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Patel, Priyanka episodes raise question mark on Congress’ functioning

While Ahmed Patel is left to fight ED’s action on his own, Priyanka gets party support on eviction notice.

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Last week, two incidents rocked the Congress and the “First Family”, both. First, the questioning of Congress party’s treasurer Ahmed Patel by Enforcement Directorate (ED) at his New Delhi residence and second, eviction notice to party’s general secretary and interim president Sonia Gandhi’s daughter, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, with regard to a government bungalow allotted to her in Lutyens Delhi.

The Congress’ official stands in both the cases raised many eyebrows about internal functioning of the party. The party neither released any official statement nor was seen standing with the main crisis manager and close confidant of Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, as he was left on his own to fight both legally and politically against the ED’s action in connection with a moneylaundering case involving Sterling Biotech Ltd, a company promoted by the absconding Sandesara brothers.

On the contrary, when the Urban Development Ministry served a notice to Priyanka for vacating the Lutyens’ bungalow within a month, the Congress official spokespersons reacted within no time and accused the Narendra Modi government for “trickery and treachery” for its “manipulative attitude” in the name of “changed” threat perception. Twitter was flooded with statements and comments by almost every veteran and senior leader. All were vehemently critical of the Centre’s move in asking Priyanka to vacate a government bungalow which she occupied about 23 years ago.

It is worth mentioning that the party’s official spokesperson reacted to the ED’s action against Ahmed Patel after a couple of days only when the media asked for it repeatedly. Rahul Gandhi chose to keep silent in this case and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra took several days to respond.

The probe agency questioned 70-year-old Patel for three days – 27 June, 30 June and 4July — in different sessions for a total of 27 hours at his residence since the latter refused to go to the ED office citing Covid-19 guidelines. At the end of the questioning by the ED, Patel himself had to face television crews waiting outside his official residence. Patel told journalists that it was a political vendetta and harassment against him and his family.

Only four senior leaders, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath, former Union Minister Kapil Sibal and former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupender Singh Hooda, came to the rescue of Ahmed Patel.

On the other hand, the hue and cry made by almost every Congress leader on Priyanka’s bungalow issue has left several questions unanswered. If Priyanka would have vacated the house at the time of SPG’s withdrawal, it would add to the Congress’ old narrative of “sacrifices by Gandhis”, sources say. It is a laid-down procedure that Priyanka has lost the right to have Lutyens’ bungalow as neither has she any position in the government nor is she an elected public representative, sources add.

Moreover, if all is well in the party, any Congress MP could have offered his/her official house for Priyanka in central Delhi. Now the party leaders are saying that Priyanka will shift to Lucknow, while her close ones say that she will handle the politics of Uttar Pradesh from Delhi itself. She will only use the Lucknow house as a base for meeting with party workers.

This “internal drama” that unfolded in the last 10 days reflected badly on the party’s official set up consisting mostly of Rahul Gandhi loyalists.

If a leader of the stature of Ahmed Patel is abandoned like this, party sources say, it has raised several serious questions about the Congress’ present and future leadership. Senior Congress leaders are not reacting openly, but in private conversation, they admit that they are not happy with the internal handling of the party affairs. Rahul Gandhi’s strategy to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly on issues of national security has not been perceived as a wise move by several senior leaders.

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Prime Minister Modi pays tribute to Field Marshal K. M. Cariappa on his birth anniversary

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New Delhi [India], January 28 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to late Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa, first Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, on his birth anniversary while addressing the National Cadet Corps (NCC) Rally at Cariappa Ground in Delhi on Thursday.
“We are holding this event of Annual NCC rally at the ground named after Field Marshal KM Cariappa. In 1947, his wit and intelligence helped in gaining a decisive edge in the war. Today is his birth anniversary. I pay tribute to him on the behalf of all the citizens,” said Prime Minister Modi.
He also pointed out that there are immense opportunities for the girls in NCC cadets. “There has been an increase in 35 per cent of girls cadet in NCC in past few years. The nation needs your bravery and new opportunities are waiting for you. I see future officers in you all,” he added.
Talking about the revamped gallantry award portal launched on January 25, PM Modi said, “The portal contains the information about lives of gallantry medal awardees. I appeal to all the NCC cadets to visit the portal and keep engaged with it.”
The Prime Minister appreciated the cadets for their discipline and dedication towards fulfilling their duties. He also informed that around one lakh National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadets are being trained by the Army, Navy and Air Force to serve in coastal and border areas of 175 districts.
“On August 15, last year, it was announced that NCC will be given new responsibilities in around 175 districts in the coastal and border areas. For this, around 1 lakh NCC cadets are being trained by Army, Navy and Air Force. Out of these, one third are girl cadets,” PM Modi said.
Hailing NCC cadets for helping the government amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he said: “Be it the floods or any other calamity, NCC cadets helped the people of this country last year. During the corona pandemic, lakhs of cadets worked with the administration and society across the country. Their work is commendable.”
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and the three armed services chiefs were also present on the occasion.
The Prime Minister wore an NCC cap, reviewed March Past by NCC contingents and witnessed cultural performance during the event. (ANI)

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Mumbai Police rescues minor girl from trafficking, 3 arrested

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Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], January 28 (ANI): The Social Service Branch of Mumbai Police on Thursday arrested three people after they were allegedly planning to sell a minor girl for money.
In a statement, the Mumbai Police said, “The Social Service Branch of Mumbai Police arrested three people yesterday in a raid and rescued a 14-year-old girl. Preliminary investigation revealed that the perpetrators had fixed for the girl to be sold at Rs 3 lakhs.”
According to the information received from the police, the accused are allegedly casting directors namely Ashish Patel, Mohammad Sheikh and Vinod Aneria.
The girl was offered a role in a TV serial after which she had accepted, said police.
“Offenders are now booked under Sections 370, 366(A) and 34 of Indian Penal Code (IPC),” the statement added. (ANI)

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SC dismisses plea of BJP leader challenging Karnataka HC order disqualifying him from being appointed as minister

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New Delhi [India], January 28 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a plea of BJP Member of Legislative Council (MLC), AH Vishwanath challenging Karnataka High Court order on disqualifying him from being appointed as a minister.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde dismissed the plea of Vishwanath.
Former Karnataka minister and BJP MLC Vishwanath, whose chances of becoming a minister were dashed after the Karnataka High Court held that his disqualification as MLA subsists as he is a nominated MLC and not an elected one, approached the top court against the order.
The Karnataka High Court in November 2020 had held that prima facie Vishwanath has incurred disqualification under Article 164 (1) (b) and Article 361 (B) of the Constitution of India and remains disqualified till the expiry of the term of the Legislative Council that is till May 2021, and therefore, cannot be inducted into the Council of Ministers.
Vishwanath was among the 17 MLAs who switched parties to join the BJP and overthrow the Congress-JD (Secular) coalition government in Karnataka in 2019. All 17 MLAs were disqualified by the Speaker.
Vishwanath had lost in the by-elections in his Assembly constituency after his disqualification.
After he lost the by-polls, BJP nominated him to the legislative council in order to induct him as a minister in the government. (ANI)

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Locals raise slogans to vacate Singhu border amid farmers’ agitation

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New Delhi [India], January 28 (ANI): A group of people claiming to be locals of the Singhu border gathered here on Thursday and raised slogans, demanding the area to be vacated.
People were raising slogans including ‘Will not tolerate tricolour’s insult’ and ‘Vacate the Singhu border’.
Farmers have been camping at the border site for almost two months as part of their protest against Centre’s contentious farm laws.
Meanwhile, security has been heightened at the Singhu border (Delhi-Haryana border) after the violence broke out during a tractor rally in various parts of the national capital on Republic Day.
Protesting farmers did not follow the marked route for their tractor march on Republic Day and forcibly entered central Delhi by removing police barricades. They clashed with the police and also entered the Red Fort and unfurled their flags from its ramparts.
Several public and private properties were damaged in acts of vandalism by the protestors, while one farmer died after his tractor overturned at ITO.
At least 19 people have so far been arrested and over 25 criminal cases registered by Delhi Police in connection with the violence.
394 police personnel sustained injuries in the violence and several of them are still admitted to hospitals. Some of them are admitted to ICU wards, informed Police Commissioner (CP) SN Shrivastava on Wednesday.
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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India’s economic recovery post COVID is strong; Union Budget will be game-changer: BJP

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New Delhi [India], January 28 (ANI): Asserting that the economic recovery of India post-COVID is strong and widespread across all segments, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday said that Union Budget 2021 will be a game-changer with a focus on areas that have not received full support.
This comes a day ahead of the Budget Session of the Parliament. The Union Budget will be presented on February 1.
Addressing a press conference here at the party headquarters, BJP spokesperson Gopal Krishna Agarwal said that the Modi government has been walking on the path of strong reforms.
“PM Modi does not believe in maintaining the status quo and he has decided to bring in transformative changes. Since 2014 he has started schemes like Jan Dhan Yojana and PM Kalyan Yojana for the benefit of the citizens of the country. Good economics is good politics – is the motto of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he said.
“Budget 2021 will be a game-changer and will focus on areas that have not received full support. We are going to identify such areas that need further support. We are working towards a resurgent India and Atmanirbhar Bharat,” he added.
Agarwal presented data provided by various financial agencies and said that several reports indicate that the economic recovery of India post-COVID is strong and widespread across all segments
“RBI in its report has written that ‘After a winter of discontent, we are moving towards a glorious summer.’ The IMF’s report that shows India’s growth rate at 11.5 per cent is also a strong indicator. The report also suggests that India will continue to hold its tag of the world’s fastest-growing major economy. The PMI data for 3 consecutive months has shown expansion in manufacturing. IIP figures on eight core sectors show healthy growth. Labour force participation, too, in the post-COVID era, has seen 85 per cent recovery in mobility,” he said.
“The GST collections have crossed Rs 1 lakh crore in the last 3 months. Credit growth has increased by over 7 per cent. Govt expenditure has crossed 248 per cent. The central government has continued spending hugely on infrastructure, social security, and welfare. Agriculture has shown a growth of 3.4 per cent,” he added. (ANI)

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No risk would be taken to turn Haridwar into Wuhan: Uttarakhand CM

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Dehradun (Uttarakhand) [India], January 28 (ANI): The Uttarakhand government will not take any risk during the COVID-19 pandemic that will turn Haridwar into Wuhan, said Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, ahead of the grand Kumbh Mela.
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of India has released a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) regarding the Kumbh Mela.
According to the SOPs, the authorities concerned have been asked to discourage children below the age of 10, people above the age of 65, pregnant women, and people suffering from chronic diseases from participating in the Mela. The state government will coordinate with other states in this regard.
The central government has asked devotees to maintain a social distance of at least six feet to combat COVID-19. It has also directed the authorities to impose heavy penalties on people not adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
The officials present at the parking facilities at the gathering site will provide face masks to visitors at prescribed government rates.

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