Watching closely the developments that have taken place in Bihar, with Nitish Kumar trashing the BJP to enter into an alliance with RJD and Congress and other partners of the Grand Alliance on Tuesday, leaders close to Nitish believe that he will be in the coming months projected as the anti-BJP Opposition’s prime ministerial face in 2024 polls. As the first step, he will be announced as the convenor of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
Nitish and all his cabinet colleagues, minus 16 BJP MLAs, who tendered their resignation, are likely to take oath on Wednesday at the historic Gandhi Maidan in Patna. After meeting the Governor, Nitish said that seven parties—JDU, RJD, Congress, three left parties and HAM—were coming together to form the new government.
According to JD(U) party leaders, the BJP–JD(U) alliance fell apart when Nitish came to know about a Maharashtra-like “Operation Lotus” that the BJP was trying to execute to remove him by using the former JD(U) leader and Union minister Ramchandra Prasad Singh, who was considered his confidante.
The evidence of this conspiracy, JD(U) leaders said, would be made public soon.
Many Bihar-based JD(U) and BJP leaders told The Daily Guardian on Monday that an audio conversation in which Singh was purportedly heard talking to a BJP heavyweight at the Centre. The two leaders were discussing on how Singh was going to break the JD(U) from within and dislodge Nitish from the government, with help from the BJP.
The said conversation, according to the sources, took place sometime around in March–April this year. Singh, who had taken oath as a Union minister in July 2021, had to resign last month after Nitish decided not to nominate him for a second Rajya Sabha term. The unannounced visit of Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan to Patna on the night of 5 May during which he met Nitish and left early morning next day too was likely undertaken in view of this conversation.
Significantly, till Monday noon, Bihar-based BJP leaders were assured that Nitish will not break the alliance and the meeting of the JD(U) party leaders he had called on Tuesday was just a political posturing to seek more ministerial berths in the Union cabinet and more autonomy in running the state. However, two JD(U) leaders had told The Daily Guardian on Sunday that the alliance was going to end as Nitish had made up his mind. One of the leaders had then quipped, “Gaadi kaafi agey nikal chuki hai (The tussle has reached a point beyond redemption).”
Senior leaders like Ravi Shankar Prasad, Nand Kishore Yadav and Sushil Kumar Modi, who know the state and party workers in and out, with whom Nitish shares a very cordial relation, have been pushed to the side lines post the November 2020 polls by the emerging group of Union ministers Bhupender Yadav, Nityanand Rai and state chief Sanjay Jaiswal. As a result, there was no BJP leader left in Bihar or in Delhi who Nitish could trust and this played a vital role in deteriorating the relation between the two erstwhile alliance partners.
None of these senior leaders was aware of the developments taking place in Bihar all these times.
Ultimately, the BJP had to field Prasad in Patna to mount an attack on Nitish on Tuesday night. He “reminded” Nitish that it was because of the BJP that he reached the political stature he had attained. He claimed that the allegations that BJP was trying to break the JD(U) were baseless.
According to insiders, some discussion on JD(U), RJD and Congress coming together again took place in May when the Leader of Opposition in Bihar Assembly Tejashwi Yadav and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, along with other party leaders, had gone to the United Kingdom for an event. This came after Nitish had raised eyebrows among the BJP circle by attending an Iftar hosted by Lalu Prasad Yadav’s family in Patna in April.
However, what has come as a surprise is that the BJP leadership was caught unawares.
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A Look at COVID-19 Vaccination Status and More
COVID-19 has been a significant concern in the United States since its outset, like in other countries. The virus has killed millions of Americans and sickened many more. Because of a lack of preparation or much knowledge about this virus outbreak initially, there was an atmosphere of tremendous anger, confusion, and uncertainty. Some tried to downplay the virus risk and didn’t do much to prevent it. As a result, many Americans felt more helpless. The adverse effects of the virus were visible not just in people’s physical and mental health but in the country’s economy and social conditions. However, things improved with time as everyone came together to fight this. The introduction of effective vaccines and boosters, apart from continuous guidance from health authorities regarding precautions and treatments, has been a game changer.
However, the COVID-19 scare has not vanished as the new subvariants – BA.4 and BA.5 – continue to affect people. The infection’s severity is not so high as before because of vaccination and boosters. There is enough evidence that fully vaccinated and boosted people don’t experience severe illness after catching the infection. Still, it makes some people question the efficacy of the vaccine. But the constantly mutating virus tends to escape immunity; hence, the infection risk is still there. Nevertheless, more targeted vaccines can tackle this issue. The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) informs that the US would buy Moderna’s and Pfizer’s 66 and 105 million doses for the fall vaccination drive.
Despite every effort, people are hesitant about vaccines. Although kid vaccines are available, the adoption rate is low. Even many adults are not ready for vaccination. Some places express their displeasure with COVID rules and regulations also. As per MyBioSource’s survey of 3,442 people, people in places like Montana (31% more) and South Dakota (36% more) have increasingly become against COVID measures implemented by the government.
Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants
These two virus strains have been responsible for the sudden summer wave of hospitalizations in the US. It causes enough worries among scientists and health leaders that the infection rate can be much higher in the fall. They fear that the immunity developed from previous vaccines can weaken, and the risk of infection can be higher as people start spending more time indoors, perfect for the COVID virus to find its new hosts. BA.5 has caused up to 82% of new COVID cases in the country, and BA.4 forms about 13% of them. The government reports a minimum of 126,000 new infections daily, per the CDC records. However, it can be much higher in real-time than the reported figures because of the accessibility to at-home kits for COVID tests. These test details don’t reach the health agencies.
The existing vaccines target only the original COVID strain that occurred over two years back. Since the new strains have considerably mutated, those vaccines don’t provide durable support against infections. People who completed their vaccination and took two booster shots are still vulnerable to these variants. The only relief is that the severity of the illness and the fatality rate has improved. That’s why health leaders and scientists advise updating the vaccines to target these subvariants effectively. But this doesn’t ensure that it will be a full-proof approach because the virus evolves much faster, and no one knows what shape and form it will assume by the time the fall season is here.
COVID-19 vaccine status in the US
As per the latest updates, 79% of the population (about 261,591,428 people) has taken a minimum of one shot. On the other hand, 67%, or 223,035,566 people, have completed all the doses. And nearly 32% of the people have obtained one booster shot as of August 2022. The country has distributed 803,252,035 doses, of which 75% have been used. If you look at the age-wise segmentation, data suggest that 95% of people in the 65-plus age group have obtained at least one dose, and 92% are fully vaccinated. 94% of people aged 50 to 64 have taken their first shot, and 82% have completed their vaccination. Those 25 to 49 years form about 83% of the population receiving their first dose, and 70% of them are completely immunized.
The fully vaccinated population rate drastically decreases if you check people in the age group of 18 to 24, representing only about 65%. The vaccination rate among kids is even lower despite all the efforts made by health experts to convince parents about the necessity of vaccination. Only 38% of 5 to 11 years old have taken their first shots, and 6% of those in the range of 2 to 4 years. When it comes to anyone under two years, the acceptance rate is even weaker, with only 3% of the population getting its first dose.
COVID-19 may not be as threatening as it was during its initial onset. But the risk of infection has not gone yet. Vaccines and boosters have shown enough promise in keeping one’s health safe and protected against the virus’s severity. Hence, it’s better to revisit any decision once.
After shooting at Russian school, six people, gunman dead
A shooter killed six people and injured 20 others in a school in the central Russian city of Izhevsk on Monday morning.
According to the Udmurtia branch of the interior ministry, the shooter killed himself. According to the Russian official, the school has been closed and the surrounding area has been fenced off.
Alexander Brechalov, the governor of the Udmurtia region, of which Izhevsk is the capital, stated in a video message that the as-yet unidentified shooter entered the school and killed a guard and some of the students present. Children among the victims and wounded, according to Brechalov.
(More details are awaited.)
Archana Pooran Singh desires to follow Neena Gupta’s plea for work.
Actor Archana Pooran Singh who is currently seen in The Kapil Sharma show has revealed that she is ‘dying to perform’. She expressed her frustration at people knowing only one aspect of her craft.
Popularly, she is known for her comic role in the classic movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, in which she performed the role of Professor Ms Briganza. She developed such a strong comedic reputation, thanks to the role that even 20 years later, she hasn’t been offered a serious role.
The actor added that she can do so much more in acting than comic roles, she can cry and make people cry too. She said the side of her is yet to be explored and this will happen someday.
Archana said, “That chhaap (image) is so solid. Also, a lot of people feel that what they should offer me after Ms Briganza. It’s been almost 25 years since Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was released. And the character is still following me. People also feel that I am best suited only for comedy. As an actor, I feel deprived, cheated and I have been left yearning for good roles.”
She stated that she is considering approaching filmmakers for work in the same way that actress Neena Gupta did. Neena, once posted on her Instagram asking the filmmakers for work as she wasn’t offered any roles in a long time and was sitting at home. After this, she got great opportunities and delivered a blockbuster film, ‘Badhai Ho.’
Archana made her film debut with Abhishek and then featured in Jalwa opposite Naseeruddin Shah. She was also part of several films such as Agneepath (1990), Saudagar (1991), Shola Aur Shabnam (1992), Aashiq Awara (1993), and Raja Hindustani (1996). Fans saw her in comedy roles such as Love Story 2050, Mohabbatein, Krrish, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Masti, De Dana Dan and Bol Bachchan.
Malayalam filmmaker Ashokan dies at 60
Raman Ashok Kumar, also known as Malayalam filmmaker Ashokan died on Sunday (Sep 25). He was 60. Recently returned from Singapore, he passed away while receiving medical care in Kochi, Kerala, at a private hospital.
Ashokan, a Varkala native, began his career in film as filmmaker Sasi Kumar’s assistant. After roughly 25 years of working as an assistant director, Ashokan released his first picture, “Varnam,” in 1989. The ensemble cast of the critically acclaimed movie “Varnam” included Jayaram, Suresh Gopi, Ranjini, Thilakan, Meena, Jagathy Sreekumar, Parvathy, and Mukesh. He collaborated with director Thaha to co-direct the Suresh Gopi and Parvathy-starring film “Saandaram” a year later, in 1990.
He teamed up once more with Thaha in 1991 to co-direct the slapstick comedy “Mookkilla Rajyathu,” which starred Mukesh, Thilakan, Jagathy Sreekumar, Siddique, and Vinaya Prasad. The movie “Mookkilla Rajyathu” earned positive reviews and became hit. After that, Ashokan directed “Aacharyan” in 1993, starring Thilakan, Suresh Gopi, and Sreenivasan, and the movie also succeeded in attracting viewers. After that, according to reports, Ashokan relocated to Singapore and concentrated on business, but he never lost his love for movies. The telefilm he later directed, “Kaanappurangal,” earned him the Kerala State Award for best telefilm.
The filmmaker’s funeral will take place on Tuesday at his Varkala home. Ashokan is survived by his wife Seetha and their daughter Abhirami.
Uttarakhand teen murder: The resort has been demolished, but an official claims that ‘all evidence is safe.’
Following the alleged murder of an employee at a Uttarakhand resort near Rishikesh, a member of the Special Investigation Team leading the investigation has claimed that all physical and forensic evidence from the site has been secured.
“Forensic team had collected all evidence from Vanatara resort before its demolition (on September 24). All evidence found there being used in forensic investigation is safe; further probe underway,” PR Devi quoted.
The investigation is being conducted in relation to the alleged murder of a 19-year-old receptionist who worked at a property owned by Haridwar BJP leader Vinod Arya’s son Pulkit.
Pulkit and two other employees were detained.
Her body was discovered in a canal near Rishikesh after she went missing. As family and activists demanded action, violent protests erupted in the resort’s vicinity, and the administration began demolishing the structure.
However, critics pointed out that evidence may have been destroyed as well.
A preliminary autopsy at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Rishikesh revealed that she drowned. However, there were antemortem injuries (those received before death).
Her family had refused to carry out the final rites until they had received the final report. She was later cremated on the banks of the Alaknanda after the state government assured her that a fair investigation would be conducted.
Pushkar Singh Dhami, the chief minister of Uttarakhand, has promised that no one involved in the murder will be spared. He also directed officials to ‘ensure better law and order and to keep an eye out for ‘anti-social elements which disrupt the peaceful environment.’
Jacqueline Fernandez granted bail in 200 crore extortion case
In the 200 crore extortion case, Jacqueline Fernandez received a momentary reprieve when she was given an interim release. The primary defendant in the case is imprisoned conman Sukesh Chandrashekhar.
The Patiala court in Delhi has granted interim bail to the actor for a bond of ₹50,000. The subsequent hearing in the case would be held on October 22. Jacqueline was interrogated for over 7 hours by the Delhi Police Economic Offences Wing.
The con man is said to have been friends with the 37-year-old Sri Lankan actress, who received many expensive gifts from him including luxury bags, clothes, jewellery, etc. worth Rs. 5.72 crores. The actor also told the ED that Sukesh had hired private jets as well as booked helicopter rides for her.
Earlier, the actress denied her friendship with the con man but after the intimate pictures of the actress with Sukesh surfaced on the internet she accepted dating him. The alleged pictures were taken in April-June of 2022.
Her friendship with Chandrashekhar – accused in more than 10 cases – started on WhatsApp in January 2021, and she had secretly met the conman on several occasions at a well-known hotel in Chennai and other places, she had told the officers, the report further highlighted.
The actor had admitted before the officers that the jailed conman had paid a huge amount of money to fashion designer Leepakshi, for designing exclusive costumes for her. The ED will now interrogate her designer as well.
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