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Gujarat

Modi poised for huge win in Gujarat, Congress wrests Himachal from BJP

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi appeared set for a third straight term in office as the Bharatiya Janata Party headed towards a huge win in the state but it lost Himachal Pradesh to the Congress as counting of votes progressed in the Assembly elections in both States today.

 
Counting begins in Gujarat, BJP secures early lead

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi appeared set for a third straight term in office as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headed towards a huge win in the state but it lost Himachal Pradesh to the Congress as counting of votes progressed in the Assembly elections in both states today.

As results and counting trends became available for all the 182 seats in the Gujarat Assembly, the BJP had won 52 and was leading in 65 others, making for a total of 117 seats, the same number that it has in the outgoing house.
 
The Congress had won 27 seats and was leading in 32 others. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), an ally of the Congress, had won two seats while the Janata Dal (United), an ally of the BJP, was leading in one constituency. Other parties were ahead in three seats.
 
Adding to the Congress' misery in Gujarat, its state unit chief Arjun Modhwadia and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Shaktisinh Gohil lost their seats.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, the ruling BJP conceded defeat as the Congress won 34 seats in the 68-member Assembly and was leading in two others. The BJP had won 23 and was ahead in another three, while others had won four and were leading in two more.
 
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal admitted his party had lost and congratulated the winners. He said the reasons for the BJP's defeat, despite his government's good record of governance, would be analysed at party fora in due course.
 
In Gujarat, Mr Modi retained his own seat, Maninagar, bagging 120440 votes against 34097 secured by his nearest rival, Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt.
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The controversial former Minister of State for Home, Mr Amit Shah of the BJP, won from Naranpura, garnering 103988 votes against the 40653 secured by his rival Jitubhai B Patel of the Congress.
 
In the Ellis Bridge constituency in Ahmedabad, Ms Jagruti Pandya, widow of assassinated former Minister of State for Home Haren Pandya, ended up in the third place. Ms Pandya, a candidate of the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) floated by former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, could muster only 9075 votes against Mr Raesh Shah of BJP, who got 106631 votes. Mr Kamleshkumar Shah of the Congress got 29959 votes.
 
Mr Modhwadia lost in Porbandar, getting only 60458 votes against the 77604 votes secured by Mr Babubhai Bokhiria of the BJP. Mr Gohil lost from Bhavnagar (Rural) to Mr Purshottam Solanki of the BJP. Mr Solanki got 83980 votes as against 65426 secured by Mr Gohil.
 
The BJP had won 117 seats in the Gujarat Assembly in the last elections in 2007, while the Congress had 59 seats.
 
Counting of votes began in both states at 0800 hours today and all the results are expected by this evening.
 
Elections to the 182-member Gujarat assembly were held in two phases on December 13 and 17, when a record 71.3 per cent of the 38 million voters had exercised their franchise.
 
Polling for the 68 seats in the Himachal Pradesh assembly was held in a single phase on November 4, and about 74.7 per cent of the 4.60 million voters had cast their votes.
 
The supporters of Mr Modi, who has been in office since 2001, are hoping that, with yet another big win, he would be propelled to the centrestage of national politics and become the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
 
Exit polls had predicted a huge win for Mr Modi again this year, while they had given a slight edge in a close contest in Himachal Pradesh.
 
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Sugar industry waste turned into next-gen battery material

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Indian scientists have demonstrated that waste water from some of the dirtiest industrial processes can be turned into a carbon source for preparation of energy storage materials.
 
Researchers led by scientists from Bhavnagar-based Central Salt and Marine Research Institute (CSMRI) have used sugar and distillery industry waste to develop functionalized carbon material which has energy storage properties. Such electrochemical material can be used to make electrodes, sensors and supercapacitors which find applications in digital devices.
 
In a two-step process, spent wash from a distillery was acidified to bring its pH down to about 2. The acidified solution was stirred overnight at room temperature, resulting in precipitation of solid mass or sludge. This solid mass was then sun-dried and calcined at elevated temperatures to generate functionalized carbon material which has energy storage properties, scientists explained.
 
Water-intensive industries like sugar and distilleries produce huge amounts of liquid and solid wastes including biomethanated spent wash which was used in the study.
 
“Instead of dumping into landfills and generating leachate, solid sludge can be activated with a metal precursor and calcined at elevated temperatures under inert atmosphere. The inherent presence of sulphur and nitrogen containing impurities in the sludge acts as dopants and in combination with the metal precursor it can provide an alternate charge storage mechanism to the material,” Dr Ramavatar Meena, one of the co-authors of the group told India Science Wire. The study results have been published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials.
 
The sulfur and nitrogen impurities in the sludge in combination with a metal precursor impart ‘pseudocapacitance’ to carbon material. “Electrochemical studies have shown good charge-discharge cycles with almost 100 percent capacitance retention even after 1000 cycles,” Dr Meena added.
 
After recovery of sugar from sugarcane juice in an evaporation process, the residue left is molasses which is fermented in distilleries for bio-ethanol production. For every litre of ethanol produced, 12 to 14 liters of water is consumed. This results in high quantities of waste in the form of spent wash which is an environmental hazard.
 
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The methodology developed can be used for wastewaters with high "total organic carbon" content generated by other polluting industries such as tanneries. Besides extraction of carbon material, a combination of adsorption and low pressure reverse osmosis (RO) can be used to further treat wastewater making it reusable in sugar industries as well as for irrigation purposes.
 
“Our aim is to reduce dependency of sugar industries and distilleries on fresh water by making them self-sufficient in terms of water consumption,” researchers said. Studies are also underway to recover potable water from this highly contaminated wastewater.
 
The research team included Ashesh Mahto, Rajeev Gupta, Krishna Kanta Gharab, Divesh N. Srivastava, Pratyush Maitib, R. Meena (all from CSMRI), D. Kalpana (Central Electrochemical Research Institute -Madras Unit), Paul Zavala-Revirae (Chemical Engineering & Metallurgy Department, Universidad de Sonora, Mexico) and S.K. Nataraja (Centre for Nano and Material Sciences, Jain University). The study was supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
 
(India Science Wire)
 
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Gujarat Congress expels eight MLAs who voted against it in RS elections

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The Congress today expelled eight rebel MLAs, including former Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, who had voted against its candidate Ahmed Patel in the elections to the Rajya Sabha yesterday, for six years.
 
Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki said the MLAs, who also included Mr. Vaghela's son Mahendrasinh Vaghela, had been expelled for defying the party whip and voting against its candidate in the crucial elections.
 
The party has also initiated legal proceedings seeking their disqualification from contesting elections for six years under the anti-defection laws, he said.
 
Mr. Ashok Gehlot, the party's general secretary in charge of Gujarat affairs, said he had also recommended the expulsion of six others who had earlier resigned as MLAs, just days before the crucial polls which saw Mr. Patel winning a fifth term in the Rajya Sabha with 44 votes, the minimum number required. 
 
Three of those six had later joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and, in fact, one of them, Balwantsinh Rajput, was its third candidate in the biennial elections for three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat. BJP President Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani won the other two seats comfortably.
 
Mr. Vaghela had dissociated himself from the Congress on July 21 and resigned from all positions in the party but had said that he would continue as an MLA till the Rajya Sabha elections.
 
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Reliance Foundation to invest Rs. 10 crore in rebuilding four flood-hit villages in Gujarat

Reliance Foundation Chairperson Nita Ambani during a visit to the flood-hit areas of Banaskantha district of Gujarat, on August 9, 2017.
Reliance Foundation Chairperson Nita Ambani during a visit to the flood-hit areas of Banaskantha district of Gujarat, on August 9, 2017.
Visiting the flood-hit Banaskantha and Patan districts of Gujarat today, Ms. Nita Ambani, Founder and Chairperson of Reliance Foundation (RF), the philanthropic arm of energy and petrochemicals major Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), announced that RF will adopt four worst-affected villages in the area.
 
Ms. Ambani said the Foundation is holding talks with the Government of Gujarat to adopt four severely impacted villages and provide them the required assistance for rehabilitation beyond the immediate relief efforts. 
 
This will include construction of new homes, schools, healthcare facilities, community hall and other social infrastructure. “We will spend Rs. 10 crore to rebuild these villages,” she said.
 
Reliance Foundation has undertaken similar relief efforts in other areas impacted by natural calamities. They include Anjar in 2001, or Uttarakhand in 2013 or Kashmir Floods in 2014 or Chennai floods in 2015 or Nepal Earthquake in 2015 or Banaskantha now, a press release from RF said.
 
Ms. Ambani is personally providing hands-on leadership for RF’s relief efforts, the release said.
 
Today she carried out a recce of the worst-affected areas to assess first-hand the primary and immediate requirements of the victims who have lost their homes in the deluge, and supervise the rescue and relief work being carried out by the Foundation.
 
Teams of RF relief workers, along with volunteers from RIL, led by Ms. Ambani, are working round-the-clock, distributing relief kits, food packets, drinking water, blankets, ration kits, kitchen sets, clothes and fodder to the flood-hit people. 
 
RF has teamed up with over 15 organisations to source and distribute relief materials. It is leveraging its toll-free helpline number to reach out to people stranded in remote areas. Advisories are being disseminated to spread awareness among the hapless victims about sanitation, health precautions, livestock care, and available government facilities.
 
Assuring the flood victims of timely relief, Ms. Ambani, said: “Reliance Foundation will tirelessly work together to rebuild your lives and to make things better for you. Please do not lose hope. Keep the faith, and together we will improve things.” 
 
The floods have claimed hundreds of lives, rendered thousands homeless, disrupted livelihoods, and caused large-scale loss of assets in Gujarat. Banaskantha district, one of the worst-hit areas, has been declared ‘disaster-affected’ under the Gujarat State Disaster Management Act, 2003.
 
Since the onset of the floods, RF has been working to support the affected communities. "The Foundation is working hand-in-hand with the government authorities and other organisations to provide timely relief to the victims," the release added.
 
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Ahmed Patel of Congress, Amit Shah, Smriti Irani of BJP win RS seats from Gujarat

Ahmed Patel, the hugely influential Political Secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, won a fifth straight term in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday in one of the most fiercely contested elections to the Upper House of Parliament, outwitting the ruling BJP, which pulled out all the stops to try and prevent his re-election.

Ahmed Patel
Ahmed Patel
Ahmed Patel, the hugely influential Political Secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, won a fifth straight term in the Rajya Sabha today in one of the most fiercely contested elections to the Upper House of Parliament, outwitting the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which pulled out all the stops to try and prevent his re-election.
 
BJP President Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani won their seats comfortably, while the party's third candidate Balwant Singh Rajput, who had switched over from the Congress on July 27, failed to make the cut at the end of high political drama.
 
In one of the closest electoral battles that he has ever faced in a long political career, Mr. Patel, 67, who has also served three terms as a member of the Lok Sabha from Bharuch in Gujarat, literally scraped through with 44 votes, the minimum required to win on first preferences votes to pick up the third of the three seats up for grabs.
 
For Mr. Shah, 52, this is his first term as a Member of Parliament while Ms. Irani, 41, has secured a second consecutive term in the Rajya Sabha.
 
In the normal course, Mr. Patel should have sailed through the election, but a series of dramatic developments over the past few weeks made it a contest that literally went to the wire.
 
Polling began in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, at 9 am on Tuesday and ended at 4 pm and counting of votes was scheduled to be taken up at 5 pm, but the process was held up after the Congress complained about the two MLAs.
 
Counting of votes was delayed by more than eight hours, beginning only around 1 am on Wednesday morning after the Election Commission directed the Returning Officer to reject the votes cast by two rebel Congress MLAs who had voted against the party's Mr. Patel.
 
In its order on a petition by the Congress, the Commission said this could be done at the time of counting of votes by segregating the ballot papers concerned. 
 
"Such segregation can be done at the time of counting with reference to the serial numbers of the ballot papers issued to the electors concerned as per the record maintained on the counter foils of ballot papers under Rule 38A.
 
"For this purpose, before commencement of counting, the ballot papers in question shall be segregated by verifying the serial numbers printed on teh reverse side of the ballot papers. While so segregating, the ballot papers shall be kept by the Returning Officer upside down because the serial numbers of the ballot papers are printed on the reverse side of the ballot papers. After so segregating the said two ballot papers, the Returning Officer shall proceed with the counting as per the law," the order, signed by Chief Election Commissioner A. K. Joti and Election Commissioner O. P. Rawat, said.
 
The objections raised by the Congress on the votes cast by the two rebel Congress MLAs, Raghavji Patel and Bholabhai Gohil, delayed the counting of votes in the election, which has turned out to be the most fiercely contest ever for a Rajya Sabha seat.
 
The two MLAs were accused by the Congress of having shown their ballot papers to BJP President Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani before putting it in the ballot box. The rules clearly say that the MLA must show the ballot paper to his or her party's authorised agent but not to anyone else. Doing so would lead to cancellation of the votes.
 
A Congress delegation consisting of Mr. Randeep Singh Surjewala and Mr. R. P. N. Singh, among others, first approached the Election Commission of India (ECI) in Delhi in this regard. 
 
In its memorandum, the Congress said the two Congress MLAs had shown their ballot papers to persons other than the authorised Congress agent and thus violated the provisions of Rule 39 of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. Therefore, it said the votes cast by the two MLAs should be cancelled for the reason of "voting procedure violated".
 
The memorandum said the Congress had protested about this to the Returning Officer and had urged him to cancel the votes of the two MLAs. "The videography of the entire process is available with the Returning Officer and he may be immediately directed to follow the law in letter and spirit," it said.
 
"In view of the above, we request your good offices to kindly forthwith issue directions to the concerned RO to cancel the votes cast by the aforesaid MLAs," it added.
 
Shortly after that, a high-level BJP delegation, led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and including Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sitharaman and Dharmendra Pradhan, met the Election Commission and urged it to reject the Congress plea and start the process of counting of votes immediately.
 
Mr. Prasad, the Law Minister, told newspersons that the Congress had not raised any objections throughout the day and had raked up the issue only when it realised that Mr. Patel was losing. According to him, the Congress had also not raised the issue when the Returning Officer issued the Form 6 detailing the number of votes cast in the election and such other details.
 
In Ahmedabad, Mr. Patel said they had, in fact, complained to the Returning Officer about the votes of the two MLAs but no action had been taken. About the delegation of Ministers meeting the Election Commission, he said it was a sign of the panic within the ruling party.
 
The two MLAs against whom the Congress has complained belong to the Shankarsinh Vaghela group, which has dissociated itself from the Congress on July 21 but had not resigned their seats in the State Legislative Assembly.
 
"They had voted for the BJP. After showing their ballot to me, they also flashed their ballot to the side where Amit Shah was sitting, and there is a video of this," Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil said.
 
Shortly after the BJP delegation left, a delegation of top Congress leaders, including Mr. P. Chidambaram, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mr. Ashok Gehlot and others, met the Chief Election Commissioner.
 
Mr. Chidambaram told newspersons later that the Conduct of Election Rules, read with circulars issued by the Election Commission, clearly require the Commission to cancel the two votes. He cited the precedents of the June 11, 2016 Rajya Sabha elections in Haryana, when a vote was cancelled for a similar reason, and another in 2000 in Rajasthan.
 
"There is ample evidence that the votes of the two MLAs were seen by two or three persons other than the authorised person. Those two ballot papers, which were in favour of the BJP, must be rejected. The Election Commission cannot folow anything except its own precedents in this matter," he asserted.
 
Mr. Chidambaram said the delegation had also impressed upon the Commission that it was the only Constitutional authority in the matter and it must decide the issue. He said the Returning Officer was an appointee of the Commission tasked with the conduct of the elections on the ground. "It must reject the two votes as it did in Haryana," he said.
 
About the BJP's argument that the Congress had raised the issue only when it feared it would lose the election, he said it was completely irrelevant. The question is whether the votes are liable to be rejected or not, he stressed. He also said the matter had been reported to the Returning Officer and the matter was taken to the Election Commission only when he did not act on their complaint.
 
Mr. Surjewala said the Commission had assured that it would look into the matter and uphold the Constitution and the secrecy of the ballot. He said the BJP, by sending a team of senior Ministers, was trying to put pressure on the Commission.
 
Mr. Jaitley and his colleagues in the BJP delegation returned to the Commission for another meeting with Mr. Joti and his colleagues. Mr. Prasad said they had once again impressed upon the Commission that the election process was over and counting of votes cannot be stalled in this manner. He also said the Congress allegations were baseless.
 
Both parties came back to the Commission a third time, as each side presented more documents to support their arguments.
 
The Commission said in its order that, as per the report of the Returning Officer after completion of poll, which was received by it at about 5.19 pm, during the course of poll, the election agent of the Congress candidate Shailesh Bhai Parmar submitted two written applications of votes tendered by the two voters, Bholabhai Gohil and Raghavji Patel, for violation of the procedure laid down by the Rules, besides authorised representatives of the Congress, even to others.
 
He said that he had examined the complaints and the video recording of the polling process and rejected the objection raised. He had accordingly sought permission of the Commission to commence the counting of votes
 
Amit Shah
Amit Shah
The order went on to refer to its meetings with the delegations of the Congress and the BJP in this regard. The Congress contended that the Returning Officer had improperly rejected its objection. Mr. Patel also sent an email to the Commission with the same request for cancellation of the two votes.
 
The BJP delegation contended that the Returning Officer was the statutory authority to conduct the polling and counting process and to decide the validity or otherwise of a ballot paper.
 
The Commission said it obtained and viewed the video recording of the polling process to ascertain the facts.
 
The order pointed out that an elector at the Rajya Sabha election has to show his marked ballot paper to the authorised representative of the political party to which he belongs, before inserting it into the ballot box. It also said the rule is very clear that the elector has to show his ballot paper only to the authorised representaive of his party and to no one else.
 
"Consequently, if a marked ballot paper by an elector is shown to or be seen by anyone other than the said Representative, which may violate the secrecy of vote has to be rejected by the Returning Officer...," it said.
 
"The Commission has viewed the video recording of the votes cast by the said two MLAs and it has been observed therefrom that the said two electors violated the voting procedure and secrecy of the ballot papers cast by them when they exercised their right to vote," the order added.
 
The cancellation of the two votes meant that the minimum number of votes required by a candidate for a win fell further to 44 first preference votes 
 
The Congress said Mr. Patel had secured the votes of 43 of the 44 MLAs the party had taken to a resort to Bengaluru in Karnataka for about two weeks and for one day ahead of today's voting to a resort in Anand, about 80 km from Ahmedabad, to prevent alleged poaching attempts by the BJP.
 
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It was not clear which of the other MLAs had voted for Mr. Patel, with one legislator from the Janata Dal (United), one of the two Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) representatives and another member claiming they have voted for him.
 
"Satyameva Jayate", Mr. Patel said on micro-blogging site Twitter as counting of votes ended. 
 
"This is not just my victory. It is a defeat of the most blatant use of money power,muscle power and abuse of state machinery.
 
"I want to thank each & every MLA who voted for me despite unprecedented intimidation & pressure from BJP. They voted for an inclusive India," he added.
 
The run-up to the election was marked by high political drama as the BJP pulled out all stops in a determined bid to deny Mr. Patel another term in the Rajya Sabha.
 
Given its 121 seats in the Assembly, the BJP was certain to win two seats, but it decided to field a third candidate in an effort to try and lure away some votes away from Mr. Patel and prevent his re-election.
 
Mr. Rajput was the Congress' chief whip in the state legislative assembly until recently and is one of the six Congress MLAs who had resigned from the party on July 27 and 28. Mr. Rajput and two others had joined the BJP on July 27 itself and was named as the BJP's nominee for the third seat the same evening.
 
With the resignation of the six MLAs, the effective strength of the House has come down to 176. The strength of the Congress in the Assembly has come down to 51. 
 
The resignations of the six MLAs had come only a few days after Mr. Shankarsinh Vaghela, one of the seniormost Congress leaders in the state, who was leader of the Opposition in the Assembly and is a former Chief Minister and Union Minister, parted ways with the Congress on July 21.
 
Soon after casting his vote today, Mr. Vaghela told journalists that he did not vote for Mr. Patel. "I have to say that I did not vote for my friend Ahmedbhai, and I regret that. But when it is clear that Mr. Patel that will not win, there was no point in wasting my vote on him," he said.
 
However, he did not indicate who he had voted for or whether he had exercised the "None of the above" (NOTA) option. "You will come to know that in the evening," he said. Along with Mr. Vaghela, six of his supporters are also understood to have not voted for Mr. Patel.
  
Mr. Vaghela's move had come just a day after the results of the Presidential election, which indicated that about 11 of the 57 Congress MLAs in the state then had voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and against the Opposition nominee Meira Kumar.
 
Amidst fears of alleged poaching attempts by the BJP, the Congress had moved 44 of its MLAs on July 29 to a resort near Bengaluru in Karnataka, a state ruled by the party.
 
The MLAs returned to Gujarat yesterday morning and were taken to a resort near Anand. They travelled together in a bus to Gandhinagar to cast their votes.
 
The Congress had accused the BJP of using "money and muscle power" to engineer defections of its MLAs and complained to the Election Commission about the events in Gujarat.
 
The MLAs' stay in the Eagleton resort was not without drama. On the one hand, the BJP mounted strong criticisim of their travel outside the state when it was reeling under heavy  floods. On the other hand, Karnataka Energy Minister D. K. Shivakumar, who tasked by the Congress to look after the MLAs, found himself being raided by Income Tax officials. The Congress protested, saying the raids were politically motivated, while the Income Tax Department insisted they were part of an ongoing investigation against Mr. Shivakumar.
 
The latest developments have acome only a few months ahead of the elections to the State Assembly, expected to be held late this year. The Congress has been out of power in the state for more than two decades.
 
The biennial elections were necessitated by the expiry of the terms later this month of Mr. Patel, Ms. Irani and a third sitting member from Gujarat, Mr. Dilip Pandya.
 
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Gujarat RS poll: ECI orders cancellation of votes cast by two rebel Congress MLAs

In a significant move, the Election Commission on Tuesday night directed the Returning Officer for the elections to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat to reject the votes cast by two Congress MLAs who had voted against the party's candidate Ahmed Patel, the hugely influential Political Secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

Ahmed Patel
Ahmed Patel
In a significant move, the Election Commission today directed the Returning Officer for the biennial elections for three seats to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat to reject the votes cast by two Congress MLAs who had voted against the party's candidate Ahmed Patel, the hugely influential Political Secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
 
In its order on a petition by the Congress, the Commission said this could be done at the time of counting of votes by segregating the ballot papers concerned after it found that the MLAs had violated the procedures by showing the ballot papers to persons other than their party's authorised agent.
 
"Such segregation can be done at the time of counting with reference to the serial numbers of the ballot papers issued to the electors concerned as per the record maintained on the counter foils of ballot papers under Rule 38A.
 
"For this purpose, before commencement of counting, the ballot papers in question shall be segregated by verifying the serial numbers printed on teh reverse side of the ballot papers. While so segregating, the ballot papers shall be kept by the Returning Officer upside down because the serial numbers of the ballot papers are printed on the reverse side of the ballot papers. After so segregating the said two ballot papers, the Returning Officer shall proceed with the counting as per the law," the order, signed by Chief Election Commissioner A. K. Joti and Election Commissioner O. P. Rawat, said.
 
The objections raised by the Congress on the votes cast by the two rebel Congress MLAs, Raghavji Patel and Bholabhai Gohil, delayed the counting of votes in the election, which has turned out to be the most fiercely contest ever for a Rajya Sabha seat.
 
The two MLAs were accused by the Congress of having shown their ballot papers to BJP President Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani before putting it in the ballot box. The rules clearly say that the MLA must show the ballot paper to his or her party's authorised agent but not to anyone else. Doing so would lead to cancellation of the votes.
 
Mr. Patel, 67, is seeking a fifth consecutive term in the Rajya Sabha, but a series of dramatic developments over the past few weeks made it a contest that literally went to the wire.
 
The BJP has fielded Mr. Shah, Ms. Irani and former Congress MLA Balwant Singh Rajput for the three seats, for which polling was held today.
 
Polling began at 9 am and ended at 4 pm and counting of votes was scheduled to be taken up at 5 pm, but the process was held up after the Congress complained about the two MLAs.
 
A Congress delegation consisting of Mr. Randeep Singh Surjewala and Mr. R. P. N. Singh, among others, first approached the Election Commission of India (ECI) in Delhi in this regard. 
 
In its memorandum, the Congress said the two Congress MLAs had shown their ballot papers to persons other than the authorised Congress agent and thus violated the provisions of Rule 39 of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. Therefore, it said the votes cast by the two MLAs should be cancelled for the reason of "voting procedure violated".
 
The memorandum said the Congress had protested about this to the Returning Officer and had urged him to cancel the votes of the two MLAs. "The videography of the entire process is available with the Returning Officer and he may be immediately directed to follow the law in letter and spirit," it said.
 
"In view of the above, we request your good offices to kindly forthwith issue directions to the concerned RO to cancel the votes cast by the aforesaid MLAs," it added.
 
Congress approaches EC, demands quashing of two MLAs' votes
Shortly after that, a high-level BJP delegation, led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and including Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sitharaman and Dharmendra Pradhan, met the Election Commission and urged it to reject the Congress plea and start the process of counting of votes immediately.
 
Mr. Prasad, the Law Minister, told newspersons that the Congress had not raised any objections throughout the day and had raked up the issue only when it realised that Mr. Patel was losing. According to him, the Congress had also not raised the issue when the Returning Officer issued the Form 6 detailing the number of votes cast in the election and such other details.
 
In Ahmedabad, Mr. Patel said they had, in fact, complained to the Returning Officer about the votes of the two MLAs but no action had been taken. About the delegation of Ministers meeting the Election Commission, he said it was a sign of the panic within the ruling party.
 
The two MLAs against whom the Congress has complained belong to the Shankarsinh Vaghela group, which has dissociated itself from the Congress on July 21 but had not resigned their seats in the State Legislative Assembly.
 
"They had voted for the BJP. After showing their ballot to me, they also flashed their ballot to the side where Amit Shah was sitting, and there is a video of this," Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil said.
 
Shortly after the BJP delegation left, a delegation of top Congress leaders, including Mr. P. Chidambaram, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mr. Ashok Gehlot and others, met the Chief Election Commissioner.
 
Mr. Chidambaram told newspersons later that the Conduct of Election Rules, read with circulars issued by the Election Commission, clearly require the Commission to cancel the two votes. He cited the precedents of the June 11, 2016 Rajya Sabha elections in Haryana, when a vote was cancelled for a similar reason, and another in 2000 in Rajasthan.
 
"There is ample evidence that the votes of the two MLAs were seen by two or three persons other than the authorised person. Those two ballot papers, which were in favour of the BJP, must be rejected. The Election Commission cannot folow anything except its own precedents in this matter," he asserted.
 
Mr. Chidambaram said the delegation had also impressed upon the Commission that it was the only Constitutional authority in the matter and it must decide the issue. He said the Returning Officer was an appointee of the Commission tasked with the conduct of the elections on the ground. "It must reject the two votes as it did in Haryana," he said.
 
About the BJP's argument that the Congress had raised the issue only when it feared it would lose the election, he said it was completely irrelevant. The question is whether the votes are liable to be rejected or not, he stressed. He also said the matter had been reported to the Returning Officer and the matter was taken to the Election Commission only when he did not act on their complaint.
 
Mr. Surjewala said the Commission had assured that it would look into the matter and uphold the Constitution and the secrecy of the ballot. He said the BJP, by sending a team of senior Ministers, was trying to put pressure on the Commission.
 
Mr. Jaitley and his colleagues in the BJP delegation returned to the Commission for another meeting with Mr. Joti and his colleagues. Mr. Prasad said they had once again impressed upon the Commission that the election process was over and counting of votes cannot be stalled in this manner. He also said the Congress allegations were baseless.
 
Both parties came back to the Commission a third time, as each side presented more documents to support their arguments.
 
The Commission said in its order that, as per the report of the Returning Officer after completion of poll, which was received by it at about 5.19 pm, during the course of poll, the election agent of the Congress candidate Shailesh Bhai Parmar submitted two written applications of votes tendered by the two voters, Bholabhai Gohil and Raghavji Patel, for violation of the procedure laid down by the Rules, besides authorised representatives of the Congress, even to others.
 
He said that he had examined the complaints and the video recording of the polling process and rejected the objection raised. He had accordingly sought permission of the Commission to commence the counting of votes
 
The order went on to refer to its meetings with the delegations of the Congress and the BJP in this regard. The Congress contended that the Returning Officer had improperly rejected its objection. Mr. Patel also sent an email to the Commission with the same request for cancellation of the two votes.
 
The BJP delegation contended that the Returning Officer was the statutory authority to conduct the polling and counting process and to decide the validity or otherwise of a ballot paper.
 
The Commission said it obtained and viewed the video recording of the polling process to ascertain the facts.
 
The order pointed out that an elector at the Rajya Sabha election has to show his marked ballot paper to the authorised representative of the political party to which he belongs, before inserting it into the ballot box. It also said the rule is very clear that the elector has to show his ballot paper only to the authorised representaive of his party and to no one else.
 
"Consequently, if a marked ballot paper by an elector is shown to or be seen by anyone other than the said Representative, which may violate the secrecy of vote has to be rejected by the Returning Officer...," it said.
 
"The Commission has viewed the video recording of the votes cast by the said two MLAs and it has been observed therefrom that the said two electors violated the voting procedure and secrecy of the ballot papers cast by them when they exercised their right to vote," the order added.
 
Meanwhile, the Congress claimed that Mr. Patel, the hugely influential Political Secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, had got enough votes to retain his seat. The BJP, on the other hand, claimed that all its candidates would win.
 
In one of the closest electoral battles that he has ever faced in a long political career, Mr Patel, like the other candidates, needed 45 first preference votes to get through.
 
If Mr. Patel wins, it will be his fifth consecutive term in the Upper House of Parliament after earlier serving three terms as a Member of the Lok Sabha from Bharuch in Gujarat.
 
For Mr. Shah, it will be his first time as a Member of Parliament while it will be her second consecutive term for Ms. Irani.
 
The Congress claimed Mr. Patel had secured the votes of 43 of the 44 MLAs the party had taken to a resort to Bengaluru in Karnataka for about two weeks and for one day ahead of today's voting to a resort in Anand, about 80 km from Ahmedabad, to prevent alleged poaching attempts by the BJP.
 
The party said he had got the vote of the lone Janata Dal (United) MLA Chhotubhai Vasava and one of the two Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) representatives in the Assembly. The other NCP MLA Kandhal Jadeja had said that he would vote for the BJP.
 
The run-up to the election was marked by high political drama as the BJP pulled out all stops in a determined bid to deny Mr. Patel another term in the Rajya Sabha.
 
Given its 121 seats in the Assembly, the BJP was certain to win two seats, but it decided to field a third candidate in an effort to try and lure away some votes away from Mr. Patel and prevent his re-election.
 
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Mr. Rajput was the Congress' chief whip in the state legislative assembly until recently and is one of the six Congress MLAs who had resigned from the party on July 27 and 28. Mr. Rajput and two others had joined the BJP on July 27 itself and was named as the BJP's nominee for the third seat the same evening.
 
With the resignation of the six MLAs, the effective strength of the House has come down to 176. The strength of the Congress in the Assembly has come down to 51. A candidate required one-fourth of the total votes plus one to get elected -- 45 votes at that stage.
 
With the cancellation of the two votes, the minimum number required for winning has come down to 44, something that would benefit Mr. Patel.
 
The resignations of the six MLAs had come only a few days after Mr. Shankarsinh Vaghela, one of the seniormost Congress leaders in the state, who was leader of the Opposition in the Assembly and is a former Chief Minister and Union Minister, parted ways with the Congress on July 21.
 
Soon after casting his vote today, Mr. Vaghela told journalists that he did not vote for Mr. Patel. "I have to say that I did not vote for my friend Ahmedbhai, and I regret that. But when it is clear that Mr. Patel that will not win, there was no point in wasting my vote on him," he said.
 
However, he did not indicate who he had voted for or whether he had exercised the "None of the above" (NOTA) option. "You will come to know that in the evening," he said.
 
Along with Mr. Vaghela, six of his supporters are also understood to have not voted for Mr. Patel.
 
While dissociating himself from the Congress at a function to celebrate his 77th birthday in Gandhinagar, the state capital near here, Mr. Vaghela had made it clear that he was not joining the BJP. He claimed the Congress had actually expelled him the previous day, something which the party denied.
 
Mr. Vaghela, who had turned a rebel within the BJP nearly two decades ago, had floated his own outfit, the Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), which he finally merged with the Congress 17 years ago. 
 
The Congress said Mr. Vaghela had wanted to be appointed as the Gujarat Congress chief, a demand that the party could not accept. 
 
Mr. Vaghela's move had come just a day after the results of the Presidential election, which indicated that about 11 of the 57 Congress MLAs in the state then had voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and against the Opposition nominee Meira Kumar.
 
Amidst fears of alleged poaching attempts by the BJP, the Congress had moved 44 of its MLAs on July 29 to a resort near Bengaluru in Karnataka, a state ruled by the party.
 
The MLAs returned to Gujarat yesterday morning and were taken to a resort near Anand. They travelled together in a bus to Gandhinagar to cast their votes.
 
The Congress had accused the BJP of using "money and muscle power" to engineer defections of its MLAs and complained to the Election Commission about the events in Gujarat.
 
The MLAs' stay in the Eagleton resort was not without drama. On the one hand, the BJP mounted strong criticisim of their travel outside the state when it was reeling under heavy  floods. On the other hand, Karnataka Energy Minister D. K. Shivakumar, who tasked by the Congress to look after the MLAs, found himself being raided by Income Tax officials. The Congress protested, saying the raids were politically motivated, while the Income Tax Department insisted they were part of an ongoing investigation against Mr. Shivakumar.
 
The latest developments have acome only a few months ahead of the elections to the State Assembly, expected to be held late this year. The Congress has been out of power in the state for more than two decades.
 
The biennial elections were necessitated by the expiry of the terms later this month of Mr. Patel, Ms. Irani and a third sitting member from Gujarat, Mr. Dilip Pandya.
 
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Polling begins for three RS seats from Gujarat; Ahmed Patel faces close contest

Polling began on Tuesday morning in the crucial biennial elections for three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat in which senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel is facing one of his toughest electoral battles against the ruling BJP, which is determined to deny him a fifth consecutive term in the Upper House of Parliament.

Ahmed Patel
Ahmed Patel
Polling began here this morning in the crucial biennial elections for three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat in which senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel is facing one of his toughest electoral battles against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is determined to deny him a fifth consecutive term in the Upper House of Parliament.
 
Voting, which  began at 9 am, will end at 4 pm. Counting of votes will be taken up at 5 pm and the results are expected shortly thereafter.
 
The run-up to the elections has been marked by high political drama and all indications are that today's exercise will see a nail-biting finish.
 
The BJP is contesting all three seats up for grabs and has fielded its president Amit Shah, Union Minister Smriti Irani and Mr. Balwant Singh Rajput as its candidates. Mr. Rajput was the Congress' chief whip in the state legislative assembly until recently and is one of the six Congress MLAs who had resigned from the party on July 27 and 28. Mr. Rajput and two others had joined the BJP on July 27 and was named as the BJP's nominee for the third seat the same evening.
 
With the resignation of the six MLAs, the effective strength of the House has come down to 176. The strength of the Congress in the Assembly has come down to 51. A candidate requires one-fourth of the total votes plus one to get elected -- 45 votes in the present situation.
 
These developments came only a few days after Mr. Shankarsinh Vaghela, one of the seniormost Congress leaders in the state, who was leader of the Opposition in the Assembly and is a former Chief Minister and Union Minister, parted ways with the Congress on July 21.
 
Soon after casting his vote today, Mr. Vaghela told journalists that he did not vote for Mr. Patel. "I have to say that I did not vote for my friend Ahmedbhai, and I regret that. But when it is clear that Mr. Patel that will not win, there was no point in wasting my vote on him," he said.
 
However, he did not indicate who he had voted for or whether he had exercised the "None of the above" (NOTA) option. "You will come to know that in the evening," he said.
 
While dissociating himself from the Congress at a function to celebrate his 77th birthday here on July 21, Mr. Vaghela had made it clear that he was not joining the BJP. He claimed the Congress had actually expelled him the previous day, something which the party denied.
 
"They expelled me 24 hours ago because they were not sure about what I would say here today...Vinashkale vipareet budhdhi," he had said on that day. 
 
"I am freeing myself from the Congress. I have resigned as the Leader of the Opposition. I will resign as Congress MLA after the (August 8) Rajya Sabha elections," he told the cheering crowd.
 
He said he had assured Congress President Sonia Gandhi that he would not betray her trust. He said he had told her that he would not join the BJP.
 
Mr. Vaghela, who had turned a rebel within the BJP nearly two decades ago, had floated his own outfit, the Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), which he finally merged with the Congress 17 years ago. 
 
The Congress said Mr. Vaghela had wanted to be appointed as the Gujarat Congress chief, a demand that the party could not accept. 
 
 
Voting underway for Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections
Mr. Vaghela's move had come just a day after the results of the Presidential election, which indicated that about 11 of the 57 Congress MLAs in the state then had voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and against the Opposition nominee Meira Kumar.
 
By fielding Mr. Rajput, a relative of Mr. Vaghela, as its third candidate for the Rajya Sabha, the BJP is hoping to attract some votes from the Congress MLAs and try and prevent the re-election of Mr. Patel.
 
Mr. Patel, however, was confident that he would win. Apart from the Congress MLAs, he is counting on the support of two NCP MLAs and one of the Janata Dal (United). 
 
Amidst fears of alleged poaching attempts by the BJP, the Congress had moved 44 of its MLAs on July 29 to a resort near Bengaluru in Karnataka, a state ruled by the party.
 
The MLAs returned to Gujarat yesterday morning and were taken to a resort near Anand, about 80 km from here. They travelled to Gandhinagar today to cast their votes.
 
Apart from his four terms in the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Patel has also served three terms as a member of the Lok Sabha from Bharuch constituency in Gujarat.
 
Mr. Shah is seeking entry into Parliament for the first time, while Ms. Irani is looking for a second consecutive term in the Upper House. 
 
Given the numbers in the Assembly, the BJP can easily get two of its candidates elected. Similarly, if there is no cross-voting, the Congress can also get one candidate elected.
 
The Congress has accused the BJP of using "money and muscle power" to engineer defections of its MLAs and complained to the Election Commission about the events in Gujarat.
 
The MLAs' stay in the Eagleton resort was not without drama. On the one hand, the BJP mounted strong criticisim of their travel outside the state when it was reeling under heavy  floods. On the other hand, Karnataka Energy Minister D. K. Shivakumar, who tasked by the Congress to look after the MLAs, found himself being raided by Income Tax officials. The Congress protested, saying the raids were politically motivated, while the Income Tax Department insisted they were part of an ongoing investigation against Mr. Shivakumar.
 
The latest developments have acome only a few months ahead of the elections to the State Assembly, expected to be held late this year. The Congress has been out of power in the state for more than two decades.
 
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Polling today for three RS seats from Gujarat; Ahmed Patel faces close contest

Polling will be held in Gandhinar on Tuesday in the biennial elections for three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat in which senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel is facing one of his toughest electoral battles against the ruling BJP, which is determined to deny him a fifth consecutive term in the Upper House of Parliament.

Ahmed Patel
Ahmed Patel
Polling will be held in Gandhinagar near here today in the biennial elections for three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat in which senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel is facing one of his toughest electoral battles against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is determined to deny him a fifth consecutive term in the Upper House of Parliament.
 
The run-up to the elections have been marked by high political drama and all indications are that today's exercise will see a nail-biting finish.
 
The BJP is contesting all three seats up for grabs and has fielded its president Amit Shah, Union Minister Smriti Irani and Mr. Balwant Singh Rajput as its candidates. Mr. Rajput was the Congress' chief whip in the state legislative assembly until recently and is one of the six Congress MLAs who had resigned from the party on July 27 and 28. Mr. Rajput and two others had joined the BJP on July 27 and was named as the BJP's nominee for the third seat the same evening.
 
With the resignation of the six MLAs, the effective strength of the House has come down to 176. The strength of the Congress in the Assembly has come down to 51. A candidate requires one-fourth of the total votes plus one to get elected -- 45 votes in the present situation.
 
These developments came only a few days after Mr. Shankarsinh Vaghela, one of the seniormost Congress leaders in the state, who was leader of the Opposition in the Assembly and is a former Chief Minister and Union Minister, parted ways with the Congress on July 21.
 
While dissociating himself from the Congress at a function to celebrate his 77th birthday in Gandhinagar, the state capital, Mr. Vaghela had made it clear that he was not joining the BJP. He claimed the Congress had actually expelled him the previous day, something which the party denied.
 
"They expelled me 24 hours ago because they were not sure about what I would say here today...Vinashkale vipareet budhdhi," he had said on that day. 
 
"I am freeing myself from the Congress. I have resigned as the Leader of the Opposition. I will resign as Congress MLA after the (August 8) Rajya Sabha elections," he told the cheering crowd.
 
The former Chief Minister said he had assured Congress President Sonia Gandhi that he would not betray her trust. He said he had told her that he would not join the BJP.
 
Mr. Vaghela, who had turned a rebel within the BJP nearly two decades ago, had floated his own outfit, the Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), which he finally merged with the Congress 17 years ago. 
 
The Congress said Mr. Vaghela had wanted to be appointed as the Gujarat Congress chief, a demand that the party could not accept. 
 
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Mr. Vaghela's move had come just a day after the results of the Presidential election, which indicated that about 11 of the 57 Congress MLAs in the state then had voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and against the Opposition nominee Meira Kumar.
 
By fielding Mr. Rajput, a relative of Mr. Vaghela, as its third candidate for the Rajya Sabha, the BJP is hoping to attract some votes from the Congress MLAs and try and prevent the re-election of Mr. Patel.
 
Mr. Patel is, however, confident that all the Congress MLAs, including Mr. Vaghela and his supporters, will vote for him. He is also counting on the support of two NCP MLAs and one of the Janata Dal (United). But there are doubts about which the two parties would vote this time. There are media reports that the NCP has asked its MLAs to vote for the BJP. The JD (U), on the other hand, has only recently ended its alliance with the Congress and the RJD in Bihar and get back to the NDA fold.
 
Amidst fears of alleged poaching attempts by the BJP, the Congress had moved 44 of its MLAs on July 29 to a resort near Bengaluru in Karnataka, a state ruled by the party.
 
The MLAs returned to Gujarat yesterday morning and were taken to a resort near Anand, about 80 km from here. They will travel to Gandhinagar later today to cast their votes.
 
Apart from his four terms in the Upper House, Mr. Patel has also served three terms as a member of the Lok Sabha.
 
Mr. Shah is seeking entry into Parliament for the first time, while Ms. Irani is looking for a second consecutive term in the Upper House. 
 
Given the numbers in the Assembly, the BJP can easily get two of its candidates elected. Similarly, if there is no cross-voting, the Congress can also get one candidate elected.
 
The Congress has accused the BJP of using "money and muscle power" to engineer defections of its MLAs and complained to the Election Commission about the events in Gujarat.
 
The MLAs' stay in the Eagleton resort was not without drama. On the one hand, the BJP mounted strong criticisim of their travel outside the state when it was reeling under heavy  floods. On the other hand, Karnataka Energy Minister D. K. Shivakumar, who tasked by the Congress to look after the MLAs, found himself being raided by Income Tax officials. The Congress protested, saying the raids were politically motivated, while the Income Tax Department insisted they were part of an ongoing investigation against Mr. Shivakumar.
 
The latest developments have acome only a few months ahead of the elections to the State Assembly, expected to be held late this year. The Congress has been out of power in the state for more than two decades.
 
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44 Gujarat Congress MLAs return to home state from Bengaluru resort

The 44 Gujarat Congress MLAs, who were taken by the party to a resort near Bengaluru for about two weeks to prevent alleged poaching attempts by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of tomorrow's crucial Rajya Sabha elections, returned to their home state early Monday morning.

 
Gujarat Congress MLAs return home from Bengaluru resort
The 44 Gujarat Congress MLAs, who were taken by the party to a resort near Bengaluru for about two weeks to prevent alleged poaching attempts by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of tomorrow's crucial Rajya Sabha elections, returned to their home state early this morning.
 
All the MLAs travelled together on an Indigo flight from Bengaluru and reached here around 4.45 am amidst heavy security.
 
Apart from the police, who were present in large numbers, there were also a large number of Congress and Youth Congress workers at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport when the MLAs landed.
 
As soon as the MLAs came out of the airport, they boarded waiting buses and left for a resort near Anand in Central Gujarat, about 80 km from here.
 
The Congress had shifted the 44 MLAs to Karnataka, that is ruled by the party, apprehending efforts by the BJP to lure away some of them ahead of polling day tomorrow in the Rajya Sabha elections.
 
The move to shift the MLAs to Bengaluru came after six MLAs resigned from the party -- three on July 27 and three more on the next day. The first three joined the BJP on July 27 itself.
 
The resignation of the six MLAs has come as a setback for the Congress, which has again fielded senior party leader Ahmed Patel, Political Adviser to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, for one of the three seats for which biennial elections are being held.
 
With the resignation of these MLAs, the strength of the Congress has come down to 51 in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, whose effective strength has come down to 176. 
 
This means that Mr. Patel, who is seeking a fifth consecutive term in the Rajya Sabha, will need at least 44 votes. As speculation rose about the possibility of more desertions from the Congress camp, the party leadership decided to take preventive steps and move all of them to Bengaluru.
 
The latest developments have also come only a few months ahead of the elections to the State Assembly, expected to be held late this year and just a few days after former Gujarat Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, who was leader of the Opposition in the state legislative assembly, parted ways with the Congress on July 21.
 
The six MLAs who have resigned include Mr. Balwant Singh Rajput, who was the Congress' chief whip in the assembly and is now the BJP's third candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections from the state, the other two being party president Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani.
 
Mr. Shah is seeking entry into Parliament for the first time, while Ms. Irani is looking for a second consecutive term in the Upper House. Given its numbers in the Assembly, the BJP can easily get two of its candidates elected. Similarly, if there is no cross-voting, the Congress can also get one candidate elected.
 
While dissociating himself from the Congress at a function to celebrate his 77th birthday in Gandhinagar, Mr. Vaghela, a former Union Minister, had made it clear that he was not joining the BJP. He claimed the party had actually expelled him the previous day, something which the Congress denied.
 
"They expelled me 24 hours ago because they were not sure about what I would say here today...Vinashkale vipareet budhdhi," he had said on that day. 
 
"I am freeing myself from the Congress. I have resigned as the Leader of the Opposition. I will resign as Congress MLA after the (August 8) Rajya Sabha elections," he told the cheering crowd.
 
The former Chief Minister said he had assured Congress President Sonia Gandhi that he would not betray her trust. He said he had told her that he would not join the BJP.
 
Mr. Vaghela, who had turned a rebel within the BJP nearly two decades ago, had floated his own outfit, the Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), which he finally merged with the Congress 17 years ago. 
 
The Congress said Mr. Vaghela had wanted to be appointed as the Gujarat Congress chief, a demand that the party could not accept. 
 
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Mr. Vaghela's move had come just a day after the results of the Presidential election, which indicated that about 11 of the 57 Congress MLAs in the state then had voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and against the Opposition nominee Meira Kumar.
 
By fielding Mr. Rajput, a relative of Mr. Vaghela, as its third candidate for the Rajya Sabha, the BJP is hoping to attract some votes from the Congress MLAs and try and prevent the re-election of Mr. Patel.
 
Mr. Patel is counting on the support of two NCP MLAs and one of the Janata Dal (United). Apart from his four terms in the Upper House, he has also served three terms as a member of the Lok Sabha.
 
The Congress has accused the BJP of using "money and muscle power" to engineer defections of its MLAs and complained to the Election Commission about the events in Gujarat.
 
The MLAs' stay in the Eagleton resort was not without drama. On the one hand, the BJP mounted strong criticisim of their travel outside the state when it was reeling under heavy  floods. On the other hand, Karnataka Energy Minister D. K. Shivakumar, who tasked by the Congress to look after the MLAs, found himself being raided by Income Tax officials. The Congress protested, saying the raids were politically motivated, while the Income Tax Department insisted they were part of an ongoing investigation against Mr. Shivakumar.
 
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S. Aparna appointed as Executive Director in World Bank

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Ms. S. Aparna, a senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the 1988 batch (Gujarat cadre), has been appointed as the Executive Director representing the constituency of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka in the World Bank.
 
Ms. Aparna is currently serving as the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
 
A notification from the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said Ms. Aparna would succeed Mr. Subhash Chandra Garg, who has taken over as the Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance.
 
The appointment is for a period of three years with effect from the date of assumption of charge of the post or until further orders, whichever is earlier, the notification added.
 
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255 sorties flown by IAF during HADR operation in Gujarat, Rajasthan

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The Indian Air Force (IAF) flew 255 sorties during a dedicated Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations in Gujarat and Rajasthan that experienced heavy rains and floods in past few days.
 
A press release from the Ministry of Defence said here today that, considering the gravity of the situation, the State Emergency Operation Cell in Gujarat requested the IAF for rescue operations in flood affected areas of Mehasana, Deesa, Banaskantha and Patan. 
 
Accordingly, the IAF team swung into action and deployed Mi-17V5 and Chetak helicopters at various location of the State for rescue and relief operations, it said.
 
A dedicated HADR Cell was activated at South Western Air Command, Gandhinagar to monitor the relief operations round the clock. Under the challenging weather conditions, with limited ground reference, these helicopters carried out rescue operations to save stranded people, the release said.
 
The rescue operation included a patient in dire need of dialysis who was airlifted from the rooftop in the shortest possible time, along with a pregnant woman with small child and husband.
 
Despite inclement weather, a total of 220 sorties were flown by IAF rescue team in Gujarat area and 35 sorties in Rajasthan area. During the rescue operations, the crew dropped a total of 86 tonnes of food packets in flood affected areas of Gujarat. A radar was also operationalised at Deesa for communication which was specially transported by An-32 aircraft till Ahmedabad and thereafter moved by road to Deesa.
 
The C-17 and C-130J aircraft airlifted National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel and load to the airports nearest to the flooded areas, the release added.
 
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Nadda flags off relief supplies for flood-hit Assam, Manipur and Gujarat

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Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda, who is Chairman of the Indian Red Cross Society, today flagged off relief material worth around Rs 3.15 crore to the flood affected families in Assam, Manipur and Gujarat.
 
Dr Jitendra Singh, Minister of State for the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, was also present on the occasion.
 
Speaking after flagging off the fleet of trucks, Mr Nadda stated that the government was ensuring that there was no shortage of essential items to the flood victims. “We have released the first batch of relief material worth around Rs 3.15 crore containing medicines, mosquito nets, clothes, etc., and will soon send the second batch as well.
 
“We will make sure that there is an adequate supply of relief material,” he added. 
 
The Red Cross units of Assam, Manipur and Gujarat through their volunteers have also initiated an immediate response by providing relief supplies to the affected communities from their existing stocks.
 
The Indian Red Cross Society national headquarters has also released relief items from its prepositioned stocks for response operation. These include mosquito nets, kitchen sets, tarpaulin pieces, towels, dhotis for men and sarees for women, cotton blankets, bed sheets and buckets.
 
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Income Tax Department conducts raids on Karnataka Minister D. K. Shivakumar

The Income Tax Department on Wednesday carried out searches at the premises of Karnataka Energy Minister D. K. Shivakumar at various locations as well as at a resort near Bengaluru, where 44 Congress MLAs from Gujarat are staying ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections from their state.

D. K. Shivakumar
D. K. Shivakumar
The Income Tax Department today carried out searches at the premises of Karnataka Energy Minister D. K. Shivakumar at various locations in Karnataka and in Delhi as well as at a resort near here, where 44 Congress MLAs from Gujarat are staying ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections from their state.
 
The raid at the Eagleton Resort was confined to a room which Mr. Shivakumar was occupying and was not related in any way to the presence of the MLAs from Gujarat, the Income Tax Department said.
 
According to official sources, raids were being conducted at 39 premises in all belonging to Mr. Shivakumar and his family.
 
The Congress shifted about 44 of its MLAs in Gujarat last week to the resort in a bid to prevent poaching by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the crucial August 8 elections to the Rajya Sabha.
 
The move came after six MLAs resigned from the party, three on Thursday and three on Friday. The first three joined the BJP later on Thursday.
 
The move to shift the MLAs to Bengaluru came after six MLAs resigned from the party -- three on Thursday and three yesterday. The first three joined the BJP on Thursday itself.
 
Mr. Shivakumar had been tasked by the Congress leadership to look after the MLAs. The Congress, which had accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of using money and muscle power to force its MLAs to resign and defect, said that the timing of the raids raised serious questions.
 
"The Karnataka Investigation Wing of the Income Tax Department is conducting searches in the case of a Karnataka Minister," a press release from Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Bangalore said.
 
"The search under Section 132 of the Income Tax Act is an evidence gathering exercise which is being carried in compliance with all statutory requirements. The search is the continuation of an investigation which has been in progress for a considerable period of time," it said.
 
"The timing of the search was decided well in advance. The events involving certain MLAs of another state being brought to Karnataka were unforeseen and unpredictable events," the release said.
 
"The Minister being searched was staying at a resort near Bangalore where some MLAs from another state are put up. Hence the Minister’s room alone is being searched. The search team has no concern with the MLAs and there has been no contact with MLAs  and the search team.
 
"It is again reiterated that the Income Tax search is only on one Karnataka Minister," the release added.
 
The Congress raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha and alleged that the BJP-led NDA government was misusing Central agencies for its political purposes. Congress leader Anand Sharma took up the issue during zero hour, following which Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the leader of the House, sought to clarify that the raids were only against Mr. Shivakumar and had nothing to do with the presence of the MLAs at the resort.
 
He said the Income Tax officials had raided the room occupied by Mr. Shiva Kumar, as part of searches at 39 locations, and had not searched any other room at the resort. He asserted that the fact that Mr. Shivakumar was staying at the resort did not confer any immunity on him.
 
Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad accused the Government of using foul means to force Congress MLAs to defect to the BJP. He said the Government had failed in its duty to ensure that elections were held in a free and fair manner and without fear.
 
As Deputy Chairman P. J. Kurien moved to other issues, the Congress members trooped into the well of the House and raised slogans.
 
The depletion in its strength in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly has come as a setback for the Congress, which has again fielded senior party leader Ahmed Patel, Political Adviser to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, for one of the three seats for which biennial elections will be held on August 8.
 
After the resignation of the six MLAs, the strength of the Congress has come down to 51 in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, whose effective strength has come down to 176. 
 
This means that Mr. Patel, who is seeking a fifth consecutive term in the Rajya Sabha, will need at least 44 votes. As speculation rose about the possibility of more desertions from the Congress camp, the party leadership decided to take preventive steps and move all of them to Bengaluru.
 
The latest developments have also come only a few months ahead of the elections to the State Assembly, expected to be held late this year and a few days after former Gujarat Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, who was leader of the Opposition in the state legislative assembly, parted ways with the Congress on July 21.
 
The six MLAs who have resigned include Mr. Balwant Singh Rajput, who was the Congress' chief whip in the assembly and is now the BJP's third candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections from the state, the other two being party president Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani.
 
Mr. Shah is seeking entry into Parliament for the first time, while Ms. Irani is looking for a second consecutive term in the Upper House. Given its numbers in the Assembly, the BJP can easily get two of its candidates elected. Similarly, if there is no cross-voting, the Congress can also get one candidate elected.
 
Mr. Vaghela's move had come just a day after the results of the Presidential election, which indicated that about 11 of the 57 Congress MLAs in the state then had voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and against the Opposition nominee Meira Kumar.
 
By fielding Mr. Rajput, a relative of Mr. Vaghela, as its third candidate for the Rajya Sabha, the BJP is hoping to attract some more votes from the Congress MLAs and try and prevent the re-election of Mr. Patel.
 
Mr. Patel is counting on the support of two NCP MLAs and one of the Janata Dal (United). Apart from his four terms in the Upper House, he has also served three terms as a member of the Lok Sabha.
 
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Congress complains to ECI that BJP is engineering defections of its MLAs in Gujarat

 
Congress accuses BJP of using money, muscle power in Gujarat
The Congress today complained to the Election Commission of India about the alleged "serious and grave illegal" conducts and actions of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the August 8 biennial elections to three seats from Gujarat in the Rajya Sabha.
 
In a memorandum to the Chief Election Commissioner, senior leaders of the party said the "might of money and muscle power is currently in full display by the ruling BJP dispensation" to engineer and manipulate defections and resignations from the ranks of Congress MLAs.
 
The Congress delegation included Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mr. Anand Sharma, Mr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Mr. Manish Tewari and Mr. Vivek Tankha.
 
The memorandum mentioned some Congress MLAs who had claimed that they had been approached by the "BJP and its agents" to defect in consideration of monetary allurements. It alleged that the official machinery in the state was also being used to foster political purposes.
 
"These facts are all over print, visual media and as well as in social media. It is beyond imagination such machinations for defection and to seek resignation are happening in a State from where a Union Cabinet Minister Smriti Irani and the president of BJP Amit Shah are candidates for Rajya Sabha seat," it said.
 
The Congress urged the Commission to take immediate cognizance and direct registration of offences against all such persons who are directly or indirectly indulging in "wilful horse trading, inducements and abuse and misuse of power".
 
It said the Chief Election Officer of the State had so far not acted in any way to inspire confidence that free and fair elections can be conducted in Gujarat.
 
They said alleged and purported conduct and actions ex facie indicated commission of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code and also constituted corrupt practices under the Representation of People;s Act.
 
The memorandum urged the Commission to constitute a committee of independent persons/officers to enquire into the charges. It said the committee should hear the MLAs who had alleged that they had been approached by the BJP. 
 
The party called for the transfer and/or suspension of officers involved in allegedly facilitating the ruling party to engineer defections and resignations of the Congress MLAs.
 
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Congress shifts its Gujarat MLAs to Bengaluru to prevent poaching by BJP

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The Congress has shifted about 44 of its MLAs in Gujarat to a private resort near Bengaluru, in Karnataka that is ruled by the party, in a bid to prevent poaching by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the crucial August 8 elections to the Rajya Sabha.
 
The move to shift the MLAs to Bengaluru came after six MLAs resigned from the party -- three on Thursday and three yesterday. The first three joined the BJP on Thursday itself.
 
The 40-odd MLAs arrived by air from Ahmedabad in two batches, with about 30 of them landing first and then another ten. They were whisked away to the resort amidst tight security, sources said.
 
The resignation of the six MLAs has come as a setback for the Congress, which has again fielded senior party leader Ahmed Patel, Political Adviser to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, for one of the three seats for which biennial elections will be held on August 8.
 
With the resignation of these MLAs, the strength of the Congress has come down to 51 in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, whose effective strength has come down to 176. 
 
This means that Mr. Patel, who is seeking a fifth consecutive term in the Rajya Sabha, will need at least 44 votes. As speculation rose about the possibility of more desertions from the Congress camp, the party leadership decided to take preventive steps and move all of them to Bengaluru.
 
The latest developments have also come only a few months ahead of the elections to the State Assembly, expected to be held late this year and about after former Gujarat Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, who was leader of the Opposition in the state legislative assembly, parted ways with the Congress on July 21.
 
The six MLAs who have resigned include Mr. Balwant Singh Rajput, who was the Congress' chief whip in the assembly and is now the BJP's third candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections from the state, the other two being party president Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani.
 
Mr. Shah is seeking entry into Parliament for the first time, while Ms. Irani is looking for a second consecutive term in the Upper House. Given its numbers in the Assembly, the BJP can easily get two of its candidates elected. Similarly, if there is no cross-voting, the Congress can also get one candidate elected.
 
While dissociating himself from the Congress at a function to celebrate his 77th birthday in Gandhinagar, Mr. Vaghela, a former Union Minister, had made it clear that he was not joining the BJP. He claimed the party had actually expelled him the previous day, something which the Congress denied.
 
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"They expelled me 24 hours ago because they were not sure about what I would say here today...Vinashkale vipareet budhdhi," he had said on that day. 
 
"I am freeing myself from the Congress. I have resigned as the Leader of the Opposition. I will resign as Congress MLA after the (August 8) Rajya Sabha elections," he told the cheering crowd.
 
The former Chief Minister said he had assured Congress President Sonia Gandhi that he would not betray her trust. He said he had told her that he would not join the BJP.
 
Mr. Vaghela, who had turned a rebel within the BJP nearly two decades ago, had floated his own outfit, the Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), which he finally merged with the Congress 17 years ago. 
 
The Congress said Mr. Vaghela had wanted to be appointed as the Gujarat Congress chief, a demand that the party could not accept. 
 
Mr. Vaghela's move had come just a day after the results of the Presidential election, which indicated that about 11 of the 57 Congress MLAs in the state then had voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and against the Opposition nominee Meira Kumar.
 
By fielding Mr. Rajput, a relative of Mr. Vaghela, as its third candidate for the Rajya Sabha, the BJP is hoping to attract some more votes from the Congress MLAs and try and prevent the re-election of Mr. Patel.
 
Mr. Patel is counting on the support of two NCP MLAs and one of the Janata Dal (United). Apart from his four terms in the Upper House, he has also served three terms as a member of the Lok Sabha.
 
The Congress has accused the BJP of using "money and muscle power" to engineer defections of its MLAs.
 
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Three Congress MLAs in Gujarat resign and join BJP ahead of RS polls

 
3 Gujarat Congress MLAs resign, join BJP
In a setback to the Congress days ahead of the crucial August 8 biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha in Gujarat and only a few months before Assembly polls, three of the party's legislators resigned from their seats in the Legislative Assembly and joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) here today.
 
The three MLAs include Balwantsingh Rajput, the Congress' chief whip in the assembly, who will now be the BJP's third candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections.
 
The other two MLAs are Ms. Tejashreeben Patel and Mr. Prahlad Patel. With their exit, the Congress' strength in the 182-member assembly has come down to 54.
 
The resignation of the three MLAs has come less than a week after former Gujarat Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, who was leader of the Opposition in the state legislative assembly, parted ways with the Congress on July 21.
 
But he had made it clear that he was not joining the BJP, which  he had quit nearly two decades ago.
 
Addressing a function, "Sam Samvedna Sammelan", organised in state capital Gandhinagar to celebrate his 77th birthday, Mr. Vaghela, a former Union Minister, said the party had actually expelled him 24 hours earlier. 
 
"They expelled me 24 hours ago because they were not sure about what I would say here today...Vinashkale vipareet budhdhi," he had said on that day. "I am freeing myself from the Congress. I have resigned as the Leader of the Opposition. I will resign as Congress MLA after the (August 8) Rajya Sabha elections," he told the cheering crowd.
 
The former Chief Minister said he had assured Congress President Sonia Gandhi that he would not betray her trust. He said he had told her that he would not join the BJP.
 
Mr. Vaghela, who had turned a rebel within the BJP nearly two decades ago, had floated his own outfit, the Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), which he finally merged with the Congress 17 years ago. 
 
But the Congress denied that the party had expelled Mr. Vaghela or initiated any disciplinary action against him. Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it was Mr. Vaghela's own decision to quit the party and resign from all positions within the party.
 
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Mr. Surjewala had said Mr. Vaghela wanted to be appointed as the Gujarat Congress chief, a demand that the party could not accept. 
 
Mr. Vaghela's move had just a day after the results of the Presidential election, which indicated that about 11 of the 57 Congress MLAs in the state then had voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and against the Opposition nominee Meira Kumar.
 
Apart from casting a shadow over the Congress' electoral prospects in the elections in the state, where it has been out of power for about three decades, Mr. Vaghela's exit and today's resignation could also make it that much more difficult for the party to get its candidate and senior party leader Ahmed Patel re-elected to the Rajya Sabha.
 
The Congress needs 47 votes to get its candidate elected. Given  its numbers, the BJP can get two candidates elected. It has fielded party president Amit Shah and renominated Union Minister Smriti Irani for the two seats.
 
By fielding Mr. Rajput, a relative of Mr. Vaghela, as its third candidate, the BJP is hoping to attract some more votes from the Congress MLAs and try and prevent the re-election of Mr. Patel, the Political Secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi. 
 
Mr. Patel, who is seeking a fifth consecutive term in the Rajya Sabha, is also counting on the support of two NCP MLAs and one of the Janata Dal (United). Apart from his four terms in the Upper House, he has also served three terms as a member of the Lok Sabha.
 
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BJP names Amit Shah, renominates Smriti Irani for RS seats from Gujarat

Amit Shah
Amit Shah
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has named its president Amit Shah and renominated Union Minister Smriti Irani as its candidates for the biennial election to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat, polling for which will be held on August 8.
 
Given the numbers the party enjoys in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, Mr. Shah will make his debut as a Member of Parliament in these biennial elections while Ms. Irani is likely to get elected for a second term in the Upper House.
 
The Election Commission of India (ECI) is holding the election to fill three vacancies that will arise in the Rajya Sabha due to the retirement of three sitting members from Gujarat -- Ahmed Patel of the Congress and Ms. Irani and Mr. Dilipbhai Pandya of the BJP.
 
The Congress has renominated Mr. Patel, one of its senior-most leaders and Political Secretary to party president Sonia Gandhi, for the third seat from Gujarat. He has served four consecutive terms as a member of the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat after three terms as a member of the Lok Sabha.
 
Mr. Shah, 52, is a four-time member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly and is a former Minister of State for Home in the state under then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is now the Prime Minister.
 
Ms. Irani, elected to the Rajya Sabha for the first time in August 2011, served as Minister for Human Resource Development in the Union Cabinet from May 2014 to July 2016 before being shifted to the Ministry of Textiles. She has contested and lost elections to the Lok Sabha twice, first in 2004 from Chandni Chowk against Mr. Kapil Sibal and then from Amethi in 2014 against Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi.
 
While Mr. Patel has already filed his nomination from Gujarat, Mr. Shah and Ms. Irani are expected to do so tomorrow, the last date for making nominations for these elections. 
 
Biennial elections will also be held on the same date to fill six vacancies from West Bengal that will arise due to the retirement of sitting members Derek O’Brien,  Debabrata Bandyopadhyay, Pradip Bhattacharya, Sitaram Yechury, Sukhendusekhar Roy and Dola Sen.
 
A bye-election will also be held on the same date to fill a casual vacancy that has arisen from Madhya Pradesh due to the death on May 18 of Union Minister Anil Dave.
 
Polling will be held from 9 am to 4 pm on August 8, and counting of votes will be taken up at 5 pm on the same day.
 
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Modi undertakes aerial survey of flood-hit areas of Gujarat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a meeting on the situation arising out of incessant rain and floods in different parts of Gujarat, in Ahmedabad on July 25, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a meeting on the situation arising out of incessant rain and floods in different parts of Gujarat, in Ahmedabad on July 25, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today made an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas of Gujarat and later reviewed the flood relief operations at a high-level meeting held at the Ahmedabad airport.
 
The meeting was attended by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, other senior ministers and top officials of the State Government, disaster response agencies and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
 
Mr. Modi was given an overview of the extent of damage caused by floods, and the relief operations being undertaken.
 
He instructed all agencies involved in relief operations, including the Indian Air Force, to put in their best possible effort for immediate rescue and relief. He emphasized the importance of cleanliness, hygiene and health, and said these aspects should also be accorded the highest priority.
 
The Prime Minister said insurance companies including those dealing with crop insurance may be advised to organise assessment of damage to assets, crops and so on quickly, and take steps for early settlement of claims, so as to provide immediate relief to affected people.
 
He also called for immediate restoration of water supply, electricity and communication links.
 
Mr. Modi suggested that special teams be set up for repair of damaged roads, restoration of power infrastructure, and for health related assistance. 
 
Addressing the media at Ahmedabad Airport, the Prime Minister said Gujarat had faced heavy rains for the past week. He said ten more helicopters would be pressed into action for rescue from tomorrow, and asserted that the pace of relief work will be increased further. He said extent of damage would be assessed in both rural and urban areas, and both short and long term measures would be put in place. 
 
 
Heavy rains wreak havoc in Rajasthan, Gujarat
The Prime Minister appreciated the State Government, and all other agencies for the response to the flood situation so far.
 
He announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 2 lakh to the next-of-kin of those who died in the floods and Rs. 50,000 to those who have suffered serious injuries.
 
He announced an immediate additional assistance of Rs.  500 crore for Gujarat under the State Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF). He expressed confidence that the people and the State of Gujarat would emerge even stronger and successfully tackle the challenge posed by the floods. 
 
He assured the people of the State that the Union Government stood shoulder to shoulder with them at this difficult time.
 
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Reliance Defence launches first two NOPVs at Pipavav in Gujarat

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Reliance Defence and Engineering Limited (RDEL) today launched the first two  Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels (NOPVs) at its shipyard in Pipavav, Gujarat.
 
The vessels are part of a five-ship project being constructed for the Indian Navy, an official press release said.
 
The two NOPVs, Shachi and Shruti, were launched by Ms. Preeti Luthra, wife of Vice-Admiral Girish Luthra, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOC-in-C), Western Naval Command.
 
The primary role of NOPVs is to undertake surveillance of the country’s vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) besides operational tasks such as anti-piracy patrol, fleet support operations, maritime security of offshore assets, coastal security operations, and protection of shipping lanes. 
 
The NOPVs would increase the ocean surveillance and patrolling capabilities of the Indian Navy, the release said.
 
The NOPVs being constructed at RDEL are patrol ships and are armed with 76 mm Super Rapid Gun Mount (SRGM) system along with two 30 mm AK-630M guns which provide medium-range and short-range offensive and defensive capabilities. The armament is remotely controlled through an electronic Fire Control System. 
 
The ships are fitted with diesel engine-driven propulsion systems and can deliver speeds upto 25 knots. All ship operations are controlled by an intelligent Integrated Platform Management System which has interfaces for all operational activities onboard the ship.
 
Vice-Admiral Luthra said the launch was a significant event as the two NOPVs are the first warships to be launched by a private sector shipyard in India. He said that opening up of warship building to the private sector by the Indian Navy is an opportunity that the private sector must make full use of, and is an enabling factor for increased private sector participation in this key area of national capability. 
 
He said Indian shipyards needed to constantly strive to transform with an aim to achieve global standards in quality, productivity and build periods with focus on innovation, modern techniques, and processes, and all round efficiency. He added that projects need to be implemented as per planned schedule. He stated that in addition to meeting national requirements, the shipyards should also focus on export orientation.
 
Vice-Admiral Luthra also complimented RDEL and the Navy’s warship overseeing and Quality Assurance teams, for their perseverance and efforts to reach this important milestone, and mentioned that he looked forward to commissioning of Shachi and Shruti into the Indian Navy in the near future.
 
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Nine dead as bus from Gujarat overturns near Udaipur in Rajasthan

 
Nine dead as bus overturns near Udaipur
Nine persons died and 22 others suffered injuries when a private bus carrying pilgrims from Gujarat overturned near Nehla village, about 10 km from Udaipur, this morning, police said.
 
The mishap occurred around 8.45 am today when the driver of the bus apparently lost control over the wheel while trying to avoid hitting a motocyclist on a bridge, they said.
 
The deceased included six women and three women, the sources said.
 
Police and other emergency services personnel reached the spot and helped extricate the victims from the bus. The injured were taken to a nearby hospital, they said.
 
The pilgrims had left Ahmedabad yesterday night and were on a fortnight-long tour of various religious places in North India, including Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the sources said.
 
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Shankarsinh Vaghela parts ways with Congress, says won't return to BJP

 
Former Gujarat CM Shankarsinh Vaghela quits Congress
Former Gujarat Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, who was leader of the Opposition in the state legislative assembly, today parted ways with the Congress but made it clear that he was not joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which he had quit nearly two decades ago.
 
Addressing a function, "Sam Samvedna Sammelan", organised in state capital Gandhinagar to celebrate his 77th birthday, Mr. Vaghela, a former Union Minister, said the party had actually expelled him 24 hours ago.
 
"They expelled me 24 hours ago because they were not sure about what I would say here today...Vinashkale vipareet budhdhi," he said.
 
"I am freeing myself from the Congress. I have resigned as the Leader of the Opposition. I will resign as Congress MLA after the (August 8) Rajya Sabha elections," he told the cheering crowd. “Rebellion is in my blood. I am on 77 not out,” he added.
 
The former Chief Minister said he had assured Congress President Sonia Gandhi that he would not betray her trust. He said he had told her that he would not join the BJP.
 
Mr. Vaghela, who had turned a rebel within the BJP nearly two decades ago, had floated his own outfit, the Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), which he finally merged with the Congress 17 years ago.
 
"I was very upset while deciding to leave the BJP. Destiny has brought me to the same point where I have to now leave the Congress as well," he said.
 
Describing himself as a free bird now, he said he would dedicate himself to the service of the people from today. "I will be there for the poor, Dalits, traders, workers, farmers, daily wage workers and even poor upper castes," he declared.
 
Mr. Vaghela claimed he was a victim of a conspiracy within the party, which led to his expulsion.
 
But the Congress denied that the party had expelled Mr. Vaghela or initiated any disciplinary action against him.
 
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it was Mr. Vaghela's own decision to quit the party and resign from all positions within the party.
 
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Stressing that the party was always more important than individuals and that the Congress was committed to its ideology, Mr. Surjewala said. "We respect Mr. Vaghela as a senior leader," he said, recalling that the party had made him a Cabinet Minister at the Centre, then appointed him as chairman of India Tourism Development Corporation with Cabinet rank, the leader of the Congress legislature party in Gujarat and the leader of the opposition in the Assembly.
 
Mr. Surjewala said Mr. Vaghela wanted to be appointed as the Gujarat Congress chief, a demand that the party could not accept. "We are saddened by his exit," he said.
 
Though the party had asked its leaders and workers to stay away from the event, many of them were present at the function.
 
Mr. Vaghela's move has come just months before crucial elections to the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, expected to be held towards the end of this year. It has also come just a day after the results of the Presidential election, which indicated that about 11 of the 57 Congress MLAs in the state had voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and against the Opposition nominee Meira Kumar.
 
Apart from casting a shadow over the Congress' electoral prospects in the elections in the state, where it has been out of power for about three decades, Mr. Vaghela's exit could also make it that much more difficult for the party to get its candidate, expected to be sitting member Ahmed Patel, re-elected to the Rajya Sabha.
 
All the same, the departure of Mr. Vaghela from the party was widely expected for some months now, given that the Congress leadership appeared to be in no mood to accept his demand that he should be made the Chief Ministerial face of the party and allowed to lead the campaign.
 
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Essar Bulk Terminal signs agreement with GMB for 1,100-metre jetty expansion at Hazira

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Essar Bulk Terminal Ltd (EBTL), the operator of the Hazira port terminal facility, has signed an agreement with Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) for expanding its captive jetty by 1100 metres. 
 
The expanded berthing facility is expected to be ready by end-FY18, and will enhance the current capacity by 20 MTPA, a press release from the company, a part of the Essar Group, said.
 
This will not only help cater to the enhanced cargo requirements of Essar Steel, its anchor customer, but also give a boost to the company’s third-party cargo business, it said.
 
According to the release, EPL has world-class port terminal facilities that have all registered a significant jump in cargo handling in the last three months on the back of improved performance of their anchor customers. EBTL alone has registered a 26% Q-o-Q growth in cargo in Q1 of FY17-18 by handling about 5.5 million tonnes of cargo in the quarter. In June 2017, the terminal handled a cargo of 1.86 million tonne, which is a monthly record.
 
Mr Rajiv Agarwal, Managing Director, Essar Ports, said: “Our Hazira Port Terminal has delivered record output on account of highly efficient operations. The expansion of the jetty by 1,100 metres will further boost the cargo handling capability of the facility.”
 
Capt. Subhas Das, CEO, Essar Bulk Terminal, said: “The Hazira Port terminal is a world-class facility; the expansion will help us cater to the cargo requirements generated by the enhanced capacity utilisation of our anchor customer, Essar Steel.”
 
Since Essar Steel production is expected to increase further during FY18, the total cargo handling at the Hazira port terminal is likely to cross 25 million tonnes in the fiscal, the release said.
 
The Hazira Port Terminal is an all-weather, deep-water terminal located in the Gulf of Khambatt, Gujarat. The terminal has depths of 14 metres below chart datum (CD) and is capable of accommodating capesize vessels. The Port terminal is integrated with Essar’s Hazira Complex which consists of a 10 million tonnes steel plant, power plants and other manufacturing facilities.
 
Essar Ports has handled a record 19.62 million tonnes of cargo in the quarter ending 30 June 2017. This is a growth of 12% when compared to the cargo handling in the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal.  While dry bulk & unit cargo has increased by 32%, third-party cargo has grown by 60%, the release added.
 
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Common Facility Centre for gem & jewellery industry inaugurated at Palanpur, Gujarat

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The second Common Facility Centre (CFC) for the gems & jewellery and diamond industry was inaugurated at Palanpur in Gujarat by Minister for Commerce & Industry Nirmala Sitharaman, and Minister of State for Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSME) Haribhai Chaudhary on July 10.
 
The first Common Facility Centre was set up at Visnagar, Gujarat. The Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) has plans to open two more CFCs at Amreli and Ahmedabad in the state, a press release from the council said.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Sitharaman said that, from being the largest manufacturing hub, India needs to move to the next level, where indigenous designs are used in production of jewellery and at the same time caters to the needs of the world market. 
 
"With the facilities like the CFCs in Visnagar and now in Palanpur, I am sure we have taken the start and moving in the right direction to achieve our goal.  The industry needs to come up with such initiatives where the small and medium units gets the opportunity to combine their skills with the latest technology and facilities for maximum production," she said.
 
Mr. Chaudhary said the government's aim was to make the latest technology accessible to the MSMEs, and at the same time improve in quality of products. 
 
"Common Facility Centres would be a welcome change for the karigars, and an opportunity for them to perform at their best with the latest technology which are accessible and affordable. I am sure the industry will take advantage of the CFCs and bring a huge difference to their production in terms of quantity as well as quality," he said.
 
Mr. Kirit Bhansali, co-convener, Diamond Panel, GJEPC said, “Setting up of CFCs would be of huge benefit to small and medium diamond manufacturing units located in towns and interior villages, since most of these units are operating with old and outdated technology, and could not afford to make investments for installing state-of-the-art equipment. And this has resulted in lower productivity and affected quality to an extent.”
 
GJEPC has plans to set up such CFCs across all major clusters in India, thus helping to improve the quality and productivity of the small units.
 
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Three IIMA alumni contribute Rs. 2.5 crore each for upgradation of facilities

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Three alumni of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) here -- Raghunandan G, Vishwavir Ahuja and Aprameya R -- have announcing infrastructure funding support of Rs. 2.5 crore each  to their alma mater.
 
A press release from IIMA said conservation, restoration and upgrade of CR1 Classroom in Heritage Campus will be supported by RBL Bank, as announced by Ahuja (PGP 1981), MD & CEO, RBL Bank. 
 
“RBL Bank is  proud to be associated with IIMA. RBL has significantly benefitted from the quality education imparted at IIMA through several IIMA alumni in the senior management team. RBL has always focused on excellence in the banking industry and is delighted to make a contribution of Rs. 2.5 crore for shared vision to support education excellence at IIMA," he said.
 
At IMDC in IIMA New Campus, CR2 upgradation to a state-of-the-art facility and maintenance will be supported by Raghunandan  and Aprameya (PGP 2007 & 2008; both co-founders of TaxiForSure) with funding of Rs. 2.5 crore each.
 
“Contributing to IIMA is a proud moment for us as we owe so much of our success to IIMA. Having graduated from this great institute, opened doors for us through our entrepreneurial journey. We could connect with IIMA alumni in the startup eco system who were strong guides during our TaxiForSure story and in fact, were our source of strength and also the worst critics to ensure that we always did the right thing. Giving back to alma mater was top of the agenda as we consolidated our venture. It’s a matter of pride as we facilitate to create state-of- art facility at CR2 IMDC in IIMA to support institute’s focus on excellence in teaching and training the change agents in enterprises,” they said.
 
The release said supporting infrastructure goes a long way in the institute’s endeavor for capacity building and quality education. 
 
“Alumni are a source of strength for the institute. They contribute in many different ways to support the Institute’s priorities. IIMA deeply values their meaningful and significant contributions,” IIMA Director Ashish Nanda said.
 
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Modi says India is amongst most attractive global investment destinations

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that India, which was being described as a bright spot in the global economy, had emerged as one of the most attractive global investment destinations, thanks to a series of sustained policy initiatives by the Government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting the Textiles India 2017 Exhibition, in Gandhinagar, Gujarat on June 30, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting the Textiles India 2017 Exhibition, in Gandhinagar, Gujarat on June 30, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India, which was being described as a bright spot in the global economy, had emerged as one of the most attractive global investment destinations, thanks to a series of sustained policy initiatives by the Government.
 
"More than seven thousand reforms have been implemented to improve the ease of doing business. Processes have been simplified and made transparent. Government has repealed over twelve hundred outdated laws. These are just a few examples," he told a gathering at Mahatma Mandir here after inaugurating Textiles India 2017, the country's first ever mega textiles trade fair.
 
Urging industrialists and businessmen from around the world to invest in the textiles sector in India, he said India had moved up by 32 places in the last two years in the Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum, the highest for any country. 
 
"India moved up 19 places on the World Bank Logistics Performance Index of 2016. We have also moved up 16 places on the Global Innovation Index of the World Intellectual Property Organisation in 2016. We are third among the top ten FDI destinations listed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said that, based on the Make in India initiative, the organized textile industry was being infused with the mantras of ‘skill, scale, speed’ and ‘zero-defect, zero-effect’ for scaling up employment, production and exports. 
 
"We have one of the most liberal investment policies for foreign investment in the textile and apparel sector. We allow 100 percent FDI through automatic route in textile and apparel sector," he said.
 
He said the textiles industry had a pivotal position in the Indian economy. 
 
"It is strong and competitive across the value chain. India has an abundant supply of raw material, like cotton, wool, silk, jute, and man-made fibre. In fact, it is the world’s largest producer of cotton and jute, and second largest producer of silk and man-made fibre. This provides us the distinct advantage of backward integration, which many other countries may not have. In addition, India has strong spinning, weaving, knitting and apparel manufacturing capacities. Young, skilled labour is available at a reasonable cost," he said.
 
"Our high economic growth has resulted in higher disposable income. The resulting higher demand for products offers a huge domestic market. Ours is a nation of aspirational youth, who wish to spend on textiles, apparel, and handcrafted lifestyle products. The domestic market for apparel and lifestyle products, currently estimated at US dollars 85 billion, is expected to reach US dollars 160 billion by 2025. This growth will be driven by the rising middle class," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said there was also a high global demand for textiles and apparel manufactured in the country.
 
He said India is the world’s second largest exporter of textiles, commanding a global share of around five percent. Indian textiles, including traditional handloom and handicraft products, are exported to more than a hundred countries. 
 
He said the textiles sector offered significant employment opportunities, being the second largest employer after agriculture. Over 45 million people are employed directly in the sector, and over 60 million people are employed in allied activities. 
 
Mr. Modi said an integrated skill development scheme was also being implemented to address the critical gap of skilled manpower, through industry-oriented training programs. 
 
"Our strengths in manufacturing and export are backed up by our ability to develop world-class training and research institutes. The National Institute of Fashion Technology has a network of sixteen professionally managed campuses. It has been playing a crucial role in benchmarking performance and processes in the areas of fashion education, research and development, training and consultancy. 
 
"In the last few years we have witnessed a very healthy competition amongst States to attract investment and industries in their respective States. As a result, there have been some major reforms that have taken place in States. Each State in its own way has tried to facilitate the establishment of new industries including textiles. I think, the time has now come for us to concentrate on textile exports in a big way. 
 
"India is a country with diverse culture, fashion and traditions. This diversity is clearly reflected in the clothing present in different regions. We should catalogue and map our clothing diversity and clearly earmark strengths and specialties of each state or region. Each State should appoint nodal officers dedicated to a few well-known products, who would facilitate producers and traders across the value chain. The intervention should start from production to export of garments. It should meet the specific requirements of domestic as well as export markets," he said.
 
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The Prime Minister underlined the need to formulate an action plan to study and map the requirements of people in large global markets and monitor new trends in fashion and textiles in these areas on a real time basis. "Government Councils and Industry Bodies should rise to the occasion, in a spirit of cooperation. This would enable us to channelize our energies in meeting those requirements and give a boost to our exports," he said.
 
"Innovation and research are new mantras for growth and wealth generation. The textile industry will have to constantly innovate and research for growth and to tap new markets. For example, physiques may be larger in some parts of the world. This may require clothing of greater width than the normal size used in our country. For this, you may need to increase the width of the loom. Elsewhere, requirements may be different. Such attention to detail is necessary to attain leadership in export markets. 
 
"Today, there is a demand for products with zero carbon footprint. Holistic lifestyle has become a buzzword. The market for Organic Dyes, clothes and fabrics made of organic products is growing. Our effort should be to innovate in organic products. 
 
"Apart from cotton and jute, we already have fabrics made of banana and bamboo fibres. There is a niche market for such products. Thus, there is a need for further research by our institutions like National Institute of Fashion Technology and Scientific and Industrial Research institutes to develop fabrics from other sources," he said.
 
"Our integrated textile clusters are compliant to global standards of environment and health safety. Textile producing States also have pro-industry policies in place, to facilitate the required infrastructure for investments in textiles," he said. 
 
Textiles Minister Smriti Irani said participants from 106 countries, 15,000 Indian buyes and sellers, 2,500 international buyers, artistans and weavers are participating in the exhibition.
 
Those present on the occasion included Gujarat Governor O. P. Kohli, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, and Ministers and senior officials from several states.
 
Also present were US Polo Association President David Cummings, UK-India Business Council CEO Richard Heald, Arvind Mills Managing Director Sanjay Lalbhai, Raymond Managing Director Gautam Hari Singhania, Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and Korea Federation of Textile Industries Chairman Kihak Sung.
 
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