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Gujarat

Hardik slapped at rally, slugfest between BJP, Congress

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Firebrand Patidar leader Hardik Patel was on Friday slapped at a public meeting in Gujarat's Surendranagar district by a man who alleged Patel was playing politics with the sentiments of the community.
 
Patel was addressing an election rally described as a 'Jan Aakrosh Sabha' at Baldana village when a man identified as Tarun Gajjar from Kadi town in north Gujarat climbed onto the stage and slapped him. Gajjar was heard saying that 14 Patidar youngsters had been killed in 2015 during Hardik Patel's agitation for reservations to the community but now the latter was playing politics over it.
 
He was later overpowered by Congress workers who thrashed him and took him away from the venue of the rally. Gajjar was detained by the police who also hospitalized him for treatment.
 
The attack snowballed into a political slugfest between the BJP and the Congress with the latter blaming the ruling party for the incident and the former calling it a gimmick to gain sympathy.
 
The Congress dashed off a memorandum to the Election Commission demanding that Patel be immediately provided protection and his Y Category security cover which was removed "for reasons best known by the state government" be restored.
 
It alleged that the BJP was deliberately attempting to disrupt the election meetings of the party. 
 
BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya, however, strongly denied it, claiming that the Patidars were disillusioned by Hardik Patel and so he was inviting public anger, for which the BJP should not be blamed.
 
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also plunged into the matter, saying: "As stated by the assailant himself, the slap was an expression of his anger against Hardik for personal reasons and the BJP had nothing to do with it. I suspect it could be a Congress-sponsored drama to catch people's sympathy."
 
He said that the "peace-loving" BJP or any of its workers could never indulge in such violent activities and said that the culprit would be punished. His deputy, Nitin Patel, asserted that the Patidar leader was being paid back in his own coin by the community. 
 
Hardik Patel, who later lodged a complaint at the Wadhvan police station, said: "This was the handiwork of the BJP, and the party may someday send someone to shoot me but our fight will continue."
 
Meanwhile, Gajjar told reporters from his hospital bed that he was not a Patidar and he slapped the leader because he and his family "suffered" medical emergencies because Hardik held rallies and meetings blocking traffic in his hometown in 2015.
 
"My wife had even suffered a miscarriage. I wanted to take revenge on Hardik for the last three years and got the opportunity today." He claimed it was his "personal decision". 
 
Tarun's father Manu Gajjar, however, said he did not know anything about his daughter-in-law's alleged miscarriage, nor Tarun had ever said anything about his anger against Hardik at home. He also claimed that Tarun was "missing" for the last 15 days or so and did not contact his family in Kadi.
 
Postings on Tarun's Facebook page give ample evidence of his sympathy for the BJP. The page was full of pro-Narendra Modi, pro-BJP and anti-Congress postings. There also was not a single posting to indicate that he had any personal enmity with Hardik or his agitation.
 
Meanwhile, Hardik Patel's former associate in his Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) Reshma Patel, who had joined the BJP but later quit it, was attacked allegedly by three BJP workers at Vanthali in Junagadh district this morning.
 
Reshma Patel, a Nationalist Congress Party candidate for the Manavadar state Assembly seat where a bye-election is scheduled to be held along with the Lok Sabha poll on April 23, was admitted in a hospital with injuries.
 
The bye-election was necessitated after sitting Congress legislator Jawahar Chavda quit and joined the BJP to be made a minister in the Vijay Rupani cabinet. He is contesting the election on a BJP ticket. 
 
No arrest has yet been made in this connection.
 
IANS

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13 killed in Gujarat in unseasonal rain, dust storm

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Unseasonal rain and severe dust storm in different parts of Gujarat over the last two days claimed 13 lives even as authorities Thursday predicted that temperatures that had fallen to less than 3 to 7 degrees below normal would rise from next week to mark a normal summer.
 
Officials at the State Emergency Operations Centre (SEOC) in Gandhinagar said the deaths occurred due to different reasons ranging from electrocution, lightning strikes and uprooting of trees.
 
The worst affected districts were in North Gujarat and the western Saurashtra regions. As on Wednesday evening, as many as 13 deaths were reported while many people suffered injuries.
 
Mehsana district reported the maximum of five deaths followed by Banaskantha (2) and one each in Patan, Sabarkantha and Ahmedabad in North Gujarat region. One person each was killed in Rajkot, Morbi and Surendranagar in Saurashtra, according to Gopal Bhayani at the SEOC.
 
Bhayani told IANS that there were no reports of dust storms or rain from any part of the state from Wednesday evening onwards. He said the heavy rains were preceded by dust storms in most parts of Gujarat.
 
The central and state governments announced Rs 2 lakh compensation to the next-of-kin of those killed. 
 
First, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the compensation from the PM Relief Fund, followed by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who also announced Rs 2 lakh relief. 
 
In all, the families of those who died will receive compensation of Rs 4 lakh.
 
IANS
 

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50 killed, scores hurt in rain, thunderstorm in north-west India

 
Heavy storm hits Western & Central India, takes lives
As many as 50 people were reportedly killed and scores of others injured in thunderstorms, hail and dust-storm and rain that lashed Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana since Tuesday evening.
 
The maximum number of deaths was reported from Rajasthan where 25 people were said to have lost their lives in a severe thunderstorm that struck the state.
 
An active western disturbance over eastern Iran and neighbourhood had been moving eastward since Monday, which caused cyclonic circulation over southwest Rajasthan and its neighbourhood at lower tropospheric levels, said the Met department.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh each from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund for the families of those killed in the natural calamity.
 
Rajasthan Relief and Disaster Management Secretary Ashutosh A. T. Pednekar said five people died in Udaipur, four each in Jhalawad and Jaipur, two each in Bundi, Jalore and Rajsamand, and one each in Baran, Bhilwara, Alwar, Hanumangarh, Pali and Pratapgarh districts.
 
Winds blowing at 60 kmph blew away roofs of many houses and uprooted trees and electric poles in many parts of the state, officials said.
 
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has announced Rs 4 lakh ex-gratia payment for the families of the deceased.
 
In Madhya Pradesh, 15 people died in the untimely rain and accompanying lightning on Tuesday evening. "Three persons each died in Indore, Dhar and Shajapur, two in Ratlam, and one each in Chhindwara, Rajgarh, Sehore and Alirajpur areas," an official statement said. 
 
Officials said pouring rain damaged properties in Bhopal, Indore, Dhar, Shajapur, Sehore, Ujjain, Ratlam, Khargone, Badwani, Chhindwara, Alirajpur and Rajgarh areas.
 
Extensive damage to crops has also been reported from many parts of the state.
 
Expressing grief over the deaths, Chief Minister Kamal Nath in a tweet assured all support to the affected families and farmers whose crop has been destroyed in the hailstorm.
 
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In Maharashtra, 11 people were killed over the past 72 hours, besides four others last week, in thunderstorms accompanied by lightning and rain, officials said. Among the victims were nine killed by lightning between Sunday and Tuesday, and four by thunderbolts on April 4-5.
 
Parts of Mumbai and suburbs, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Palghar received showers on Sunday and Monday. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Wednesday forecast thunderstorms with lightning and strong winds at various places in Nanded, Latur and Osmanabad.
 
In Gujarat, according to unofficial reports, 12 people died in the rain, hailstorm and dust-storm that hit the state towards Tuesday evening. The maximum loss of life and property was reported from the Saurashtra and north Gujarat regions. 
 
Meanwhile, a report from Chandigarh said standing wheat crop was damaged after rain, dust-storm and strong winds lashed Punjab and Haryana on Tuesday-Wednesday. Harvesting of wheat is on for the past 10 days in most parts of the two states.
 
The Punjab government has ordered a special survey to assess crop damage. 
 
According to the Met department on Wednesday evening, the Western Disturbance, which caused severe weather over major parts of northwest India and adjoining central India on Wednesday, has further moved eastwards. The resultant reduction in moisture incursion from the Arabian Sea is likely to weaken the intensity of the system from Thursday. 
 
However, fairly widespread to widespread rainfall with isolated thunderstorms, lightning and gusty winds (speed reaching 40-50 kmph) are likely over Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh & Delhi, northeast Rajasthan, UP, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand during the next 24 hours. 
 
Isolated thundersquall and hail-storms are likely over East MP and north Chhattisgarh during the next 24 hours. Thundersqualls are also likely over Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura during the period.
 
IANS
 

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NYAY to be catalyst of growth, job creation: Rahul Gandhi

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Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday said his party's promised Nyay (Nyuntan Aay Yojana) will prove a catalyst of growth and job creation and go on to undo the "massive damage" that demonetization and GST had done to the country's economy.
 
Addressing an election rally in Mahuva in the Saurashtra region, which had brought the Congress on the verge of victory in the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections, Gandhi said: "Narendra Modi's fake promise of Rs 15 lakh in everyone's account aroused a more feasible idea in my mind of putting Rs 72,000 every year into the hands of 5 crore families under the Nyay scheme."
 
He said a team of economists and experts had worked out the Nyay scheme with an explanation that this would not take away any section's due and this was possible to implement if money "is not illegitimately put into the hands of a few crony capitalists".
 
Gandhi said: "This Rs 72,000 in the hands of the poor will ramp up the purchasing power of the people. Once that happens, the small and medium-scale businesses, which were closed down after 'notebandhi' and Gabbar Singh Tax (GST) will rev up to life. Once that happens, job creation will start. Just like a vehicle engine, this will start up the system."
 
Gandhi reiterated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was going out of his way to enrich a handful of corporates. 
 
"He wants us to believe that he is our chowkidar, whereas he is the chowkidar of Ambani and Adani and the likes," Gandhi asserted, amid deafening cries from the crowds.
 
He said: "When we spoke about Nyay, Narendra Modi asked where will this money come from? When we speak about loan waiver to farmers, Narendra Modi asks where will the money come from? Whenever we speak of any welfare scheme for the poor, he asks where will the money come from?
 
"I will tell you where will it come from. It will come from the pockets of thieves.
 
"They (government) don't have money to waive the debts of farmers, but Narendra Modiji waived Rs 300,000 crore dues of a handful of corporates," he added.
 
Gandhi said the moment Congress governments were formed in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the debts of farmers were waived off. "I had promised this in Gujarat and we were close to it. BJP baal-baal bach gayi."
 
IANS
 

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Alpesh Thakore quits Congress, takes one MLA along

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After days of pulls and pressures and flip-flops, maverick Gujarat legislator Alpesh Thakore finally resigned from the Congress on Wednesday, along with another MLA owing allegiance to his Gujarat Kshatriya Thakore Sena, claiming that the party's state leadership had "sidelined" him and not given him respect.
 
Alpesh Thakore, who is an MLA from Radhanpur, however, said that he and his associate Dhavalsinh Jhala, the legislator from Bayad, would continue as MLAs and would "never join the BJP". 
 
They would, however, campaign for Swarupji Thakore who is contesting the Banaskantha Lok Sabha seat as an independent candidate and Natwarji Thakore, fighting the Unjha Assembly bye-election, both in north Gujarat.
 
In his resignation letter to state Congress President Amit Chavda, the OBC leader claimed he, his community and supporters were feeling "cheated" and "ignored" within the party set-up and were suffocated.
 
"The youth of my organization are angry over insults and being ignored by Congress. To me, my organization is supreme... It is my organisation's order that I should not be at the place where I am ignored, insulted and betrayed."
 
Speaking to reporters later at his office in Ahmedabad, he said while he had resigned from all posts of Congress, he would continue to remain a legislator. 
 
Hinting at his future, he said: "We will show the strength of our organization and it is we who will make the king of the state in 2022." 
 
Congress sources said Alpesh Thakore had been smarting after the party denied him a ticket to contest the Patan Lok Sabha seat, which he claimed he could easily win, and chose veteran party hand and former MP Jagdish Thakore.
 
The party also ignored the Thakore Sena's demand for tickets to contest the Sabarkantha and Banaskantha seats.
 
The development came hours after the core committee of the Gujarat Kshatriya Thakore Sena, which he had himself floated several years ago, late on Tuesday night, decided to sever all ties with the Congress and exhorted Thakore to resign from the party.
 
"During our meeting we decided that the Thakore Sena would have no ties with the Congress. We did not consult Alpesh Thakore but we have conveyed him to make up his mind within 24 hours," Jagat Thakore, member of the Thakore Sena, told reporters.
 
Alpesh Thakore had joined the Congress ahead of the 2017 assembly elections and was elected from Radhanpur seat on a party ticket. He recently met Congress President Rahul Gandhi and conveyed his displeasure against the functioning of the party's state leadership.
 
However, days after this, he claimed his issues were sorted out. He was learnt to be miffed with the party leadership that they selected senior Congress leader Jagdish Thakore for the Patan seat.
 
Asked about this, he said: "We have no issues. You may give tickets to whoever you want but at least consult and take the youth in confidence."
 
IANS
 

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Day before polls, Alpesh Thakore quits Congress

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Congress's maverick Gujarat legislator Alpesh Thakore, who had been keeping the party on tenterhooks for some time, resigned on Wednesday, over his "sidelining" by state leaders in several key issues.
 
Thakore was due to address a press meet soon to formally announce his decision.
 
The development came hours after the core committee of the Gujarat Kshatriya Thakore Sena, which he had himself floated several years ago, late on Thursday night, decided to sever all ties with the Congress and exhorted Thakore to resign from the party. 
 
"During our meeting, we decided that the Thakore Sena would have no ties with the Congress. We did not consult Alpesh Thakore but we have conveyed him to make up his mind within 24 hours," Jagat Thakore, member of the Thakore Sena, told reporters.
 
"We have made it clear that if he wishes to be with the Congress, he must leave the Thakore Sena and if he remains with the Thakore Sena, he should sever ties with the Congress and resign as an MLA," he added.
 
According to Jagat Thakore, the Congress has been sidelining the Thakore Sena in the selection of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections as well as in taking important decisions.
 
Congress sources said Alpesh Thakore had been smarting after the party denied him a ticket to contest the Patan Lok Sabha seat, which he claimed he could easily win, and chose veteran party hand and former MP Jagdish Thakore. 
 
The party also ignored the Thakore Sena's demand for tickets to contest the Sabarkantha and Banaskantha seats.
 
Thakore Sena's Swarupji Thakore has already filed his nominations in Banaskantha, while another member Natwarji Thakore is contesting the bye-election to Unjha assembly constituency, as Independent candidates.
 
A prominent OBC leader, Alpesh Thakore had joined the Congress ahead of the 2017 assembly elections and won from the Radhanpur seat on a party ticket. He recently met Congress President Rahul Gandhi and conveyed his displeasure against the functioning of the party's state leadership.
 
The OBC leader had claimed his community and supporters were feeling "cheated" and "ignored" but later claimed his issues were sorted out. 
 
IANS
 

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Major fire engulfs oil cake factory in Gujarat

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A major fire erupted in Gujarat's Banaskantha district early on Wednesday, engulfing an oil cake factory. No loss of life was reported, officials said.
 
The fire broke out at the Kailash Oil Cake and Refining factory situated in Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) in Chandisar area.
 
Firefighters were rushed to the spot.
 
IANS
 

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Congress in fix over two Alpesh Thakore aides in fray

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Less than a month after he was won over by the Congress leadership, maverick legislator Alpesh Thakore seems to have decided to queer the pitch for his own party, with two members of his Kshatriya Thakore Sena contesting for the Banaskantha Lok Sabha seat and the Unjha Assembly bye-elections as independent candidates.
 
Swarupji Thakore, who was expected to withdraw his nominations on the last day of withdrawals on Monday, continues in the fray in Banaskantha Lok Sabha seat in north Gujarat. Several attempts by the Congress to get Thakore failed.
 
The nomination by Swarupji Thakore will make it a triangular contest in Banaskantha, where the Congress party has put up a strong candidate Parthibhai Bhatol, who is a dairy cooperatives veteran in the region, against Parbat Patel of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an MLA from Tharad and Minister of State for Irrigation and Water Resources. 
 
The BJP has dropped outgoing MP Harisinh Chaudhary, who has won this seat four times earlier.
 
The Congress had expected that Alpesh Thakore and his Kshatriya Thakore Sena would actively work and campaign for its candidate, but now Swarupji Thakore would prove an irritant and eat into Congress votes.
 
Similarly, Kshatriya Thakore Sena candidate Natwarji Thakore has filed his nomination for the bye-election to Unjha Assembly seat, also in north Gujarat. The bye-election for this seat has been necessitated after Congress MLA Asha Patel resigned as a legislator and as a Congress member to defect to the BJP.
 
As of now, the Congress has neither sought an explanation from Alpesh Thakore nor taken any action.
 
Earlier last month, he had himself admitted that he was on the verge of joining the BJP because the Congress was ignoring his aspirations and not involving him in the decision-making process. 
 
However, sources said Thakore had been hankering for a party ticket to contest the Patan Lok Sabha seat. Later, Thakore told reporters that his concerns had been sorted out by the Congress high command.
 
IANS
 

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Congress names six more LS candidates in Gujarat

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The Congress on Wednesday announced a list of six more candidates for the Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat.
 
Despite much opposition and protest within the party in Surat, the Congress high command took a firm stand and went for Ashok Adhewada as its candidate from the constituency.
 
Parthibhai Bhatol has been selected for the Banaskantha seat, Rajendra Thakor for Sabarkantha and Paresh Dhanani for Amreli. Manhar Patel has been selected for the Bhavnagar constituency while Bimal Shah has been chosen for the Kheda seat.
 
Earlier in the day, the Congress had also declared Geeta Patel as the candidate from Ahmedabad East.
 
IANS
 
 
 

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Hardik Patel moves SC to stay conviction in 2015 case

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Patidar leader Hardik Patel on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking the stay of his conviction and sentence in a 2015 rioting case by a district court to enable him to contest the general elections.
 
The Patidar leader, who joined the Congress on March 12 and was being projected to be a candidate for the Jamnagar seat, has challenged the March 29 Gujarat High Court order rejecting his plea.
 
The High Court did not accept his plea that an irreparable loss would be caused to him if he was not able to contest Lok Sabha election.
 
Patel sought the stay of the Mehsana court decision convicting him for involvement in a rioting and arson case at Visnagar during the Patel agitation in 2015.
 
The Mehsana court had ordered a two-year imprisonment in July last year.
 
So long as he remains convicted, Hardik Patel stands barred from contesting elections.
 
IANS
 

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BTP nominates two candidates for Gujarat

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With its pre-poll alliance with the Congress not working out, the Chhotu Vasava-led Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) on Saturday nominated two of its candidates for the two constituencies in south Gujarat reserved for the Scheduled Tribe (ST).
 
BTP has fielded Uttam Somabhai Vasava from the Bardoli seat and Pankaj Lallubhai Patel from the Valid constituency. The party has decided to field seven candidates from the seven seats reserved for the tribals in Gujarat.
 
Chottu Vasava, the tribal strongman and MLA from Jhagadia who formed the BTP in 2017, was demanding seven seats from the Congress under the seat-sharing formula. However, the Congress was in no mood to share any of the 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state with any other party.
 
The BTP's move to nominate two of its candidates on Saturday also put an end to the speculation that the Congress was trying to woo the tribal strongman by offering him to contest from Bharuch on a Congress ticket.
 
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had made a clean sweep in Gujarat by winning all the 26 seats.
 
IANS
 

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Shah files nomination, vows to pursue Advani's legacy

BJP chief Amit Shah during a roadshow ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Gandhinagar, Gujarat on March 30, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
BJP chief Amit Shah during a roadshow ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Gandhinagar, Gujarat on March 30, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
BJP President Amit Shah on Saturday filed his nomination papers for the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat in Gujarat, promising to pursue the legacy of party veteran L.K. Advani who had represented the constituency since 1998 but has now been denied a ticket.
 
Shah, contesting his first Lok Sabha election, urged the people to vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state to strengthen the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who he described as "Gujarat's son".
 
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Shiromani Akali Dal supremo and former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan as well as Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and Piyush Goyal were present on the occasion.
 
The only notable absentee was Advani.
 
Before filing his nomination, the BJP chief and party leaders addressed a gathering at Naranpura and held a huge road show.
 
Addressing the gathering, Shah said whatever he had achieved in his life was because of the BJP.
 
"If the party is removed from my life, I will be zero. I started my political journey as a booth level worker of the constituency where I have been fielded as a candidate after being made the party President," he said.
 
Shah, a Rajya Sabha member, said he was lucky that he was the candidate in a seat which had been represented by stalwarts like P. V. Mavlankar, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani.
 
"Gandhinagar is the most developed parliamentary constituency of the country. I will try my best to pursue the legacy of Advaniji."
 
The BJP leader said that the coming elections would be fought on the issue of leadership and the entire country was rooting for Prime Minister Modi.
 
"This happened because of the leadership provided by Modiji. The country was looking for such a leader for the last 70 years. Who can provide security to the country? Only Modiji can do so. Only the BJP and NDA can do so.
 
"It is certain that Modiji will again become the PM," he added.
 
Gujarat will go to the polls on April 23.
 
IANS
 

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Hardik Patel's plea seeking stay on court conviction rejected

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In a major blow to the Congress, the Gujarat High Court on Friday rejected a plea by Patidar leader Hardik Patel seeking a stay on his conviction by a district court to enable him to contest the general elections.
 
The decision is a jolt to the Gujarat Congress as Patel was projected to be a candidate for the Jamnagar seat in the 2019 general elections.
 
Justice Abdullahmiya Uraizee rejected the petition filed by Patel seeking a stay on the Mehsana court conviction in a rioting and arson case in Visnagar during the Patel agitation in 2015. 
 
The Mehsana court had ordered a two-year imprisonment in July last year.
 
Patel had prayed for a stay on the order so that he could contest the Lok Sabha polls.
 
Patel on March 12 joined the Congress in Gandhinagar in the presence of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. 
 
Since he still stands convicted in the case, he cannot contest elections as per a Supreme Court order unless the High Court stays his conviction. 
 
IANS
 

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Manvendra, Gehlot's son Vaibhav figure in Congress list

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The Congress on Thursday declared 31 more Lok Sabha candidates fielding Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's son Vaibhav Gehlot from Jodhpur and former MPs Manvendra Singh from Barmer, Jitendra Singh from Alwar and Jyoti Mirdha from Nagaur. 
 
The list has six candidates from Gujarat, six from Uttar Pradesh and the remaining from Rajasthan.
 
Vaibhav Gehlot will contest against Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat in Jodhpur while Manvendra Singh, son of former Union Minister and BJP leader Jaswant Singh, from Barmer where the BJP has not yet announced its candidate.
 
Manvendra had joined the Congress ahead of Assembly polls in Rajasthan last year. He contested against then Chief Minster Vasundhra Raje but lost.
 
Jaswant Singh, who was a minister in the BJP-led Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, hails from Barmer but was denied ticket by the BJP in the last Lok Sabha elections.
 
Jitendra Singh had been a minister of state for home during the UPA government.
 
Others given the ticket include Ramnarayan Meena from Kota, Namo Narayan Meena from Tonk, Raghuveer Singh Meena from Udaipur and Savita Meena from Dausa.
 
The party has fielded former MP Badri Ram Jakhar from Pali parliamentary constituency against Union Minister P. P. Chaudhary.
 
In Gujarat, the Congres has given ticket to Jitu Chaudhary from Valsad and Jagdish Thakor from Patan.
 
In Uttar Pradesh, it has fielded Pankaj Niranjan from prestigious Phulpur seat, Maj J. P. Singh from Sambhal and Niaz Ahmed from Deoria.
 
With this, the party has so far declared 293 Lok Sabha candidates.
 
IANS

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Nine Iranians held with 100 kg of narcotics off Gujarat Coast

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Nine Iranians were held along with 100 kilograms of narcotics off the coast of Gujarat on Tuesday in a joint operation launched by the Marine Task Force (MTF),  the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Gujarat.
 
The operation commenced in the wake of inputs received from ATS, Gujarat on March 24 regarding an illegal consignment of heroin, likely to be smuggled through a dhow from Iran, an official press release said.
 
It also revealed that the consignment was loaded in Pakistan and destined for Gujarat. A team of ATS embarked on an Indian Coast Guard Ship for the mission while communication frequencies were constantly monitored by the ATS personnel.
 
After an extensive search of more than 24 hours, the suspicious dhow was intercepted on March 26 March by the ICG ship off Gujarat coast. On being challenged, the suspicious dhow resorted to evasive tactics to avoid apprehension, the release said.
 
On realising that apprehension by ICG was inevitable, the crew set the dhow on fire to destroy the evidence. In a daring Joint Boarding Operation, the ICG and ATS team boarded the dhow and apprehended nine Iranian crew along with the recovery of 100 kg of heroin, it said.
 
The ICG ship thereafter attempted to extinguish the fire on board the dhow. However, due to the presence of a large quantity of fuel and few gas cylinders, the fire became uncontrollable and, consequently, the dhow sank. 
 
The apprehended crew along with the consignment have been brought to Porbandar by the ICG  ship and handed over to MTF, Gujarat for further action, the release added.
 
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Parrikar's last rites in Panaji on Monday evening

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The mortal remains of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who died on Sunday following a protracted battle with cancer, will be cremated here on Monday evening, an official statement said.
 
The mortal remains will be kept at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state headquarters here as well as at a state government-operated arts and culture centre all through the morning and afternoon, for public to pay their final respects, before being taken to the Miramar beach for cremation at 5 p.m., according to the statement from the Chief Minister's Office.
 
The Union Home Ministry has announced national mourning on Monday and a state funeral will be accorded to Parrikar.
 
Top BJP leaders from across the country, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah are expected to be present during the last rites ceremony, party sources said.
 
The former Defence Minister, one of the tallest BJP leaders in Goa, was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in February last year and has been in and out of hospitals in Goa, Mumbai, Delhi and New York since then.
 
IANS
 

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Gujarat: Reshma Patel quits BJP, dubs it 'marketing company'

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The female face of the two-and-a-half-year Patel agitation in Gujarat, Reshma Patel, who had later joined the ruling BJP, on Friday resigned from it, saying the party was only a "marketing company" and nothing else.
 
A key member of the Patidar movement spearheaded by Hardik Patel, Reshma Patel tendered her resignation to Gujarat BJP President Jitu Vaghani.
 
In her letter, she said: "BJP has now become only a marketing company and we are being taught to market the false policies and false schemes of the government and fool the public. 
 
"But we want to work to serve the public and bring a positive transformation and work for the country."
 
Reshma Patel added: "But the autocratic behaviour of BJP leaders have always been compelling the BJP workers to toil as labourers and BJP workers are there only for toiling. 
 
"I no longer wish to continue suffering and injustice being meted out and so (am) freeing myself from sinful partnership of such autocratic leaders, resigning from the party in public interest."
 
She had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat after she was convinced that all the demands from the Patel community had been accepted by the government.
 
The BJP has been in power in Gujarat for more than two decades, primarily backed by the Patel community.
 
When Patel was inducted into the BJP along with a couple of other Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), she was assigned the role of a spokesperson.
 
But lately, Reshma Patel had been upfront on her stand against the party and had been openly vocal about it. 
 
She had been criticizing the BJP over various issues. 
 
IANS
 

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Bye-election for Jamnagar Rural seat in Gujarat Assembly to be held on April 23

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The Election Commission of India today said a bye-election to fill the vacancy from the Jamnagar Rural constituency in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly would be held on April 23.
 
The Commission had yesterday announced it would hold bye-elections on April 23 to fill two vacancies in the Gujarat Assembly from the Dhrangadhra and Manavadar constituencies.
 
All three bye-elections will be held simultaneously with the elections to the Lok Sabha in the relevant Parliamentary constituencies.
 
The notification for the bye-elections will be issued on March 28 and the last date for filing nominations is April 4. The last date for withdrawal of candidatures is April 8. Counting of votes will be taken up on May 23, the release added.
 
Jamnagar (Rural) seat fell vacant on Monday when Congress MLA Vallabh Dharaviya submitted his resignation to Assembly Speaker Rajendra Trivedi.  
 
Dharaviya is the third MLA to leave the Congress and resign as legislator in the past one week. Last week, four-time legislator from Manavadar Jawahar Chavda and Dhrangardra legislator Parshottam Sapariya quit the party.
 
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Sack Smriti Irani for misusing MPLAD funds: Congress

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Citing a CAG report indicting Union Minister Smriti Irani for making a payment of nearly Rs 6 crore from MPLAD funds without a tender, the Congress on Thursday demanded her sacking and also registration of an FIR against the BJP MP from Gujarat.
 
"Time has come to sack Union Minister Smriti Irani and lodge an FIR against her for proper investigation under Prevention of Corruption Act, and different provisions of Indian Penal Code," Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted, pointing to the CAG findings. 
 
"This is a clear-cut case of misuse of office and fraud vis-a-vis public money and Prime Minister Narendra Modi should immediately sack Irani and order for initiating criminal proceedings against her."
 
The CAG report on the general and social sector for the year ended March 2017, has charged Irani with "injudicious awarding of works under MPLADS to an NGO without inviting tenders resulted in irregular payment of Rs 5.93 crore including fraudulent payment of Rs 84.53 lakh to the NGO".
 
Irani, the Union Textile Minister, selected Anand district as her nodal district for implementation of works under the MPLAD scheme.
 
"Audit observed that the selection of the NGO (Sharda Majoor Kamdar Co-operative Society), as implementing authority was in contravention of the scheme guidelines and government instructions, as no tender procedure was followed for its selection," reads the report.
 
Reporting the matter to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat, the CAG recommended investigating all the works by the NGO. 
 
"Since the tendering process, scope of work awarded and payment processes were violated, therefore audit is of the view that these works are susceptible to fraudulent and irregular payments. 
 
"Audit recommends that the State Government should investigate all the works carried out by the NGO and fix responsibility on the Government officials responsible for the negligence. The matter was reported to the Government (September 2017). Reply is awaited (February 2018)," the report added. 
 
Congress Gujarat MLA and spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil said the NGO selected by Irani is supposed to be a co-operative society of construction labourers, but all the members actually belong to the BJP.
 
Gohil also referred to a letter by the Anand district collector written on June 20, 2017, to the Deputy Secretary, General Administration Department, Gujarat pointing out the irregularities and the fraud being committed under the grants received under MPLAD.
 
Gujarat Congress MLA Amit Chavda has also filed a PIL in the Gujarat High Court demanding an FIR against Irani.
 
IANS
 

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Two workers killed in fire at ONGC oil well near Ahmedabad

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Two contractual workers were killed in a fire that broke out at an oil well of the public sector Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) near here while repair and maintenance operations were being carried out by a chartered hire workover rig last night.
 
The fire broke out at around 2030 hours yesterday in well number 6 at Nandej, near here, while the workover operations were being carried out by the rig, Akash 4, an ONGC press release said.
 
"Unfortunately two contractual workers have lost their lives in the incident. While Sanjay Mahendra Singh, 25 was brought dead, Shahjad Alam Ansari, 27 succumbed to the injury at 0700 hours today.
 
"Four other contractual workers who were afflicted with severe burn injuries are being treated at a nearby hospital in Ahmedabad," the release said.
 
Senior officers from ONGC Ahmedabad Asset including Asset Manager, Crisis Management Team, HSE (Health, Safety and Environment), Security and Medical services had immediately rushed to the spot to take all possible measures to bring the fire under control. 
 
The state administration including police and fire services provided all supports to contain the situation, the release said.
 
Nine fire tenders, four of ONGC and five from the District Fire Services, were deployed and the fire was completely extinguished by 2120 hours, it said.
 
"While reasons behind this accident are being enquired into, ONGC is committed to provide all support as per its policy to the bereaved families as well as the ones who have suffered burn injuries," the release added.
 
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Bye-elections to Gujarat Assembly from Dhrangadhra and Manavadar to be held on April 23

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The Election Commission today said it would hold bye-elections on April 23 to fill two casual vacancies in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly from the  Dhrangadhra and Manavadar constituencies.
 
The bye-elections will be held simultaneously with the elections to the Lok Sabha in the relevant Parliamentary constituencies, an official press release said.
 
The notification for the bye-elections will be issued on March 28 and the last date for filing nominations is April 4. The last date for withdrawal of candidatures is April 8.
 
Counting of votes will be taken up on May 23, the release added.
 
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Rahul says BJP will be ousted, vows one GST

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said the BJP-led NDA government will be ousted in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and promised farm loan waiver, minimum income guarantee scheme and a single-rate GST regime if the Congress comes to power at the Centre.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi with party leaders Manmohan Singh and Priyanka Gandhi during a public rally in Gandhinagar, on March 12, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Congress President Rahul Gandhi with party leaders Manmohan Singh and Priyanka Gandhi during a public rally in Gandhinagar, on March 12, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said the BJP-led NDA government will be ousted in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and promised farm loan waiver, minimum income guarantee scheme and a single-rate GST regime if the Congress comes to power at the Centre.
 
He said the Congress would deliver on its promises unlike the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) "which only made promises but didn't fulfil them in the last five years".
 
Addressing a public rally here after a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) in Ahmedabad, Gandhi questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's patriotism, asking why he was not telling the nation that it was the earlier National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government which had released Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Masood Azhar -- the man behind the Pulwama suicide bombing. 
 
He said Azhar was nabbed and sent to jail during the Congress government, and claimed that it was incumbent National Security Advisor Ajit Doval who had escorted him to Kandahar in Afghanistan in a special aircraft.
 
Gandhi also questioned Modi's "self-proclaimed" fight against corruption and accused him of taking financial favours from industrialists such as Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya.
 
Attacking the Prime Minister over his promise of depositing Rs 15 lakh in the bank account of every citizens, he asked the gathering: "Did you get Rs 15 lakh as promised by Modi?"
 
The Congress President also said that his party is going to come to power and would do "something historic".
 
"Modi waived loans worth Rs 3.5 lakh crore of 15 industrialists...he gave money to the rich. But the Congress will give money to the farmers and the small businessmen. I assure you that we will form the government in 2019 and implement a minimum income guarantee scheme across the nation and will put money directly into the bank accounts of the poor," he said.
 
The Congress delivered on its promise within two days of forming governments in the states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Gandhi said, adding that he felt bad for not being able to do the same for Gujarat's farmers who also need it just as much.
 
Accusing the BJP of spreading hatred, Gandhi said by doing so, the party is trying to divert attention from the real issues like unemployment, "which was the highest in the last 45 years", and the farmers' issues. 
 
He also criticised the BJP for creating a complex Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime with five different taxes, which people "do not understand even now". He said the Congress will reform the GST after coming to power by making it a single-tax regime.
 
Gandhi also questioned Modi's demonetisation decision, saying while the Prime Minister claimed it was part of a fight against black money, it only hurt the poor.
 
"In those queues outside banks, did you see Nirav Modi or Mehul Choksi? It was only the poor who stood in those queues," he said.
 
IANS
 

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Rahul confident Hardik Patel will win after Patidar leader joins Congress

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Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday expressed confidence that Patidar leader Hardik Patel will not only contest the Lok Sabha polls but also win, soon after the youngster embraced the grand old party and set at rest speculations about his political affiliations.
 
"Hardik jeetega (will win)," Rahul snapped back at a question if Patel would contest the elections on Congress ticket. The Gandhi scion was speaking to reporters at the Ahmedabad airport after attending the party's working committee meeting here.
 
Patel formally joined the party at a public rally as Rahul Gandhi put a party scarf around him and welcomed him.
 
Patel, 25, was already at the Congress podium hours before the party rally at Adalaj, near state capital Gandhinagar, waving at the crowds cheering him. He was in tow with another young turk and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore.
 
The Congress public rally was being held after an all-important meeting of the party's key decision making arm, the Congress Working Committee. The CWC met for the first time in nearly 60 years in Gujarat.
 
Hardik Patel had announced months ago that he was keen on contesting the elections while he was yet to make up his mind from which party.
 
He had aggressively campaigned against the ruling BJP in the 2017 Assembly elections in which the opposition party came close to forming the government.
 
IANS

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Vote for your future, Priyanka tells people

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Terming the coming Lok Sabha elections "another independence struggle", Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi on Tuesday urged the voters to ask tough questions from the government and raise "real issues" facing them and the country instead of getting drawn into trivialities.
 
"Those who make tall promises to you, ask them where are the two crore jobs that were promised to the nation? Where is the Rs 15 lakh which was supposed to come into your bank accounts? Ask right questions in these elections," she said while addressing an election rally at Adalaj near here after the Congress Working Committee meeting in Ahmedabad. 
 
"Irrelevant issues should not be raised. The issues that are to be raised should be about what is most important to you -- how you will progress, how our youth will get employment, how would women feel safe, what will be done for the farmers. These are the real election issues.
 
"Only your awareness can bring these issues to the front," Priyanka Gandhi said, terming voters' awareness and their votes "their biggest weapons". 
 
"Your greatest weapon is awareness about the realities facing the country, your vote is your weapon. Use it with after due consideration and due discretion. Ensure that it does not hurt anyone.
 
"You will have to consider what you are going to vote for. You are going to vote for your future. This nation has been built over the foundations of social harmony and love. But whatever is happening in the country, it pains us," she added.
 
"You tell them (the Bharatiya Janata Party) what is the true character of this country. The true character of this country is such that it will turn the winds of hatred into breeze of love and compassion.
 
"This is your country. You have built this nation. It belongs to none other than you people. Only you can protect this nation. Our institutions are being destroyed, hatred is being spread," she said.
 
"True 'desh bhakti' is getting aware about real problems and challenges before the country." 
 
Amid slogans comparing her with her grandmother and late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, in her short speech in a conversational style in Hindi, said this was her first visit to Gujarat. 
 
"When I went to the Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati, I was almost driven to tears," she said, adding that it was "crucial that the message about real issues should go out from this land of the Mahatma.
 
IANS
 

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Congress flays Modi for 'exploting' national security

Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for "cynically exploiting the national security to hide his colossal failures", the Congress at its working committee meeting in Ahmedabad on Tuesday resolved to defeat the "RSS and BJP's ideology of fascism, hatred, anger and divisiveness".
Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and others during a meeting of the Congress Working Committee in Ahmedabad on March 12, 2019. (Photo: IANS/AICC)
Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and others during a meeting of the Congress Working Committee in Ahmedabad on March 12, 2019. (Photo: IANS/AICC)
Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for "cynically exploiting the national security to hide his colossal failures", the Congress at its working committee meeting here today resolved to defeat the "RSS and BJP's ideology of fascism, hatred, anger and divisiveness".
 
The meeting of the Congress' highest decision-making body held in Modi's home state Gujarat was attended by top party leaders including party chief Rahul Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and newly appointed General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, among others.
 
"The Congress Working Committee in Ahmedabad, resolved to defeat the RSS, BJP ideology of fascism, hatred, anger and divisiveness. No sacrifice is too great in this endeavour, no effort too little, this battle will be won," said Gandhi.
 
In its resolution, the CWC said Modi and the BJP were insulting the struggle, sacrifices and enormous contribution in nation-building by leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel by "brazenly seeking to hijack their legacy and pretending to be the champions of their values".
 
"Congress expresses its strong disappointment that the Prime Minister is cynically exploiting the issue of national security, on which we are all united, to divert attention from his colossal failures, bogus claims and persistent falsehoods," it said.
 
The Congress said the five years of Modi-BJP government has been a period of false promises and betrayal of people's trust and confidence.
 
"This government has been a failure on all fronts and has inflicted pain and misery on the people through its reckless decisions of demonetisation and hasty imposition of a flawed GST," it said.
 
It said demonetization and GST disrupted the economy, trade and industry, led to closure of lakhs of factories and tens of millions of workers lost their jobs and livelihood.
 
"The unprecedented joblessness, agrarian crisis and distress of farmers and agricultural laborers are issues of grave national concern. The Modi government is guilty of monumental mismanagement of the Indian economy. National savings and investments have sharply declined.
 
"Banks are burdened with NPAs and credit off-take of the industry has reached a record low. Exports are stagnant and industrial production has been falling continuously notwithstanding Government's boastful and misleading claims," it said.
 
The CWC also endorsed the promise made by the Congress President to ensure minimum income support to the poor, weak and marginalised sections of society when the Congress party comes to power.
 
Briefing the media about the CWC meeting, Congress leader Anand Sharma said an atmosphere of fear and insecurity was all pervasive particularly among women, students, academics, writers and the business community.
 
"There are deliberate attacks on the Constitutional and other safeguards for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, OBCs and minorities; and there is subversion of all institutions of governance," he said
 
Sharma also blamed Modi and the BJP for political discourse becoming bitter.
 
"They talk of dividing the society merely for political gains. Modi is playing with emotions of people. We condemn it," he added.
 
IANS
 

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