengal. 
 
Attacking the BJP, she said the BJP "is nervous politically, tense politically."
 
"The reason why it says whatever these days, because it knows it is not going to come back to power in 2019. If it talks with responsibility then we will talk to them. Not if they abuse us. I can fight against 500 parties in my state... We are all for all, everybody is everybody. PM will be decided later, first fight the election first," she said. 
 
Banerjee said she briefed Sonia Gandhi also on the problems of those excluded from the National Register of Citizens in Assam. 
 
"We discussed the fate of 40 lakh voters who have been decided to be deported, these people are from Bihar, Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan, UP, TN. If these people are deported, what does the BJP want? Does it want peace or civil war," she said. 
 
Earlier in her media interactions in Parliament House complex she sought to downplay questions about who will be the prime ministerial candidate of the Opposition.
 
"I am nobody. I am a very simple worker. Let me just continue as a commoner. I want that this BJP government must go. So we want that everybody should be united. Let us work together, don't think of Prime Ministerial candidate. Think of the country," she said. 
 
Banerjee alleged that BJP was "doing maximum political vendetta" and atrocities with the people.
 
She said NRC is "a global issue and not just an issue of Assam or India". 
 
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"They have deleted names of about 20-25 per cent of the total population. They are calling all of them Bangaldeshi infiltrators. Is Bangladesh a terrorist country? By saying this they are insulting both Bangladesh and India. They should not level baseless allegations against Bangladesh that they are sending infiltrators."
 
Banerjee said if states say they will not accept people from other states, there will "be a civil war" and "bloodbath".
 
"There is panic within people. Only one per cent will be illegal migrants," she said.
 
Banerjee also said that if there was infiltration, it is government's failure. 
 
She said while Home Minister Rajnath Singh had assured that there will be no harassment of people excluded from NRC, BJP chief Amit Shah made remarks against those whose names have been excluded. 
 
Banerjee met Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad, Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav, AIADMK leader M. Thambidurai, Kerala Congress-Mani leader Jose K. Mani, suspended BJP MP Kirti Azad, Shiv Sena member Sanjay Raut, DMK's Tiruchi Siva, Vijay Sai Reddy of YSRC Party, and Misa Bharti and Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav of RJD. She also met TDP MPs. 
 
Former Law Minister and Congress leader Ashwani Kumar also met Banerjee. 
 
Banerjee arrived in Delhi on Monday and met Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Tuesday. She also met dissident BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha and former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Ram Jethmalani.
 
She had visited the national capital in March also and met opposition leaders. 
 
IANS
 

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Varied voting in bye-elections; EVMs malfunction in UP, Maharashtra

Amid complaints of dysfunctional electronic voting machines (EVMs) in three parliamentary constituencies in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, the bye-elections on Monday to four Lok Sabha and nine Assembly seats across India saw moderate to high turnout.

 
Amid complaints of dysfunctional electronic voting machines (EVMs) in three parliamentary constituencies in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, the bye-elections on Monday to four Lok Sabha and nine Assembly seats across India saw moderate to high turnout.
 
The Congress and some other opposition parties complained to the Election Commission (EC) about "hundreds of EVMs" having malfunctioned, particularly in Uttar Pradesh's Kairana, but the poll panel said the news reports of "large scale" failure of EVMs were "an exaggerated projection of reality".
 
It said that adequate number of reserve EVMs-VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) were kept and deployed in almost half hour where there were reports of non-functioning of the machines. 
 
The poll panel said the malfunctioning could be attributed to "first-time use by polling staff, extreme heat, placement of the machine under direct sunlight and mishandling during use".
 
In Kairana, where the BJP is locked in an intense fight with combined opposition including the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress, the polling percentage was 54.17 per cent till 6 p.m.
 
In the Noorpur Assembly segment of the state, the polling percentage was 61 till 6 p.m. 
 
In Kairana, there were reports of firing in Bhura village and skirmishes between supporters of the opposition-supported RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s Mriganka Singh, daughter of late Hukum Singh, whose death necessitated the bypoll.
 
Both the RLD and the BJP filed complaints alleging that over 100 voting machines were malfunctioning.
 
The BJP told the EC that a large number of EVMs were out of order, forcing hundreds of voters to wait outside polling booths in the scorching heat.
 
In the national capital, a multi-party delegation including Congress leader R.P.N. Singh, Samajwadi Party's Ram Gopal Yadav and RLD chief Ajit Singh met the EC officers and demanded a repoll in booths where there were reports of dysfunctional EVMs.
 
In Maharashtra, about 40 per cent polling was estimated till 6 p.m. in the Bhandara-Gondiya Parliamentary constituency. In Palghar, the polling percentage was around 47 till 6 p.m.
 
Senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Praful Patel alleged that "nearly 25 per cent of all the EVMs in Bhandara-Gondiya were defective or had malfunctioned".
 
EC officer in-charge Abhimanyu Kale told the media that around 156 EVMs were replaced or spares deployed.
 
Hundreds of voters patiently waited to cast their votes in the blistering heat as the EVMs were replaced.
 
The EC trashed reports that polling had been cancelled in 35 booths in Bhandara-Gondiya.
 
The defective machines hit polling severely, with barely 25 per cent of the electorate casting their votes by 2 p.m. in both constituencies.
 
Ruling ally Shiv Sena also strongly criticised the EC and the government for the glitches and claimed that these were reported mostly from the party's strongholds.
 
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Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the glitch is nothing but a manifestation of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' recent controversial statement on 'Saam, Daam, Dand, Bhed'.
 
Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) President Prakash Ambedkar demanded cancellation of the elections in Bhandara-Gondiya while Congress state spokesperson Sachin Sawant alleged large-scale irregularities. 
 
Both elections are prestigious for the state's ruling BJP, which faces the NCP in Bhandara-Gondiya and its own ally Shiv Sena in Palghar. 
 
The bye-election in Bhandara-Gondiya was necessitated after sitting BJP member Nana Patole quit the party in December 2017 and later joined the Congress. BJP's Hemant Patle, who was earlier in the Shiv Sena, faces NCP's Madhukar Kukde, who is supported by the Congress, while there were 18 others in the fray.
 
In Palghar, the bye-election came after sitting MP Chintaman Vanga died. However his son joined the Shiv Sena and was given party ticket. The BJP has fielded former Congress leader Rajendra Gavit, while the Congress has put up Damoda Shingda.
 
The bye-election to the Nagaland Parliamentary seat witnessed 75 per cent polling. The seat fell vacant as sitting member Neiphiu Rio resigned after being elected to the state Assembly and becoming Chief Minister.
 
In Bihar, Jokihat Assembly seat saw nearly 55 per cent polling.
 
Bye-elections to Silli and Gomia Assembly constituencies in Jharkhand saw 75 per cent and 62 per cent voting, respectively.
 
In West Bengal, around 70 per cent of votes were cast till 5 p.m. for the bye-election to the Maheshtala Assembly constituency. In Punjab, Shahkot Assembly constituency recorded over 73 per cent voting. 
 
Chengannur Assembly constituency in Kerala saw voting percentage of 77 per cent while Meghalya's Ampati Assembly seat saw a high voter turn out of 90.42 per cent.
 
Polling was also held at Tharali in Uttarakhand.
 
IANS
 
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Karnataka drama: SC orders floor test in Assembly at 4 pm on Saturday

The Supreme Court on Friday directed that a floor test be held at 4 pm on Saturday to determine if BJP leader B. S. Yeddyurappa, who was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Karnataka on Thursday morning, has the requisite strength in the state legislative assembly.

The Supreme Court today directed that a floor test be held at 4 pm tomorrow to determine if BJP leader B. S. Yeddyurappa, who was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Karnataka yesterday morning, has the requisite strength in the state legislative assembly.
 
Governor Vajubhai Vala, while inviting Mr. Yeddyurappa to form the government after the May 12 elections to the assembly threw up a split verdict, had told him to prove his majority in the house within 15 days.
 
The order by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Mr. Justice A. K. Sikri, on petitions filed by the Congress and the Janata Dal (S), said the Karnataka government could not nominate a member from the Anglo-Indian community to the assembly till the vote of confidence is held.
 
Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the petitioners, told newspersons later that the court had also made it clear that the Chief Minister could not take any major policy decisions during this period.
 
The apex court also directed the Director General of Police to ensure the security of all the newly-elected MLAs so that they can reach the Assembly safely.
 
The Governor will now appoint a pro tem Speaker, usually the senior-most among the newly-elected MLAs, who will preside over the House when the legislators take oath in the House.
 
Mr. Singhvi said the court had also agreed to address the larger question of whether the Governor had acted correctly or not in inviting Mr. Yeddyurappa to form the government as the leader of the single largest party when a post-poll alliance had claimed in writing that it had a clear majority in the House with the signatures of the members on its side. The court said it would take up this aspect after ten weeks.
 
Mr. Singhvi said the letter written by Mr. Yeddyurappa to the Governor, staking claim to form the new government, which was submitted to the court today, clearly showed that he had not given any details on how the BJP would bridge the eight-member gap between its strength and the number required for a simple majority. "He had no basis for laying claim to forming the government," he said.
 
The Supreme Court had held a rare midnight hearing on Wednesday on the petitions filed by the Congress and the JD (S) seeking a stay on the swearing-in of Mr. Yeddyurappa, pointing out that the Governor had overlooked their claim that their post-poll alliance had a clear majority in the Assembly.
 
The BJP had won 104 of the 222 seats for which polling was held on May 12, while the Congress, which was ruling the state for the past five years, ended up with 78 seats and the JD (S) with 37 seats.
 
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The Congress and JD (S) announced a post-poll alliance even as the results were coming in, and also claimed that they had the support of two of the three other members in the house, adding up to 117 in all. The Congress had agreed to let JD (S) leader and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy to head the government in case the alliance was invited to form the new government.
 
Mr. Yeddyurappa, also a former Chief Minister, was, meanwhile, elected leader of the BJP legislature party and he, too, staked claim for forming the government, asserting that he would be able to prove his majority in the House. Late on Wednesday night, the  Governor invited Mr. Yeddyurappa to form the government and take the oath of office on Thursday morning.
 
The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court heard the appeals by the Congress and JD (S) from 2 am yesterday till about 5.30 am, when it declined to stay the swearing-in ceremony  but directed that a further hearing on the matter would be held at 10.30 am today.
 
The court had, however, sought the communications which Mr. Yeddyurappa had written to the Karnataka Governor informing him his election as leader of the BJP legislature party.
 
The court said that the swearing-in would be subject to the final outcome of the matter before it.
 
Fearing poaching by the BJP, the Congress and the JD (S) shifted their MLAs out of Karnataka to Hyderabad in Telangana overnight last night. They were lodged in a resort near Bengaluru and a hotel in the state capital for two days after the results of the elections were declared on May 15. The MLAs, who reached Hyderabad by road only this morning, will now have to make their way back to Bengaluru so as to be in time for tomorrow's proceedings.
 
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No stay on Yeddyurappa swearing-in after midnight battle in Supreme Court

Amid jockeying for power in Karnataka, the Supreme Court early on Thursday after a midnight hearing refused to stall the swearing-in of BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa as Karnataka's new Chief Minister.

BJP's chief ministerial candidate B. S. Yeddyurappa speaking to journalists after being elected to the Karnataka Assembly from Shikaripura, in Bengaluru on May 15, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
BJP's chief ministerial candidate B. S. Yeddyurappa speaking to journalists after being elected to the Karnataka Assembly from Shikaripura, in Bengaluru on May 15, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
Amid jockeying for power in Karnataka, the Supreme Court early on Thursday after a midnight hearing refused to stall the swearing-in of BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa as Karnataka's new Chief Minister.
 
The court, however, sought the communications which Yeddyurappa had written to Karnataka Governor informing him his election as BJP legislature party.
 
Yeddyurappa would take the oath as the Chief Minister of Karnataka on Thursday at 9.00 a.m. at Raj Bhavan. 
 
The court said that the swearing-in is subject to the final outcome of the matter before it.
 
The bench headed by Justice A.K. Sikri, while seeking Yeddyurappa's response on the petition by Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) seeking to stall his swearing-in, has directed further hearing of the matter at 10.30 a.m. on Friday.
 
During the hearing, that commenced at 2.20 a.m. and concluded with the court passing order at 5.30 in the morning, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal was asked to produce the letters which the court was told are with the Karnataka Governor.
 
The top court heard a joint petition by the Congress and JD-S challenging Governor Vajubhai Vala's decision inviting Yeddyurappa to form a new government in the state despite having 104 MLAs -- eight short of simple majority.
 
The court also issued a notice to Yeddyurappa, asking them file a reply even as former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the BJP said how long Yeddyurappa should be given to prove majority could be debated after two days.
 
The petition was filed late on Wednesday night after Governor Vala invited Yeddyurappa for an oath taking ceremony on Thursday at 9 a.m. and gave him days to prove his majority in the legislative assembly.
 
The Congress and the JD-S, who formed a hurriedly stitched post-poll alliance after a hung assembly verdict to claim a majority of 116 members in the new assembly, called the Governor's decision "unconstitutional".
 
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"The BJP has only 104 MLAs, the Governor invited Yeddyurappa to form government in an unconstitutional manner," senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the Congress, told the three-member bench of Justices A.K. Sikri, S.A. Bobde and Ashok Bhushan.
 
Chief Justice Dipak Misra constituted the bench shortly after midnight on Wednesday to hear the matter in court number six of the Supreme Court.
 
Singhvi argued in the fully packed court room and talked about occasions when post-poll alliances have been called despite single largest party.
 
He cited the instances of Goa and Manipur where the Congress had emerged as the single largest party sans majority but post-alliances were invited to form governments.
 
He said in the case of Karnataka, it was unheard of that a Chief Minister who does not have a majority was given 15 days to conduct floor test.
 
"There is only one way a party which got 104 will get 113... I heard he asked for seven days, but the Governor gave 15 days. Elementary common sense and arithmetic against this kind of giving of time," Singhvi said.
 
He said in Jharkhand in 2005, Goa in 2017 and in the Jagadambika Pal case in Uttar Pradesh, the court advanced the date of floor test from seven days to 48 hours.
 
"It is biggest license to poaching if Governor gives 15 days to the BJP to prove majority," he said.
 
To this, the Justices Sikri, Bobde and Bhushan said they were wondering whether the Supreme Court can restrain a Governor that might lead to constitutional vacuum in a state.
 
They said that the general trend of the past Supreme Court judgements was not to issue injunction to Governor or to restrain Governor.
 
Singhvi responded: "It is not like restraining the Governor, who only acted in pursuance of the BJP letter. Act of swearing-in is less than they make it out to be.
 
"If President's rule under Article 356 can be stayed by a court, why not this (decision to invite BJP and give 15 days for floor test) in which a Governor has exercised his discretion without the aid and advice of the Cabinet?"
 
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, in his argument said everything was in the realm of "speculation" as the entire matter was still "a grey area".
 
Rohatgi who appeared for the BJP questioned the urgency of the matter to hear it at midnight.
 
"Will heavens fall if a person is sworn in in the morning?" he said.
 
Justice Sikri asked him to submit before the court how his side was claiming a majority in the House.
 
Venugopal intervened and said, "Everything is reversible. What is the great loss by waiting for 15 days."
 
Justice Bobde countered: "That is the other point. Why wait for 15 days?"
 
Venugopal said it was the Governor's decision and it was an area of darkness how Yeddyurappa was claiming to form the government.
 
"But let the swearing-in go on. This is a purely reversible situation."
 
The court observed that it was "preposterous" to argue that before MLAs take oath they were not amenable to anti-defection law. "It means open invitation to horse-trading."
 
"In a case like this where the opposite side is showing 117 MLAs support, how will you have 112?," Justice Sikri asked Venugopal.
 
The case was still being heard till early morning on Thursday.
 
IANS
 
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Tharoor charged with abetting wife's suicide, says it's 'preposterous'

Delhi Police on Monday filed a chargesheet in a court in Sunanda Pushkar's suicide case, accusing her husband and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor of abetment to suicide, a charge he dubbed "preposterous" and his party called "baseless".

File photo of Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor
File photo of Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor
Delhi Police on Monday filed a chargesheet in a court in Sunanda Pushkar's suicide case, accusing her husband and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor of abetment to suicide, a charge he dubbed "preposterous" and his party called "baseless".
 
The chargesheet was filed in the court of Metropolitan Magistrate Dharmender Singh here. It mentions that the body of Pushkar bore "scuffle marks" when it was found in a luxury hotel room in New Delhi on January 17, 2014.
 
"These (marks) seem to have been caused due to scuffle between Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor and her husband Shashi Tharoor as per the statement of their personal attendant Narain Singh. However, this fact is being examined further."
 
Tharoor has been charged under Sections 306 and 498A of the Indian Penal Code that deal with abetment to suicide and subjecting a woman to cruelty by her husband or his relative respectively, which entail a jail term that may extend up to 10 years.
 
Delhi Police Chief Spokesperson Deependra Pathak said the chargesheet was filed in the case on the basis of medico-legal and forensic evidence analysed during investigation as well as the opinion of experts regarding Pushkar's death, which was investigated by a Special Investigation Team of South District police.
 
The Congress, however, said that there "could be no more falsehood about this charge except that a conspiratorial BJP leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were seeking revenge against Tharoor by using the Delhi Police which, he said, was a willing tool to subserve BJP's political agenda". 
 
BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy said that all witnesses and documents in the case were destroyed during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule by the "corrupt" police.
 
"Under Section 301 CrPC and also via JK International judgment of SC, I am entitled to assist the prosecutor in the Sunanda unnatural death case," he tweeted.
 
He said he will appear in court on the next date of hearing on May 24.
 
Congress leader Randeep Surjewala told the media here that top BJP leaders had "conspired against Tharoor" and accused him of murdering his wife while the chargesheet filed by Delhi Police on Monday was for abetment of suicide. 
 
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Surjewala dubbed these charges "baseless" and a conspiracy by the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders who "hounded, prosecuted and maligned" Tharoor. 
 
He said that the BJP continued to leak unfounded evidence so that a media trial going on for a year-and-a-half against Tharoor could continue.
 
The Congress leader questioned the police investigation, saying how could it be called a suicide too when there were no suicide note or witnesses. 
 
"We will not be cowed down, we will not bow. We have full faith in the justice system," he added. 
 
The chargesheet says that the brothers and son of Pushkar made "no allegations against anyone".
 
Pushkar, 51, was found dead in her suite at Leela Hotel in south Delhi, days after she alleged that her husband was having an affair with a Pakistani journalist.
 
There was no evidence of Pushkar's murder but she may have been driven to suicide as she had not been eating or even leaving her room days before her death, according to the chargesheet.
 
Tharoor took to Twitter in his defence, saying he had taken note of the filing of this "preposterous chargesheet". He said he intended to "contest it vigorously".
 
"No one who knew Sunanda believes she would ever commit suicide, let alone abetment on my part."
 
He said if that was the conclusion arrived at after four plus years of investigation it "does not speak well of the methods or motivations of Delhi Police".
 
In October 2017, Tharoor said, a law officer made a statement in the Delhi High Court that they have not found anything against anyone "and now in six months they say that I have abetted a suicide". 
 
"Unbelievable!"
 
IANS
 
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Dust storm lashes Delhi and NCR, air traffic and Metro services hit

A powerful dust storm accompanied by rains on Sunday evening brought down the temperature in the national capital and adjoining areas, seriously disrupting air traffic and Metro services, officials said.

A dust storm hit Delhi, on  May 13, 2018.
A dust storm hit Delhi, on May 13, 2018.
A powerful dust storm accompanied by rains on Sunday evening brought down the temperature in the national capital and adjoining areas, seriously disrupting air traffic and Metro services, officials said.
 
As the storm blew at a highest speed of 70 km per hour, the mercury crashed from 39 degrees Celsius at 4 p.m. to 25 degrees half hour later, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) told IANS. By early evening, the skies had turned dark. 
 
Power supply was affected in many areas in Delhi and Gurugram in Haryana. 
 
More than 40 incoming flights to the Indira Gandhi International Airport were diverted between 4.15 and 5.30 p.m. due to poor visibility and strong winds, an airport official said. 
 
Delhi Metro operations were also hit. Thousands of commuters were stuck on the winding and busy Blue Line, which links Dwarka in west Delhi to Noida and Vaishali in Uttar Pradesh, for more than 45 minutes.
 
The Violet Line, one of the six lines of the Delhi Metro that connects Kashmere Gate in north Delhi to Escorts Mujesar in Faridabad in Haryana, was also disrupted.
 
In both cases, toppling trees fell and damaged overhead Metro wiring, an official spokesman said.
 
When the Metro services finally resumed after around two hours, the trains plied at halting speed. 
 
The rains and storm brought down trees and tree branches in some areas and led to traffic snarls, forcing two-wheeler drivers to take shelter under bridges and flyovers. Motorists switched on headlights to find their way in the enveloping darkness. 
 
The Delhi Fire Service said it received over 30 calls linked to falling trees and two calls related to wall collapse within two hours of the storm hitting the national capital. But no casualty was reported. 
 
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The dramatic change in weather, however, did bring respite to residents from the sweltering heat. 
 
The Met department had forecast rain and thunderstorm with gusty winds on Sunday. 
 
Mahesh Palawat, Director of the private weather forecast agency Skymet, told IANS that the change in weather was due to western disturbance which reached Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh on Saturday evening. 
 
"A cyclonic circulation formed near Haryana and north Rajasthan along with the western disturbance. South-easterly and easterly winds are creating moisture and high temperature in the region which caused the formation of thunder clouds. The strom blew over a trough which is spread from north Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. 
 
"Delhi falls within the trough, but now this will move towards western Uttar Pradesh. There is a likelihood of light rains with thunder towards the afternoon or evening for two more days. Westerly winds will form again and temperature will begin to rise after May 15," Palawat said. 
 
Just after the dust storm hit Delhi and the National Capital Region, Delhi, Gurugram and Noida received heavy to moderate rains. 
 
The Met official said Sunday morning was the hottest of the season, with minimum temperature recorded at 30.6 degrees Celsius, five notches above the season's average. 
 
IANS
 
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India, China agree on joint economic project in Afghanistan

India and China on Saturday agreed on a joint economic project in Afghanistan, sources said after a two-day summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan, China.

 
Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping hold one-on-one meeting
 
 
India and China on Saturday agreed on a joint economic project in Afghanistan, sources said after a two-day summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping here.
 
The long-standing border issue also figured in the meeting where Modi and Xi decided to give "strategic guidance" to their armies to prevent a Doklam-like military stand-off in 2017.
 
"The two leaders endorsed the work of the Special Representatives in their efforts to find a fair, reliable and truly acceptable settlement. They also underscored that in the meantime it is important to maintain peace and tranquility in all areas of the India-China border region," India's Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said here.
 
"And to this end, the two leaders decided that they would issue strategic guidance to their respective militaries to strengthen communication and to build trust and understanding to implement the various confidence-building measures which have already been agreed upon by the two sides and to strengthen existing institutional mechanism to prevent and manage situations in the border areas," he added.
 
Earlier on Saturday, Modi and Xi walked by the East Lake as they began their second round of talks.
 
On Friday, the two leaders agreed that healthy bilateral ties were important for a better world as they met to re-set the ties between the two nations hit by the military face-off.
 
IANS
 
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Class 12 re-test on April 25, Class 10 only in Delhi, NCR

Amid outrage over leak of CBSE question papers, the government on Friday said re-examination of Class 10 maths paper will be held only in Delhi, NCR and Haryana, "if at all", while fresh Class 12 test for economics students will be conducted on April 25.

Amid outrage over leak of CBSE question papers, the government on Friday said re-examination of Class 10 maths paper will be held only in Delhi, NCR and Haryana, "if at all", while fresh Class 12 test for economics students will be conducted on April 25.
 
Anil Swarup, Secretary School Education in Union Human Resources Development Ministry, said the CBSE Class 10 mathematics question paper was leaked only in Delhi and Haryana as there was no evidence that it was a pan-India affair.
 
"The leak was restricted to Delhi and Haryana, if at all a re-exam will happen, it will happen only in these states in July. A decision will be taken on this in the next 15 days," Swarup told reporters.
 
He said the Class 12 economics re-exam will be held on April 25. But there will be no fresh test outside of India.
 
IANS
 
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CBSE to re-conduct exams for Class XII Economics and Class X Mathematics

The Central Board of Secondary Education on Wednesday decided to re-conduct examinations in Economics for Class XII and Mathematics for Class X following reports about leakage of question papers.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) today decided to re-conduct examinations in Economics for Class XII and Mathematics for Class X following reports about leakage of question papers.
 
The dates for the retest would be announced on the CBSE website within a week, the Board said.
 
"Board has taken cognizance of certain happenings in the conduct of certain examinations as are being reported. With the view to uphold the sanctity of the Board Examinations and in the interest of fairness to the students, the Board has decided to reconduct the examinations in the following subjects," a notice from the Board said, listing the subjects as Economics (Code 030) for Class XII and Mathematics (Code 041) for Class X.
 
"Dates for fresh examinations and the other details shall be hosted on the CBSE website within a week," the notice added.
 
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Modi says Govt. focused on improving Ease of Living for common citizens

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today on Saturday the Union Government had focused on improving the "Ease of Living" for the common citizen and all its schemes and programmes were oriented towards this end.

 
Modi launches Amma scooter scheme for working women in Tamil Nadu
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the Union Government had focused on improving the "Ease of Living" for the common citizen and all its schemes and  programmes were oriented towards this end.
 
"Be it financial inclusion, easy availability of credit for farmers and small business, healthcare or sanitation, this is the basic mantra, with which the NDA Government at the Centre is working," he said at a function to launch the Amma Two-Wheeler Scheme at Kalaivanar Arangam here on the occasion of the 70th birth anniversary of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
 
The scheme for subsidised scooters for working women was launched in the presence of Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Chief Minister E. K. Palaniswamy and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam.
 
Mr. Modi said the two-wheeler scheme and the planting of 70 lakh saplings in  the state on Ms. Jayalalithaa's birth anniversary would go a long way towards the empowerment of women and the  protection of nature.
 
"When we empower the women in a family, we empower the entire house-hold. When we help with a woman's education, we ensure that the entire family is educated. When we facilitate her good health, we help keep the entire family healthy. When we secure her future, we secure the future of the entire home. We are working in this direction," he said.
 
Referring to the various schemes launched by the Union Government, Mr. Modi said more than 11 crore loans had been sanctioned under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana. An amount of Rs. 4.6 lakh crore had been given to people without any bank guarantee and, most importantly, seventy per cent of the beneficiaries are women, he said.
 
"The success of this scheme, therefore, is proof that the women of India are now stepping out of the age-old shackles, and seeking self-employment. We have taken a number of other steps, too, for women empowerment. In the recent Union Budget, we announced that the EPF contribution for new women employees will be reduced from 12 percent to 8 percent for three years. The employer contribution will remain 12 percent," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said that, under the Stand Up India scheme, women entrepreneurs will be given loans worth Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 1 crore. He said a change has been made in the Factories Act and the Centre has suggested to the States that they allow women to work in the night shift as well. He said the Government had also extended maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
 
Under the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana, the registry of the house is done in the name of the woman, he said. The Jan Dhan Yojana has also benefited women in a big way. Out of 31 crore Jan Dhan Bank Accounts, 16 crore are of women, he said.
 
He said the percentage of total bank accounts held by women had gone up from 28 percent in 2014, to 40 percent now. "The Swachh Bharat Mission has given women respect and dignity, which is their right .Rural sanitation coverage in the country has expanded from 40 percent to 78 percent. We worked in a mission mode, to provide toilets for girl children in all government schools," he said.
 
"The schemes of the Union Government are protecting nature, even as they are empowering people. 29 crore LED bulbs have been distributed so far under the Ujala scheme. They have led to a saving of 15 thousand crore rupees in electricity bills. They have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by a significant amount.
 
"The Union Government has so far given over 3.4 crore free gas connections under the UjjwalaYojana. As women benefit from a smoke-free environment, the reduction in kerosene usage is also helping the environment. Nine and a half lakh women in Tamil Nadu have benefited so far, from this scheme," he said.
 
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Mr. Modi said that, keeping in mind the issues of gas supply and sanitation in rural areas, the Union Government has come up with the Gobar-Dhanscheme. He said the aim is to convert animal dung and agricultural waste into compost, bio-gas, and bio-CNG. This will raise incomes, and reduce expenditure on gas, he said.
 
The Prime Minister said projects worth more than Rs. 24,000 crore were currently being implemented by the Centre in Tamil Nadu. "All these projects have begun after the NDA Government assumed office.  They include solar power plants, crude oil pipelines, National Highways, and port-related works. More than Rs. 3,700 crore have been sanctioned for the Chennai Metro Rail, he said.
 
He said that, when there was a Congress-led Government at the Centre, Tamil Nadu had received Rs. 81,000 crore under the 13th Finance Commission. After the NDA came to power, Tamil Nadu received Rs. 1.80 lakh crore rupees under the 14th Finance Commission, an increase of about 120 percent.
 
Mr. Modi said the Government is working to provide a home to every poor person by 2022. About one crore houses have been built in the last three years, he said.
 
He said Tamil Nadu had been given about Rs. 700 crore in 2016-17, and about Rs. 200 crore in 2017-18, for rural housing. For urban housing, the State has been given over Rs. 6000 crore, he said.
 
"Farmers in Tamil Nadu have also benefited from the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. I am told that claim amounts worth over 2600 crore rupees have been given to farmers in Tamil Nadu so far, under this scheme.
 
"The Union Government is working towards modernization of fishing in Tamil Nadu. Under the Blue Revolution Scheme, we are providing financial assistance to fishermen for long liner trawlers. Last year, we gave the State Government 100 crore rupees, to convert over seven hundred and fifty boats to long liner trawlers. Besides making their lives easier, such trawlers will also help the fishermen earn more.
 
"India's vast ocean resources, and long coast-line offer immense possibilities. The Union Government is working on the Sagarmala programme, to overhaul our logistics sector. This will reduce the cost of both domestic and foreign trade. It will also benefit people living along India's coast-line.
 
"We have announced the Ayushman Bharat scheme in the recent Union Budget. Each poor family will be given the facility of free medical treatment upto a cost of 5 lakh rupees per year, at identified hospitals. This will help 45 to 50 crore people across the country.
 
"The Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Beema Yojana and the Jeevan Jyoti Yojana have provided insurance cover to more than 18 crore people. We have also taken other steps such as providing medicines at economical rates, through more than 800 Jan Aushadhi Kendras.
 
"We remain committed towards working hard in bringing a positive change in the lives of people," he added.
 
Earlier in the day, Mr. Modi visited the Union Territory of Daman & Diu, where he launched various development projects worth Rs. 1,000 crore. He also distributed certificates to beneficiaries of programmes.
 
Addressing a public meeting, Mr. Modi urged the people of Daman to  continue giving topmost importance to cleanliness as the opportunities in tourism increase when there is cleanliness. He congratulated the people and local administration for making Daman Open Defecation Free (ODF)  He said that the manner in which Daman has taken to cleanliness as a mass movement, using e-rickshaws and CNG, is a shining example for the country.
 
Lauding the inclusive culture of Daman, he said that Union Territory had become a mini-India, with people from all over the country living and working there. He said that the Government is taking several steps for the welfare of fishermen and his entire emphasis is on the 'blue revolution' inspired by the commitment to bring a positive difference in the lives of fishermen.
 
The Prime Minister inaugurated Air Odisha's flight connecting Ahmedabad with Diu under the UDAN scheme. He flagged off Pawan Hans helicopter services from Daman to Diu through a video link.
 
He presented the  Badhai kit to a newly born girl child under Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao yojana. He handed over certificates to women given free driving training by Daman and Diu administration and cycles to school going girls. He distributed permits for CNG driven vehicles. He distributed certificates to the beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana, Grameen and Urban, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Suraksha Yojana  and Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana. He also flagged off E-Rikshaws, Pehli Savari and Ambulances.
 
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