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Modi’s Desperation Peaks Midway

By Sitaram Yechury

NEW DELHI, April 24; Prime Minister Narendra Modi betrays a sense of desperation in the shrill campaign that he is conducting in these general elections. Earlier, in a speech at Latur in Maharashtra, he called for people to vote for the BJP in the name of the Pulwama martyrs. The Election Commission’s action against this speech is still awaited.

On April 21, the last day of campaigning in Gujarat, Modi said, had Pakistan not returned the Indian Air Force pilot, then it would have been a qatal ki raat (night of slaughter). Ironically, on March 1, the day Pakistan returned Indian Air Force pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, the US President, Donald Trump spoke to the global media at Hanoi in Vietnam, where he was present for the US-DPRK summit, that world should expect, shortly, good news regarding India-Pakistan tensions. This was said a few hours before Abhinandan was returned by Pakistan!

Again, in another rally at Barmer in Rajasthan, Modi said: “India has stopped the policy of getting scared of Pakistan’s threats, every other day they used to say `we have nuclear button’. What do we have then? Have we kept it for Diwali?”

Such brazen invocation of armed forces, threats of nuclear war in order to garner votes, is an act of complete desperation by Modi, as on all other issues the electorate is determined to oust this government.

PEOPLE’S LIVELIHOOD DESTROYED

The fact is that the BJP-RSS, under Narendra Modi’s leadership, is simply unable to face public anger against the drastic fall in people’s livelihood status. There has been a systematic all-round attack on the quality of life of the people during the last five years. Having assumed the control over the central government, while promising achhe din, the illusory balloons that Modi had floated in the 2014 campaign have all burst one after another.

Even after doctoring the statistics to inflate India’s GDP growth rate, it registered the lowest this year during the last five years. As against the promise of creating 10 crore new jobs during the last five years, unemployment today has reached the highest levels in the last five decades. The Centre for Monitoring of Indian Economy (CMIE) has estimated that post-demonetisation, there was a loss of 50 lakh jobs directly. Additionally, nearly 1.5 crore people’s livelihood has been destroyed.

Agricultural distress continues to mount. Modi has betrayed the promise of a minimum support price being at least one and a half times more than the total production cost. He further betrayed the promise of a one-time loan waiver, so that the farmers are not pushed into committing distress suicides. During the last five years, agricultural growth has fallen drastically accompanied by an increase in distress suicides by farmers.

Industry continued to stagnate during most of these five years and is now showing a decline. The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) shows a declining trend. In February 2019, industrial growth fell to 0.1 per cent compared to 1.7 per cent in January 2019. In January 2018, industrial growth rate was 6.9 per cent. Modi’s 2014 promise was to ensure an annual industrial growth rate of 12 to 14 per cent! The capital goods sector is an indicator of our economic health. In February 2019, this (capital goods) contracted by 8.8 per cent over the minus 3.4 per cent growth in January 2019.

Despite all the hype over the slogan Make in India, the total inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) during these five years was 28 per cent of all capital inflows into the country. The rest of the 72 per cent inflows were all speculative, into the financial markets. This compares very poorly with the earlier period of five years, when FDI inflow were 48 per cent between 2009 and 2014.

Despite all hullabaloo of expanding India’s exports, the trade deficit, i.e., the difference between what India imports and exports, stood at a record high of $ 176 billion in 2018-19.

The livelihood conditions of vast sections of our people, including the middle class, has drastically fallen due to the relentless rise in the prices of petroleum products. Additionally, between 2014 and 2018, the prices of ten essential commodities rose by an average of 7.5 per cent – sugar costing Rs 24 a kg rose to Rs 42 in 2018; dal costing Rs 47/kg in 2014 is now over Rs 70/kg; milk Rs 36/litre is now over Rs. 45/litre. These are all-India averages.

CRONY CAPITALISM

Refusing to provide any relief to the people over this relentless economic onslaught and, particularly refusing to undertake a one-time loan waiver for our beleaguered annadatas (farmers), the Modi government has now written off Rs 5,55,603 crores during the last five years of loans taken by corporate cronies from our banks. Eighty per cent of such loans waived during the last decade have been done under this Modi government. The Modi government refuses to reveal the names of those whose loans have been waived. This secrecy is meant to protect the sources of its political funding, concealing the worst form of crony capitalism that India has ever seen. The Enforcement Directorate has now revealed that 36 of the mega looters of our public money have left the country seeking shelter abroad. This means that the Modi government has permitted those who have looted our public money to escape scot-free foreclosing all possibilities of such loot being recovered and culprits punished.

UNSCRUPULOUS EMOTIVE CAMPAIGN

Unable to meet the people’s anger over this assault on their daily life and fearing a rejection at the ballot, Narendra Modi has now mounted the most unscrupulous aggressive campaign over the fight against terror and the sacrifices of our armed forces as the means to muster people’s support. In the process, he and the BJP-RSS combine violated with impunity the guidelines of the Model Code of Conduct laid down by the Election Commission. Does one need to go far to reason why the Election Commission is allowing such a violation of its own guidelines?

Let us examine the emotive claims now being made by Modi.

Claim: Eliminated cross-border terrorism.

Reality: Modi became the Prime Minister boasting that he had a 56 inch chest capable of defeating Pakistan’s efforts at engineering cross-border terrorism. Today he is frenetically campaigning that he has succeeded in instilling a sense of fright in terrorists. But, then what are the facts?

Compared to the period 2009-14, in 2014-19 under Narendra Modi, the number of terror attacks in India rose from 109 to 626 and the ceasefire violations by Pakistan rose from 563 to 5596. The number of our security forces martyred increased from 139 to 483; the number of civilians who have been killed by terrorist attacks rose from 12 to 210.

Modi government’s Jammu and Kashmir policy led to an alarming rise in numbers of local youths joining militant groups. This rose from 16 in 2014 to 191 in 2018.

Post the terrorist attack at Uri military base, surgical strikes were conducted by Indian Army. Modi and the BJP government claimed to have demolished the cross-border terrorism facilitates and boasted that there would not be any further terrorist attacks from across the border. Then came the Pulwama terrorist attack that killed 40 of our CRPF jawans. Following this, when the Indian Air Force successfully targeted terrorist bases inside Pakistan in Balakot, we were all told that India had successfully paralysed, if not eliminated, all future terrorist attacks. Post-Balakot, terrorist attacks have continued and more security personnel have been martyred. Terrorist attacks have also injured civilians with bombs being planted in busy civilian areas in Jammu region of J&K.

This is the reality of Mr Modi’s 56 inch chest!

Claim: Modi frightens Pakistan.

Reality: It is an established fact that fundamentalism of all hues only feed each other. The claim that Pakistan is scared of the BJP/RSS and Narendra Modi is completely contrary to the facts. In fact, Muslim fundamentalism and Hindu communalism feed on each other and draw strength from each other.

Way back in 1999, on the eve of the general elections that were held after the then BJP government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost its majority on the Floor of the Lok Sabha, the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba was asked whom they would like to see win in the 1999 general election in India. It’s information secretary said, “The BJP suits us. Within a year they have made us into a nuclear and missile power. Lashkar-e-Tayyeba is getting a good response because of the BJP’s statements. It is much better than before. We pray to God that they come to power again. Then we will emerge even stronger”. (Hindustan Times, July 19, 1999)

In a book, Spy Chronicles, jointly written by two former spymasters – Pakistan’s former Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General (Retired) Asad Durrani and India’s former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief A S Dulat; Asad Durrani says that Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi is a more preferred choice for the ISI. He says: “The reaction in Pakistan to Modi’s election as the PM was that it served India right. Let Modi take care of India, destroy its image, and possibly destroy its inner balance.” The ISI’s choice of who should win in the Indian elections is, thus, clear.

Virtually confirming this, on April 10, 2019, Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan, a day before the first phase of voting began, gave an endorsement to Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. He expressed before a host of foreign media journalists that he hopes that Modi will win because India-Pakistan peace will have “a better chance”.

Need anything more be said, Mr Modi, as to whom Pakistan prefers to win in India? The stronger Hindutva communalism becomes in India, the stronger will become Muslim fundamentalism in Pakistan. In fact, they are “made for each other”.

Indian people will surely see through this emotion rousing and exercise their vote on the basis of their day-to-day life experience during the last five years.

The defeat of this BJP government looks imminent, paving the way for an alternative secular government, post-elections.

BJP prefers singer Hans in North West, Udit Raj upset

NEW DELHI, April 23: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced the candidature of folk singer turned politician Hans Raj Hans from North West Delhi Tuesday, just hours before the deadline for filing nominations in Delhi ended.

Following a protest by sitting MP Udit Raj, a Dalit leader, the party had withheld Hans’ candidature on Monday.

Hans, a popular Punjabi folk and Sufi singer, filed his nomination from the constituency Tuesday and was accompanied by BJP MLA and leader of the opposition in the Delhi assembly Vijender Gupta.

Hans had joined the BJP in 2016 and was made chairman of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis. He resigned the post Monday evening after the BJP decided to field him from North West Delhi.

The singer made his political debut in 2009 when he joined the Shiromani Akali Dal and contested elections from his home town Jalandhar but lost. He joined the Congress in 2014 and later moved to the BJP in 2016.

Senior BJP leaders said Hans, who was with the Congress before he joined the BJP in 2016, has been actively working with the party. The BJP is now projecting him as its face among the scheduled castes in the city.

In a series of tweets Tuesday morning, Udit Raj had tried to building pressure on the party for a ticket. “I am waiting for ticket if not given to me I will do good bye to party,” he tweeted. But after the party announced Hans’ name, he later held a press conference and said he doesn’t know the reason why the party denied him a ticket.

Amid speculation on why the party replaced him with Hans, Udit Raj dropped the word “chowkidar” from his Twitter account but prefixed it later.

“I trusted the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and merged my Indian Justice Party with the BJP. I now realise many smaller regional parties have benefited more by remaining independent…. I’m deeply hurt that I was not even given a chance to defend myself,” Raj said. When asked whether he would leave the BJP, Raj said, “I’ll do whatever my supporters say.”

In 2014, the BJP had fielded Udit Raj, who had joined it just before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, from North West Delhi (a reserved seat for the scheduled caste community) to garner the support of the SC community.

Raj, a prominent Dalit leader, has not always been in sync with the party line on various issues. For instance, he had welcomed the entry of women of menstruating age into the Sabrimala shrine while the party opposed it and called it a matter of “tradition”.

Rahul Gandhi gets Supreme Court notice in Rafale contempt case

NEW DELHI, April 23: The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to Congress president Rahul Gandhi telling him to respond to the contempt petition for attributing remarks to the top court in the Rafale case. The notice was issued after a request from Rahul Gandhi’s lawyer Abhishek Singhvi who urged the judges to close the contempt case against him after his explanation yesterday.

In his affidavit filed on Monday, Rahul Gandhi had clarified his remarks in connection with the top court order related to the review of Rafale case, insisting that they were in the heat of the moment during a campaign and not meant to obstruct administration of justice or scandalise the court in any manner.

At the same time, he also appeared to suggest that if he has misinterpreted the court’s order on the review petition, then so have many ministers of the government who passed off the order in the original case as a “clean chit” to the deal.

“I have been candid and brave enough to admit my mistake,” Singhvi said in the court on Tuesday, describing the petition by BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi against Rahul Gandhi as an attempt to “politicise a non-issue”.

“This court must not allow this political flogging to go on,” Singhvi said, recalling that at the last hearing, the court had only sought Rahul Gandhi’s explanation, and not issued a formal notice.

Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for Meenakshi Lekhi, however, asked the court not to let go of the case against the Congress president.

In his affidavit, Mukul Rohatgi said Rahul Gandhi admitted to have made a wrong statement but there was only one line that he regretted making the statement. “According to me, this is not an apology, there is no contrition. This is a lip service,” he said.

The BJP demanded an apology from Rahul Gandhi and called him a “liar of the first order” in public opinion. “This was an attempt by Rahul Gandhi to manufacture a lie and create a controversy in the Rafale deal... He should apologise to the people of this country,” said BJP spokesperson G V L Narsimha Rao.

The Supreme Court had earlier this month allowed three sets of documents to be used in the Rafale review petition, rejecting protests from the government which cited various grounds including national security to block use of these papers.

Rahul Gandhi, who was in Amethi then to file his nomination papers, had reacted to the news, saying: “Now the Supreme Court has made it clear that ‘chowkidarji’ (watchman) has committed a theft… I want to directly challenge that the Supreme Court has stated that you have indulged in corruption.”

Congress to fight all 7 seats in Delhi

NEW DELHI, April 22: Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit is the Congress candidate from Nort East Lok Sabha constituency and the former Delhi unit chief Ajay Maken will contest from New Delhi, according to the list of seven candidates announced on Monday.

This announcement caps months of speculation over the party’s possible alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party. The two were in talks for weeks but at the last minute the talks failed over AAP’s demand for alliance outside Delhi.

“I have contested from here (North East Delhi) earlier, I know the people and they know me. We had started Metro from here, our reputation is of working for the people,” said Sheila Dikhit.

Other Congress candidates in Delhi are JP Aggarwal from Chandni Chowk, Arvinder Singh Lovely from East Delhi, Mahabal Mishra from West Delhi and Rajesh Lilothia from North West Delhi, a reserved seat.

Olympian boxer Vijender Singh is Congress candidate from South Delhi constituency.

The Aam Aadmi Party has blamed the Congress for not forging an alliance for 18 Lok Sabha seats of Delhi, Haryana and Chandigarh. Senior AAP leader and Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia had said the Congress “wasted time” in the name of discussion over alliance against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led ruling coalition in the Lok Sabha elections.

The AAP had named six candidates from Haryana on Sunday and said six of their Delhi candidates will file nominations on Monday.

The BJP also announced the list of four candidates for Delhi on Sunday. The party retained all its sitting MPs with Harsh Vardhan contesting from Chandni Chowk, Manoj Tiwari from North East Delhi, Ramesh Bidhuri from South Delhi and Pravesh Verma from West Delhi.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP won all the seven seats in Delhi.

Lt Gen Hooda laments Pragya’s remark on Karkare

NEW DELHI, April 21: Lt Gen (retired) D.S. Hooda, who oversaw surgical strike, on Sunday said he was hurt by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sadhvi Pragya Thakur’s remarks on police officer Hemant Karkare, killed in the 26/11 terror attack.

Hooda’s statement came at a press conference, organised by the Congress to release its national security paln, prepared by him.

“Yes, it does hurt when such things are said about a martyr, be it from the army or the police. Full respect should be shown to them. These utterances are not good,” said Hooda, the former Commander of Northern Army, which carried out surgical strikes in Pakistan in September 2016 after the Uri terror attack.

Thakur had said Karkare died during the attack as she had “cursed” him for torturing her. “I had told him you will be finished, and he was killed by terrorists in less than two months,” she said.

However, on Friday Thakur, BJP nominee from the Bhopal parliamentary seat, apologised and retract her statement.

Congress unveils national security plan

NEW DELHI, April 21: The Congress on Sunday said unemployment, farm distress and vulnerability of different sections of society continue to be the top election issues for the party as it officially unveiled the vision document on national security prepared by former chief of the Army’s Northern Command, Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda (retd).

Former Union Ministers, P. Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh, along with Lt. Gen. Hooda released a summary of the report and asserted that Congress’ approach towards national security was “not ad hoc and impulsive”.

Asked if the report, made public before the third phase polling on Tuesday, seeks to counter BJP’s strong narrative on national security, Chidambaram said, “National security is an important aspect of the narrative. But to say that it is dominating the narrative is completely wrong.”

“The number one issue remains unemployment. The number two issue is farm distress and the number three issue is security of various sections — women, Dalits, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, forest dwellers, journalists, academicians, NGOs,” he said.

“We have taken several features of Lt. Gen. Hooda’s plan (in the manifesto). These ideas will be implemented when we form our government. Our approach is not ad hoc, our approach is not impulsive. It is after a careful study and deliberation and necessary measures will be taken. Our interest is to protect India’s national security,” said Chidambaram, who had taken over as Home Minister soon after the 26/11 attacks in 2008.

He also said that the Congress had not questioned the Balakot air strikes and it was the international press that had questioned the claims on the number of casualties.

Lt. Gen Hooda said the five pillars of the report include securing India’s neighbourhood and peaceful resolution of internal conflicts like Jammu and Kashmir and North East.

Rahul Gandhi to be PM if Congress gets maximum number of seats: Anand Sharma

PANAJI, April 21: Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Anand Sharma on Sunday said Rahul Gandhi will be the next prime minister of the country if the Congress gets the highest number of seats in the April-May Lok Sabha polls.

Addressing a press conference here, Sharma said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his NDA government will face the same fate as the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2004 when the BJP lost despite a robust ‘India Shining’ campaign.

“Leaders will decide who will be the next PM. It all depends on which party leads. If it is the Congress, then the next PM will be our chief Rahul Gandhi,” he said.

“There are pre-poll alliances and also there is post-poll coalition. It will all depend on the results,” he added.

Predicting the BJP’s performance in the ensuing general elections, Sharma said, “This question was put before us in 2004 when a far better PM, in the form of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was there but what happened? India Shining lost. The same is going to happen now.” “I am not an astrologer but one thing I can tell you is that Modi will not become PM and the BJP will be defeated.

Congress will get a high number of seats,” he claimed.

“The question today is what is the narrative? Is the PM promising anything to the people? Is the PM not supposed to give an account of what he has done in the last five years?” Sharma questioned.

Sharma said the PM should apologise for not fulfilling the promises made during the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign.

He also alleged that PM and the BJP were resorting to emotional pleas in their campaign.

“They are playing with the emotions of people. It is a matter of shame. For the first time in the history of this country, the PM is using the armed forces for a partisan political agenda. He should be condemned for it,” he alleged.

“The Indian Army does not belong to the Narendra Modi government. It belongs to the people and nation. They have insulted the martyrdom and sacrifice of our soldiers,” he added.

He said the BJP need not give lessons to the Congress on fighting terrorism as the country’s oldest party had lost two prime ministers - Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi- in this fight.

CJI Ranjan Gogoi rejects sexual misconduct charges, says ‘judiciary under threat’

NEW DELHI, April 20: Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi responded to charges of sexual harassment levelled against him by a former staffer in his office by convening an urgent hearing of the matter in the Supreme Court on Saturday by a three-judge bench headed by him, and spoke for 18 minutes defending himself.

A visibly emotional Gogoi said the charges — unprecedented in so far as they have been levelled against the top judge of the highest court in the land — were an attempt by a bigger force to “deactivate the office of the Chief Justice of India because sensitive matters are being heard by the court next week”.

The court has taken suo motu (a Latin phrase meaning on its own motion) cognisance of the matter, and it will now be heard by the two other judges who heard the issue on Saturday, justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna.

The order issued on Saturday also advised the media to exercise restraint in its coverage of the case; it was signed only by Mishra and Khanna and not by CJI Gogoi, indicating he had technically recused himself from the case. It wasn’t immediately known when the matter will be heard next.

“There is a bigger force behind this. They want to deactivate the office of the Chief Justice of India because I am hearing sensitive matters next week. Independence of judiciary is under very serious threat, it is pathetic,” said Gogoi during the hearing that lasted 23 minutes.

He added that he will “continue to act without fear and decide whatever cases I have to decide. Nobody can stop me.”

Opinion was divided on the CJI’s reaction.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde said: “Judges speak only through their judgment, when there is an attack on a judge of this nature, there was no other recourse except to answer from the bench itself. The CJI has made his personal position clear by denying all the allegations. Thereafter, he has left it to the institution to take a call and give an institutional response. ”

SN Singh, former dean of the law faculty at Delhi University, added: “ Every time an allegation of sexual harassment is made against a judge, they say judiciary is in danger. How is the independence of judiciary in danger? The CJI should go on leave and an inquiry must be made in the matter.”

On Friday, April 19, a former woman staffer associated with the office of the CJI, wrote to 22 Supreme Court judges that “there has been sexual harassment and consequent victimization of the woman and her family” by the CJI, according to the letter.

The letter from the woman refers to incidents that allegedly took place in his home office, where she was posted for some time.

It mentions efforts to allegedly target her family, including her husband, a head constable in Delhi Police, who has been suspended, and a brother-in-law who was first appointed to a job in the Supreme Court under the CJI’s discretionary quota and then removed a few months later.It adds that she herself was shuffled around various departments and subsequently fired.

CJI Gogoi said in court on Saturday that the former staffer, who made allegations against him, has “a criminal background and has two FIRs against her”. FIR is short for first information report.

The hearing began with the CJI summarising the allegations made against him in the letter (which also has a sworn undertaking), and also published on Saturday morning in four online publications.

He said: “I received communication from four online publications, Caravan, Leaflet, Scroll and Wire wanting to know of my response on the allegations. They gave me less than 12 hours to respond. A response was sent to these publications by the Secretary General denying the allegations.”

Rebutting the allegations, the CJI said, “I will not stoop low even to deny this allegation. What troubles me is that after 20 years in judiciary I have a bank balance of 6 lakh, 80 thousand and 40 lakh in provident fund. When I was an advocate I had more. No one can catch me on money. They have to look for something else. Even my peon has more money than me.”

Brushing aside the allegations, he added: “This employee was in my home office for a month-and-a-half. The allegation pertains to an incident on October 11 and 12, 2018, when my personal private secretary made a report of inappropriate behaviour by the staff(er) and forwarded it to the registry. Thereafter she was removed from my office. At some point of time, unsolicited phone calls were received from the husband of the lady seeking help from the CJI to put her back into service, which were reported to the Delhi Police.”

“The lady has a criminal background. There are two FIRs against her. One was against her when she entered service under section 324 (Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and 506 (criminal intimidation). The other FIR was lodged in Feburary/ March this year for negotiating a deal for employment in the Supreme Court for a person for which she took ?50,000 against a claim of ?10 lakh. She was arrested in this FIR and was in custody for four days. After her release she has been threatening the complainant in the case and the police have moved an application seeking cancellation of bail of the lady and the hearing in the matter is today in the Patiala House court. Two cases are pending against her husband and her brother-in-law also,” observed CJI Gogoi.

An application for cancellation of bail of the former staffer says that she was arrested on March 10, sent to judicial custody on March 11 and released on bail on March 12.

CJI Gogoi has seven more moths of service left and retires on November 17, 2019.

After the hearing, the bench refrained from passing any judicial orders but said, “We leave it to the wisdom of the media to show restraint, act responsibly as is expected from them and accordingly decide what should or should not be published as wild and scandalous allegations undermine and irreparably damage the reputation and negate independence of the judiciary. We would, therefore, at this juncture leave it to the media to take off such material which is undesirable.”

Shatrughan Sinha’s wife Poonam Sinha joins Samajwadi Party

NEW DELHI, April 16: Actor-turned politician Shatrughan Sinha’s wife Poonam Sinha joined Samajwadi Party on Tuesday. Shatrughan, a two-time BJP lawmaker from Patna Sahib, had recently joined the Congress.

Dimple Yadav, wife of Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, welcomed Ponnam Sinha into the party.

Poonam Sinha is likely to be SP’s candidate for the Lucknow seat to take on Union home minister Rajnath Singh. When asked about her candidature from Lucknow, Poonam Sinha avoided direct reply saying, “Will tell you tomorrow.” On being asked whether she would be contesting against Rajnath Singh, she said, “Koi baat nahi, acchi tarah se ladenge (It does not matter. I will fight strongly).”

Poonam Sinha is likely to file nomination on April 18. “Poonam Sinha ji will be the SP-BSP-RLD candidate from Lucknow. She will file nomination on April 18. We appeal to the Congress that do not field your candidate from here so that BJP can be defeated,” Ravidas Mehrotra, senior SP leader, was quoted as saying.

Rajnath Singh filed his nomination from the Lucknow Lok Sabha seat on Tuesday. Lucknow is going to polls on May 6 along with a total of 51 constituencies across seven states in the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha election.

Shatrughan Sinha joined the Congress on April 6. Just a few hours later, the Congress has named Sinha as its candidate from the Patna Sahib constituency against Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is the BJP nominee from this seat.

Demonetisation destroyed economy, NYAY will jumpstart it: Rahul Gandhi

MYSURU, April 13: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of wrecking the country’s economy with demonetisation and said his party’s NYAY will jumpstart it.

Gandhi accused Modi of using demonetisation as a ruse.

“Note ban destroyed the economy. Factories closed, unemployment rose. NYAY will give money in your hands. You will start buying once you get money and the economy will revive and unemployed youth will get employment and the economy will jumpstart. Lakhs of youth will get employment,” he said at an election rally in Mysuru.

He also promised that 22 lakh vacancies in government jobs will be filled up.

“We will fill them up in one year and ten lakhs youth will be employed in panchayats”.

He insisted that the Congress’ NYAY cash transfer proposal for the country’s poorest 20% population is an achievable target.

“I spoke to economists and the Congress think tank and asked how much money could be put in accounts of poor. Modi had lied. How much money can the govt put in the bank account of the 20% poor without damaging the economy? I told the think tank I want a number, not theories. I got the answer a few days back. The govt can put Rs 72000 in each account per year. The truth is 3.60 lakh rupees in five years in each account and not Rs 15 lakh.”

“This is the Congress’ surgical strike on poverty. If Modi can give money to the country’s richest, the Congress and JD(S) can give money to the country’s poorest.”

He also said the Congress party will change the goods and services tax (GST) after winning the election.

“We will change GST after winning the elections. There will be only one tax not different slabs,” he said at an election rally in Mysuru.

He lashed out at Modi for describing himself as a chowkidar.

‘There is no chowkidar in front of the houses of the poor, farmers, and the unemployed. Chowkidars are there only in front of house of someone like Anil Ambani. Modi has brought disrepute to all chowkidars in the country.’

The Congress chief accused Modi of lying about every promise in 2014 and said the current elections are a fight between truth and lies.

“It’s a fight between their lies, false promises, divisiveness and hatred and our truth, brotherhood and compassion.”

“Modi makes false promises in every election. He promised to put Rs 15 lakh in every Indian’s account. He promised right prices to farmers and two crore jobs for the youth. Did anyone get the money? Were farmers’ problems addressed? Unemployment has been the highest in 45 years.”

Gandhi said the Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka waived RS 11000 cr of farm loans which helped crores of farmers.

After Rafale Deal, Huge Tax Waiver For Anil Ambani's French Firm: Report

NEW DELHI, April 13: France waived taxes worth 143.7 million euros to a French-registered telecom subsidiary of Anil Ambani's Reliance Communications in 2015, months after India's announcement of buying 36 Rafale jets, French newspaper Le Monde reported today.

Reliance Communications rejected any wrongdoing and said the tax dispute was settled under a legal framework that is available to all companies operating in France.

The French newspaper said the French tax authorities accepted 7.3 million euros from Reliance Flag Atlantic France as a settlement against an original demand of 151 million euros. Reliance Flag owns a terrestrial cable network and other telecom infrastructure in France.

"A global settlement was reached between the French tax authorities and Reliance Flag, a telecom company, in a tax dispute pertaining to the period 2008-2012," the French embassy said in a statement. It further said, "This settlement was conducted in full adherence with the legislative and regulatory framework governing this common practice of the tax administration," the embassy said. It said the settlement was not subject to any political interference whatsoever.

Reacting to the report, the Defence Ministry said any connections drawn between the tax issue and the Rafale matter is totally inaccurate, tendentious and is a mischievous attempt to disinform.

"We have seen reports drawing conjectural connection between tax exemption to a private company and procurement of Rafale fighter jets by government of India. Neither the period of the tax concession nor the subject matter of the concession relate even remotely to the Rafale procurement concluded during the tenure of the present government," the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced India would buy a batch of 36 Rafale jets after talks with the then French President Francois Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris. The final deal was sealed on September 23, 2016.

The Congress has been alleging massive irregularities in the deal, saying the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs. 1,670 crore as against Rs. 526 crore finalised by the UPA government when it was negotiating the deal.

The Congress has also been targeting the government over selection of Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Defence as an offset partner for Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale. The government has rejected the allegations.

The French newspaper said the company was investigated by French tax authorities and found liable to pay 60 million euros in taxes for the period 2007 to 2010.

However, Reliance offered to pay 7.6 million euros only as a settlement, but the French tax authorities refused to accept the amount. The authorities conducted another probe for the period 2010 to 2012 and told the company to pay an additional 91 million euros in taxes, the report said.

It said by April 2015, the total amount owed by Reliance to the French authorities in taxes was at least 151 million euros.

In October, six months after PM Modi announced the Rafale deal in Paris, the French authorities accepted 7.3 million euros from Reliance as a settlement as against the original demand of 151 million euros.

A spokesperson of Reliance Communications said the tax demands were "completely unsustainable and illegal" and that the company denied any favouritism or gain from the settlement.

"During the period under consideration by the French tax authorities - 2008-2012 i.e. nearly 10 years ago, Flag France had an operating loss of Rs. 20 crore (Euro 2.7 million). French tax authorities had raised a tax demand of over Rs. 1,100 crore for the same period," the official said.

"As per the French tax settlement process as per law, a mutual settlement agreement was signed to pay Rs. 56 crore as a final settlement," he said.

Cost of freedom must not be forgotten, says Rahul Gandhi at Jallianwala Bagh

AMRITSAR, April 13: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday reached Jallianwala Bagh to pay floral tribute to martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919. Gandhi was accompanied by Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

Hundreds of people were massacred by British forces on April 13, 1919. Gandhi visited the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial in Amritsar to pay homage to the martyrs.

“The cost of freedom must never ever be forgotten. We salute the people of India who gave everything they had for it. Jai Hind,” Gandhi wrote in the visitors’ book at the memorial.

Gandhi reached Amritsar on Friday night. He paid a visit to Golden Temple complex where he offered prayers at the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikh religion.

British High Commissioner to India Dominic Asquith also visited the memorial to pay homage to those killed in Jallianwala Bagh massacre. He was accompanied by his deputy Andrew Ayre. Asquith termed the firing on a peaceful gathering by the British force “a shameful act”.

“The events of Jallianwala Bagh 100 years ago today reflect a shameful act in British-Indian history. We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused. I am pleased today that the UK and India have and remain committed to developing further a thriving 21st century partnership,” Asquith noted in the visitors’ book at the memorial.

Captain Singh on Friday reiterated the demand for “an unequivocal official apology from Britain” for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. He said it was “a heart-wrenching moment in India’s history” while asserting that the people of India wanted an unequivocal apology from Britain for the atrocity.

Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, Congress in-charge of Punjab Asha Kumari and Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar were among those who accompanied Gandhi during his visit to the Jallianwahal Bagh National Memorial.

April 13 marks the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in which British forces commanded by Brigadier General Reginald Dyer opened fire on hundreds of peaceful protesters who had gathered there to voice their opposition to the oppressive Rowlatt Act of the colonial government.

The Jallianwala massacre is one of the darkest chapters of India’s freedom struggle against the British occupation. British Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this week expressed “regret” over the killing of innocent people 100 years ago. However, she stopped short of tendering an apology, a long-pending demand from the civil rights activists.

Modi's lookalike files nomination against Rajnath Singh in Lucknow

LUCKNOW, April 12: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lookalike Abhinandan Pathak on Friday filed his nomination papers from Lucknow Lok Sabha constituency where Union home minister Rajnath Singh is in the fray.

Pathak, often referred to as ‘Chhota Modi’ by his friends, said he would also file his nomination papers against the PM in Varanasi on April 26. While Lucknow goes to polls on May 6, voting will take place in Varanasi on May 19.

Rajnath Singh is likely to file his nomination papers from Lucknow on April 16.

“I am here to serve people and to represent them and their issues in the parliament,” said Pathak, who was also dressed like the PM in half-sleeve khadi kurta.

Pathak said he was inspired by the PM but not convinced by his government’s decisions.

“Mann ki baat kehne wale ne mann ki baat suni nahi (PM didn’t hear what people wanted). The PM failed to fulfil his promises,” said Pathak.

Pathak belongs to Saharanpur and has been living in the state capital for the past several years.

He said he was thankful to the people of Manak Nagar locality in Lucknow, where he currently lives, as they pooled in money to help him pay the security deposit for contesting the election.

“I am thankful to the people, who pooled in Rs 25,000 as security money,” he said.

As per the affidavit he submitted at the district magistrate’s office, Pathak is 51 years old and has obtained master’s degree in Hindi from Allahabad University.

The affidavit It further mentions that he has Rs 15,000 in his bank account and Rs 15,000 cash, which he earned by performing religious rituals.

Day after EC order, Delhi CEO directs BJP to not air content on NaMo TV without certification

NEW DELHI, April 12: A day after the Election Commission directed that all recorded programmes displayed on NaMo TV be pre-certified, the Delhi poll body has directed the BJP not to air any content on the platform without its certification, officials said.

The poll body had on Thursday said since NaMo TV was sponsored by the BJP, all recorded programmes displayed on the platform should be pre-certified by media certification and monitoring committee of Delhi and all political publicity contents displayed without pre-certification be removed immediately.

Following the EC’s directive, the chief electoral officer (CEO), Delhi wrote to the saffron party to ensure that all political content not approved be removed. “As a precautionary measure, two officials have been deployed to watch NaMo TV and monitor its content,” officials said.

An official said political parties usually submit audiovisual content for pre-certification, without specifying on which platform it will be aired. The content may be aired during a rally or on the party’s website, he said.

After the Congress filed a complaint with the poll panel about the channel disturbing the level playing field, the EC had asked the Delhi CEO to file a report on the issue. The Delhi CEO approved the logo of NaMo TV, which the BJP said was part of the NaMo App that it owns, but did not “certify” the content as it contained old speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Supreme Court allows use of leaked documents in Rafale case

NEW DELHI, April 10: The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed the government’s objection over admissibility of the ‘leaked’ documents cited by petitioners seeking review of Rafale verdict of December 2018. The top court has allowed use of the documents in admitting the review petition filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, and lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan.

The government had argued that the plea for review of the Rafale verdict was not maintainable as it was based on documents, which were covered under the Official Secrets Act.

The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, in a unanimous decision, has held that it would consider the papers while examining the review petition. CJI Gogoi stated the review petition would be considered on the basis of the three documents whose admissibility was questioned.

Justice KM Joseph, the other judge on the bench, also concurred with the conclusion but offered different reasons for allowing the ‘leaked’ documents.

Petitioner Arun Shourie said he was delighted by the Supreme Court’s unanimous verdict dismissing Centre’s argument on admissibility of documents.

The Supreme Court on December 14 had rejected a petition seeking independent probe into the Rafale deal. The petitioners had alleged fiscal malfeasance and commercial favouritism in the Rafale deal. The court had then rejected the plea for a probe and ruled out commercial favouritism in its judgment.

Congress would get Rafale deal investigated: Rahul Gandhi

RAIGANJ, April 10: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said after coming to power his party would get the Rafale deal investigated and those found guilty would be punished.

Speaking at a public rally in Karandighi under Bengal’s Raiganj Lok Sabha constituency, the Congress chief lashed out at both Prime Minister Modi and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and asked if any of them had created employment opportunities for the youth.

He also took a dig at Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee for alleging that the Congress party was not fighting against the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha polls.

“Today the Supreme Court said that some scam has taken place in the Rafale deal. The chowkidar is a thief. The chowkidar’s appearance has changed. The chowkidar is scared,” Rahul Gandhi said leaving little doubt regarding who he was targeting.

“The Congress is going to defeat Narendra Modi in the 2019 elections. After that, there will be an inquiry into the theft of air force funds in the Rafale deal. And I guarantee that those who stole funds will face punishment. No one can escape this,” the Congress president said.

Though the Congress chief devoted most of his 20-minute speech to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he also lashed out at Mamata Banerjee, who, in a rally in Chopra (under Darjeeling constituency) had alleged that two Congress candidates in Bengal, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Abhijit Mukherjee were getting help from the RSS.

Emphasising that the Congress was unwavering in its opposition to the BJP, Rahul Gandhi said, “She (Mamata Banerjee) is alleging that the Congress is not fighting against the BJP. Let me ask you, did the Congress ever join hands with the BJP, anywhere, at any point of time? Did the Congress ever strike an alliance with BJP? No, never. But Mamata Banerjee did, didn’t she?”

Incidentally, the TMC that was set up on January 1, 1998 was a part of the National Democratic Alliance for most part of its first 10 years.

“Who first raised the slogan chowkidar chor hai? Who instilled fear in the mind of the chowkidar? Look at him now. He is scared. We have changed the appearance of the chowkidar,” Rahul Gandhi said.

The Congress president also said that after coming to power they would focus on creating a network of government hospitals and educational institutions.

Alleging that the Narendra Modi government had failed to create employment opportunities in the country, Rahul Gandhi slammed the TMC government in the state on the same issue.

Incidentally, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Congress won 9.69% votes and four seats in Bengal. However, it is facing a tough contest from the TMC and BJP to retain its tally in the state.

Wednesday’s rally in Raiganj was the second public meeting of the Congress president in Bengal, after the election dates were announced on March 10.

Addressing a rally in Chanchal in Malda district on March 10, Rahul Gandhi had accused the Bengal chief minister of running the state according to her whims. He alleged that Mamata Banerjee did not consult anybody and only functioned according to her whims and proceeded to accuse her of doing nothing for the youth and farmers.

Modi biopic not be released: EC

NEW DELHI, April 10: The Election Commission on Wednesday told the producers of ‘PM Narendra Modi’, a biopic on the prime minister, not to release the film in view of the Lok Sabha elections. “You are directed not to exhibit the film till further orders,” the EC said. The biopic on PM Modi was scheduled to release tomorrow.

The poll panel’s order came hours after it banned screening of biopics on political leaders that could alter the level-playing field during elections. The commission also decided to set up a committee headed by a retired Supreme Court judge to look into complaints on this topic.

The EC said any film that subserves purpose of any political entity or individual should not be displayed in the electronic media including movie halls. The first phase of the Lok Sabha elections starts Thursday.

The biopic on PM Narendra Modi has been the most-talked about in this election season. But the election commission order made it clear that it had received complaints against others as well, particularly NTR Laxmi and Udyama Simham.

The EC order comes just hours after the censor board cleared the biopic on Modi and the Supreme Court declined to get involved. The top court had told the petitioners that the Election Commission was the right forum to intervene if the movie was going to influence voters in violation of the model code of conduct.

Sandip Singh, the producer of the biopic, promptly thanked the judges for what he described as the “much deserved justice” and timed its release to coincide with the first phase of voting on Thursday.

The petition in the Supreme Court had sought deferment of the biopic’s release till the completion of the coming Lok Sabha polls, alleging that it was designed to “manipulate, influence and impress viewers and voters”.

Congress, the main opposition party, said the film was flattering of Modi and had slammed the timing of its release. It had lobbied for the movie - which tells Modi’s story journey from his days selling tea at a train station - be put on hold until voting in the elections ends on May 19.

The commission, in its order said it was vital that “the power of media is not used in such a manner which affects the general conduct” of the elections.

MP govt books ‘unnamed politicians’ in Rs 3,000 crore e-tendering scam

BHOPAL, April 10: The Madhya Pradesh police on Wednesday lodged a case against unnamed “politicians” and “bureaucrats” in alleged irregularities in e-tendering of contracts worth Rs 3,000 crore, a day after the Income Tax department concluded its raids against persons considered close to chief minister Kamal Nath.

The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the state police lodged an FIR against “unnamed politicians and bureaucrats”, employees of five government departments and directors/owners of eight companies for their involvement in alleged Rs 3000 cr e-tendering scam, a police spokesperson said, more a year after the irregularities were reported.

According to EOW officials, the scam relates to how some firms allegedly illegally managed to hack the e-procurement portal hosted by the Madhya Pradesh State Electronic Development Corporation (MPSEDC) to see the e-tenders before the bid was to be opened and then make changes in their bids so that the favoured company illegally becomes the lowest bidder and gets the contract. The EOW investigated as many as nine e-tenders, all of which have been cancelled.

It was sometime in March, 2018, that some junior officials of Madhya Pradesh Jal Nigam Limited (MPJNL) red-flagged three tenders as a cross mark was appearing next to “Document content is modified”. This was allegedly overlooked. But when an established technology and engineering firm complained to MPJNL that they had missed on a few bids by surprisingly narrow margins and that they suspected foul play, a probe was ordered.

The MPJNL asked the MPSEDC to look into the allegations and they asked Antares Systems Limited, a Bangalore based IT firm that had developed the e-procurement portal along with Tata Consultation Service (TCS), to conduct a Root Cause Analysis (RCA), which means what went wrong and where. Antares in its report on May 5, 2018 submitted that three tenders of rural water supply schemes in Rajgarh and Satna had been tampered with.

On May 10, Antares submitted another report in which they said that tenders of six other contracts of the Public Works Department, Water Resources Development and MP Road Development Corporation had been similarly compromised.

Based on these reports and also his own internal inquiry, the then managing director of MPSEDC, Manish Rastogi, submitted a report to the state government and all the nine tenders were cancelled.

Superintendent of police (SP) Arun Mishra said, “The departments in question are Public Works Department, Project Implementation Unit, Madhya Pradesh Road Development Corporation, Water Resources Department and Madhya Pradesh Jal Nigam, which had floated tenders worth around Rs 3000 cr, between 2013 and 2014, that had been tampered. The companies which benefited from the scam and whose directors/owners have been made accused belong to eight companies.”

Mishra said cases were registered under the Indian Penal Code sections 420 (cheating), 468 (forging documents), 471 (using forged documents), 120 B (conspiracy), section 66 of IT Act and section 7 read with 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

EOW director K N Tiwari said the FIR was based on the report given by Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) in which they had identified the terminal/phone used to make the changes, the time the changes were made and the place where they made it. We now have to identify these persons. The CERT gave us report in December and it took three months to file the FIR because we had to match the data with the departments and companies involved in the scam.”

The EOW officials, familiar with the case, said that most of the changes in the tender documents were made in Bhopal and were invariably made mainly during night, just hours before the opening of the bids. The changes were made through the “Demo department” which was created in mid-2016 for training and practice for the department officials and bidders. Some of the changes were made in the department offices and in some cases through private offices. The officials involved shared their log in IDs, passwords, e-digital signatures etc with others involved to carry out the scam, the officials said.

Reacting to the FIR, MLA and BJP vice-president Rameshwar Sharma indicated that it was vendetta by Congress government, “Why did the Congress remember the e-tendering scam just after the I-T raids that has exposed corruption among those who are close to chief minister Kamal Nath.”

Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi denied vendetta had anything to do with the I-T raids. “In any case BJP should not complain because the FIR is based on report by CERT, a central government organisation. No one has been named. If the BJP is not afraid, why is it shouting itself hoarse?”

The I-T department had conduced raids for three-day against chief minister Kamal Nath’s officer on special duty Praveen Kakkar, Nath close associate RK Miglani and others associated with them. The I-T department had claimed that documents hinting at money laundering of Rs 281 crore were seized during the raids.

Quixotic heroism cannot lead the country: Pranab Mukherjee

NEW DELHI, April 9: India needs leaders who can help meet ever-increasing rising expectations of people and “quixotic heroism” cannot lead this nation, former president Pranab Mukherjee said Monday.

“Quixotic heroism cannot lead this nation. India needs leaders who can help them meet the nation’s ever rising expectations. The country still has a long way to go before it is completely rid of poverty,” Mukherjee said while addressing corporates at AIMA Managing India Awards.

He also expressed concern over the estimate that 1 per cent of Indians hold over 60 per cent of the country’s total wealth and called on corporates to help bring people out of poverty.

“The situation become all the worrisome if one looks at figure that more than 60 per cent wealth is held by just 1 per cent India’s population. While such figure are definite burden on our national conscience, they also indicate that our growth needs to more inclusive then equitable. The one who are left behind drag others in the developmental narratives,” Mukherjee said.

According to the IMF, India is the world’s seventh largest economy of USD 2.69 trillion size.

According to a UN report, India’s GDP growth is expected to accelerate to 7.6 per cent in 2019-20 from estimated 7.4 per cent in the fiscal ending March 2019, he said.

“Over 270 million have moved out of poverty line in the decade since 2005-06 and the poverty rate in this country nearly halved over the previous period. This is a positive side. There is significant 269 million people who live below poverty line,” Mukherjee said.

He said that profits that seek to create wealth for only individual ultimately end up creating vast inequalities and such a situation leads to production becoming untenable.

Mukherjee called upon business leaders and decision makers to orient themselves to large set of social goals of not only for personal benefits but also employment generation, creation of social wealth and more opportunity for the economic growth of the largest number of persons.

He said that the country still have to find the solution to ever growing distress in the farm sector so that the segment acquires its lovely place in larger scheme of things.

“We still need to put into place quality and affordable healthcare infrastructure in every area, nook and corner of the country. We need to put more young people to work in order to become a truly prosperous and proud nation. While india has made lot of progress on the quantitative side a lot of work is still needed on the quality aspect,” Mukherjee said He called for corporates to come forward for development of the country’s human capital. “The demographic dividend needs to be leverage which can only happen when their qualitative development of the education sector in the country. In addition to this we need to enhance quality of skill development. Not many of the IITs/IIMs alumni are passing on their knowledge and skill to next generation or even creating new knowledge through research. That needs to be changed,” he said.

Deve Gowda says Cong, Chandrababu to play key role post elections

AMARAVATI, April 8: Former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) president H D Deve Gowda on Monday predicted the defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha elections, but said no party would be able to form the government at the Centre without the support of the Congress.

Addressing an election rally in support of the Telugu Desam Party at Tiruvuru in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, the JD (S) chief referred to the formation of the United Front government comprising non-BJP coalition of regional parties supported by the Congress party between 1996 and 1998.

“The United Front government proved that regional parties could come to power… Now, it is the time for all the regional parties to come together again and wrest power from the BJP. The TDP president (Chandrababu Naidu) played a major role at the Centre at that time and he is playing a key role in bringing all the parties together on one platform. It is a major achievement to bring all the like-minded regional parties together,” he recalled.

Gowda described Naidu as a prospective Prime Minister of India. “Chandrababu Naidu has been bravely fighting against the misrule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has raised his voice against the misuse of the central investigation agencies and weakening of several other institutions. Naidu has all the requirements of becoming the Prime Minister of the country in future,” the former Prime Minister said.

Gowda charged Modi with weakening democracy by engineering attacks on the political rivals by central agencies. “There is an undeclared emergency in the country. Income Tax raids are carried out on the opposition parties. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister’s relatives were also targeted. So were the political opponents of the BJP in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu. Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal were subjected to I-T harassment too,” he pointed out.

The former Prime Minister also faulted the Election Commission for adopting what he alleged was a partisan attitude against non-BJP parties. “Never before had the EC shifted so many officials based on frivolous complaints. The general feeling among the people is that the EC was acting according to the directions of the BJP government against the opposition-ruled states,” he alleged.

Addressing the rally, Naidu said the opposition parties would file a review petition in the Supreme Court not against its direction to the Election Commission to count five per cent of slips obtained from VVPAT (Voter-verified paper audit trail) machines in every constituency.

He said the opposition would appeal for at least 25 percent VVPAT slips in every constituency. Naidu is among those filed petition for the counting of at least 50 percent VVPATs.

MP’s Rs 281-cr cash collection racket linked to political party: I-T dept

NEW DELHI, April 8: The income tax department has said that it has detected a “wide spread and well-organised” racket involved in the collection of Rs 281 crore in the raids that took place in Madhya Pradesh over Sunday and Monday. It has further said that the money had allegedly been collected through various persons including those in business, politics and public service.

In a series of tweets, the Income Tax department said, “Searches in Madhya Pradesh have detected wide spread & well-organized racket of collection of unaccounted cash of about Rs 281 cr through various persons in different walks of life including business, politics & public service.”

It said that meticulous records of collections and disbursement of cash had also been found in the form of hand-written diaries, computer files and excel sheets which had been found and seized. It said that these seizures corroborated its findings of a well organised racket being involved in the collection of cash. It also said that so far, unaccounted cash worth Rs 14.6 crore had also been found.

“Searches in Delhi (group of a close relative of the senior functionary) have further led to seizure incl. cash book recording unaccounted transactions of Rs 230cr, siphoning off money through bogus billing of more than Rs 242 cr & evidence of more than 80 companies in Tax havens,” the I-T department said in a tweet.

In a fourth tweet, the I-T department said that it had also detected several unaccounted/benami properties at posh locations in Delhi.

“Instances of violations of Model Code of Conduct are being brought to the notice of ECI,” the tweet said.

The tweets come a day after the residences and offices of close aides of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath and otehrs were raided by the income tax department.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said in a statement that “a part of the cash was also transferred to the headquarter of a major political party in Delhi including about Rs 20 cr which was moved through hawala recently to the headquarter of the political party from the residence of a senior functionary at Tughlak Road, New Delhi.”

Shatrughan Sinha joins Congress; to contest from Patna Sahib

NEW DELHI, April 6: Rebel BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha officially joined the Congress party at a function here on Saturday in presence of senior party leaders KC Venugopal and spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.

Joining the Congress, Sinha targeted the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party saying that under the new leadership, the party has ended “internal democracy”.

Hours later, the Congress party named Lok Sabha MP Shatrughan Sinha as its candidate from the Patna Sahib constituency against Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is the BJP nominee from this seat.

Sinha said “I saw democracy changing into dictatorship in the BJP…It has become one-man show and two-man army.”

The actor-turned-politician, when asked about his past comment lauding Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said, “I used to call him dashing and dynamic…for his 56-inch chest…Today, Rahul Gandhi is the face of the nation and future of the nation.”

To another question, Sinha said, “I will not contest from Patliputra Lok Sabha seat but from the Patna Sahib constituency.”

“The Congress played the biggest role in bringing India’s Independence. It was wholly and solely responsible for freeing India from the colonial rule,” he said at a press conference at the Congress headquarters.

This comes a week after Sinha met Congress president Rahul Gandhi on March 29 in New Delhi. He has been critical of the Narendra Modi government of the Centre and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, with which he had an association of more than two decades.

Sinha, incidentally, joined the Congress on the foundation day of the BJP. “I congratulate the BJP on its 39th foundation day. I received my political training in the BJP. But it was Congress leader Subodh Kant Sahay took me to public life for the first time,” Sinha said.

“I am sad that I had to quit the BJP on its foundation day,” he said slamming the ruling party for imposing 75 year-bar on contesting polls. “Do people become brain dead,” he asked.

Sinha is a two-time sitting Member of Parliament from Patna Lok Sabha seat in Bihar, where the Congress is an alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Sinha has often referred to RJD president Lalu Prasad as his family friend even after the latter’s conviction in a case of corruption.

Announcing that he would join the Congress, Sinha had said that he was doing so with the “consent” of Prasad.

The Chowkidar will be behind bars after polls: Rahul Gandhi

NAGPUR, April 5: A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Gondia that Opposition leaders will be in Delhi’s Tihar jail after the polls, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said that all those who “claim to be chowkidars will find themselves in jail after the elections”.

At a massive election rally in Nagpur on Thursday evening, Gandhi said if the Congress and its allies come to power, an inquiry will be conducted against Modi over his alleged involvement in the Rafale deal. “The chowkidar will be behind bars and a real chowkidar will be on guard,” he said, in a sharp contrast to the Congress manifesto which largely steered clear of Rafale deal.

Renewing his allegation of corruption and financial misdemeanour in the deal, he said, “Why couldn’t someone from Vidarbha get the deal?

He also gave an open challenge to Modi for a live debate on corruption, unemployment and farmers’ issue for 15 minutes. “Why is he afraid of holding a press conference with the media,” he asked.

The Congress, in their manifesto, said if voted to power, they will deposit ₹72,000 annually in the accounts of the poor under the Nyay scheme. “The scheme was finalised only after consulting experts. It will be a surgical strike on poverty. I am a man of commitment. Believe me and wait for my action,” he said. “Narendra Modiji had promised ₹15 lakh. We have committed ₹72,000 annually to the poor people. I am not in a hurry, like Modi. I make promises that can be fulfilled. I am in politics to build a long-standing relationship with you.”

‘Loose talk, foul language Modi’s habit’

Using loose talk and foul language is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s habit, which can’t change at this age, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said on Thursday.

“The PM has lowered the level of political dialogue. He stoops low to humiliate the opposition parties, treating them as personal enemies. He has destroyed the basic culture of democracy. Staring at defeat ahead, the PM is now bewildered and is saying anything. The Congress can’t go to his level to respond to the remarks made by him,” said Sharma, the deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, who was in Mumbai to release the party’s election manifesto on Thursday.

In response, Sharma said, “The Congress is better than the BJP in fiscal prudence… When Dr Manmohan Singh became the PM in 2004, our GDP was 460 billion dollar and when the Congress-led UPA left in 2014 it was 2.2 trillion dollar. After the first industrial revolution, the UK took 20 years to double its GDP. America took 12 years to double and Japan did it in one decade. China was the first country to triple its GDP, while India was the first country to quadruple GDP from 2004 to 2014,” he said.

BJP opponents not anti-national: Advani

NEW DELHI, April 4: Veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani said in a blog post titled “Nation First, Party Next, Self Last” on Thursday that the BJP had “never regarded those who disagree with us politically as our enemies, but only as our adversaries” and that the BJP’s conception of Indian nationalism never regarded those who disagreed with it politically as “anti-national”.

Advani, 91, who was denied a ticket from Gandhinagar for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, expressed “sincere gratitude” to the people of the city, from where he has been elected six times since 1991.

“The essence of Indian democracy is respect for diversity and freedom of expression... The party has been committed to freedom of choice of every citizen at personal as well as political level,” he said.

Democracy, both within and outside the party, was an important hallmark of the BJP, he added.

Advani’s comments come in the backdrop of a raging debate on nationalism with the Opposition repeatedly accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party’s top brass of using national security to seek votes and for not giving space for dissent.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who tweeted Advani’s blog, said that he had perfectly summed up the true essence of the party.

“Advani Ji perfectly sums up the true essence of BJP, most notably the guiding Mantra of ‘Nation First, Party Next, Self Last.’ Proud to be a BJP Karyakarta and proud that greats like LK Advani Ji have strengthened,” Modi tweeted.

The omissions so far from the Lok Sabha list of Advani and another veteran BJP leader, Murli Manohar Joshi, 85, have been attributed to the party’s policy of not fielding leaders over 75 years of age for the elections.

A part of the BJP’s margdarshak mandal, former deputy prime minister Advani added: “The BJP has always been in the forefront of demanding protection of independence, integrity, fairness and robustness of all our democratic institutions, including the media. Electoral reforms, with special focus on transparency in political and electoral funding, which is so essential for a corruption-free polity, has been another priority for our Party.”

Elections, he added, are a festival of democracy. “But they are also an occasion for honest introspection by all the stakeholders in Indian democracy — political parties, mass media, authorities conducting the election process and, above all, the electorate,” he said.

“As one of the founders of the BJP, I deem it to be my duty to share my reflections with the people of India, and more specifically with the millions of workers of my Party, both of whom have indebted me with their affection and respect,” Advani added.

President sends EC note on Governor Kalyan Singh’s Model Code violations to Centre

NEW DELHI, April 4: President Ram Nath Kovind has forwarded to the Centre a complaint by the Election Commission against Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh, accoridng to reports.

The Election Commission had written a letter to the President stating that the Governor violated the model code of conduct by praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a meeting with some BJP workers.

At a meeting with the BJP workers, Kalyan Singh had reportedly referred to himself as a BJP worker.

On Monday, the election commission had concluded that Singh’s remarks in favour of Narendra Modi’s return as the prime minister had violated the model code of conduct.

The Election Commission had to write to the President of India since Singh holds a constitutional post, which requires him to be “apolitical”.

Singh, while addressing BJP workers at Aligarh had reportedly said that it was necessary for Modi to become the prime minister again.

“All of us are BJP workers and we want the party to win. We want Modiji to become the prime minister. It is necessary that Modiji becomes the prime minister again,” Singh is reported to have told the gathering.

The last time the Election Commission had taken exception to a sitting Governor’s remarks was in the 1990s when the Himachal Pradesh Governor Gulsher Ahmed reportedly campaigned for his son.

Ahmed had to resign from his position as Governor after the Election Commission indicted him.

BJP accuses Salman Khan, Congress of hurting religious sentiments

NEW DELHI, April 4: In Madhya Pradesh, the opposition BJP on Thursday launched an attack on Bollywood actor Salman Khan and the Congress government accusing them of hurting religious sentiments and sought registration of a case against the actor.

The Congress said the BJP had “no real issues” to raise, whereas Khan threatened to shift the shooting of his movie out of Madhya Pradesh, if such harassment continued.

Salman Khan is shooting for Dabangg 3 at Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh. During the shooting, members of the film crew kept a wooden plank on a ‘shivling’ and some of them were seen standing on it. As the picture of the crew members standing on the wooden plank went viral on social media, some local residents protested against the shooting, Maheshwar police said.

Meanwhile, the Bollywood actor told reporters at Maheshwar that there was no intention to hurt religious feelings. BJP vice-president and legislator Rameshwar Sharma claimed that since the Congress had formed the government in the state the religious sentiments of Hindus was being deliberately hurt. He also demanded that chief minister Kamal Nath should instruct the police to lodge a case against Salman Khan.

State Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi said, “The BJP has no real issue to contest the Lok Sabha election. The then BJP government in the state hardly did any development work. That is why they are desperately looking for such issues, which creates a divide between Hindus and Muslims. But they will not succeed in their design.”

Khan said the ‘shivling’ was covered with a wooden plank to ensure that there was no disrespect to the deity by anyone. “The wooden plank was later removed. There was no intention to hurt anyone’s sentiments,” Khan said, adding that he may shift the shooting to Uttar Pradesh if the harassment continued.

Modi biopic release put off, says producer after Supreme Court agrees to hear plea

NEW DELHI, April 4: The release of the biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi which was slated to hit the theatres tomorrow has been postponed. Sandip Singh, the producer of the film tweeted, “This is to confirm, our film ‘PM Narendra Modi’ is not releasing on 5th April. Will update soon.”

The decision to delay the release of the film came hours after the Supreme Court agreed to hear a writ petition against its release. The director of the film Omung Kumar told ANI that the film will be released soon. “We don’t want to tell you the date now. Opposition had come forward, tried things. It’s late but we know what date to release it on,” he said.

The film starring Vivek Oberoi follows Modi’s life from his humble beginning to his rise first as the Gujarat chief minister and then as the Prime Minister.

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented a party leader who filed the case, said that the release of the film produced by people connected to ruling party would affect free and fair elections.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice SA Bobde will hear the plea on Monday.

The matter reached the Supreme Court after three high courts refused to interfere with the release of the movie. The high courts of Madhya Pradesh, Bombay and Delhi have disposed off similar pleas over past few days.

The Congress and the Left complained to the Election Commission of India against the release of the film saying it violates the Model Code of Conduct.

Congress Alleges Rs 1.80 Crore Cash-For-Vote Scandal In Arunachal

NEW DELHI, April 3: The Congress party has alleged that Rs 1.80 crore recovered in a raid carried out by the Election Commission’s expenditure monitoring officials late Tuesday night on the convoy of Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu was meant to bribe voters at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Pasighat rally on Wednesday.

Congress media cell chief Randeep Singh Surjewala also released two videos of the purported raid which show a team of EC officials, led by Samrita Kaur Gill, recovering wads of Rs 500 notes, totalling to Rs 1.80 crore, from a car that was allegedly part of Khandu’s cavalcade. The vehicle from which the cash was recovered was a Ford Endeavour, Number AR01K0009 and is registered in the name of Deputy Secretary, Transport, the Congress party has alleged.

Pasighat deputy commissioner Kinny Singh is also seen in the video, and an officer, part of the raiding party, can be heard saying that the matter has to be reported to the Income Tax department. Surjewala said that Priya Ranjan, Income Tax Officer stationed in Pasighat for the elections has been informed of the raid.

The sensational allegations by the Congress party were made while Prime Minister Modi was addressing a rally in Pasighat, situated in Arunachal’s East Siang district.

Terming the development as a “black day in democracy” and reiterating his party’s “Ek Hi Chowkidar Chor Hai” jibe at Modi, Surjewala alleged that the raid exposed a cash-for-votes scandal in Arunachal and demanded Khandu’s immediate resignation.

Surjewala said the cash was recovered following a tip-off by members of the Youth Congress to the EC team and that a total of five vehicles “part of the convoy of Arunachal chief minister Pema Khandu” were searched at the Siang guest house in Pasighat.

Citing various provisions under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the Indian Penal Code, Surjewala demanded that a case should be registered immediately against the Prime Minister, Khandu, Arunachal Pradesh deputy chief minister Chowna Mein and state BJP president Tapir Gao, who is also the saffron party’s candidate from the East Arunachal Lok Sabha constituency in the upcoming polls.

The Congress has also demanded that the Election Commission immediately cancel Tapir Gao’s candidature for the polls, alleging that the BJP leader had earlier been caught with unaccounted cash during the Manipur assembly elections also.

Arunachal Pradesh’s chief electoral officer, Kaling Tayeng has confirmed to the media that cash amounting to Rs 1.80 crore was indeed recovered from “some vehicles” on Tuesday night but said a detailed report on the incident was awaited. “It is true that a cash amount of Rs 1.8 crore was recovered on Tuesday night from some vehicles. We don’t have the exact details yet. Since the Deputy Commissioner and police superintendent of East Siang district are busy with the Prime Minister’s rally in Pasighat they have not sent a report yet about the recovery. We would be able to get a clearer picture once the report is available by late afternoon,” local media has quoted Tayeng as saying.

EC sends notice to Yogi over ‘Modiji ki Sena’ remark

NEW DELHI, April 3: The Election Commission on Wednesday issued notice to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath over his ‘Modi ki sena’ remarks, made during a speech at an election rally.

The Commission has asked him to file a reply by April 5,

Earlier Monday, the chief electoral officer of Uttar Pradesh had sought a report from the Ghaziabad district magistrate over chief minister Adityanath describing the army as ‘Modiji ki sena’ (PM Modi’s army) at a poll rally.

Adityanath’s remarks were criticised by the opposition parties which demanded an apology from the UP chief minister.

The 46-year-old chief minister, who addressed election meetings in Ghaziabad and Greater Noida on Sunday, had lashed out at the Congress for, what the BJP often alleges, its soft approach towards terrorism and terrorists.

“Congress-led government used to serve biryani to terrorists while Modi ji’s army sends bullets and bombs their way…. Congress encourages terrorists such as Masood Azhar by adding ‘’ji’’ after their name,” Adityanath had said, according to a video clip of the speech.

The Congress said the UP chief minister’s comments were an “insult” to the armed forces. “They are India’s armed forces, not the private army of ‘Prachaar Mantri’. Adityanath must apologise,” said Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi.

West Bengal Chief Mamata Banerjee said that she was surprised by the comments. “It is shocking to hear the UP CM saying that the Indian Army is the ‘Modi Sena’. Such blatant personalisation and usurping of our beloved Indian Army is an insult and a humiliation,” the Trinamool Congress supremo tweeted.

Mamata calls Modi 'Expiry Babu' as he calls her 'Speedbreaker'

DINHATA, April 3: Bengal today witnessed some verbal fireworks as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee led the battle for the state's 42 seats. The Chief Minister had tweaked her schedule to speak after Modi. Around 4 in the evening, as the Prime Minister finished speaking in Kolkata, Ms Banerjee took the stage in Cooch Behar.

Dubbing the Prime Minister "Expiry babu", Ms Banerjee repeated her challenge for a US Presidential-style televised debate.

The jibe about BJP fortunes in the national elections, slated to begin next week, was started by Shatrughan Sinha. In a tweet yesterday, the actor-politician, who is in the process of changing camp from the BJP to the Congress, had addressed Modi as "Outgoing Sir-ji".

In his first rally of the day in north Bengal's Siliguri, the Prime Minister had criticised Ms Banerjee's government, calling her the "speedbreaker" in the path of the state's development. Mamata Banerjee, he said, wanted poverty to stay so her "politics of poverty" can flourish.

"You worry about Delhi first and then turn your eyes on Bengal," said the Chief Minister, accusing Modi of making false claims about performance of her government in the state. "I am not Modi, I don't tell lies," the Chief Minister declared.

Accusing the BJP of doing far worse for the farmers, she said 12,000 farmers have committed suicide over the last five years.

Claiming that her government done much for the welfare of the people, the Chief Minister said the income of farmers in Bengal has tripled under her rule.

The Trinamool has claimed that it, along with other parties "are 50-60 seats ahead of the BJP and the NDA".

Bengal will vote in all seven phases between April 11 and May 19.

Congress promises NYAY, Jobs, Women's security, Kisan Budget

NEW DELHI, April 2: Congress president Rahul Gandhi released the party’s manifesto for upcoming general elections, promising “wealth and welfare” for all sections. Apart from NYAY, the party’s minimum income guarantee promise, the manifesto promises increased employment and a separate budget for farmers, dubbed the Kisan Budget.

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had already announced that NITI Aayog, which replaced the Planning Commission, would be scrapped if the Congress comes to power.

The document promises probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal. “When we come to power, on the first day, we will initiate an inquiry into Rafale deal and we have included this in the manifesto,” said a manifesto committee member.

Yogi refers Army as ‘Modi ji ki Sena’; EC seeks report

NEW DELHI, April 1: The chief electoral officer of Uttar Pradesh on Monday sought a report from the Ghaziabad district magistrate over chief minister Yogi Adityanath describing the army as ‘Modiji ji sena’ (PM Modi’s army) at a poll rally.

Adityanath’s remarks were criticised by the opposition parties which demanded an apology from the UP chief minister.

The 46-year-old chief minister, who addressed election meetings in Ghaziabad and Greater Noida on Sunday, had lashed out at the Congress for, what the BJP often alleges, its soft approach towards terrorism and terrorists.

“Congress-led government used to serve biryani to terrorists while Modi ji’s army sends bullets and bombs their way…. Congress encourages terrorists such as Masood Azhar by adding ‘’ji’’ after their name,” Yogi Adityanath said, according to a video clip of the speech. Yogi Adityanath was attempting to contrast the Congress and BJP regime’s handling of terror.

The Congress said the UP chief minister’s comments were an “insult” to the armed forces. “They are India’s armed forces, not the private army of ‘Prachaar Mantri’. Adityanath must apologise,” said Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi.

West Bengal Chief Mamata Banerjee said that she was surprised by the comments. “It is shocking to hear the UP CM saying that the Indian Army is the ‘Modi Sena’. Such blatant personalisation and usurping of our beloved Indian Army is an insult and a humiliation,” the Trinamool Congress supremo tweeted.

Facebook deletes hundreds of accounts, pages ‘linked’ to BJP, Congress

April 1: Facebook announced on Monday that it had taken down 702 accounts, pages and groups linked to political activity in India because of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”, a crackdown of unprecedented scale that comes amid growing concerns over social media content that could unfairly influence the general elections due in less than two weeks.

The company headquartered in the US said the takedown included two networks, one run by “individuals associated” with the Congress’s IT cell and the other by those linked to an information technology firm called Silver Touch, which, a Facebook executive separately said, “among other things” worked for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP.

“We didn’t find any links between the campaigns we’ve removed today, but they used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” the company’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said in a blog post.

Both parties said they did not have any connection to accounts or pages that were taken down.

According to Facebook, the network associated with the Congress included 549 accounts and 138 pages, which reached 206,000 followers.

The network linked to Silver Touch included a widely popular page called The India Eye, which was followed by 2.6 million people on Facebook and 15,000 on Instagram.

There was also a stark difference in the amount of advertising bought by the two networks, with the one linked to Silver Touch spending $70,000 (Rs 48.5 lakh by current exchange rate) since 2014 while the other spent $39,000 (Rs 26.9 lakh) over the same period.

The Congress said in a statement that none of the pages taken down were officially backed by it or its verified volunteers. “In the mean time, we are awaiting a response from Facebook to provide us a list of all pages/accounts that they have taken down,” the party said in a post on Twitter.

Representatives of Silver Touch did not offer a comment when contacted by phone, while the BJP said it had no connection with the company. “BJP and the Namo app have nothing to do with Silver Touch,” said Amit Malviya, the national in-charge of the party’s information and technology wing.

Gleicher, however, said the firm, was linked to the BJP, it was reported. Facebook saw that the company was associated with a mobile application promoted by Modi, the news agency quoted Gleicher as saying.

Links between the company and the party were also reported by fact-checking website AltNews. “We found that The India Eye website’s domain name server (DNS) was hosted by Silver Touch,” said Pratik Sinha, the co-founder of AltNews, which reported about the links in February.

The samples released by Facebook showed screenshots of posts that criticised the BJP and Modi in the case of the network linked to the Congress, while the posts made by The India Eye disparaged the Opposition, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, while praising the PM.

Experts were divided over the action by Facebook. “All social media companies have committed to curb fake news and this takedown by Facebook is a step in that direction,” said Rahul Matthan, lawyer and author of Privacy 3.0.

Another legal expert said the move was being criticised for political bias since no objective standard or a level of meaningful transparency regarding the decision was provided. “For instance, one does not know to a detailed level who is filing reports or complaints, what’s the specific methodology for takedowns and do owners of these accounts get a chance of hearing or appeal,” said lawyer Apar Gupta.

“All of this is a natural outcome of the voluntary code which is not an enforceable legal standard,” he added, referring to a pledge that social media companies made following a meeting with the Election Commission in March to discuss steps such platforms need to take to ensure elections are not influenced.

Since the 2016 presidential election in United States and the Brexit referendum the same year, social media firms have faced intense scrutiny over the existing misinformation campaigns that could have played a role in both outcomes, and an inability to check political advertising masquerading as public discussion.

Monday’s announcement triggered a wider war of words between the BJP and the Congress, with members of the ruling party citing Facebook’s naming of the opposition party in the official release. “Today a very historical development has taken place. Owners of those accounts were not known. It was fake. It was used to spread falsehood against the Narendra Modi government. When inquiry was done, it was found that those individuals were linked to Congress IT cell,” said Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala hit back, asking why Facebook did not disclose details about Silver Touch and name BJP. “Why did Facebook not name the BJP? Is it because the BJP officially paid Rs 1.5 crore to Facebook between March 2, 2019 and March 16, 2019 for advertisements while the Congress paid just Rs 1.68 lakh? They should not come under pressure and spell out the truth,” he said.

“Let me reiterate that none of the pages of our verified accounts and those run by our volunteers have been removed,” he added.

Tej Pratap to launch Lalu-Rabri Morcha, field own candidates in LS polls

PATNA, April 1: The ongoing feud in the RJD’s first family took a turn for worse on Monday with Tej Pratap Yadav announcing the formation of a new party, which he named after his parents — Lalu-Rabri Morcha —to field his own candidates in the soon-to-be-held Lok Sabha polls.

Peeved over the ‘neglect’ in the party, Tej Pratap trained his guns on his younger brother and leader of Opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav for not paying heed to his demand for accommodating his recommendations for Jehanabad and Sheohar seats and said “he is completely surrounded by “chaatukars (yes men).”

The open rebellion by RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s eldest son and former health minister has come three days after he stepped down from the post of patron of party’s student wing to register his protest on being sidelined in the ticket distribution process.

On Saturday, Tej Pratap had announced that he would be backing Chandraprakash and Angesh Kumar for Jehanabad and Sheohar Lok Sabha seats if the party did not accommodate his choice of candidates and ‘support’ the former as an independent candidate if the party did not replace Surendra Yadav. The candidate for Sheohar seat is yet to be announced.

Tej Pratap had also hit the headlines by expressing his reservation on party’s decision to field his father-in-law Chandrika Rai from Saran Lok Sabha, a seat considered as pocket borough of RJD chief Lalu Prasad.

Addressing media persons on Monday evening to announce the formation of Lalu-Rabri Morcha, Tej Pratap said that he would urge his mother and former chief minister Rabri Devi to contest from their traditional seat of Saran. “If my request is not considered, I will enter the fray against my father- in-law Chandrika Rai as an independent,” he claimed.


 



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