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Modi likely to revamp Cabinet after party reshuffle

A high-powered meeting at PM Narendra Modi’s residence triggers intense speculation; 10 Cabinet ministers summoned to present their report card.

Pankaj Vohra

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Intense speculation has commenced on a possible Cabinet reshuffle to be preceded by the overhauling of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the next few days. While there has been widespread talk regarding the re-structuring of the party and the government, the latest conjecture follows a high-powered meeting held at the Prime Minister’s residence on Saturday.

The three-hour-long meeting in the evening was attended by BJP president J.P. Nadda, RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale, RSS in-charge of organisation B.L. Santosh, senior RSS leader Dr Krishan Gopal, besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Curiously, both Nitin Gadkari and Amit Shah were not present.

 Informed sources said that at least ten Cabinet ministers were summoned to the meeting in a well-planned and structured manner to ensure that they were not present at the venue at the same time. The ministers were asked to make presentations regarding their performance in the government and told that the Prime Minister and the party shall take the final call on their future role.

The idea was that the top leadership of the party and RSS should be able to assess their contributions and accordingly take an appropriate decision. There has been an overall dissatisfaction over the performance of some ministers, who could be asked to either return to the party fold or be prepared for a new role in the government.

In this context, it is believed that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman could make way for somebody else as and when the Cabinet reshuffle takes place. She was one of the ministers who was called to present her point of view at the meeting. Other ministers who also came in one by one included, Rajnath Singh, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal and S. Jaishankar. The Prime Minister has made it clear to his Cabinet colleagues that they would be accountable for their actions and shall be judged by their work.

Within the BJP circles there has been speculation on the continuation of Rajnath Singh as the Defence Minister since it is being said that Amit Shah could probably replace him. The Prime Minister is yet to take a view on a pending proposal to bifurcate the Union Home Ministry. Therefore, Shah’s transfer would depend on whether the bifurcation move gets the final approval. Sources said that the internal security segment of the ministry could be taken away so as to get a full-fledged minister to head this particular assignment. The government could announce this division simultaneously with the reshuffle.

The party re-organisation could happen as early as the next two days since the RSS has already given its approval to the new inductees who may find a berth in Nadda’s team. So far, Nadda has been continuing with the same team he had inherited from his predecessor, Amit Shah, and therefore the party revamping has no element of surprise. Earlier, there was a suggestion to include Nadda in the government while allowing some other senior to take over the reins of the party. Sources said that the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and PM Modi were to have the final word in this matter.

 Political circles, particularly the opposition, is likely to view the restructuring exercise as an attempt to divert the attention from the negative perception that has been building up over the manner in which first the Covid-19 pandemic fallout was tackled and subsequently, the mounting India-China tensions on our borders.

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147 districts record no new COVID-19 infections in last seven days, says Harsh Vardhan

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New Delhi [India], January 28 (ANI): At least 147 districts in the country have not reported a case of COVID-19 in the last seven days, informed Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday.
During the 23rd meeting of the High-level Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19, the Union Minister said: “In India, 147 districts have not seen a COVID-19 case in the last seven days, 18 districts in the last 14 days, six in the last 21 days, and 21 districts have not registered a case in the last 28 days.”
During the meeting, the Health Minister also expressed satisfaction at the country’s performance to combat COVID-19, stating that “Our fatality rate continues to be the lowest in the world at almost 1.44 per cent and 1,03,73,606 people have recovered from the virus, taking the recovery rate to nearly 97 per cent.”
He further informed that the country has 15,473 dedicated hospitals, health care facilities, and COVID-19 care centers with 19,00,714 beds and 12,673 quarantine centres.
On the ongoing coronavirus vaccination programme, he said, “We have completed 42,674 sessions of vaccinations all over the country. As many as 23,55,979 people have been administered the COVID-19 vaccines so far and 3,26,499 health workers have received the vaccines in the last 24 hours.”
“The total number of cases in the country stands at 1,07,01,193 and in the last 24 hours, the country recorded 11,660 cases. Currently, 70 per cent of the current cases are from Maharashtra and Kerala. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have slightly more than 500 cases and the rest of the places have less than 500 cases,” he added.
Updating the GoM on the United Kingdom (UK) variant found in India, he mentioned that 153 cases have been diagnosed in the country and all the protocols to keep these cases under surveillance and in isolation are being followed. (ANI)

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Rahul Gandhi alleges PM Modi of ‘trying to kill’ Land Acquisition Bill

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Wayanad (Kerala) [India], January 28 (ANI): Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday alleged Prime Minister Narendra Modi of trying to ‘kill’ the Land Acquisition Bill brought by his party for the farmers.
“Some years ago I noticed there was an attempt to attack India’s farmers. It started in Bhatta Parsaul when their land was just being taken away. I realised it was a problem and started a conversation inside the Congress party. The result was that we threw out the old British Bill and brought out a brand new Land Acquisition Bill that guaranteed compensation and protection to our farmers. The first thing Narendra Modi ji did when he became PM was trying to kill this Bill. We fought him in Parliament and stopped him from killing it,” he said while addressing a rally at Wayanad.
The Wayanad MP also said the Prime Minister asked the chief ministers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states to ‘kill them’ as he could not defeat them in the parliament.
The Congress leader arrived in Kerala on Wednesday for the two-day visit ahead of the Assembly elections in the state scheduled for April-May. He inaugurated the new building and gate of Vandoor government girls higher secondary school and motivated the students to thrive and survive on their own. He also said girls have to work harder than boys as it is the nature of society that it does not want to let them become independent.
Earlier last week, he was on a three-day visit to the western belt in Tamil Nadu where he interacted with farmers, business people, weavers and the general public. During his visit, the politician said the major economic policies of the present central government like Goods and Services Tax and demonetisation destroyed micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) in the country. (ANI)

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Delhi Police issues Lookout Notice against farmer leaders post tractor rally violence

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New Delhi [India], January 28 (ANI): Two days after the violence which broke out in various parts of the national capital during the farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day, Delhi Police on Wednesday said that it has issued a Lookout Notice (LOC) against some farmer leaders with the help of immigration.
The passports of these leaders will be seized as a part of the process, said Delhi Police in a statement.
This comes a day after Delhi Police registered an FIR at Samaypur Badli police station against 37 farmer leaders including Medha Patkar, Buta Singh, Darshan Pal, Rakesh Tikait, Rajinder Singh, Balbir Singh Rajewal and Yogendra Yadav for Tuesday’s violence.
Police said that their “preplanned objective of not following the mutually agreed route and the timing of the commencement of the so-called parade’ was to disrupt the Republic Day Parade and the protesters resorted to the above said acts, and their gathering was also in violation of the guidelines in view of COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, security has been tightened at Tikri Border where farmers continue their protest against farm laws.

Nineteen people have been so far arrested and over 25 criminal cases registered by Delhi Police in connection with the violence that broke out during the farmers’ tractor march on Tuesday, Police Commissioner (CP) SN Shrivastava had said on Wednesday adding that 394 police personnel sustained injuries in the violence and several of them are still admitted to hospitals.
Delhi Police has named Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu and gangster Lakka Sadana in an FIR registered in connection with the violence at the historic monument on January 26.
Protestors broke barricades to enter Delhi and indulged in vandalism across several parts of the national capital during their tractor rally organised to protest against the Centre’s three new farm laws.
Several public and private properties were damaged in acts of vandalism by the protestors. A total of 22 FIRs have been filed by the Delhi Police with one of them mentioning the incident at ITO where a farmer died after his tractor overturned.
Farmers have been protesting on the different borders of the national capital since November 26 against the three newly enacted farm laws – Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. (ANI)

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AAP to contest Assembly polls in six states, announces Kejriwal

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New Delhi [India], January 28 (ANI): Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal at the National Council meeting of the party on Thursday said that his party has decided to contest Assembly polls in six states -Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat- in the coming two years.
Kejriwal announced AAP’s future electoral plans while addressing the National Council meeting of the party in Delhi.
During the meeting, Kejriwal also expressed grief about the violence that erupted during farmers’ tractor rally on January 26. “Yesterday’s incident was very unfortunate. Any political party or person involved in that should be strictly punished,” he said.
Kejriwal also said that yesterday’s violence cannot undermine and stop the ongoing farmers’ agitation. “We all will have to support the cause of farmers peacefully,” he said.
He also urged people to leave their party flags at home while going to participate in the protest. (ANI)

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Urdu Bulletin: R-Day violence, withdrawal of leading farmer organisations from agitation covered prominently

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New Delhi [India], January 28 (ANI): Various reports published in Urdu publications from Delhi continued to highlight the farmers’ protest which turned violent during the tractor rally on Republic Day in the national capital.
Most publications covered the news of the withdrawal of many farmer organisations from the stir after the Republic Day violence.
They also dealt with the news that the Congress party is attacking Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Republic Day mishap.
Inquilab: The newspaper led with the news of the tractor rally organised by farmers on Republic Day. It stated that the violence which occurred on January 26 was the result of a conspiracy. It also said that the farmer leaders have said that they will not let the Central government weaken their protest.
It also highlighted the news of the withdrawal of two farmers organisations – Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan and Bharatiya Kisaan Union from the agitation after the outbreak of violence on 26 January.
Rashtriya Sahara: The newspaper carried the news of farmer organisations being on the backfoot after the violence during the Republic Day. The publication also said that the call of Parliamentary march which was given for February 1, has been suspended.
The publication reported that FIRs have been registered against many farmer leaders including Bhartiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait for the violence in which over 300 police officers were injured. It also reported that the Nation Investigation Authorirtty has summoned Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu for instigating the attack on Red fort.
Hindustan Express: The publication led with a report on Republic Day and the tractor rally by the farmers in the national capital. It also reported that FIRs were registered against 26 farmers leaders including Yogendra Yadav.
The newspaper also reported that Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi has said that the farm laws are not only dangerous for the farmers but also the country. (ANI)

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Strict action to be taken against illegal mining, says Karnataka Minister

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Bengaluru (Karnataka) [India], January 28 (ANI): Days after Shivamogga blast, Karnataka Mines and Geology Minister Murugesh R Nirani on Wednesday warned those indulging in illegal mining and said stringent action will be taken against them.
“We have information regarding illegal mining activities. I have instructed the officials to prepare a list of offenders and submit a report. The government will take action against them,” Nirani said while addressing the media, after meeting with top officials over measures to prevent illegal mining and policy to regularise unauthorised mining.
Speaking about the Shivamogga blast, the Minister said that the person who supplied explosives in connection with the Shivamogga blast has been arrested and an FIR has already been registered.
The Minister also denied allegations against him and termed the complainant as a cheater. “I know the background of the person who has lodged a complaint against me. I have not suffered any setback and I have acted as per law,” he said.
The Minister said that the department will conduct ‘mining adalats’ to address the grievances of those indulging in mining activities on a small scale. “The adalats will be conducted at five places-Mysuru, Belagavi, Kalaburagi and Hubballi-Dharwad,” he said.
Stating that adalats will be conducted on the lines of industrial adalats conducted during his earlier tenure as Industries Minister and priority will be to address department-wise problems, he said “Over 75 per cent of problems faced at the local level would be resolved through Adalats and there is no need for people to visit Bengaluru to get permits. Steps will be taken to ensure easy availability of sand, crushed stone grains and other essentials,” Nirani added.
The Minister said that the Adalats will be started after the Legislative Assembly session and will be conducted in five places every fifteen days and thereby resolving 70 per cent of grievances.
Stressing on the need to allow mining for industrial growth in the state, Murugesh Nirani maintained that mining activities must continue for sustained economic growth. “New policy will be implemented to regularise unauthorised mining. Karnataka has more iron deposits compared to other states and we need to take advantage of it for our growth,” he added.
Nirani said that a mining institute will also be set up in Karnataka on the lines of the Indian School of Mines. We will discuss the proposal with the Chief Minister and then decide on the location. The BDA or KIADB will have to allocate land if the institute was to come up in Bengaluru and there is no land problem,” he added. (ANI)

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