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CPI(M) allots ticket to V S Achuthanandan for Kerala Assembly poll


Amid protests from grassroots workers and last-minute intervention by the party polit burueau, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala today allotted a seat to Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan to contest the April 13 elections to the State Legislative Assembly.


State CPI(M) Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan told newspersons here that Mr Achuthanandan would contest the Assembly elections from Malampuzha constituency.


The CPI(M) State Committee's reported decision on March 16 to deny a party ticket to Mr Achuthanandan had triggered widespread protests in Kerala, forcing the party's central leadership to hold a polit bureau meeting in New Delhi this morning to discuss the crucial issue.


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Assam police arrest suspect in Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan blast case


The police today arrested a suspect in the March 14 blast at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, the headquarters of the state unit of the Congress party.


Police said the man, Babul Das alias Uday Das, was arrested in the wee hours of today from the city. They said they had recovered incriminating documents from him.


Police had earlier claimed they had identified the mastermind behind the blast. They said the blast was carried out under the instructions of hardcore ULFA leader Dipen Saud.


An improvised explosive device (IED) was lobbed at the Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan on March 14, injuring four Congressmen.


ULFA "c-in-c" Paresh Barua had later claimed responsibility for the attack.


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PM denies bribes were paid during trust vote of July 2008

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday took the Opposition head-on, making it clear that no one from the Congress party or his Government had indulged in any unlawful act during the trust vote won by the Government in the Lok Sabha in July 2008.

Television grab of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh making a statment on Wikileaks expose in Lok Sabha in New Delhi on March 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Television grab of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh making a statment on Wikileaks expose in Lok Sabha in New Delhi on March 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today took the Opposition head-on, making it clear that no one from the Congress party or his Government had indulged in any unlawful act during the trust vote won by the Government in the Lok Sabha in July 2008.

"It is unfortunate that the Opposition continues to raise old charges that have been debated, discussed and rejected by the people of India," he said in a statement in the Lok Sabha in response to a demand from the Opposition following the latest Wikileaks expose about cables sent by a US Embassy official in Delhi to Washington.

In the cables, details of which were carried by The Hindu yesterday, the official said that an aide of Congress leader Satish Sharma had claimed days ahead of the voting in Parliament that MPs were being bribed to win the trust vote.

"It is most surprising that speculative, unverified and unverifiable communications should be given dignity and seized upon by the Opposition parties to revive old charges that have been soundly rejected," Dr Singh said.

Referring to the allegations raised by several members in the House yesterday on the basis of the reports in the newspaper of what were purported to be cables from the US Embassy in New Delhi to their authorities in Washington, he said the Government could not confirm the veracity, contents or even the existence of such communications.

He, however, pointed out that many of the persons referred to in those reports had stoutly denied the veracity of the contents.

"An issue was raised that the offence of bribery was committed in India. Government rejects that allegation absolutely and firmly. Let it be remembered that in July 2008, in the 14th LoK Sabha, Government moved a Motion of Confidence. In an open vote that was taken on the floor of the House, Government won the confidence of the Lok Sabha by 275 votes for and 256 votes against. The allegations of bribery were investigated by a committee constituted by the 14th Lok Sabha. The Committee had concluded that there was insufficient evidence to draw any conclusion of bribery," he said.

"I am disappointed that members of the Opposition have forgotten what happened thereafter. Upon the conclusion of the term of the 14th Lok Sabha, there was a general election. In that general election, the Opposition parties repeated their allegations of bribery in the trust vote.

"How did the people respond to those allegations? The principal Opposition party which had 138 seats in the 14th Lok Sabha was reduced to 116 seats in the 15th Lok Sabha. The left parties found that their tally was reduced from 59 to 24. It is the Congress Party alone which increased its tally from 145 to 206, an increase of 61 seats," he said.

"I wish to make it clear that no one from the Congress Party or the Government indulged in any unlawful act during the trust vote during July, 2008," Dr Singh said.

"The UPA I Government always enjoyed the confidence of the people and the 14th Lok Sabha. The UPA II Government has been formed in the 15th Lok Sabha and enjoys the confidence of this House and the people of India," he added.

The Prime Minister made a similar statement in the Rajya Sabha later in the afternoon.

Earlier, this morning, Dr Singh asserted that he not authorised anyone to purchase votes for the confidence motion in the Lok Sabha in 2008 and that he was not aware of any such transaction.

"I have no knowledge of any such purchases and I am absolutely categorical, I have not authorised anyone to purchase any votes. I am not aware of any acts of purchase of votes," he said while replying to questions at the India Today Conclave 2011 here.

Dr Singh was responding to questions at the conclave about the Wikileaks expose. He pointed out that the people named in the media reports in this regard had already expressed doubts about the veracity of the claims.

"I think, people who are affected by them, they have already commented on them, casting serious doubts about the veracity of allegations made in these diplomatic despatches," Dr Singh said.

"I am absolutely certain in asserting that I am not at all, I think, involved in any of these transactions," the Prime Minister asserted.

Dr Singh said these and other such developments in recent times only served to underline the need for strong and purposeful electoral reforms so that funding of elections and political partiess could be more transparent. He also conceded that India had to take steps to tackle the malaise of corruption. He admitted that such developments did affect India's image, both at home and abroad.

He recalled that a Joint Parliamentary Committee had already gone into the cash for votes allegations and its report was available in the public domain. Asked what the Government now proposed to do on this issue, Dr Singh said any statement on this could be made only in Parliament, which is in session.

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Black money case: SC suggests Centre to set up SIT


The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to consider setting up a Special Investigating Team (SIT) to probe unaccounted wealth stashed away in secret foreign bank accounts.


A bench comprising Justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar gave the suggestion during the hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani, former Punjab Director General of Police K P S Gill and others seeking directions to the Centre to make sincere efforts to bring back about Rs 70 lakh crore parked in foreign bank accounts by tax evaders.


The Centre assured that it would consider the proposal and get back to the court. The hearing will continue next week.


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Hasan Ali Khan surrenders to ED after Supreme Court cancels bail

Pune-based businessman Hasan Ali Khan, accused of evading crores in income tax, surrendered late last night to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) here after the Supreme court cancelled his bail yesterday and remanded him to the ED's custody for four days.

Khan was arrested under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and earlier lodged in the ED office before the sessions court on March 11 granted him bail.

Khan will be interrogated by ED officials to ascertain, through the allegedly incriminating documents recovered by them, his role in stashing black money in various banks abroad.

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Air India reaches 25 tons of relief material to Japan


National carrier Air India has carried about 25 tonnes of relief material to Japan, which was struck on March 11 by a devastating earthquake and a tsunami which also affected some of that country's nuclear power plants.


A press release from the airline said the relief material were carried on its two flights to japan on March 15 and 16 and included two consignments each of 10,000 high quality blankets sent by the Government of India.


"More such relief material, if made available, would be transported to Japan," said an Air India spokesperson.


The airline has also augmented seating capacity on the flights between the two countries by deploying a Boeing 747 aircraft on the sector in lieu of the scheduled Boeing 777-300 aircaft.


Instead of the four flights a week, the airline is now operating special daily flights from March 16 to bring back Indians who wish to return home from Japan.


The flight AI – 306 will leave Delhi at 2300 hrs and reach Narita (Tokyo) at 0950 hrs (local time) on the next day. In the return direction, the flight AI – 307 will leave Narita at 1130 hrs (local time) and arrive in Delhi at 1800 hrs.


These flights are in addition to Air India's scheduled operations to Osaka three times a week. Passengers wishing to return to India on these flights have been advised to contact Air India offices in Japan for reservations, facilitation and assistance.


Air India has also decided to waive charges for re-booking, cancellations and refunds on all types of tickets for travel from/to Japan up to 31 March 2011, the release added.


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PM says India needs to adapt to changes in balance of power

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the shifts in the balance of power all around the world, both within and between states, and their implications pointed to the need for India to adapt itself to these changes.


"In many ways, India is well placed to take advantage of the changes in the balance of international forces," he said in his inaugural address at the India Today Conclave 2011 here.


"We can contribute to the world’s recovery from the recent financial and economic crisis. We can become a pole of political stability in an uncertain world. But for all this we will need to show innovation and flexibility in our approaches," he said.


The Prime Minister said some inadequacies had become apparent in the country's systems of functioning.


"We have to deal squarely with the malaise of corruption. We need to reform and improve governance at all levels," he stressed.


Dr Singh said that the one defining characteristic of the changes seen in India and the world was the shift in power towards the ordinary citizen.


He said that, in India, there had been rapid economic change and growth since 1991.


"What is less evident but equally significant is the fundamental deepening of our democracy that has been brought about through the empowerment of local institutions, broadened civil society action and a policy of inclusive social and economic growth. This has led to a shift in power from the institutions of state to the citizens of our country," he said.


The Prime Minister spoke about the process of economic liberalisation that began in 1991.


"In 1991, we unleashed the entrepreneurial energies of our people by dismantling the license-permit raj. This released individual creative energies to produce the wealth that we need for fulfilling our responsibility of offering a life of equal opportunity and dignity to our citizens," he said.


He said the policies of the Government in recent times had sought to remake the democratic state of India, to make processes of social and economic change more inclusive and thereby empowering over a billion people, one sixth of humanity. It is in fact a mandate that derives from the country's Constitution, he said.


"We have sought to make political democracy meaningful through social democracy by addressing the specific needs of excluded or marginalized sections of our society like Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, minorities and women. We are committed to providing reservation to women to the extent of 50% in local bodies and up to a third in the state legislatures and in our Parliament," he said.


Dr Singh dwelt at length on the Government's flagship development programmes, including Bharat Nirman, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Right to Education, the National Rural Health Mission and so on, all of which are aimed at bridging the several divides in the country simultaneously.


He talked about the targeted affirmative action programmes for minorities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the progress made in providing broadband connectivity to all the 2,50,000 panchayats in the country so that modern technology was harnessed for the empowerment of citizens.


"We have introduced landmark legislations that provide citizens the Right to Information, the Right to Education and the Right to Work through the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act.


"We have intensified our efforts for the emancipation of our women. Our efforts to create equal educational opportunities through targeted programmes for girls’ education and specific economic programmes focused on women particularly through self-help groups are all gradually bearing fruit. Our major challenge going forward is to give our women political voice and to work out and implement effective strategies for gender equality," he said.


"We have sought to capitalize on the opportunities that come in the way of decentralization of power. It is heartening to see that the modern sectors of our economy are also beginning to understand the value of operating at the bottom of the pyramid and combining public welfare with the pursuit of profit," he said.


The Prime Minister said the focus was to create a skilling revolution in the country that touched every nook and corner. He said this needed everyone to collaborate – the Central and State Governments, the private sector, developers of technology, NGOs and others.


"Through the Prime Minister’s National Council on Skill Development we have been working on this and now that the recession is behind us, and we are coming out with a blueprint for the skill revolution in the next two months," he said.


Dr Singh said the country had not yet evolved a fully satisfactory system for reconciling harmoniously the demands of growth and environment.


"We need to move away from seeing the environment-development debate as a zero-sum game and instead devise win-win combinations. A lot of intellectual effort is needed to operationalize the concept of sustainable development. This should challenge the imagination of our environment and development planners. The tragic nuclear incidents in Japan in the aftermath of the recent earthquake and tsunami should make us revisit strategies for nuclear safety, learning lessons from these experiences. I have already ordered a thorough review by the Department of Atomic Energy," he said.


Dr Singh said the present age was one in which science and technology and the growth of human knowledge were becoming major determinants of the power and wealth of nations.


"India’s ability to carve out a place for itself in the evolving comity of nations will be determined by our ability to use science and technology in accelerating the processes of social and economic change," he pointed out.


He said that what had been attempted in India was specific to Indian conditions. "But the human desire for more freedom and for citizens to decide their own future is universal. The shift of power to citizens is today a global phenomenon," he said.


In this context, he said India was happy to see people in West Asia and North Africa taking an increasing role in determining their own future.


"These are decisions for countries and their citizens to take for themselves, free of outside interference or coercion. India will do what it can to support the decisions that the people and countries of the region take about their own future. As close neighbours and historical friends, we have a major stake in their peaceful, orderly evolution. Over 6 millions of our citizens live and work in this area," he said.


"India’s trade, economic and human ties with the countries of South Asia, East Asia and West Asia are deep and historical. We have to find new pathways of cooperation with these countries to create new opportunities for growth and development," he said.


Dr Singh said the balance was also shifting between states in the global system. "The old order is clearly changing. A new order however is yet to be born. No country has a greater interest and stake than India in a rule-based and predictable international system within which we can grow and develop," he said.


He said the existing institutions of global governance needed to change to reflect today's shift in balance.


"To some extent, this is already happening in regard to the global economy. India, today participates fully and meaningfully in international economic institutions, particularly the G-20 which has emerged in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008 as the preferred and primary forum for global economic issues. We seek a similar evolution in the international handling of political, security and other issues and a democratization of institutions like the United Nations Security Council to bring them in line with present day realities," he said.


Dr Singh said it was important that all major powers worked together to address the major economic and political challenges that faced the world, including those involving non-state actors. Cooperation to deal with cross border terrorism is very important, he underlined


He said problems such as piracy required cooperative solutions by several states, acting together both to prevent piracy on the high seas and to eliminate the causes which make these possible.


"India has a strong interest in the security of the sea lanes. Our Navy has done a commendable task in foiling attempts at piracy in the Arabian Sea and it is working with international navies of the Horn of Africa," he added.


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PM says did not authorise anyone to purchase votes

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday asserted that he had not authorised anyone to purchase votes for the confidence motion in the Lok Sabha in 2008 and that he was not aware of any such transaction.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the 10th India Today Conclave in New Delhi on March 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the 10th India Today Conclave in New Delhi on March 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today asserted that he had not authorised anyone to purchase votes for the confidence motion in the Lok Sabha in 2008 and that he was not aware of any such transaction.

"I have no knowledge of any such purchases and I am absolutely categorical, I have not authorised anyone to purchase any votes. I am not aware of any acts of purchase of votes," he said while replying to questions at the India Today Conclave 2011 here.

Dr Singh was responding to questions at the conclave about the latest Wikileaks expose about cables sent by a US Embassy official in Delhi to Washington in which he had said that an aide of Congress leader Satish Sharma had claimed that MPs were being bribed to win the trust vote.

He pointed out that the people named in the media reports in this regard had already expressed doubts about the veracity of the claims.

"I think, people who are affected by them, they have already commented on them, casting serious doubts about the veracity of allegations made in these diplomatic despatches," Dr Singh said.

"I am absolutely certain in asserting that I am not at all, I think, involved in any of these transactions," the Prime Minister asserted.

Dr Singh said these and other such developments in recent times only served to underline the need for strong and purposeful electoral reforms so that funding of elections and political partiess could be more transparent.

He also admitted that such developments did affect India's image, both at home and abroad.

He recalled that a Joint Parliamentary Committee had already gone into the cash for votes allegations and its report was available in the public domain. Asked what the Government now proposed to do on this issue, Dr Singh said any statement on this could be made only in Parliament, which is in session.

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MLA's supporters go berserk in Tamil Nadu over denial of ticket


Supporters of DMK sitting legislator G Iyyappan today ransacked the party's office here, protesting the denial of a ticket to him for the April 13 elections to the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly.


Hours after the DMK President and Chief Minister M Karunaidhi announced the list of candidates, the DMK men, who were supporters of the sitting MLA, came out in a procession and ransacked the party office.


After breaking the glass panes, they threw out chairs and other furniture on the road, even as people ran helter skelter.


Taking exception to the fielding of Mr L Pugazhendhi, former MLA in Cuddalore, the supporters demanded the party high command withdraw his candidature and field Mr Iyyappan.


As a tense situation prevailed, shopkeepers downed their shutters. The DMK office is located few metres away from the New Town Police station, which was recently opened.


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DMK fields new face against Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu elections


The ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu has pitted a new face against opposition AIADMK General Secretary J Jayalalithaa in Srirangam for the April 13 assembly elections in the state.


Mr N Anand, 32-year-old science graduate, engaged in real estate business, would take on Ms Jayalalithaa, who is seeking election from Srirangam, a traditional AIADMK bastion.


A native of Sandhapuram in Tiruchirapalli district, Anand is a local party office bearer. He is among the 54 new faces being fielded by the DMK in this election.


The new faces included kin of former union minister T R Baalu, Agriculture Minister Veerapandi S Arumugam, Revenue Minister I Periasamy and Tirunelveli Mayor A L Srinivasan.


Mr Baalu's son T R B Raja, a science post-graduate, is fielded in Mannargudi in Thanjavur district, while Periyasamy's son, I P Senthilkumar is fielded in Palani.


The party has nominated Mr Arumugam's son Veerapandi A Rajendran and Srinivasan's son, A L S Lakshmanan in Tirunelveli.


The DMK also recognised late leader N V N Somu's service to the party, by giving a ticket to his daughter Dr Kanimozhi. She is contesting in Madhavaram, a newly carved out constituency in north Chennai.


Mr Somu, who had served in the NDA government as Union Minister of State for Defence, died in a helicopter crash, while visiting the north- eastern states.


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Police officer burnt alive in mob violence in Rajasthan


A Station House Officer(SHO) of Mantown police station at Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan was allegedly burnt alive and around 15 policemen were injured in violence and arson by a mob angry over the suicide of a youth in Surlas village on the outskirts of the town.


A police spokesman said that the deceased youth was identified as Rajasthan Gramin Youth Shakti Morcha chief Rajesh Badolas who was protesting against the "police failure" in arresting the culprits involved the in killing of a woman. He climbed to the top of a water tank, set himself afire and jumped to his death around 1730 hrs today.


The badly injured Badolas was rushed to the hospital where he was declared brought dead.


Badolas climbed to the top of the tank along with an associate and gave a deadline of 1700 hrs for the arrest of the culprits. He killed himself after the deadline passed.


Agitated over his death, the villagers turned violent, threw stones at the police and set on fire two police jeeps and tried to prevent the cops from escaping from the burning vehicles.


While SHO Phool Mohmad was burnt alive, three or four were still missing and around 15 were admitted to the hospital, mostly with burn injuries, the police sources said.


Police later opened fire in the air and recovered the body, the spokesman said.


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2 workers die, 3 injured in fire in Thane chemical factory


Two industrial workers died and three others were seriously hurt in a major fire that broke out in the Gharda Chemicals Company at Manpada in the limits of Dombivli in Thane district of Maharashtra today.


Initial reports reaching the district headquarters said a fire broke out in the Plant No 4, possibly due to an electrical short circuit, which spread to its agro chemical plant. The local safety team tried to extinguish the fire but to no avail.


Six fire tenders rushed to the spot and the fire fighters fought the raging flames for more than three hours, before the fire was doused, police said.


G R Rathod and R V Pardesi, who were working in the plant, died on the spot due to the fire, the reports.


Three others who were also present in the plant at the time - Nilesh Madhvi, Datta Korde and Mahesh Terde - received burn injuries and were being treated in a local hospital, they said.


The fire was now totally under control, the fire brigade said, adding the cause of fire was being probed.


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Bahrain PM assures India about safety of its nationals


Indian Ambassador to Bahrain Mohan Kumar called on Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa in Manama today and was assured by him that the Bahraini authorities would do everything in their power to ensure the safety and security of Indians living in the country.


The Gulf state has been witnessing clashes for the past many days between police and protesters posing a challenge to the royal family in the Gulf state.


A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said the Government continued to carefully monitor the security situation in Bahrain and would issue suitable travel advisories should it become necessary.


"Until then, the present advisory which asks Indians in Bahrain to keep a low profile, stay indoors and to avoid all non-essential travel within the country stands. The Indian Embassy has also advised the Indian associations that those family members and others whose presence in Bahrain is not necessary should consider leaving the country, if so inclined," the statement said.


Round-the-clock helplines have been set up in the MEA and the Embassy of India in Manama.


The helplines in MEA, Delhi, can be reached on +91 11 2301 5300, +91 11 2301 2113,
+91 11 2301 4104 and +91 112301 8179. Fax.No. +91 11 2301 8158


Email:  

controlroom@mea.gov.in


The helplines in Bahrain can be reached on +973 3982 8767, +973 17712785,
Fax.No.+973 17715527 and Email:

indemcon@batelco.com.bh

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Turmoil in Parliament over Wikileaks expose about cash for votes

A Wikileaks expose, published in a national daily, that crores had changed hands to influence the 2008 trust motion in the wake of the Indo-US nuclear deal touched off a tsunami in Parliament on Thursday.

Senior BJP leader L K Advani flanked by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and NDA convenor Sharad Yadav addressing a press conference on the 'Wikileaks' report on money for vote, in New Delhi on March 17, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Senior BJP leader L K Advani flanked by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and NDA convenor Sharad Yadav addressing a press conference on the 'Wikileaks' report on money for vote, in New Delhi on March 17, 2011. UNI PHOTO

A Wikileaks expose, published in a national daily, that crores had changed hands to influence the 2008 trust motion in the wake of the Indo-US nuclear deal touched off a tsunami in Parliament today with an Opposition walk-out during the guillotine for demands for grants for the General Budget.

Both the Houses were drowned in a sea of charges and counter charges and were repeatedly adjourned amid slogans for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation.

The Opposition walk-out followed a demand from Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj demanding a clarification from the Prime Minister, who was present in the Lok Sabha, on the expose.

Ms Swaraj said the leaks had put to shame the entire Indian nation and since the Prime Minister was present in the House he should confirm or otherwise deny the veracity of the reports. In case, he was unwilling then it was no use that the Opposition continued to be present in the House. She said the Treasury benches on their own can put to guillotine the demands for grants.

Within minutes, the Opposition staged a walk-out, which included BJP's L K Advani and Yashwant Sinha, Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP), and Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI). The Speaker put to vote the demands for grants which were passed by a voice vote.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, in the Rajya Sabha, said the Government was not in a position to either confirm or deny the reports.

"I cannot either confirm this or deny this as the correspondence between missions and their sovereign government enjoy immunity. The Government elected is accountable to the 15th Lok Sabha and not the 14th Lok Sabha,'' Mr Mukherjee said.

However, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley held Mr Mukherjee "guilty of a cover-up."

"Outside the House an offence of bribery is not accepted. If what has appeared is correct, it is a commission of an offence in India. Diplomatic immunity may be available to US diplomats but the same immunity can't be used by Indians in India. Where is the question of the Finance Minister claiming that immunity ?" Mr Jaitley asked.

"If he is satisfied that what appeared in the newspaper is an admissible evidence in any court of the law, I will be satisfied. If what appeared is an admissible evidence in any court of law in India as per the laws, this is the submission I want him to make," Mr Mukherjee said.

With Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) rising to speak on a newspaper report that detailed names of those involved in the 2008 scam, and simultaneously some Congress MPs trying to shout him down, the Lok Sabha was drowned in din and chaos, forcing an adjournment till noon.

The CPI leader said the expose by Wikileak, and subsequently "quoted" by a leading national daily in Delhi today was a stain on Indian democracy.

"The expose says Rs 50-60 crore were paid by the government to win over MPs against the 'no confidence motion' moved by us," he said, while adding that "if so, it was the murder of democracy".

And this description was from the notes the US Embassy in New Delhi sent to Washington, he charged and said, "I want to know whether India's control room is in Delhi or Washington."

Demanding that the Prime Minister make a statement in the House and deny the report, Mr Dasgupta said, "If he cannot deny, he must resign immediately."

It was ironical that while the BJP had exposed the bribing incident and showed the "money given to our MPs," the then Speaker had ruled against us saying displaying of money in the House was not permissible, Ms Swaraj earlier said.

Pointing out that the web site has given the names of all those involved in the murky episode, Ms Swaraj said, "The government had lost the moral right to rule the nation following this, and the Prime Minister must announce his resignation."

Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav said since he was involved in "saving" the government, the Congress-led ruling coalition must make a statement on the episode and name those involved in it so as to clear his party's name from any "dealings".

"A proper discussion should be held in the House to bring out the names of the real culprits," he said.

Congress MPs created bedlam by trying to shout down the BJP's leader. Later the entire Opposition stood up in her support leading to further noise and din.

With no side relenting, Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the House till 1200 hrs.

Reports in the newspaper said that five days before the Manmohan Singh government faced a crucial vote of confidence on the Indo-US Civil Nuclear deal in 2008, Congress had assembled Rs 50 crore to Rs 60 crore to purchase the support of MPs.

Earlier, as soon as Rajya Sabha met Mr Jaitley alleged that the first UPA government survived on the strength of "a political sin, a moral sin" while Communist Party of India (Marxist)'s Sitaram Yechury demanded that the Manmohan Singh Government had lost the moral authority and must resign.

Outside Parliament, NDA Working President L K Advani said that the Government has no moral right to continue even for a day and should quit immediately.

In a statement after an NDA meeting in the presence of both Leaders of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and leaders of NDA constituents, Mr Advani said despite the "stinking scams, suicides and murders," he had not asked the Government to quit, but after today's "confirmation" of what was believed to be true all along, the Government has no right to be in office.

He said India had earned global respect for its "sound democracy" despite its backwardness but this fair name has been sullied and people proud of democracy felt ashamed of all that had happened and how the UPA-I survived.

He said the BJP MPs had played the role of "whistleblowers" in the sting operations conducted by a news channel and exposed that MPs received funds from the ruling side to switch sides. They even displayed money in the Lok Sabha to prove their point.

Following the furore, a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe was instituted. It was public knowledge that the UPA targeted the "vulnerable MPs" whose constituencies were changed in the delimitation exercise, Mr Advani said.

He said the defence of the Finance Minister in the Rajya Sabha that diplomatic immunity prevented the Government from investigating the cable leak was of no avail as this immunity does not extend to protect an Indian offender in its territory. His other argument that the 2008 offence had vanished with the completion of the term of 14th Lok Sabha also did not hold water.

Mr Advani said the Wikileaks contents reproduced by Chennai-based daily "The Hindu", had also revealed the statement of a political counsellor of the US Embassy in Delhi to his Government on the 2008 events. The US were interested in the vote of confidence. One offender was literally working in foreign cell of the Congress and that party displayed the rogue war chests to the diplomat. This diplomat could not have concocted these facts in relation to a friendly party in India. The likes of Sant Chatwal were inducted in order to induce Akali Dal. He did not succeed and yet he got adequately compensated by this Government, Mr Advani said.

He said the contemporaneous evidence stared in the face as proof of the political immorality of the UPA-I and it survived on the strength of "political sin". The PM has no moral authority or legitimacy to lead the Government of the day and he must quit forthwith, Mr Advani remarked.

The disclosure, he said, had added to the campaign of the NDA against corruption and these allegations will continue to haunt the Government as long as it continued, he lamented.

Asked if the BJP would authenticate the Wikileak reports, Mr Advani said the report had vindicated the "broad details", the party had known that too from a foreign source. "The NDA will be reviewing the details on a day to day basis and take its decision as events unfold," Mr Advani said.

On the obstruction posed by the Congress MPs in Parliament, Mr Advani said their actions showed that theirs was a "guilty party" and it was because of this knowledge that they behaved in the way they had done in Parliament.

"Right from the top man in the Government the ruling Congress party were all involved in the bribery case and the target was vulnerable MPs," he said.

The Left and several non-BJP and non-Congress parties, including the SP, which is extending support to the UPA Government from outside, demanded that the Prime Minister come clean on the expose or resign on moral grounds.

They also wanted the Government to act on the recommendation of the House Committee on cash for vote scam and probe criminal culpability of those involved.

Addressing a news conference after the turmoil in Parliament over the issue, CPI(M)leader Sitaram Yechuri, CPI leaders D Raja and Gurudas Dasgupta, JD(S) leader H D Deve Gowda, SP MP Shailendra Kumar and TDP MP Namanageswar Rao said the Prime Minister should either deny what has been published in The Hindu today, or quit as he had no moral right to remain in office.

Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda said that since it was a matter involving MPs, Delhi Police, which was looking into the matter, was not the proper agency to be given the job. It should be investigated by a higher authority. He said as far as he was concerned, he was ready for a probe by the CBI.

Mr Dasgupta said that if the Government was denying what was published in The Hindu, it must lodge a complaint with the Press

Council of India and also with the Privileges Committee of the House. Mr Nama Nageswar Rao of the TDP also endorsed this demand.

He said the Wikileaks had confirmed what "we had been suspecting all along", and now it was for the government to come clean on the issue or resign.

The TDP leader said two TDP MPs changed their stand overnight and in the last elections they got elected to the Lok Sabha on the Congress ticket, raising a question mark on the morality of the stand taken by them.

Chief Whip of the SP in the Lok Sabha Shailendra Kumar said that since his party supported the UPA Government at the time of the Confidence Vote, they also wanted the Prime Minister to come to the House and give a clarification.

"We voted in favour of the Confidence Motion out of sincere intentions, but once our conduct has become suspicious, we would like the Prime Minister to come clean on the issue," he said.

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Raja aide's post-mortem shows death due to asphyxiation

A day after he allegedly committed suicide, mystery continues to surround the death of spectrum scam accused and former Communications Minister A Raja's close aide Sadiq Batcha, as the post-mortem examination could not reveal whether it was murder or suicide.

The post-mortem examination was done by a team of doctors at the Government Royapettah Hospital in the presence of the Director of Forensic Medicine. The entire procedure was videographed.

Later, the body was handed over to the family members of Batcha and it was taken to his native Perambalur district for last rites.

Talking to reporters after the examination that lasted nearly three hours, Dr Sekal, one of the doctors who performed the examination, said the death has occurred due to asphyxiation.

"There are signs of asphyxia and the death was due to difficulty in breathing," he said adding there was only one external mark -- the hanging mark around the neck --on the body.

There were no external injuries and there were also no symptoms of poisoning, Dr Sekal said.

Whether the hanging mark around the neck was ante-mortem or post-mortem could be ascertained only after the receipt of pathological test reports. The hanging mark could be confirmed only by microscopy tests.

"We have sent all the tissues, including those taken from the neck area to pathological and forensic tests. Since it is a sensitive case, we cannot say whether the mark was caused ante-mortem or postmortem.

"We can concretely tell only after receipt of pathological test reports, which is expected to take around 15 to 20 days," Dr Sekal said.

"As of now, death is due to asphyxiation. Compression of neck is the reason for asphyxiation," he said, adding "Unless the pathological tests are out we cannot confirm whether it is a suicide or murder."

Dr Sekal said he could not say anything more now. "Let us wait for pathological test reports, only then we can say with scientific data."

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Allies of AIADMK meet, talk of Third Front in Tamil Nadu


A day after the main opposition AIADMK announced candidates for 160 constituencies including the seats sought by its partners, its key allies the CPI, the CPI(M) and the DMDK, today went into a huddle to chalk out their future course of action, raising the possibility of the emergence of a Third Front for the April 13 Assembly polls.


While the two Left parties went into a joint huddle at the CPI(M)'s office, DMDK founder and actor Vijayakanth met the workers at his party office to elicit their views.


AIADMK's another long-time ally, the MDMK, was ditched by AIADMK after the latter offered a measly number of eight seats as against 25 demanded by the ally. The MDMK is expected to take a crucial decision at its party meet on March 19.


The All India Nadalum Makkal Katchi, led by actor Karthik, has already walked out of the AIADMK alliance alleging disrespect and ill-treatment meted out to them.


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22 killed as bus falls off bridge at Malkapur in Maharashtra


Twenty-two pilgrims were killed when their bus plunged into the Nalganga river after the driver lost control over the vehicle on a bridge near Malkapur town of the Buldhana district of Maharashtra early today.


According to Malkapur police, a bus of Vijay Yatra Company from Wardha district was on its return journey with about 40 pilgrims.


At 0330 hrs, the driver lost control and the bus fell into the the Nalganga on the Malkapur-Bhusawal road.


Eighteen people were seriously injured in the incident of which few have been shifted to Akola district hospital, police said.


The victims, who hailed from Wardha, were yet to be identified.


The bus was on a Maharashtra tour and the tragedy occurred before it reached its last destination, Shegaon.


Two years ago, the same spot had witnessed a similar accident in which 18 traders of Surat in Gujarat lost their lives.


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Jaya to contest from Srirangam: AIADMK announces list


The opposition AIADMK General Secretary and former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa will seek election from Srirangam in Tiruchirapalli district, in the April 13 Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, as the party announced the list of candidates for 160 seats, ejecting its long-time ally, the MDMK, from the front.


Ms Jayalalithaa announced the list of candidates after finalising the identification of seats to its allies, including Vijayakanth's DMDK, Left parties and other minor allies.


As widely speculated, Ms Jayalalithaa is seeking election from the temple town of Srirangam, shifting from Andipatti in Madurai district, from where she got elected to the assembly in the 2006 elections. Andipatti had also been the constituency of her mentor and AIADMK founder, and former Chief Minister MGR.


Most of the AIADMK senior leaders, including O Panneerselvam, K A Sengottaiyan, E Madusoodanan, D Jayakumar, B Valarmathi and former ministers K P Krishnan, Raja Kannappan and sitting members V P Kalairajan, S M Velusamy, S Ve Shanmugam have been renominated.


Surprisingly, the AIADMK has fielded only 12 women candidates, which constituted 7.5 per cent of 160 seats.


DMDK Youth Wing leader L K Sudhish said the party has been given 41 seats and party leader Vijayakanth would announce the list of candidates in a couple of days.


CPI(M) state unit secretary G Ramakrishanan said the party would announce the list of candidates after the state committee meeting on March 19.


The MDMK, led by Mr Vaiko is now on the horns of a dilemma, what with the AIADMK refusing to concede its demand for more seats. The party was offered around eight seats, which Mr Vaiko had turned down and convened the party's high level meeting on March 19 to decide the future course of action.


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2G spectrum: Raja aide Batcha commits suicide

Sadiq Batcha, a close aide of former Communications Minister A Raja, who has been arrested in the 2G spectrum allocation case, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself on Wednesday, causing a setback to the CBI, which is all set to file the chargesheet in the scam by this month-end.

A file picture of Sadiq Batcha (L), a close aide of former Communications Minister A Raja and one of the accused in the 2G spectrum case, who allegedly committed sucide, in Chennai on March 16, 2011. UNI PHOTO
A file picture of Sadiq Batcha (L), a close aide of former Communications Minister A Raja and one of the accused in the 2G spectrum case, who allegedly committed sucide, in Chennai on March 16, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Sadiq Batcha, a close aide of former Union Communications Minister A Raja, who has been arrested in the 2G spectrum allocation case, today allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself, causing a setback to the CBI, which is all set to file the chargesheet in the scam by this month-end.

Thirty seven-year-old Batcha was found hanging in his bedroom at his residence in the city this afternoon, his wife Rahana Banu said in a complaint lodged with the Teynampet Police station.

Ms Banu came to the Police station with her two sons and lodged a complaint stating that she found her husband hanging in the bedroom at around 1300 hrs.

In her brief complaint, she said her husband took the extreme step as he could not cope with the embarassment caused by the 2G scam.

Based on the complaint, police filed a First Information Report (FIR) stating it was a case of suicide.

The death of Batcha came to light when he was rushed to Apollo Hospitals, where he was declared "brought dead".

The body was later taken to the Government Royapettah Hospital for post-mortem examination.

Chennai City Police Commissioner T Rajendran said, "We received information around 1330 hrs that Batcha was brought dead to Apollo Hospitals."

Stating that investigation would commence after receiving a formal complaint from his wife, Mr Rajendran said the cause of death could be known only after the post-mortem report was out.

"We don't want to speculate (on the cause of death) till we get the post mortem report," he added.

File photo of former Communications Minister A Raja at a CBI court in the 2G scam case, in New Delhi on February 17, 2011. The court remanded him in judicial custody for 14 days. UNI PHOTO
File photo of former Communications Minister A Raja at a CBI court in the 2G scam case, in New Delhi on February 17, 2011. The court remanded him in judicial custody for 14 days. UNI PHOTO

Batcha, who was very close to Mr Raja right from his days as a practicing advocate in Permbalur district, was the Managing Director of Green House Promoters, a firm floated by the family members of Mr Raja.

Batcha was also involved in real estate business and his firms and residences both in the city and Perambalur, were raided by the CBI, which is probing the money trail in the 2G spectrum scam.

He was recently questioned by the CBI in connection with the scam, the investigation into which is being monitored by the Supreme Court.

Batcha has also come under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate for his various business dealings.

In Delhi, the CBI claimed the death of Batcha would not affect its ongoing probe in the case.

"The death of Batcha is unexpected but it will not affect the ongoing investigations in 2G spectrum scam as all evidence has already been recorded," a CBI spokesperson said.

"His premises were raided and he was questioned in the case and the agency has collected evidence," the spokesperson added.

The CBI had searched his residence and offices on December 15 last year and he was grilled by the agency several times in connection with the case. He was last questioned in February 2011.

When asked on the reports that Batcha was again called by the agency for questioning, the spokesperson denied such reports.

Meanwhile, a suicide note allegedly left by Batcha said he was under pressure after the CBI questioned him in connection with the 2G spectrum scam.

Details of the note became available even as the Tamil Nadu government referred the case to the CBI for a probe.

In a brief one-page note, written in Tamil and dated March 15, Batcha said he was under tremendous pressure ever since the CBI questioned him in connection with the spectrum scam and raided his premises.

The constant media glare and social stigma forced him to take the extreme step, he said, adding no one was responsible for his death.

He sought forgiveness from one of his sisters for taking the extreme step. But he did not spell out the details.

Batchais believed to have given a "clean chit" to Mr Raja, saying he had done nothing wrong in the spectrum allocation.

As leaders of the opposition, including AIADMK General Secretary J Jayalalithaa suspected foul play, the Tamil Nadu Government referred the suicide case to the CBI for a probe.

Home Secretary K Gnanadesikan, in an official release here, Ms Banu, wife of Sadiq Batcha had lodged a complaint with the poilce that her huband committed suicide by hanging.

He said based on the complaint, police registered a case under section 174 CrPC (unnatural death) and launched investigation.

As Batcha was questioned by the CBI in connection with the 2G spectrum scam, the Tamil Nadu government has decided to refer the suicide case to the CBI for further investigation, the Home Secretary said.

Suspecting foul play, Ms Jayalalithaa asked whether the suicide was "a case of murder or forced suicide? This is the issue that has to be ascertained by the CBI. If there is any reluctance on the part of the CBI, then both the Supreme Court and the JPC should step in and issue necessary directives," she said.

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I was not interrogated by CBI, Vahanvati tells SC


Attorney General of India Goolam E Vahanvati today said in the Supreme Court that he had not been interrogated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the 2G spectrum scam.


He also strongly denied the media reports that he had approved the "first-come, first-serve" policy of former Communications Minister A Raja in allocation of the 2G spectrum licences to telecom companies.


Mr Vahanvati submitted before a bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly that CBI Director A P Singh had approached him for some opinions and clarifications in the preparation of acharge sheet against the accused and he gave clarifications to the agency.


Mr Vahanvati took strong exceptions to media reports published without hearing his side of the story.


The Attorney General, being the top law officer of the Centre, is usually approached by the investigative agencies for legal opinions and clarifications.


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CBI investigation in Adarsh is satisfactory; HC


The Bombay High Court today expressed satisfaction over the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigation into the Adarsh scam after perusing the progress report submitted by the agency.


A division bench consisting of Justices Ranjana Desai and Rajesh Ketkar after its perusal said that the court is positive that the CBI is investigating on the right track and sufficient time should be given to the agency to conduct further probe, including the missing files case, which is also a serious offence.


The bench was hearing petitions filed in connection with the scam, which included the society's petition seeking for CBI to de-freeze their bank accounts and social activist Simpreet Singh's plea wanting the High Court to supervise the investigation.


While hearing the society's petition, the court asked CBI to consider if some concession can be given regarding the Rs 32 lakh dues of the society in upmarket Colaba area.


The society has been directed to file an affidavit giving a list of their dues by March 25. According to the petition, the society has incurred several expenses up to Rs 32 lakh which has not been payable as the accounts have been seized.


"Investigations have revealed that prime accused K L Gidwani has three flats in the society under 'benami' names. All transactions made by the accused are from the society's accounts. More instances of 'benami' transactions are evident and needs to be proved further," Additional Solicitor General Darius Khambatta, appearing for CBI said.


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Burglar gang of foreigners busted; loot worth Rs 16.5 lakh seized


The Delhi police today busted a gang of well-educated foreign nationals who had come to the capital on three-month visas with the alleged aim of committing burglaries while staying in expensive hotels.


A person, identified as Edier Jaidiber (31), resident of Colombia, was arrested in this regard late last night.


He, along with his associates had allegedly committed two burglaries in Saket area on March 13 and 15.


"During the course of inquiry in the area, it was revealed that a few people, including a girl with Mongolian features, were seen roaming around the area suspiciously," Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) H G S Dhaliwal said.


A police team laid traps in the area continuously for two to three days and also raided some hideouts in Saidulajab area.


"Jaidiber was intercepted while he was carrying bags containing ornaments and implements of house-breaking. It was found that he came to India on three months' tourist visa and had lost his passport in the capital but did not lodge any police report," the DCP said.


He disclosed to the police that his other associates were also roaming nearby. The police team searched the area but no other person could be located. "He named them as Edisson Maurieio, Carlos Alfanso and Monica Yulietch," Mr Dhaliwal said.


The police recovered Rs 1.56 lakh in cash, gold and silver jewellery worth around Rs 15 lakh and implements of house-breaking imported from abroad were recovered from him.


"It was found that the house breaking implements were reportedly imported from Colombia and purchased from Walmart. They were of very refined quality and any lock and latch may be broken within a minute with the help of these implements," the senior police official said. It was also learnt that the gang had studied the penal law of India.


A case under Foreigners Act for possession of suspected stolen property was registered against him. He was also arrested in the two cases of burglaries.


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Disappointed ticket-seekers damage Congress office in Guwahati


Hundreds of Congress workers today laid siege to the party's head office here, Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, demanding changes in the list of its candidates for next month's elections to the State assembly, even as Congress General Secretary and state in-charge Digvijay Singh asserted that any change in the declared list was unlikely.


Supporters of Assam Pradesh Mahila Congress chief Sarifa Begum and party ticket aspirant from Boko constituency Gopinath Das held demonstrations at Rajiv Bhavan.


Ms Sarifa's supporters demanded that the president of the state women's wing must be given a ticket for the coming Assembly polls.


Congress workers from Boko raised slogans against the party candidate from the constituency, Jayanta Das.


They claimed that Mr Das had criminal charges against him and said that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who had claimed that no person with a tarnished record will get a party ticket, must now ensure that Mr Das's candidature is nullified. They demanded that Mr Gopinath Das must get the party nomination from Boko.


The protesting party workers damaged furniture in Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan and tore apart several hoardings of party president Sonia Gandhi,the Chief Minister and state party president Bhubaneswar Kalita.


Mr Singh, who reached here in the afternoon from New Delhi, was prevented by the protesting workers from entering the party office and his security personnel had to escort him in.


Later talking to reporters, Mr Singh said it was unlikely that the party candidate list would be altered.


"The Congress does not change its party list except under rare conditions," he said.


Mr Singh said the party leadership was aware of discontentment over certain candidates and the leadership would try to address these issues. He will meet supporters of various ticket aspirants who were denied party nomination.


On Ms Sarifa being refused party ticket, Mr Singh pointed out that she had polled very few votes the last time when she had contested as the Congress candidate.


Assam goes to the polls in two phases on April 4 and 11.



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Maoists blow up school building, mobile tower in Gaya


Two different groups of activists belonging to the proscribed CPI (Maoist) blew up a school building and a mobile telephone tower under different police stations in this district today.


Superintendent of Police Ratnamani Sanjiv said here that an armed group of Naxalites attacked Khajuria middle school and blew up its building by triggering an explosion in the Banke Bazar police station limits. A large portion of the school building was damaged in the attack.


Mr Sanjiv said that, in a separate incident, another group of ultras blew up a mobile phone tower at Lutiya Bazar in Imamganj police station area in the district.


The rebels managed to escape from the spot after engineering the disruptive activities at Khajuria and Lutiya Bazar. Raids were being carried out to nab them, he added.


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Mob sets bus on fire in Kolkata after it crushes boy


An irate mob set afire a private bus after an eighth standard student was crushed to death by the vehicle at Beliaghata Main Road in the eastern part of the city today.


Police said the accident occurred when the bus, in an attempt to overtake another vehicle, ran over 14-year-old Promod Kumar Roy of Khanna High School, who was crossing the road. The boy died on the spot.


Agitated by the incident, local people torched the bus. The driver and helper, however, managed to escape.


Later, a group of people also blocked the road at Sealdah crossing disrupting traffic for some time, police added.


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