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Naroda Patiya massacre: Gujarat HC acquits Maya Kodnani, convicts Babu Bajrangi

Six years after a trial court sentenced her to 28 years in jail calling her the key instigator in Gujarat's worst communal massacre that left 97 Muslims dead in 2002 in Ahmedabad's Naroda Patiya, the Gujarat High Court on Friday acquitted former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani saying there was no evidence to nail her.

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Six years after a trial court sentenced her to 28 years in jail calling her the key instigator in Gujarat's worst communal massacre that left 97 Muslims dead in 2002 in Ahmedabad's Naroda Patiya, the Gujarat High Court on Friday acquitted former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani saying there was no evidence to nail her.
 
A Division Bench of the High Court comprising Justice Harsha Devani and Justice A.S. Supehia acquitted her, stating there was absence of sufficient proof of her presence at the crime scene where huge armed crowds went about on a killing spree for hours.
 
A SIT Court had in 2012 found it "beyond reasonable doubt" that Kodnani, a doctor by profession, was present at the spot of the crime, instigated mobs to attack Muslims and abetted the crime.
 
"In the record of this case, the witnesses have stated that all the disturbances were started and in fact reached its peak after the arrival of Kodnani. It stands proved beyond all reasonable doubt that she was present and participated in the crime on that day," the court had ruled in August 2012, sentencing Kodnani to 28 years in imprisonment.
 
Friday's acquittal of Kodnani, who was made a Minister after the riots, came in the backdrop of witnesses turning hostile, six judges recusing themselves from the hearing and the SIT deciding not to seek enhancement of her sentence stating that it did not have the Gujarat government's sanction for it.
 
BJP President Amit Shah's testimony in the case in September 2017 was the last one and could have proved to be the much needed alibi for Kodnani. He stated that he saw Kodnani in the Gujarat Assembly on 28 February, 2002 (the day of the massacre), first at 8.30 a.m. and then again at 11 a.m. 
 
The Gujarat Assembly is located in Gandhinagar and so the former minister could not have been at Naroda Patiya on the day of the riots.
 
However, the SIT Court had refused to consider this as evidence stating that Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad were like twin cities and that Kodnani could have easily travelled to Naroda Patiya from the state Assembly after 8.30 a.m.
 
However, the High Court acquitted her with several witnesses turning hostile and there was insufficient evidence to establish her presence at the place of the crime.
 
The court meanwhile upheld the conviction of Babu Bajrangi, an activist of the Bajrang Dal. The judgment was pronounced on the appeals filed by the former BJP Minister and others against their conviction by the SIT court. He was the key conspirator in the massacre.
 
The Naroda Patiya riots was one of the worst incidents during the communal conflagration that engulfed Gujarat following the train burning incident on February 27, 2002 at Godhra in which 59 Hindus were killed.
 
The High Court in August 2017 had reserved its order.
 
The special court had sentenced 32 people, including Kodnani and Bajrangi. Seven others were given enhanced life imprisonment of 21 years, which they will serve after undergoing 10 years' imprisonment under IPC section 326 (causing grievous hurt).
 
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The remaining accused were given simple life imprisonment of 14 years. The trial court's acquittal of 29 other accused in the case, for want of evidence, was challenged by the SIT, even as those convicted challenged the lower court's order in the High Court for respite.
 
Government counsel Prashant Desai said: "It is clear from the Gujarat High Court's judgment that the court has gone on no witness theory.
 
"Twelve accused have been convicted. Besides Babu Bajrangi, Prakash Rathod and Suresh Chara alias Suresh Langda have been convicted under the IPC 120 (B) as key conspirators.
 
"The sting operation by the Tehelka was not taken into account by the court. The 12 have been convicted with 21 years imprisonment without remission.
 
"Whatever Babu Bajrangi did was no different from what the others did, so his conviction was on parity. Court believed police witnesses.
 
"On Kodnani, there were contradictions in the witnesses' testimony against her presence at the crime scene. None of the police witnesses have said that they saw Kodnani at the scene.
 
"The SIT will have to appeal within 90 days to the Supreme Court if they want to challenge the Gujarat High Court verdict," added the counsel.
 
Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said: "Our Minister Kodnani was wrongfully implicted in the Naroda Patiya massacre case. But today she has been found innocent.
 
"We are happy with the verdict and welcome the decision. She has worked hard for the party and definitely she will be given an active role in the party if she wishes to continue."
 
Meanwhile, the state BJP President Jitu Vaghani has blamed the Congress for arraigning Kodnani in the case. "The Congress wrongfully involved our former minister."
 
IANS
 
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Naroda Patiya massacre: Gujarat HC acquits Kodnani, convicts Babu Bajrangi

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A Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court on Friday acquitted former BJP Minister Maya Kodnani, saying there was absence of sufficient proof of her presence at the crime scene in the Naroda Patiya massacre case of 2002.
 
The court also upheld the conviction of Bajrangi Dal activist Babu Bajrangi, who was sentenced to imprisonment for life by the trial court. 
 
The Bharatiya Janata Party Minister was one of the key accused in the riot case and was convicted by a special SIT court in August 2012. She was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
 
The judgment was pronounced on the appeals filed by the former BJP Minister and others against their conviction by the SIT court.
 
The Division Bench of Justice Harsha Devani and Justice A.S. Supehia upheld the conviction by the special court of Babubhai Patel alias Bajrangi, a prominent leader of the Bajrang Dal Hindu outfit.
 
He was a key conspirator in the massacre in Naroda Patiya area, where 97 Muslim persons were killed in the Godhra aftermath. 
 
The Naroda Patiya riots was one of the worst incidents during communal conflagration that engulfed Gujarat, following the train burning incident on February 27, 2002, at Godhra in which 59 Kar Sevaks were killed. 
 
The High Court in August 2017 had reserved its order after the hearing concluded against the judgment of the special court. 
 
The special court had sentenced 32 people, including Kodnani and Bajrangi. Seven others were given enhanced life imprisonment of 21 years, which they will serve after undergoing 10 years' imprisonment under IPC section 326 (causing grievous hurt). 
 
The remaining accused were given simple life imprisonment of 14 years.
 
The trial court's acquittal of 29 other accused in the case, for want of evidence was challenged by the SIT, even as those convicted had challenged the lower court's order in the High Court for respite.
 
Government counsel Prashant Desai said: "It is clear from the Gujarat High Court's judgment that the court has gone on no witness theory." 
 
"Twelve accused have been convicted. Besides Babu Bajrangi, Prakash Rathod and Suresh Chara alias Suresh Langda have been convicted under the IPC 120 (B) as key conspirators. 
 
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"The sting operation by the Tehelka was not taken into account by the court. The 12 have been convicted with 21 years imprisonment without remission. 
 
"Whatever Babu Bajrangi did was no different from what the others did, so his conviction was on parity. Court believed police witnesses." 
 
"On Maya Kodnani, there were contradictions in the witnesses' testimony against her presence at the crime scene. None of the police witnesses have said that they saw Kodnani at the scene. 
 
"The SIT will have to appeal within 90 days to the Supreme Court if they want to challenge the Gujarat High Court verdict," added the counsel.
 
Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said: "Our minister Kodnani was wrongfully implicted in the Naroda Patiya massacre case. But today after the Gujarat High Court acquittal, she has been found innocent."
 
"We are happy with the verdict and welcome the decision. She has worked hard for the party and definitely she will be given an active role in the party if she wishes to continue." 
 
Meanwhile, state BJP president Jitu Vaghani has blamed the Congress party for arraigning Kodnani in the case. "The Congress wrongfully involved our former minister."
 
IANS
 
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Naroda Patiya massacre: Gujarat HC acquits Kodnani, convicts Babu Bajrangi

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A division bench of the Gujarat High Court on Friday acquitted former Bharatiya Janata Party Minister Maya Kodnani while upholding the conviction of Bajrang Dal activist Babu Bajrangi in the Naroda Patiya massacre case of 2002.
 
Kodnani was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court for inciting a mob post the Godhra train carnage in 2002. 
 
The court found Babubhai Patel alias Babu Bajrangi guilty and upheld his conviction. 
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
 
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CBI arrests 3 company directors in Rs 2,654 crore bank fraud case

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The CBI has arrested three promoter-directors of a Vadodara-based company in connection with its ongoing investigation into an alleged case of Rs 2,654.40 crore fraud committed on a consortium of banks, officials said on Wednesday.
 
A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) official told IANS: "The agency has arrested the promoter-directors of the Diamond Power Infrastructure Ltd (DIPL) Suresh Narain Bhatnagar, his two sons Amit Suresh Bhatnagar and Sumit Suresh Bhatnagar."
 
The CBI located the accused in Udaipur in Rajasthan on Tuesday evening with the assistance of Gujarat Police and arrested them on Wednesday morning.
 
The official said they would be produced before the Special Judge of CBI Cases in Ahmedabad.
 
On March 26, the CBI filed a case against DPIL and its directors for defrauding the consortium of 11 banks of Rs 2,654.40 crore. The loan availed by them was declared a non-performing asset (NPA) in 2016-17.
 
Since the filing of case, the agency has carried out searches at the corporate office, two factory premises and the residences of the directors of the firm. 
 
According to the CBI FIR, the DPIL, which is engaged in the production of cables and other electrical equipment, fraudulently availed credit facilities since 2008, leaving behind a total outstanding debit of Rs 2,654.40 crore as of June 29, 2016.
 
The agency said that the company managed to get term loans and credit facilities thought it figured in the Reserve Bank of India's list of defaulters and the caution list of Export Credit Guarantee Corp of India (ECGCI) at the time of initial sanction of credit limits by the consortium.
 
At the time of consortium's formation in 2008, Axis Bank was the lead bank for the term loan and the Bank of India was the lead bank for cash credit (CC) limits.
 
The Bank of India, which tops the list with Rs 670.51 crore of loans, is followed by Bank of Baroda (Rs 348.99 crore), ICICI Bank (Rs 279.46 crore), State Bank of India (Rs 266.37 crore), Axis Bank (Rs 255.32 crore), Allahabad Bank (Rs 227.96), Dena Bank (Rs 177.19 crore), Corporation Bank (109.12 crore), Exim Bank of India (Rs 81.92 crore), IOB (Rs 71.59) and the IFCI Bank (58.53 crore). 
 
The company, allegedly with the support of officials from various banks, managed to obtain enhancement in credit facilities. 
 
The FIR said the DPIL, through its founder and directors associated in the criminal conspiracy with the unidentified bank officials of various banks, cheated those banks by way of misappropriating public funds through falsification of accounts, creation of false documents, forgery of records and knowingly using such records as genuine.
 
IANS
 
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IIMA ties up with NTPC to create world class research institute

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Public sector power producer NTPC and the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA), the country's top business school, today announced a joint initiative to create a world class research institute at NTPC School of Business for policy prescription and churn out management graduates with focus on energy sector.
 
"We are proud to have entered an agreement, under which India's marquee business school -- Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - will hand hold NTPC School of Business to replicate its management degree courses beginning this year with special focus on energy verticals not only for NTPC but for the entire power sector," Mr Saptarshi Roy, Human Resource Director, NTPC, said.
 
"This is the first time we are tying up with a leading academic institution for degree and other specialised courses on the lines of IIM-A. We were blessed with handholding from IIM-A for five years and we are proud of it. We will be doing the same with NTPC School of Business (NSB) and hand hold it for five years, create a top class faculty like our own and offer a host of specialised electives for various aspects related to energy and power sectors," IIM-A's HRM Area Chair and Strategic Management Professor Sunil Kumar Maheshwari said.
 
"We wish to create a strong research and policy centre. To create manpower for this centre, NSB shall be ideal institute to take lead and this will become Centre of excellence for policy research and policy documentation," Mr Maheshwari said.
 
Under the scheme of arrangement, NSB, guided and shepherded by IIM-A specialists, will seek applications from aspirants for MBA degree from April this year for a two-year degree course with specialisation in energy sector.
 
IIM, apart from bringing professionals from the parent organisation, will gradually create NSB's own faculty by the end of the fifth year.
 
Mr Roy, who also holds additional charge as Director Finance, said that NTPC is focused on creating robust leadership for the future of the organisation that accounts for 16 per cent of the country's total power generation capacity. He added that NTPC's budget for learning and development has significantly gone up this year.
 
"The NSB tie-up is the latest in the series of learning and development initiatives at NTPC. We also have tied up with Harvard Business School and other Ivy League institutions under which a total of 180 senior executives are being given global exposure for the first hand learning of leadership modules and best business practices as part of efforts to create future leadership for the organisation that is supplementing the national economic growth by way of meeting electricity requirement," he said.
 
“We have the entire infrastructure at our NSB’s Noida campus ready to start the courses from the academic year including residential facility for the students.  We intend to enrol 120 students in the first year,” said Mr. A.K. Bhatnagar, Executive Director, Head of Power Management Institute & NSB, Noida.
 
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Kovind says students must help those deprived of opportunities for education

 
Universities must prepare students for self-employment: Kovind
President Ram Nath Kovind today said students must think of how they must pay back, especially to society, and urged them to think of those who had been deprived of opportunities for education and try and help their process of development.
 
Addressing the 66th convocation of Gujarat University here, Mr. Kovind reminded the students that whatever they have received in life is not only due to their own efforts but also due to contributions from their family, well-wishers, teachers, society and the government.
 
He said good education should not only make students skilled but also sensitive. He said that it was natural to expect that students from Gujarat, the state of Narsinh Mehta and Mahatma Gandhi, would contribute to compassion, morality and human well-being.
 
Mr. Kovind noted that Gujarat University is supporting many entrepreneurs through its “Start-up and Entrepreneurship Council”. The creation of the “Council of Skill Development” is also a welcome step towards empowering students. He stated that today’s universities should give top priority to preparing their students for employability, and for self-employment and entrepreneurship.
 
The President said that there are many good institutions in Ahmedabad that promote a start-up culture. Recently, the Prime Ministers of India and Israel inaugurated the International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology – or iCreate – in Ahmedabad. This will provide world-class facilities to young Indian entrepreneurs, he said.
 
The President urged students of Gujarat University to take advantage of these facilities.
 
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Kovind to pay two-day visit to Gujarat on January 21-22

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President Ram Nath Kovind will pay a two-day visit to Gujarat from tomorrow, when he will attend the 66th annual convocation of Gujarat University in Ahmedabad.
 
On January 22, the President will address the 66th annual convocation of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.  
 
On the same day, the President will grace the 150th anniversary celebrations of Akshar Deri at Gondal, before returning to Delhi, an official press release added.
 
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IndiGo announces new flights on Ahmedabad-Kochi sector

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Low-cost carrier IndiGo today said it would launch new flights on the Ahmedabad-Kochi sector with effect from March 12.
 
A press release from the airline said it would also introduce additional flights on the Kochi-Hyderabad and Hyderabad-Ahmedabad sectors from that date, underscoring the tourism potential of Tier-II markets.
 
"Commencing on March 12, 2018, these new services will further consolidate IndiGo’s position as the fastest growing airline in India, with over 1000 daily flights connecting 48 destinations," it said.
 
IndiGo had recently announced its ATR operations and inaugural flights from Tirupati and Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh.
 
In March 2018, the carrier will also commence Vijayawada operations to Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai, the airline said.
 
Mr. Sanjay Kumar, Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo said, “We are delighted to introduce new connections between Kochi, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. IndiGo has established itself as the fastest growing carrier with its extensive domestic network and we are hopeful that the introduction of the new service will further cement our place in the Indian skies.”
 
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Modi hosts Netanyahu in home state Gujarat; the two PMs dedicate iCreate to nation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday told young Indians that Israel wanted to form partnerships with them in technology, water, agriculture, cyber space, drones, health, life scienes and many other fields.

 
Netanyahu visits Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today told young Indians that Israel wanted to form partnerships with them in technology, water, agriculture, cyber space, drones, health, life scienes and many other fields.
 
"I want young Israelis to come to India not just with a backpack but with a laptop," he said at a function at which he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the iCreate facilitated on the outskirts of the city to the nation.
 
"This is a century of boundless potential and that's why I've come here – to encourage young innovators from our two countries to work together," he said.
 
iCreate is an independent centre set up with the objective of facilitating entrepreneurship through a blend of creativity, innovation, engineering, product design and leveraging emerging technologies to deal with major issues such as food security, water, connectivity, cybersecurity, IT and electronics, energy, bio-medical equipment and devices etc. iCreate aims to develop an ecosystem in India to generate quality entrepreneurs.
 
The two leaders visited various stalls that highlighted technologies and innovations across diverse fields.
 
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Modi said that innovation has a key role to play in bringing the people of India and Israel closer to each other. He said the entire world had taken note of the technological prowess and creativity of Israel.
 
He said the youth of India had energy and enthusiasm. What they needed is a bit of encouragement and institutional support, he added.
 
The Prime Minister said that the Government is working to make the entire system innovation-friendly, so that intent can generate ideas; ideas lead to innovation; and innovation helps create a New India.
 
He said that the first pre-requisite of success is courage. He congratulated the courageous youth who are engaged in innovative activities at iCreate.
 
He urged the youth of India to innovate to overcome the challenges facing the nation today, and to improve the quality of life of the common man at lowest possible cost.
 
The Prime Minister spoke of cooperation between India and Israel for innovation in areas such as food, water, health and energy. He said this cooperation between the two countries would write a new chapter in the history of mankind in the 21st century. 
 
Also at iCreate are 36 startups, 18 from each country, that were chosen to find joint responses to global water, agriculture and health challenges. The plan is pursuant to an Israeli government decision that was made approximately two weeks before Indian Prime Minister Modi's visit in July last year to Israel.
 
Mr. Netanyahu issued certificates to the 18 Indian startups and Mr. Modi to the 18 Israeli startups.
 
Mr. Netanyahu also presented Mr. Modi with a Galmobile water purification vehicle via videoconference from the Rann of Kutch.
 
The Israeli Prime Minister said Mr. Modi was changing India "by the force and vision of his leadership. He is revolutionizing India, he is catapulting it into the future as one of the world's great powers. And he is doing it through the power of innovation."
 
"As you all know, I'm sure you know this – Prime Minister Modi and I are both very young and very optimistic. We're young in our thinking and we're optimistic about the future," he said.
 
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"Today, the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Israel, a historic visit, and my visit to India mark a new era of Israel-India cooperation. One of the areas we're most excited about is cooperation in technology and innovation. Prime Minister Modi is right when he says technology is central to development. He also rightly stresses – inclusive development. Inclusive development because all of us rise and fall together. 
 
"Half a year ago we launched the Israel-India innovation dream. The idea was simple: unite brilliant young Indians and brilliant young Israelis to help solve pressing global problems. Many entrepreneurs immediately recognized the potential of this idea. Over 600 companies applied to be part of the incubator. Several dozen were chosen but this is just a small sample of the scope of our cooperation," he said.
 
Earlier in the morning, Mr. Netanyahu and Mrs. Sara Netanyahu were received at the airport here by Mr. Modi. Hundreds of people, including music bands and dance troupes, lined the streets on the route from the airport to Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram, where the visitors spent some time. Among other things, Mr. Netanyahu tried his hand on the charkha, the spinning wheel.
 
Later, the two Prime Ministers visited the Centre of Excellence for Vegetables in Vadrad in Sabarkantha district of the state.
 
They were briefed on various achievements of the Centre. They also inaugurated, through a video link, the Centre of Excellence for date palms at Kukama in Kutch district. They interacted with farmers from Kutch district.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Modi said that Israel has shown the way on how to transform a nation with the agriculture sector at the core. He said it is important to use technology in the agriculture sector. He outlined how India is working towards doubling farmers' incomes by 2022. He said it is important to devote attention to irrigation and innovative methods of farming.
 
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Pravin Togadia found unconscious in Ahmedabad park: VHP

 
VHP leader Pravin Togadia found unconscious in park in Ahmedabad
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) said tonight that its international president Pravin Togadia was found in an unconscious state in a park here after he had been reported missing from the city since this morning when a team from the Rajasthan Police came to arrest him in connection with an old case.
 
A statement from the VHP said that Dr. Togadia was found lying unconscious in the park in the Shahibaug area of the city, because of hypoglycemia, and was rushed to the Chandramani Hospital in the city, where he was under treatment.
 
Dr. Roop Kumar Agrawal, who is treating him, told television channels that Dr. Togadia had been brought to the hospital around 9.15 pm in an unconscious state. He said his condition was better now, though he continued be in a "confused" state.
 
Dr. Agrawal said Dr. Togadia was suffering from hypoglycemia and had been given sugar to help stabilise his condition. "He is in a confused state, he cannot talk properly, cannot recognise," he said. He said Dr. Togadia was brought to the hospital in an 108 ambulance. His personal doctor and son were with him at the hospital now, he added.
 
Earlier, in the day, the Ahmedabad Police had launched a massive search to locate Dr. Togadia, who was last seen leaving in an autorickshaw from outside the VHP office at Paldi here in the company of an unidentified person. He had told his security personnel that they need not accompany him and that he would return in about half an hour.
 
Meanwhile, there were reports that he had been placed under arrest by either the Rajasthan Police or the Gujarat Police but this was denied by them.
 
Police officials said that a team from Rajasthan Police did reach the Sola Police Station here with a warrant for Dr. Togadia's arrest but they did not find him at his residence in the Thaltej locality.
 
VHP workers, who thought their leader had been arrested, staged protests in the city.
 
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Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu arrives on six-day state visit to India

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Delhi on Sunday on a six-day state visit to India during which he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold discussions on shaping bilateral relations between the two countries for the next 25 years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi receiving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Delhi airport on January 14, 2018
Prime Minister Narendra Modi receiving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Delhi airport on January 14, 2018
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived here today on a six-day state visit to India during which he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold discussions on shaping bilateral relations between the two countries for the next 25 years.
 
In a special gesture, Mr. Modi drove to the Delhi Airport to receive Mr. Netanyahu, who is accompanied by his wife Sara Netanyahu.
 
The two Prime Ministers greeted each other with a warm hug and a shakehand.
 
Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Modi drove from the airport to Teen Murti Chowk to attend a ceremony at which it was renamed as Teen Murti Haifa Chowk in memory of the supreme sacrifice by Indian soldiers to liberate Haifa in Israel in 1918. The two Prime Ministers laid wreaths at the memorial.
 
The three bronze statues at Teen Murti represent the Hyderabad, Jodhpur and Mysore Lancers who were part of the 15 Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade that carried out the victorious assault on the city of Haifa on September 23, 1918 during World War I. 
 
Later, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on the Israeli Prime Minister, when they discussed various aspects of the bilateral ties and ways of strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries.
 
During his stay in India, Mr. Netanyahu will also travel to Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, Gujarat and Mumbai before flying back home.
 
This is Mr. Netanyahu's first visit to India. The two countries had, on the  occasion of commemoration of 25 years of establishing diplomatic relations, it was decided to exchange the visits of both the Prime Ministers. Accordingly, Mr. Modi had visited Israel in July 2017, and during that visit, India's relations with Israel were upgraded to a strategic partnership with special focus on agriculture and water. 
 
Both the sides are expected to conclude memoranda of understanding (MoUs) and agreements in the aeas of cyber security, space, film production and energy, a press release from the Ministry of External Affairs added.
 
In Delhi, apart from holding bilateral talks with Mr. Modi tomorrow, Mr. Netanyahu will call on President Ram Nath Kovind. The two Prime Ministers will attend the 2nd India-Israel CEOs Forum. The first CEOs Forum was held during Mr. Modi's visit to Israel.
 
 
Modi, Netanyahu visit Teen Murti Chowk
Mr. Netanyahu will also inaugurate the Raisina Dialogue, organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
 
Both the sides are expected to conclude MoUs/Agreements in the area of cyber, space, film production and energy.
 
In Gujarat, the two Prime Ministers will visit the Center of Excellence in Vadrad and inaugurate a Center of Excellence for date palms in Bhuj via video conference. They will also visit the iCreate innovation campus and center.
 
In Mumbai, Mr. Netanyahu will meet with Jewish community leaders and select members of the Indian business community. He will also reach out to Bollywood in an exclusive “Shalom Bollywood” event.
 
Ahead of the visit, the Israeli Ambassador to India, Mr. Daniel Carmon said, “The Prime Minister’s visit to India is the grand finale to the celebrations of 25 years of growing partnership between India and Israel. The visit will focus on the progress made between India and Israel since Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Israel last summer, and on shaping the next 25 years of relations between our countries and our peoples.”
 
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Four of family die in fire in grocery store in Ahmedabad

 
Four die in fire at grocery store in Ahmedabad
Four members of a family died of asphyxiation after a fire broke out in a grocery store located on the ground floor of a residential tower in the Shastrinagar of the city early this morning.
 
The family, which hailed from Rajasthan, was living in the tiny store, which they owned, and did not have a chance to escape as the flames and smoke quickly engulfed the premises.
 
A seven-year-old daughter of the family escaped the fire because she had left for school before it broke out.
 
Fire brigade personnel who rushed to the scene had to break open the shutters of the store to get inside and control the flames.
 
The cause of the fire could not be immediately ascertained and will be investigated, sources said.
 
Fire brigade officials said the store had only a single entry and exit and did not have any ventilation.
 
The victims were identified as Sunil Chaudhary, 40, Mohan Chaudhary, 32, Leela Chaudhary, 27, and 3-year-old Arjun Chaudhary.
 
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Ahmedabad Space Application Centre developing new remote sensor camera

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The Space Application Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad, is all set to develop a new advanced hi-tech remote sensor camera with a capacity to capture images/pictures from a height of over 300 km.
 
This was disclosed by the Union Minister of State for Atomic Energy and Space Jitendra Singh after a visit to the Remote Sensor Unit of the SAC here yesterday.
 
An official press release said Dr Jitendra Singh held a detailed update meeting with Director, SAC, Dr Tapan Misra and other members of the scientific fraternity at the Centre. He also went around different sections of the Instrument Manufacturing and Upgrading Unit.
 
The Minister was informed that the new remote sensor camera will be fully indigenous, living up to the Make in India concept and could be available by early next year. The new gadget will be an improvement on the existing application used for infrastructure development works, soil management and even security-related tasks.
 
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Secular foundations of country must be strengthened further: Naidu

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Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu today said the secular foundations of the country must be strengthened further and any attempt to create differences in the name of religion by vested interests and religious extremists must be nipped in the bud.
 
Mr. Naidu was addressing the members of Parsi community on the occasion of Iranshah Udvada Utsav 2017, in this village where the Atash Bahram, one of the eight fire temples of the Zoroastrian religion is located.  
 
“Unless there is social cohesion, communal harmony and religious tolerance, the progress and development of the country will suffer. With robust macroeconomic fundamentals in place, India is projected to be the third largest economy in the world by 2028.
 
“However, to achieve rapid economic growth and the New India of prosperity and peace, every Indian should work shoulder-to-shoulder in eradicating the evils like corruption, black money, castism and criminalization of politics as also in eliminating impediments such as illiteracy, gender discrimination and atrocities on weaker sections,” he added.
 
The Parsi community has made an invaluable contribution to the country’s growth and progress in diverse fields from atomic energy to pharmaceuticals, he said.
 
India’s syncretic culture and ethos form the basis of the country’s secularism. Secularism was in the DNA of every Indian much before it was enshrined in the Constitution. ‘Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava’ epitomizes India’s secular ethos. India is a land of diverse cultures and religions, he added.
 
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The association of the holy fire with this historic town dates back to 1742 when the then ruler Damaji Gaikwad permitted the Sanjana Priests to settle in Udvada along with their revered fire, the Iranshah.
 
“The town with its focus on Iranshah is distinctly planned and comprises a large number of houses dating back to 250 years, reflecting the unique heritage and cultural characteristics. I am told that the Iranshah is maintained by nine priestly families who settled in the town,” he said.
 
“As part of promoting pilgrimage throughout the year to this place, the Gujarat Government has appropriately named it as Pavitra Yatradham,” he added.
 
The Vice-President said the values of tolerance and respect for all religions have been part of Indian ethos from times immemorial. 
 
Keeping the tourist potential of the town in mind, the Gujarat Government has initiated Destination Development Project and put in place some basic infrastructure in and around Iranshah Fire Temple.
 
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Rahul Gandhi says Congress lost Gujarat elections, but won in reality

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Congress President Rahul Gandhi held region-wise "introspection" meetings here today to review his party's performance in the just-concluded elections to the Gujarat Legislative Assembly and asserted later that, though it had lost the polls, it had won in reality.
 
Addressing party leaders and workers here, he asserted that the party, which ended up with 77 seats in the 182-member assembly as compared to 99 bagged by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), would win 135 seats in the next Assembly polls in 2022.
 
While the BJP won the elections for the sixth time in a row and extended its 22-year reign in Gujarat, for the Congress it was its best ever performance in the state since 1985.
 
Mr. Gandhi said that, three months ago, when the Congress began its campaign, there were questions about its ability to even fight the elections, leave alone winning. 
 
"The BJP said they would win 150 seats and that the Congress would have to rest content with 20 to 25 seats. The Gujarat Congress has shown that the party, if it fights united and stays true to its ideology, cannot lose," he said.
 
"We lost the elections, but we won. That is the reality. We won because they fought with anger, hatred, they had all the resources, money, police, Chief Ministers of different states, the support of big industrialists. We had truth on our side and we showed the entire country that the Congress, when it fights with love, it can win," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi, who took over as the president of the Congress two days after polling ended, congratulated all the newly-elected party MLAs, the state leadership of the party and the AICC representatives for running a strong campaign and putting up an impressive show in the polls. He felt that the selection of party candidates had also been done well, broadly.
 
According to him, the Congress had been able to "expose" the BJP during the elections. He said the ruling party was unable to answer any of the questions raised by the Congress during the campaign and pointed out that, towards the end of the campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked only about himself and made baseless allegations against former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Congress leaders.
 
He said Mr. Modi had stopped talking about development after the Congress had dismantled the so-called "Modi model" in Gujarat.
 
Mr. Gandhi said that the review of the party's campaign and discussions with its workers had shown that, while 90 percent of the leaders and workers had worked very hard during the elections, there were about 10 percent who did not do their bit.
 
"We will act against them," he said, to loud cheers. "We want to send a clear message. No matter how big you are, if you do not work for the party in elections, there is no future for you in the Congress."
 
"A lot of people put their everything into the elections. Everybody saw that. They will be taken forward in the organisation, but those who did not support the party fully, we will act against them, with love," he said.
 
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Mr. Gandhi said a new Congress leadership had emerged in Gujarat after the elections and they would lead the party in the next elections and form the next government in the state in 2022. "The Congress will win 135 seats," he said.
 
He told the party's newly elected MLAs that they were its ambassadors and that the people of Gujarat would be watching them. "You have to show that the Congress MLAs will fight for the people, their issues and will not step back," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said the struggle begun by the party had not ended. "Farmers voted for us, youth, women voted for us, our struggle of the past 3-4 months must be taken forward," he said.
 
He said the BJP government would work for just a few industrialists during its tenure. "It is our responsibility to protect the interests of the Gujarati people, farmers, youth. We will do it," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said the BJP had been able to win the elections mainly because it had, over the last two decades, maligned the Congress leadership with a campaign of lies.
 
"My main challenge in the elections was to  convince the Gujarat Congress that it could win. I am happy to say that we achieved our goal 70 percent, but not 100 percent. You have seen the results. Gujarat Congress now has the confidence. The difference was ten seats. You now know that the Congress can win. You will see in the next Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections, what kind of results there will be. They will be very good. All these (MLAs) will be in Government then," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi also used the opportunity to congratulate the BJP and the Chief Minister for their win in the elections. "They will run the government for the next five years, we will do the work of the Opposition," he added.
 
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Young Indian minds are bubbling with bright ideas

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Nail polish which can indicate presence of drugs or alcohol in soft drinks to prevent molestation, a guiding system for Alzheimer’s patients if they get lost, foot-operated tea making table for differently abled persons and a mechanism for unlocking car during fire.
 
These are some of the ideas selected for the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE 2017 awards which were given to children on Friday in Ahmedabad. This year the award has been to 56 school kids from 16 states who came up with 29 innovative ideas. Overall, 65,000 submissions from all over the country were received for the competition. The competition is held annually by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF), an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The awards were conferred by former President Pranab Mukherjee.
 
Speaking to India Science Wire, Rechuma Manas, who has given the idea guiding system for Alzheimer patients if they get lost, said, “We live in a small place near Guwahati where healthcare facilities are not well developed. I saw my grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s so I thought there should be some guiding system for patients like her if they get lost."
 
Another awardee Sayan Chaudhry from Delhi said he was part of IGNITE workshop last year where he went on field trip and met a tailor. An interaction with the village tailor made Sayan realized the problem and from there he thought of a stapler-like device for stitching buttons.
 
Other award winning ideas are : smart device for rag picking, expiry date stamping on eggs, wearable indicator to ensure body hydration, pothole detector in flooded conditions, currency note sterilizing machine in ATM, washing machine that can use recycled soap water, detection system in vehicles for speed breakers much in advance and school bag with foldable wheeled legs to distribute load.
 
IGNITE is a national competition of original technological ideas and innovations by children up to class 12 or those out of school up to the age of 17 years. In this competition, children have to just think of new ideas and innovations. NIF then takes up the best ones and develops prototypes, and ultimately, actual devices and products. The objective is to promote creativity and originality among children. The awards are announced every year on October 15, the birth anniversary of former President A P J Abdul Kalam.
 
The competition is organized by NIF in association with Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Honey Bee Network, and other partners. A number of other State Educational Boards such as Board of School Education Haryana, Nagaland Board of School Education, Directorate of Higher Education, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, Lok Sikshan Sanchalanalaya, Madhya Pradesh, Rajiv Gandhi Shiksha Mission, Department of School Education, Government of Chhattisgarh and Mizoram Board of School Education also actively promoted the IGNITE campaign.
 
(India Science Wire)
 
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Vijay Rupani to continue as Gujarat CM, Nitin Patel as Deputy CM

Vijay Rupani (R) and Nitin Patel (L)
Vijay Rupani (R) and Nitin Patel (L)
Incumbent Vijay Rupani was set for a second term as Chief Minister of Gujarat after the newly-elected Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators chose him as the leader and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel as the deputy leader of the BJP Legislature Party here today.
 
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who was the party's central observer, told journalists that the legislature party had unanimously elected Mr. Rupani as their leader.
 
He said Mr. Bhupendra Singh, an MLA, had proposed Mr. Rupani's name, which was seconded by five more MLAs and then put to vote. No other name was proposed, he said. Mr. Patel was similarly elected the deputy leader, he said.
 
Mr. Jaitley said Mr. Rupani, 61, would now meet Governor O. P. Kohli and stake claim to form the next government. The date of swearing in of the new Ministry would be finalised soon, he said.
 
He also said that Mr. Rupani would consult other members of the state leadership to finalise his Ministerial team.
 
In the two-phase polling held on December 9 and 14, the BJP retained power for the sixth consecutive time, though with reduced numbers, winning 99 seats in the 182-member legislative assembly. This was lower than the 115 it had won in the 2012 Assembly elections. The party has since also received support from one independent MLA, Ratansinh Rathod.
 
The opposition Congress won 77 seats, a significant improvement from its 2012 tally of 61.
 
Mr. Rupani became the Chief Minister of Gujarat on August 7, 2016 after the resignation of Ms. Anandiben Patel, who had succeeded Mr. Narendra Modi in 2014 after he became the Prime Minister and moved to Delhi.
 
He was until then the Minister for Transport, Water Supply, Labour and Employment in the Anandiben Patel government.
 
Mr. Patel, 61, who was widely tipped to be chosen as the successor to Ms. Anandiben Patel, served as Deputy Chief Minister in Mr. Rupani's Cabinet.
 
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Mr. Rupani is a prominent Jain leader and is considered to be close to both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr. Shah. He was re-elected from the Rajkot West constituency in the recent elections.
 
Born on August 2, 1956, in Yangon, Myanmar (then Burma), Mr. Rupani started his political career as a student activist and later joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Jana Sangh, the precursor of the BJP, in 1971.
 
He has served as a municipal corporator in Rajkot and as mayor of the city. He also served one term as member of the Rajya Sabha from 2006 to 2012. He was elected to Gujarat Assembly in August 2014 in a bye-election. He was inducted as a Minister by Ms. Patel when she expanded her Cabinet.
 
Mr. Rupani has a B.A. and an LL. B. from the Saurashtra University.
 
Mr. Patel, who was involved with his family business for some time, was first elected to the Gujarat Legislative Assembly in 1990 and has handled various portfolios, including Finance, Urban Development, Urban Housing, Roads and Buildings, Narmada and Petrochemicals, as a Minister since 1995-96. 
 
Earlier, he served as a member of the Kadi Municipality for 15 years and as its  president during 1988-90. He was president of Mehsana district BJP during 1997-98. He was re-elected to the legislative assembly from Mehsana in the recent elections.
 
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Voting ends in Gujarat, exit polls give the state and HP to BJP

More than 68.70% of the electors exercised their franchise in the 93 constituencies that went to the polls on Thursday in the final phase of the elections to the Gujarat Legislative Assembly and exit polls gave the State as well as Himachal Pradesh, which voted on November 9, to the BJP.

 
More than 68.70 percent of the electors exercised their franchise in the 93 constituencies that went to the polls today in the second and final phase of the elections to the 182-member Gujarat Legislative Assembly and exit polls gave the State as well as Himachal Pradesh, which voted on November 9, to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
 
An average of the results of the exit polls telecast by various television channels soon after polling ended today gave 111 seats to the ruling BJP, which has been ruling the state for 22 years, and 70 to the Congress.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, where the Congress and the BJP have alternated in office every five years for a long time now, the polls gave 48 seats to the BJP in the 68-member House and 19 to the ruling Congress.
 
Counting of votes will be taken up in both states on December 18 and all the results are expected to be out by that evening, when people will know if the exit polls are correct. Some exit polls had turned out to be wide off the mark in the past.
 
A voter turnout of 66.75% had been recorded in the first phase of voting in 89 constituencies in Gujarat on December 9, adding up to a polling percentage of about 67.75% for the state as a whole. 
 
Polling, which  began at 8 am today and ended at 5 pm, was by and large peaceful, with no major untoward incidents reported from any of the 93 constituencies spread over Central and North Gujarat, including  the  key urban centres of Ahmedabad and Vadodara.
 
The Election Commission of India (ECI) and the state authorities had made elaborate arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll.
 
The 93 constituencies have a total electorate of 2.22 crore, including 1.15 crore men and 1.07 crore women. The total electorate in the state is 4.34 crore.
 
As many as 37.37 lakh of the voters in the 93 constituencies were in the 18-25 years age group, 80.91 lakh in the 26-40 years age group, 74.15 lakh in the 41-60 years age group and 30.51 lakh in the above 60 years age group.
 
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The Election Commission had set up 22,558 polling stations in the 93 constituencies and deployed 28,114 electronic voting machines (EVMs).
 
There were a total of 851 candidates, including 69 women, in the fray for the 93 seats. Mehsana had the largest number of candidates at 34, while Jhalod (ST) witnessed a straight contest between two candidates.
 
The ruling BJP had fielded candidates in all 93 constituencies while the Congress put up its nominees for 91 seats, leaving the remaining for its allies.
 
Among other parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) contested 75 seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) 28, the Shiv Sena 17, the Janata Dal (United) 14, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) 8, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) 3 and the Communist Party of India 1. There were also 350 independent candidates in the contest.
 
Campaigning in these 93 constituencies had ended on Tuesday evening, bringing the curtains down on more than three months of often bitter electioneering in the elections, whose results are certain to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
The elections are being seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and in Gujarat.
 
The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who is all set to take over as the new president of the party on December 16.
 
Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi led a galaxy of leaders from their respective parties in the often-bitter campaign, addressing scores of meetings.
 
While the BJP made every effort to retain power in Gujarat, the Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, made a determined bid to win this time, with Mr. Gandhi leading from the front.
 
The Congress was buoyed in its efforts by the support received from three popular youth leaders -- Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore. While Mr. Thakore formally joined the party during the campaign and contested the election, Mr. Mewani was also in the fray as an independent candidate.
 
While the BJP has repeatedly said it would win at least 150 seats, a confident Mr. Gandhi asserted at a press conference in Ahmedabad on Tuesday that his party would score a big victory. 
 
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Adani Capital lends Rs. 100 crore to BSCPL Infrastructure Ltd.

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Adani Capital Pvt. Ltd., the non-banking financial company (NBFC) arm of infrastructure major Adani Group, today said it had made a structured investment of Rs. 100 crore into BSCPL Infrastructure Ltd.
 
BSCPL Infrastructure Ltd. Is a Hyderabad based EPC and development infrastructure company focussed primarily on the road sector.
 
“We have worked along with BSCPL to structure a solution that met their immediate and medium term requirements. Part of the funding would be retired out from the proceeds of a BOT asset sale which shall consummate post the completion of the project,” said Shamod Madanmohan, Executive Director, Adani Capital.
 
“The funding from Adani Capital has come in at an appropriate time, has aided in streamlining company’s operations, and has smoothened execution of the under construction projects. We look forward to building a long-term partnership with Adani Capital,” said Krishnaiah, Chairman, BSCPL Infrastructure Ltd.
 
Adani Capital, founded in 2016, marked Adani Group’s foray into the financial services business with a focus on wholesale and retail and rural financing. The firm has also initiated roll-out of retail branch network in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
 
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Polling begins for 93 seats in second phase of Gujarat Assembly elections

Polling began Thursday morning in 93 constituencies in the second phase of the elections to the 182-member Gujarat Legislative Assembly that is being seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the BJP government at the Centre and in the state.

 
Polling began this morning in 93 constituencies in the second and final phase of the elections to the 182-member Gujarat Legislative Assembly that is being seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and in the state.
 
Polling, which  began at 8 am, will end at 5 pm in these 93 constituencies which are spread over Central and North Gujarat, including  the  key urban centres of Ahmedabad and Vadodara.
 
The Election Commission of India (ECI) and the state authorities have made elaborate arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll.
 
The 93 constituencies have a total electorate of 2.22 crore, including 1.15 crore men and 1.07 crore women.
 
By area, Dariapur (6 sq km) is the smallest constituency, while Radhanpur (2,544 sq km) is the largest. By size of electorate, Limkheda with 1.87 lakh voters is the smallest constituency, while Ghatlodia with 3.52 lakh voters is the largest.
 
As many as 37.37 lakh of the voters in the 93 constituencies are in the 18-25 years age group, 80.91 lakh in the 26-40 years age group, 74.15 lakh in the 41-60 years age group and 30.51 lakh in the above 60 years age group.
 
The Election Commission has set up 22,558 polling stations in the 93 constituencies and deployed 28,114 electronic voting machines (EVMs).
 
There are a total of 851 candidates, including 69 women, in the fray for the 93 seats. Mehsana has the largest number of candidates at 34, while Jhalod (ST) will witness a straight contest between two candidates.
 
The ruling BJP has fielded candidates in all 93 constituencies while the Congress has put up its nominees for 91 seats, leaving the remaining for its allies.
 
Among other parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is contesting 75 seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) 28, the Shiv Sena 17, the Janata Dal (United) 14, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) 8, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) 3 and the Communist Party of India 1. There are also 350 independent candidates in the contest.
 
Campaigning in these 93 constituencies had ended on Tuesday evening, bringing the curtains down on more than three months of often bitter electioneering in the elections, whose results are certain to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
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The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who is all set to take over as the new president of the party in the next few days.
 
The first phase of polling in 89 constituencies was held on December 9. Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18, along with the votes cast in Himachal Pradesh, where Assembly elections were held on November 9. All results are expected to be out by that evening.
 
Mr. Modi and Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi led a galaxy of leaders from their respective parties in the often-bitter campaign, addressing scores of meetings.
 
While the BJP, which has ruled the state for 22 years, made every effort to retain power, the Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, made a determined bid to win this time, with Mr. Gandhi leading from the front.
 
The Congress was buoyed in its efforts by the support received from three popular youth leaders -- Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore. While Mr. Thakore formally joined the party during the campaign and is contesting the election, Mr. Mewani is also in the fray as an independent candidate.
 
While the BJP has repeatedly said it would win at least 150 seats, a confident Mr. Gandhi asserted at a press conference in Ahmedabad on Tuesday that his party would score a big victory. 
 
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93 constituencies to vote on Thursday in final phase of Gujarat Assembly polls

Polling will be held in 93 constituencies on Thursday in the final phase of the elections to the Gujarat Legislative Assembly which are being seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the BJP government at the Centre and in the state.

 
Polling will be held in 93 constituencies tomorrow in the second and final phase of the elections to the 182-member Gujarat Legislative Assembly that is being seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and in the state.
 
Campaigning in these 93 constituencies, spread over Central and North Gujarat, including the key urban centres of Ahmedabad and Vadodara, had ended yesterday evening, bringing the curtains down on more than three months of often bitter electioneering in the elections, whose results are certain to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who is all set to take over as the new president of the party in the next few days.
 
The first phase of polling in 89 constituencies was held on December 9. Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18, along with the votes cast in Himachal Pradesh, where Assembly elections were held on November 9. All results are expected to be out by that evening.
 
Mr. Modi and Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi led a galaxy of leaders from their respective parties in the often-bitter campaign, addressing scores of meetings.
 
While the BJP, which has ruled the state for 22 years, made every effort to retain power, the Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, made a determined bid to win this time, with Mr. Gandhi leading from the front.
 
The Congress was buoyed in its efforts by the support received from three popular youth leaders -- Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore. While Mr. Thakore formally joined the party during the campaign and is contesting the election, Mr. Mewani is also in the fray as an independent candidate.
 
While the BJP has repeatedly said it would win at least 150 seats, a confident Mr. Gandhi asserted at a press conference in Ahmedabad yesterday that his party would score a big victory. 
 
Polling will begin at 8 am tomorrow and end at 5 pm. The Election Commission of India (ECI) and the state authorities have made elaborate arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll.
 
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The 93 constituencies have a total electorate of 2.22 crore, including 1.15 crore men and 1.07 crore women.
 
By area, Dariapur (6 sq km) is the smallest constituency, while Radhanpur (2,544 sq km) is the largest. By size of electorate, Limkheda with 1.87 lakh voters is the smallest constituency, while Ghatlodia with 3.52 lakh voters is the largest.
 
As many as 37.37 lakh of the voters in the 93 constituencies are in the 18-25 years age group, 80.91 lakh in the 26-40 years age group, 74.15 lakh in the 41-60 years age group and 30.51 lakh in the above 60 years age group.
 
The Election Commission has set up 22,558 polling stations in the 93 constituencies and deployed 28,114 electronic voting machines (EVMs).
 
There are a total of 851 candidates, including 69 women, in the fray for the 93 seats. Mehsana has the largest number of candidates at 34, while Jhalod (ST) will witness a straight contest between two candidates.
 
The ruling BJP has fielded candidates in all 93 constituencies while the Congress has put up its nominees for 91 seats, leaving the remaining for its allies.
 
Among other parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is contesting 75 seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) 28, the Shiv Sena 17, the Janata Dal (United) 14, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) 8, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) 3 and the Communist Party of India 1. There are also 350 independent candidates in the contest.
 
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As Gujarat campaign ends, Modi says BJP victory would "guarantee bright future" for State

 
Modi flies by seaplane from Sabarmati river to Ambaji temple
As campaigning for the second and final phase of polling in the Gujarat Assembly elections drew to a close this evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said a victory for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was a "guarantee for a bright future" for the State.
 
In a series of posts on his Twitter page, he urged the people of Gujarat to vote in record numbers in the second round of voting on December 14. The first phase of polling was held on December 9.
 
"I call upon the people of Gujarat to not only give the BJP an overwhelming majority but also ensure that BJP wins in every polling booth across the state.
 
"No Gujarati will let go off a golden opportunity of development of our youth and coming generations. Victory of BJP is a guarantee for a bright future," he said.
 
"I am devoting my life for the betterment of crores of people of Gujarat and India. Have been fortunate to always get your blessings. I am sure you will continue to bless us in these elections too by voting for BJP," he said.
 
"With the Government of India and Government of Gujarat working together, the strength rises manifold. This 1+ 1 is not 2 but 11 and together we will take Gujarat to new heights," Mr. Modi said.
 
"The lies that our worthy opponents have spread, about Gujarat, Gujarat’s growth and about me personally is something I had never imagined. It is natural for every Gujarati to feel hurt. People of Gujarat will give a fitting reply to the negativity and lies of the opposition," he said.
 
"Campaigning for the Gujarat Assembly Elections 2017 ends. After three and a half years, I got the honour to travel across the length and breadth of Gujarat to seek the blessings of the people," Mr. Modi said.
 
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"During my travels across Gujarat, the level of affection I have received from the people is unparalleled in my 40 years of public life. This affection gives me strength and motivates me to devote all my time for India’s development," he added.
 
Earlier in the day, Mr. Modi flew in a seaplane from the Sabarmati river here to Dharoi dam in Mehsana district and then drove from there to the famous Ambaji Temple in Banaskantha district, where he offered prayers.
 
In the temple town, Mr. Modi was greeted by people, who had lined up on both sides of the road.
 
"Earlier today, I travelled on a sea plane from Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati River to Dharoi Dam, taking off and landing on water. This experience was unique. It adds strength to our resolve to harness waterways for India’s progress," he said on Twitter.
 
"Effective use of waterways augurs well for tourism. Places like Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, our vibrant North East, places with many water bodies, big dams, waterways will benefit with usage of sea planes. More tourism also brings greater economic opportunities.
 
"Sea plane services can also be helpful during times of medical emergencies. Those needing even quicker access to medical care and those living in remote areas stand to gain a lot," he added.
 
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Rahul Gandhi says Modi's remarks against Manmohan Singh also "unacceptable"

Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi addressing a press conference in Ahmedabad on December 12, 2017
Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi addressing a press conference in Ahmedabad on December 12, 2017
Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi today asserted once again that he would not tolerate insulting language against Prime Minister Narendra Modi by any  of his colleagues but pointed out that the remarks made by Mr. Modi against former Prime Minister and senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh were equally unacceptable.
 
"My position on this is very cllear. The way Mani Shankar Aiyar ji talked about the Prime Minister of India is unacceptable. He is Modiji, but he is also the Prime Minister of India. I have made it clear. I will not tolerate this. You have seen the action," he said at a press conference here on the last day of campaigning for the elections to the 182-member Gujarat Legislative Assembly.
 
Mr. Aiyar, a former Union Minister, was asked by Mr. Gandhi to apologise for his remarks and he was later placed under suspension from the primary membership of the party.
 
"The way Narendra Modi ji has talked about Manmohan Singh ji, that also is not acceptable. Dr. Manmohan Singh has served as Prime Minister of India and has made sacrifices for the nation. So the way Narendra Modi ji has spoke about him, that is also not acceptable," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi, who is slated to take over as the new President of the 132-year-old Congress in the next few days, said his party would score a big win in the elections. "You will see 'zabardast' results," he said.
 
He said he and his colleagues had, in the past three or four months, travelled thousands of kilometres across the state, met all sections of people -- farmers, labourers, ASHAs, Anganwadi workers, youth, teachers and small businessmen -- and drawn up a "robust" vision for Gujarat with the help of former Telecom Commission Chairman Sam Pitroda and others.
 
He said that his party's main argument in the elections had been that, in the last 22 years, Mr. Modi, who was Chief Minister of Gujarat for 12 years before becoming Prime Minister and Mr. Vijay Rupani, the current Chief Minister, had presided over "one-sided" development, in which "five-six" industrialists got all the benefits and the people of the State did not get the benefits they should have.
 
Mr. Gandhi said that this is also what the people of the State told them. He said 90 percent of the colleges in the state were privatised, the private sector hospitals were out of the reach of the common man, and huge benefits were given to the industry while farmers were denied fair prices for their produce.
 
He said the BJP could not talk about development during the campaign and the biggest sign of its desperation was how Mr. Modi focused on the Congress and on himself in the last days of electioneering.
 
He also said that Mr. Modi remained totally silent on corruption and had not answered questions raised about the business of BJP President Amit Shah's son Jay Shah or the Rafale deal with France. He said there was also no mention in his speeches of education, healthcare, farmers and so on.
 
To questions about his visits to temples across the state during the campaign, which led to allegations that his party was practising "soft Hindutva", he said this was because he had travelled by road this time, and wherever there was a temple on the route, he visited it. "Is it forbidden to visit temples?" he asked.
 
He also pointed out that he regularly visited temples and had trekked kilometres to visit Kedarnath Temple in Uttarakhand.
 
To another query, he said he had prayed for the "golden future" of the people of the state. "I prayed for a good future for the youth and the farmers of the state," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said that the Congress, if voted to power in Gujarat, would work for the balanced development of the state. He said there would be particular focus on areas such as agriculture, including the waiver of farm loans, education, healthcare, jobs and so on. In healthcare, the party has promised to provide free medicines on the lines of a similar scheme its government in Rajasthan had introduced some years ago.
 
He also promised support for small shopkeepers and traders, many of whom were hit badly by the demonetisation and the Goods and Service Tax (GST).
 
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Mr. Gandhi said the Congress would also ensure that fixed pay and contract employment in the education sector was ended. He said he was touched by the anguish voiced by a lady teacher in this regard at one of his interactions in the State.
 
Asked how the party would implement some "difficult" promises such as higher prices for farm produce, he said it all depended on the "intention". He said the Congress intended to fulfill all its promises, and had a record in this matter.
 
Mr. Gandhi accused Mr. Modi of running away from issues like corruption and said the Government had postponed the Winter Session of Parliament because it did not want to face debates on the Jay Shah and Rafale issues, among others.
 
He denied allegations that the Congress had fanned casteism during the election campaign, and said that, if elected, the party would carry forward everyone together. He said every section in Gujarat was agitated about the lack of development.
 
Asked about Mr. Modi's seaplane flight today, Mr. Gandhi described it as just a "political distraction". He said the real question was whether the BJP government in Gujarat had delivered on development in the state.
 
He said the kind of love and adulation he had received from people across the state during the campaign was something he would never forget in his life. "I told them that if they ever need me, whenever you call, I will be there," he added.
 
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Campaigning ends for second and final phase of Gujarat Assembly elections

Campaigning came to an end on Tuesday evening in 93 constituencies that will go to the polls on December 14 in the second and final phase of polling in the keenly contested elections to the 182-member Gujarat Legislative Assembly.

 
Campaigning came to an end this evening in 93 constituencies that will go to the polls on December 14 in the second and final phase of polling in the keenly  contested elections to the 182-member Gujarat Legislative Assembly that have become a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and in the state.
 
With this, the curtains have come down on more than three months of often bitter electioneering in the elections, whose results are certain to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who is all set to take over as the new president of the party in the next few days.
 
The first phase of polling in 89 constituencies was held on December 9. Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18, along with the votes cast in Himachal Pradesh, where Assembly elections were held on November 9. All results are expected to be out by that evening.
 
On the last day campaigning today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a seaplane from the Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad to the Ambaji temple in the state to highlight the development that he claims 22 years of BJP rule have brought to the state.
 
Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi also visited a temple in the city and later addressed a press conference here, at which he brushed aside Mr. Modi's plane ride as "political distraction" and attacked the Prime Minister for ignoring issues affecting the common man in the state and remaining silent on allegations of corruption.
 
Senior leaders of both parties, who are the main players in the contest, criss-crossed the constituencies going to the polls tomorrow to garner last-minute support for their candidates. While the BJP is trying hard to retain power, the Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, is making a determined bid to win, with Mr. Gandhi leading from the front.
 
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Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, who has aligned with the Congress in these elections, held a road show in Vadodara today after a similar show of strength in Ahmedabad yesterday.
 
While the BJP has repeatedly said it would win at least 150 seats, a confident Mr. Gandhi asserted at his press conference that his party would score a big victory. 
 
The 93 constituencies have a total electorate of 2.22 crore, including 1.15 crore men and 1.07 crore women.
 
By area, Dariapur (6 sq km) is the smallest constituency, while Radhanpur (2,544 sq km) is the largest. By size of electorate, Limkheda with 1.87 lakh voters is the smallest constituency, while Ghatlodia with 3.52 lakh voters is the largest.
 
As many as 37.37 lakh of the voters in the 93 constituencies are in the 18-25 years age group, 80.91 lakh in the 26-40 years age group, 74.15 lakh in the 41-60 years age group and 30.51 lakh in the above 60 years age group.
 
The Election Commission has set up 22,558 polling stations in the 93 constituencies and deployed 28,114 electronic voting machines (EVMs).
 
There are a total of 851 candidates, including 69 women, in the fray for the 93 seats. Mehsana has the largest number of candidates at 34, while Jhalod (ST) will witness a straight contest between two candidates.
 
The ruling BJP has fielded candidates in all 93 constituencies while the Congress has put up its nominees for 91 seats, leaving the remaining for its allies.
 
Among other parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is contesting 75 seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) 28, the Shiv Sena 17, the Janata Dal (United) 14, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) 8, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) 3 and the Communist Party of India 1. There are also 350 independent candidates in the contest.
 
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68% turnout in 89 constituencies in first phase of Gujarat Assembly polls

More than 68 percent of the electorate turned out to exercise their franchise in the polling for 89 seats in the first phase of the crucial elections to the 182-member Gujarat Legislative Assembly on Saturday.

 
68% voting in Phase I of Gujarat Assembly polls
More than 68 percent of the electorate turned out to exercise their franchise in the polling for 89 seats in the first phase of the crucial elections to the 182-member Gujarat Legislative Assembly today.
 
The elections are being seen as a major test of the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was earlier the Chief Minister of the State for more than 12 years, and of the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments at the Centre and in the State.
 
The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who is all set to take over as the new president of the party in the next few days.
 
The elections have become a keenly-contested affair, with the Congress under Mr. Gandhi making a determined bid to wrest power from the BJP, which has been in power for 22 years.
 
Voting, which began at 8 am and ended at 5 pm, passed off peacefully without any major untoward incident, Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha told journalists in New Delhi.
 
He said the final voting percentage would be a little higher because there were long queues of voters outside many polling stations at 5 pm and the final polling figures would be available only later this evening.
 
The 89 constituencies that went to the polls are spread over 19 districts in the Kutch, Saurashtra and South Gujarat regions of the state. Campaigning for these seats had ended on Thursday evening.
 
These constituencies had recorded 70.75% polling in the last Assembly elections in 2012.
 
Among the 19 districts, the highest polling percentage was recorded at 75 percent in Morbi and Navsari, followed by 73 percent in Narmada and Tapi districts.
 
The voting percentage in other districts was as follows: Kutch 63%, Surendranagar 65%, Rajkot 70%, Junagadh 65%, Devbhumi Dwarka 63%, Porbandar 60%, Junagadh 65%, Gir Somnath 70%, Amreli 67%, Bhavnagar 62%, Botad 60%, Bharuch 71%, Surat 70%, Dangs 70% and Valsad 70%.
 
The 89 constituencies have a total electorate of 2.12 crore, including 1.11 crore men and 1.01 crore women.
 
Among the voters, there are 35.29 lakh in the 18-25 years age group, 78.68 lakh in the 26-40 age group, 70.31 lakh in the 41-60 age group and 28.01 lakh in the over 60 age group.
 
There were a total of 977 candidates, including 58 women, in the fray in the 89 constituencies. Jamnagar Rural had the highest number of candidates at 27, while Jhagadia (ST) and Gandevi (ST) had the least at three each.
 
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The ruling BJP fielded candidates in all 89 constituencies, while the Congress put up its nominees in 87, leaving the remaining two for its allies. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) contested 64 seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) 30, the Shiv Sena 25, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) 21 and  the Janata Dal (United) 14. There were also 443 independent candidates.
 
Prominent candidates whose electoral fate was decided today include Chief Minister Vijay Rupani who faces Indranil Rajyaguru of the Congress in Rajkot (West) and Congress leaders Shaktisinh Gohil (Mandvi) and Paresh Dhanani (Amreli).
 
The Election Commission of India (ECI) had deployed 27,158 electronic voting machines (EVMs) at 24,689 polling stations in the first phase of voting.
 
The ECI and the state authorities had made  arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll. Tight security arrangements are in place and more than 1.74 lakh police personnel have been deployed to maintain order during the polls.
 
The ECI had deployed 57 general observers, 39 expenditure observers and 31 police observers in these 89 constituencies.
 
The Commission said it had put in place an elaborate framework of administrative system, security protocols and procedural checks-and-balances in Gujarat, which prevent any possible misuse of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifitable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units or procedural lapses in their use.
 
"These safeguards are being implemented by ECI, in total transparency, with the active and documented involvement of political parties, candidates and their representatives at every stage, so as to build their confidence on efficacy and reliability of EVMs and VVPATs. All these functions and procedures are implemented through the District Election Officers (DEOs), Returning Officers (ROs), Assistant Returning Officers (AROs) and other election related officers concerned, who are on deemed deputation to the ECI and are under its superintendence, direction and control," an ECI press release said.
 
In order to provide 100% voter verifiability and auditability of every vote cast through the EVM, the Commission said it had deployed VVPAT machines in all the 50,128 polling stations in Gujarat, excluding Auxiliary Polling Stations. In the VVPAT machine, a paper slip is generated bearing the name and symbol of the candidate to whom the vote has been cast and remains visible to the voter through a transparent window for 7 seconds. 
 
"Thus, the VVPAT enables the voter to verify instantly that the vote cast by him has been recorded correctly in favour of the candidate of his choice, thereby injecting greater transparency and credibility to the whole voting process," it said.
 
The second and final phase of polling will be held on December 14 and counting of votes will be taken up on December 18, along with Himachal Pradesh, where polling was held on November 9.
 
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