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Manmohan Singh says demonetisation, GST "complete disaster", bullet train "exercise in vanity"

In a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his home turf in poll-bound Gujarat, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today described demonetisation as a "complete disaster" and the proposed Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train as an "exercise in vanity".

 
Demonetisation was organised loot, legalised plunder: Manmohan Singh
In a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his home turf in poll-bound Gujarat, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today described the November 8, 2016 demonetisation of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 bank notes as a "complete disaster" and the proposed Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train as an "exercise in vanity".
 
Addressing a gathering of businessmen, professionals and traders organised by his party on the current economic situation, Dr. Singh said demonetisation and the "badly designed and hastily implemented" Goods and Service Tax  (GST) were a twin blow that was a "complete disaster" for the economy and broke the abck of small and medium enterprises in India.
 
Stating that he was speaking with a heavy heart, he began his address by invoking the memory of more than 100 people who lost their lives last year in the wake of the demonetisation.
 
"Tomorrow will mark exactly one year since the disastrous policy of demonetisation was thrust on the people of our country. I say with immense pain and a sense of deep responsibility that the 8th of November, 2016 was a black day for our economy and, indeed, for our democracy," he said.
 
In the evening of November 8 last year, Mr. Modi had, in an address to the nation, announced the decision to demonetise Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 bank notes as part of the fight against black money, corruption, terror financing and counterfeit currency notes.
 
"I remember feeling shocked as I heard the Prime Minister's announcement and I wondered who advised him to inflict such a reckless step on our nation and whether any considered thought went into it," Dr. Singh said.
 
He said black money and tax evasion were a menace that the country needed to tackle, but demonetisation was clearly not the solution. 
 
"It has been suggested many times in the past as one of the methods to eradicate blackmoney but as a responsibile government we never took such a drastic measure because, in our reasoned analysis, the costs of demonetisation always exceeded the benefits very substantially.
 
"One must also remember that nowhere in the world has any democracy undertaken such a coercive move withdrawing 86% of the legal tender in one single swoop. Neither would anyone advise to bring out an even more high valued currency note of Rs. 2000 after invalidating 500 and 1000 rupee notes," he said.
 
"We know by now that none of the stated objectives of eliminating black money, terror financing and counterfeit currency has been met. To promote a less cash economy, coercive steps like demonetisation are ineffective. The cash in circulation after one year is close to 90 percent of the previous level. The fact that more than 99 percent of the demonetised currency came back into the banking system has punctured the government's claims. There are also widespread reports of the rich converting their black money into white while the poor have undergone immense suffering," he said.
 
"Demonetisation has proved to be prove mere bluster to reap political dividends while the real offenders have escaped. I repeat, as I stated in Parliament, this was organised loot and legalised plunder," he said.
 
Dr. Singh said people had seen the impact of demonetisation on the economy, with GDP growth rate dropping to 5.7 percent under the new calculation. He said even this was bound to be a gross underestimate as the pain of the informal sector was not adequately captured in the calculation of the GDP.
 
"Every one percent loss of GDP growth rate annually costs our nation 1.5 lakh crore rupees. Think of the human impact from this lost growth, lost jobs, the youth whose opportunities have vanished, the businesses which have shut down, and the entrepreneur whose drive to succeed has turned into disappointment. What is even more tragic is that none of the lessons from this monumental blunder have been learnt by the Modi government," he said.
 
Dr. Singh said that the Government, instead of providing relief to the poor and the marginalised, farmers and traders and small and medium businesses who had borne the brunt of demonetisation, chose to inflict on them "a badly designed and hastily implemented GST".
 
He said that, in the textile hub of Surat alone in south Gujarat, 60,000 looms had been discarded since July. "At the rate of 35 jobs lost for every 100 looms shut, at a simple estimate, more than 21,000 jobs have been lost in just one industrial sector in Surat. The impact in the rest of the country is equally bad if not worse. The supply chains and credit lines of our MSME sectors and industrial clusters have been greatly affected, hampering production," he said.
 
"You are aware of the damage done to the ceramics sector  in Morbi and the industries in Vapi and Rajkot. Overall, as our domestic sector is not able to cope with demand, China is benefited from this situation. In the first half of fiscal year 2016-17, India's imports from China stood at Rs. 1.96 lakh crore. During the same period in fiscal 2017-18, the imports from China increased to Rs. 2.41 lakh crore. This unprecedented increase of imports by more than Rs. 45,000 crore, which is a 23% increase in a year can be attributed largely to demonetisation and the GST. These twin blows damaged India's medium andsmall and medium manufacturing sectors and our businesses had to run to Chinese imports at the cost of Indian jobs," he said.
 
The former Prime Minister said the GST, as envisaged by his government, was supposed to simplify taxation in the country with a single tax capped at 18% to make life easier for businessmen, both big and small. 
 
"The current GST is a great departure from that vision. It has transformed into a complicated mess with multiple slabs and rates as high as 28% along with additional cesses. This was done by the government without paying any heed to our advice, both in Parliament and in private consultations.
 
"Compliance requirements under the GST have become a nightmare for  small businesses. The unending notifications and changes, a repeat of the chaos of demonetisation, have caused needless and endless confusion. Along with demonetisation, GST has sown a deep-rooted fear of tax terrorism among the business community.
 
"At a time when the economy has slowed down considerably, despite favourable global macro-economic conditions, the fear of tax terrorism has eroded the confidence of Indian business to invest," he said.
 
Dr. Singh said the growth in private investment in the country was at a 25-year low and was "terrible for growth of India's economy".
 
"Good governance involves both the head and the heart. It pains me to say that the Union Government has completely failed to do its duty on both fronts," he said.
 
"Let me explain through the example of two of the greatest Gujaratis the world has seen. Mahatma Gandhi, who represents the heart and the soul of our nation, gave us a talisman. He said, 'Whenever you are in doubt, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?'
 
"Did, I ask, the Prime Minister stop to consider the wisdom of the Mahatma in asking the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India to sign on the dotted line or while implementing GST in utter haste? Did he think about the impact on those who toiled in the informal sector, whose earnings have dried up because of the shortage of cash? Did he think about the millions of people who lost their jobs and had to return to their villages in despair. If the Prime Minister had paid his attention to Mahatma Gandhi's talisman, the poor of India would not have suffered the way they did.
 
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"You know that I have seen crippling poverty while growing up on the other side of Punjab before partition. I have also seen the significant strides our great nation has taken in my life time, building on foundations laid by governments from Pandit Nehru to Shastriji to Indiraji to Rajivji, Narsimha Raoji to Vajpayee ji. I can proudly say that when I was Prime Minister, we lifted 140 million people out of poverty, a task no other democracy in the world has achieved in a period of ten years.
 
"Yet, one in two Indians still remain vulnerable, and one blow can make them fall back into poverty. Demonetisation and the GST were two blows that have probably pushed millions back into terrible hardship. so they had to turn to the social safety nets provided by the MGNREGA brought in by  the UPA government," he said.
 
"The other great Gujarati, who is an inspiration to all of us is the great Sardar Vallabhbhai  Patel. He was the force behind uniting India, from 565 disparate princely states to one united glorious nation.When undertaking the endeavour of one nation, one tax, if the Prime Minister had taken inspiration from the resolve and attention to detail of great Sardar Patel, the outcome today would have been very different. 
 
"Bravado and drama are poor substitutes for courage with conviction and the ability to execute well," he said.
 
Dr. Singh recalled that, when his government passed the nuclear deal in his first term, the intelligence and idealism of Nehru, Patel and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi were its guiding lights in its endeavour to end the nuclear apartheid of India and ensure 
 
"When we passed the nuclear deal in UPA-I, the intelligence and  idealism of Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel and Indiraji were our guiding lights in our endeavour to end the nuclear apartheid of India and ensure food security for all Indians. We stood strong on  our principles and even risked our government, while the BJP opposed it.
 
"We got the world to change the rules of the nuclear game in our favour, which is why the people of India supported us fully on the issue of the nuclear deal.
 
"Today, one year after demonetisation, large sections of the country feel they have been taken for a ride by their government, that their trust was betrayed," he said.
 
Dr. Singh said the bullet train was another example of such thinking by the present government was the bullet train. 
 
"It is, sadly, an exercise in vanity and will not benefit either the 6.5 crore people of Gujarat or the Indian nation as a whole," he said.
 
"Rs. 88,000 crore through a soft loan may seek like easy money, but it still needs to be repaid to the Japanese. Gujarati entrepreneurs know very well that if a deal is too good to be true, it is probably not," he said.
 
Dr. Singh said the bullet train project would require the creation of a parallel infrastructure while the existing rail network is languishing and needs the dire infusion of funds and investment to improve both safety and speed.
 
Referring to the several incidents of derailments in recent months, causing the loss of many lives, he said the Modi government had its priorities misplaced.
 
He wondered if the Prime Minister had considered the alternative of introducing high-speed rail across India by upgrading the existing broad gauge infrastructure. He said the UPA government headed by him had requested the Japanese to fund the dedicated freight corridor project and a deal had been signed in 2005. "This project will create a multiplier effect on the economy," he said.
 
Dr Singh said the people must ask questions again and again about the soundness of policy, the lack  transparency in government and such matters.
 
"It saddens me to see that every important issue that affects the lives of crores of citizens is being turned into binaries of black and white. The Congress party has built India into a global economic powerhouse over the past 70 years. We want to ensure that the national interest is upheld and the weaker sections of society are effectively protected," he said.
 
"By questioning the bullet train, does one become anti-development? Is everyone who questions the outcome of demonetisation or GST a tax evader? Does questioning the drop in GDP rate make one an anti-national?
 
"This attitude of suspecting everyone to be a thief or an anti-national, the low level rhetoric, is damaging to democratic discourse and has real consequences for how we relate to one another as citizens. Political leaders must stick to the high road," he said.
 
In a veiled reference to Mr. Modi's oft-repeated statement that Congress governments had done nothing for the country for 70 years, Dr. Singh said every government builds on the foundations of the past.
 
"Pandit Nehru laid the foundation of the Sardar Sarovar Dam (on the Narmada in Gujarat) and various Congress governments took it forward. Water flowed to the Narmada Main Canal the year our present Prime Minister first became Chief Minister of Gujarat  (in 2001). I also remember that when the World Bank cut funding for the project, as Finance Minister of India, I stepped forward to provide the needed funding from the Centre," he recalled.
 
Dr. Singh also hit out at the Modi government for allegedly neglecting the interests of the farmers and spoke at length about the various steps taken by the previous Congress-led UPA government to protect the interests of farmers, tribals, forest dwellers and other vulnerable sections of society.
 
He listed the various steps taken by Modi government and BJP governments in different states to undo some of the measures initiated by the UPA government. "Is it any wonder that ourfarmers and others continue to protest for justice in these states"" he asked.
 
He also talked about the privatisation of education in Gujarat and the fall in standards. He said Gujarat was behind many other states on social indicators such as infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, female literacy. He said the poor quality of education in the state was affecting the competitiveness of otherwise sharp Gujarati youth in the job market.
 
"The recent agitations of the youth, cutting acrosss sections of the society, is an indication of the deep dissatisfaction with the performance of successive BJP governments in Gujarat," he said.
 
"The winds of change are blowing in Gujarat. The Congress party will ensure that the voice of every Gujarati, irrespective of caste, creed, gener or class is  heard and will be heard. Our Congress government will govern with both head and heart, with Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel as our inspiration.
 
"After decades, the time has come for the intelligent and enterprising people of Gujarat to once again repose their faith in the Congress party, which will work together with 6.5 crore Gujaratis to take the state to new heights and a future they truly deserve," he added.
 
Gujarat will to the polls in two phases on December 9 and 14 to elect a new 182-member assembly. The Congress has been out of power in the state for more than two decades.
 
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Will work to make your dreams come true: Rahul Gandhi tells people of Gujarat

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Satrurday assured the people of Gujarat that his party would provide a government that would listen to them and work to meet their needs and aspirations if it is voted to power in the coming legislative assembly elections.

 
Rahul Gandhi offers prayers at Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today assured the people of Gujarat that his party would provide a government that would listen to them and work to meet their needs and aspirations if it is voted to power in the coming legislative assembly elections.
 
"I promise you that we will work with all our strength to make your dreams come true," he said at a public meeting in Sabarkantha district of the poll-bound state on the first day of a three-day trip to North Gujarat.
 
Gujarat will vote in two phases on December 9 and 14 to elect a new 182-member legislative assembly.
 
The Congress, which has been out of power for more than two decades in the state, is making a strong bid to oust the BJP, which has been in office for 22 years, including more than 12 years with now Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the Chief Minister.
 
Mr. Gandhi began his fourth trip to Gujarat in the past few weeks with a visit to the famous Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar before setting out a gruelling journey to north Gujarat, addressing several public meetings.
 
He said it was relentless pressure put by the Congress and by the people of the country that had forced the Government to announce yesterday its decision to reduce Goods and Service Tax (GST) on around 200 items and move as many as 177 items from the 28% tax bracket to 18% or less.
 
He said his party would continue to fight to ensure that the "Gabbar Singh Tax" is restructured into a genuine GST, with a peak rate of 18%, the maximum number of exemptions possible and a single nationwide rate of tax. "If the present government does not do it, I promise you that we will do it when we come to office," he declared.
 
He recalled how he and the Congress had fought for the people on various issues and promised the people that if they supported him, he would not back down, even one step, on any issue affecting them.
 
Mr. Gandhi said that he had travelled for thousands of kilometres in the state on his election campaign and had found that every section of the population in Gujarat -- farmers, labourers, people in cities and in villages, Adivasis and Dalits, women and children -- was unhappy with the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and the BJP government in Gujarat.
 
He said he had interacted with people from all strata of society and all of them were uniformly unhappy with the present regime because they believed it had worked for the benefit of only a handfuly of crony industrialists.
 
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Mr. Gandhi said the BJP government in Gujarat had failed to meet the basic aspirations of the common man, education, health and jobs. He said that, thanks to privatisation, health and education had gone out of reach of the average person, while the state had transferred vast resources to  a few industrialists. He said if the same resources could have taken care of many of the needs of ordinary people.
 
He said that, at a time when the people were already reeling under economic woes, Mr. Modi announced demonetisation of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 bank notes, which resulted in untold misery for all sections, especially farmers and small traders and businessmen. People were yet to recover from that blow when the Government hastily pushed through the implementation of the GST without proper planning, he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said that, at a time when petrol prices had fallen all over the world, they kept going up in India, pushing up prices of all commodities and services. 
 
He also wondered why Mr. Modi continued to maintain a silence on allegations of corruption against BJP leaders. He said Mr. Modi had promised, "Na khaoonga, na khaane doong," but now it appeared that his policy was "Na boloonga, na bolne doonga."
 
"Why is the Prime Minister, who said he would work as the nation's 'chowkidaar' (watchman), silent on such issues," he asked.
 
Referring to the coming elections, Mr. Gandhi said it was a battle between "truth and lies". He said Mr. Modi and the BJP were in power at the Centre and in Gujarat as well as several other states, and had vast resources at their command. "We don't have such resources, but we have truth on our side. And truth will win," he said.
 
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13 dead as jeep rams into truck in Kheda district of Gujarat

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As many as 13 people died and about four others suffered injuries when a jeep they were travelling in rammed into a stationary truck near Kathlal town of Kheda district in Gujarat early this morning, police said.
 
The deceased included six men, six women and a girl aged around seven, Kheda District Superintendent of Police Manindar Singh Pawar told NetIndian over the telephone.
 
Mr. Pawar said the victims were labourers and members of their families from Sejawada village of Alirajpur district in Madhya Pradesh and were heading home from Ahmedabad in a "Toofan", a vehicle used as a taxi in these parts, when the mishap occurred around 3.30 am near Kathlal on the Ahmedabad-Indore highway, about 50 km from here and 30 km from Nadiad, the district headquarters of Kheda.
 
The vehicle rammed into the rear of a truck that had stalled on the highway because of some technical problems and was being repaired. There were signages warning of the stalled vehicle and the area had also been barricaded off, Mr. Pawar said.
 
However, the driver of the vehicle failed to see the stalled truck and rammed into it, killing the 13 on the spot. Those killed included the driver. The injured were taken to nearby hospitals.
 
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Jet Airways flight diverted to Ahmedabad after "onboard security threat"

 
Jet Airways' Mumbai-Delhi flight diverted to Ahmedabad after security threat
A Jet Airways flight from Mumbai to Delhi was diverted to Ahmedabad today after the detection of an "onboard security threat", the airline said.
 
"Our flight 9W 339 of October 30, 2017, a Boeing 737-900 from Mumbai to Delhi, diverted to Ahmedabad following declaration of an emergency as per established security procedures, due to the detection of an onboard security threat," a statement from Jet Airways said.
 
"The aircraft landed without incident at Ahmedabad and was parked at a remote bay, where all 115 guests and 7 crew members were safely deplaned," it said.
 
"We are extending full cooperation to the security agencies, who are investigating the matter and are not in a position to comment further at this stage," the statement said.
 
"We regret the inconvenience caused to our guests and are making efforts to bring them to Delhi at the earliest," it added.
 
Sources said a member of the cabin crew had found a note in a toilet of the aircraft containing a hijack threat and saying that there was a bomb in the cargo hold and that it should be flown to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK).
 
Security personnel conducted a search  of the aircraft and checked all passengers and their baggage. Passengers were also questioned and photographed. The aircraft later took off for Delhi.
 
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Gujarat elections: Gehlot condemns alleged surveillance on his hotel in Ahmedabad

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Senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot, who is in charge of the party's affairs in poll-bound Gujarat, said late yesterday that he had met Patidar leader Hardik leader and Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani at his hotel here and alleged that the State Police and Intelligence Branch had put their rooms and visitors under surveillance.
 
Mr. Gehlot spoke out on micro-blogging site Twitter after some television channels aired video footage which purportedly showed Mr. Patel entering an elevator in the hotel amidst speculation that he had held a secret meeting with Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who was in the city.
 
"I met Hardik n Jignesh in Ummed Hotel. IB, Police are chckng hotel rooms.  We are openly saying, we have met them n will keep meeting them in future too," Mr. Gehlot said on Twitter.
 
"The rooms which hv been booked in my name are being checked. When they met BJP leaders, then their offices were not checked. Why it is being done now?" he asked.
 
"Are #HardikPatel and #JigneshMevani criminals or absconders? If that is so, BJP must clear its stand. Why CCTV footage was taken by IB n police from Hotel? Is the right to privacy, sole proprietorship of #JayAmitShah?" he asked.
 
''I condemn all this surveillance being done on BJP's orders," Mr. Gehlot, a former Union Minister and former Rajasthan Chief Minister, said.
 
The Congress has been trying to bring both Mr. Patel and Mr. Mevani into its fold. OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, who was also being wooed by the party, formally joined the Congress in the presence of Mr. Gandhi at a rally in Gandhinagar yesterday.
 
"Quite impressed by their commitment towards the farmers, the poors, the SC-ST and the OBC. Fully sure that colleagues n supporters of these 3 yng leaders will do their best to ensure that Guj ppl get rid of ill governance of BJP," Mr. Gehlot had said earlier in the day on Twitter.
 
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Mr. Gehlot asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to explain who was behind such surveillance. He wondered how the CCTV footage from the hotel had been shown on several television channels. According to him, the local intelligence or branch could not have done anything without a signal from the state government or the Centre.
 
Media reports quoted the management of the Ummed Hotel, where Mr. Gehlot is staying, as saying that the police had asked for CCTV footage and the hotel had provided it to them for "security reasons".
 
The hotel officials also said none of the rooms was searched by the police but police and intelligence personnel were deployed at the hotel throughout the day due to VVIP visits.
 
The State Government and Ahmedabad Police did not immediately respond to the allegations.
 
Meanwhile, Mr. Patel said that, while he had met Mr. Gehlot, he had not met Mr. Gandhi because of paucity of time.
 
"The Congress leaders had invited me to meet them but I was at a rally in Mahisagar district. I reached very late, may be 3 am (on Monday morning), and met Ashok Gehlot. I presented the demands of the Patidars and the issues we are concerned about," he said.
 
"It had got very late, so I stayed at the hotel and left in the morning," he said.
 
"It is absolutely untrue that I met Rahul Gandhi. I will meet him when he comes next. And if I want to meet him, I don't have to do so secretly," he added.
 
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Modi hits out at Congress, says development will prevail over dynastic politics

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the "Gujarat Gaurav Mahasammelan" organised by the Bharatiya Janata party near Gandhinagar, on October 16, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today hit out at the opposition Congress, saying that the coming elections to the Gujarat Legislative Assembly were about "Vikasvaad" (development) versus "Vanshvaad" (dynastic politics) in which the former would prevail.
 
"I am sure Vanshvaad will be defeated," he said at the "Gujarat Gaurav Mahasammelan" near Gandhinagar, a gathering of thousands of workers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the culmination of two fortnight-long marches through almost all Assembly constituencies across the state.
 
"On one side there are those who believe in dynastic politics but on the other side, we believe in the path shown by our founders," Mr. Modi said, referring to the oft-repeated allegation against the Congress of practising dynastic politics.
 
"For Congress what matters most is power and dynastic politics," he said, and went on to accuse it of corruption, neglecting development of the country, delaying important projects and spreading lies and pessimism.
 
He said the Congress was jealous of the people of Gujarat and had always treated the state like a "thorn" in its side and with a negative approach towards its development. He said history had seen what they had done to Sardar Patel and Morarji Desai.
 
Mr. Modi challenged the Congress to fight the coming elections, expected to be  held in the next few weeks, on the plank of development instead of "trying to manipulate the people".
 
He wondered why the party had lost so many of its legislators ahead ofthe elections. 
 
Mr. Modi described  the Congress was a 'zamanati' party, or 'one out on bail', a veiled reference to the National Herald case in which Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice-President Rahul Gandhi have got bail.
 
He regretted that the Congress, which had given so many Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers, focussed now on "spreading lies" and "creating an atmosphere of pessimism".
 
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, BJP President Amit Shah and several other leaders of the party were present on the occasion.
 
Mr. Modi said the Congress had always had a negative approach towards development of Gujarat and had not even completed the Sardar Sarovar Project. "The Congress let the waters of the Narmada flow into the sea, but did not allow it to be used by Gujarat," he said.
 
 "Those questioning us on development of Gujarat must recall what their contribution has been for the state's progress," he said.
 
"The Congress party always backs the corrupt and corruption. They blamed us in every possible manner. But when they saw there was no impact on us, they started blaming our development works," he said.
 
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He said the Government was actively working to address all issues related to the Goods and Service Tax (GST) and thousands of new businessmen are registering for it. Referring to the Congress' criticism of the government's implementation of GST, he said the Congress was an "equal partner" in GST decisions. "They should not spread lies on GST," he said.
 
Referring to the government's drive against corruption and black money, he said licenses of more than two lakh companies had been cancelled, but there was no hue and cry in the country. "We have seen companies where a single company had 2000 bank accounts and cancelled their licenses," he said.
 
"For us it is ‘Dal se bada Desh' (Country is bigger than the party). For us India comes first," he said.
 
Among other things, he said he would return to the state soon to inaugurate the Dahej-Ghogha Ro-Ro Ferry Service across the Gulf of Cambay that would cut the travel time between South Gujarat and Saurashtra by several hours. 
 
Describing it as his "dream", he said he would inaugurate the first phase of the proejct on October 22. Initially, it will cater to passengers and later trucks and other vehicles would be allowed on the ferries. The distance between Dahej and Ghogha, which is about 360 km by road, will be reduced to 32 km by ferry.
 
Mr. Modi praised the grassroot workers of the party for their hard work and appreciated Mr. Shah for taking the BJP to new heights.
 
In the past few weeks, the Prime Minister has been regularly visiting the poll-bound state.
 
The Election Commission is yet to announce the dates for the elections in Gujarat, but Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti, who announced the schedule for elections in Himachal Pradesh on October 12, told newspersons that day that they would be held before December 18.
 
"Polling in Gujarat will take place before December 18 so that in no way the results of Himachal can affect the voting in Gujarat. We will, in a few days, announce the dates for Gujarat elections, but I can say for sure that voting in Gujarat will happen before December 18," he said.
 
The Commission's decision to not announce the election dates for Gujarat along with the poll schedule for Himachal Pradesh has invited strong criticism from the opposition Congress, which alleged that the BJP would use the interim period to announce sops for the people in Gujarat.
 
Earlier this month, on October 7-8, Mr. Modi had paid a two-day visit to Gujarat, during which he travelled to Dwarka, his home town of Vadnagar, Chotila, Gandhinagar and Bharuch, among other places, and launched several development projects in the state. He also addressed a series of public meetings.
 
Before that, Mr. Modi had paid a visit to the state on September 17, when he had dedicated the Sardar Sarovar Dam, built on the Narmada, to the nation at Kevadia. He also visited Amreli, where he inaugurated a new market yard of the APMC and new plants of the Amar Dairy.
 
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Modi to visit poll-bound Gujarat on Monday, will address 7 lakh BJP workers

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit his poll-bound home state of Gujarat today and address the "Gujarat Gaurav Mahasammelan" near Gandhinagar, a gathering of about seven lakh workers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the culmination of two fortnight-long marches through almost all Assembly constituencies across the state.
 
"I bow to the people of Gujarat for blessing BJP for decades. We will always fulfil the dreams of every Gujarati with full strength & vigour," Mr. Modi said on Twitter yesterday, ahead of the visit.
 
In the past few weeks, the Prime Minister has been regularly visiting the state, where legislative assembly elections are due to be held later this year.
 
The Election Commission is yet to announce the dates for the elections in Gujarat, but Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti, who announced the schedule for elections in Himachal Pradesh on October 12, told newspersons that day that they would be held before December 18.
 
"Polling in Gujarat will take place before December 18 so that in no way the results of Himachal can affect the voting in Gujarat. We will, in a few days, announce the dates for Gujarat elections, but I can say for sure that voting in Gujarat will happen before December 18," he said.
 
The Commission's decision to not announce the election dates for Gujarat along with the poll schedule for Himachal Pradesh has invited strong criticism from the opposition Congress, which alleged that the BJP would use the interim period to announce sops for the people in Gujarat.
 
"Tomorrow in Gandhinagar, I will join Gujarat Gaurav Mahasammelan, which will bring together lakhs of BJP Karyakartas from across Gujarat," Mr. Modi said on Twitter yesterday.
 
"Gujarat Gaurav Mahasammelan comes after the successful culmination of the 2 Gujarat Gaurav Yatras. Gujarat Gaurav Yatras covered almost 4500 kms & 149 Assembly seats. People of all age groups & from all sections of society joined the Yatra. 
 
"Gujarat Gaurav Yatras showcased the spirit of Jan Shakti & reflected Gujarat's strong faith in politics of development & good governance," he added.
 
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The 15-day march was launched on October 1 and saw the participation of senior leaders of the BJP.
 
"Tomorrow, the Prime Minister will give his guidance to around seven lakh BJP workers at the Gujarat Gaurav Mahasammelan to be held in Bhat village," Gujarat BJP chief Jitu Vaghani told reporters here on Sunday.
 
BJP President Amit Shah and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani are among those slated to attend the event.
 
Earlier this month, on October 7-8, Mr. Modi had paid a two-day visit to Gujarat, during which he travelled to Dwarka, his home town of Vadnagar, Chotila, Gandhinagar and Bharuch, among other places, and launched several development projects in the state. He also addressed a series of public meetings.
 
Before that, Mr. Modi had paid a visit to the state on September 17, when he had dedicated the Sardar Sarovar Dam, built on the Narmada, to the nation at Kevadia. He also visited Amreli, where he inaugurated a new market yard of the APMC and new plants of the Amar Dairy.
 
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MPEDA discusses ways of boosting exports with Gujarat’s seafood industry stakeholders

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The Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, organized a first-of-its-kind interaction with stakeholders from the seafood sector in Gujarat in Somnath on Thursday as part of its efforts to increase the share of value added products in marine exports from 17 percent to 30 percent.
 
Gujarat state government officials, aquaculture farmers, exporters and hatchery owners were among those who participated in the meeting, a press release from MPEDA said.
 
As many as 20 aquaculture farmers participated in the event, which also offered a platform for them to establish direct linkages with exporters.
 
MPEDA Chairman A Jayathilak said that such meetings would benefit farmers directly and keep intermediaries out of the scene.
 
“Seafood export in 2016-17 reached a record 5.8 billion US dollars. The trends in the ongoing financial year are just as encouraging, with a projected increase of 10 per cent to 12 per cent,” Dr. Jayathilak told the meeting.
 
MPEDA has formed 600 farmer clusters across the country under the National Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture (NaCSA).
 
“These clusters are completely under the guidance of MPEDA and they will help us to export quality marine products. Moreover, the set-up is such that it provides 100 per cent traceability to quality issues in the farms. Such initiatives will help give a major fillip to the export of quality seafood,” Dr. Jayathilak added. 
 
Observing the prospects of the seafood export industry, Dr. Ajay Kumar, District Collector, Veraval said the district administration would extend every kind of support possible to enhance the sea food trade from the state.
 
Mr  Piyushbhai Fofandi of All India Sea Food Exporters Association also spoke during the event.
 
The formal meeting was followed by buyer-seller interactions, the release added.
 
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Amit Shah's son Jay says will sue The Wire for Rs. 100 crore for defamation

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah's son Jay Shah, an Ahmedabad-based businessman, today said he had decided to file a Rs. 100 crore defamation suit against news website The Wire for allegedly defaming him in an article carried by it.

File photo of Jay Shah with his father and BJP President Amit Shah.
File photo of Jay Shah with his father and BJP President Amit Shah.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah's son Jay Shah, an Ahmedabad-based businessman, today said he had decided to file a Rs. 100 crore defamation suit against news website The Wire for allegedly defaming him in an article carried by it.
 
"Since the website has proceeded in making an absolutely false imputation in a highly slanted article, thereby damaging my reputation, I have decided to prosecute the Author, Editor(s) and the Owner(s) of the aforesaid news website for criminal defamation and sue them for an amount of Rs. 100 crore," the younger Mr. Shah said in a statement.
 
"Both the actions will be filed at Ahmedabad, where I stay, carry on my business and where the cause of action has arisen," he said.
 
"If anyone else republish/rebroadcast the imputations made in the said article, whether directly or indirectly, such person or entity will also be guilty of the very same criminal and/or civil liability," he said.
 
Union Minister Piyush Goyal also addressed a press conference here today to strongly defend Mr. Shah and deny all allegations of wrongdoing made in the article. He said Mr. Shah would launch civil and criminal proceedings against the website and sue them for Rs. 100 crore in damages.
 
The article, titled "The Golden Touch of Jay Amit Shah", published on the website this morning, alleged that, as per filings made by it with the Registrar of Companies (RoC), the turnover of Mr. Shah's firm had zoomed by over 16,000 times within a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office in May 2014 and after Mr. Amit Shah took over as the president of the ruling party.
 
"It is a totally malicious and defamatory article. Jay carries out a fully legitimate and lawful business on commercial lines which are reflected in income tax (filings) and transactions in banks," Mr. Goyal said.
 
Mr. Shah said in his statement that the article made "false, derogatory and defamatory imputation against me by creating in the minds of right-thinking people an impression that my businesses owes its 'success' to my father Amitbhai Shah's political position."
 
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"My businesses are fully legitimate and conducted in a lawful manner on commercial lines, which is reflected in my tax records, and are through banking transactions. I had taken loan either from NBFC or Non-funded Credit Facilities from Cooperative Bank on purely commercial terms strictly in accordance with law. I have repaid the loans by cheque on commercial rate of interest and within the time stipulated. I have mortgaged my family property with the cooperative bank to get the credit facilities," he said.
 
"My lawyer has given details of all my legitimate transactions to the author of the website and all questions posed by her were answered with details since I had nothing to hide," he said.
 
The article, written by Ms. Rohini Singh, quoted the balance sheets and annual reports of Mr. Shah's company, Temple Enterprises Private Limited, obtained from the RoC, to say that, from a profit of Rs. 18,728 on revenues of Rs. 50,000 in 2014-15, its turnover had jumped to Rs. 80.5 crore in 2015-16. The report said the company had received an unsecured loan of Rs. 15.78 crore from a financial services firm.
 
The report went on to say that, one year later, in October 2016, Mr. Shah's company stopped its business activities, declaring in its director's report that its net worth had "full eroded" because of the loss of Rs. 1.4 crore it posed that year and its losses of earlier years.
 
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Rahul Gandhi woos Patidars, hits out at "Gujarat model" of development

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi being greeted by people at Rajkot on the second day of his three-day Navsarjan Yatra in Gujarat, on September 26, 2017.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi being greeted by people at Rajkot on the second day of his three-day Navsarjan Yatra in Gujarat, on September 26, 2017.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today kept up his attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi government at the Centre and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat on the second day of a three-day visit to the poll-bound state and urged its people to lead the nation to greater heights.
 
Travelling through areas dominated by the influential Patidar community, Mr. Gandhi invoked Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India's first Deputy Prime Minister,  who hailed from Gujarat, as went about wooing members of the community which had launched an agitation for reservation in jobs some time ago.
 
“You gave the country Sardar Patelji... Gujarat gave Sardar Patelji. Gujarat will have to take lead in taking the nation to new heights,” he said while addressing a series of meetings on the way from Jamnagar to Rajkot in the Saurashtra region. 
 
Mr. Gandhi said the BJP government in the state had opened fire at the agitating Patidars and committed atrocities against them.
 
"This is not how the Congress works. We will work with love and understanding. We will take everyone forward together. If Gujarat moves forward, it will be with everyone," he said.
 
The Congress Vice-President said Gujarat had been  built by its farmers, labourers, small traders and small shopkeepers. "If Gujarat has progressed, it is these people who made it possible. Today, the BJP government does not work for them, but for five or six of the richest industrialists in the country," he said.
 
 
Modi works for industrialists, not for common man: Rahul Gandhi
"He has fulfilled all the promises he made to them but not the ones he made to farmers, workers, the poor, the youth and others," he said.
 
"That is the Gujarat model of development that he keeps harping upon," Mr. Gandhi said. "He sells it all over the country and the world, but it is a flop here," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said the present Gujarat government is remote controlled from Delhi, and felt the people in the state were now yearning for a change.
 
"There is an undercurrent of anger against the present government, which is not being expressed openly because people are afraid but you will see it at the time of the elections. We will come to power this time, you will see, and we will work for the people of Gujarat," he said.
 
"Kem chho? Vikas ka kya ho gaya?" (How are you, what has happened to Vikas?), he asked at one place, in a reference to the popular memes on the theme "Vikas Gaando Thayo Chhe" (Vikas has gone crazy). The memes personify "vikas" as an individual, Vikas, who has gone crazy.
 
"And why has he gone crazy?" Mr. Gandhi asked the audience. "It is because of all the lies and the false promises," he said. "The people feel betrayed."
 
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Rahul Gandhi reaches out to farmers, youth, traders on day one of Gujarat visit

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Monday hit out at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre and in Gujarat and tore into the Government's economic policies as he reached out to farmers, youth and traders on the first day of a three-day "Navsarjan Yatra" in the election-bound state.

 
PM dealt a severe blow to India's economy: Rahul Gandhi
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today hit out at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre and in Gujarat and tore into the Government's economic policies as he reached out to farmers, youth and traders on the first day of a three-day "Navsarjan Yatra" in the election-bound state.
 
Mr. Gandhi began the day by offering prayers at the famous Dwarkadhish Temple in Dwarka and interacted with people at several places and addressed small and big gatherings at various points along the route.
 
At one place, after being denied permission for a ride in an open jeep by the local authorities, he got on to a bullock cart on the Dwarka-Jamnagar route and seemed to relish the experience.
 
At several places, he was welcomed with banners and hoardings and people lined up to greet him with garlands as he shook hands with people and exchanged a few words with them.
 
The main theme of Mr. Gandhi's speeches today was about the lack of enough jobs for India's youth. He recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, promised to create 2 crore jobs a year and millions of youth across the country had believed him.
 
He said about 30,000 youths were joining the job market every day and the Government was able to provide jobs to just 400 of them each day. He said the youth who had reposed faith in Mr. Modi were now feeling let down. "There is anger among them, and this is growing," he said.
 
He said added to this was Mr. Modi's November 8, 2016 decision to demonetise Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 banknotes. He said this was a massive assault on the country's economy and the people, especially farmers, shopkeepers, small traders and others, had been dealt a severe blow.
 
Mr. Gandhi said the hasty implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) had added to the crisis. He said the poor implementation and the multiple rates of tax had created enormous difficulties for small businessmen. He said millions of jobs had been lost and thousands of small establishments were forced to shut down because of all this.
 
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He said farmers around the country were in distress, unable to get a fair price for his produce.
 
"This government works for only a handful of industrialists. They get land, electricity, water, loan waivers and so on in a few hours. You have to wait for months for anything," he said.
 
"This is the Gujarat model of development that the BJP kept talking about. There is no place in their hearts for the weak, the poor. But all doors are open for the wealthy and the rich. This is the difference between them and us," he said.
 
He said privatisation had affected sectors such as education and health, and the poor were not able to afford such services any more.
 
He said that the primary duties of a government were to provide jobs, education, health services and safety and security. According to him, the BJP governments at the Centre and in Gujarat had failed on these counts.
 
Mr. Gandhi said that if the Congress were voted to power in the coming Assembly elections in Gujarat, expected to be held in November or December, it would provide a government that would work for farmers, teh poor and the youth. "I can guarantee this, and the Congress party delivers on its promises," he said.
 
Earlier in the day, Mr. Hardik Patel, who had spearheaded the reservation agitaiton by the Patidar community in the state some months ago, welcomed Mr. Gandhi on his Gujarat visit. 
 
"Congress ke rashtriya upadhyaksh Rahulji ka Gujarat mae hardik swagat hai..Jay Shri Krishna," Mr. Patel said on Twitter.
 
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Pradhan inaugurates Skill Development Institute set up by ONGC at Ahmedabad

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Union Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan inaugurated a Skill Development Institute (SDI) set up by the public sector Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) at Adalaj here today.
 
The institute has been established to achieve the National Skill Development Mission of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which aims to empower the youth of the nation through skill training and capacity building, a press release from ONGC said.
 
The release said the institute is equipped to impart training in three trades -- Fitter Fabrication, Welding and Production Technician -- through a six months’ residential programme. The first batch of 90 students has been enrolled, including 76 students from SC/ST and OBC communities. 
 
Aspire Disruptive Skill Foundation is the training partner for the programme. With this initiative, opportunities for employment and income generation will open up for the youth of the country, the release said.
 
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Pradhan said that nearly one crore youth are seeking employment opportunities annually. To provide suitable jobs the youth need to be provided requisite skill enhancement training.
 
The minister said that Skill Development Institutes being set up with the support of the oil sector companies are a major step in this direction. “To meet the aspirations of the youth, skill development cannot be done by the Government only. It needs the support of PSEs, corporates, training institutes and industrial sector, all in a cohesive manner," he said.
 
The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has established the Hydrocarbon Skill Council which would ensure setting up and functioning of six Skill Development Institutes (SDI) in different states. Oil PSUs such as ONGC, IOC, HPCL, BPCL, OIL, GAIL, EIL and Balmer Lawrie have been entrusted responsibility of promoting these Institutes.
 
Three institutes, at Bhubaneswar, Vishakhapatnam and Kochi are already functional. The fourth Institute has been established at Ahmedabad to meet the aspirations of the youth of Gujarat and neighboring States. Two more Institutes will commence shortly at Rae Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh and Guwahati in Assam.
 
Director General of Hydrocarbons Atanu Chakraborty, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Rajesh Agarwal, Director (Onshore) ONGC, V.P. Mahawar, senior government officers, executives from Oil PSUs, trustees, faculty members and students of the institute participated in the inaugural event.
 
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Modi dedicates Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat to nation

Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the Sardar Sarovar Dam, built on the Narmada river, to the nation at Kevadia in Gujarat on Sunday.

 
Modi dedicates Sardar Sarovar Dam to nation
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today dedicated the Sardar Sarovar Dam, built on the Narmada river, to the nation at Kevadia in Gujarat today.
 
The occasion was marked by prayers and chanting of hymns at the Dam at Kevadia. Mr. Modi unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion. 
 
Later, the Prime Minister visited the construction site of the Statue of Unity, dedicated to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, at Sadhu Bet, a short distance from the dam. He was given an overview of the progress of work at the site. 
 
Later, at a public meeting in Dabhoi, Mr. Modi unveiled a plaque to mark the laying of foundation stone of the National Tribal Freedom Fighters' Museum. The occasion also marked the closing ceremony of the Narmada Mahotsav, which generated awareness about River Narmada in various districts of Gujarat. 
 
Speaking on the occasion, he said the huge gathering showed the respect that people had for "Maa Narmada". On the occasion of Vishwakarma Jayanti, he said that he salutes all those who are working to build the nation. "Let us leave no stone unturned to build a New India by 2022," he said.
 
Mr. Modi recalled Sardar Patel's vision of the dam. He said that both Sardar Patel and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar gave a lot of emphasis to irrigation and waterways. 
 
The Prime Minister said lack of water resources has been a major impediment to development. He recalled visiting the border areas in the past, when Border Security Force (BSF) jawans did not have enough water. "We brought Narmada waters to the border areas for the jawans," he said. 
 
The saints and seers of Gujarat have played a very big role in the making of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, he said. The waters of the River Narmada will help citizens and transform lives, he added. 
 
The Prime Minister said that in the western part of the country, there is water shortage, and in the eastern part, there is power and gas shortage. He said the Government is working to overcome these shortages, so that India scales new heights of development. 
 
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The Prime Minister said the Statue of Unity would be a fitting tribute to Sardar Patel, and would draw tourists from all over. He recalled freedom fighters from tribal communities, who fought against colonialism. 
 
Later, Mr. Modi inaugurated a newly constructed market yard of APMC, at Amreli. He also inaugurated a new plant of Amar Dairy, and laid the foundation stone for a honey plant. 
 
At a Sahakar Sammelan in Amreli, the Prime Minister said he was happy to see younger people coming to the fore and taking leadership of the cooperative sector. He recalled how dairies had grown in Saurashtra, in the period when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat. 
 
He said the e-NAM Yojana is benefiting farmers and giving them access to better markets. He said the blue revolution and the sweet (honey) revolution have the potential to transform the lives of people in Saurashtra. 
 
The Prime Minister said the Union Government is sensitive to the needs and concerns of the farmers.
 
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Modi, Abe lay foundation stone for India's first high speed rail project

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday jointly laid the foundation stone for India's first high speed rail project, based on Japanese technology, between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

 
Modi, Abe lay foundation stone for India's first bullet train project
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today jointly laid the foundation stone for India's first high speed rail project, based on Japanese technology, between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.
 
The public function to mark the commencement of work on the "Bullet Train" project was the highlight of Mr. Abe's two-day visit to India which concluded today.
 
The train is expected to significantly reduce travel time between the two cities. Japan is a pioneer in high-speed rail networks, and its Shinkansen bullet train is among the fastest in the world.
 
The $ 16.87 billion bullet train project will be 81 percent funded by Japan through a concessional long-term loan. The bullet train is expected to cut the 500 km journey from Ahmedabad to Mumbai, the commercial capital of India, to just 2 to 3 hours as compared to the 7-8 hours it takes now.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Modi spoke of the high ambition and willpower of “New India.” He congratulated the people of India on the occasion, and said that the bullet train project will provide speed and progress, and deliver results quickly. He said the Government’s focus is on increasing productivity through high speed connectivity. 
 
The Prime Minister thanked Japan for the technical and financial help given to India, for this project. He praised Prime Minister Abe for the fact that this project is being launched within such a short time. 
 
The Prime Minister said that this high speed railway would not only bring two cities closer, but also bring the people living hundreds of kilometers away, closer to each other. He said a new economic system is being developed along the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor, and the entire area would become a single economic zone. 
 
The Prime Minister said technology is useful only if it provides benefit to the common man. He said the technology transfer envisaged in this project will benefit Indian Railways, and boost the “Make in India” initiative. He said the project would be eco-friendly as well as human-friendly. He said “high-speed corridors” would be regions for rapid growth in the future. 
 
The Prime Minister said that the Government is working to ensure that infrastructure is developed keeping in mind futuristic requirements. He expressed confidence that everyone would work together to complete this project in the shortest possible time. 
 
Earlier, Mr. Abe said that the India-Japan partnership is special, strategic and global. He said that he hopes to see the beauty of India through the windows of the Bullet Train, a few years hence,
 
After the ceremony, Mr. Abe, accompanied by Mr. Modi, visited the Dandi Kutir at Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, the venue for the 12th India-Japan Annual Summit today.
 
At a joint  media interaction with Mr. Abe after their summit, Mr. Modi said the high-speed rail project was a "very big step".
 
"This is not just the beginning of high speed rail. While looking forward at our future needs, I consider this new railway philosophy as the lifeline of a New India. India's uninterrupted progress has now been attached to a much faster pace," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said mutual trust and faith, understanding of each other's interests and concerns, and continuous high level interactions made the India-Japan relationship unique.
 
"The scope of our special strategic and global partnership is not confined to bilateral or regional levels only. We also have close cooperation on global issues. Last year, during my visit to Japan, we had a historic agreement for peaceful use of nuclear energy. I express my gratitude to the people of Japan, Parliament of Japan, and especially Prime Minister Abe for its ratification. This agreement has added a new chapter to our cooperation on the issue of clean energy and climate change," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said that, in 2016-17, India got Japanese investment worth $ 4.7 billion, which is 80 percent more than the previous year. 
 
"Now Japan is the third largest investor in India. It clearly shows how much confidence and optimism is prevalent in Japan towards India's economic development and a golden tomorrow. And by looking at this investment, it can be assumed that in the coming days people-to-people ties between India and Japan will grow further along with a growing business. We already provide visa on arrival facilities to citizens of Japan and now after the collaboration between India Post and Japan Post we are going to introduce a Cool Box Service so that the Japanese people living in India can directly get their favorite food from Japan. At the same time, I would also request the Japanese business community to open more Japanese restaurants in India! 
 
"Today, India is on the path of a radical change at many levels. Whether it is ease of doing business or Skill India, taxation reforms or Make in India, India is transforming completely. This is a huge opportunity for Japanese businesses. And I'm glad that many Japanese companies are deeply involved with our flagship programs. We will also get to see its direct benefit during our conversation in today's evening program with the business leaders of both the countries. We are the largest partner in Japan's official development assistance programme and I warmly welcome the agreements that have been signed today for the projects in several sectors," he said.
 
"I am confident that our dialogue and the agreements signed by us today will further strengthen the partnership between India and Japan in all areas," Mr. Modi added.
 
The two sides signed 15 agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoUs) on the occasion in areas such as Disaster Risk Management, Skills Development, Connectivity, Economic and Commercial, Investment, Civil Aviation, Science & Technology, Sports and Academics/Think Tanks.
 
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Japan's PM Shinzo Abe arrives in Ahmedabad for annual dialogue with Modi

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Ahmedabad on a two-day visit during which he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold the 12th India-Japan Annual Summit at Gandhinagar and set the future direction for the Special Strategic and Global Partnership between the two countries.

 
Modi, Abe in roadshow from Ahmedabad airport to Sabarmati Ashram
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived here today on a two-day official visit to India during which  he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold the 12th India-Japan Annual Summit at Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, and set the future direction for the Special Strategic and Global Partnership between the two countries.
 
This will be the fourth annual summit between Mr. Modi and Mr. Abe, during which the two leaders will review the recent progress in the multi-facted bilateral cooperation.
 
Mr. Modi dispensed with protocol to personally receive Mr. Abe and his wife Akie when they landed here this afternoon in his home state. Mr. Modi welcomed Mr. Abe with a hug before the Japanese Prime Minister inspected a guard of honour at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport.
 
From the airport, Mr. Modi and Mr. Abe travelled in an open jeep in a motorcade along an eight km route to the Sabarmati Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi. Along the way, students and artistes staged cultural performances at different points, highlighting the rich and diverse cultural traditions of the country. This was the first time that two Prime Ministers have participated in such a road show.
 
Mr. Abe and his wife changed into Indian attire for the road show -- with the Japanese Prime Minister wearing a royal blue Nehru jacket and Ms. Abe dressed in a pink silk kurta.
 
Mr. Abe and his wife, accompanied by Mr. Modi, also visited the iconic Sidi Saiyyed Mosque here, built in 1573, and noted for its beautifully carved ten latticework windows (Jalis) on the side and rear arches.
 
The two bays flanking the central aisle have reticulated stone slabs carved in designs of intertwined trees and foliage and a palm motif. This intricately carved lattice stone window is the Sidi Saiyyed Jali, the unofficial symbol of city of Ahmedabad and the inspiration for the design of the logo of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad.
 
Mr. Modi explained the history and the importance of the mosque to Mr. Abe. The two Prime Ministers also posed for photographs in front of the monument.
 
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Later in the evening, Mr. Modi hosted dinner for the Japanese leader and his wife at a heritage hotel here. The fare was vegetarian and a mix of Japanese and Gujarati dishes.
 
The India-Japan Summit will be held tomorrow at the Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar. The two leaders will deliver statements to the media. An India Japan Business Plenary is also scheduled tomorrow.
 
The highlight of the visit will be a public function to mark the commencement of work on India’s first high-speed rail project, based on Japanese technology, between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, tomorrow. The train is expected to significantly reduce travel time between the two cities. Japan is a pioneer in high-speed rail networks, and its Shinkansen bullet train is among the fastest in the world.
 
The $ 16.87 billion bullet train project will be 81 percent funded by Japan through a concessional long-term loan. The bullet train is expected to cut the 500 km journey from Ahmedabad to Mumbai, the commercial capital of India, to just 2 to 3 hours as compared to the 7-8 hours it takes now.
 
Mr. Abe will not be visiting New Delhi on this trip, with all his engagements confined to Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.
 
In September 2014, Mr. Modi had hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping in Ahmedabad.
 
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Nirmala Sitharaman visits Gujarat, briefed about Sir Creek

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman visited Gujarat for two days on September 10-11 where she was, among other things, briefed about the Sir Creek, the disputed area on the border between India and Pakistan.
 
Ms. Sitharaman was received on arrival in Ahmedabad by Chief of Army Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and Lt General P M Hariz, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command.
 
The Army Commander, Southern Command briefed the Defence Minister about the operational situation, an official press release said.
 
The release said the Minister preferred to use her first call to the region to visit Sir Creek because of the relevance of the area to the overall security requirements of Southern Command.
 
The General Officer Commanding Golden Katar Division briefed Ms. Sitharaman on the historic relevance and strategic implications of the need to maintain effective surveillance in the area. 
 
Interacting with all ranks of Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, the Minister appreciated the manner in which the troops are maintaining territorial integrity and are prepared for any eventuality, the release added.
 
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President Kovind to visit Gujarat on September 3-4

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President Ram Nath Kovind will pay a two-day visit to Gujarat on September 3-4, an official press release said.
 
The release said Mr. Kovind would visit the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad tomorrow. Later in the day, he will be the chief guest at the launch of various social welfare programmes in Mehsana on the occasion of the 83rd birthday of Rashtrasant Acharya Padmasagarsuriji.
 
On September 4, the President will lay the foundation stone of ‘Saurashtra Narmada Avataran Irrigation Yojana’ (SAUNI) Phase-II Link-4 at Rajkot, the release added.
 
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"Tinker space" set up in Vikram Sarabhai Library at IIM Ahmedabad

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The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) has set up a "tinker space" in the Vikram Sarabhai Library on its campus as a space dedicated to promote creative thinking and conversion of ideas into physical products.
 
The space will be used by the IIMA community members to design and create new products through a 3D printer, a press release from the institute said.
 
The Tinker Space has a 3D scanner and a small electronics lab with basic equipment including Arduino Uno original, Raspberry Pi original, bread board, soldering gun, DC motor, SD card module, Arduino blue tooth module, IT sensor, multi-meter, LEDs, and so on.
 
The Tinker Space has been set up with the help of Fornax, a startup led by students of PGP 2015-17, Saumya Mathur and Nikhil Menon with the  support of Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE).
 
“Vikram Sarabhai Library has provided educational resources and a congenial, educational environment to our students, faculty, and community members. Opening of the Tinker Space keeps it in the forefront of innovations as libraries the world over strive to redefine their role in today’s world of high technology, information, and connectedness. IIMA is proud of our Library. I am particularly delighted that this initiative has been realized with support from our alumni, who have graduated only recently from the Institute to pursue entrepreneurial ambition," said Prof. Ashish Nanda, Director, IIMA.
 
“The IIMA Library is always exploring opportunities to enrich the academic ambience of the campus. It is probably one of the first libraries in India to take up the cause of promoting and nurturing startup culture among its user community seriously. I am glad that we have started the ‘tinker space’ in the library.” said, Dr. H. Anil Kumar, Librarian, IIMA.
 
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Errol D'Souza appointed Director-in-charge at IIM Ahmedabad

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Professor Errol D'Souza, Dean of Faculty, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad, has been appointed as Director-in-charge of the institute with effect from September 2, 2017.
 
This was announced here today by Mr. Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman of the Board, IIMA Society.
 
The appointment is for a period of six months or till the appointment of a regular Director, whichever is earlier, a press release from IIMA said.
 
Prof. D'Souza will replace Prof. Ashish Nanda, who had announced on April 27 his decisiont to step aside from his position with effect from September 1, citing personal reasons.
 
Prof. D'Souza has a Ph.D. in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Prior to joining IIMA, he was the IFCI Chair Professor at the Department of Economics, University of Mumbai and was also a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University, New York, and a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore.
 
He was the India Chair Professor at Sciences Po in Paris in 2009 and a Visiting Professor at the institute for Advanced Study, Shimla in 2009. He has worked on academic committees of the University Grants Commission and the Indian Council of Social Science Research, and has been associated with the Planning Commission and the Reserve Bank of India. He is a consultant to industry, the banking sector, UNDP, ILO, and government. He is a Director on the board of the National Housing Bank.
 
Prof Nanda was the Robert Braucher Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School before taking up his present position. He is an alumnus of the 1983 batch of IIMA. He is a gold medalist from both Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi and from IIMA. He completed his M.A. in Economics and Ph.D. from Harvard University and has taught courses in Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School. 
 
He was faculty director of Executive Education and research director at Program on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School. 
 
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Eleven persons dead after their jeep collides with truck near Dhandhuka in Gujarat

 
11 killed as jeep collides with truck in Gujarat
Eleven persons, including ten members of a Mumbai-based family, died and one suffered serious injuries when a jeep they were travelling in collided head-on with a truck on the Dhandhuka-Barwala state highway in Gujarat, about 110 km from here, early this morning, official sources said.
 
Ahmedabad Rural District Superintendent of Police R V Asari told NetIndian that those killed included six women and five men. The victims included the driver of the jeep, Ahmed Malik, he said.
 
According to him, the family belonged to Mumbai and were in Gujarat on a visit. After spending some time in Vadodara, they hired a vehicle from there to visit Vallabhipur, their native place near Bhavnagar, and were on their way when the mishap occurred.
 
Mr. Asari said the driver of the jeep appeared to have dozed off at the wheel and lost control over the vehicle, which veered off to the opposite lane and crashed into the truck.
 
He said a boy, aged 16, was injured in the accident and has been admitted to a nearby hospital for treatment.
 
Police, fire brigade personnel and other emergency services personnel rushed to the scene and helped extricate the victims from the mangled jeep. All eleven victims died on the spot.
 
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IIM Ahmedabad showcases its FABM programme at roadshows in North-East

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The Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) conducted  roadshows in two educational institutions of North-East India, showcasing its post-graduate program in food and agri-business management (PGP-FABM). 
 
The purpose of the roadshows was to educate students about the management programme, and answer any queries the students may have about it, a press release from IIMA said.
 
These roadshows were conducted at College of Agricultural Engineering and Post-Harvest Technology (CAEPHT) in Gangtok, Sikkim and Assam Agricultural University (AAU) in Jorhat, Assam. 
 
Prof. Ranjan Ghosh, a faculty member at IIMA and officials who run the day-to- day administration of this key programme represented IIMA.
 
The roadshow at CAEPHT, on August 14, was special as IIMA was also represented by two of its alumni – Mr. Prem Das Rai (1978 batch), a member of Parliament from Sikkim, and Mr. Tenzing Lepcha (2009 batch), an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who is currently serving as the Superintendent of Police, East Sikkim. 
 
More than 200 hundred students attended the event and interacted with the faculty and staff. Both Mr. Rai and Mr. Lepcha shared their experiences with the students and answered all the questions.
 
Prof. Ghosh emphasized the huge role food and agri-business sector plays in nation building and economic development. He highlighted the high demand for skilled managers in this sector who can work across the agri-food value chain and ensure high profits as well as re-distribution among farmers. 
 
In Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Jorhat, on August 17, Prof. Ghosh emphasized that with a little bit of awareness and smart preparation the dream of making into IIM Ahmedabad was very much achievable for students of North East. 
 
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"I was not even aware that PGP-FABM of IIMA is a niche programme dedicated to management education in the agri-food sector and that with a background in agriculture and allied sector education, we stand a good chance to make it to the programme," said Jagan Jyoti Barua, the student General Secretary of the college and a 4th year undergraduate student with an interest in a management career in the tea industry. He echoed the sentiment of many others, of the over 100 students participating in the event at AAU, who were surprised to know about PGP-FABM ranked No.1 Masters in Management in the Food and Agribusiness sector in the world (by ranking agency Eduniversal, Paris). 
 
After the event, when asked by the Dean of the University D.K. Borah, many students said they will now seriously consider preparing for CAT and appear for the interviews for IIMA FABM programme
 
Describing the event as a "huge success", the Vice-Chancellor of Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Dr. K.M. Bujarbaruah, thanked Mr. Pravin Christian (Programmes Officer, PGP-FABM) for taking the initiative to organize the event and for a visit from far-off Ahmedabad.
 
"Through these roadshows, IIMA once again displayed its commitment to quality management programme that is relevant to all regions of India," the release added.
 
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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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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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