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Nitish quits as Bihar CM, Modi applauds the move

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Hours after RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav ruled out the resignation of his son Tejashwi Yadav, JDU chief Nitish Kumar resigned as Bihar chief minister.

Nitesh took the decision at a party meeting with MLAs on Wednesday and immediately visited the Raj Bhavan to hand over his resignation to the Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi. The governor accepted the resignation and asked Nitish to continue with the responsibilities until further developments take place.

Nitesh said, “It’s not possible to work in such circumstances. I tried to save Mahagath bandhan to the best of my abilities. I had talks with both Lalu and Tejashwi. I did not ask anyone to resign”.

He said that the RJD chief and his son failed to explain the anything about the corruption charges levied against them. He said that he listened to his conscience while taking the decision.

While Nitesh did not hint about alliance with BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the JDU chief for joining the fight against corruption.

However, BJP welcomed the moved and said that it doesn’t favour mid-term elections. The saffron party said that it is going to form a three-member committee to report its views on the Bihar situation.

Meanwhile RJD chief Lalu reminded Nitish Kumar about his promise to make India RSS free.

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Centre in process of increasing Assembly seats in AP and TS

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The delimitation of Assembly constituencies in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh is gaining pace with the Centre initiating the process to amend the constitution.

As noted earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi upon his return from the US tour apparently gave explicit orders to expedite the process. According to the reports in DNA, the Union Law Ministry has been directed to finalise the draft of the amendment Bill in consultation with the concerned ministry.

The AP Reorganisation Act, Section 26 is about increasing the number of assembly seats in TS and AP. However, the delimitation of all constituencies in the country is frozen till 2026, as per the the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act in 1976 and the 91st Constitutional Amendment Bill in 2001.

The government sought advice of former Attorney General, Mukul Rohtagi on the same. Any such amendment to increase the seats could be legally questionable.

In the previous Lok Sabha session, minister for state of home affairs Hansraj Gangaram had said there will be no delimitation of seats in AP and TS till 2026. Conflicting the answer, the bill to increase the seats will be put forth in the upcoming monsoon session.

CMs of TS and AP, K Chandrasekhar Rao and N Chandrababu Naidu, have been tenaciously demanding for the delimitation of constituencies, so that they can placate their party cadre.

The number of seats in the Legislative Assemblies of TS will go up from 119 to 153 and from 175 to 225 in Andhra Pradesh before the 2019 elections.

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GST rolls out past midnight from Central Hall of Parliament

The Goods and Services Tax (GST), India’s biggest tax reform since Independence, rolled out past midnight Friday in the precincts of the hallowed Central Hall of Parliament to usher in a new indirect tax regime in an event that sought to evoke memories of the famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ night the country got freedom in 1947.

A minute after the stroke of midnight, President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi pressed the button to launch the new indirect tax regime on a digital screen with “GST” emblazoned on it in a golden hue.

Conceived on the principle of ‘one nation, one tax, one market’, the tax that subsumes 17 central and state levies was launched in the presence of Vice President Hamid Ansari, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, MPs, chief ministers, state finance ministers, officials of the Centre and states.

Notwithstanding the fact that the GST Law was a consensus product evolved over 14 years, the function in colorfully-decked Parliament House was boycotted by major opposition parties like Congress, Trinamool Congress, RJD, DMK and Left parties, saying the government was making a spectacle of a legislation for self-promotion, a charge Jaitley rejected. In keeping with his party’s decision, former Primer Minister Manmohan Singh kept away from the event. However, MPs and leaders of Congress allies NCP and Samajwadi Party attended the function.

Addressing the gathering, President Pranab Mukherjee said the introduction of GST is a moment of precedent for the country and a matter of personal satisfaction for him because of his role as Finance Minister earlier. “I had always believed that GST was a matter of time and was happy when it was enacted and I gave assent to the Constitution amendment last year,” he said.

He said the new law is a tribute to the maturity and wisdom of Indian democracy. The GST Council was a unique experiment under the Indian Constitution because of the shared sovereignty.

In his speech, Modi said the roll out of GST is the best example of cooperative federalism and success of Indian democracy. “The credit for the new law does not go to one party or one government but was a shared legacy of all,” he said.

In a veiled rejoinder to opposition criticism of the midnight function in Parliament, the Prime Minister said there cannot be a “better and sacred” venue than the Central Hall for the historic roll out.

The GST process cannot be confined to just economic system but was a collective effort of all, he said, adding it was a product of long discussions among the best brains of the country. “It is an example of Team India’s strength and ability,” he said.

Referring to the eminent personalities like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Babu Rajendra Prasad who had adorned the Central Hall, Modi said like Patel had integrated the country, the GST would integrate the country economically.

He described the GST as ‘Good and Simple Tax’ — good because there will be no tax on tax and simple because there will be only one form of tax. It will also help eliminate black money and corruption because of the transparency it seeks to bring in, he said.

Modi said whatever was lacking in growth and development of the country, GST will provide the opportunity to realise them.

Ahead of the launch, the GST Council slashed the rate of fertilisers from 12 per cent to 5 per cent and of exclusive parts of tractors from 28 per cent to 18 per cent to reduce the burden on farmers.

The launch of GST, which the government claimed would result in reduction of prices of articles of common consumption, also came amidst fears from various business sections that prices would go up under the new regime.

Welcoming the gathering, Jaitley described GST as the biggest and most ambitious tax reform which is an achievement of the country through consensus. It highlights the fact that India can rise above narrow politics and work for country’s benefit. In making the GST, neither the Centre nor the states gave up their sovereignty.

He said all MPs, state governments, political parties, state finance ministers and dedicated officials of the Centre and states deserved to be appreciated for realising the project of GST Law.

Jaitley said under GST, the revenues will go up as the compliance goes up and the GDP will also increase.

Parliament’s Central Hall has witnessed such a function only on three occasions earlier. First was on the occasion of Independence when first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made the famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech. The second was on the occasion of silver jubilee of Independence in 1972 and golden jubilee in 1997.

The GST is expected to check tax evasion and broaden tax base. In the new regime, all filings will be done only through electronic mode to ensure non-intrusive administration. This will minimise taxpayers’ physical interaction with the tax officials.

The GST regime seeks to reduce rates of over 50 per cent of items of daily use and charge others at much lower rate of 5 per cent, 12 per cent and 18 per cent.

A higher tax rate is imposed on luxury and sin goods at 28 per cent in the new regime. Certain services like telephone, banking and insurance are expected to feel the pinch of higher taxes.

The GST also promises taxpayers a refund against their sales within 60 days. Similarly, exporters will get refund within seven days. For protection of consumer rights, the new law provides anti-profiteering provisions. In a departure from the normal practice, the GST will be administered together by the Centre and the states.

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US, India going to be substantially closer: American official

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The meeting between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sent a clear message around the world that ties bewteen the two countries are going to be “substantially closer”, Energy Secretary Rick Perry has said.

“There was a picture yesterday that I happened to see… of these two individuals embracing each other. And I think that was a clear message around the world that the US and India are going to be substantially closer,” Perry said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

“Energy is going to play a very, very important role in that,” he added.

Perry, talking about the working dinner the US President hosted for the Indian leader on Monday, said Trump and Modi discussed LNG (liquefied natural gas), clean coal and nuclear side among other things.

“At dinner, we talked about the three areas of which there will be great back-and-forth cooperation — deal-making, if you will. One of those is in LNG. The other side of that is in clean coal. Thirdly is on the nuclear side.

“So there is great opportunity for India and the US to become even stronger allies, stronger partners — energy being the glue that will hold that partnership together for a long, long time.”

The US State Department described Modi’s first face-to face meeting with Trump as “successful”.

“Modi departed Washington after a successful trip to Washington,” said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

Trump called Modi a “true friend” twice — after their meeting in Oval Office and while shaking his hands and hugging him at the end of their media appearance at the Rose Garden.

Both the leaders discussed a range of issues including terrorism, defence and trade. Trump said it was “a great honour” to host Modi “who has been such a great PM”.

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US, India tell Pakistan: Don’t let terrorists use your territory

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In a strong message to Islamabad, the US and India have told Pakistan to ensure its territory is not used for terror attacks on other countries and asked it to bring to justice terrorists blamed for attacks in Mumbai and other places in India.

A joint statement issued after US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met here late on Monday stressed that terrorism was a global scourge that must be fought and terrorist safe havens rooted out in every part of the world.

The statement said India and the US will fight together “this grave challenge to humanity”.

The statement specifically referred to the terror attacks in Mumbai (2008) and Pathankot (2016) that it said were perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups and said the terrorists must be expeditiously brought to justice.

The two countries expressed their commitment to strengthen cooperation against terrorist threats from groups including Al Qaeda, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), D-Company and their affiliates.

The LeT was blamed for the Mumbai mayhem of November 2008 that killed 166 Indians and foreigners including Americans. The Jaish was accused of attacking the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot in Punjab, leaving seven security personnel dead.

India appreciated the US decision to designate the Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist – just ahead of the Trump-Modi meet of Monday — “as evidence of the commitment of the US to end terror in all its forms”.

In their remarks to the media after delegation level talks, both Modi and Trump spoke of their commitment to combat terrorism.

Modi said battling terror and destroying terrorist hideouts would be an important part of mutual cooperation.

“We will enhance the intelligence exchange to boost coordination to address our common concerns over terrorism and will deepen our policy coordination accordingly.”

Modi said the two countries had agreed to increase cooperation to tackle increasing radicalisation, extremism and terrorism.

He said India and US were concerned over growing instability in Afghanistan due to terrorism. He said the two countries will maintain close consultation, communication and coordination to ensure peace there.

Trump said both India and the US had been struck by terrorism, “and we are both determined to destroy terrorist organisations and the radical ideology that drives them.

“We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism,” he said.

“Our militaries are working every day to enhance cooperation between our military forces. And next month, they will join together with the Japanese navy to take place in the largest maritime exercise ever conducted in the vast Indian Ocean.”

Answering questions later, Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said the US move to declare Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist had sent a clear signal.

“You should take the step for what it is. It is in a sense fixing responsibility, highlighting a problem.

“There is a context to it… It is focusing on a particular group and a particular individual… I think none of us can really miss that message.”

The Foreign Secretary said there was a broad discussion on Pakistan. It was also extensive and very detailed on certain issues.

“We had very much converging viewpoint of what is the problem, let us diagnose the problem. And it is not just the Indian situation… A lot of discussion related to what was happening in Afghanistan.”

The joint statement announced increased cooperation to prevent travel by terrorists and to disrupt global recruitment efforts by terrorists by expanding intelligence-sharing and operational-level counter-terror cooperation.

They welcomed the commencement of the exchange of information on known and suspected terrorists for travel screening and vowed to strengthen information exchange on plans, movements and linkages of terrorist groups and moving of funds by terrorist groups.

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H-1B visa issue likely to figure during Modi-Trump meet

Problems being faced by the domestic IT industry on the H-1B visa front are expected to figure during the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump next week in Washington.

Modi is slated to visit the US during June 25-26.

Asked whether India would raise the H-1B issue during Modi’s visit, Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said: “I cannot say what would be the issues that would come up in the discussion. This is one of the issues on the table. (But) it is not the only issue. But in the event the issue comes up, it would certainly be taken up.”

Teaotia also said the US has started a trade policy review of those countries with which it has adverse trade balance and India is ninth on that list.

India has time and again raised the issue of H-1B with the US authorities and asked them to liberalise their visa regime as Indian companies contribute significantly to the American economy.

The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialised fields. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year.

On the trade policy review being carried out by the US, she said India and the US have a robust mechanism under the trade policy forum (TPF) to discuss matters like stents and others.

She said other issues like market access for products and those relating to investments are all being dealt with regularly at the TPF meetings.

“The US has commenced a trade policy review of those countries with which it has adverse trade balance and India is ninth on the list of those countries. So certainly, we would figure, but we are confident that our exports to the US are a win-win for both countries in the sense that we are able to provide cheaper products,” Teaotia added.

The secretary further said a cross-section of Indian companies supports American industry in becoming much more competitive.

“Therefore, this is a partnership that has many benefits across sectors and I think this would be the trend of our communication with the US,” she added.

The bilateral trade between the two increased to USD 64.67 billion in 2016-17, from USD 62.11 billion in the previous fiscal. The trade balance is in favour of India.

The US, under a new executive order, proposes to replace the current lottery system for issuing H-1B work visas with a merit-based approach. The country is reviewing its visa programme for foreign workers to curb purported abuse and frauds related to visas.

Indian IT companies use temporary work visas to send employees to work on client sites. With visa programmes in countries like the US becoming more rigorous, domestic technology firms will face challenges in movement of skilled professionals and spike in their operational costs

Source:PTI

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GST to be launched on June 30 midnight in Parliament

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The new indirect tax regime — The Goods and Services Tax (GST) — will be launched at the midnight of June 30 in the Central Hall of Parliament in an hour-long event that will evoke memories of the “Tryst with Destiny” moment of 1947.

President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and H.D. Deve Gowda will be among those who will attend the special event, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told a press conference here.

On the midnight of August 14-15, the country ushered in Independence from British rule with a special function in the Central Hall in which the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, made his now famous speech “Tryst with Destiny”.

“GST switch-over will happen from June 30 midnight. Late on June 30, a programme will be organised in the Central Hall where all Members of Parliament, state Finance Ministers, Chief Ministers and officials who assisted in (the rollout of) GST and chairpersons of the Empowered Committee will be present,” he said.

“GST will be launched exactly at midnight,” he said.

Acknowledging the role of previous governments in readying the GST, Jaitley said: “Many governments have played an important role. The UPA government announced GST in 2006 and the Constitutional amendment was introduced in 2011. GST was passed unanimously by Parliament in 2016.”

Both the President and the Prime Minister will speak on the subject and two short films on GST will be screened in the Central Hall.

So far, apart from Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir, all the states have passed the State GST (SGST) law. Jaitley said that while Kerala will pass the SGST this week, the process was still on in Kashmir.

“If any state is left out of GST, the traders and consumers both will suffer. Traders will not get any input tax credit,” he said.

Jaitley said since a two-month period relaxation had been given to traders in filing returns, businesses will get ample time to get ready for the new indirect tax system.

“In July and August, we have extended the date for filing the monthly returns. Industry and trade have to prepare themselves, it’s not a very complicated system,” he said.

“No one has any business not to be ready. Now the readiness will be determined by September 15 when the traders have to file the first return. If the trader will still not be ready, probably he doesn’t want to be ready,” he added.

Talking about the new indirect taxation system, Jaitley said that in the medium and long term, GST, being a more efficient system, will check tax evasion resulting in increase in revenues.

“States and Centre’s revenue will increase. It should have positive impact on GDP. Size of formal economy should increase. In short term, there could be some challenges. But in the long run, the number of assesses will increase,” he said.

Jaitley said till last week 65 lakh traders had registered themselves under GST.

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Chandrababu Naidu to seek Mamata’s support for Kovind

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Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu will contact his West bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee to seek her Trinamool Congress’s support for NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind, TDP sources said.

After BJP finalised the candidature of Bihar Governor Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Naidu over phone and sought his Teluugu Desam Party’s support, TDP sources said.

Naidu, whose party is a constituent of ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), welcomed the choice of a Dalit as the candidate and assured party’s full support.

Modi also requested Naidu to approach Banerjee to get her party’ support for NDA candidate. Naidu conveyed to the PM that he will contact her after her return from foreign tour.

Reacting to NDA’s choice, Banerjee said he never heard of Kovind. She said she was surprised by the decision.

“I have not heard his name ever before. I do not know him. I could recognise him only after he was mentioned as the Bihar Governor. I can say that I am surprised by the decision,” Banerjee said at Dubai en route the Netherlands to address a United Nations’ event.

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PM should get firm US assurance on H1B visa issue: Congress

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The Congress on Thursday said during his visit to the US, Prime Minister Narendra Modi should “demand and obtain credible and firm assurances from President Donald Trump that he will reverse his decision on granting H1B visa to Indian professionals”.

The party also demanded that the Prime Minister should respond and register protest over “disparaging obseravations” made by the US President about India while walking out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“Prime Minister will be travelling to the US. He should demand and obtain credible and firm assurances from US President Donald Trump that he will reverse his decision which discriminates against the Indian professionals for grant of H1B visa,” said Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma.

“There has been a drop of 37 per cent, whereas the Indian professionals constitute less than 0.06 per cent of the American workforce. We do not want mere statements and photographs,” he added.

“We want answers and also how the Prime Minister responds and registers our protest over the disparaging observations made about the Republic of India recently when the US decided to walk out of the Paris Agreement. We will wait for the PM’s response or reaction.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will for the first time meet President Donald Trump on June 26 at the White House.

Trump’s recent withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on fighting climate change created fissures in the India-US ties, especially with Trump commenting that India signed the pact only because it expected “billions and billions” in aid.

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Rahul slams Modi for going back on special status to Andhra

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Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for going back on a promise made in Tirupati temple to grant special category status to Andhra Pradesh.

He asked Modi what kind of Hindu he is, who breaks his promises and tells lies to people.

“Modiji talks of Hindu dharma. He says ‘I am protector of Hindu dharma’. I want to ask what kind of Hindu he is to break promises made in Tirupati and speak lies to people,” said Gandhi while reminding him of his promise in 2014 to grant special status to Andhra for 10 years.

The Congress leader was addressing a public meeting here Sunday night along with leaders of Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal-United, the DMK and the Communist Party of India to demand the Central government fulfil its commitment made to Andhra Pradesh at the time of bifurcation.

Gandhi said there was some pressure from Modi and BJP on Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and YSR Congress Party leader Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy as both had compromised with the Centre over the issue.

“They may have some fear in their heart and that is why they are not standing with the people,” he said.

“This is the special package,” he remarked in an obvious reference to the special package announced by the Centre last year in lieu of the promised special category status.

Gandhi said special status would have benefited the state to the tune of thousands of crores as 90 percent of the funds coming from the Centre would have been in the form of grants.

Stating that the promise of special package was made by Manmohan Singh in his capacity as the Prime Minister of the country, he said it was the right of the people of Andhra Pradesh.

He promised that granting special status would be the first task of the government of Congress and its allies in 2019.

Recalling that the previous UPA government led by Congress had declared Polavaram a national project, the Congress leader said Chandrababu Naidu entered into a deal with the present government under which the state government will construct the project.

“This is because if the government of India spends the money to build this project, nobody will get a commission,” he said.

Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav and Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav said if Naidu was sincere in getting special status for the state, he should set this as the precondition for Telugu Desam Party’s support in the election for the President.

Sharad Yadav said Bihar was also demanding special status and it would stand with the people of Andhra Pradesh for this cause.

CPI General Secretary S. Sudhakar Reddy and DMK leader N.R. Elango slammed Modi government for failing to fulfill its promises including special status to Andhra Pradesh.

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Presidential Elections 2017 – Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy vs ideology

“The time is fast approaching when India will have to elect the first President of the Republic. I would have proposed the name of Chakrayya (a talented young Andhra Dalit), had he been alive” – Mahatma Gandhi on 2June,1947

“If I have my way, the President of the Indian Republic will be a chaste and a brave Bhangi girl …” Mahatma Gandhi on 27June,1947

The above excerpts are from Raj Mohan Gandhi’s new book “Why Gandhi Still Matters”. Meanwhile, brother of the author, Gopal Krishna Gandhi who is former diplomat and governor, is being considered as the joint-opposition candidate to be India’s next President. He carries the legacy of his paternal grandfather Mahatma Gandhi and his maternal grandfather C Rajagopalachari. AICC President Sonia Gandhi is trying her best to build consensus among anti-BJP parties. Meanwhile, reports surfaced that Narendra Modi might just pick Governor of Jharkhand Draupadi Murmu a tribal candidate from Odisha as the NDA Presidential candidate giving the nation first tribal woman President as per Mahatma’s thoughts. The initial pitch was Gandhi’s legacy against Gandhi’s ideologies.

However, the book by RajMohan Gandhi was released in the beginning of May. Though Gandhi’s idea of President was published in his earlier book, this particular release and the timing created stir in the political circles. Two months before independence, Gandhi proposed a strong symbolic move of appointing a Dalit woman or man as free India’s first president. It was only after one Governor General and 9 Presidents post-independence, a Dalit K R Narayanan was appointed as the tenth President of India. Consequently, the name of former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar surfaced from the UPA wing. Meira Kumar hails from Bihar and is daughter of prominent Dalit leader, Jagjivan Ram.

If the message of Gandhi is scrutinized further, by pitching for Chakrayya, Gandhi was addressing the issue of North South Divide. There has been an unwritten protocol of rotating Presidential candidates consecutively between South and North. While the anticipated candidates belong to North India, Modi government might bring in the concept of “Hindustan” where in any place beyond the Vindhyas is South. Apart from that, the saffron party can establish itself in Odisha where it is facing strong party like BJD. When it comes to Draupadi or Meira Kumar, either Odisha or Bihar government’s will likely support their state candidate setting aside the party affiliations. As, the schedule of the elections will be apparently announced next week, this might draw ire of modern South India – Karnataka Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Goa. President Pranab Mukherjee’s term expires on July 25,2017. This time around the country awaits revelation not only from NDA but also from UPA.

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Venkaiah elected as President of Governing Council of UN-Habitat

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Governing Council (GC) of UN-Habitat, an organ of the united nations to promote sustainable human settlements in the world, unanimously elected India as President. Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu will be presiding over the GC for two years. He will chair the 4-day meeting of the 58-member GC from Nairobi, Kenya starting today.

Venkaiah thanked the member countries for having confidence in India and electing it as the president for the next two years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulating the minister tweeted “Congratulations Venkaiah Ji. I am sure you will give your best & contribute towards creating futuristic cities.”

It is third time for India to preside over GC since its inception in 1978. The 26th meeting of the GC is based on the theme ‘Opportunities for effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda’. GC serves as the decision-making body for the UN Human Settlements Programme and approves UN-Habitat’s biennial work programme and budget.

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Owaisi questions ‘double standards’ on death for rape

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AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Friday questioned the “double standards” in awarding death penalty to rapists, especially when it came to communal riots.

Reacting to a Bombay High Court judgment upholding life sentence to 11 convicts in Bilkis Bano case, he said the Modi government should appeal in the Supreme Court seeking death sentence.

The MP said the convicts not only raped Bilkis Bano, who was pregnant, but also murdered her young daughter, sister, mother and 11 other family members.

“I think it’s a fit case for awarding death penalty to the rapists,” the President of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) told reporters.

Owaisi said while he respected the High Court judgment, he wanted to know why there were “double standards” in giving capital punishment.

Owaisi said he also respected the court order awarding death penalty to Yakub Memon although everyone knew that he had no direct or indirect involvement in the 1993 Mumbai blasts but the court found circumstantial evidence against him.

He recalled that Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat when Bilkis Bano was raped and her family members were killed.

He said since his government did not conduct a proper inquiry, the Supreme Court handed over the case to the CBI.

“I want to know from the Modi government which talks about rights of Muslim women and the need to do justice to them, whether it will ask the CBI to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court judgment so that the convicts get death penalty,” he said.

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K. Viswanath an outstanding filmmaker: Modi

Viswanath, Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday described K. Viswanath as an “outstanding filmmaker” and congratulated him for winning the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India’s highest award in cinema.

“K. Viswanath has distinguished himself as an outstanding filmmaker. I congratulate him on being conferred the Dadasaheb Phalke award,” Modi tweeted.

He also congratulated all those who got the National Film Awards on Wednesday. “We are proud of their creativity and contribution to cinema.”

Vishwanath has directed 50 films, known for their strong content, endearing narrative, honest handling and cultural authenticity. Some of his major Hindi films include “Sargam”, “Kaamchor”, “Sanjog”, “Jaag Utha Insan” and “Eeshwar”.

The 87-year-old received the honour at the Vigyan Bhavan here from President Pranab Mukherjee.

Born in February 1930 at Gudivada (now in Andhra Pradesh), Viswanath has won five National Awards, 20 Nandi Awards (awarded by the Andhra Pradesh government) and 10 Filmfare Awards including Lifetime Achievement Award. He was conferred the Padma Shri in 1992.

His National Award winning movie, “Swati Mutyam (The White Pearl)”, was India’s official entry to the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Film category in 1987.

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Who will stop the BJP? No one in sight

After the resounding victories of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the UP assembly and Delhi municipal elections, the party increasingly appears to be politically invincible.

The three parties which offered some resistance to it in 2014 — the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha and Trinamool Congress in West Bengal — are not in the pink of health today.

The AIADMK has all but collapsed after former Chief Minister Jayalalitha’s death, the BJD has suffered serious reverses in the local polls and is feeling distinctly nervous while the Trinamool Congress has shot itself in the foot by its rather too soft a policy towards the Muslims, thereby alienating the Bengali middle-class Hindus, while several of its prominent personalities have become embroiled in scams.

Among the supposedly all-India parties, the fact that the Congress has fallen back on Sonia Gandhi to reach out to the regional leaders for an anti-BJP alliance shows that the party’s attempts to prop up Rahul Gandhi haven’t succeeded. It will not be easy for Sonia Gandhi, who is clearly not as fit and energetic as before, to take up the kind of role which she played to bring the non-BJP parties together in 2004.

Those who worsted the BJP in 2015, like Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi and Nitish Kumar in Bihar, have also suffered a decline, especially the former.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the BJP is now eying the east and the northeast as its new areas of conquest. The alacrity with which Congress MLAs in various states are joining the BJP shows that they regard their former adversary as a greener pasture for political and personal advancement.

It is not that the BJP doesn’t face problems. For one, it has become a virtual one-man party with its dependence on Narendra Modi for success in even municipal elections. The party does not have a second line of defence if only because Modi has kept previously prominent party members like Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, not to mention veterans like L.K. Advani, well outside the organisation.

For another, the economy has not been picking up in a manner which will sustain hope about the success of Modi’s development agenda. The prime minister, therefore, has been speaking more about a pro-poor thrust a la Indira Gandhi than about rapid growth.

For a third, the government appears to be at a loss as to ways to deal with both external and internal threats posed by the Pakistan-based fidayeens (suicide bombers) and the Maoists, mainly in western and central India.

Even then, what evidently keeps the BJP going is Modi’s popularity which has made him the most dominant person in today’s politics, as Congress leader P. Chidambaram has said. Apart from the Prime Minister’s seemingly boundless energy and rhetorical skills, his advantage is that there is no one in the opposition camp who can match his wide appeal.

Not only that, his adversaries have undermined themselves by self-defeating moves as when Sonia Gandhi stalled the Manmohan Singh government’s forward march on the economic front by opting for extravagant populist measures, thereby handing over her own government’s development agenda on a platter to Modi. As Chidambaram ruefully admitted later, the government should not have taken “the foot off the accelerator of reforms”.

Similarly, Kejriwal came to power with the assurance of providing a clean government as promised by his one-time mentor, Anna Hazare, who pleaded for the setting up of a Lokpal, an anti-corruption ombudsman. But Kejriwal’s own internal ombudsman, Admiral L. Ramdas, had to leave the Aam Admi Party (AAP) for questioning the Chief minister’s authoritarian style, which also led to the ouster of the latter’s former allies, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan.

By the time Kejriwal had concluded the purge of his own party, it was clear that governance, whether a clean one or not, was not his primary objective, but an insatiable craving for power. Once this obsession became clear, it was obvious that his party’s days were numbered since the aam admi or the common man after whom the outfit was named had seen through his pretensions. The AAP’s defeat in Delhi was only to be expected, therefore, after its setbacks in Punjab and Goa.

Like Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar, too, has failed to live up to the expectations that he had aroused during his earlier stint as Chief Minister when he succeeded in ridding Bihar of the lawlessness — or the jungle raj, as it was called — which was rampant during the tenures of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leaders Laloo Prasad Yadav and his wife, Rabri Devi.

But now, as an ally of Laloo Prasad while Rabri Devi is calling for her son, Tejaswi, to be elevated from Deputy Chief Minister to Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar’s focus is somehow to hold on to power.

So, who will stop the BJP? Not only is there no one in sight, but there is little chance of the opposition parties being able to put together an anti-BJP combine because of their fractious internal relations.

Besides, they lack a forward-looking economic agenda which appeals to the young as Modi’s Make In India, Digital India, start-ups and other programmes do.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

Telangana CM hails PM’s statement on backwardness among Muslims

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao on Sunday hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that more inclusiveness is needed for those who are backward among the Muslim community and hoped that this will pave the way for increasing the reservations for Muslims in the state.

“It augurs well,” said Rao about Modi’s remark which he made while intervening during a discussion on the Backward Commission at the BJP’s National Executive meeting at Bhubaneswar.

Speaking in the Telangana Legislative Council while introducing a bill to increase reservations for Muslims from four percent to 12 percent, KCR, as Rao is popularly known, referred to the PM’s statement while stressing the need to provide quota to socially and economically backward among Muslims.

The bill, which also increased the quota for the Scheduled Tribes from 6 percent to 10 percent, was earlier passed by by the Assembly.

“If this statement of the PM had come earlier, perhaps the BJP members would not have got suspended,” remarked KCR referring to suspension of all five Bharatiya Janata Party members from the Assembly for disrupting the proceedings to protest hike in quota for Muslims.

Pointing out that Muslim population in the state has crossed 14 percent, he told the House that only backward sections among the community will get the reservations, reiterating that the reservations are not based on religion.

As the overall reservations in Telangana will now go up to 62 percent, the state will be sending the legislation to the Union Government for President’s assent and request for including it in the 9th Schedule of the Constitution as was done in the case of Tamil Nadu.

The Chief Minister urged the Union Government to keep in mind the changes which had come over last seven decades and allow states to provide quota to different sections on the basis of their backwardness and in proportion to their population.

Referring to the growing demands from various sections of people for reservations, he cited the example of BJP-ruled Rajasthan which accepted the demands from Gujjars and Jats to provide them reservations and as the overall quota in that state increased to 68 percent, passed a legislation and sent it to the Centre for President’s assent.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

Unique welcome awaits PM Modi in Moscow

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PM Narendra Modi will be greeted with twin cultural programs, Abhinandan & Abhivyakti on 24th December in Moscow. ‘Abhinandan’ event envisages performance of Indian art forms (classical and folk dances) by Russian artists. It will display the popularity of Indian cultural traditions in Russia and its importance of Inter-cultural understanding.

‘Abhinandan’ seeks to portray the assimilation of India’s performing arts traditions by Russian artistes. Abhinandan will commence with a Shloka recital and a creative rendering of Vande Mataram by Russian Brahmakumaris, followed by continuing sequence of brief Kuchipudi, Kathak and Dandiya Raas. The programme will conclude with all artistes coming on stage for a musical enactment of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s poem “Geet Naya Gata Hoon” rendered by Lata Mangeshkar. ‘Abhinandan’ will contain performances by 52 artistes. The significance of this performance is that it falls on the eve of Atal ji’s birthday.

‘Abhivyakti’ is an attempt to articulate and convey an authentic image of Indian traditions, history and culture by Russian artistes and enthusiasts, which resonates in the hearts, and minds of all Indians and well-wishers of India in foreign countries. It is a reflection of the feeling of brotherhood and amity that exists between the people of India and Russia. ‘Abhivyakti’ is dedicated to the expression of goodwill, joy, and enthusiasm aptly represented by our philosophy of ‘Vasudheva Kutumbakam’ that characterizes our interaction with the rest of the world. ‘Abhivyakti’ would contain performances by 100 artistes and will consist majorly of Namaskaram, Charishnu, Bharatnatyam, Rudra, Pandattam, Khoria, Lavni, Kalina Taal performances.

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22 % Bihar candidates in Phase-1 have criminal record

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Bihar Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) have analyzed the self-sworn affidavits of all 583 candidates who are contesting in the first phase of Bihar assembly elections, 2015.The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) was established in 1999 by a group of professors from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad. In 1999, Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by them with Delhi High Court asking for the disclosure of the criminal, financial and educational background of the candidates contesting elections. Based on this, the Supreme Court in 2002, and subsequently in 2003, made it mandatory for all candidates contesting elections to disclose criminal, financial and educational background prior to the polls by filing an affidavit with the Election Commission. We give the salient points of the report released today.

Highlights of the Analysis

Criminal Background

• Candidates with Serious Criminal Cases: 130 (22%) candidates have declared serious criminal cases including cases related to murder, attempt to murder, communal disharmony, kidnapping, crimes against women etc.Candidates with Criminal Cases: Out of all the 583 candidates, 174(30%) candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves.
• Candidates with cases related to murder: 16 candidates have declared cases related to murder (Indian Penal Code Section-302). Pradeep Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)) fromWarsaliganj constituency has declared 4 charges related to murder while rest of the candidates face one charge each. 7 Independent candidates have declared cases related to murder.

• Candidates with cases related to Attempt to Murder: 37 candidates have declared cases ofattempt to murder (IPC Section-307). Ramswarup Yadav, an Independent candidate from Hisuaconstituency faces 5 charges related to attempt to murder. 1 candidate fielded by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), 1 by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), 3 by JD(U), 1 by Jan Adhikar Party (Loktantrik) (JAP(L)) along with 1 Independent candidate have each declared 2 charges related to attempt to murder.

• Candidates with cases related to Crimes against Women: 11 candidates have declared cases related to crimes against women. Nityanand Kumar, an Independent candidate from Suryagarhaconstituency and Rajiiv Nayak, an Independent candidate from Jamalpur constituency have each declared1 charge related to rape (IPC Section-376) against them. Suman Kumar Singh, an Independentcandidate from Kahalgaon constituency has declared an offence of dowry death (IPC Section-304B).
• Candidates with cases related to causing Communal Disharmony: 2 candidates have declared cases relating to causing communal disharmony. Shakuni Choudhary of Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) from Tarapur constituency has declared a case related to injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class (IPC Section-295). Rambalak Singh ofJD(U) from Bibhutipur constituency has declared a case related to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony (IPC Section-153A).

•Candidates with cases related to Robbery and Dacoity: 5 candidates have declared cases related to robbery and dacoity. Ram Lakhan Singh of BJP from Teghra constituency has declared 1charge each related to making preparation to commit dacoity (IPC Section-399) and assembling for purpose of committing dacoity (IPC Section – 402). Baiju Kumar Rai, an Independent candidate,from Ujiarpur constituency has declared 1 charge each related to dacoity (IPC Section-395), making preparation to commit dacoity (IPC Section-399) and voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery (IPC Section – 394).

• Candidates with cases related to Kidnapping: 9 candidates have declared cases related toKidnapping. 5 candidates have declared offence related to kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person (IPC Section-365), and 4 candidates have declared offence related to kidnapping or abducting in order to murder (IPC Section-364). 5 candidates have declared more than 1 charge related to kidnapping against themselves.

• Party wise Candidates with Criminal Cases: 14 (52%) out of 27 candidates from BJP, 14 (56%) out of 25 candidates from Communist Party of India (CPI), 8 (20%) out of 41 candidates fromBSP, 11 (46%) out of 24 candidates fielded by JD(U), 9 (50%) out of 18 candidates from Samajwadi Party (SP), 8 (47%) out of 17 candidates of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), 6 (75%) out of 8 candidates fielded byIndian National Congress (INC), 8 (62%) out of 13 candidates of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) along with 8 (67%) out of 12 candidates of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) and 45 (23%)out of 192 Independent candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits.

• Party wise Candidates with Serious Criminal Cases: 10 (37%) out of 27 candidates fromBJP, 7 (28%) out of 25 candidates from CPI, 6 (15%) out of 41 candidates from BSP, 9 (38%) out of 24candidates fielded by JD(U), 7 (39%) out of 18 candidates from SP, 6 (35%) out of 17 candidates of RJD, 4 (50%) out of 8 candidates fielded by INC, 6 (46%) out of 13 candidates of LJP along with 5 (42%) out of 12 candidates of the CPI(M) and 38 (20%) out of 192 Independent candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits.

•Red Alert Constituencies*: 37 constituencies in the first phase of Bihar assembly elections have 3 or more candidates with declared criminal cases.

*Red Alert Constituencies are those which have 3 or more candidates with criminal cases contesting elections.

Financial Background

• Crorepati Candidates: Out of the 583 candidates, 146 (25%) are crorepatis.

• Party wise Crorepati Candidates: 18 (67%) out of 27 fielded by BJP, 19 (79%) out of 24 candidates from JD(U), 11 (65%) out of 17 candidates from RJD, 6 (33%) out of 18 candidates fielded by SP, 6 (75%) out of 8 candidates of INC, 8 (62%) out of 13 candidates of LJP, 3(7%) out of 41 candidates of BSP and 42 (22%) out of 192 Independent candidates have declared assets worth more than Rs. 1 crore.

• Average Assets: The average of assets per candidate contesting in the first phase of Bihar assembly elections is Rs.1.44 crores.

• Party wise Average Assets: Among major parties, the average assets per candidate for 27 BJP candidates is Rs 2.15 crores, 41 BSP candidates have average assets of Rs 1.63 crores, 24 JD(U) candidates have average assets worth of Rs 4.63 crores, 8 INC candidates have average assets worth Rs 8 crores, 17 RJD candidates have average assets worth of Rs 4.08 crores, the average assets per candidate for 18 SP candidates is Rs 78.27 lakhs, 13 LJP candidates have average assets of Rs 2.7 crores and 192 Independent candidates have average assets of Rs. 1.23 crores.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

Did Indira Gandhi inspire Narendra Modi?

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A wise man, the saying goes, learns more from enemies than from friends. It seems to have happened in the case of Prime Minister Narendr Modi also, if one has to believe BJP senior leader and in-charge of Andhra Pradesh affairs Sidhartha Nath Singh. Sigh was in Vijayawada yesterday along with Pon Radhakrishnan, union minister for transport and shipping.

State BJP had organized a party workers’ meeting on the occasion of senior central leaders’ visit to Vijayawada. However, both bungled in their interaction with party leaders. While Sidharth revealed a closely guarded party secrete about the origins of Prime Minister Narendra Modi winning mantra, union shipping minister exhorted party workers to ensure that the BJP comes to power in the next elections in 2019 in Andhra Pradesh.

Let us see first what Sidharth Nath Singh said.

Singh compared Narendra Modi’s catch-word “Sab ke saath, Sab ke vikas” with historic and most successful slogan of Indira Gandhi “garibi hatao”. Without such a discussion at the party level, he could not have compared Modi with BJP’s arch rival Indira Gandhi so openly and lauded it as a success story of slogan. It clearly indicates, where Modi had drawn his inspiration from for his slogan.
In 1969, Sidhrath Nath Singh said, when Congress split Indira Gandhi had to go the people against the party stalwarts and wean away the people from the influence of senior leaders who were well-known in their region. ” She invented a slogan to draw the attention of the people. She said,’ woh log kahrahahe hai Indira hatao. My Kahrahahun garibi hatao’.”

Singh said the worked wonders. The garibi hatao had become a magical chant. Modi wanted a more powerful slogan to win the hearts of the people.” Modi Slogan, sab ke saath, sab ke vikas’ is far more powerful than that of Indira Gandhi’s 1969 slogan,” he said. He asked the party workers present in the meeting to explain the meaning and importance of the slogan to the people. ” The slogan which covers all schemes of Modi government is meant to for the welfare people,” he said.

Now have a look at Pon Radhakrishnan’s utterance.

Modi is determined to conquer the every nook and corner of India with his charisma. In 2014 His juggernaut was halted in many places- at some places like Andhra the party Modi survived because of TDP. In Telangana, Modi faded out in the face T-sentiment. But, the urge to annex the Telugu lands to his saffron empire is lying dormant in his heart. Realization of this dream is not possible in foreseeable future as TDP is also conscious of danger Modi poses to the party if BJP is given free hand in Andhra. But, this irrepressible urge to win the state some time in future is being made public by leaders from outside the state. Pon Radhakrishnan revealed general road map of Modi’s long march.
Talking to party workers in Vijayawada, the Tamil member of team-Modi called upon to the workers to ensure that the party assumes office in 2019. The statement, though made by an outsider, has the potential to annoy the TDP as the BJP could enter the assembly only at the help extended by the TDP.
Realizing the damage the minister caused to the party, Sidhartha Nath Singh, tried interpret it in a harmless way.”The meaning is that the party should emerge as the single largest party in Andhra Pradesh. There was nothing wrong if the BJP wants to get stronger as a party,” he said.

He also added that the BJP respects coalition dharma. It doen’t mean that BJP should remain where it is now. We will continue to expand our base while respecting the coalition dharma. It is our right,” he said. Later, it was the turn of Haribabu, president of AP party, to conduct ‘Swatchh BJP’ for the sake of Big Boss TDP. “Our leader’s intention was that the BJP should expand its base, but not at the cost of our partner BJP. It will be like this, if BJP grew, it would also benefit the BJP-TDP coalition in AP,” Haribabu said.

Given the invisible tension between Moid and Naidu, and BJP and TDP, with respect to extending central assistance to Andhra Pradesh, adhakrishnan’s utterance appears to carry deeper meaning.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

Modiji, Pl respect cooperative-federalism: Kavita

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Nizambad MP and daughter of Telangana chief minister Kavita charged that Prime Minister Modi was not following the spirit of cooperative federalism. Criticizing that the Rs 1.65 lakh crore special package PM Modi announced for Bihar, which is going to polls soon, Kavita demanded Modi that he should treat all the states equally.

“Today in the country, we know that there is a lot of instability and discussion happening more on cooperative federalism, which Modiji has often spoken about. We are very sorry to say that he has not honored his words and he has not kept his promises. Cooperative federalism does not mean that you will only view states, which are going to elections. He (PM) has to have an equal view on all the states,” Kavita said in a statement.

According to Kavita the Bihar special package has not gone well with many states. “Look at all states in an equitable manner. Giving away Rs 1.25 lakh crore for Bihar, certainly has not gone (down) well with many states. We can only request the Prime Minister to ensure, that he looks upon all the states equally, she said advising a joint fight by Telugu states for the what is due to them. Otherwise, she cautioned, their voice would get lost in the vast nation.Despite their differences, she said,” If something has to be demanded from the Centre, I certainly believe that two people, people of two states, have to come together both politically and also people wise and then fight for our cause. Otherwise, in a country so huge, we cannot be heard.”

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

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