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Bihar drubbing triggers discord in Congress

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The Congress’ abysmal performance in the Bihar Assembly elections has triggered massive discord in the party, with the grand old party being turned into a divided house.

Senior leader Kapil Sibal’s open criticism of the party leadership after the Bihar debacle has provoked a sharp rebuttal from Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. Defending the high command, Gehlot, in a series of tweets, said on Monday that “there was no need” for his colleague to mention “internal issues” to the media. He further said that after every electoral loss, the party has shown an undivided and firm belief in the party leadership and emerged stronger from each crisis.

Gehlot also assertively said that Sibal’s comments to the media, criticising the leadership after the Bihar defeat, has “hurt the sentiments” of party workers across the country.

Sibal was part of a group of 23 senior Congress leaders who had written to party chief Sonia Gandhi in August, making suggestions on ways to revive the organisation. This had not gone down well with many, including Gehlot, who were close to the high command.

The way Gehlot came out so openly in defence of the party leadership is a clear indication that the discord will assume much worse proportions in the days to come.  Sources told The Daily Guardian that the Congress high command may convene an emergency meeting to deal with it. Another indication is that the high command seems to have given Gehlot the responsibility to take on the Congress rebels. With Gehlot on the front foot, disgruntled leaders might go on the back foot, say sources.

The disgruntled veterans who had written to Sonia Gandhi are understood to be getting ready to rake up the organisational issues once again in a big way in the light of the party’s miserable performance in Bihar polls.

Backing Sibal, Congress Rajya Sabha member Vivek Tankha, who was also a part of the 23 leaders seeking an overhaul in the party, said that it is time to act now, else it will be too late. He also said that, for democracy to survive, the Congress has to survive. “Kapil ji is an iconic lawyer and a hardcore Congress personality. Together and individually, we have fought countless battles and continue to fight BJP shenanigans. For our democracy to survive Congress has to survive. Time to act is now or tomorrow may be too late,” Tankha tweeted while tagging Sibal’s interview.

What is amply clear is that the Congress is facing massive infighting now, with seniors blaming the team of Rahul Gandhi for the poor show in Bihar. Rahul had given responsibility for the Bihar poll to Randeep Singh Surjewala. The Congress leaders who were looking after Bihar poll management are now being held responsible for whatever comments RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari made on Rahul Gandhi.

Sources said that the Congress leaders working in Bihar shared wrong information with the high command after the first phase of voting. They had apprised the high command that the victory of the Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan) was certain after the first phase of polling. Rahul Gandhi also trusted their report. Strategists of the Congress also miscalculated the bypolls in MP. Despite Kamal Nath’s wish to have rallies with Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in some of the seats in MP, Congress strategists went against this proposal, considering victory to be certain in around 18-19 seats. Like what was in practice a decade ago, these strategists still believe that the party will perform well even if Rahul and Priyanka do not personally visit the constituencies. This is the reason why the siblings are practising their politics through Twitter.

Priyanka is in charge of UP, where Congress’ performance in the bypolls was quite poor.  All her experiments to revive Congress in UP have come a cropper. Another important state, Bihar, was taken lightly and the Congress did not do anything to groom the local leadership there.  Rahul relied on Tejashwi and took it as a part-time job. Tejashwi Yadav did not work full-time too, resulting in old allies and leaders of the RJD distancing themselves from it. He tried to do Bihar’s politics while sitting in Delhi, giving an impetus to the campaign only during election time. Tejashwi did manage to establish himself as a leader, despite stopping short of power.  But the Congress is still the real loser.

The party is not in a position to do anything concrete in other states, with Kerala going to the polls in May next year. The Congress had been hopeful of doing well in Assam but after the Bihar drubbing, the writing is on the wall. Some Congress leaders might even desert the party in Assam. It depends on the DMK in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. And as far as West Bengal is concerned, the Congress is on a sticky wicket. Therefore, challenges for Rahul Gandhi will be manifold in the days to come.

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Delhi: Boy stabbed for objecting to sister’s molestation

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New Delhi [India], February 27 (ANI): A 17-year-old boy was admitted to AIIMS Trauma Centre on Friday after being beaten up and stabbed by three boys in the Kalkaji area when he objected to them following his sister and passing indecent remarks.
According to Delhi police, a PCR call was received at police station Kalka Ji regarding a boy who had been stabbed near Sarvodya Vidhalya No. 2 Kalkaji and was being taken to AIIMS trauma for treatment.
As per the police, the eye witness (sister of injured) age-18 years, who was present with him at the time of the incident, stated that three boys followed her and passed indecent remarks. When her brother objected, they beat him up and one of them stabbed him on the left side of the abdomen and fled from the spot.
Meanwhile, the girl who was molested told ANI, “It had been going on for 2-3 days. They hit my brother and stabbed him when he objected.”
A case vide FIR No. 95/2021 u/s 307/354(D)/509/34 IPC has been registered and further investigation is going on, the police said, adding that efforts are being made to trace the accused who are residents of J.J.Camp Giri Nagar in the area of police station, Govind Puri. (ANI)

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Ministers, supporters greet Yediyurappa on 78th birthday

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Bengaluru (Karnataka) [India], February 27 (ANI): Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa was warmly greeted by State Ministers and supporters on the occasion of his 78th birthday in his office in Bengaluru on Saturday morning.
Ministers and his supporters greeted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader with garlands and bouquets.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several union ministers also extended birthday greetings to Yediyurappa, wishing him a long and healthy life.
“Greetings to Karnataka CM @BSYBJP Ji on his birthday. Yediyurappa Ji is one of our most experienced leaders, who has devoted his life towards the welfare of farmers and empowering the poor. Praying for his long and healthy life,” PM Modi tweeted.
Union Minister Piyush Goyal lauded the Chief Minister’s efforts to transform the lives of farmers in the state.
“Warm birthday greetings to CM B.S. Yediyurappa ji @BSYBJP. His efforts to transform the lives of our Annadatas through tech-enabled governance in Karnataka have set a new benchmark. I wish him a long and healthy life,” he tweeted.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh too praised Yediyurappa’s work for the upliftment of the poor and empowerment of farmers.
“Best wishes to Chief Minister of Karnataka, Shri BS Yediyurappa on his birthday. He has been making a remarkable contribution to Karnataka’s development and doing commendable work while uplifting the poor and empowering the farmers. Praying for his long and healthy life,” Singh tweeted.
“Warm Birthday wishes to the Chief Minister of Karnataka Shri B.S. Yediyurappa. May you be blessed with good health and long life,” Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said.
Born on February 27, 1943, BS Yediyurappa, now 78, was first elected to the lower house of the Karnataka Legislature in 1983 and has since represented the Shikaripur constituency seven times.
He was elected as the Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka on 3rd February 2006 in the JD(S) and BJP Coalition Government. He was sworn in as the 25th Chief Minister of Karnataka on November 12, 2007.
In Karnataka’s 2008 Assembly elections, Yediyurappa contested from Shikaripura won the election and took the oath of office as Chief Minister on May 30, 2008.
He is the first person from the Bharatiya Janata Party to become the Chief Minister of a south Indian state and the first Chief Minister to present a separate agricultural budget. (ANI)

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Centre assures Chhattisgarh CM of reimbursing pending food subsidies worth Rs 4,832 crore

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Raipur (Chhattisgarh) [India], February 27 (ANI): Union Minister Piyush Goyal has assured Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel of reimbursing pending food subsidies worth Rs 4,832 crores
Baghel on Friday met Union Food and Public Distribution Minister and reiterated his demand of increasing the permitted amount of 24 lakh metric tonnes of rice to be procured under the central pool in FCI to 40 lakh metric tonnes in the Kharif marketing year 2020-21.
He also requested the Union minister to reimburse pending food subsidies for the year 2019-20 and 2020-21 of Rs 5214.97 crore.
“In the interest of farmers of Chhattisgarh, the Centre should give permission for procurement of 40 lakh metric tonnes of rice in the Food Corporation of India at the earliest as 92 lakh metric tonnes of paddy have been procured from 20.53 lakh farmers on the support price in Chhattisgarh in the Kharif marketing year 2020-21, as on 31 January 2021, under the decentralized procurement scheme,” the Chief Minister said.
He said the Food Department has been allowed to take only 24 lakh metric tonnes of rice under the Central pool in the Kharif year 2020-21.
Chhattisgarh Agriculture Minister Ravindra Choubey and Food Minister Amarjeet Bhagat also accompanied the chief minister during the meeting. (ANI)

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India reports 16,488 new COVID-19 cases, 113 deaths

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New Delhi [India], February 27 (ANI): As many as 16,488 new COVID-19 cases and 113 deaths were reported in India during the last 24 hours, informed the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) on Saturday.
With this, the total coronavirus caseload in the country has gone up to 1,10,79,979, including 1,59,590 active cases and 1,07,63,451 discharges.
The COVID-19 death toll reached 1,56,938 on Saturday with additional 113 deaths.
As per the Health Ministry, a total of 1,42,42,547 people in the country have been vaccinated against the virus.
The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16, 2021. The vaccination of the frontline workers started on February 2.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) informed today that the total number of samples has reached 21,54,35,383 as of Friday, including 7,73,918 samples tested yesterday. (ANI)

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Polls for 88 municipality seats in Vadodara to take place on Feb 28

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Vadodara (Gujarat) [India], February 27 (ANI): Election for 88 seats of three municipalities in Gujarat’s Vadodara district, along with 34 Zilla panchayat seats and 168 taluka panchayat seats will be held on February 28.
While the BJP is riding high after winning all six civic corporation polls held earlier this week, the Congress party believes the hike in fuel prices and public disenchantment with the ruling party will turn the tide.
The remaining 27 districts, which includes 81 municipalities, 31 district panchayats and 231 taluka panchayats, will also go to polls on February 28 as well.
According to District Collector Shalini Agarwal, voting for Vadodara’s municipalities will take place between 7 am and 6 pm and several returning officers and assistant returning officers have been deployed for the same.
“9,61,830 voters have registered for the Zilla and taluka panchayat polls and 94,250 have registered for Nagar Palika polls. 1,308 presiding officers and 2,708 polling officers have been deployed,” Agarwal added while addressing a press conference here.
With the polls taking place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the deployed officers will ensure that government-prescribed COVID-19 guidelines are being adhered to. Health kits and gloves will be provided for the staff and voters respectively, the district collector informed.
“In order to maintain overall law and order, police, group mobile, police magistrate mobile, local police, home guards and SRPs will be deployed,” she added. (ANI)

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Kolkata based businessman summoned by CBI in coal scam case

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Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], February 27 (ANI): The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday summoned Kolkata based businessman Randhir Barnwal in connection with the coal scam case.
The CBI on Friday conducted raids at multiple properties of the businessman in Kolkata in connection with the coal scam case, said sources.
Many bureaucrats and politicians allegedly received bribes through this businessman, said CBI sources.
Earlier CBI quizzed Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee’s wife and sister-in-law in connection with an ongoing coal scam.
Without naming, Abhishek had accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government of exploitation of power. (ANI)

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