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Kerala

SC opens Sabarimala gates to women of all ages

The Supreme Court on Friday opened the gates of the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala dedicated to Lord Ayyappa to women of all ages, lifting the prohibition on women in the age group of 10-50 saying it was violative of their fundamental rights and constitutional guarantees.

The Supreme Court on Friday opened the gates of the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala dedicated to Lord Ayyappa to women of all ages, lifting the prohibition on women in the age group of 10-50 saying it was violative of their fundamental rights and constitutional guarantees.
 
In a majority 4:1 judgment, the top court also read down the provision of Kerala laws that protected the prohibition and said it could not be covered under practices essential and integral to religious practice. 
 
Justice Indu Malhotra, the only woman judge in the five-judges bench, gave a dissenting judgment.
 
Chief Justice Dipak Misra reading out the judgment, also on behalf of Justice A. M. Khanwilkar, said that subversion of women's rights under the garb of physiological phenomenon cannot be allowed.
 
"All devotees are equal and there cannot be any discrimination on the basis of gender," Misra said.
 
Justice Rohinton F. Nariman in a separate but concurring judgment said that people of all faiths visit the temples -- worshipers are not of separate denomination.
 
"Religion cannot become a cover to exclude and deny women their right to worship," Justice D.Y. Chandrachud also said in a separate but concurring judgment.
 
Holding that the Sabarimala temple is not a denominational temple peculiar to any sect, the court said that the Ayyappa temple belongs to Hindus and does not constitute a separate entity. 
 
The apex court also read down the provision of Kerala laws that protected the practice of prohibiting the entry of women in the age group of 10 to 50 years.
 
Justice Indu Malhotra said: "What constitutes essential practices of religion is to be decided by worshippers and it is not for the judiciary to adjudicate.
 
"It is not for courts to decide if such practices should be struck down. Rationality cannot be used to judge faith. All followers must be allowed to follow their own faith as per their own beliefs in a secular polity."
 
IANS
 

(Our News Desk can be contacted at desk@netindian.in)

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10 dead in Kerala, TN, several fishermen missing as cyclone Ockhi heads for Lakshadweep

Heavy rains lashed many parts of south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu and at least 10 people have died since yesterday as cyclone Ockhi intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and hurtled past the coasts of the two states towards Lakshadweep Islands on Friday.

 
Cyclone Ockhi: 8 killed, several fishermen missing
Heavy rains lashed many parts of south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu and at least 10 people have died since yesterday as cyclone Ockhi intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and hurtled past the coasts of the two states towards Lakshadweep Islands today.
 
Four people were killed in south Kerala and five in south Tamil Nadu in rain-related incidents yesterday even as the authorities mounted a massive search and rescue operation for scores of fishermen reported missing at sea.
 
One fisherman, who was among those rescued today, died in hospital here today, taking the toll in Kerala to five, official sources said.
 
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a warning of a very severe cyclone for Lakshadweep Islands this evening and said the system was likely to intensify further in the next 24 hours.
 
In a Red message issued at 1730 hours today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the system, now over the Lakshadweep  area and adjoining southeast Arabian Sea, continued to move west-northwestwards with a speed of 15 kmph during the past six hours and intensified further into a "Very Severe Cyclonic Storm".
 
It lay centred at 1430 hours IST today near latitude 9.1º N and longitude 73.0º E, about 90 km north of Minicoy and 220 km south-southeast of Amini Divi. 
 
"The system is very likely to intensify further during next 24 hours. It is very likely to continue to move west-northwestwards across Lakshadweep Islands during next 24 hours and then move north/ northeastwards during the subsequent 48 hours," the bulletin said.
 
The IMD warned that, under the influence of the system, heavy to very heavy rainfall was very likely at most places over Lakshadweep area during the next 24 hours, with isolated extremely heavy falls. There could be isolated heavy to very heavy falls during the subsequent 24 hours, it said.
 
The bulletin also said that rainfall was very likely at many places over Kerala during the next 24 hours, with heavy rainfall at isolated places.
 
According to it, gale winds, with speed reaching 120-130 kmph, gusting to 145 kmph, were very likely over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and gradual decrease thereafter.
 
Squally winds, with speed reaching 45-55 kmph, gusting to 65 kmph, were very likely along and off Kerala during the next 24 hours and along and off Karnataka coast during the next 24 hours, it said.
 
The bulletin said sea conditions would be phenomenal over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and very high during the subsequent 24 hours.
 
Sea conditions would be high to very high along and off the Kerala coast during the next 24 hours and along and off the Karnataka coast during subsequent 24 hours.
 
The cyclone could cause damage to power and communication lines due to breaking of tree branches and uprooting of large avenue trees; major damage to thatched houses, huts and kutcha houses; some damage to pucca roads; flooding of escape routes; and damage to banana and papaya trees and standing crops.
 
Storm surge of about one metre above astronomical tides was very likely to inundate low lying areas of Lakshadweep Islands, the bulletin said.
 
Fishermen along and off Lakshadweep Islands were advised not to venture into the sea during the next 48 hours. Similarly, fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea along and off the Kerala and Karnataka coasts during the next 48 hours.
 
Ships and aircraft of the Indian Navy, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) were involved in the rescue efforts at sea while teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were deployed in the affected areas in the two states and units of the Indian Army were on standby to come to the aid of the civil adminstration, if necessary.
 
Official sources here said more than 220 people had been rescued from the sea by the Navy, ICG and IAF. Many of them were admitted to hospitals here for treatment, they said. 
 
Some of the fishermen were rescued by a Japanese cargo ship in the area. As many as 37 people were rescued by Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs) of the Indian Navy which flew between Thiruvananthapuram and the sea.
 
The ICG said it had deployed nine ships and two Dornier aircraft in the area and rescued as many as 52 fishermen so far.
 
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The International Safety Net (ISN) had been activated to advise Merchant Traffic to render assistance to stranded fishermen, it said.
 
Among others, Indian Naval Ships Sagardhwani, Jamuna and Nireekshak were in the affected areas in the Arabian Sea. INS Sharda and Shardul are also sailing out soon to augment the search effort. Both ships were in final stages of embarking HADR items for assistance at Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands, Indian Navy sources said.
 
In Poonthura, a coastal village near here, angry groups of fishermen and their families staged protests, alleging that the government had not acted in time and not done enough as far as the rescue efforts were concerned. 
 
Former Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, both senior leaders of the Congress, visited the area today to listen to the woes of the villagers.
 
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told newspersons that the state government had received an alert about the cyclone only on Thursday afternoon. He said the rescue efforts were also hampered by the bad weather conditions.
 
Mr. Vijayan said all possible efforts were being made to locate and rescue the missing fishermen. He said the state government had urged the Ministry of Defence to deploy more aircraft for the search and rescue operations.
 
In Lakshadweep, the authorities had issued orders for the evacuation of people from low-lying areas in Kalpeni, Minicoy, Kavratti, Agatti, Androth, Kadamath and Amini islands.
 
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Congress wrests Gurdaspur in Punjab from BJP, its ally IUML retains Vengara in Kerala

In a morale booster for the party ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has wrested the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat from the BJP by a huge margin and its ally, the IUML, retained the Vengara Assembly seat in Kerala in bye-elections held on October 11.

 
Congress' Sunil Jakhar wins Gurdaspur LS bye-election
In a morale booster ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has wrested the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha  seat from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by a huge margin and its ally, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), retained the Vengara Assembly seat in Kerala in bye-elections held on October 11.
 
Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar drubbed Mr. Swaran Singh Salaria of the BJP by a record margin of 1,93,219 votes in Gurdaspur.
 
In Vengara, Mr. K. N. A. Khader, the candidate of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), who is a member of the IUML, won from Vengara, defeating his nearest rival, P. P. Basheer of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), by a margin of 23,310 votes in the October 11 bye-election.
 
Counting of votes was taken up in both constituencies this morning, and the results were out by noon.
 
Gurdaspur had fallen vacant following the death on April 27 of well-known Hindi film actor Vinod Khanna, who represented the constituency in the Lok Sabha as a candidate of the ruling BJP.
 
Mr. Jakhar polled 4,99,752 votes against the 3,06,553 votes secured by Mr. Salaria. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Suresh Khajuria got just 23,579 votes.
 
Considering the fact that Mr. Khanna had won the seat by an impressive margin of 1.35 lakh votes in 2014, the bye-election ended up being a cakewalk for Mr. Jakhar, 63, the Congress Punjab unit chief and son of late Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar.
 
In between, in March this year, the Congress won a resounding victory in the elections to the Punjab Legislative Assembly and its leader Amarinder Singh returned as Chief Minister of the state. The bye-election had turned into a battle of prestige for both sides.
 
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress had ended up on the losing side in all the nine Assembly segments in Gurdaspur. Mr. Jakhar has managed to turn this around, winning from all the nine segments this time.
 
Gurdaspur was considered a Congress stronghold for long years, with its candidate Sukhbuns Kaur Bhinder winning the seat five times in a row from 1980 to 1996 before the BJP brought in Khanna, a top Bollywood actor, as its candidate in 1998. The actor-turned politician was re-elected from the seat in 1999, 2004 and then in 2014. In 2009, former Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa by a thin margin of 8,359 votes.
 
Mr. Jakhar described the bye-election result as a "referendum" on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance's government at the Centre and said the people of the constituency had sent a "strong message of resentment" over its policies.
 
"Congratulations to @sunilkjakhar ji for his impressive win in #Gurdaspur bypoll, it's a victory for @INCPunjab policies & development agenda," Mr. Amarinder Singh on microblogging site Twitter.
 
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"Assure people of #Gurdaspur that every single promise made by @sunilkjakhar will be fulfilled and all development works will be fast-tracked," he added.
 
Congress leader and Punjab minister Navjot Sidhu said, "This is a beautiful Diwali gift, packed with a red ribbon, for our would-be party president Rahul Gandhi."
 
In Vengara, Mr. Khader polled 65,227 votes against 41,917 secured by Mr. Basheer, a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the main constituent of the ruling LDF in the state.
 
Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) candidadte K. C. Naseer ended up third with 8,648 votes while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee K. Janachandran  Master, finished fourth with 5,728 votes in the results announced today.
 
The bye-election in Vengara was necessitated by the resignation of IUML leader P. K. Kunhalikutty, who was elected to the Lok Sabha on April 12 from the Malappuram seat that fell vacant following the death of former Union Minister E. Ahamed.
 
While the UDF celebrated the victory, the LDF drew satisfaction from the fact that they had reduced the IUML candidate's victory margin from 38,057 votes in the 2016 Assembly elections, when Mr. Kunhalikutty had won, to 23,310 votes in this bye-election.
 
Today's results have come just three days after the Congress swept the municipal elections in Nanded-Waghala in Maharashtra, considered a stronghold of the party. The party won 67 of the 81 seats, while the BJP won four and its ally Shiv Sena got just one.
 
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Mukherjee says tragic to see universities caught in vortex of violence, disquiet

Declaring that there should be no room in India for the intolerant Indian, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday that the country's premier institutions of higher education must resound with creativity and free thinking.

President Pranab Mukherjee delivering the 6th K.S. Rajamony Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘India@70’ at Kochi in Kerala on March 2, 2017.
President Pranab Mukherjee delivering the 6th K.S. Rajamony Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘India@70’ at Kochi in Kerala on March 2, 2017.
Declaring that there should be no room in India for the intolerant Indian, President Pranab Mukherjee today said the country's premier institutions of higher education must resound with creativity and free thinking.
 
"Those in Universities must engage in reasoned discussion and debate rather than propagate a culture of unrest. It is tragic to see them caught in the vortex of violence and disquiet," he said while delivering the 6th K.S. Rajamony Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘India@70’ in Kochi.
 
"India was a world leader in the field of education when our Universities like Nalanda and Takshshila were at the height of their glory. Nalanda and Takshshila are not mere geographical expressions but representations of the idea for free thought which flourished in these great Universities of the past.  Our premier institutions of higher education are the vehicles on which India has to propel itself into a knowledge society.  These temples of learning must resound with creativity and free thinking," he said.
 
"There should be no room in India for the intolerant Indian.  India has been since ancient times a bastion of free thought, speech and expression.  Our society has always been characterized by the open contestation of diverse schools of thought and debate as well as discussion.   Freedom of speech and expression is one of the most important fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution. There must be space for legitimate criticism and dissent," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee began by speaking about Kerala, which has been the gateway to India for traders and religious missionaries from different parts of the globe. He said the people of Kerala were known for their progressive thinking and the State's impressive achievements in the field of literacy, education, health, gender equality, tourism and culture had brought it global acclaim.
 
Turning to the topic of the lecture, India@70, he said that for 50 years before independence in 1947 the economic growth rate of India was 0% to 1%. "In the fifties, our growth rate rose to 1 – 2%, the sixties 3 – 4% and in the 90s, with economic reforms, to 6 to 7%.  In the last decade, our growth rate has averaged around 8%, making us the fastest growing large economy of the world," he said.
 
"India’s population in 1950 was 360 million. Today, we are a 1.3 billion strong nation.  Our annual per capita income has gone up from Rs. 7,500 at the time of independence to over Rs. 77,000. GDP growth rate has risen from 2.3 percent to 7.9 percent in 2015-16.  Poverty ratio has declined from over 60 percent to less than 25 percent.  Average life expectancy has gone up from 31.4 to 68.4 years. Literacy rate has gone up from 18 to 74 percent. Food grains production has gone up from 45 million to an estimated 272 million tonnes in 2016-17," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee spoke about the progress achieved by the country in the field of food and industrial production, as well as in areas such as space, information technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. He said that, in the last 70 years, India had transformed itself from a poor, under-developed nation into the third largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity.
 
He said equally important was India's success in consolidating the unity of its nation and democracy in the midst of extraordinary challenges and tremendous diversity.  
 
"We have firmly established within our country the rule of law, an independent judiciary and vibrant media as well as civil society.  We have also created strong institutions like the Election Commission and the CAG who stand as pillars of our political system.  Every known religion in the world, over hundred different languages used in everyday life, 1600 dialects and multiple cultures are united under one flag and one Constitution. Around 553 million people voted in the 2014 General Elections, an exercise matched in scale and scope by none else in the world," he said.
 
The President said the most important legacy bequeathed to the nation by its founding fathers was its Constitution.
 
"A Constitution is a charter for the governance of a nation. The notion of what is good governance must be defined by the need of the times and enriched by the experience of the decades. Yet, the Constitution enshrines certain timeless values that should never be compromised. It is against the touchstone of these values that we must constantly measure our performance," he said.
 
"The Preamble records the resolve of the people of India to secure to all citizens justice - social, economic and political as well as liberty, equality and fraternity.  It also establishes the principle of secularism. Justice - social, economic and political - is in the life of any nation a journey more than a destination. To achieve social justice requires not mere governance but a recasting of mindsets and the transformation of social ethos.  That is the job not just of the legislature, the executive or the courts, but of each one of us.
 
"The ultimate goal of any democracy is the empowerment of the individual, irrespective of his economic, religious or social standing. This may appear to be a utopian dream for many, but the strength of a system lies in its capacity to ceaselessly work for its accomplishment.  The goal of political justice requires the continuous empowerment of marginalised sections of our society. We owe ourselves to create a system in which access to politics is not limited to a privileged few but an average Indian also feels empowered enough to contribute," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee said economic development was vital to good governance but stressed that this must be imbued with the principle of equality on which there could be no compromise.
 
"An egalitarian society can only be created when growth is inclusive. It is important to ensure that there is justice and equality of opportunity and the state does not create conditions in which the privileged few gain at the cost of the multitudes who suffer endemic poverty. A sustainable society can only be based on the principles of equity and justice," he said.
 
He said democracy required constant nurturing and at no cost should the exploitation of fault lines be allowed. In this context, he underlined the importance of protection and safety of women and children.
 
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Mr. Mukherjee said the country's leaders and political activists must listen to the people, engage with them, learn from them and respond to their needs and concerns. "Our law makers must never take the people for granted. They must focus on the fundamental task of law making and raising of issues of concern to the people as well as finding solutions to their problems," he said.
 
"Legislation is the first and foremost responsibility of a Parliamentarian. It is most unfortunate that time devoted towards legislation has been gradually declining in our Parliament," he said, citing figures for time lost due to interruptions and adjournments.
 
"No one who holds any elected office has been invited by the voters to occupy that office.  Each one has gone to the voters and pleaded for their votes and support.  The trust placed by the people in the political system and those elected should not be betrayed. Our Legislatures and Parliament must not turn into arenas for combat.  Floor tests are not meant to be muscle tests.  The opportunity to represent the people is not a right or entitlement but a moral obligation and duty.  Our elected representatives owe it to the people of our country to act as models of exemplary conduct," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee said Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies were central pillars on which the edifice of democracy   rested. 
 
"They are the supreme institutions comprising of members directly elected by our people.  It is through them that governments are held accountable by the people.  If they become dysfunctional, it results in not just paralysis of those institutions but creates an adverse impact across the system.  The debate and discussions which ought to take place in the open in the House of Parliament and Assemblies cannot be replicated elsewhere.  When they cease to function effectively, issues spill out onto the streets.  The very basis of our democracy gets undermined," he said.
 
The President said the time had come for collective efforts to re-discover the sense of national purpose and patriotism that alone can lift the nation on to the road of sustained progress and prosperity.
 
"The nation and the people must always come first.  Let us strive to arrest the moral decline in our society and ensure that our core civilisational values find firm root.  Let us exert ourselves to strengthen India’s pluralism and diversity.  Let us be uncompromising in rooting out violence, prejudice and hatred.  
 
"Let us strive for rapid progress but even as we do so, ensure that the benefits of economic progress percolate down to the poorest of the poor and those living in the furthest corners of our country.  Let us make the poorest in our land part of the story of a rising India.  Let us embrace education, skill development and innovation which will enable us catapult India into the future and build a knowledge economy, riding the technological wave of the 21st century.
 
"I see a very bright future for India. Our Constitutional values, young population and entrepreneurial abilities as well as capacity for hard work provide us the fundamentals required for rapid progress as well as the building of a caring and compassionate society. India has changed dramatically in the last 70 years.  I am confident that in the next ten years, we will see even greater progress as we steer our nation, focused on further strengthening our open, democratic and inclusive society," he added.
 
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Kerala: Court orders probe against CM Oommen Chandy, Minister Aryadan Mohammad

A Vigilance Court in Thrissur on Thursday ordered registering of an FIR and initiating a probe against Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet colleague Aryadan Mohammad on the bribery allegations raised against them by Saritha S Nair, main accused in the "solar scam".

 
Kerala solar scam: FIR ordered against CM; protestors lathicharged
 
A Vigilance Court here today ordered registering of a first information report (FIR) and initiating a probe against Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet colleague, Electricity and Transport Minister Aryadan Mohammad, on the bribery allegations raised against them by Saritha S Nair, main accused in the "solar scam".
 
Saritha and her associate Biju Radhakrishnan are accused of having cheated several businessmen and non-resident Indians (NRIs) of large sums of money promising them partnership in a company floated by them, Team Solar Renewable Energy Solutions Pvt Limited, which offered solar energy solutions to institutions and households. 
 
They had also boasted of close connections with Mr Chandy and other ministers and even produced letters on official letterheads to support their claims. The scam came into light when an NRI, Sajad, filed a police complaint accusing them of having defrauded him of Rs 40 lakh. Subsequently, 33 cases were registered against them on various complaints.
 
Saritha, while deposing before the Justice Sivarajan Commission in Kochi yesterday, had alleged that she had paid a bribe totalling Rs 1.90 crore to an aide of the Chief Minister and Rs 40 lakh to Mr Mohammad. Both have denied the charges.
 
However, Inquiry Commissioner and Special Judge S S Vasan, taking cognisance of a private complaint, asked the Vigilance Director to file an FIR and complete the probe as early as possible. The court rejected the contention of the government counsel seeking a quick probe into the allegations before initiating proceedings against the Chief Minister. Justice should be equal for all, for the common man as well as Chief Minister, the court observed.
 
The judge said he was not looking into the merits of the complaint against the Chief Minister which is to be considered by the investigating officer. The report is to be submitted to the court on April 14. The court also rejected the submission of the state counsel regarding jurisdiction of the court since the alleged bribery took place in Thiruvananthapuram. However, the court upheld the contention of the complainant P D Joseph, a social activist, that it had also occurred in Kochi, which fell within the purview of the court.
 
Reacting to the court order, Mr Chandy told reporters in Kozhikode that he was prepared to face any inquiry and rejected the opposition demand for his resignation. “My conscience is clear and both of us have done nothing wrong,” he said, speaking on behalf of his ministerial colleague, too.
 
In a related development the Kerala High Court stayed the Thrissur Vigilance Court order of registering an FIR against Mr K Babu, who had resigned his post as Minister following the court order. 
 
Passing the order, High Court Judge P Ubaid observed that the vigilance court had acted in unnecessary haste without waiting for the order of the division bench of the High Court. The stay will be applicable for two months. In the meantime, the court directed the Vigilance Director to conduct a quick probe and submit a report within ten days.
 
Earlier, on January 25, Mr Chandy had deposed before the judicial commission. The deposition, that went on into the night, was completed only in the early hours the next day. He reportedly told the commission that he had met Saritha only three times and came to know about the financial dealings only after her arrest. He had acknowledged receipt of a contribution of Rs 2 lakh to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund in a letter drafted by his office under his letterhead. The letterhead was later found to be misused. He also denied that he had met Saritha in his office along with Sreedharan Nair, a quarry owner and one of the complainants in the scam, as stated by Intelligence ADGP A Hemachandran.
 
The Chief Minister later told reporters that he had refused to undergo a lie-detector test as he had not lied or acted against his conscience. Neither has the state exchequer incurred any loss nor the accused obtained any monetary advantage, he added. 
 
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Kerala: Four female rowers attempt suicide in SAI hostel; one dead, three hospitalised

A 15-year-old rower died and three female athletes were hospitalised in a serious condition after they consumed poisonous fruit on Wednesday in an alleged suicide attempt at their hostel at the Sports Authority of India's Water Sports Centre at Alappuzha in Kerala.

 
Kerala suicide attempt: DG SAI says priority to save lives of girls
A 15-year-old rower died and three female athletes were hospitalised in a serious condition after they consumed poisonous fruit yesterday in an alleged suicide attempt at their hostel at the Sports Authority of India's (SAI) Water Sports Centre at Alappuzha in Kerala.
 
The decased was identified as Aparna Ramachandran, a resident of Avalookunnu in Alappuzha district, official sources said. The three others are also from Kerala, they said.
 
The four athletes allegedly consumed the fruit of cerbera odollam (Othalanga in Malayalam) sometime during the afternoon yesterday and were rushed to the Alappuzha Medical College Hospital, about 150 km from here, in the evening after they started showing symptoms of food poisoning.
 
While Aparna failed to respond to treatment and breathed her last around 4 am today, the other three girls were said to be in a serious condition.
 
The reason for the extreme step taken by the rowers could not be ascertained immediately, but parents and relatives of the girls said they were subjected to mental and physical harassment at the hostel in recent times.
 
The hostel authorities, however, denied these allegations and said there were no complaints of any harassment. Media reports quoted them as saying that the girls had recently been caught consuming beer and were questioned about it, and they must have resorted to the extreme step fearing further action.
 
The State Government as well as the Sports Authority of India have ordered inquiries into the incident.
 
Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chenithala told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram that he had asked Inspector General of Police (Kochi Range) M R Ajithkumar to conduct an inquiry into th incident and the officer would reach Alappuzha later today.
 
In Delhi, SAI Director General Injeti Srinivas said SAI had taken an extremely serious view of the incident and he had submitted an initial report to Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. He said SAI would conduct a probe into all aspects of the incident.
 
Mr  Sonowal said in a statement later that he had asked the Director General of SAI to rush to the spot and give a factual report on the incident.
 
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“I am deeply aggrieved by the incident that has happened in Kerala. The young girl who has died was a very promising sportsperson. It is a big loss to the country in general and Sports Authority of India and sports fraternity in particular. I convey my condolences to the bereaved family. We will give all possible help to the bereaved family," he said.
 
"Three girls are still undergoing treatment. I pray for their speedy recovery. To provide them the best possible treatment is our top priority," he said.
 
"Local police is investigating the matter. I have also directed the Director General of SAI to rush to the spot and give me a factual report. I have specifically directed him to ensure that the best possible treatment is made available to the three girls who are undergoing treatment. 
 
"While law will take its own course, at this stage I would only like to say that if anyone from Sports Authority of India is found guilty in connection with this tragic incident, strictest possible action will be taken against him or her," he added.
 
Mr Srinivas told newspersons in Delhi that it was the most shocking and tragic incident in the three-decade-old history of SAI, which is tasked with nurturing sports talent in the country.
 
He said he had been informed of the incident around midnight last night and has been in touch with Kerala government and local SAI officials since then.
 
"Our immediate priority is to deal with the medical emergency, to save the lives of the three trainees" he said. He said he had been told that there was no real antidote for the poisonous fruit and that, since the entire matter came to light only after some hours after they had consumed the fruit, the poison appeared to have entered their bloodstream and complicated matters.
 
Mr Srinivas said the four girls had reportedly left a suicide note jointly signed by them. One of the three girls in hospital, who is conscious and is able to speak, has deposed before the sub-divisional magistrate, he said. "All these matters will be investigated," he added.
 
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10 dead, 50 hurt as Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-City Express derails near Hosur

At least ten passengers died and about 50 others suffered injuries when the 12677 Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-city Express derailed on Friday morning near Anekal Road, close to Hosur in Tamil Nadu, official sources said.

 
10 dead, 50 injured as Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-City Express derails
At least ten passengers died and about 50 others suffered injuries when the 12677 Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-city Express derailed this morning near Anekal Road, close to Hosur in Tamil Nadu, official sources said.
 
The mishap occurred at around 7.45 am between Anekal Road and Hosur stations on the Bangalore-Salem section of South-Western Railway, they said.
 
Prima facie, the derailment occurred after the train hit a boulder that had rolled down onto the tracks in the ghat section, the sources said.
 
The train had left Bangalore at 6.15 am for Ernakulam in Kerala. Nine coaches and the engine of the train went off the rails, and one coach in particular, D8, a second class chair car, was badly affected, they said.
 
The derailed coaches included two air-conditioned chair cars and six second class chair cars, but they did not suffer much damage.
 
A pantry car and four second class chair cars were not affected by the derailment, the sources said.
 
South-Western Railway spokesperson Chandrasekhar Gupta told NetIndian over the telephone that ten bodies had been extricated from the mangled coaches.
 
He said 18 of the injured passengers had suffered severe injuries and were undergoing treatment in the Narayan Hridalaya, Sparsh and Anekal General hospitals nearby.
 
Police and emergency personnel, including railway officials and staff, from nearby areas in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka rushed to the spot with ambulances and medical equipment. The Railways rushed medical vans and accident relief vans to the spot.
 
Efforts were being made to restore rail traffic on the section at the earliest, the sources said.
 
In Delhi, Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu said he was rushing to the scene of the accident and that he had directed the Chairman of the Railway Board, the General Manager of South-Western Railway and other senior officials to reach the spot.
 
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He said all possible help would be rendered to the affected passengers and families. He also announced an ex-gratia amount of Rs 200,000 for the next-of-kin of each of those killed in the accident, Rs 50,000 for the grievously injured passengers and Rs 20,000 for those with minor injuries.
  
Union Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, a former Minister for Railways and former Karnataka Chief Minister, was among those who reached the scene of the accident. 
 
"I am personally monitoring it and in touch with State and local administration. All Sr rail officials are directed by me to be on job," Mr Prabhu said.
 
"Condolences to all the  unfortunate members of the families who lost lives. Directed to provide best possible medical care to the injured," he said.
 
"Ordered enquiry to fix responsibility and for corrective action to prevent such unfortunate accidents. Monitoring action regularly," he added.
 
The Railways have set up the following helplines to provide information and assistance to victims and their relatives: 0948090599,  08022371166, 09731666751.
 
Besides, the Railways have set up the following helpline numbers in Kerala:
 
Trivandrum: 0471-2321205, 2321237, 09746769960
Ernakulam Jn.: 0484-2100317, 0813699773
Ernakulam Town: 0484-2398200
Trichur: 04877-2424148, 2430060
Aluva: 0484-2624143
 
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Kerala Governor Sheila Dikshit resigns, may return to Delhi politics

Kerala Governor Sheila Dikshit said on Tuesday she had resigned from her position, amid reports that the Narendra Modi government at the Centre was planning to shift her to the North-East and indications that she might return to active politics in Delhi.

 
Kerala Governor Sheila Dikshit resigns
Kerala Governor Sheila Dikshit today said she had resigned from her position, amid reports that the Narendra Modi government at the Centre was planning to shift her to the North-East and indications that she might return to active politics in Delhi.
 
Ms Dikshit, 76, who was Chief Minister of Delhi for 15 years over three consecutive terms, had taken over for a five-year term as the 22nd Governor of Kerala only on March 11 this year after she and her Congress party suffered a humiliating defeat in the December 4, 2013 elections to the Delhi Legislative Assembly.
 
She had lost in her own constituency of Gole Market by a huge margin to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal, who went on to serve as Chief Minister of Delhi for 49 days before he resigned. The Congress had managed to win only eight seats in the 70-member house.
 
Ms Dikshit was among the Governors appointed by the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre who had refused to heed clear signals from the new Modi government, which assumed office on May 26, that they should hand in their papers.
 
There were also reports in the media suggesting that she might be shifted to a North-Eastern state if she refused to quit.
 
Ms Dikshit met President Mukherjee and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh here yesterday. 
 
"I have only one thing to say. The news flashing on television channels is correct. I have submitted my resignation yesterday," she told newspersons.
"This is what I wanted to say, and I wanted to say it myself."
 
"I don't have anything more to say right now. After my resignation is accepted, I'll say whatever I have to say," she said.
 
To repeated queries about her views on the way the Modi government had handled Governors and about her future plans, Ms Dikshit said that she would not like to say anything further.
 
"Let my resignation be accepted, after that I promise you that I will talk to you," she added.
 
Asked if she had been under pressure from the Modi government to resign, Ms Dikshit said, "I have nothing to do with all that. I did what my heart told me to do."
 
She is now expected to plunge back into active politics in Delhi, where Assembly elections may be held in the next few months if it is not possible to form a viable government within the present Assembly in which no party has a clear majoirty.
 
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With this, eight of the Governors appointed by the previous government have resigned so far, while two were sacked.
 
Soon after the new government started nudging them, five Governors -- B L Joshi in Uttar Pradesh, M K Narayanan in West Bengal, Ashwani Kumar of Nagaland, Shekhar Dutt of Chhattisgarh and Bharat Vir Wanchoo of Goa, all of whom are former police officers -- resigned.
 
Mr Vakkom Purushothaman, a senior Congress leader from Kerala, who was shifted from Mizoram to Nagaland after then Gujarat Governor Kamala Beniwal was moved to Mizoram, resigned in protest against the manner in which he was transferred without consulting him.
 
Ms Beniwal, who had a few run-ins with then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is now the Prime Minister, was sacked on August 6. Earlier, on July 11, Mr Virendra Kataria had been removed as Lt Governor of Puducherry.
 
On Sunday, another senior Congress leader from Kerala, Mr K Sankaranarayanan, resigned after he was transferred as the Governor of Mizoram from Maharashtra.
 
The Governor of Uttarakhand, Mr Aziz Qureshi, has meanwhile filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging that he had received calls from the Union Home Secretary suggesting that he resign. He contended that only the President could remove him.
 
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Three Indians killed in Sri Lanka blasts

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Three Indians are among those killed in the suicide bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj announced.
 
The Minister quoted the Indian High Commission as saying that it had been informed by the National Hospital in Colombo about the death of three Indian nationals: Lokashini, Narayan Chandrashekhar and Ramesh. 
 
"We are ascertaining further details," the Minister said.
 
Earlier, an IANS report from Thiruvananthapuram said a Kerala woman holidaying in Colombo was among those killed in suicide bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, authorities said.
 
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed condolences over the death of 58-year-old P.S. Razeena, who arrived in the Sri Lankan capital along with her husband to meet their relatives engaged in business in Colombo.
 
Razeena and her husband, who hail from Kasargode in Kerala, live in Dubai and were staying at one of the three hotels in Colombo targeted on Sunday by suicide bombers.
 
A spokesperson for the state agency of the Kerala diaspora told the media that they were talking to the Indian High Commissioner's office in Colombo to see that Razeena's body was brought to Kerala.
 
IANS
 

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Modi regime didn't keep promises, says Priyanka in Wayanad

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (FIle photo: IANS)
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (FIle photo: IANS)
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Saturday hit out at the Narendra Modi government for making false promises to people and ignoring the country's farmers.
 
Campaigning in Wayanad for her brother, Congress President Rahul Gandhi who is also contesting the Kerala seat in addition to his traditional Amethi constituency, she told a gathering that the Modi government has ditched the farmers but the Congress-led UPA government, if it comes to power, will take care of all their needs.
 
"In the five years, Modi has divided the country. He takes care of the rich and the mighty but ignores the needs of the huge farmer community in the country. 
 
"The BJP said they will double the income of the farmers and would deposit Rs 15 lakh into the bank account of every person, but for Rahul Gandhi, justice and truth matters," she said in Mananthavady, where she arrived in a helicopter after landing at Kannur airport.
 
She later met the family members of CRPF trooper Vasanth Kumar who was killed in the February 14 Pulwama terror attack.
 
From there, Vadra went to Pulpally where a mammoth gathering was waiting for hours to see her.
 
"The Modi government has dashed the hopes of the farmers and has taken on the people who fought for their rights. The Congress will empower all of you and will never create any difficulty for you all," she said at her public meet there.
 
After winding up her day, she will rest at a resort at Vythiri near here, and will leave Kerala on Sunday.
 
This is Vadra's second visit to Wayanad. On April 4, she accompanied Rahul Gandhi when he filed his nomination papers.
 
Union Minister Smriti Irani, who is contesting against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, was also supposed to reach Wayanad on Saturday to campaign for NDA constituent Bharat Dharma Jana Sena Chairman and Wayanad candidate Tushar Vellapally but her trip was postponed for Sunday.
 
Apart from Vellapally, Rahul Gandhi is also facing P. P. Suneer of the Communist Party of India, who is the candidate of the ruling Left Democratic Front. State CPI-M Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, also campaigned here on Saturday.
 
The state will vote on April 23 to elect its 20 Lok Sabha members.
 
IANS
 

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Congress' Wayanad message is appeasement: Modi

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Slamming Congress President Rahul Gandhi for contesting from Wayanad in Kerala, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out that the only message that's being sent out is appeasement politics.
 
Modi arrived in the state capital on Thursday night to campaign for the NDA candidates contesting in Kerala.
 
Taking on Gandhi, Modi said what's happening now is not politics, it's only self-interest and opportunistic politics.
 
"The Congress says there is a message behind his (Rahul Gandhi) choosing to contest from Wayanad. But the message could have been sent if the contest was from Thiruvanathapuram. If not, the contest could have taken place in Pathanamthitta (where Sabarimala temple is located). Had it happened, an even bigger message could have been sent out," said Modi.
 
Modi assured the gathering that when votes are counted on May 23 and the new government assumes office, the faith, culture and traditions will be protected through democratic means.
 
"The BJP stand is very clear while the Congress is playing a double game. They say one thing in Delhi and another in Kerala. The CPI-M has no belief in faith, culture or tradition. What they have done here is to register false cases against those who protested to protect the culture and tradition. As long as I am the 'chowkidar', I will not allow these to be destroyed ," said Modi.
 
He also took on the Pinarayi Vijayan government and pointed out that it's a corrupt one.
 
"Even the Chief Minister is caught in the midst of the Lavalin case and so are other ministers. It has now come out that the floods that hit the state were manmade. Even the compensation for those affected has been diverted. Such a government cannot remain in office any more," said Modi.
 
He also reminded the people that his government in the past five years has put country on the fast track of development, be it in land, sea, air or space.
 
"The 'chowkidar' of the country has empowered the scientists of the country who have come out with technology which will ensure the country's protection. The Congress never had the courage to take such decisions and when it came to hounding scientists, they did that. Your own scientist Nambi Narayanan was a victim of the Congress party," said Modi.
 
He pointed out that the elections are not meant for just putting up a new government.
 
"This election will determine the aspiration of building a new India. It's whether India should pave the way forward or it should follow others," said Modi.
 
Modi said for a strong government which will protect the country, a 'chowkidar' is needed and for that, all should vote for the NDA.
 
Modi arrived almost two hours late and left after his speech.
 
The BJP does not have a single Lok Sabha member from Kerala. It is expecting to open its account this time: It has high hopes from Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency, where the party has fielded former Mizoram governor Kummanem Rajasekheran.
 
He is pitted against Congress leader Shashi Tharoor who is aiming for a hat-trick of wins. Also in the fray is senior CPI legislator C. Divakaran.
 
In 2014, BJP candidate O. Rajagopal finished a close second, while in all the remaining 19 constituencies , the NDA candidates finished a distant third.
 
IANS

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Seeking a 'forever' relation with Wayanad, says Rahul

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Reaching out to the people in Kerala's Wayanad, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday assured that them he will be with them forever.
 
In his first visit to the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency after April 4, when he came along with his sister Priyanka Gandhi to file his nomination, he earlier made a quick visit to the famed temple of Lord Vishnu at Thiruneli where he performed "beli tharpanam" in memory of his father, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
 
Gandhi had on his previous visit to Kerala expressed his wish to visit the temple and perform the puja, but the Special Protection Group (SPG) did not allow it due to security reasons, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said.
 
Dressed in white dhoti and wearing an angavastra, Gandhi walked to the temple from the Devasom Guest House in Thiruneli.
 
He took note of every detail told to him by the temple priests and then prayed to the deity. He, along with the priests, later walked some 700 metres to the spot where his father's ashes were immersed on May 30, 1991.
 
The Congress President then addressed three political rallies soliciting votes for himself and for United Democratic Front candidates.
 
"I stand here not as a politician, but as a son, brother and a friend. I decided to contest from here so as to project that south India is as important as other places. I seek a relationship with Wayanad that will be there forever," said Gandhi to a huge round of applause at Sultan Battery.
 
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"I have come to know all the problems that you are facing here and I am not like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and will never give you a false promise. I wish to thank everyone here who gave me a chance to contest from here," he added.
 
In between, he met the 25-year-old Sreedhanya Suresh, who earlier this month, became the first person from the Scheduled Tribe community in the state to have cleared the Civil Services examination and secured 410th rank.
 
At Wandoor, despite heavy rains, a huge crowd had gathered to hear him.
 
Some people had a heated argument with the security officials, but the moment Gandhi arrived and started to speak, all became calm.
 
After his rally, Gandhi left from the Kozhikode airport and it would now be the turn of Priyanka Gandhi to arrive for a brief visit to round off the campaign.
 
In Wayanad, from where he is contesting along with his traditional seat, Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress chief faces the Communist Party of India's P. P. Suneer, who is the candidate of the ruling Left Democratic Front and Bharath Dharma Jana Sena Chairperson Tushar Vellapally, who is the National Democratic Alliance candidate.
 
Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency came into being in 2009 and it was won by senior Congress leader M. I. Shanawaz in the elections since then, but he passed away last year.
 
While he won his first election by a margin of over 1.5 lakh votes - the state's highest margin of victory in 2009, in 2014, his majority fell to around 20,000 votes.
 
The top brass of the state Congress is leaving nothing to chance and is determined to give their President a record margin of victory.
 
Elections to Wayanad will be held along with the state's other 19 seats in the third phase of the Lok Sabha polls on April 23.
 
IANS
 

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Rahul performs 'beli tharpanam' for father in Kerala

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Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday performed "beli tharpanam" in memory of his father, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, at a Thiruneli temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
 
Gandhi had on his previous visit to Kerala expressed a wish to perform the "puja" and visit the temple, but the Special Protection Group (SPG) did not allow it due to security reasons, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said.
 
Dressed in white dhoti and wearing an angavastra, Gandhi earlier in the day walked to the temple from the Devasom Guest house.
 
He took note of every detail told to him by the temple priests and then prayed to the deity. He along with the priests later walked some 700 metres to the spot where his father's ashes were immersed on May 30, 1991.
 
The former Prime Minister was killed in a bomb blast by the LTTE in Sriperumbudur during a late evening election rally on May 21, 1991, in the Tamil Nadu town near Chennai.
 
IANS
 

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PM most anti-national, dividing nation: Rahul

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Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for being the "most anti-national" and accused him of "dividing the nation".
 
Reacting to Modi's allegation of the Congress turning anti-national, Gandhi said his grand old party has an exceptional track record of fighting forces that attack the nation.
 
"Thousands of Congress workers have laid down their lives, fighting such forces. Today the most anti-national act is the act of Modi who is dividing the nation," said Gandhi as he kicked off his day-long campaign here in Kerala.
 
"Crippling the agricultural system, leading to farmers suicide is another anti-national act of Modi. Youths losing their jobs is also another anti-national act. Modi has failed in all these and it's time that he answers," he told the media here.
 
Gandhi said the three key issues ruling the 2019 Lok Sabha polls are the destruction of the Indian economy, personal corruption of Modi and the plight of the farmers.
 
"We are looking forward to forming the next government," said Gandhi when a few questions were posed to him as he was about to leave.
 
The Congress leader, taking them, returned to his seat, sporting a smile, and said: "How come the Prime Minister does not have the guts to face the Kerala, Odisha or the Delhi media?"
 
From Kannur, Gandhi will make a whirlwind visit to five assembly constituencies in the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency, from where he is contesting the polls.
 
He is also fighting from his traditional Amethi Lok Sabha seat.
 
IANS
 

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Nirmala Sitharaman visits Shashi Tharoor in hospital

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday visited Congress leader Shashi Tharoor in the hospital where he was admitted after suffering an injury in a freak accident a day earlier.
 
Tharoor was performing a ritual at a temple in the Kerala capital on Monday when he injured himself.
 
Praying while seated on the weighing balance, the chains holding the balance broke and fell on Tharoor's head, requiring him to get eight stitches.
 
The Congress MP said he was touched by Sitharaman's gesture of civility, which he called a rare virtue in Indian politics.
 
"Touched by the gesture of Nirmala Sitharaman, who dropped by today (Tuesday) morning to visit me in the hospital, amid her hectic electioneering in Kerala. 
 
"Civility is a rare virtue in Indian politics -- great to see her practice it by example," Tharoor tweeted.
 
Tharoor is engaged in a tough three-way electoral battle for the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat with former Mizoram Governor K. Rajasekheran of BJP and CPI's C. Divakaran, a sitting legislator and former state Minister.
 
IANS
 

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Shashi Tharoor injured as chain in temple gives way

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Shashi Tharoor, aiming for a hat-trick of wins as the Congress candidate for the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat, suffered a freak accident while performing a ritual at a temple near here on Monday, leading to eight stitches on his head.
 
After preliminary celebrations at his home here on Vishu, the traditional New year festival, Tharoor left for the popular Gandhari Amman temple.
 
Praying while seated on the weighing balance, as part of a temple ritual, the chains holding the balance broke and fell on Tharoor's head. He was rushed to the state-run general hospital. 
 
Tharoor's wounds needed eight stitches and he was taken for scanning, the doctors said, adding that the Congress leader's condition was now normal. 
 
Tharoor is engaged in a tough three-way electoral battle with former Mizoram Governor Kummanem Rajasekheran of BJP and CPI's C. Divakaran, a sitting legislator and former state Minister.
 
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Tharoor scraped through with a margin of around 15,000 votes aginst BJP's O. Rajagopal, who is now an MLA.
 
IANS
 

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Beware of 'tax frauds' who come to Kerala: Modi

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Taking pot shots at his arch political rival without naming him, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday warned people to beware of 'tax frauds' who come to Kerala.
 
Modi said this while addressing a mammoth Vijay Sankalp rally at the famed Kozhikode beach side, his first election rally in the state which goes to the polls on April 23 to elect 20 Lok Sabha candidates.
 
"The Congress and the Left have taken people here for granted. Beware of those who come to Kerala and say they have come to save Kerala, but they come not to save you, but to save themselves. Tax frauds who are on bail come here to get political bail," said Modi.
 
These salvos were apparently fired at Congress President Rahul Gandhi who is contesting from the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency, about 80 km from Modi's rally venue.
 
"When their political leaders come seeking votes for 'them', people should ask them, what 'such' people have done in their constituencies," said Modi.
 
The Prime Minister arrived at the venue around 7 p.m. and after his address, left for Tamil Nadu, where he is slated to take part in election meetings on Saturday.
 
IANS
 

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Rahul to be on two-day whirlwind campaign in Kerala

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Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who arrives here on Monday night, will campaign across the state for two days, where he will also cover his constituency -- Wayanad -- on Wednesday.
 
Kerala goes to the polls on April 23 to elect 20 Lok Sabha members.
 
Releasing details of Gandhi's tour programme, the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee on Friday said he will arrive here on the night of April 15.
 
The following morning, he travels to Pathanapuram in Kollam district to address a party rally in the constituency where Kodikunnil Suresh, a former Union Minister and the sitting member from the Mavelikera Lok Sabha constituency, is seeking re-election.
 
At 11.30 a.m. on Tuesday, Gandhi is scheduled to reach Pathanamthitta district -- where the famed Sabarimala temple is located -- to campaign for Anto Antony, who is seeking a hat-trick of victories from the Pathanamthitta Lok Sabha constituency.
 
At 4 p.m., he will arrive in Alappuzha to campaign for Shanimol Usman, a former Mahila Congress Chairperson, from where he returns to the state capital to solicit votes for party candidate Shashi Tharoor.
 
Gandhi travels thereafter to Kannur in north Kerala, and the following day he will reach his constituency Wayanad.
 
His election campaign programme in Kerala concludes with a road show on Wednesday.
 
Of the total representation from Kerala in the outgoing Lok Sabha, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) has 12 seats, while the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) has eight. 
 
IANS
 

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Kerala bids tearful farewell to veteran politician K. M. Mani

File photo of K M Mani
File photo of K M Mani
A large number of people with teary eyes on Thursday bid farewell to veteran politician and Kerala Congress-Mani Chairman, K. M. Mani, who passed away in Kochi on Tuesday.
 
Right from the morning, thousands of people lined up to pay their respects to Mani at his residence here. With time running out, many failed to get a last glimpse of the senior politician.
 
Most of Kerala's who's who paid their homage to Mani on his last journey, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, former Union Defence Minister A. K. Antony, former Chief Ministers Oommen Chandy and V. S. Achuthanandan, superstar Mammootty and a host of state Ministers and senior bureaucrats, among others.
 
Mani's body was later moved to the St. Thomas Cathedral, where his last rites were performed with full state honours.
 
Catholic Bishop's Conference of India (CBCI) President Cardinal Moran Mar Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, who's also the head of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church, led the funeral ceremony along with other bishops and priests.
 
The local television channels telecast Mani's last journey for close to three hours. Mani was probably one of Kerala's tallest politicians, who despite his best efforts could never become the Chief Minister of the state.
 
Mani was suffering from a lung ailment and was admitted to the hospital for the past week. He had been unwell since January.
 
After joining the undivided Kerala Congress in 1965, Mani went on to become its undisputed leader. However, the party underwent several splits over the years.
 
Mani's record of being the longest-serving legislator in the Kerala Assembly began in 1967 when he represented his home constituency Pala in Kottayam district from where he won a record 13 elections.
 
After becoming a state Minister for the first time 1975, he served as a Minister in six other governments. He still remains the only state Minister to present 13 budgets.
 
Kerala Congress-Mani is the third biggest ally of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). As a mark of respect, the UDF suspended all election campaigns on Thursday till Mani's last rites were performed.
 
IANS
 

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P. C. George's Kerala Janapaksham Secular joins NDA

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Seven-time legislator P. C. George's Kerala Janapaksham Secular on Wednesday became the newest constituent of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Kerala.
 
The announcement was made here by Kerala BJP President P. S. Sreedharan Pillai in the presence of BJP national Secretary Satya Kumar and George himself.
 
The 67-year-old George, who represents the Poonjar assembly constituency in Kottayam district, was a member of the erstwhile Kerala Congress, then Kerala Congress faction led by former State Minister P. J. Joseph, then moved base to the party of now deceased K. M. Mani before floating his own party.
 
In the 2016 assembly polls, George recorded his seventh electoral victory with a margin of over 27,000 votes, defeating candidates put up by the three political fronts in the state.
 
The first signs that George was moving base towards the NDA came last year, when he announced he would sit alongside the lone BJP legislator O. Rajagopal in the assembly to protest the manner in which the Kerala government allowed breaching of the traditions and culture of the famed Sabarimala temple after the apex court ruled that the temple should be opened to women of all age groups.
 
Speaking to IANS, George said the decision to join the NDA was a unanimous decision of his party and he was happy to see the election manifesto of the BJP, which has given consideration to the minority communities.
 
"I will be sharing the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at Kozhikode on Friday when he will be addressing the election rally. I am convinced that Modi can do a lot of good and hence decided to become an ally of NDA," said George and added that the BJP will spring a surprise in Kerala when votes in the Lok Sabha polls are counted on May 23. 
 
Parts of the Sabarimala temple town comes under George's assembly constituency and it remains to be seen if this is going to help the BJP candidate K. Surendran fighting from the Pathanamthitta Lok Sabha seat.
 
With George's party entering the NDA, its strength in the assembly goes to two, as other allies like Bharath Dharma Jana Sena, and the Kerala Congress faction led by P. C. Thomas and others do not have any representation.
 
IANS
 

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Veteran Kerala politician K. M. Mani passes away at 86

File photo of K M Mani
File photo of K M Mani
Veteran politician and Kerala Congress-Mani (KC-M) Chairman K. M. Mani, who never lost an Assembly election since 1967, passed away at a private hospital here on Tuesday.
 
Mani was suffering from a lung ailment and was in the hospital for the past one week. He had been unwell since January.
 
Announcing the death, a doctor told the media that Mani's condition turned worse after 11.30 a.m. on Tuesday and he died at 4.57 p.m.
 
Mani joined the undivided Kerala Congress in 1965 and went on to become its undisputed leader. Over the years, his party underwent several splits.
 
Mani's record of being the longest-serving legislator in the Kerala Assembly began in 1967 when he represented his home constituency Pala in Kottayam district -- from where he won a record 13 elections.
 
He often used to say that he has two wives: one is Kuttiyama and the other is Pala.
 
Although he won his first election in 1965, the Assembly was not convened and so he was not sworn in. Two years later he became a legislator for the first time -- and remained so for 52 long years.
 
Mani first became a state Minister in 1975 in the C. Achutha Menon cabinet and since then he sat in the cabinets of E. K. Nayanar, P. K. Vasudevan Nair, C. H. Mohammed Koya, K. Karunakaran, A. K. Antony and Oommen Chandy.
 
He holds the state record of having presented 13 budgets.
 
He is survived by his wife, son Jose K. Mani, a Rajya Sabha member, and five daughters.
 
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Mani's death had left Kerala grieving.
 
"He was certainly a very tall politician and is going to be missed in Kerala politics. He had proved his mettle in his job as a very effective minister," he said.
 
IANS
 

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Malayalam superstar Dileep gets relief in abduction case

Malayalam film actor Dileep
Malayalam film actor Dileep
Malayalam superstar Dileep on Tuesday got relief in a 2017 case related to assault and abduction of an actress in which he is a key accused.
 
The Kerala government told the Supreme Court that it will not press for framing of charges against him before the trial court in the case till his pending plea in the apex court for access to visuals of the assault captured by main accused Pulsar Suni is decided.
 
The government said an understanding has been arrived at with Dileep in this regard.
 
The trial court was to commence hearing on framing of charges on Wednesday. Dileep earlier argued in the Supreme Court that till his plea seeking a copy of the crucial memory card (to prove his innocence) is decided, simultaneous framing of charges would result in "violation of natural justice" and "irreparable damage" to him.
 
Dileep has argued before the apex court that the copy of the footage of the incident is "very essential and crucial" for him to prove his innocence in the case. Dileep maintains the visuals had been manipulated and doctored to frame him.
 
The government of Kerala has, however, opposed his plea for the copy of the visuals and accused him of being the "chief conspirator".
 
The government's counsel observed there is no requirement under law to share all the material with the accused.
 
His plea for the copy of the memory card was turned down earlier by the Angamaly Magistrate Court and the Kerala High Court.
 
The south Indian actress was abducted and assaulted in a moving car on February 17, 2017. Dileep was arrested in July the same year in this connection.
 
Mukul Rohatgi, senior counsel appearing for Dileep, contends that the memory card is a document but the prosecution says it is a material which does not come under the I-T Act and cannot be handed over.
 
In his petition, Dileep states that he has a right to get evidence relating to the case which includes the memory card in which the attack visuals have been stored. Rohatgi argued that Dileep has a right to access all kinds of evidence that prosecution is producing against him.
 
IANS
 

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Veteran Kerala politician K. M. Mani passes away

File photo of K M Mani
File photo of K M Mani
Veteran Kerala politician K. M. Mani, who never lost any Assembly election since 1967, died on Tuesday evening at a private hospital here, doctors said.
 
The 86-year-old was undergoing treatment for a lung ailment since his admission to the hospital last week. 
 
Mani's party is the biggest ally of the Congress in the United Democratic Front. 
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 

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Kerala UDF convener Benny Behanan suffers heart attack

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Kerala's United Democratic Front Convener and Congress' Lok Sabha candidate from Chalakkudy, Benny Behanan, suffered a heart attack on Friday and is admitted to a hospital near here, party leaders said.
 
The 66-year-old underwent an emergency angioplasty and his condition is now stable, a party leader said.
 
He had reached his residence close to midnight after his election campaign. At around 2.30 a.m, he complained of uneasiness and was moved to the nearest hospital.
 
Behanan, a former two time MLA, is pitted against veteran comedian and sitting Lok Sabha member Innocent, a Left-supported Independent.
 
IANS
 
 
 

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Rahul Gandhi files nomination from Wayanad, thousands cheer him

Thousands of people gave a rousing welcome to Congress President Rahul Gandhi who filed his Lok Sabha nomination from Wayanad in Kerala on Thursday morning.

Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi
Thousands of people gave a rousing welcome to Congress President Rahul Gandhi who filed his Lok Sabha nomination from Wayanad in Kerala on Thursday morning.
 
Arriving in a helicopter from Kozhikode, Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra drove to the Wayanad Collector's office some 500 meters away, all the time cheered by people packing both sides of the road.
 
Amid tight security, only a few persons were allowed to go in with them.
 
The Gandhis later boarded an open jeep for a road show in Wayanad, one of the economically backward regions of Kerala, accompanied by Congress General Secretary Oommen Chandy.
 
Police personnel found it tough to handle the surging crowds. The situation became more difficult whenever Rahul Gandhi shook hands with supporters.
 
Rahul Gandhi will be contesting from both Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, his traditional Lok Sabha constituency, as well as Wayanad.
 
Kerala goes to the polls on April 23 to elect 20 MPs.
 
At one time, there were heated exchanges between Congress leaders and Special Protection Group (SPG) officials after the latter insisted that the proposed road show might not happen due to security concerns.
 
But in the end the Congress leadership won the tussle.
 
The crowds were delirious. 
 
"I have seen Indira Gandhi when she came to Kozhikode many years back. Now I am excited that I have seen her grandchildren. I am very happy," beamed a 78-year-old Muslim woman.
 
Another group of Congress activists shouted: "Rahul will win with a massive margin never seen in Kerala."
 
IANS
 

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