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DMDK Chief Vijayakanth hits back at Jayalalithaa for criticising his party workers

Meanwhile, BJP leaders Muralidhar Rao and Pon Radhakrishnan met Vijayakanth today, in a meeting the party described as a “courtesy call”.


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DDCA scam: BJP senior leaders to meet Kirti Azad, raise issue at party forum


BJP veterans L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Shanta Kumar and Yashwant Sinha, who had virtually revolted after Bihar poll debacle, today met here to discuss the suspension of MP Kirti Azad and issues related to party leadership.

Senior leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Shanta Kumar and Yashwant Sinha who are a part of BJP’s margdarshak mandal will meet Kirti Azad after the lawmaker was suspended for targeting Arun Jaitley over the DDCA scam.BJP veterans L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Shanta Kumar and Yashwant Sinha, who had virtually revolted after Bihar poll debacle, today met here to discuss the suspension of MP Kirti Azad and issues related to party leadership. Unlike their last meeting on November 10 when they had issued a scathing statement against the party leadership, there was no immediate public comment this time round with sources close to them saying that they will raise their issues at an “opportune” time and forum.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Asked if the issue of suspension of Azad from BJP after he attacked Finance Minister Arun Jaitley over alleged corruption in Delhi cricket body came up for discussion, a veteran said, “It should be obvious, considering the background of the meeting.” He, however, declined to divulge any details. Advani, Kumar and Sinha drove down to Joshi’s residence at around noon and were in a huddle for close to an hour. “We met. We had tea,” Kumar said as he left after the meeting, declining to elaborate.Azad had sought intervention of the ‘margdarshak mandal’, comprising Advani, Joshi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, which was formed by BJP president Amit Shah after he took over the party reins. It has never met since its formation and was criticised as a move to sideline Advani and Joshi.Sources close to the veterans said they were also not happy with the party’s response to their concerns. An impression was given by the leadership that they were reaching out to them but in reality nothing concrete has happened, they said. The four leaders had launched a sharp attack on the leadership on Diwali eve, saying BJP had been “emasculated” in one year and demanded accountability for its massive loss in the Bihar elections.Senior party leaders, including Jaitley and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, had met Advani later. BJP general secretary Ram Madhav had subsequently said the matter was a “closed chapter”, suggesting that the party had reached out to them to address their issues.Cracking the whip yesterday, BJP suspended Azad, who has been leading a campaign against Jaitley on alleged corruption in DDCA, charging him with anti-party activities and accusing him of “colluding” with Congress and AAP to bring it into “disrepute”. The action of the BJP Parliamentary Board to suspend him from the party’s primary membership with immediate effect came three days after his press conference attacking Jaitley and subsequent acts of defiance both inside and outside Parliament. With agency inputs

BJP sorts Kirti Azad out on DDCA’s ‘unplayable’ pitch


Two days after the cricketer-turned-politician took on Jaitley on the floor of Lok Sabha, the BJP issued a one-line statement saying Azad was being suspended with immediate effect for “änti-party” activities.

Finally, the BJP has wielded the disciplinary rod suspending its MP Kirti Azad from the party’s primary membership after he publicly targeted finance minister Arun Jaitley while making corruption allegations in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA). Two days after the cricketer-turned-politician took on Jaitley on the floor of Lok Sabha, the BJP issued a one-line statement saying Azad was being suspended with immediate effect for “änti-party” activities. Party President Amit Shah issued a suspension order, at the end of a tumultuous winter session which witnessed a government-opposition standoff on various issues. The action was taken after consultations among the party’s parliamentary board.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> “You have made several statements in the media which constitute anti-party activities and such unfounded statements and allegations were clearly intended to bring disrepute to the party and its office bearers. Your actions have also resulted in lowering the pressure of the party and its office bearers. You have deliberately embarrassed the party and its office bearers by raising these in public domain. You have acted and carried on propaganda against the decisions of the party,” Shah said in the suspension order. While Azad was not issued a show cause notice, the suspension order said he colluded with opposition parties, the Congress and AAP,. The order said he had defied party discipline inside and outside Parliament. The party dubbed his allegations as false propaganda and said the parliamentary board has suspended him from the party membership.Pressure was mounting on the BJP, which had refrained from taking any action or even reprimanding the MP, who on Sunday had gone ahead with his press conference defying the party on corruption in DDCA, which Jaitley had headed for 13 years. Azad took his battle with the high profile minister to another level when he took him on in Lok Sabha when the Opposition was demanding Jaitley’s resignation. Azad sought a SIT-monitored CBI probe into his allegations of corruption in DDCA between 2008 and 2013 and said “everyone knows who was the DDCA chief at that time.” Soon after his suspension, Azad made threatening noises saying “wait and watch my next move.” Azad has not yet been expelled from the party. “The issue I raised is old, havent teamed up with Congress or AAP. I worked honestly for the BJP but have been branded anti-party…. The one who worked honestly for the party is thrown out,” he said. When Azad met Shah and BJP general secretary (Organisation) Ram Lal, he was asked not to hold the press conference on the DDCA row as it would give ammunition to the Opposition. However, Azad went ahead. The BJP’s silence on Azad’s behaviour was threatening to spark off speculation on inner turmoil in the party. Party sources said taking action during the session would have given fuel to the Opposition. According to them, there was also pressure, particularly from the Bihar unit, to take some action against party MP Shatrughan Sinha who has been consistently tweeting against the party.

Narendra Modi, BJP back Arun Jaitley, but silent on Kirti Azad


Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence on the DDCA row, describing finance minister Arun Jaitley to be as untainted as party veteran LK Advani was in the Hawala case.At the weekly BJP parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday morning, Modi backed Jaitley, who faces DDCA corruption charges levelled by party MP Kirti Azad. “Congress has made two mistakes. When it levelled allegations against Advaniji in the Hawala case, the whole nation stood by Advaniji against the Congress. Advaniji jitne pavitra hain, Jaitleyji bhi utne hi pavitra hain,” Modi said, according to sources.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Prime Minister said Jaitley will come out with “flying colours” the way Advani did in the Hawala case. He took on Congress saying its strategy was aimed at targeting capable ministers, and referred to its attack on external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and chief ministers Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan. “Once we understand this strategy, we have to be ready for a big fight,” he said. This would be done through connecting with people and holding press conferences in each constituency of the 280 party MPs plus one non-BJP constituency each. The MPs have been asked to stay overnight in their constituencies.While he stood by Jaitley, Modi was silent on Azad, who was not present in the meeting. However, later Azad said he had not boycotted the meeting but was away because of a prior engagement.Party president Amit Shah too had come out in support of Jaitley on Monday evening, but not said a word on Azad. Shah’s statement came on Monday evening after Azad had held a press conference on Sunday and a day later spoken against Jaitley in Lok Sabha and then tweeted. The party leadership’s silence had started raising eyebrows.However, the leadership has refrained from reprimanding or sending a show cause notice to Azad, who appeared to be testing the party’s patience.Sources reflect a dilemma in the party on the issue. The BJP had taken a similar approach towards its two other Bihar Mps — Shatrughan Sinha and RK Singh — who have taken on the party leadership. The question is whether the party will take action against Azad, who has left the BJP red faced in waging a battle against one of the most high profile ministers in the Modi cabinet.On Monday, Azad had tweeted challenging Jaitley to sue him too along with other AAP leaders.The row has given ammunition to the Congress which asked Jaitely to follow Advani, who had set the tradition bowing out of public life, till he came out clean. Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said Modi’s drawing comparison between Advani being absolved in the Jain Hawala case with allegations against Jaitley is significant. “He (Jaitley) should learn lessons from his leader Advani, who abdicated office and didn’t even contest election till he came out clean,” he said. The Congress was also demanding Jaitley to listen to his leader and conscience by quiting office, till investigations are over, he said.The finance minister has in the past been a crusader for accountability and has repeatedly invoked the dictum that Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion”.

Puraskar wapasi suddenly stopped after Bihar poll results: Devendra Fadnavis


He questioned why no awards were returned when a tribal family was burnt alive in Bhandara district a few years ago?

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis

Making his stand on intolerance debate and puraskar wapasi public for the first time, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday hit back at Congress by saying people of the country were always tolerant and even assimilated invaders. He added that the returning of awards stopped after the Bihar election results. He also questioned why no awards were returned when a tribal family was burnt alive in Bhandara district a few years ago? The CM was talking during a discussion in the state assembly on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and Constitution, held to commemorate the father of Indian Constitution’s 125th birth anniversary. The event witnessed political one-upmanship and trading of allegations. Expressing his displeasure, Fadnavis said the discussion could not attain the height it deserved because his predecessor Prithviraj Chavan used the platform for political purpose.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Citing the example of emergency, Fadnavis said when lakhs of people were put behind the bars, it was courts that provided relief to the Indian democracy. He cited the famous Keshavanand Bharati case and said the allegations that the present central government has changed the Preamble were baseless, since Constitution formed the Parliament, and the Parliament did not have any right to change the very foundation of the Constitution. He said it was strange to see that those who used emergency to silence the Opposition are now citing the misuse of the central bureau of investigation (CBI). A pin-drop silence prevailed during the CM’s 45-minute speech, in which he the underlined importance of Samrasata– the ethos of the Indian society. He said former RSS chief Balasaheb Devras had explained Samrasata during his spring lecture series in Pune, and it meant surrendering one’s identity for the larger national interest. He said there was no need for the Indian society to take any lessons about tolerance, since the real country and its people assimilated even invaders such as Shaks and Hoons. He also pointed out that no one returned any award when a Tribal famil was burnt alive in Bhandara a few years ago, and the award returning spree suddenly stopped after the Bihar election results. Earlier, starting the discussion, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan criticised the Narendra Modi-led central government and said it was misusing CBI against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. He added that the government has a vindictive approach towards the Congress leaders. Chavan said it was Atal Behari Vajpayee who tried to bring in the word Samrasata in the Constitution. He, however, failed because the word is used by RSS, said Chavan. He questioned as to whether surrender by all leaders for a single leader was the meaning of Samrasata. He cautioned that this kind of unilateralism would usher in an autocratic rule, posing danger to the Constitution, plurality, diversity and rich heritage of the country. Chavan also cited Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statement, saying howsoever good was the Constitution, it depended upon the quality of people for whom it was made. If people are bad, the Constitution would prove to be futile in ushering in the welfare state, he said. To that Fadnavis replied why were the fundamental issues of poverty and illiteracy not solved when the Constitution was in the hands of good people of Congress for almost six decades?

JD(U) urges anti-BJP parties to come together in poll-bound states to replicate Bihar experiment


It also pitched for a nation-wide alliance of like-minded parties to take on BJP-led NDA

Nitish Kumar

Buoyed by the success of the grand alliance experiment in Bihar, JD(U) on Sunday batted for similar anti-BJP formations in five states going to polls next year, especially Assam.It also pitched for a nation-wide alliance of like-minded parties to take on BJP-led NDA. At its National Executive meeting here attended by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and party chief Sharad Yadav, its leadership resolved to engage with other parties to explore the possibility of cobbling together an anti-BJP grand alliance at the centre but stopped short of projecting Kumar as a leader of such an outfit. JD(U), however, averred he was “a prime ministerial material” and the “most able and honest” Chief Minister. The party said it expected him to influence the national politics through Bihar.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Apart from Assam, assembly polls will be held in West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry next year. The meeting also decided to approach the Election Commission with a request for changing the party’s election symbol of a horizontal arrow. Briefing reporters, chief spokesperson K C Tyagi said parties like JMM and Shiv Sena had symbols resembling JD(U)’s, which caused a lot of confusion among its voters. The party lost five seats in Bihar assembly polls due to this, he claimed.It also urged the Congress to make “sacrifice” in Assam, where it is in power but faces a strong challenge from BJP, to form an alliance with AGP and AIUDF, saying the days of single-party governments, except for BJP, are over. “Congress is the biggest party and it has the biggest responsibility as well. Assam is the only state among those going to polls next year where BJP has a chance (of forming government). It must be stopped,” Tyagi said.Hitting out at the Modi government, he said JD(U)’s apprehensions, which caused it to part ways with BJP in 2013, have been proven right as the saffron party was working to divide the society on the lines of religion, language, what people eat and how they worship.”New conspiracies are being hatched against religious and linguistic minorities. In one year, the whole country has got gripped with a sense of fear,” a resolution adopted at the meeting said, adding intellectuals and writers have found an echo of “fascism” in the government. The guiding philosophy of the BJP and RSS had been that nation comes first followed by society and individual but now it is all about one individual, Tyagi said, attacking Modi.Terming the Lok Sabha election in 2014 as the “most expensive and poisonous”, JD(U) said BJP might have won it but its “divisive” campaign harmed the country’s ethos. The victory in the Bihar polls, even though JD(U) had to make “sacrifices” by giving away its seats to alliance partners, was a victory of its principles, Tyagi said.

DDCA scam: BJP MP Kirti Azad to hold press conference, ‘unmask the imposter’ today


BJP chief Amit Shah had called Azad on Friday to impress upon him that he should not go ahead with his charges at a time when opposition parties, especially AAP, have gone after Jaitley.

Kirti Azad

BJP MP Kirti Azad on Saturday said he will “expose biggest DDCA corruption” and “unmask the impostor” tomorrow at a press conference, rebuffing party’s attempts to dissuade him from going public with his allegations said to be targeting Arun Jaitley.The MP from Bihar also appeared to be taking a dig at the Finance Minister over his reported description of him as a “Trojan horse”.”Not a Trojan horse but Achilles heel; wait till I unmask the ‘behroopiya’ (impostor),” Azad said in a tweet. “Will expose biggest DDCA corruption with audio-visual tomorrow at 4 pm,” he said in another tweet and quoted a poem of BJP stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee to suggest that he will carry on and not “concede” defeat.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP chief Amit Shah had called Azad on Friday to impress upon him that he should not go ahead with his charges at a time when opposition parties, especially AAP, have gone after Jaitley over the alleged corruption in DDCA when he headed the cricket body.Azad had, however, later reiterated his decision of holding a press conference on Sunday. The three-time MP has been a known detractor of Jaitley over his stewardship of DDCA.

Seven coaches of Amrapali Express derail, Patna-bound trains diverted, canceled


Anil Saxena, Railway PRO, has said that certain trains from Katihar-Malda-Jamaldaha to Patna are being diverted and some passenger trains canceled.

Amrapali Express

Image courtesy: Youtube
Seven coaches of Amrapali Express travelling from Katihar to Amritsar derailed near Khagaria in Bihar early morning on Sunday, reports ANI.The derailment happened at Pasraha station. No casualties or injuries have been reported so far. 5 sleeper coaches and 2 AC class coaches derailed. Anil Saxena, Railway PRO, has said that certain trains from Katihar-Malda-Jamaldaha to Patna are being diverted and some passenger trains canceled. Accident relief trains have already reached the site.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More details are awaited

Bihar: District magistrate busts superstitions, eats meal cooked by widow and helps her get job back


Residents of Kalyanpur village had protested against preparation of midday meal by the widow and even forced the school to be closed.

A widow, who was barred by villagers from cooking midday meals for students at a government school in Bihar’s Gopalgunj district, was reinstated to her job with help from the district authorities on Friday.Residents of Kalyanpur village had not merely protested against preparation of midday meal by the widow, but had even forced the school to be closed since Wednesday last.The widow, who has two minor children, had approached Gopalganj district magistrate (DM) Rahul Kumar yesterday.She was among six women engaged in cooking food for children in the school under midday meal scheme and was paid Rs 1000 per month as her salary.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Following the DM’s intervention, the villagers withdrew their protest and the locks were removed from the school today.”I along with district education officer visited the school today and ate the midday meal prepared by the lady for students,” Kumar told PTI.The DM said the woman had resumed her duties in the school and he had asked officials to see why the villagers stopped her from cooking food.The government middle school in Kalyanpur, about 25 km from district headquarter and 200 km from Patna, has about 734 students from Class one to Class eight.

Nitish prohibition plan: Here’s what you can and cannot buy in Bihar


However, Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) would be available at limited government outlets. Initially there would be total ban on sale of country liquor from new financial year starting from April 1, 2016.

Nitish Kumar

The Nitish Kumar government on Friday unveiled its strategy to enforce prohibition of alcohol in Bihar in phases as part of which there would be total ban on country liquor from April 1 next year.However, Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) would be available at limited government outlets. Initially there would be total ban on sale of country liquor from new financial year starting from April 1, 2016, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said after a special cabinet meeting this evening.From that date onwards, limited shops run by government body Bihar State Beverages Corporation Limited (BSBCL) will sell IMFL in municipal and town council areas. Kumar said BSBCL, which runs under aegis of state Excise department, would take up the responsibility of retail sale of IMFL and would run outlets under strict guideline. “Earlier BSBCL was involved only in wholesale trade of IMFL but from now it would take up direct responsibility of retail also,” Kumar said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said after BSBCL takes up the job of IMFL sale, almost 90 per cent of present liquor outlets would be shut down thus minimizing the ill effect of alcohol consumption in the state. The Chief Minister, who had called the special cabinet meeting to approve the new Excise Policy, said his government decided to go phase-wise in enforcing prohibition in Bihar to make it “more effective.” However, he did not say anything on when the IMFL would also come under prohibition.Reiterating his pre-poll commitment to women that if he returned to power his future government would ban alcohol, Kumar said he was not bothered about revenue loss on account of prohibition. “The state is drawing around Rs 5000 crore from sale of liquor at present. I do not bother about losing revenue for a great social cause (banning liquor to save poor families getting ruined on this count),” he said. Excise Minister Abdul Jalil Mastan accompanied Kumar in the press conference. The Bihar CM stressed on social movement against alcohol consumption to make the Prohibition more effective. He exhorted women self help groups to demolish “Bhattis” (makeshift manufacturing place of hooch) and inform police immediately. “I am going to lay a guideline for response time for police action on such complaints from women against any such illegal hooch manufacturing,” Kumar said.”The police response time on such complaints should not be more than the time needed to travel from police station to the site,” he said. A committee under Chief Secretary would monitor everything relating to enforcement of liquor ban.The Bihar CM said direct responsibility would be fixed on District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police for illegal sale and manufacturing of liquor once the enforcement comes into action. Kumar said he has asked the Health department to set up de-addiction centre in every district to help habitual drinkers give up the bad habit. “We need to tread step-by-step and that is why prohibition has been decided in phases,” the CM said.The Bihar CM said from April 1, 2016 foreign liquor would be available only from BSBCL outlets that would function under strict government guidelines. CCTV cameras would be installed at BSBCL outlets to find out if any one is consuming liquor outside the shop, as is the practice by some people, he added.

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar to set up five new medical colleges in the state

The medical colleges would be opened as per specifications of MCI (Medical Council of India) and all of them would have nursing colleges, Kumar said while reviewing the functioning of the state health department.
File Photo
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday announced that five new medical colleges will be set up in Bihar as he worked to overhaul and strengthen health care infrastructure in the state.The medical colleges would be opened as per specifications of MCI (Medical Council of India) and all of them would have nursing colleges, Kumar said while reviewing the functioning of the state health department, according to an official statement.The Bihar government, which has prioritised health sector in its agenda, gave necessary directions to further streamline functioning of government hospitals across the state. The review meeting was attended by minister Tej Pratap Yadav, chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh and principal secretary R K Mahajan, among others.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The chief minister directed that free medicines should be provided to the needy without any interruption in government hospitals. He ordered to transform four bed intensive units in government hospitals into 10-bedded Intensive Care Units, the statement quoting principal secretary, health, R K Mahajan said. Kumar further instructed that additional primary health centres in all districts should have facility of radiology and pathology.In a bid to enforce punctuality among doctors, he asked to constitute a state-level team to monitor attendance of doctors and para-medical staffs. Those found absent from duty should be dealt with severely, he said. Kumar directed to open an de-addiction centres in every district, which was considered important as the CM has already committed to ban liquor in the state from April 1, 2016.The Chief Minister ordered that landline telephone should be functional in every primary health centres and in-charge of PHCs would be held responsible in case of landline telephone connection found not functioning. Mahajan said the CM instructed that patients suffering from Kalazar should be paid 30 days wage at the rate of minimum wage rate. Besides, attendant accompanying Kalazar patients be provided two days of wage loss.

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar slams Centre for CBI raid at Delhi CM Kejriwal’s office

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday came out in support of his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal and slammed the CBI raid in the CM office by calling it a “breach of decency in the relationship between the Centre and the state government.”

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar enjoys good relations with his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal.
File Photo
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday came out in support of his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal and slammed the CBI raid in the CM office by calling it a “breach of decency in the relationship between the Centre and the state government.””It’s a matter of utter surprise. It has breached the decency in the relationship between the Centre and the state government,” Kumar told reporters while slamming the NDA government at the Centre for the raid.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Our federal structure is based on mutual faith and respect for each other. Hence, utmost care should have been taken before taking any such step,” Kumar said.”If there is allegation against somebody, I cannot advocate that it should not be probed. But, inquiry should be done in a proper way,” the Bihar Chief Minister said.”If there is some accusation on somebody it should be probed. But, if you are going to Chief Minister’s office, then did he have prior information about it? Is the accusation related to present post of the person concerned?” Kumar asked.”If there is some past issue which has nothing to do with today’s condition, then what message has gone?” he said.”Such message is dangerous for democratic and federal structure and nobody can support this,” Kumar said.The Bihar CM enjoys good relations with his Delhi counterpart and Kejriwal had attended Kumar’s swearing-in ceremony in Patna recently.

PM Modi wants to weaken the poor, alleges Rahul Gandhi at Assam rally

Virtually launching Congress’s campaign for the 2016 Assam Assembly elections, Rahul also took a dig at Modi over the defeat in the Bihar polls and asked the people to unite against the BJP.

Rahul Gandhi in Assam

In a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday accused him of only making empty poll promises and creating differences between people in a bid to win elections.Virtually launching Congress’s campaign for the 2016 Assam Assembly elections, Rahul also took a dig at Modi over the defeat in the Bihar polls and asked the people to unite against the BJP.”One year ago, Modi came to Assam and made big promises. He said whatever came to his mind, that he will bring black money back and put Rs 15 lakh in each Indian’s bank account, give employment to the crores of youths in the country.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”People laugh at his promises. Before polls, he makes one Indian fight with another Indian and then tries to win the elections. Before elections, some trouble is always created because if people are united, BJP can never win,” the Congress Vice President said. Slamming BJP, Gandhi said that the party has “only one card — pitting brother against brother”.Referring to the Bihar Assembly elections, the Congress leader said, “Modi went to Bihar and made promises about bringing development there… made empty promises. “When people of Bihar saw and heard him, they said ‘Modi you go back to Delhi. Your hollow promises, your lies we accepted once, but we are alert people, we will not be influenced by you for the second time’.”The people gave such a drubbing in the Bihar elections that Modi now does not sit in Parliament the way he used to earlier, looking upwards with his chest swollen.” Asking Congress leaders and workers in the state to gear up for the upcoming Assembly elections, he said, “It is very easy to make promises. Modi will come, will make empty promises.”Ask him in public meetings what happened to the special status, under which money was sent by UPA government to Assam and northeast region, your poll promises, where is the Rs 15 lakh you had promised to give us. He will return to Delhi.” Keeping up the tirade, he charged that “Modi wants to weaken the poor, he wants to make a government of two/three chosen industrialists, he wants to sell the country to two/three industrialists”.He said that Congress wants to make “the poor, labourers and farmers strong as we understand that it is them and the youth who make India. This is the difference between us and them At the public meeting held in the minority-dominated AIUDF bastion, Rahul also spoke about the achievements of the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government in Assam in the last 15 years. He said that “15 years back, there was violence in Assam when people were killed, mothers and sisters cried, tears flowed, there was bloodbath. “When there is violence there can be no development. When there is anger, schools cannot function. People cannot get jobs and progress cannot take place. Gogoi and Congress brought peace and brotherhood back to Assam.” He said that Congress works for “uniting Assam and joining Hindus with Muslims, connecting one Assamese with another”.”For 15 years we have done this, and Assam has forged forward and progressed,” he said, adding that a leading magazine has put Gogoi’s Assam in number one position on matters of road, bridge construction and infrastructure development. “Tarun Gogoi has linked 30 lakh women with bank accounts, put money in their pockets. This is not done through promises.Such work is done through sweat and takes years. Gogoi and Congress have done this in Assam,” said Rahul. Stating that the Congress-led UPA government had brought in MGNREGA for the poor, he said, “Farmers came to us and asked us to open bank doors for them also, as was done for big industrialists.”The poor farmers toil in the fields and then they are chased out of the banks. Congress gave food security bills, MGNREGA, land to adivasis in tribal belts, farmers’ rights in the land Bill. And then Modi came and attempts are being made to finish MGNREGA, the land acquisition Bill that we amended”, alleged Rahul. Exhorting Congress leaders and workers to unitedly contest the upcoming Assembly polls, Rahul said, “If you work for uniting the farmers of Assam and emotionally connect with the people, then what happened in Bihar is about to happen in Assam.”There is election here and Congress has to win the election. Gogoi, (Assam Congress) president Anjan Dutta and other Congress leaders are here, fight with all your might, show BJP what is the meaning of Congress party, its workers and the people of Assam.”

Former RJD MP Shahabuddin sentenced to life imprisonment in double murder case

Former RJD MP Md. Shahabuddin was on Friday sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court in connection with the murder case of two brothers 11 years ago in Siwan district of Bihar.

Former RJD MP Md. Shahabuddin was on Friday sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court in connection with the murder case of two brothers 11 years ago in Siwan district of Bihar.Shahabuddin and three other accused were held guilty by the court on Wednesday.According to the prosecution, three sons of one Chandrashekhar Prasad were abducted from their house at Goshala road by Rajkumar Sah, Sheikh Aslam and Arif Hussain on August 16, 2004 and taken to Pratappur village where acid was poured on Girish and Satish resulting in their death.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>One of the sons, Rajeev Raushan, managed to escape.The bodies of the two brothers could not be recovered.The victims’ mother Kalawati Devi had lodged an FIR charging Shahabuddin’s three henchmen with the murder of her sons.The former RJD MP’s name had cropped up during probe and he too was made an accused for hatching conspiracy for kidnapping of the three siblings.The lone surviving brother appeared before the judge as an eyewitness in the case, but was subsequently murdered by unidentified assailants on June 16 last year.Shahabuddin is lodged in the Siwan central jail for the past several years in connection with several cases against him.(With PTI inputs)

Nitish Kumar and PM Modi meet for the first time after Bihar elections

Kumar-led grand alliance of JD(U)-RJD-Congress had trounced the BJP-led NDA after a bitter political campaign which saw Kumar and Modi launching a no-holds-barred attack on each other.

Image Courtesy: PMO India Twitter

After leading the grand alliance to a spectacular victory in Bihar Assembly polls in a virtual one-on-one battle with him, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”It was a courtesy call. There was no particular issue involved in the meeting,” Kumar said after meeting Modi in the Prime Minister’s Office in Parliament House.Kumar-led grand alliance of JD(U)-RJD-Congress had trounced the BJP-led NDA after a bitter political campaign which saw Kumar and Modi launching a no-holds-barred attack on each other. Kumar also called on President Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and presented a bouquet to him. Mukherjee congratulated him on becoming Bihar Chief Minister for the fifth time and conveyed his best wishes, a state government statement said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>This was the first visit of Kumar to the national capital after being sworn Chief Minister of Bihar on November 20.Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu was Centre’s representative at the swearing in ceremony, which was attended by a galaxy of leaders from opposition parties. On his demand for a special package for Bihar, the Chief Minister told reporters, “I am hopeful that the Centre will honour the commitment made by the PM. I am hopeful it will be implemented.”Asked whether he would play a role in other state elections after Bihar success, he said, “I am doing my work in Bihar after the elections. Other political parties are there in other states. They will discuss and decide on it.” Kumar is also attending the 75th birthday celebrations of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar in New Delhi.

Bihar govt announces measures to stop cheating during exams in 2016

State Education minister Ashok Choudhary told reporters that it has been decided to drop centres blacklisted for large-scale cheating in the past three years from the list of venues where matriculation examination would be conducted for nearly 16 lakh examinees in March 2016.

A government school Vaishali district in Bihar whose photograph showing parents and friends scaling wall of the four-storeyed building like spiders to give chits to the examinees in March this year had gone viral.
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar on Thursday announced stern measures to stop cheating during matriculation exam in 2016, including delisting centres cheating in past three years.State Education minister Ashok Choudhary told reporters that it has been decided to drop centres blacklisted for large-scale cheating in the past three years from the list of venues where matriculation examination would be conducted for nearly 16 lakh examinees in March 2016. There are around 12 such blacklisted schools, he said.These include the government school at Mahnar in Vaishali district whose photograph showing parents and friends scaling wall of the four-storeyed building like spiders to give chits to the examinees in March this year had gone viral giving a bad name to the state, he said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Accompanied by Principal Secretary Education D S Gangwar, Choudhary said in case of report of mass scale copying in the 2016 Matriculation examination from any centre, responsibility would be fixed on the concerned District Education Officer and head of that centre.In a bid to conduct a cheating-free examination, the Education minister said that exam schedule has been announced in advance of 100 days this time. Promising to strike at the root of the problem, the minister, who is also state chief of Congress, said efforts would be made that syllabus was completed well in time so that students go prepared to the exam centres.

Gujarat local body polls: Congress scores big, BJP retains hold in urban pockets

After its battering in Bihar, now the loss in rural local bodies in Gujarat comes more than a year after Narendra Modi, who ruled the state for 12 years, shifted to Delhi.

Chief Minister Anandiben Patel said BJP will have to analyse the reasons for its poor performance in the rural areas.
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
Out of power for 20 years, the Congress on Wednesday made a stunning comeback in the rural areas of Gujarat when it won 21 of the 31 district panchayats, while the BJP retained its hold over urban pockets clinching all six municipal corporations and 40 of 56 municipalities. After its battering in Bihar, now the loss in rural local bodies in Gujarat comes more than a year after Narendra Modi, who ruled the state for 12 years, shifted to Delhi.Out of the total 31 district panchayats, Congress won 21 and BJP six, while in four others no party emerged a clear winner as the many independents and other candidates emerged victorious. The BJP had won 30 district panchayats in the last elections held in 2010. In 230 taluka panchayats having 4778 seats, the Congress won 2509, while BJP bagged 1981.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP, however, continued to be the preferred choice of the urban electorate, with the party clinching all six municipal corporations–Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Jamangar and Bhavnagar. BJP had won all these corporations in the 2010 polls too.The party also won 40 of the 56 municipalities, while Congress bagged nine. In three municipalities, independents were winners and results were unclear in four others as none of the parties or independents got a clear majority. Congress had lifted six municipalities in 2010. In the fight for prestigious Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, the BJP managed to get 143 seats out of the total of 192.In a significant victory for BJP, the party won Viramgam municipality which is the home town of Patel quota agitation spearhead Hardik Patel. The Congress was virtually obliterated from all tiers of power structure in the state after losing almost every election to BJP in the last 12 years under the leadership of then chief minister Narendra Modi. The BJP had held sway over almost all the local bodies earlier in Modi’s home state.The civic polls were a major test of Chief Minister Anandiben Patel’s popularity as these were the first important elections after Modi moved over to Delhi on becoming the Prime Minister. The polls also came on the heels of the Patel quota stir.The politically influential Patels, who had hitherto supported BJP, were up in arms against the state government over police action during the quota agitation and the Congress had hoped to benefit from it. The Patel leaders, who had launched the stir for inclusion of the caste under OBC category for reservation, had urged their community to vote against BJP and in favour of Congress.Elated over the win, state Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki said, “This is a mini-election of sorts for the state, where Congress has won in majority (rural) areas. This is a verdict against the state government.” Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel said, “My sincere gratitude to the people of Gujarat. The BJP government has also paid a heavy price for their vindictive attitude and witch hunt towards the (Patel) agitators.””These results indicate the BJP government is on its way out in Gujarat. Results are a stepping stone for a Congress’ victory in 2017,” he said.Chief Minister Patel said BJP will have to analyse the reasons for its poor performance in the rural areas.”Though we have done well in municipal corporations and municipalities, it is also a fact that the results in district and taluka panchayat bodies are not up to the expectations,” Patel admitted while addressing party workers outside BJP office in Khanpur.”We have been doing several developmental works across Gujarat. We have also undertaken an exercise to strengthen the party organisation. Still we have to now analyse what went wrong. We will find out and address these problems,” she said.Congress had also given tickets to wives of leaders of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), an organisation floated by Hardik for quota agitation. Out of the total three who contested on Congress tickets two lost from Ahmedabad, while one Rekha Patel who contested from Morbi won.In the Unjha municipality of Mehasana district, a town dominated by Patel community, 35 seats were won by the independents out of 36 as no candidate was ready to contest on BJP ticket.

BJP veterans’ revolt: Ram Madhav says concerns ‘well taken’ care of, chapter over

Senior party leaders, including Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh, had met Advani following the outburst. Madhav also said BJP had learnt its lessons from Bihar assembly election, in which it suffered a massive defeat at the hands of the grand alliance of JD(U)-RJD-Congress despite its high-pitched campaign helmed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.

LK Advani

The sharp attack by LK Advani and other BJP veterans on the party’s leadership after its staggering defeat in Bihar is now a closed chapter, a top BJP functionary said on Wednesday.Ram Madhav, BJP General Secretary and a former RSS spokesperson, told PTI that concerns of the veterans had been “well taken” by the party leadership which had detailed discussions with them. “They had certain concerns about the Bihar outcome. Party has taken their views, observations seriously. Our leaders reached out to them. When you reach out to them, you will have larger discussion for longer duration. We had detailed discussions with them. Our leadership has explained its position to them.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Those concerns were well taken by us… I think broadly that chapter is now over…I hope they are satisfied,” Madhav said, while referring to Advani’s recent statement to drive home his point.After breathing fire at the BJP leadership, Advani had said last week in Gujarat that “consciousness” in the party had increased following its Bihar loss and also praised the Modi government, saying it is going in the right direction.”So, broadly after our leadership’s interactions (with them), things have settled down,” Madhav said, adding that the party had learnt its lessons from the defeat but declined to elaborate. Madhav was among the few BJP leaders who had articulated the party’s position after Murli Manohar Joshi, Shanta Kumar and Yashwant Sinha besides Advani had issued a public condemnation of the leadership on the Diwali eve, saying the party had been “emasculated” in the past one year.They had demanded that accountability be fixed for the loss. Senior party leaders, including Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh, had met Advani following the outburst. Madhav also said BJP had learnt its lessons from Bihar assembly election, in which it suffered a massive defeat at the hands of the grand alliance of JD(U)-RJD-Congress despite its high-pitched campaign helmed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.”We have done enough review and analysis of the outcome that was totally unexpected. Yes, it was disappointing. Several factors were there that have led to this kind of outcome. We have learnt our lessons but have decided not to discuss them in media,” he said.Asked about the criticism of the party’s campaign by a number of Bihar leaders, he said BJP has taken it in its stride, noting that there are strong reactions to both – unanticipated victory and unexpected defeat.”We take both in our stride… We have learnt our lessons from Bihar election. Now we have left it behind and moved on to other challenges coming. Whatever needs to be learnt has been learnt,” he said.To a query whether BJP’s decision to project Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal as its main face in Assam assembly polls next year was necessitated by the debacle in Bihar where it was alleged to have ignore the local leadership, he said “each state and each election is different and not all elections are alike”.Madhav, however, underlined that Sonowal was their “most important leader” in Assam. “We projected a chief ministerial candidate in Delhi, we lost. We did not project a chief ministerial candidate in Bihar, we still lost. So you cannot say because of Bihar you have projected… Bihar is different, Assam is different,” he said.In strong signals that Sonowal could be its chief minister if voted to power, BJP recently appointed him as its Assam unit chief and also head of the Election Management Committee. However, Madhav, who handles the north eastern states in the party, declined to comment on whether Sonowal will be formally announced as its chief ministerial pick.Assam along with Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala and West Bengal is going to the polls next year and is seen as the best bet for BJP among all five states. “In each state, there will be different milestones to be crossed. We are trying to form the next government in Assam. Even in other states we will try our best and give good performance,” he said.

136 quakes have rocked India so far this year: Government

Of 136, 114 have taken place in the highest risk zone V, 14 in zone IV, the high damage risk zone, five in zone III, the moderate damage risk zone, and three in zone II, the low damage risk zone.

136 earthquakes in India this year – Representational Image

A total of 136 earthquakes have rocked India so far this year and an analysis of data of the last three decades indicates that there has neither been an increase or decrease in the seismicity rate in the country, the Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday.Earth Science Minister Harsh Vardhan said a total of 136 earthquakes have occurred in India in the current year so far. Of these, 114 have taken place in the highest risk zone V, 14 in zone IV, the high damage risk zone, five in zone III, the moderate damage risk zone, and three in zone II, the low damage risk zone. He said an analysis of past 30 years of quake data suggests that there is no increase or decrease in seismicity rate.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Quoting studies, the minister said the Indian plate moves at the rate of about 5 cm per year towards the northeast. “Although no committee has been constituted to study and analyse the movement of Indian tectonic plate, several institutes…are involved in institutional studies,” he said.Responding to a question, he said the April 25 Nepal earthquake resulted in 102 deaths in India — Bihar (79), UP (19), West Bengal (3) and Rajasthan (1). Around 13,000 houses were reported to be damaged, he said while agreeing to demands to reassess the figures. He said as most of the houses are ‘kuchha’ in nature, the figure seems high.

Alcohol isn’t the problem, abuse is: That’s why Nitish’s rationale for a Bihar booze ban is flawed

Nitish Kumar said on Thursday that the state of Bihar will implement a ban on alcohol. The state earns a revenue of Rs 4,000 crore annually from the sale of liquor. However, the CM has said that in the interest of women and the poor, the state government will impose ban on liquor from 1 April, 2016.

In India, alcohol consumption is prohibited in Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Gujarat and the union territory of Lakshadweep. According to the BBC, the state of Kerala announced in 2014 that it plans to impose a state-wide prohibition on the sale of alcohol in the next ten years. Immediately following the plans to ban alcohol in Kerala, bar owners and hotel owners petitioned the order and it was finally diluted to allow bars to sell beer and wine.

Representative image. AFP.Representative image. AFP.

Representative image. AFP.

The State (India) has always had a problem with alcohol; this is partly due to MK Gandhi’s vociferous stance against the consumption of alcohol, which he made amply clear in his autobiography. Kushwant Singh wrote in his book, India: An introduction that Gandhi considered alcohol to be “an unmitigated evil”. After independence, the Government of India adopted his views into the Directive Principles of State Policy, though not enforceable as law, are often the guiding principles behind the laws. Article 47 states that the “State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the use except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.”

In the past, Andhra Pradesh tried to enforce Prohibition between 1958 to 1969 and then from 1994 to 1997, but the grand project was abandoned primarily because of bootlegging and excessive corruption. Gujarat has been a ‘dry state’, but according to Nalin Mehta and Mona G Mehta in the 2013 book, Gujarat Beyond Gandhi: Identity, Society and Conflict  there is significant trade, production and consumption of alcohol in the state and refer to the existence of “illicit alcohol” that is not subject to quality control. So, essentially a ban is clearly not the solution as the Mehta’s note in their research, where a health official they interviewed said that alcohol abuse contributes to 50 percent of liver failure cases in the state.

One of the major reasons cited by political parties is that they want to impose alcohol bans for the benefit of women and that it would help bring down the domestic violence incidences. It is true that one of the first ‘collective women struggles’, the Telangana and Tebagha rebellions where women joined in to raise their voices against alcohol and price rise. In Manipur, the ‘Meira Paibis’ rallied on to put an end to the sale and consumption of alcohol, the objective? According to an Economic and Political Weekly article, it was to “curb social evils like domestic violence resulting from alcoholism”. This ‘woman argument’ is not just specific to India, Carrie Nation in the US ‘hatcheted’ bars and led the movement to ban alcohol in Texas in the early 1900s.

Well, this is great for women, they are being saved from domestic violence, you might think. But, that is an easy train of thought to catch. Such arguments only understand women’s roles as mothers, daughters and someone related to a male member i.e. the much hated/abused word in the feminist movement: patriarchy. This argument also seeks to colour the problem of domestic violence as something ‘external’. So essentially, it is the alcohol which is making men abuse their wives and daughters. Doesn’t this argument sound familiar? It’s not the rapist, it is the clothes.

Mangai, a theatre practitioner and women’s activist brings out an important point that these bans ultimately don’t tackle with the real problem at hand: which is not consumption of alcohol, but alcoholism. “The state is not addressing the issue of substance abuse or how the younger generation is getting affected by it. There needs to be a demarkation between the consumption of alcohol and alcoholism that leads to the women of the household bearing the brunt of the situation,” she says. Perhaps, the State should work on awareness-oriented solutions than banning a product and therefore opening itself up to a host of other problems: corruption, boot-legging, illicit-alcohol related deaths.

Currently, what we have is a conflict between the increasingly economically liberal economy of the country that is still straddling with the vestiges of Gandhian principles. But the alcohol industry is a tough revenue to do away with. The Tamil Nadu government estimates liquor earnings at Rs 21,800 crore, Kerala yields Rs 8,000 crore and West Bengal’s revenue is Rs 2,600 crore.

Reasons for the bans could be many, but essentially bans on alcohol come from a place of imposing certain values on the society that a particular group deems fit. However, it is important to note that alcohol is not the problem, its abuse is. Even in our rich history, as Mangai says, there was no morality attached to the consumption of “kall” (toddy), men and women, both, consumed it without accruing social judgement upon themselves. Sangam literature has enough poetry to justify its use without the claustrophobic clauses of morality.

The questions that we need to ask are how can we solve the problem of alcoholism and how do we differentiate between social/casual/occasional drinking and abusing a substance. How can we regulate a product without creating a ready-made platter of corruption and illegal trade for the taking?

Church which hosted PM Modi in February says Bihar election result a ‘verdict against sectarian politics’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was invited for an event by the same church on February 17 wherein two members of the church were elevated to sainthood.

Church which hosted PM Modi, takes a dig at his ‘sectarian politics’
File Photo

The church which had invited PM Narendra Modi to celebrate the elevation to sainthood of two members back in February, has implied that the BJP’s defeat in the Bihar elections is a verdict against ‘sectarian politics’.In a pastoral letter, from the bishop to churchgoers – which usually deals with spiritual and administrative matters, Kuriakose Bharanikulangara – the Archbishop of Faridabad-Delhi Syro-Malabar Church, said that the victory of the Grand Alliance in Bihar ​is a verdict against “sectarian politics” and a “declaration by Indian conscience that it will not support political parties’ attempts to use caste divisions, religious intolerance and sectarian mindset as campaign tools,” says the Indian Express.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi was invited for an event by the same church on February 17 wherein two members of the church were elevated to sainthood, which was also attended by Cardinal George Alencherry, the head of the four-million strong Syro-Malabar Church. However, they now have “apprehensions” that some “ultra-religious fundamentalists have started questioning the very fundamentals of the Indian Constitution” and that could “disintegrate” the country and lead to “sectarianism”.Comparing various incidents in the recent past, termed as “incidents of intolerance”, such as Dadri lynching, the return of awards by creative lot in the country, killing of MM Kalburgi, the murder of two Dalit children in Haryana, the alleged desecration of the Sikh holy book and the ” the “restrictions on Greenpeace and (activist) Teesta Setalvad’s organisation” to the state of affair in an Islamic country he visited, the Archbishop expressed his opinion that the state should not interfere in an individual’s choice of religion, food habits and attire, which are “fundamental rights”.“Religious tolerance is the hallmark of Indian society. India neither has a concept of one state-one religion, nor the ruling party’s religion,” the Archbishop said, also trying to draw community’s attention towards issues of religious conversions and “ghar wapsi”, and expressing concerns the population policy to check Muslim and Christian population.

New Bihar MLAs could not take oath due to death of RLSP MLA

As the House assembled for the day on the start of the first session of 16th Bihar Legislative Assembly, Protem Speaker Sadanand Singh announced the death of Rashtritya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) MLA Basant Kumar due to heart attack in Patna on Sunday.

Nitish Kumar at RLSP office to offer condolences

The newly elected legislators of Bihar Legislative Assembly on Monday could not take oath on the opening day of the new House due to death of a RLSP MLA Basant Kumar.As the House assembled for the day on the start of the first session of 16th Bihar Legislative Assembly, Protem Speaker Sadanand Singh announced the death of Rashtritya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) MLA Basant Kumar due to heart attack in Patna on Sunday. The House observed one minute silence in respect of the departed MLA after which the Protem speaker announced that the oath of the new members, which was on the list of day’s business, would not be done today.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He announced that the oath ceremony would take place tomorrow. The House will sit an hour before the scheduled time of 11 AM tomorrow to speed up the process of oath.Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav and new leader of opposition Prem Kumar were present in the house when condolence was paid to the departed MLA.The first time MLA Basant Kumar died of heart attack at Patna Medical College and Hospital last night. He had won from Harlakhi Assembly seat in Madhubani district defeating Congress candidate Mohammad Shabir of Congress in the recently concluded Bihar elections. With his death, strength of RLSP of Union minister of state Upendra Kushwaha, has come to one and that of its ally NDA opposition to 57 in the 243-member Bihar house. Later, the body of the departed MLA was brought to the Assembly where Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav, Protem speaker Sadanand Singh, BJP leader in both the Houses Sushil Kumar Modi, leader of opposition in Assembly Prem Kumar and a host of ministers and MLAs paid floral tributes.The CM in his condolence message expressed grief over the MLA’s demise. He also announced a state funeral of the MLA.Kumar described the MLA as sincere and dedicated politician who indulged in social service.The opening day of the maiden session of 16th Bihar Assembly after the recently-concluded elections in the state, witnessed bonhomie, with members from both Treasury and Opposition bench greeting each other.RJD President Lalu Prasad’s both sons – Deputy CM Tejaswi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav – sat next to the CM as per pecking order.Former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, the lone winner from his Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) was also present in the House.Barh MLA Gyanendra Kumar Gyanoo, who is now a BJP MLA, out of old habit was seen entering from the Treasury bench door. He soon realised the mistake and walked to the opposition side.

Bihar assembly adjourns after death of newly elected member, Basant Kumar

Patna: The Bihar assembly was adjourned on Monday, the first day of its maiden session after the polls, following the death of a newly elected member, Basant Kumar, and his fellow legislators passing a condolence resolution.

Bihar Assembly. Image Courtesy: Bihar Vidhan Sabha websiteBihar Assembly. Image Courtesy: Bihar Vidhan Sabha website

Bihar Assembly. Image Courtesy: Bihar Vidhan Sabha website

Protem Speaker Sadanand Singh said that a decision was taken to adjourn the house till 10 a.m. on Tuesday after condolences were paid to Basant Kumar.

He also welcomed Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav, the council of ministers and newly elected legislators to the house, which was convened for a nine-day winter session.

Basant Kumar, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party legislator elected from the Harlekhi assembly constituency, died in early hours of Monday ahead of being administered the oath of legislator by the protem speaker in the house.

Both Nitish Kumar and Tejaswi Yadav expressed deep condolences to the bereaved family.

According to assembly officials, the first two days of the session have been earmarked for the oath-taking by the 243 newly elected legislators, including 99 first-timers, followed by election of the new speaker in place of Uday Narain Choudhary, who was defeated in the Bihar assembly polls.

Bihar Governor Ramnath Kovind will address a joint sitting of Bihar’s legislature — the newly-constituted assembly and the council on 3 December.


A moderate Modi: Is the BJP finally planning to switch off its election mode?

When Narendra Modi started speaking in the Parliament on the Constitution on Friday, most expected the PM, armed with razor sharp wit and sarcasm, to attack the opposition. The stage was set with other senior leaders from the government already having taken potshots at the opposition. But what happened next shocked many. Modi played the role of a perfect statesman, invoked Nehru, paid tributes to all the past Prime Ministers and spoke about cohesion in governance. The PM also gave an account of his foreign trips on the floor of the Parliament.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Shorty after that Modi greeted Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh for a session of ‘chai pe charcha’. According to reports, Sonia Gandhi did most of the talking and the PM and his ministers tried to assuage the Congress leadership about their doubts regarding the GST. On Sunday in his monthly radio program ‘Mann Ki Baat’, PM Modi spoke about ‘EK Bharath Shreshta Bharat’ to promote inclusiveness amidst concerns about growing intolerance.Just a month ago, Modi steadfastly refused to mention Nehru in his speech at the India-Africa forum summit even though the African leaders were gratuitous in paying tribute to India’s first PM in cementing the relationship. So what changed in the interim? One suspects BJP’s defeat in the Bihar elections is one of the major reasons behind this change in tactics. The air of invincibility that Modi enjoyed, even after the Delhi debacle, is now gone. The BJP can’t just win elections by having Modi turn up and whip up a mass frenzy. What it will need is strong groundwork and the ability to show tangible results on the ground. For that BJP needs the Parliament to function so that crucial bills like the GST pass. But the BJP is currently a hopeless minority in the Rajya Sabha. So it needs the Congress’ help to get crucial bills through. PM Modi’s outreach can be looked at that context, as a way to mend fences with Congress.The BJP can also afford to tone down its rhetoric for some time as it doesn’t stand to gain much in the upcoming series of polls except in Assam. So till mid-2017, when Uttar Pradesh goes to polls, BJP can afford to lie low and focus on governance and finally gett out of poll mode. But will the opposition allow them to settle down? Having the government firefight peripheral issues helps the opposition.But can the BJP crack down on its fringes who make unsavoury statements from time to time and derail the governance agenda? That remains one big question mark. Sadly for BJP, it is easier to cut down on rhetoric but much more difficult to tame inherent bigotry.

Indian Parliament is not sovereign, Jethmalani counters Arun Jaitley

Speaking at the 155th anniversary celebrations of Indian Penal Code 1860, organised by Directorate of Prosecution in Kerala, Jethmalani came down heavily on Jaitley for terming “erroneous” the Supreme Court’s reason for striking down the NJAC Act and saying “Indian democracy cannot be a tyranny of the unelected”.

Ram Jethmalani

Eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani on Sunday asserted that Indian Parliament “is not sovereign” for its decisions can be challenged in court, as he hit out at Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for criticising the Supreme Court verdict to scrap NJAC Act on appointment of higher judiciary.National Judicial Appointments Commission Act was the “product of complete unity between the old corrupt government and the new corrupt one”, the former BJP member alleged. Speaking at the 155th anniversary celebrations of Indian Penal Code 1860, organised by Directorate of Prosecution in Kerala, Jethmalani came down heavily on Jaitley for terming “erroneous” the Supreme Court’s reason for striking down the NJAC Act and saying “Indian democracy cannot be a tyranny of the unelected”.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Ask any politician, particularly the Prime Minister. He will tell you that Parliament of India is sovereign. “Every student of the Constitution in the LLB class knows that Parliament of India is not a sovereign body…Parliament of England is sovereign because the judiciary has no power to set aside any legislative Act by the Parliament,” Jethmalani said here, referring to the Supreme Court’s verdict striking down as unconstitutional the NJAC Act which would have replaced the collegium system.”Parliament of India is not a sovereign body. It is a truth,” he said. Countering Jaitley’s argument, the 92-year-old former law minister said, “The judges of Supreme Court of India or even the High Court judges can never be called unelected because the law does not require them to be elected so that kind of adjective does not apply to the judges at all.” He said the judiciary could withstand “the pressure of a political document” when it was produced before the Supreme Court for its scrutiny.Jethmalani also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the blackmoney issue, saying he failed to fulfill his promise despite canvassing in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls that blackmoney worth thousands of crores of rupees would be brought back and distributed to poor people of the country.”He (Modi) went to the extent of telling the people that I will put Rs 15 lakh in the account of every poor man in the country,” he said. “Even till today they are not able to get back one dollar,” he said, and warned that Bihar election results will be repeated if he fails to fulfill the promise made in the BJP manifesto for 2014 Lok Sabha polls.”Look at the kind of margin by which Modi has lost (in Bihar),” he said. Jethmalani, who was expelled from BJP in 2013, said he wanted “nothing from him (Modi)” except “for God’s sake fulfil the promise that you have made to the poor people of India”.

Here’s why people’s President APJ Kalam wanted to quit during UPA rule

When the Apex court quashed the proclamation, Kalam was penitent saying he should have rejected the Cabinet’s decision and thought of resigning from his post

APJ Abdul Kalam

APJ Abdul Kalam had thought of quitting as the President in 2005 after the Supreme Court quashed the proclamation dissolving Bihar Assembly, according to S M Khan, who was his Press Secretary at that time.”Though Kalam was reluctant, he signed the proclamation. He could have rejected it but would have had no option but to sign the same if it was sent to him for the second time,” Khan said while addressing the students of Sikshya O Ansandhan University in Bhubaneswar on Saturday. When the Apex court quashed the proclamation, Kalam was penitent saying he should have rejected the Cabinet’s decision and thought of resigning from his post, Khan said, adding “He even consulted his elder brother in Rameswaram. Kalam later decided against any such step as it would have triggered a lot of constitutional problems, said the former Press Secretary, who is at present the Director General of RNI, in his lecture titled ‘My Days with the Greatest Human Soul Ever’. In 2005, the then Bihar Governor Buta Singh had recommended the dissolution of the Assembly which the Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approved and forwarded to the President. Kalam, who was on a visit to Moscow at that time, signed it there.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It was challenged in the Supreme Court whose five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, in a majority verdict held on October 7, 2005 that “the proclamation of May 23 dissolving the Bihar Assembly is unconstitutional.” Describing Kalam, who passed away in July this year, as a person who was completely detached from material things, Khan said the late President did not own anything, be it a house, a car, a television or a refrigerator.”Almost all his life as a scientist and teacher, he lived in hostels and guest houses. But his only possession were his books. And he insisted that he should buy his books and never took any book from any one as a gift saying chances were that he would not read them,” he said.

After Bihar elections debacle, PM Modi’s office asks ministries to improve communication strategies with public

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked all ministries to reach out to people and use all possible means of communication to inform them about the social welfare schemes initiated by the BJP government.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked all ministries to reach out to people and use all possible means of communication to inform them about the social welfare schemes initiated by the BJP government.PM Modi’s office took this decision in the wake of the party’s rout in the Bihar assembly elections, reports Indian Express.The communication dated November 14, signed by Nripendra Mishra, Principal Secretary to the PM, seems to be an attempt to battle the negative perceptions about the government, says the daily.”It is very important for the ministries to take proactive measures to adopt a communication strategy which is more engaging with people, has better outreach and provides timely information to them,” says the letter. Indian Express says its sources confirm that the letter was issued after a high level meeting about the Bihar debacle.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The letter speaks of devising a fresh and effective communication strategy especially to convey those initiatives of the government which affect the welfare of citizens.”All important decisions must be disseminated by ministries/ departments through website updates, social media broadcast, press releases and when required through press conferences etc. The I&B ministry and various administrative ministries and departments have to be on the same page in terms of flow of information, especially when a major policy decision/ announcement of programme is in the offing,” the letter says.

Intolerance Debate – Questioning secularism is a fundamental threat: Jairam Ramesh

Ramesh said, “Communal ideologies that speak with mask of development was the other threat faced by the country.”

“If India is not secular, it becomes a mirror image of Pakistan”, he said.

Congress leader and former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh on Saturday made a scathing attack on BJP for terming secularism as “most misused word” and said questioning secularism was a fundamental threat to the Indian republic and constitution. Referring to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s ‘secularism’ remarks in Parliament on Thursday, Ramesh said “India is defined by secularism. If India is not secular, it becomes a mirror image of Pakistan”.Speaking at a seminar on ‘Growing intolerance and threat to secularism’ here, the Congress leader noted, “Secularism is part of our constitution. The day, we drop the word ‘secularism’, I think we will be destroying the very foundation of Indian republic.” Coming down heavily on the Narendra Modi government, Ramesh said, “Communal ideologies that speak with mask of development was the other threat faced by the country.” “Leaders will come and speak the language of development. I do not have to name those leaders. You all know whom I am referring to. They speak of development, but bottom line is practise of communal polarisation. So it is this mask of development that pose a threat”, he said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taking a dig at BJP for its drubbing at Bihar assembly polls, Ramesh said, “People of Bihar saw the threat. Bihar showed that they could see through the mask of development. Certain communal organisations wear the mask of development and say we believe in strong India, we believe in 8 per cent GDP growth, we believe in development of India. All this sounds well. But, fundamentally the DNA is communal”, he said. The Congress leader asserted that all types of communalism had to be fought, whether it was majority or minority. “I do no distinguish between Hindu communalism, Muslim communalism, Christian communalism and Sikh communalism.Communalism is dangerous and pose a threat to the country,” he said, adding a political party that misuse religion for political purposes is a communal party.Without directly referring to the debate on a uniform civil code, Ramesh said unity of India is not equal to uniformity. “Unity yes…Uniformity no. Because India is a country defined by several religions, 500 languages, numerous regions, 29 states, 5,000 communities. India is not just unity in diversity, but unity through diversity”, he said. “What communal ideologies want is uniformity and that is not what India needs”, he added.

Sex education in madrasas? Yes, in Kishanganj it has sanction of religious leaders

Kishanganj (Bihar)/New Delhi: Madrassas are often perceived as resistant to the idea of modern education, but few Islamic seminaries in Bihar’s Kishanganj district had the courage to go way ahead and introduce sex education.

The move, which was preceded by much discussion and contemplation among the clergy of educationally backward district of the state, got tremendous response as over 1,478 religious leaders agreed to impart sex education to make people aware about HIV/AIDS. Bihar State Aids Control Society (BSACS) has declared Kishanganj a “high risk” zone in view of high number of HIV positive cases.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

These maulanas (clerics) associated with 213 madrasas and mosques tried to promote healthy living and awareness about the disease through Friday sermons, jalsas (religious congregation) and daily interaction with their students.

In addition to imparting sex education and spreading awareness about HIV infection through madrassas, mosques and other religious gatherings, clerics also organised meetings at local schools, haats (village market), bus stops and railway stations inviting admiration and at times even ridicule from others.

World AIDS Day is still celebrated at Galgalia Pul Madarassa where over 50 clerics participate and pledge to create awareness among people. They conduct counselling sessions and community meetings with the migrant population. Notably, the forgotten north-east district of the state witnesses mass migration every year because the lack of educational and employment opportunities.

But ironically, the effort, which was an effective and innovative experiment to combat the deadly disease, continued for over one year only to be ultimately discontinued due to lack of funds.

Why were madrassas and clerics targeted for imparting training in HIV/AIDS?

“Kishanganj is a predominantly minority district with large number of madarassas. Clerics are respected in villages and people usually look to them for advice. They have great influence on people in their day to day lives. This is a very important and influential segment of society whose support is crucial for combating the disease. Therefore, we took them into confidence, sensitised and made aware of the consequences of HIV/AIDS for promoting awareness in the society,” said Yuman Hussain, executive director of Azad India Foundation, an NGO that initiated the project.

In fact, the decision, she said, proved to be effective because they were able to convince other religious heads to be involved in awareness programme. The religious leaders were then trained by the then medical director of Regional AIDS Training Centre and Network in India, Patna. They were given comprehensive information about the spread and growth of HIV virus.

But convincing religious leaders to come forward and initiate discussion and awareness among the community members on sex was not so easy. It proved to be a Herculean task.

“We faced many difficulties and challenges. The stigma and discrimination attached to HIV/AIDS was the biggest challenge. At times, religion was a barrier as they felt that these things should not be discussed in open. Many ulemas objected to the use of condom saying that we are promoting sin ‘zina’ (unlawful sexual relations between Muslims who are not married to one another through nikah – a matrimony contract in Islam) as people will think that by using condom they can do anything. Talking about HIV/AIDS will remove ‘sharm-o-haya’ (sense of dignity and modesty) from the society,” she said.

“Religion is a sensitive issue and when a religious leader is involved in a program like HIV/AIDS, it is important to follow a cautious way so as not to antagonise religious leaders. Therefore, we approached them cautiously and in small groups through intensive discussions to have better impact. Once they were sensitised, we conducted workshops and interactive sessions with them. Our project team used Quranic verses liberally in convincing the religious leaders as well as community members. Interestingly, all these activities were done at the madrassas and mosques itself. Later, monthly orientations were organised to refresh the information given to them. The main purpose was to involve and educate the larger community as a whole through these clergies. We prepared pamphlets and brochures in Urdu so that they can better explain and spread awareness in the community,” she added.

Asked about the effort brought, she said that “a considerable change was observed, but the environment created could not be sustained because the funding agency stopped funding.”

The border district, which was saddled with 1,370 HIV+ cases in 2006, reported a sharp decline in 2007 when 146 HIV+ cases were detected. It further dropped to 145 in 2008. “We had to drop the project because of lack of funds in 2008,” said Yuman.
The HIV+ cases again shot up to 252 in 2009 and was marginally down to 249 in 2010. It, thereafter, dropped to 161 in 2011, only to rise exponentially to 413 till October, 2012, according to official sources.

Sharing border with Nepal on one side and Bangladesh on the other side, Kishanganj has been most vulnerable to the HIV+ menace. The huge migration of labourers to distant places and perennial problem of human trafficking only adds to the phenomenon.

In view of the district’s susceptibility and vulnerability to the menace of HIV, Kishanganj was one of the seven districts in the country and the only district in Bihar where the World Health Organisation (WHO)) had launched the CHARCA programme to contain AIDS in 2004. However, the CHARCA programme was wound up in 2005.

In some villages, Yuman added, people are still unable to accept that this disease can affect anybody. Due to misconceptions, they believe that HIV/AIDS affect only a certain section of the society. Due to poverty and considerable distance from Kishanganj Sadar Hospital, many suspected patients despite having been counselled to get VCTC done are unable to do so.

Rajinder Sachar, Ashok Vajpeyi slam Rajnath Singh’s ‘secularism most misused word’ remark

New Delhi: Former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar on Thursday termed as “nonsensical” Home Minister Rajnath Singh‘s remarks that “secularism” was the “most misused” word and it be translated as “panth nirpeksh” in Hindi, even as he expressed surprise that BJP leaders still have not learnt lessons from their drubbing in Bihar polls.

“They say the word was incorporated in the Preamble later. Question is not when the two words were incorporated, but whether it is part of the Constitution or not.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. ReutersHome Minister Rajnath Singh. Reuters

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Reuters

“I am surprised Rajnath can make such a nonsensical statement, especially in the wake of (his party’s) drubbing in Bihar elections,” Justice (retd.) Sachar said on the sidelines of an event here to mark Constitution Day.

Eminent poet Ashok Vajpeyi too lambasted the ruling party, saying it only has “dishonoured” the word most and said it to be replaced with ‘sarv dharma sambhav’ (broadly meaning equality of all religions).

Vajpeyi stated the word ‘sarva dharma sambhav’ would be a better replacement for “secularism” as it conveys respect for all the religions.

“In my opinion, it should not be either ‘dharma nirpeksh’ or ‘panth nirpeksh’. Instead, we should use the word Gandhiji would use, ‘sarva dharma samabhav’, which is a better word, expressing respect for all the religions.

“Dharma nirpeksh has been in use and the ruling party has played a big role in dishonouring the word,” Vajpeyi said on the sidelines of the event.

Meanwhile, Sachar defended actor Aamir Khan on his comments on “intolerance”. He also condemned the Centre for the situation that cricket matches between India and Pakistan are being considered to be organised at a neutral location like Sri Lanka.

The winter session of Lok Sabha began on Thursday with an animated debate on the Constitution during which the government said the word ‘secularism’ mentioned in it had been “misused” while the opposition, led by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, raked up the issue of ‘intolerance’.

Initiating discussion on ‘Commitment to India’s Constitution’ as part of 125th birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar, Rajnath Singh said the architect of the Constitution had never thought of putting the term ‘secularism’ in the Preamble but it was incorporated through an amendment in 1976.


LJP leader Chirag Paswan supports Nitish Kumar’s liquor ban decision

Chirag Paswan

Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan on Thursday said his party welcomes the decision of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to ban liquor in the state.”During his previous tenure as chief minister, we saw an increase in liquor prices in the state. The numbers of liquor shops opened in the past 10 years are much higher. It was a matter of worry for all of us,” he said. “Consumption of alcohol will destroy the coming generation also. I?m happy that the Chief Minister has thought of taking such step,” he added.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier, Bihar Nitish Kumar announced a ban on the sale of liquor from April 1. Speaking at a function in Patna on the occasion of Liquor Prohibition Day, Kumar said he is fulfilling his pledge made during the recently concluded-assembly elections in the state.He said the ban on liquor would be effective from the next financial year. Kumar said officials of the excise department were working on to chalk out a new liquor policy.

Why Nitish Kumar’s plan to ban alcohol in Bihar is flawed

As we’ve seen over the years, both in India and abroad, a ban on alcohol seldom works.

Alcohol Ban

Sticking to one of his pre-election promises, Bihar Assembly elections, CM Nitish Kumar announced that alcohol will be banned in Bihar from April 1, 2016 which will be rather a cruel joke on alcohol-loving Biharis. The promise to ban alcohol was made to woo women voters who have been at the forefront of protests against rising liquor consumption in rural areas of the state. Bihar’s Excise and Prohibition Minister in Nitish’s cabinet, Abdul Jalil Mastan had said after taking office: “We will start work to impose a ban on liquor in Bihar. It would be visible in the next six months.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Before anyone cries that such a move is unconstitutional, it’s actually not. Alcohol is a state-subject and each state governments has the right to decide whether they want to ban it or not. The last state to bring in a liquor ban was Kerala, which decided to phase out hard liquor in the next ten years. Meanwhile, the consumption of liquor is already banned in states like Gujarat, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and the union territory of Lakshadweep.The alcohol issue in BiharThe alcohol issue in Bihar stemmed from the Nitish Kumar government’s decision to liberalise the state’s liquor policy in 2007 which helped shore up the funds. Big business arrived in the state, but the move was extremely unpopular in various areas. In 2013, the women in Rohtas district, led by Sunita Singh, started the ‘Pragatisheel Mahila Sangh’ to campaign against liquor shops in the state. Alcoholism was a significant problem in the region and even children would get addicted.She was quoted saying by Catch News: “We found that there are over 100 widows in villages like Karwandiya, Bansa and Sitabigha. Most of them had lost husbands due to alcohol addictions. We came to the conclusion that fighting petty vendors is not enough – we will have to wage a political struggle.”The agitation in turn reached Nitish Kumar who promised to ban alcohol if his government came to power. Sadly, we’ve learned the hard way that liquor bans seldom work. Why a ban won’t work While the issue raised by the women about liquor consumption is valid, we’ve learnt over the years that bans seldom work. They just push the alcohol consumption underground which then brings the criminal element into the picture. In the US, alcohol was prohibited from 1920 to 1933, an era known as Prohibition which showed why the banning was never a solution. People still got drunk, drunken driving was still a problem, men still beat up women and their child.There was the added issue of people drinking contraband alcohol which led to deaths sometimes from methyl alcohol poisoning and the law-enforcement officers were stretched thin trying to catch the people who sold contraband liquor (though it did lead to an awesome movie like The Untouchables). The Prohibition also accelerated the rise of the Italian Mafia (romanticised by the likes of Mario Puzo and Hollywood), who made supplying contraband their business and once alcohol was legalised moved on to a host of other avenues. Who it will hurt the mostThe ban on alcohol usually hurts the lowest strata of society the most. In 2015 in Mumbai over a hundred people were killed after consuming illegal hooch. In the last decade, over a thousand people have died due to hooch-related issues in West Bengal (156 people in 2011), Gujarat (136 people in 2009), Karnataka and Tamil Nadu (180 dead in 2008), Odisha ( 200 dead in 1992) and the worst Karnataka in 1981 when over 300 people died due to methyl alcohol poisoning. As we can see from the Gujarat example, a state which has had prohibition since its inception, the idea never worked. Sadly, Nitish Kumar’s hands were tied, and just as he had to include Yadav brothers in his cabinet, this was a pre-poll promise that he had to fulfill.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announces ban on sale of alcohol from April 1, 2016

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday announced that sale of alcohol will be banned in the state from April 1 next year.

File photo

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday announced that sale of alcohol will be banned in the state from April 1 next year.Keeping one of his promises made before the Bihar Assembly elections, Nitish Kumar said, “I know people will say that even after banning liquor it will be sold illegally, if it happens then we will deal with that strongly.”He further added, “Women in the state started an anti-liquor campaign, I really appreciated that. Those villages which will help us in our campaign against liquor will be awarded.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Meanwhile, LJP leader Chirag Paswan said, “Welcome move of banning sale of liquor. let’s see how successful it is.”According to reports, the Bihar government earned nearly Rs. 3,500 crore last year through taxes on the sale of alcohol.This is the first major announcement by Kumar since he was sworn in as Chief Minister for the fifth time last week.

LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi attend BJP parliamentary party executive meeting

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah were also present in the meeting.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP President Amit Shah and L K Advani during a BJP Parliamentary Party Meeting at 7 RCR in New Delhi on Wednesday.

BJP veterans Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, who had recently attacked the party leadership, on Wednesday attended the parliamentary party executive meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence where top leaders discussed the strategy for winter session of parliament starting Thursday.Advani and Joshi are among the members of the group which meets to formulate the party’s strategy during a parliamentary session. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah were also present in the meeting.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Advani and Joshi were among the four senior leaders, including Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar, who had wrriten a scathing letter on the Diwali eve, targetting the top brass following the Bihar assembly election drubbing for BJP. They had said that the party had been “emasculated” in one year.However, showing signs of thaw, Advani had recently said Modi was on track to bring ‘achhe din’ (good days) while Kumar had expressed his happiness over the party reaching out to them.

Rahul Gandhi fumbles for answers to queries from Bengaluru students, left embarrassed

The first outreach programme of Rahul Gandhi, a year-and-half after the Congress was thrown out of power and he occupied opposition benches, at Mount Carmel College in Bangalore left him hugely embarrassed.

By the time the over-an-hour interaction – his opening statement and a question and answer session ended – it was clear that the Congress vice president, who kept on stressing on one word “conversation” with all concerned and position of women in society at large, was clearly out of sync with the popular pulse, at least those in this metropolis.

Image courtesy: TwitterImage courtesy: Twitter

Image courtesy: Twitter

The questions were so pointed that Rahul for the first time accepted that GST was a good reformist bill and the Congress would support it if the government was inclined to engage with them and address “three concerns” including capping of taxes proposed in the bill.

Rahul seemed ill-prepared to handle questions which came from the young girls. It was part of the format of the programme. Unfortunately for him, the big embarrassing moment came when responding to his question whether the Swachh Bharat campaign was working the students responded with a loud “Yes”.

Surprised by the response, he said he would ask a different question: “You think Make in India is good”? Again there was a loud “Yes” for answer. Rahul was clearly stumped not just by their approval of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India programme but also the ferocity with which the students responded. “You think so!” he said. Then he asked: do you think youth are getting jobs in India? The answer was a mix of ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. But Rahul heard ‘No’ for all the three questions he asked. He then added that BJP idea had not worked.

This session must be particularly revealing to Rahul and the Congress because for the better part of his opening statement he had blasted the prime minister, the BJP and the RSS. He kept on targeting Modi, saying the government at the Centre was being run by one man and the PMO was controlling it all. By contrast, he (Rahul) stood for dialogue, discussion conversation. He also said in the early part of his life he had been mostly in the company of women – grandmother, mother and sister – and realised that problem in this country was that the women did not get the respect and position they deserved.

But the kind of questions that came indicated that the most girls were not convinced with Rahul’s argument on goodness of the Congress party and evilness of Modi and the BJP.

Interestingly, after he came out of the convention hall, he told media persons that he got no clear view on Swachh Bharat. “Half of them said nothing has happened, some said something has happened.” On Make in India, he said most said “No”, some said ‘’Yes”. The Congress vice-president was perhaps unmindful of the fact that his interaction was broadcast live on all national channels, apparently on feed provided by his party itself.

Sample the questions that came to Rahul from young girl students. The first question from a girl from North-East was: Why no conversation was held with Iron Sahrmila during her years long fast?

Second, you talk about Suit Boot (Modi) government but what’s wrong with that if it brings development and achieves economic growt?

Third, GST, an important economic reform bill was piloted by the Congress but why is the party stalling it when it is moved by the BJP?
Fourth, why is the opposition stalling Parliament merely for opposing the government?

Fifth, why the youth was going either to the BJP or to the AAP and not to the Congress party?

Sixth, does aligning with the RJD in Bihar not mean that the Congress is compromising with corruption?

Seven, why after several years of Congress rule both at the centre and in states, North-East has been left neglected (the girl asking question referred to a particular stretch in Assam).

Such questions continued. Rahul response was not very coherent. He blamed Modi government for all the prevailing ills. For N-E alienation, he blamed the Modi government for withdrawing special status category to these states. For aligning with Lalu he deviated to say prime minister was killing RTI and to Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan. He did refer to Digvijaya Singh about half a dozen times.

He obviously had a rough landing at Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, a place which could have provided him an ideal launching pad to set the “intolerance” agenda against the Modi government in motion for the Winter Session which starts on Thursday.

From incredible to intolerant India, Raja Hindustani travels a long way

Govt says Aamir influenced by political propaganda, Cong says govt should reach out

Hindu Sena activists protest outside Amir Khan’s Khar house in Mumbai on Tuesday
Aadesh Choudhari
With just two days to go for the winter session of Parliament, Aamir Khan’s intolerance comments have overshadowed the discourse, setting abuzz voices from all sides of the political aisle, twitterati and Bollywood. The political outbursts were divided on expected lines with BJP saying the actor appeared to have said it under the influence of politically-motivated propaganda and the Congress coming out in his support and asking the government to understand the sentiments. The BJP’s two Muslim faces – minister of state for minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain – debunked charges of intolerance in the country and said Khan would find that in other countries.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> “Aamir Khan may have got influenced by the politically motivated propaganda… Neither is he going nor will we allow him to go,” Naqvi said. He said there was no communal tension in the country and all festivals were celebrated by all communities. “If you want to see intolerance, go to countries where journalists and other innocents are killed… Here, there are isolated statements and things should not be judged by that. These statements should be ignored,” he said. Asked if he saw a Congress conspiracy, Naqvi said “there was so much talk of intolerance and award wapsi. Now after the Bihar elections, all the returning of awards has stopped. So people should understand from where the award wapsi was motivated.” BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said “an artist should be above politics and refrain from making political statements.” The Congress diatribe against the government was led by its vice-president Rahul Gandhi who tweeted that the government should not “bully or threaten”. “Instead of branding all those who question the Govt & Modiji- as unpatriotic, anti national or ‘motivated’, the Govt would do better to reach out to people to understand what’s disturbing them. That’s the way to solve problems in India- not by bullying, threatening & abusing!” Gandhi tweeted. The BJP smelt a conspiracy in Gandhi’s support to Khan. “Aamir Khan makes a comment and Rahul Gandhi supports it. It has become clear from Gandhi’s comment that there is a conspiracy going on in the country to defame the nation,” Hussain told news persons in Mumbai. Actor-turned-politician, Paresh Rawal, a BJP MP, said “I don’t know whom to believe. Maulana and J&K CM Mufti Sayeed who has said India is the best place for Muslims or Aamir Khan and his wife.” While the BJP’s official reaction was restrained, the party’s motormouths stuck to their familiar unbridled rhetoric. “If Aamir Khan wants to leave the country he can go. The population of the country will come down,” said BJP MP Yogi Adityanath. Interestingly, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi hit out at Khan. “We’ll be doing great disservice to freedom fighters by even verbally saying that we’re thinking of leaving India. So long as planet Earth survives, no one can force us to leave India and neither will we leave it,” Owaisi said. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said Khan should be heard and not “threatened for speaking truth”. In one of the tweets, he said, “Indians aren’t intolerant. But the govt is seen to be silent & not stopping its members’ statements & incitement. That is the issue.” What Aamir Khan had said”For the first time, my wife Kiran has spoken about moving out of the country. She fears for her kids,” Aamir had said on the issue of intolerance. “I think that for creative people to voice what they feel is important. For a creative person one of the ways to express their dissatisfaction or their disappointment is to return awards, that is one way of getting your point across. I would endorse any protest that is non-violent. A lot of creative people were protesting because of their growing sense of discomfort they have been feeling. It doesn’t matter who is the ruling party, we expect people in power to make statements to reassuring. I feel there is a sense of insecurity, fear, despondency in the last six months,”

India’s ruling party confronts Gandhis as parliament gathers | Reuters

NEW DELHI Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just suffered a bruising election setback, yet his party appears in no mood to compromise with the main political opposition to get stalled economic reforms back on track.

Instead, the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has launched an all-out offensive against the Congress party, in a potentially dangerous game of brinkmanship that risks turning the next parliamentary session into a prolonged slanging match.

“It’s a political vendetta,” said veteran newspaper editor and commentator Shekhar Gupta of the BJP’s attacks on Congress, and specifically Rahul Gandhi, heir apparent to his mother and party leader Sonia Gandhi.

Yet behind the sound and fury on TV news networks may lie a more considered tactic, party strategists and political analysts said: isolate Congress while quietly persuading regional parties to back a tax reform bill that is the BJP’s top priority.

“We are trying to convey to everyone that the government is willing to tweak the bill and present it in a form that benefits all the states,” said one senior BJP source, who did not want to be named.

Sanjay Kumar, director of the CSDS think-tank and a leading opinion researcher, said: “They keep hitting the line that Congress is a dynastic party. The idea is to split the opposition.”

In May, 2014, Modi won India’s strongest election mandate in three decades, but his dominance in the lower house is neutralised by an upper house where the BJP is in the minority.

And, while he has pushed through some reforms by executive order, that solution is temporary and likely to put off foreign companies who want stable legal frameworks in place before investing in Asia’s third-largest economy.

One of the biggest changes Modi envisages to make the economy run more smoothly, a unified tax system, requires altering the constitution.

Securing that amendment in the winter session of parliament that starts on Thursday would be vital to implementing tax reform in 2016, as Modi has repeatedly assured global investors he would.


The BJP’s aggression may serve as cover for backroom deals that recognise the realities created by its defeat this month in the eastern state of Bihar, Modi’s biggest setback as prime minister.

That election result has given a sense of empowerment to regional leaders like Nitish Kumar, chief minister of Bihar, who teamed up with a local ally to rebuff Modi’s challenge in the state of more than 100 million people.

So, while the BJP strategist spoke of exposing rampant corruption during the decade of Congress rule that ended in May 2014, he saw no contradiction with the idea that “Modi may consider having a cup of tea with Sonia Gandhi“.

The two party leaders have not held face-to-face talks in this parliament since it was elected.

Congress, part of the victorious Bihar alliance, sees no sign that the government wants to engage in sincere dialogue.

Instead it has chided Modi for going on a series of foreign trips since the Bihar landslide and neglecting his work at home.

“Where is a conciliatory attitude?” asked Anand Sharma, a senior Congress leader and interlocutor on the key tax reforms.

“You have a prime minister who has a confrontational mindset, who is arrogant. He humiliates the opposition, day in and day out,” Sharma told ET Now, a financial news channel.

That is despite some senior aides recommending to Modi that he engages the opposition more actively, while a handful of top BJP figures have openly questioned his leadership.


Perhaps more worrying for businesses waiting with increasing frustration for the new national goods and services tax (GST), there appears to be a lack of consensus on how it would work in practice.

The GST would create a single market in India for the first time since independence in 1947 and, the government estimates, boost the economy by up to two percentage points.

But there is as yet no agreement on what rate the tax should be levied at; three separate committees have yet to make their final proposals.

And, at a meeting of federal and state officials last week, there was no agreement on the threshold at which the tax should apply to small businesses. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley skipped that discussion to attend a film festival.

Some officials express doubts over the Modi government’s strategy for securing the passage of the GST amendment, saying it could miss its self-imposed deadline.

“You have to go more than half the way to convince the Congress,” said a senior government official involved in the policy process. “You have to be more than generous. But the BJP is still behaving as if it was in the opposition.”

(Additional reporting by Manoj Kumar; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Lalu Prasad Yadav pulls up MLAs for grabbing official bungalows

Lalu Prasad Yadav

Amid reports of some RJD and JD(U) MLAs grabbing official bungalows here of their choice, Lalu Prasad on Tuesday denounced such behaviour and reminded them of the “great responsibility on their shoulders to honour the huge mandate.””Why is there a scramble for the legislators’ residences? Everybody will get their house in accordance with the rule,” the RJD chief told a party meeting here. “World will be watching us … We have to understand the responsibility endowed on us by the great voters.”People have given us massive mandate and we have to fulfil the commitment of service to the voters at all costs,” Prasad, who was flanked by deputy chief minister son Tejaswi Yadav and other senior RJD leaders, said.According to media reports, many newly elected RJD and JD(U) MLAs had “claimed” bungalows of their choice even without without any allotment.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The reports named RJD MLAs Arun Kumar Yadav and Anil Kumar Yadav and JD(U) MLA R N Singh who had allegedly removed the nameplates of the occupants of the bungalows and put up their own to claim their chosen houses. Prasad recounted his own experience of staying on for four months in the same peon’s quarter in Veterinary college that he inhabited then even after becoming Bihar chief minister in 1990. “I even held ‘Janata Darbar’ (interface with the general people) there during that period,” he added.

Tejaswi Yadav vows to have zero tolerance towards corruption

Facing criticism over his appointment as Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s son Tejaswi Yadav on Monday promised to take the state forward on the path of development and asserted that he would have a zero tolerance approach towards corruption.

Tejaswi Yadav

Facing criticism over his appointment as Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s son Tejaswi Yadav on Monday promised to take the state forward on the path of development and asserted that he would have a zero tolerance approach towards corruption.After assuming charge of the crucial road construction department on Monday, Tejaswi told reporters that in order to take Bihar further on the path of development there was need to strengthen infrastructure of the state including roads. “My priority would be to further enhance road connectivity in the state by linking every village. Roads were built at a great speed during the previous tenure of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. My priority would be to further accelerate the pace,” he added.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tejaswi also made it clear that he would have a zero tolerance approach towards corruption. “Corruption will not be tolerated,” he said. His elder brother Tej Pratap also occupied the chair of the state’s health ministry today with Principal Secretary, Health, Brajesh Mehrotra welcoming him on the new assignment.In a grand event on Friday, Lalu’s sons took oath as ministers of Bihar as Nitish Kumar was sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state for the fifth time at the Gandhi Maidan. Lalu is himself disqualified from contesting any election for at least six years after his conviction in a fodder scam case in 2013.The appointment of debutante Tejaswi, Lalu’s younger son, as deputy CM instead of more experienced leaders of RJD has triggered a barrage of criticism especially in social media. On Sunday, Tejaswi had taken on his detractors, asking them “not to judge a book by its cover” and vowed to increase the value of ‘Brand Bihar’ so that Kumar feels “proud” of him.

Mamata Banerjee invites Arvind Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar for business summit

Kolkata: In yet another indication of growing bonhomie among politicians opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party in the country, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has invited her Bihar and Delhi counterparts Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal for an forthcoming business summit.

“Both Kejriwal and Nitish Kumar have been invited for the Bengal Global Business Summit, beginning on 7 January,” Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member and spokesperson Derek O’Brien said on Monday.

West Bengal CM and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee. PTIWest Bengal CM and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee. PTI

West Bengal CM and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee. PTI

Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and industry captains from from the US, China and Japan are likely to attend the summit.

The move is seen as yet another effort by Banerjee to form a federal front she has been advocating.

In September, Banerjee attended Kejriwal’s ambitious Chief Ministers’ Conclave on cooperative federalism in New Delhi.

Speaking at the conclave, Banerjee slammed the Narendra Modi government for “running a parellel government through the governors”.