2 TMC legislators, 56 councillors in Bengal quit party to join BJP

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

2 TMC legislators, 56 councillors in Bengal quit party to join BJP

BJP leader Mukul Roy’s legislator son, Subhrangshu Roy, was among the three legislators who crossed over. TMC’s Tusharkanti Bhattacharya and CPM’s Debendra Nath Roy were two others.

INDIA Updated: May 29, 2019 00:17 IST

HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Kolkata
TMC,BJP,Bengal BJP
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at an election rally in Hooghly last month that 40 MLAs from the TMC would join the BJP after the elections. (RAJ K Raj/ HT Photo)

A mass defection of elected representatives from West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took place five days after the results of the Lok Sabha elections were declared, with two MLAs, 56 municipal councillors and three rural body representatives switching camps. A Left legislator, too, joined the BJP in the same event.

The BJP won 18 and the Trinamool 22 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP won two and the TMC, 34, in 2014.

BJP leader Mukul Roy’s legislator son, Subhrangshu Roy, was among the three legislators who crossed over. TMC’s Tusharkanti Bhattacharya and CPM’s Debendra Nath Roy were two others.

With most of the councillors switching their political affiliation, three municipalities — Kanchrapara, Halishahar, and Naihati — will be now be controlled by the BJP. Currently, TMC controls these urban bodies.

The party has also gained the support of the majority of the corporators at Bhatpara municipality, where a no-confidence motion will be brought in soon, BJP MP Arjun Singh said.

Until now, not a single civic body was under the control of the BJP.

“People are fleeing the TMC to join the BJP. Many more will join in the coming weeks,” Mukul Roy said at a press conference at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi. A BJP leader who asked not to be named claimed at least six more TMC MLAs would switch to the BJP next week.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at an election rally in Hooghly last month that 40 MLAs from the TMC would join the BJP after the elections.

“We want her [Mamata Banerjee] government to continue till 2021, but if it falls due to her doings, then we cannot help it,” BJP general secretary in charge of West Bengal Kailash Vijayvargiya said.

Of Tuesday’s defectors, while Subhranshu continued in TMC despite his father joining BJP in November 2017, Bhattacharya won in 2016 on a Congress ticket but joined the TMC last year.

“TMC leader Derek [O’Brien] said that not a single corporator would desert TMC for BJP. Today, there are more than 50. There are three MLAs. Just like we had a seven-phase elections, there will be a seven-phase joining from TMC in the coming months,” added Vijayvargiya.

Vijayvargiya said that he could not rule out the Mamata Banerjee government losing majority in the state assembly before the scheduled elections in 2021.

“We want to win Bengal through the 2021 assembly elections. Our best wishes are with Mamata Banerjee till then. But if her MLAs start deserting the party in such numbers, we should not be blamed [for early fall of the government].”

State food minister Jyoti Priya Mullick, who is also the party’s North 24-Parganas district unit chief, tried to put up a brave face. “We were once reduced to a party of one MP [in 2004], from where we rose to a 19-MP strong party [in 2009]. We are Mamata Banerjee’s army and under her leadership all damages will be reversed.”

Refuting allegations that the party was indulging in horse trading, BJP leader Roy, who was the convener of the party’s Bengal Lok Sabha election management committee, said, “If anybody indulged in horse trading, it is Mamata Banerjee. How else did the MLAs, who won on Congress tickets, become TMC’s?”

Elections in more than half of Bengal’s civic bodies are due in 2020.

A total of eight leaders from other parties joined the BJP in the run up to the LS polls in Bengal. They were Anupam Hazra and Saumitra Khan (MPs from TMC), TMC MLA Arjun Singh and TMC youth wing leaders Nishith Pramanik and Sankudeb Panda, CPI(M) MLA Khagen Murmu, Congress MLAs Dulal Bar and Sudip Mukherjee.

Of these, the party nominated Hazra, Khan, Singh, Pramanik and Murmu for the elections.

Saumitra Khan, Arjun Singh, Nishith Pramanik and Khagen Murmu won from Bishnupur, Barrackpore, Cooch Behar and Malda North LS constituencies respectively.

Three other leaders who had joined BJP from other parties in 2018 — Humanyun Kabir, Mafuza Khatun and Nilanjan Roy — were also given Lok Sabha tickets but they lost.

First Published: May 29, 2019 00:16 IST

India Elections: For Karnataka coalition, a year of living dangerously

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Lok Sabha elections 2019: For Karnataka coalition, a year of living dangerously

The alliance was forged in the confusion that surrounded the results of last year’s state elections.

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: May 23, 2019 07:51 IST

Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Karnataka legislature,Lok Sabha elections,Lok Sabha elections 2019
The BJP had come closest to a majority, winning 104 of the 224 seats to emerge as the largest single party in the assembly.(HT Photo)

Exactly a year ago to the day, leaders of opposition parties from across the country sat on a platform in front of the majestic Vidhana Soudha , the seat of the Karnataka legislature, in a show of solidarity to mark the swearing-in of a new coalition government in the state.

Chief minister HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD (S), and deputy chief minister G Parameshwara of the Congress took the oaths of office and secrecy that day following days of intrigue over government formation.

The alliance was forged in the confusion that surrounded the results of last year’s state elections. The BJP had come closest to a majority, winning 104 of the 224 seats to emerge as the largest single party in the assembly. The Congress had been reduced from a majority to 80 seats, after providing the first government in over two decades to complete a full term in Karnataka. With the support of the 37 MLAs of the JD(S), and the lone Bahujan Samaj Party legislator, the coalition cobbled together a majority of 118.

And although it began with promise, the coalition has spent a tenuous year in power, fretful about legislators switching allegiance to the BJP and bickering among themselves.

Matters reached a head in January when the coalition appeared to be teetering on the brink after four Congress legislators went missing. The four rebels had been expected to defect to the BJP; only one, Umesh Jadhav, eventually did so. Another MLA, Ramesh Jarkiholi, has stated publicly that he would quit the party at a suitable time.

For complete coverage of Lok Sabha Elections 2019 Click here: https://www.hindustantimes.com/lok-sabha-elections/

These issues have continued unabated, as was seen again on Wednesday. JD(S) state president AH Vishwanath, a long-time foe of former Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah, once again rebuked him for failing in his duty as the chief of the coalition’s coordination committee.

“Siddaramaiah, as chief of the coordination committee, should ensure we work together and also draw up a common minimum programme. However, there are no such guidelines for this government,” Vishwanath said.

One key factor in these internecine quarrels has been the overhanging shadow of the Siddaramaiah government. And Siddaramaiah’s influence over the government has been such that even Congress leaders have lashed out at him. On Monday, Congress MLA Roshan Baig accused Siddaramaiah of being arrogant.

The Lok Sabha seat division and subsequent election campaign, too, turned into a flash point as first the parties took a long time on settling on a seat-sharing formula. The Mandya Lok Sabha seat became the focal point for dissenting leaders from both sides. Independent candidate Sumalatha, wife of the late film star and former union minister MH Ambareesh, received the tacit backing of Congress leaders from the constituency. As a result, what had once seemed to be a cakewalk for Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil turned into one of the most bitterly fought contests. These infractions from the Congress were serious enough for party president Rahul Gandhi to instruct state leaders at a meeting in New Delhi on Sunday to make sure the coalition did not collapse. Privately, several leaders of the coalition admitted to HT that the arrangement was fraying fast, with both parties daring the other to pull the plug.

“The alliance was not formed to provide good governance, it was formed to show the country that we can work in a coalition. If we cannot hold on to a coalition with one party, how will we convince others nationally that they can forge a large front with us,” a senior Congress minister in the state government said.

According to the minister, it was apparent to the party that its vote base in the southern old Mysuru region was being affected by the alliance. “Politically there has been little benefit for us from this at the state level. In fact, our association with this government is hurting our image,” the minister said.

These fundamental differences have made the BJP sense that a collapse of the government may be around the corner. On Wednesday, Union minister DV Sadananda Gowda predicted that the government would fall by the evening of Thursday, when the results of the Lok Sabha elections will be declared .

First Published: May 23, 2019 06:54 IST

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Indian PM Narendra Modi and his party just swept India’s elections

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S ‘VOX’ NEWS)

 

Indian PM Narendra Modi and his party just swept India’s elections

It was a stunning victory for Hindu nationalism.

A supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wearing a mask of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dances as he celebrates on the vote results day for India’s general election in Bangalore on May 23, 2019.
 Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Image

The world’s largest democratic elections have concluded — and India’s pro-Hindu nationalist prime minister and his party are on pace to win by a landslide.

The early results from India’s weeks-long general election show a clear victory for incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which has so far won 300 of a total of 543 seats in parliament. The BJP seems to have trounced its main rival, the Congress Party, led by Rahul Gandhi, the scion of a famous political dynasty.

Modi and the BJP swept into power in the 2014 elections with a majority win, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in 30 years, promising to clean up the pervasive corruption plaguing the country and improve the economy.

But once he came into office, Modi began pushing a strident form of Hindu nationalism that inflamed tensions with many of the country’s minorities, including India’s sizable Muslim population.

Media reports have noted a dramatic rise in hate crimes during the five years Modi has been in power. Vigilante groups have sprung up around the country to protect cows, which are sacred to Hindus. A report by Human Rights Watch found that at least 44 people were killedbetween May 2015 and December 2018, most of them Muslims accused of storing beef or transporting cows for slaughter. Oftentimes, the guilty were not punished, and hate crimes were encouraged by speeches from senior BJP leaders. In May 2017, the Modi government banned the sale and purchase of cows for slaughter.

Meanwhile, Modi’s grand economic promises have not been met — unemployment in the country is now the highest it’s been in 45 years, and there are growing concerns of an economic slowdown.

So when the 2019 election rolled around, Modi decided to lean into his nationalist platform, which served to divert attention from the country’s more pressing problems. And now that the results are in, it’s clear his gamble paid off.

Modi’s economic record was his biggest liability in this election — but he clearly managed to overcome it

When Modi won in the 2014 election, his party defeated the Congress Party-led government by winning 282 seats. The Congress Party, routed at the polls, managed to win only 44 seats.

Modi’s sweep in the 2014 elections was based on a platform of development. His slogan was “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas,” or “inclusive growth through collective effort.” He promised to wipe out corruption, improve infrastructure, and boost the economy. For a citizenry and businesses tired of rampant corruption, Modi’s slogan offered a hopeful change.

But those promises have not materialized. Unemployment reportedly grew to 7.2 percent in February. And a leaked government report on unemployment revealed that the numbers were the highest in 45 years.

Some of Modi’s economic policies have also gone horribly wrong. In 2016, he introduced demonetization — in a surprise move, he pulled all 500- and 1,000-rupee currency notes out of circulation. He claimed it would get rid of corruption, as it would flush out unaccounted cash that had not been taxed.

He also claimed that the move would check the circulation of fake currency that was being used to fund terrorist activities in IndiaBut experts say it’s had no effect on this type of money. Instead, small businesses were severely hit.

There are other problems, too: Farmers in India have been distressed for years as costs have gone up several times while their incomes have stagnated or even declined. In fact, suicides by farmers because of their debt are depressingly common. Farmers played a big role in helping Modi sweep to power in 2014, as he’d promised to double their incomes.

But that hasn’t happened, either. The BJP government announced it would provide cash support of 6,000 rupees (about $86.22) for individual farmers in its February budget, one of a raft of policies aimed at securing the farmer vote before the election. Yet there was no guarantee that last-minute gambit would work, as farmers want more lasting solutions, including better prices for their crops — something Modi also promised in the last election.

Modi played to voters’ nationalist sentiments to distract from the country’s problems

When he released this year’s election manifesto, Modi announced a new slogan: “Nationalism is our inspiration.” It was a stark contrast to his previous economy-focused slogan and a clear signal of the kind of campaign he planned to run.

And sure enough, as political scientist Ashutosh Varshney, whose research focuses on India, explained in an email, Modi and his party campaigned on a “plank of nationalism and national security” rather than on their governance record.

In his campaign speeches, Modi used divisive language. At a public rally, he accused Congress of committing the “sin of defaming our more than 5,000-years-old [Hindu] culture.” And in keeping with the Hindu nationalist ideology of India’s glorious past, he promised a “new India,” and a return to its “glorious past.”

A recent conflict with neighboring Pakistan may have also helped him in this regard. In February, a group of militants launched an attack in the Indian-controlled region of Kashmir, killing dozens of soldiers. As anger mounted in India in the wake of the attack, Modi promised forceful retaliation.

His government later claimed to have struck a major terrorist training camp located in the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir and killed “a very large number” of militants in response. Modi’s approval rating surged to 63 percent on March 7 after this action, up from a dismal 32 percent on January 1.

“National security was one of the loudest themes of the campaign,” Varshney said. The message that Modi had “hit back [against Pakistan] strongly, was decisive, and had taught the enemy a lesson worked well.”

It also helped that Modi’s main opponent, Rahul Gandhi, failed to convince voters to support him over Modi.

Gandhi comes from a famous political dynasty: His grandmother, Indira Gandhi, was India’s first female prime minister, and his grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first prime minister following the end of British rule. His father, Rajeev Gandhi, was also prime minister of India. Both his grandmother and his father were killed violently while still in office.

In this election, Rahul Gandhi promised a “final assault on poverty.” He said that if elected, his government would provide a minimum income for the poor and waive farmers’ debts. He also promised to increase the education budget, and, in an attempt to woo women voters, said he would reserve 33 percent of government jobs for women.

However, the Congress Party has come to be perceived as one that favors the Gandhi family — Rahul is the fourth generation to lead the party — over the country.

And Modi has used this to his advantage, taking repeated swipes at “dynasty politics” and speaking about the costs India suffered as a result of one family’s “desire of power.” He specifically pointed to the 21 months of emergency in 1975, during which then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s opponents were imprisoned, the press was censored, and civil liberties were curbed.

For many Hindus, the Congress Party was also seen as a party that “appeased” minorities for political gains, an issue that resonated strongly with Modi supporters. In what was seen as a clear attempt to counteract this perception, Gandhi and his sister Priyanka, who campaigned alongside him, were often seen frequenting Hindu temples.

But it seems that wasn’t enough to overcome the seductive power of Modi’s nationalism.

The new government will now have to address the growing economic crisis.

Modi’s party may be victorious, but that doesn’t mean its troubles are now over.

Recent media reports have pointed to worrying signs of an economic slowdown. The BBC reports that economic growth has shown a decline, and sales of cars and SUVs are at a seven-year low. Kaushik Basu, former chief economist of the World Bank, told the BBC that the slowdown is “much more serious” than he initially believed.

Another big challenge facing the new government is providing jobs to an increasing number of young Indians. Some 84 million young voters became eligible to vote this year. Additional employment opportunities are urgently needed, but the unemployment data is not promising.

A recently leaked report based on official government survey data revealed that unemployment hit a 45-year high of 6.1 percent in 2017. A 2018 International Labour Organization (ILO) report also showed that the number of unemployed people in India is projected at 18.9 million by 2019.

Even more concerning, though, is whether Modi will continue to try to distract from the country’s economic troubles with even more overt appeals to Hindu nationalism.

Experts such as Varshney told me that if Modi comes back with a strong mandate from voters, a Hindu nation is almost certain, in practice if not constitutionally. This means that India’s rich and diverse culture — as well as its very identity — may be under threat.

Kalpana Jain worked for many years at India’s leading national daily, the Times of India, and was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 2009.

For more on India’s 2019 elections, listen to this episode of Today Explained, Vox’s daily news podcast.

‘Sea change in Pakistan’s attitude towards India after Balakot air strike’, says PM Modi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

‘Sea change in Pakistan’s attitude towards India after Balakot air strike’, says PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Pakistan’s attitude towards India and that during the Congress government has undergone a sea change and terrorists and their sponsors in Pakistan are living in fear.

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: Apr 11, 2019 21:27 IST

Avijit Biswas
Avijit Biswas
Hindustan Times, Bhagalpur
Lok Sabha Elections 2019,Election Rally,Election news
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the audience during an election rally, in Bhagalpur on Thursday.(Santosh Kumar /HT Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said that in order to talk of peace it is essential to be strong as he came down heavily on the opposition, particularly Congress, over national security.

At an election rally in Bhagalpur, Modi said that the country has emerged stronger after retaliatory action against Pakistan following the Pulwama terror strike. He said the air strike was carried out to address “the restlessness of 130 crore people of country for a firm and definite action against Pakistan”.

“Pakistan’s attitude towards India today and that during the Congress government has undergone a sea change,” the PM said. “Terrorists as well as well as their sponsors in Pakistan are living in fear.”

He attacked the opposition alliance for “speaking the language that supports terrorism”. He stressed that the opposition alliance should clarify whether they are with terrorists or with armed forces.

Modi who was campaigning for JD (U) nominees contesting as NDA candidates from Munger, Banka and Bhagalpur parliamentary seats, said the NDA has a clear policy of giving free hand to armed forces in the fight against terrorism and extremism. While he did not mention the Congress manifesto, he asked the people whether they approve curtailing power of the armed forces. The Congress manifesto promises to review the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act which gives the forces in disturbed areas sweeping powers of search and arrest and provides immunity from prosecution in civil courts.

He said as chowkidar of the people he has done what was expected from his government for social security and national security. He referred to works undertaken in social security front under various centrally sponsored schemes including Ayushman Bharat.

He said opposition leaders were fighting for their existence and were trying their best to create fear among people that there would be no election in the country in future and that the reservation policy would be abolished if he is voted back to power.

“On the contrary I favour further strengthening of reservation policy,” Modi said and cited the 10% reservation which his government had announced for poor people of upper caste.

He referred to the government’s minimum support price agriculture produce of farmers against their crop expenditure and said the Congress had no interest in improving the lives of farmers.

“Once we are voted to power again all farmers would be covered under financial assistance scheme instead of present coverage to farmers having land holdings up to five acres,” Modi said.

He also spoke about future plans aimed at extending support to small and marginal farmers besides small businessmen. He mentioned the development work undertaken in Bihar praised Nitish Kumar’s government for its performance.

In the silk town, the PM also spoke about the problems faced by local silk industry and apprised them on what his government has been doing to boost their business globally. “The mega handloom cluster was established here as a step towards solution of your problems,” Modi said.

First Published: Apr 11, 2019 20:56 IST

India’s Defense Minister to chart course for India-US tri-service military exercise

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Nirmala Sitharaman to chart course for India-US tri-service military exercise

During her visit, Sitharaman will also be charting out the course for the first ever India-US tri-service military exercise in Bay of Bengal in May-June, 2019.

INDIA Updated: Dec 03, 2018 07:23 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Nirmala Sitharaman,US Indo-Pacific Command,Hawaii
Nirmala Sitharaman will be visiting the US Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii to review military-to-military relations and chart out the course for the first ever India-US tri-service military exercise in Bay of Bengal in May-June, 2019. (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

Days after the apex Japan-India-America (JAI) trilateral meeting on Indo-Pacific on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman will be visiting the US Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii to review military-to-military relations and chart the course for the first ever India-US tri-service military exercise off in Bay of Bengal in May-June, 2019. Defence minister Sitharaman left for Washington on Saturday night.

According to Indian and US diplomats familiar with the agenda of her visit, Sitharaman will be meeting her US counterpart James Mattis on December 3 to follow-up on the trilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Donald Trump and Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe and prepare grounds for sharing of information in the Indo-Pacific theatre through the secure COMCASA network. India recently signed a deal allowing it to become part of this network. With Japan, the US, Australia, and India all flying the P-8I anti-submarine surveillance aircraft, the Indo-Pacific theatre has become transparent for the QUAD grouping (of which these four countries are part) also as military information can now be exchanged through the secure network. This new network will be put to test during the tri-service amphibious exercise off the Indian seaboard next summer with all elements of Indo-Pacific command participating with their respective Indian military elements.

Senior government officials told Hindustan Times that Sitharaman will be interacting with key defence officials, thinkers and strategists on the west coast where she will be meeting a select group at Stanford university with former US National Security Advisor H R McMaster being the host. US Defence Secretary Mattis is also part of this network. She will also be visiting the highly rated Defence Innovation Unit (DIUx) in California in a bid to link Indian defence startups with this unit which aims to explore synergies between innovative US private sector firms and the Pentagon on latest technologies.

This will be largely funded by venture capital with Indian government providing the seed money. The main idea behind visiting DIUx is to understand the potential of constant technological upgrades achieved through research by private sector.

Sitharaman will be hosted by Admiral Phillip S Davidson, the top commander of all US armed forces in Indo-Pacific at Hawaii on December 6. The Minister’s visit to Hawaii is to recognize the American

effort to redefine and expand the strategic region in consultation with India. Simply put, the new definition gives India bigger play in the military affairs of the region with Japan and Australia being the other ends of the strategic grouping. The minister will also review the military to military exercises planned in future and discuss the strategic environment in the region with China in the focus.

During her meeting with Secretary Mattis at Pentagon, Sitharaman will also be exploring the acquisition of high-end military technologies for India such as the Predator-B hunter killer drone and reviewing the joint working groups on aircraft carriers and aircraft engines.

First Published: Dec 03, 2018 07:20 IST

Congress which questioned existence of Lord Ram now talking about Hinduism?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Congress which once questioned existence of Lord Ram now talking about Hinduism, says Smriti Irani

Referring to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on prime minister Narendra Modi that he did not understand the foundation of Hinduism, Smriti Irani said that it was strange that the party which had once raised question on Lord Ram’s existence was talking about Hindu and Hinduism.

INDIA Updated: Dec 02, 2018 22:20 IST

Union minister Smriti Irani hit out at the Congress saying the party which had once questioned the existence of Lord Ram was now talking about Hinduism.(PTI)

Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani on Sunday hit out at the Congress saying the party which had once questioned the existence of Lord Ram was now talking about Hinduism.

Referring to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on prime minister Narendra Modi that he did not understand the foundation of Hinduism, Irani said that it was strange that the party which had once raised question on Lord Ram’s existence was talking about Hindu and Hinduism.

“Where was the Hindu in Rahul Gandhi when Congress had submitted an affidavit that Lord Ram does not exist?..,” she asked.

In September 2007, the then UPA government withdrew from the Supreme Court its two affidavits, including a controversial one filed by the ASI claiming there was no historical or scientific evidence to establish existence of Lord Ram and Rama Setu as a man-made bridge. The then government had backtracked after the ASI affidavit triggered a massive controversy.

Read: Owaisi will have to flee like the Nizam if BJP wins, says Adityanath

When questioned on Punjab minister Navjot Sidhu’s visit to Pakistan and his remarks on chief minister Captain Amrinder Singh, Smriti Irani said that Congress president needed to answer on it.

“Why does a Congress minister insult chief minister of his state? Rahul Gandhi should answer it. Why does a Congress leader love Pakistan more than India, Congress should think about it,” she said.

She also questioned the “silence” of Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Navjot Sidhu’s Pakistan visit.

“Pakistan foreign minister said Pakistan could throw a ‘googly’ at India due to action of this (Sidhu) Congress leader. But, Rahul Gandhi is quiet on the issue..,” she said.

Also Read: Congress leaders offer prayers in temples when polls near, but for BJP they are cultural issues, says Rajnath Singh

Earlier in the day, home minister Rajnath Singh in reply to a question in Jaipur said Congress was talking about Hinduism which it has avoided discussing till now.

“Hinduism should not be connected with any sect, caste and religion. It is a way of living life and it is a human religion. What will they talk about Hindu and Hinduism? They have called Lord Ram a fictional character in the affidavit submitted in Supreme Court in Ram Setu case in 2007,” he said.

First Published: Dec 02, 2018 22:13 IST

Rahul Gandhi defending those who abused my parents: PM Narendra Modi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS AGENCY)

 

Rahul Gandhi defending those who abused my parents: PM Narendra Modi

Speaking at a public meeting in Vidisha, Modi said, “Two days ago they dragged my mother’s name during a rally and today I read in social media that they had dragged my father’s name who died 30 years ago and had nothing to do with politics, and ‘Namdaar’ (Gandhi) is defending them.

ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS Updated: Nov 25, 2018 23:55 IST

Punya Priya Mitra and Rakesh Goswami
Punya Priya Mitra and Rakesh Goswami
Hindustan Times, Vidisha/Alwar
Narendra Modi,Rahul Gandhi,Narendra Modi parents
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public meeting for Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections campaign, in Jabalpur on November 25.(PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a sharp attack on Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused him of defending those who were abusing his parents, and argued that Congress was doing so because they had run out of issues and did not want to take on the BJP on a debate over development.

Speaking at a public meeting in Vidisha, Modi said, “Two days ago they dragged my mother’s name during a rally and today I read in social media that they had dragged my father’s name who died 30 years ago and had nothing to do with politics, and ‘Namdaar’ (Gandhi) is defending them.”

Modi was referring to Congress leader Vilasrao Muttemwar’s comment during an election meeting in Rajasthan that while the world knows who Rahul Gandhi’s parents were, no one knew who Modi’s father was.

In Alwar, the PM described the Congress as the party’s ‘jatiwadi mansikta’ (caste mentality) while referring to Congress leader CP Joshi reportedly questioning the PM’s caste at an election rally in Nathdwara on Friday.

“Someone abuses my mother, someone questions my caste,” he said, while quoting both Kabir and seer Ravidas to drive home the point that humans were one despite their caste.

The PM also said that the Congress gives more importance to its leaders than Mother India, in reference to a video of Congress leader BD Kalla where he is seen stopping a man shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and telling him to say ‘Sonia Gandhi ki jai’.

In both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Modi reiterated that the Congress was resorting to “jatiwaad ka zeher (the poison of caste)” and claimed the moral of the rival party was down whereas that of BJP was up.

He also said four members of one family got Bharat Ratna but Ambedkar did not get the country’s highest civilian award and the Congress ensured his defeat in elections.

Reacting to Modi’s speech, Congress’ Odisha in-charge Jitendra Singh alleged that the Prime Minister was spreading lies in the name development in Rajasthan and elsewhere. “In Modi’s speech there were many words such as ego, development, casteism, dalit, religion, dynastic, small mentality, martyrdom of jawans, one rank-one pension, welfare of farmers, development by the Vasundhara Raje government and so on. They were just lies told to cheat people,” he said.

First Published: Nov 25, 2018 23:41 IST

India: More Than 50 Dead As Train Mows Down Crowd During Hindu Festival

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Amritsar: Scores dead as train mows down crowd

Media caption Crowds celebrate Hindu festival near Amritsar

More than 50 people have been killed and 200 hurt after a train ran into a crowd near Amritsar in India’s northern Punjab state, police told the BBC.

The victims were standing on the railway tracks watching celebrations for the Hindu festival of Dusshera, eyewitnesses told BBC Punjabi.

They did not hear the train approach as they watched a firecracker-filled effigy of the demon king Ravana burn.

Officials said the priority now was to take the injured to local hospitals.

Footage posted to social media showed the fast-travelling train hitting the crowd.

The incident happened at about 18:30 local time (13:00 GMT), said local journalist Ravinder Singh Robin.

Just moments before, crowds watching the firecrackers show were asked by organizers to move back – towards the railway tracks, reports say.

The train that hit the crowds was travelling from Jalandhar to Amritsar.

Crowds celebrating the Hindu festival near Amritsar, India. Photo: 19 October 2019Image copyright BBC/RAVINDER SINGH ROBIN
Image caption The incident happened as crowds were celebrating a Hindu festival

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh described the incident as “absolutely tragic”, and wrote in a tweet that local authorities were being “mobilized”.

“We will do everything possible to assist the injured,” he said, adding: “[I] have directed the district administration to leave no stone unturned to ensure the best possible treatment for them.”

Mourning relatives near Amritsar, India. Photo: 19 October 2018Image copyright EPA
Image caption Relatives of the victims and witnesses were visibly distressed following the incident

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the incident as “heart-wrenching”.

There are fears that the death toll will rise further.

Train accidents are fairly common in India, where much of the railway equipment is out of date.

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Dusshera festival

An effigy of demon king Ravana is set on fire in Delhi, India. Photo: 19 October 2018Image copyright EPA
  • Celebrates the triumph of the Hindu god Rama over the 10-headed demon king Ravana
  • Marks the victory of good over evil
  • In large parts of India it is celebrated with Ramlila – a dramatic folk re-enactment of the 10-day battle
  • Staged annually – often over 10 or more successive nights
  • Festival culminates with devotees burning effigies of Ravana which are lit with firecrackers in open grounds
  • In 2005, UNESCO recognized the tradition of Ramlila as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”
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India set to sign S-400 missile deal during Vladimir Putin’s visit next week

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Amid US sanctions, India set to sign S-400 missile deal during Vladimir Putin’s visit next week

India will sign the S-400 missile system deal with Russia during the annual summit between PM Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin next week, hoping for a US sanction waiver, and to prevent Russia from directly selling weapon systems to Pakistan if India says no to the deal.

INDIA Updated: Sep 30, 2018 09:15 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India,Russia,Narendra Modi
Russian servicemen drive S-400 missile air defense systems during the Victory Day parade, at Red Square in Moscow.(Reuters/File Photo)

India will sign the S-400 missile system deal with Russia during the annual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin next week, hoping that it has done enough business with the US to secure a waiver from sanctions, and to prevent Russia from directly selling weapon systems to Pakistan if India says no to the deal.

Hindustan Times had first reported in April that the deal would be signed during the October summit and, in May, that New Delhi would go ahead with the purchase despite US sanctions against countries buying arms from Russia.

South Block officials said that the deal is also in line with India’s efforts to maintain strategic autonomy and not be dependent on any one nation for its military hardware imports.

The South Block officials told Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity that while the purchase of five units of the S-400 missile system was cleared this week by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the deal to build four stealth frigates in collaboration with Russia is stuck on technical aspects.

Even though India has apprised US of its intentions to purchase the S-400 system and has requested a presidential waiver of CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), the Modi government has had to tread a fine balance between a new partner and an old ally which could cut off hardware spares in case the missile system acquisition is either delayed or shelved.

More than 60% of Indian military equipment, including fighters, tanks and missiles, come from Russia and without the spares, the armed forces’ fighting capability will be significantly emasculated. For instance, the Indian Air Force Sukhois and Indian Army T series of tanks and Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier Vikramaditya are all from Russia.

The other reason why the Modi government is keen to push the deal through is because it is worried, the officials added, that an upset Russia may directly sell arms to Pakistan just as it is doing so to China, skewing the military balance in the region.

Diplomatically too, deferring or shelving the S-400 deal will sour the close relationship shared by Prime Minister Modi and President Putin. PM Modi has personally invested a lot in building close ties with Putin, the officials said, although this has not come at the cost of India’s relationship with the US.

According to the officials, while Russian hardware may not be top of the line as compared to the US platforms in terms of technology, it is much cheaper initially and comes without additional conditionals on the buyer. While the tussle between the US on one side and Russia/China on the other have made a fit case for Indian state-owned defense manufacturers to step up to manufacture indigenous weapons at a rapid rate, the fact is that most have been found wanting.

For instance, the officials pointed out, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) cannot keep up with the requirements of the Indian Air Force for light combat aircraft (LCA). Nevertheless, the government is clear that the only way out of this imbroglio is to manufacture indigenous systems and platforms rather than be dependent on anyone, the officials admitted.

Meanwhile, the Modi government has deepened its military ties with the Pentagon by placing over $5 billion worth of orders with US defense contractors for strike platforms. India has placed orders for one more C-17 heavy lift transport aircraft (it already has 10), four additional P8I Neptune anti-submarine warfare aircraft, six additional Apache attack helicopters for the army, 24 Sikorsky helicopters for the navy, and M-777 lightweight howitzers. US F-18 and F-35 fighters are also in contention for the additional fighter order the Indian Air Force is evaluating.

First Published: Sep 30, 2018 06:59 IST

India, China to explore ways to avoid Doklam-like standoffs

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

India, China to explore ways to avoid Doklam-like standoffs

The Chinese defence minister met Modi during which the PM said both the countries are handling their differences with “sensitivity and maturity” by not allowing them to become disputes.

INDIA Updated: Aug 21, 2018 23:37 IST

India-China ties,Doklam,Nirmala Sitharaman
Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with defence minister of China, General Wei Fenghe during a meeting in New Delhi on August 21.(PTI Photo)

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe will hold extensive talks on Thursday, focus of which will be to remove distrust and boost coordination between the armies of the two neighbours guarding their disputed border, official sources said.

Wei arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday on a four-day visit, nearly three-and-half months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed that strategic communication between the two armies should be enhanced to avoid Doklam-like standoffs.

The Chinese defence minister met Modi during which the PM said both the countries are handling their differences with “sensitivity and maturity” by not allowing them to become disputes.

Sources said the primary objective of Wei’s visit is to deliberate with Indian defence establishment on implementation of decisions taken by Modi and Xi during the informal summit in Wuhan in April.

In the delegation level talks, the Indian side is likely to raise the issue of presence of sizeable number of Chinese troops in North Doklam.

Doklam, in the Sikkim sector, is a strategically important area which is claimed by Bhutan. India has been acting as security guarantor to the tiny country in the sensitive region.

The two sides are likely to deliberate on a mechanism under which troops from both sides will inform each other before carrying out any patrolling on the disputed areas along the nearly 4,000-km border.

The sources said both sides will also attempt to resolve differences in setting up of a hotline between the armies of the two countries.

After the Wuhan summit, both sides revived the long-pending proposal to set up the hotline so as to avoid flare-ups along the disputed border. But, the initiative hit roadblocks over differences on issues relating to protocol and technical aspect of the hotline.

The Indian Army has been maintaining that the hotline should be between its Director General of Military Operations (DGMOs) and his equivalent official in Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). However, Beijing proposed that the deputy commander of its Chengdu-based Western Theatre Command would engage with the Indian DGMO.

The Indian Army is opposed to the Chinese proposal, insisting that an officer equivalent to Indian DGMO at PLA’s headquarters should be deputed for the communication through the hotline.

Currently, India and Pakistan have a hotline between their DGMOs.The hotline between India and China was first mooted by the two countries in 2013.

First Published: Aug 21, 2018 22:23 IST