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PM Modi leaves on packed, week-long US visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday left for a week-long visit to the US, voicing confidence that his visit would present India as a vibrant land of opportunities, a reliable partner and a global leader, and also help impart new energy to bilateral ties with the US.
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday left for a week-long visit to the US, voicing confidence that his visit would present India as a vibrant land of opportunities, a reliable partner and a global leader, and also help impart new energy to bilateral ties with the US.
 
In a statement, Modi said he looks forward to meeting US President Donald Trump in Houston as well as in New York, in a span of a few days.
 
Both sides will review bilateral relations "in order to bring even more benefits to our two nations and peoples", he said, terming the US "a vital partner for our national development" and that their "shared values, convergent interests and complementary strengths provide the foundation for natural partnership between the world's oldest and largest democracies".
 
Modi will also address the UN General Assembly session.
 
He is slated to hold around 20 bilateral meetings during his New York visit, including with President Trump. During his UNGA speech he will focus on India's role towards development and peace and security, with no mention of Article 370 which is an "internal issue", the Ministry of External Affairs had said on Thursday.
 
India will also host at the UN an event to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi that will see the participation of several heads of state and government along with the UN Secretary-General to "pay our collective tribute to Gandhiji and underscore the significance of his message".
 
On the Houston leg of his visit, Modi will interact with CEOs of leading energy companies in the US with the aim to enhance India-US energy partnership.
 
The highlight there will be the 'Howdy Modi' event for the diaspora on September 22, where Trump and over 60 American lawmakers will be present.
 
The New York leg of the visit will also cover important elements of bilateral relations and he will also addressing the opening plenary of the Bloomberg Global Business Forum and receive the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Goalkeepers Goals Award 2019.
 
IANS

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FM announces tax bonanza for corporates, exchequer to take Rs 1.45 lakh crore hit

In a major bonanza for corporates as part of measures to promote growth and investment, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday slashed the corporate tax rate to 22 per cent for domestic companies and 15 per cent for new domestic manufacturing companies, besides other fiscal reliefs.

File photo of Nirmala Sitharaman
File photo of Nirmala Sitharaman
In a major bonanza for corporates as part of measures to promote growth and investment, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday slashed the corporate tax rate to 22 per cent for domestic companies and 15 per cent for new domestic manufacturing companies, besides other fiscal reliefs.
 
The effective tax rate for these companies would now be 25.17 per cent, inclusive of surcharge and cess. Also, such companies shall not be required to pay Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT).
 
The total revenue foregone for the reduction in corporate tax rate and other relief is estimated at Rs 1,45,000 crore. This is the biggest announcement so far by the Modi 2.0 government to fight the slowdown, which dragged down the GDP growth to a six-year low of 5 per cent in the April-June quarter of the current fiscal.
 
The government has brought in the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2019 to effect lower tax for corporates.
 
A company, which does not opt for the concessional tax regime and avails the tax exemptions, would continue to pay tax at the pre-amended rate. However, these companies can opt for the concessional tax regime after expiry of their tax holiday/exemption period.
 
"After the exercise of the option they shall be liable to pay tax at the rate of 22 per cent and option once exercised cannot be subsequently withdrawn. Further, in order to provide relief to companies which continue to avail exemptions/incentives, the rate of Minimum Alternate Tax has been reduced from existing 18.5 per cent to 15 per cent," a Finance Ministry statement said.
 
In order to stabilise the flow of funds into the capital market, the government has said that the enhanced surcharge introduced by the Finance (No.2) Act, 2019 will not apply on capital gains arising on sale of equity share in a company or a unit of an equity oriented fund or a unit of a business trust liable for securities transaction tax.
 
"The enhanced surcharge shall also not apply to capital gains arising on sale of any security, including derivatives, in the hands of Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs). In order to provide relief to listed companies, which have already made a public announcement of buy-back before July 5, 2019, it is provided that tax on a buy-back of shares in case of such companies shall not be charged," the statement said.
 
The sharp tax rate cut has been announced even as revenue collection on account of both direct and indirect taxes are far below expectations.
 
IANS

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Mamata meets Modi with sandesh, seeks his help

Meeting the Prime Minister in New Delhi on Wednesday after a 15-month gap amid heightened political speculations, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged Narendra Modi to revive certain stalled projects in the state.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee calling on Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in New Delhi on September 18, 2019.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee calling on Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in New Delhi on September 18, 2019.
Meeting the Prime Minister here on Wednesday after a 15-month gap amid heightened political speculations, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged Narendra Modi to revive certain stalled projects in the state.
 
Terming the meeting with the Prime Minister good, Mamata said changing the name of the state topped her agenda. "We discussed changing the name of West Bengal to Bangla and he promised to do something about it."
 
The state has been trying to change the name of the state primarily to get central assistance early as West Bengal's turn comes right at the end.
 
The stalled projects taken up at the meeting related to railways and mining, and disinvestment of certain public sector units also figured at the meeting.
 
She also invited the Prime Minister for inauguration of the coal project in Birbhum.
 
Mamata carried a bouquet of yellow flowers and multiple packets of sandesh for Modi from a well known Kolkata shop.
 
Interestingly, during the heat and dust of the 2019 general elections, she had said, "I'll send Modi roshogollas made of mud, pebbles so that he loses his teeth".
 
The meeting comes at an interesting time, just a day after Modi's 69th birthday that drew criticism and formation of a 14-member Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) crack team to trace Rajeev Kumar, former Kolkata top cop and Mamata favourite, in the Rs 2,500 crore Saradha chit fund scam.
 
Bengal Congress chief Somen Mitra has accused Banerjee of making desperate attempts to ensure an "escape route" for Kumar.
 
"It's anybody's guess as why is she seeking a meeting with Modi all of a sudden," Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP's Bengal in-charge, said, recalling Banerjee's sharp criticism of Modi during the 2019 general elections.
 
IANS
 
 

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Ace lawyer, ex-Minister Ram Jethmalani passes away

Veteran criminal lawyer and former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani passed away on Sunday at his residence in Delhi.
Ram Jethmalani (File photo: IANS) 
Ram Jethmalani (File photo: IANS) 
Veteran criminal lawyer and former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani passed away on Sunday at his residence here, confirmed advocate Ashish Dixit. 
 
Jethmalani was 96.
 
He had also served as the Minister of Urban Development in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government. In 2010, he was elected as the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
 
Born on September 14, 1923 in Sindh, Pakistan, Jethmalani completed his LL. M. from the S. C. Shahani Law College, Karachi.
 
He was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1977. He took charge as Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs in October 1999 until July 2000 in the Atal Bihari  Vajpayee government.
 
A noted criminal lawyer, Jethmalani has been part of legendary cases including the famous multi-crore 2G allocation case.
 
He had appeared for Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, convicted for the assassination of the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi; Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict V. Sriharan alias Murugan; Harshad Mehta in the stock market scam; underworld don Haji Mastan in smuggling cases; and had argued for senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L. K. Advani in the Hawala case.
 
Jethmalani has also written various books including the "Conflict of Laws", "Justice: Soviet Style" and "Big Egos and Small Men".
 
A specialist in Criminal and Constitutional Law, he was also a part-time professor in Government Law College (Mumbai), Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi) and Wayne State University in the US.
 
He also was made Chairman of the Bar Council of India in 1970 and member of International Bar Association in 1966.
 
IANS
 

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Ex-Finance Minister Chidambaram sent to judicial custody in INX Media case

A Delhi court on Thursday sent former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to judicial custody in the CBI case related to INX Media.
P. Chidambaram (File photo: IANS)
P. Chidambaram (File photo: IANS)
A Delhi court on Thursday sent former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to judicial custody in the CBI case related to INX Media.
 
Special CBI Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar sent Chidambaram to 14 days in custody after he was produced in court on Thursday. The court also allowed applications moved by Chidambaram seeking medicines and a western-style toilet in jail along with Z-category security and a separate cell with a cot and a bathroom. The same were allowed by the court.
 
Chidambaram has also moved another application in the court seeking permission to surrender in the Enforcement Directorate case relating to INX Media. The court had issued a notice to the financial watchdogs and the hearing on it would take place on September 12.
 
During the course of hearing, Chidambaram's counsel Kapil Sibal said, "There is nothing found against me. If I am a powerful person and I can influence the witness, they should bring some evidence of at least an attempt of tampering of evidence or influencing of witness."
 
"Potential of, likely to, apprehension of, can't be the reasons for me going to the judicial custody," he added.
 
Responding on the submissions, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, said, "Are you arguing on bail?"
 
Sibal replied, "I am arguing on the grounds you are seeking judicial custody for."
 
"It is bascially humiliation. There must be proof that has to be given," Sibal said.
 
Mehta replied "So far as the ED case is concerned, Supreme Court has accepted the chance of tampering. There is a strong possibility of tampering with the evidence."
 
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ADB President meets Modi, pledges $12 billion for new flagship initiatives

Asian Development Bank President Takehiko Nakao met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Thursday and pledged $ 12 billion in support of the government's new flagship initiatives over the next three years.
ADB President Takehiko Nakao meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on August 29, 2019.
ADB President Takehiko Nakao meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on August 29, 2019.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao met Prime Minister Narendra Modi here today and pledged $ 12 billion in support of the government's new flagship initiatives over the next three years.
 
This was the third meeting between Modi and Nakao since Modi assumed the office of Prime Minister in 2014.
 
Nakao also met with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Road Transport and Highways and Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Nitin Gadkari, and Minister of Railways and Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal.
 
A press release from the bank said Modi and Nakao discussed how to further enhance the partnership in areas such as the promotion of new technologies and innovation, renewable energy, solar-pump irrigation, electric vehicle and battery, fintech, sustainable tourism, and the recycling of plastics.
 
Nakao commended the government’s vision to make India a $5 trillion economy during Modi’s second term, which began in May this year, and reaffirmed ADB’s commitment to helping bolster the country’s inclusive growth and rapid economic transformation to achieve this vision.
 
“India is one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia and the Pacific, maintaining a growth rate of about 7.5% on average in the last 5 years. ADB expects the country’s growth in 2019 at 7.0% and in 2020 at 7.2%, despite downside risks in the global economy,” said Nakao at his meetings with the Indian leadership. “The government needs to maintain prudent macroeconomic management, sustain its reform efforts, enhance industrial competitiveness and job creation, and rejuvenate the rural economy.”
 
Nakao also commended the government’s key reforms, such as the introduction of goods and services tax to make India a single market, the implementation of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016, capital infusion for banks, the improvement of business regulation, and its further opening to foreign direct investment, which are yielding results. He encouraged the government to sustain the momentum of reforms in areas such as labor laws, land acquisition, and consolidating various welfare schemes.
 
ADB’s sovereign lending to India in 2018 reached a record $3.0 billion, in transport, urban, irrigation, skills development, and intermediary finance for public-private partnerships. 
 
Nakao said he appreciated the country’s speedier implementation of projects. He emphasized the bank’s commitment to catalyzing private sector investments and announced a $100 million investment in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund. In May 2019, ADB made its single largest non-sovereign loan to date by committing $750 million to the Indian Railways Finance Corporation to support the electrification of existing railways tracks.
 
Nakao said ADB stood ready to commit more than $12 billion lending in the next three years, 2020–2022, averaging annually over $3 billion for sovereign operations and $1 billion for nonsovereign operations.
 
ADB’s sovereign and non-sovereign operations will focus on the government’s major initiatives, including (i) the Jal Jeevan Mission (extending drinking water for all, water conservation, and more crop per drop); (ii) the East Coast Economic Corridor program; (iii) promoting competitiveness of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises by connecting to global value chains; (iv) supporting national road safety programs; and (v) constructing a rapid rail transit system to connect Delhi with neighboring satellite cities, starting from Delhi to Meerut. ADB will also expand assistance in secondary education and the universal health system, the release said.
 
Nakao lauded the government’s “Act East” policy, particularly its thrust to integrate the northeastern region with neighbouring economies, including countries in Southeast Asia. India also actively participates in the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program—a partnership initiated in 2001 by ADB now including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. India is hosting the first SASEC Finance Ministers’ meeting in March 2020.
 
Nakao will travel to Kolkata, where he will attend the launch of an ADB publication tomorrow that showcases ADB’s 20-year partnership with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. The partnership has been helping improve the city’s water supply, sewerage, and drainage systems, while also building resilience through the introduction of early flood warning system.
 
India is an ADB’s founding member since 1966 and is now its biggest borrower. ADB has committed $39.7 billion in sovereign lending and $5.7 billion in nonsovereign lending and investment by June 2019.
 
"ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. In 2018, it made commitments of new loans and grants amounting to $21.5 billion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region," the release added.
 
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Kashmir is India's internal issue: Rahul slams Pakistan

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday supported the government's stand that Kashmir was India's internal issue and said there was no room for any other foreign country to interfere in it.
File photo of Rahul Gandhi
File photo of Rahul Gandhi
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday supported the government's stand that Kashmir was India's internal issue and said there was no room for any other foreign country to interfere in it.
 
The Congress leader, in a series of tweets, said: "I disagree with this government on many issues. But, let me make this absolutely clear: Kashmir is India's internal issue and there is no room for Pakistan or any other foreign country to interfere in it."
 
"There is violence in Jammu and Kashmir. There is violence because it is instigated and supported by Pakistan, which is known to be the prime supporter of terrorism across the world," he added.
 
IANS
 

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Confident that changes in Kashmir will benefit people: President

President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday expressed confidence that the government's moves on Kashmir would be of "immense benefit" to the people of J&K and Ladakh and enable them to access the same rights and privileges as the rest of the country.
File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind
File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind
President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday expressed confidence that the government's moves on Kashmir would be of "immense benefit" to the people of J&K and Ladakh and enable them to access the same rights and privileges as the rest of the country.
 
In his Independence Day eve address, that comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address to the nation on Kashmir, President Kovind said: "I am confident that the recent changes made in Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh would be of immense benefit to those regions. They will enable the people to access and enjoy the same rights, same privileges and same facilities as their fellow citizens in the rest of the country."
 
On August 5, the Government of India revoked the special status for Kashmir and divided the state into two Union territories - J&K and Ladakh -- for better governance.
 
Referring to the Lok Sabha elections, he said the 17th general election was the largest democratic exercise in human history. "For this I must congratulate our voters. They turned up at polling stations in large numbers and with much enthusiasm."
 
He expressed happiness that the recently concluded session of Parliament saw lengthy and productive sittings of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. "Many important Bills were passed, in a spirit of cross-party cooperation and constructive debate. I am confident this is only an indicator of what the coming five years have in store. I also urge that this culture percolates to all our legislative assemblies."
 
Commenting on governance, he said the state and the government have an important role to play as facilitator and an enabler. "As such, it is critical for our key institutions and the policy makers to study and appreciate the message being sent by citizens and to be responsive to the thoughts and wishes of our people."
 
"Indians can be very different in their tastes and habits, but Indians share the same dreams. Before 1947, the dreams were for a free India. Today, the dreams are for accelerated development; for effective and transparent governance; and yet for a smaller footprint of government in our everyday lives."
 
IANS

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Sushma Swaraj cremated with full state honours

The last rites of former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who passed away on Wednesday night, were held at the Dayanand crematorium on Lodhi Road in New Delhi with full state honours on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays his last respects to former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at her funeral in New Delhi on August 7, 2019. (Photo: IANS/PIB)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays his last respects to former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at her funeral in New Delhi on August 7, 2019. (Photo: IANS/PIB)
The last rites of former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj were held at the Dayanand crematorium on Lodhi Road here with full state honours on Wednesday.
 
The 67-year-old veteran BJP leader Sushma Swaraj passed away on Tuesday night following a cardiac arrest. Her body was kept at the Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters in the heart of the capital for the public to pay homage. 
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, BJP stalwart L. K. Advani, Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah and senior leaders of other parties were among those who attended the funeral.
 
The mortal remains of the former Minister were brought to the crematorium amid heavy deployment of NSG and Black Cats commandos, and hundreds of armed Delhi Police personnel.
 
Earlier, her admirers were in tears as her body was taken from her residence to the BJP headquarters in the heart of the national capital.
 
It was a short journey but scores of admirers who sprinted along with the vehicle transporting her body ahead of the last rites kept shouting slogans hailing the veteran politician -- and frequently breaking down.
 
The two slogans chanted most were "Sushmaji amar rahe" and "Jab tak suraj chand rahega, Sushma tera naam rhega".
 
So shrill was the sloganeering that the sirens in the convoy carrying the BJP leader's body had to get louder to clear the path.
 
Before the body draped in the national flag was taken out of her residence, where it was kept since her death overnight, a large number of people, neighbours included, thronged the house close to Jantar Mantar monument.
 
Guided by a police pilot, the convoy included a white Ambassador car followed by the ambulance carrying the mortal remains. Her family was in another vehicle.
 
A bus at the end carried some of her supporters and close friends.
 
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SC seeks personal appearance of CBI officers probing Unnao cases in court

The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will consider transfer of the trial in the Unnao rape case to Delhi.
The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will consider the transfer of the trial in the Unnao rape case to Delhi.
 
Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked the CBI officer supervising the cases connected with Unnao rape victim to make personal appearance before the court on Thursday at 12 noon.
 
The court sought full details of the status of investigation into the rape case along with the accident case from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by Thursday noon.
 
Justice Gogoi said the court will consider the transfer petition in connection with transfer of trial of cases to Delhi.
 
Solicitor General (SG) informed the court that the CBI officer probing the case is out of town due to the ongoing investigation.
 
The SG told the court that they can bring case records earliest by evening, and sought adjournment of the hearing till Friday 10.30 a.m.
 
The CJI replied that the CBI chief can take instructions or gather details telephonically, and brief the court on Thursday.
 
The apex court on Wednesday took suo motu cognisance of a letter written by the family of the Unnao rape victim alleging threats from Uttar Pradesh MLA Kuldip Sengar's men. The court will hear the case on Thursday.
 
The top court also summoned for the medical report of the victim. The court has also asked the Secretary General of the court to explain the reason for the delay in placing the letter before the Chief Justice, if it was indeed received on July 17.
 
The Chief Justice observed that the reports had emerged as if nothing was done on the letter received in the Supreme Court Registry on July 17.
 
Gogoi said the court will try to do something constructive "amid this highly destructive environment".
 
On Wednesday, the Chief Justice asked the court Registry to file a reply within a week as to why there was a delay in placing before him the July 12 letter written by the rape victim and her family seeking security. 
 
In the letter to the CJI, the young rape victim, her mother, sister, uncle and aunt alleged that the henchmen of the accused, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, were threatening to implicate them in false cases if they did not settle the case.
 
The letter also contained a video recording of the criminal intimidation and the photographs of the accused.
 
On Sunday, the rape victim, who had accused Sengar of raping her in 2017, was travelling to Rae Bareli with her lawyer Mahendra Singh and two aunts when a truck being driven on the wrong side hit them. 
 
IANS
 

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India's Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission launched into orbit by GSLV Mk III

India's ambitious Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission, that will attempt a soft landing on the hitherto unexplored dark side of the moon, was injected into its planned orbit by the GSLV MkIII-M1 on Monday, a week after an earlier planned launch was aborted due to a technical glitch.
 
India launches second lunar mission Chandrayaan-2
India's ambitious Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission, that will attempt a soft landing on the hitherto unexplored dark side of the moon, was injected into its planned orbit by the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV MkIII-M1) this afternoon, a week after an earlier planned launch was aborted due to a technical glitch.
 
The Rs. 603 crore spacecraft was injected into its planned orbit by the Rs. 375 crore GSLV-Mk III-M1 with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 169.7 km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 45475 km, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.
 
The launch took place from the Second Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, on India's east coast, as scheduled at 1443 hours IST in near perfect conditions.
 
After the injection of Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, a series of manoeuvres will be carried out using its onboard propulsion system to raise its orbit and place it in the Lunar Transfer Trajectory, a statement from ISRO said.
 
On entering Moon's sphere of influence, onboard thrusters will slow down the spacecraft for lunar capture. Subsequently, the orbit of Chandrayaan-2 around the moon will be circularised to a 100x100 km orbit through a series of orbital maneuvers.
 
On the day of landing, the Lander (Vikram) will separate from the Orbiter and then will perform a series of complex manoeuvres comprising rough braking and fine braking. Imaging of the landing site region prior to landing will be done for finding safe and hazard-free zones. Vikram will attempt to make a soft landing in a high plain between two craters — Manzinus C and Simpelius N — at a latitude of about 70° South on 7th September 2019, it said.
 
Subsequently, the Rover (Pragyan) will roll out and carry out experiments on the lunar surface for a period of 1 lunar day which is equal to 14 Earth days. The mission life of Vikram is also 1 lunar day. The Orbiter will continue its mission for a duration of one year.
 
The 20-hour countdown for the rescheduled mission had begun at 1843 hours yesterday.
 
The mission was originally scheduled to be launched in the early hours of July 15 but it was called off about an hour before take-off due to a technical snag.
 
"Chandrayaan - 2 launch scheduled on 15th July 2019 at 2:51hrs was called off due to a technical snag noticed at around one hour before launch. An expert committee was constituted to analyze the issue and suggest remedial action," a statement posted by ISRO on its website had said on July 18.
 
"The expert committee identified the root cause of the technical snag and all corrective actions are implemented. Thereafter, the system performance is normal," it said.
 
On July 15, ISRO had said that a technical snag had been observed in the launch vehicle system at T-56 minute. It said it had called off the launch for that date as a "matter of abundant precaution".
 
Minutes before the mission was called off on that day, the countdown to the launch was suddenly put on hold, 56:24 minutes before the scheduled take-off.
 
Chandrayaan-2 is a space mission that aims to go where no country has ever gone before and conduct a soft landing on the Moon's south polar region.
 
The three-stage 44-metre tall, 640-tonne GSLV Mk-III is India's most powerful launcher to date and has been completely designed and fabricated from within the country. It is capable of launching 4-tonne class of satellites to the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO). 
 
The Lander of Chandrayaan 2 is named Vikram after Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, the father of the Indian Space Programme. It is designed to function for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 Earth days. Vikram has the capability to communicate with IDSN at Byalalu near Bangalore, as well as with the Orbiter and Rover. The Lander is designed to execute a soft landing on the lunar surface.
 
Chandrayaan 2's Rover is a 6-wheeled robotic vehicle named Pragyan, which translates to 'wisdom' in Sanskrit. It can travel up to 500 m and will leverage solar energy for its functioning. It can only communicate with the Lander.
 
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Thousands bid farewell to Sheila Dikshit

Amid chaotic scenes, three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was cremated here on Sunday as VIPs and thousands of commoners watched, a day after the veteran Congress leader suffered cardiac arrest and died.
Sheila Dikshit (File photo: IANS)
Sheila Dikshit (File photo: IANS)
Amid chaotic scenes, three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was cremated here on Sunday as VIPs and thousands of commoners watched, a day after the veteran Congress leader suffered cardiac arrest and died.
 
Security personnel forced most journalists from the print and electronic media to stay away as Dikshit's mortal remains were consigned to a crematorium powered by compressed natural gas at Nigambodh Ghat near the Yamuna river.
 
Family members broke down as the mass of men and women, mostly Congress supporters, raised full throated slogans of "Sheila Dikshit Amar Rahe" amid light rains.
 
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, former Congress President Sonia Gandhi, her daughter and party leader Priyanka Gandhi as well as a string of other Congress veterans witnessed the last rites.
 
So thick was the crowds that security personnel had to push back people trying to surge ahead. 
 
The cremation came after a large number of people, including BJP stalwart L. K. Advani and former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, paid homage to Dikshit, 81, at her residence at Nizamuddin before the body was taken to the Congress headquarters in the heart of Delhi.
 
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah too visited Dikshit's residence.
 
From there, Dikshit's final journey to Nigambodh Ghat began in a van. Her sister Rama sat with the body.
 
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid his tribute to Dikshit, who was also briefly the Kerala Governor, at her residence. 
 
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and senior leaders Ahmed Patel and Raj Babbar were among others who joined the emotionally charged crowds. 
 
Many other Congress leaders and activities followed the van carrying Dikshit's body in cars and two-wheelers.
 
Congress activists explained why they had gathered at the spot.
 
"For over 15 years, we saw Delhi flourishing every day. The amount of greenary and infrastructure that Delhi has today is because of Dikshitji," said Jagdish Sharma, a party worker.
 
Added Mubeen Firoz, another Delhiite: "Every day in the morning she used to have a public meeting at her home. I remember her listening to every citizen and working hard to make their lives easy."
 
Dikshit was the Congress President in Delhi when she suffered cardiac arrest and died on Saturday, months ahead of Assembly elections in the national capital which is now governed by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
 
The Delhi government has announced a two-day mourning and a state funeral for Dikshit.
 
Dikshit was first elected the Chief Minister of Delhi in 1998 and re-elected for two more five-year terms before the AAP washed out the Congress in the 2015 Assembly elections.
 
Dikshit lost her own seat to Kejriwal.
 
IANS
 

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SC says rebel MLAs can't be compelled to participate in trust vote

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that 15 Congress MLAs, who have tendered their resignations, cannot be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the House.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that 15 Congress MLAs, who have tendered their resignations, cannot be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the House.
 
The top court also said the Speaker is free to decide on the resignation of the MLAs as per the Constitution. 
 
According to the order, MLAs are free to skip the trust vote in the Karnataka Assembly slated for tomorrow.
 
The court was hearing petitions filed by 15 rebel MLAs, seeking directions to the Assembly Speaker to accept their resignations.
 
"The Speaker should decide freely, as the court will not come in the way of this process....," said the court, citing the trust vote which is scheduled on July 18 in the House. 
 
The rebel MLAs are free to not participate in the trust vote, said the bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi. It said the decision of the Speaker should be placed before the court. 
 
The court said it was passing interim orders in facts and circumstances of the case and to maintain "constitutional balance" and "competing rights" of the parties."
 
The court also said the Speaker should be allowed to pass appropriate orders on the resignation of the MLAs within parameters of Article 190 of the Constitution and relevant the Rules.
 
During the day-long arguments on Tuesday, the parties involved pointed out to the bench the implications of the ongoing political crisis in Karnataka on the state as well as elsewhere, and also questioned the apex court's jurisdiction power to entertain the rebel MLAs' petition.
 
Hearing rebel MLAs counsel senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, the bench said: "We cannot say, in which way, the Speaker should decide the resignation or disqualification of MLAs. We cannot fetter him. Although, the important question is, is there any constitutional obligation for the Speaker to decide upon the resignations before the disqualification of the MLA or to club his decisions on both?"
 
The bench asked counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi what stopped Speaker K. R. Ramesh Kumar from deciding on whether to accept or reject the resignations tendered by the MLAs on July 6.
 
"You were silent on the resignations till the MLAs came to the Supreme Court. Why? If you have decided on the resignations, then where is the scope for disqualification?" the Chief Justice asked Singvhi. 
 
Singhvi replied that the Speaker had filed an affidavit in the apex court explaining what had happened. 
 
Asked why wasn't a decision taken when the MLAs went to the Speaker with their resignations, Singhvi said it was a written communication, and the Speaker was not available on that day. "But the decision was communicated to him on July 6," the court added.
 
Singhvi argued that the first condition of a genuine resignation tendered by an MLA was that "he has to be personally present before the Speaker" and added that the MLAs first met the Speaker on July 11.
 
Reacting sharply to the argument, the court said that the provision did not negate resigning by letter, but if the MLAs did make a personal visit to the Speaker then he was expected to decide on their resignations immediately. "Why didn't it happen on July 11?" the bench further queried. 
 
Asking if the Speaker was challenging the Supreme Court's jurisdiction power, the Chief Justice said: "For your benefit, the court had ordered a floor test (referring to the last year's floor test) and appointed a pro tem Speaker in a midnight hearing. The exercise of jurisdiction of our power depends only on self-restraint."
 
Singhvi said the Speaker was in no way questioning the court's jurisdiction and added: "Suppose a Speaker goes crazy, then Your Lordships can intervene." 
 
The Chief Justice also heard senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who was representing Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, and questioned the veracity of the petition filed by the rebel MLAs.
 
Asking the Supreme Court to look at the notice behind the petition, Dhawan said: "The court should have not entertained this petition." 
 
IANS

Jaishankar joins BJP, nominated to contest RS seat from Gujarat

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who was nominated to contest from a Rajya Sabha seat in Gujarat hours after he joined the BJP on Monday, landed in Ahmedabad in the evening to file his nomination on Tuesday.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar joining the BJP in the presence of its Working President J. P. Nadda in New Delhi on June 24, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar joining the BJP in the presence of its Working President J. P. Nadda in New Delhi on June 24, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who was nominated to contest from a Rajya Sabha seat in Gujarat hours after he joined the BJP on Monday, landed in Ahmedabad in the evening to file his nomination on Tuesday.
 
Along with Jaishankar, who was inducted into the Union Cabinet by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month, the BJP has nominated Jugalji Thakore, an OBC leader from North Gujarat, to contest another Rajya Sabha seat in the state.
 
The two seats fell vacant after Union Ministers Amit Shah and Smriti Irani were elected to the Lok Sabha in the April-May election.
 
The 64-year-old former Foreign Secretary was earlier welcomed into the party by BJP Working President J. P. Nadda at the party headquarters in New Delhi.
 
BJP National General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan and BJP MP Bhupender Yadav were also present.
 
Jaishankar was inducted into the Cabinet and given the crucial portfolio of External Affairs on May 30, when the new Council of Ministers was sworn in.
 
As of now, he is not a member of either House of Parliament.
 
The 1977-batch officer has served in various capacities in the Ministry of External Affairs and as Indian envoy in important countries such as the US and China at crucial times.
 
He was Foreign Secretary from January 2015 to January 2018 and played a key role in shaping Modi's foreign policy during his first term, which saw a significant growth and expansion of India's ties with key countries, particularly the US and Arab nations.
 
Prior to that, during his tenure as India's Ambassador to the US from September 2013 till taking over as the Foreign Secretary, Jaishankar played a major role in bringing the US administration and the Modi government closer.
 
He also planned and executed the maiden visit of Prime Minister Modi to the US in September 2014 and his address to the Indian diaspora at the Madison Square in New York.
 
A major highlight of his diplomatic career was his tenure as Joint Secretary in-charge of Americas Division from 2004 to 2007, during which he was involved in negotiating the historic civil nuclear agreement which was finalised in 2006.
 
He also led the Indian team of negotiators for the subsequent 123 Agreement with the US, which was linked to the civil nuclear deal and concluded in 2009.
 
Jaishankar, who was honoured with India's fourth highest civilian award Padma Shri in January this year, also played a key role in improving the defence cooperation between India and the US in the shape of a new framework.
 
Jaishankar's tenure as India's Ambassador to China from 2009 to 2013, which was the longest by any IFS officer, coincided with several major developments in relations between the two countries.
 
It was his briefing to the Cabinet Committee on Security in 2010 regarding China's refusal to issue a visa to the Northern Army Commander which led to suspension of Indian defence cooperation with China and military exercises, before the matter was resolved in April 2011.
 
Also in 2010, Jaishankar negotiated an end to the Chinese policy of issuing stapled visas to Indians from Jammu and Kashmir.
 
Born on January 15, 1955, Jaishankar joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1977.
 
IANS
 
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Making India 5-trillion-dollar economy challenging but can be achieved: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday that the goal to make India a five-trillion-dollar economy is challenging but can be achieved and asked the states to recognise their core competence and work towards raising GDP targets.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairing the fifth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, in New Delhi on June 15, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairing the fifth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, in New Delhi on June 15, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday that the goal to make India a five-trillion-dollar economy is challenging but can be achieved and asked the states to recognise their core competence and work towards raising GDP targets.
 
In his opening remarks at the fifth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, the Prime Minister said that empowerment and ease of living have to be provided to each and every Indian.
 
"The goal to make India a five-trillion-dollar economy by 2024 is challenging but can surely be achieved. The states should recognise their core competence and work towards raising GDP targets right from the district level," he said.
 
He noted that the export sector was an important element in the progress of developing countries and said both the Centre and the states should work towards growth in exports, in order to raise per capita incomes.
 
"There is immense untapped export potential in several states, including the north eastern states. A thrust on export promotion at the state level will provide a boost to both income and employment," he said.
 
Describing Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana as illustrations of what the Centre and the states can accomplish together, the Prime Minister urged the states to focus on collective responsibility for achieving short-term and long-term goals.
 
"Empowerment and ease of living have to be provided to each and every Indian. Everyone at this platform has a common goal of achieving a New India by 2022," he said.
 
The meeting was attended by the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Ministers, Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and other delegates.
 
IANS
 

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Cyclone Vayu likely to cross Gujarat coast early Thursday morning

Cyclone Vayu over the Arabian Sea is very likely to intensify into a severe cyclonic storm and cross the Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Mahuva early in the morning of Thursday, June 13, the India Meteorological Department said on Tuesday.
(Image: IMD)
(Image: IMD)
Cyclone Vayu over the Arabian Sea is very likely to intensify into a severe cyclonic storm and cross the Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Mahuva early in the morning of Thursday, June 13, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said today.
 
A bulletin issued by IMD at 0410 hours today said the cyclonic storm over Eastcentral and adjoining Southeast Arabian Sea had moved north-northwestwards with a speed of about 11 kmph in the last six hours.
 
It lay centred at 0230 hrs IST of today near latitude 14.2°N and longitude 70.6°E, about 410 km north-northwest of Aminidivi (Lakshadweep), 600 km south-southwest of Mumbai (Maharashtra) and 740 km nearly south of Veraval (Gujarat). 
 
"It is very likely to intensify further into a Severe Cyclonic Storm during the next 24 hours. It is very likely to move nearly northward and cross Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Mahuva around Veraval & Diu region as a Severe Cyclonic Storm with wind speed 110-120 kmph gusting to 135 kmph during early morning of 13th June 2019," the bulletin said.
 
Under the influence of the system, widespread rainfall, with heavy falls at isolated places, was likely over Kerala, coastal Karnataka and Konkan & Goa in the next two or three days.
 
In Gujarat, the IMD forecast rainfall at isolated places today; fairly widespread rainfall with heavy falls at isolated places tomorrow; widespread rainfall with heavy to very heavy falls at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places over Saurashtra and Kutch on June 13; and widespread rainfall with heavy to very heavy falls at isolated places on June 14.
 
In South Gujarat, there could be rainfall at isolated places today, fairly widespread rainfall with heavy to very heavy falls at isolated places tomorrow; fairly widespread with heavy falls at isolated places on June 13; and rainfall at a few places on June 14.
 
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The IMD said wind speed is very likely to increase gradually and become gale wind speed reaching 90-100 kmph, gusting to 115 kmph, over Eastcentral & adjoining Southeast Arabian Sea by today evening. It is very likely to be 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph over Lakshadweep area, Kerala, Karnataka & south Maharashtra coasts.
 
Tomorrow, wind speed is very likely to increase further becoming gale wind speed reaching 110-120 kmph gusting to 135 kmph over eastcentral & adjoining northeast Arabian Sea by night. It is very likely to be 60-70 kmph gusting to 80 kmph over Gujarat coast from tomorrow morning and become gale wind speed reaching 110-120 kmph gusting to 135 kmph by 12th night. It is very likely to be 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph over Maharashtra coast.
 
Wind speed is very likely to decrease and become 100-110 kmph gusting to 125 kmph over north Arabian Sea and Gujarat coast in morning hours of June 13 and decrease gradually thereafter. It is very likely to be 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph over north Maharashtra coasts & northern parts of eastcentral Arabian Sea. 
 
The sea condition is very likely to be high to very high over eastcentral & adjoining southeast Arabian Sea today. It is very likely to become very high to phenomenal over eastcentral & adjoining northeast Arabian Sea & Gujarat coast from tomorrow evening and over north Arabian Sea on June 13.
 
"The sea condition is very likely to be rough over Lakshadweep area, along & off Kerala, Karnataka & south Maharashtra coasts today; rough to very rough along & off Maharashtra Coast on 12th; very rough to high along & off Gujarat, north Maharashtra coasts & northern parts of eastcentral Arabian Sea on 13th June.
 
Fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea in these areas and those out in deep sea were advised to return to the coast.
 
Storm surge of height of about 0.5 m above the astronomical tides was likely to inundate the low lying coastal areas of Porbandar, Junagadh, Gir Somnath and Amreli districts of Gujarat at the time of landfall, the bulletin said.
 
The IMD warned of possible major damage to thatched houses and huts in  Porbandar, Junagadh, Gir Somnath and Amreli districts, minor damage to power and communication lines, major damage to "Kutcha" and some damage to "Pucca roads", breaking of tree branches and uprooting of large avenue trees. 
 
Apart from total suspension of fishing operations, the bulletin said coastal hutment dwellers should be moved to safer places. People in affected areas should remain indoors, it added.
 
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Narendra Modi sworn in for second term as Prime Minister

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in for a second straight term in office at the head of a 58-member Council of Ministers at a ceremony in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Thursday evening.
President Ram Nath Kovind swearing in Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a second term in office at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on May 30, 2019.
President Ram Nath Kovind swearing in Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a second term in office at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on May 30, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in for a second straight term in office at the head of a 58-member Council of Ministers at a ceremony in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan here this evening.
 
Modi was administered the oaths of office and secrecy by President Ram Nath Kovind even as hundreds of supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cheered loudly.
 
Along with Modi, members of the new Council of Ministers were also sworn in, including Rajnath Singh and BJP President Amit Shah. 
 
Former Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar is among the new Cabinet Ministers.
 
Apart from the Prime Minister, the Council has 34 Ministers of Cabinet rank, nine Ministers of State with independent charge and 24 Ministers of State.
 
Thousands of guests, including leaders of BIMSTEC member-countries, Kyrgyz Republic and Mauritius, were present on the occasion.
 
The invitees for the event included political leaders, including Congress President Rahul Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chief Ministers of States, leading industrialists, film stars, sportsmen, top officials, foreign diplomats and other dignitaries.
 
The Cabinet Ministers sworn in today include Nitin Gadkari, D V Sadananda Gowda, Nirmala Sitharaman, Ram Vilas Paswan, Narendra Singh Tomar, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Thaawar Chand Gehlot, Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank", Arjun Munda and Smriti Irani, who had defeated Congress President Rahul Gandhi in his family bastion of Amethi in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections.
 
Other Ministers with Cabinet rank are Harsh Vardhan, Prakash Javadekar, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Pralhad Joshi, Mahendra Nath Pandey, Arvind Ganpat Sawant, Giriraj Singh and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
 
The Ministers of State with independent charge are Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Rao Inderjit Singh, Shripad Naik,  Jitendra Singh, Kiren Rijiju, Prahalad Singh Patel, Raj Kumar Singh, Hardeep Singh Puri and Mansukh L. Mandaviya.
 
The following are the Ministers of State: Faggan Singh Kulaste, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Arjun Ram Meghwal, General (Retd.) V. K. Singh,  Krishan Pal, Dadarao Danve, G. Kishan Reddy, Parshottam Rupala, Ramdas Athawale, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Babul Supriyo, Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Sanjay Dhotre, Anurag Thakur, Suresh Angadi, Nityanand Rai, Rattan Lal Kataria, V. Muraleedharan, Renuka Singh Saruta, Som Parkash, Rameswar Teli, Pratap Chandra Sarangi, Kailash Choudhary and Debasree Chaudhuri.
 
The portfolios of the new Ministers are expected to be announced soon.
 
Those from the previous Modi government who do not figure in the new Council of Ministers include Arun Jaitley, who opted out for health reasons, Sushma Swaraj, Suresh Prabhu, Jayant Sinha, Maneka Gandhi,  Manoj Sinha, J P Nadda, Uma Bharti, Mahesh Sharma, Radha Mohan Singh, Ananth Kumar Hegde, Birender Singh, K J Alphons, Vijay Goel, Ram Kripal Yadav, Anant Geete, Anupriya Patel and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. Swaraj has also been suffering from ill-health for a long time and she did not contest the Lok Sabha elections this time.
 
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President appoints Narendra Modi to second term as Prime Minister

President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday appointed Narendra Modi to a second consecutive term as Prime Minister after the BJP leader led the National Democratic Alliance to a stunning victory in the Lok Sabha elections held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19.
President Ram Nath Kovind at a meeting with Narendra Modi, when he appointed him to a second term as Prime Minister of India, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on May 25, 2019.
President Ram Nath Kovind at a meeting with Narendra Modi, when he appointed him to a second term as Prime Minister of India, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on May 25, 2019.
President Ram Nath Kovind today appointed Narendra Modi to a second consecutive term as Prime Minister after the BJP leader led the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to a stunning victory in the Lok Sabha elections held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19.
 
While doing so, the President exercised powers vested in him Article 75 (1) of the Constitution of India.
 
A press communique from Rashtrapati Bhavan said the President requested Modi to advise him about the names of others to be appointed members of the Union Council of Ministers; and indicate the date and time of the swearing-in-ceremony.
 
Modi was formally intimated about this when he called on the President at Rashtrapati Bhavan today in his capacity as leader of the BJP Parliamentary Party, which has majority support in the House of the People following the general election to the 17th Lok Sabha.
 
Earlier in the day, a delegation of the National Democratic Alliance led by Amit Shah, President, BJP, and comprising Prakash Singh Badal, Rajnath Singh, Nitish Kumar, Ram Vilas Paswan, Sushma Swaraj, Uddhav Thakeray, Nitin Gadkari, K. Palaniswami, Conrad Sangma and Neiphiu Rio, called on the President at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
 
"A letter stating that Shri Narendra Modi has been elected leader of the BJP Parliamentary Party was handed over to the President. Letters of support from NDA constituent parties were also handed over to the President," the communique added.
 
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Earlier in the day, Modi was elected the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the NDA parliamentary party at a function in Central Hall of Parliament.
 
"I am happy to announce that the BJP parliamentary party has unanimously elected Narendra Modi as its leader," BJP President Amit Shah announced.
 
Veteran Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal moved the resolution to elect Modi as the leader of the NDA parliamentary party. 
 
The resolution was supported by Janata Dal-United (JD-U) President and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and other leaders of the NDA.
 
"Modiji has been unanimously elected leader by the 353 NDA members. I thank all the newly elected members and congratulate Narendra Modi for his election," Shah said.
 
After being elected leader of the NDA, Modi touched the feet of BJP veterans L.K. Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi and Parkash Singh Badal and sought their blessings.
 
Chief Ministers of various NDA-ruled states were present, among others.
 
(With inputs from IANS)
 
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Congress Working Committee meets to discuss LS rout

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) met in New Delhi on Saturday to discuss the reasons for the party's abysmal performance across the country in the 2019 general elections.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other party leaders at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee in New Delhi on May 25, 2019.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other party leaders at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee in New Delhi on May 25, 2019.
The Congress Working Committee (CWC) met here on Saturday to discuss the reasons for the party's abysmal performance across the country in the 2019 general elections.
 
Foremost on the table is the challenge to keep the flock together in states like Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, where efforts were on to destabilise the government.
 
The party is also likely to discuss the coming Assembly elections in Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, a source said.
 
Out of the 23 CWC members, only four won in the just concluded elections -- party chief Rahul Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Gaurav Gogoi and A. Chella Kumar.
 
The 12 other CWC members, who lost the polls, include heavyweights like Mallikarjun Kharge, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Raghuveer Singh Meena, Jitin Prasada, Deepender Hooda, Sushmita Dev, K.H. Muniyappa and Arun Yadav.
 
Seven CWC members did not participate in the Lok Sabha elections this year.
 
The party has also called the Chief Ministers of five Congress-ruled states and Union Territories to the CWC. 
 
Heads have already started rolling after the party managed to win only 52 seats in the lower house, only eight more than 2014. Congress Uttar Pradesh in-charge Raj Babbar resigned from the post on Friday, along with campaign committee chief H. K. Patil, Odisha party chief Niranjan Patnaik and Amethi District Congress President Yogendra Misra.
 
In Uttar Pradesh, the party failed to even retain the Gandhi bastion of Amethi, where Rahul Gandhi lost to Union Minister and BJP candidate Smriti Irani by a margin of over 55,000 votes.
 
In Karnataka, the party won only one seat with senior party leader Mallikarjun Kharge losing by a huge margin.
 
According to sources, a few other senior leaders and party in-charges from states where the party drew a blank, are expected to offer to step down. The final call will be taken at the CWC, the party's highest decision-making body.
 
Congress won only 3 seats in three states -- Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh -- where it formed governments in December 2018.
 
"The chief ministers and party incharges from these three states will answer for the debacle and issues that needs to be prioritised in their respective states," the source added.
 
IANS
 

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BJP-led NDA appears set to sweep Lok Sabha polls for second term in power

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance appeared set to retain power for a second consecutive term as it surged ahead in 329 of the 542 Lok Sabha constituencies where elections were held between April 11 and May 19.
BJP workers burst fire crackers as they celebrate after the counting trends for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections show that the party appeared set to retain power at the Centre, in New Delhi, on May 23, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
BJP workers burst fire crackers as they celebrate after the counting trends for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections show that the party appeared set to retain power at the Centre, in New Delhi, on May 23, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) appeared set to retain power for a second consecutive term as it surged ahead in 329 of the 542 Lok Sabha constituencies where elections were held between April 11 and May 19.
 
Counting of votes in the elections began at 0800 hours and early trends indicated that the BJP was leading in 290 constituencies, while its main rival Congress was ahead in 50.
 
Among its allies, the Shiv Sena was leading in 19, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) in 15, the Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) in six, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in two, the Asom Gana Parishad in two, the AIADMK in one, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) in one and the AJSU in one.
 
Among the Congress allies, the DMK was leading in 22 seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in five, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in three, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) in two, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in one, the National Conference in one and the Kerala Congress (Mani) in one.
 
Among other parties, the Trinamool Congress was leading in 25 seats, the YSRCP in 24, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)-Samajwadi Party (SP) combine in 20, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in 12,  the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 1, the Naga People's Party in one, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in two, and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) in two and the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen in one.
 
The BJP appeared to be doing well in most parts of the Hindi heartland, including in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh as well as in states like Gujarat.
 
Congress President Rahul Gandhi was involved in a tight contest with Union Minister Smriti Irani of the BJP in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh but he was far ahead of his Left rival in Wayanad in Kerala. His mother and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi was ahead in Rae Bareli.
 
BJP leaders who were ahead included Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and Maneka Gandhi.
 
Votes are also being counted in the Legislative Assembly elections which were held in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim along with the Lok Sabha polls.
 
Polling for 542 of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha was held in seven phases on April 11, April 18, April 23,  April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19. The poll in one constituency, Vellore in Tamil Nadu, has been rescinded by the Election Commission of India (ECI). Two seats in the House of the People are filled up by nomination from the Anglo-Indian community.
 
This time, the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips will be counted from five randomly chosen polling stations in each Assembly segment in each Lok Sabha constituency, after the counting of the votes polled in electronic voting machines (EVMs), and this is expected to delay the final results by a few hours, sources said.
 
More than 8000 candidates were in the fray for the 542 seats, while 67.11 percent of the 90.99 crore electors exercised their franchise -- the highest ever turnout in Indian elections.
 
The Opposition parties had urged the Election Commission to tally the VVPAT slips with the EVM count in the five randomly chosen polling stations in each assembly segment first before counting the votes polled in the EVMs.
 
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The Election Commission said on Wednesday it had deliberated on the issue in detail and found that the suggestion was neither possible nor feasible to accede to in the overall context and especially in view of a judgement of the Supreme Court on April 8 which directed that the random selection of VVPATs shall be subjected to the process of slip verification as per the guidelines of 16.6 of the EVM Manual in force.
 
The Commission assured the Opposition parties and all the electors of the country that the entire counting, especially guarding the strong rooms and counting centres, was already being done in an absolutely fair and transparent manner.
 
The Commission has also set up a 24-hour EVM Control Room at its headquarters here to monitor complaints relating to polled EVMs. Complaints related to storage issues at strongrooms, the security of strongrooms, permissions to candidates to post their agents at strongrooms, CCTV monitoring, movement of any EVMs and any complaints during counting related to EVMs can be registered at the Control Room. The Control Room contact number is 011-23052123.
 
Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has alerted the Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police of all States about the possibility of violence during the counting of votes.
 
It has asked the States and UTs  to  maintain  law  and order and peace  and   public tranquility. States and UTs have been further asked to take adequate measures for the security of strongrooms and venues  of counting of votes. 
 
"This is in the wake of calls given and statements made  in various quarters for inciting violence and causing disruption on the day of counting of votes," an official press release said.
 
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Modi, Shah to hold dinner meet with NDA leaders

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah will hold a dinner meeting on Tuesday with leaders of the National Democratic Alliance.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah at a press conference in New Delhi on May 17, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah at a press conference in New Delhi on May 17, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah will hold a dinner meeting on Tuesday with leaders of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
 
The meeting, which comes two days ahead of the counting of votes of the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, is likely to chalk out a strategy for the post poll scenario.
 
Senior BJP leaders are also likely to meet at the party headquarters prior to the dinner meeting.
 
Party sources said Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United President Nitish Kumar and Lok Janshakti Party President Ram Vilas Paswan will attend the meeting.
 
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal might give it a miss and are likely to send their representatives.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 

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62% polling for 59 seats in final phase of LS elections

More than 62 per cent of the voters turned out to exercise their franchise in 59 constituencies that went to the polls today in the seventh and final phase of polling in the crucial elections to choose 543 members of the new Lok Sabha.
Voters waiting in a queue outside a polling station in Madhya Pradesh, in the final phase of voting in the Lok Sabha elections, on May 19, 2019.
Voters waiting in a queue outside a polling station in Madhya Pradesh, in the final phase of voting in the Lok Sabha elections, on May 19, 2019.
More than 62 per cent of the voters turned out to exercise their franchise in 59 constituencies that went to the polls today in the seventh and final phase of polling in the crucial elections to choose 543 members of the new Lok Sabha.
 
The highest polling percentage, at 73.51%, was reported in West Bengal where stray incidents of violence marred voting in nine constituencies.
 
According to the Election Commission (EC) data at 8 p.m., Jharkhand registered 71.11 per cent voting, followed by Madhya Pradesh 70.33 per cent, Himachal Pradesh 68.46 per cent, Chandigarh 63.57 per cent, Punjab 61.81 per cent, Uttar Pradesh 57.30 per cent and Bihar 53.36 per cent.
 
Voting began at 7 am and ended at 6 pm in all 59 constituencies.
 
The 59 seats that went to the polls on Sunday were spread across seven states and a Union Territory. They had a total of 10.01 crore voters, who decided the fate of 918 candidates in the fray.
 
Prominent candidates in this phase included Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking a second term from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Union Ministers - Manoj Sinha, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri. 
 
Others in the fray included actors-turned-politicians Shatrughan Sinha, Sunny Deol, Kirron Kher and Ravi Kishan as well as other leaders such as Sukhbir Badal of the SAD, Meira Kumar of the Congress and Shibu Soren of the JMM.
 
The ECI had set up more than 1.12 lakh polling stations and made elaborate security and other arrangements to ensure the smooth conduct of polls.
 
The first six phases of polling were held on April 11, April 18, April 23,  April 29, May 6 and May 12, covering 483 of the 543 constituencies. The poll in one constituency, Vellore in Tamil Nadu, has been rescinded by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
 
The final phase of polling covered 13 seats in Uttar Pradesh; all 13 in Punjab; nine in West Bengal; eight each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh; all four constituencies in Himachal Pradesh; three in Jharkhand and the lone seat of Chandigarh.
 
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Counting of votes will be taken up on May 23 and most of the results are expected to be in by late that evening or the next day.
 
Two seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha are filled by nomination from the Anglo-Indian community.
 
In this phase, the BJP was defending 30 seats -- 11 of the 12 it won in Uttar Pradesh in 2014 (it later lost Gorakhpur in a bye-election), seven in Madhya Pradesh, all four in Himachal Pradesh, five in Bihar, one each in Punjab, Jharkhand and Chandigarh.
 
Allies Apna Dal won one in Uttar Pradesh and the Akali Dal four in Punjab, while then ally Rashtriya Lok Samta Party of Upendra Kushwaha had won two in Bihar. The Janata Dal-United, which is now an ally, won one seat in Bihar. 
 
The Congress had won five seats -- one in Madhya Pradesh and four in Punjab. 
 
Four seats were won by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab and two by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in Jharkhand. One seat is currently held by the Samajwadi Party.
 
In West Bengal, all nine seats were won by the Trinamool Congress.
 
Re-polling was also held today in several booths in parliamentary constitutencies in six states and in Assembly constituencies in two. These seats include Kerala's Kannur and Kasargod, Tamil Nadu's Dharmapuri, Theni, Thiruvallur, Cuddalore and Erode, Haryana's Faridabad, Uttar Pradesh's Azamgarh, West Bengal's Bankura, Andhra Pradesh's Chittoor parliamentary and Chandgiri Assembly constituencies and 34 Assembly segments in 10 Odisha districts.
 
Voting was also held in bye-elections to four Assembly seats in Tamil Nadu, two in Karnataka and the Panaji Assembly seat, which fell vacant after the death of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. 
 
According to election officials, angry voters ransacked the polling booth in Nalanda in Bihar and held the Block Development Officer hostage. The officer was freed after police intervention. No voting took place at the booth. 
 
Glitches in electronic voting machines (EVMs) were also reported from the eight constituencies, leading to delay in the poll process in a few booths.
 
West Bengal reported a few incidents of sporadic violence and reports of EVM failures in several booths leading to either delay or stalling of the poll process.
 
Anupam Hazra, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from West Bengal's Jadavpur seat, and a party leader accompanying him were attacked and the latter's car damaged after the two visited a booth on receiving reports of rigging.
 
Hazra alleged that he was pushed and shoved and accused the TMC of rigging all 52 polling booths under the Kolkata Municipal Corporation ward number 109 in Jadavpur.
 
"The BJP Mandal President was hit and one of his tooth was broken. A CISF officer posted at the booth was also injured in the attack by the Trinamool," Hazra told the media.
 
The Trinamool, however, denied the allegations. 
 
Modi is re-contesting from Varanasi seat in Uttar Pradesh. Besides Modi, 25 other candidates are in fray from Varanasi. Modi's main challengers are Congress' Ajay Rai and SP-BSP's joint candidate Shalini Yadav.
 
(With inputs from IANS)
 
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SC extends term of mediation panel on Ayodhya dispute till August 15

The Supreme Court on Friday extended the term of the mediation committee on the Ayodhya dispute till August 15.
The Supreme Court on Friday extended the term of the mediation committee on the Ayodhya dispute till August 15.
 
The court said the members of the committee were not experiencing any difficulty in the mediation process. 
 
It observed that the Chairman of the committee, former Supreme Court judge F. M. I. Kalifulla, had indicated progress in mediation so far and sought extension of time to complete the task. 
 
The court refused to divulge the details on the mediation efforts. 
 
"We will not tell you the progress made, that is confidential," replied the court to a counsel's query regarding the mediation. The court observed that the mediation process can be also extended, if required. 
 
The court's observation came after a report was submitted on the mediation efforts. 
 
Senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for one of the Muslim litigants, told the court that they have no objection to the mediation process taking time. 
 
Iqbal Ansari, the son of Muslim litigant Hashim Ansari in the Ayodhya case, said: "This matter is very old and the issue cannot be resolved in two months."
 
Iqbal Ansari said that an eventual decision should be such that brings peace in the country
 
Swami Satyendra Das, the main priest at the Ram temple in Ayodhya, said the mediation team had submitted its report in the Supreme Court which will decide on the matter.
 
Das told IANS: "The meditation team has spoken to all the parties and come to a conclusion and given it to the court. Now the court will decide on the matter." 
 
The top court had on March 8 set up a three-member committee headed by Kalifulla to mediate to find a possible settlement of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Ayodhya title dispute.
 
The Kalifulla panel has Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Shriram Panchu as its other members.
 
The mediating is taking place at Faizabad, close to Ayodhya. 
 
While ordering mediation, a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had said: "We have considered the nature of the dispute arising. Notwithstanding the lack of consensus between the parties in the matter we are of the view that an attempt should be made to settle the dispute by mediation."
 
The other judges on the bench are Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer.
 
While those representing the litigants for the temple had resisted the move, the Muslim litigants agreed to mediation as it was not at the expanse of the regular hearing on the batch of petition challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment.
 
While ordering mediation, the court barred both the print and visual media from reporting on the mediation proceedings.
 
IANS
 

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SC rejects plea on Rahul Gandhi citizenship

The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a plea on Congress President Rahul Gandhi's citizenship.
Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi
The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a plea on Congress President Rahul Gandhi's citizenship.
 
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna rejected the petition.
 
"Some company in some form has mentioned Rahul Gandhi as a British citizen, so does he become a British citizen? Dismissed," CJI Gogoi said.
 
The court was hearing the petition moved by two activists seeking direction to the Home Ministry to decide on the matter and it also sought the disqualification of Gandhi from contesting the Lok Sabha polls.
 
The Home Ministry issued a notice to Gandhi on April 29 to clarify his nationality within a fortnight after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Subramanian Swamy alleged that he was a British national.
 
Swamy in his representation to the Home Ministry alleged that Gandhi served as one of the Directors and Secretary of the British firm Backops Ltd, which is registered in the UK since 2003, with address 51 Southgate Street, Winchester, Hampshire.
 
IANS
 

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Extremely severe cyclone Fani to hit Odisha coast on Friday afternoon

The extremely severe cyclonic storm, Fani, over westcentral Bay of Bengal, was very likely to cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri, on Friday afternoon, the India Meteorological Department said on Thursday.
The extremely severe cyclonic storm, Fani, over westcentral Bay of Bengal, was very likely to cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri, tomorrow afternoon, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said here today.
 
The IMD has already issued a cyclone warning for the coastal areas of Odisha and West Bengal and Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram and Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh.
 
In a bulletin issued at 1230 hours today, the IMD said Fani had moved further north-northeastwards with a speed of about 16 kmph in the previous six hours and lay centred at 1130 hours IST near latitude 16.7°N and longitude 84.8°E, about 360 km south-southwest of Puri (Odisha), 190 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and 550 km south-southwest of Digha (West Bengal). 
 
"It is very likely to move north-northeastwards and cross Odisha Coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri by the afternoon of 3rd May with maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph gusting to 200 kmph," the bulletin said.
 
The cyclone is being tracked by Doppler Weather Radars Vishakhapatnam & Machilipatnam.
 
The bulletin said light to moderate rainfall would occur over most places in North Andhra Pradesh with isolated heavy to very heavy falls over Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts and isolated heavy to extremely heavy falls (>20 cm) over Srikakulam district today.
 
There could be heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places over Srikakulam district tomorrow, it said.
 
In  south coastal and adjoining interior Odisha, the IMD said there could be light to moderate rainfall at most places today, with heavy to very heavy rainfall and extremely heavy falls over Ganjam & Gajapati districts at isolated places.
 
"It is likely to increase with moderate rainfall at most places and heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places over coastal Odisha and adjoining districts of interior Odisha on 3rd. Light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy falls at isolated places over Balasore, Mayurbhanj districts of north Odisha on 4th May," it said.
 
The bulletin also forecast light to light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places very likely over coastal and adjoining districts of West Bengal tomorrow; and heavy to very falls at isolated places over Gangetic West Bengal on May 4.
 
"Light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy falls at isolated places over sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim on 4th May," it said.
 
The bulletin said Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya would experience light to moderate rainfall at most places, with isolated heavy to very heavy falls on May 4 and 5. There could be isolated extremely heavy falls over Assam and Meghalaya on May 4.
 
There could also light to moderate rainfall at many places over Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura on May 4, with isolated heavy falls.
 
The bulletin said gale winds, with speed reaching 180-190 kmph, gusting to 210 kmph, were very likely to prevail over westcentral Bay of Bengal around the system centre during the next 24 hours and decrease thereafter.
 
It said squally winds, with speed reaching 40-50 kmph, gusting to 60 kmph, were very likely to prevail along and off north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha Coasts and become gale wind, speed reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 85 kmph, from tonight. It is very likely to become 170-180 kmph, gusting to 200 kmph, along and off south Odisha and adjoining north Andhra Pradesh (Srikakulam district) coasts; and 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph along and off remaining districts of coastal Odisha and north Andhra Pradesh (Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram Districts) by tomorrow forenoon for the subsequent 12 hours and decrease thereafter.
 
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"Squally wind speed reaching 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph is very likely along & off West Bengal coast from 2nd May evening. It is very likely become gale wind speed reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 85 kmph from 3rd May afternoon and become 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph from 4th May early morning for subsequent 12 hours and decrease thereafter," it said.
 
The sea condition will be phenomenal over westcentral Bay of Bengal, off north Andhra Pradesh coasts, till tomorrow and over northwest Bay of Bengal off Odisha and West Bengal till May 4.
 
Sea conditions are very likely to be very rough to high off north Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, along and off south Andhra Pradesh coasts till May 3.
 
The bulletin warned that storm surge of 1.5 metre height above astronomical tide was very likely to inundate low-lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha at the time of landfall.
 
Fishermen were advised not to venture into deep sea areas and those out in deep sea in the above aeas were advised to return to the coasts.
 
The bulletin said the cyclone could cause extensive damage to kutcha houses and old pucca and badly managed pucca structures in Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha.
 
It said there could be extensive uprooting of communication and  power poles. There could also be disruption of rail and road links and extensive damage to standing crops, plantations and orchards. Large boats and ships may get torn from their moorings.
 
The IMD suggested total suspension of fishing operations, extensive evacuation of people from coastal areas, and diversion or suspension of rail and road traffic. People in affected areas have been advised to remain indoors.
 
The cyclone could also cause damage, on a lesser scale, in Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Balasore districts of Odisha and east and west Medinipur, south and north 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hoogli, Kolkata districts of West Bengal and Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts of Andhra Pradesh, the bulletin added.
 
NNN
 

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