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    Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts

    AIADMK Chief Jayalalithaa Nominates 4 Members For Rajya Sabha Elections

    Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa today nominated four party leaders, including a former minister, for the June 11 Rajya Sabha elections.

    Ms Jayalalithaa announced the candidature of R Vaithilingam, housing minister in the previous AIADMK Cabinet, former Rajya Sabha member A Navaneethakrishnan, advocate A Vijayakumar and SR Balasubramanian for the biennial elections.

    Mr Vaithilingam had lost the May 16 Assembly elections from Orathanadu while Mr Balasubramanian had joined the party recently after walking out of GK Vasan-led Tamil Maanila Congress protesting against its decision to align with the DMDK-PWF combine for the polls.
    The tenure of six Rajya Sabha members from Tamil Nadu will end on June 29.

    AIADMK's Navaneethakrishnan, AW Rabi Bernard and PH Paul Manoj Pandian and DMK's KP Ramalingam and S Thangavelu and former Union minister and Congress leader Sudarsana Natchiappan are those who will be retiring next month.

    Out of the six members, Navaneethakrishnan was elected in 2014 and others in 2010. He filled the vacancy caused by the disqualification of DMK's TM Selvaganapathi.

    India's ruling BJP wins power in northeast, expands influence

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party declared victory on Thursday in the northeastern state of Assam, an election boost that will help his right-wing nationalist government rebuild some momentum after poll losses last year.

    Grabbing power in Assam, one of five states electing new assemblies, would be a first for the Bharatiya Janata Party in India's volatile northeast, a sign its political influence is expanding beyond its traditional northern and western belt.

    The BJP led in the races for 81 of the 126 seats in Assam where clear trends had been set, unofficial tallies compiled by television broadcasters showed.

    The opposition Congress Party, which has ruled the state assembly since 2001, trailed with 26 seats.

    Modi called the Assam victory an "exceptional win" on Twitter and congratulated his party leaders.

    Elsewhere, tallies by television channels showed popular regional parties heading for victory in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the eastern state of West Bengal, where the BJP has a small presence and was not expected to win.

    Modi called the chief ministers of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu to congratulate them, he said on Twitter.

    "The BJP had nothing to lose in these elections, only something to gain," said Manoj Joshi, a political analyst at the Observer Research Foundation. "And they have gained. It shows the momentum is still with them."

    Counting of votes from the five states began at 0230 GMT and complete results are expected later on Thursday.


    The BJP waged a polarising campaign in Assam, an underdeveloped state rife with ethnic and religious tension, and vowed to disenfranchise millions of Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants, to curry favour among discontented Hindus.

    Modi took a less prominent role in elections this year after a bad loss in a November poll in the eastern state of Bihar that turned into a referendum on his personal leadership. His party also lost in the capital New Delhi early last year.

    "The people of Assam have accepted our winning combination. This is going to be a great victory," BJP chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal told Indian television, as supporters gathered in the state capital, Guwahati.

    Victory in Assam, while symbolic, will have little impact on Modi's ability to control the upper house of parliament, where his party lacks a majority and the opposition has stymied key economic reforms.

    But the prospect of Congress weakened further by the state vote will raise his party's hopes for its bitter foe to be less resistant to the legislation.

    Unofficial counts showed a Congress-led coalition was headed for defeat at the hands of leftist parties in Kerala.

    (Additional reporting by Biswajyoti Das in GUWAHATI and Sujoy Dhar in KOLKATA; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Clarence Fernandez)

    Election results LIVE: Counting of votes begin at 8 am

    Counting of votes in the high-stakes Assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry begins this morning at 8 am and the first trends are expected to be available after an hour — at about 9 am. By 12 noon, a clear picture could well emerge of who the winners are.

    According to various exit polls shown on TV channels on May 16, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala appeared to have voted for change giving BJP its first government in the northeastern state dislodging Congress which may also lose Kerala. DMK has been tipped to regain power trouncing AIADMK in Tamil Nadu.

    Follow our live blog on the election results below to get the latest updates and analysis of what is 2016’s biggest election date.

    7.20 am: In Tamil Nadu, supporters have already started arriving outside CM Jaya’s house at Poes Garden. Will she be able to retain the southern state? Follow our Tamil Nadu live here.

    7.00 am: An hour to go before counting of votes begin. We’re tracking developments as they happen.

    How Jaya and Karunanidhi campaigned in the Assembly polls in TN (Click here to read)

    Only West Bengal seems to have bucked the trend in exit polls by re-electing Trinamool Congress led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who managed to hold on to power by defeating the Left-Congress alliance convincingly for a second consecutive term.

    The Congress could take solace from its projected victory in the tiny Union Territory of Puducherry where it is likely to get power in alliance with the DMK.

    In West Bengal assembly polls it’s do or die for all parties (Click here to read)

    The counting of votes will decide the fate of approximately 8,300 candidates including chief minister Tarun Gogoi in Assam and CM contender BJP’s Sarbananda Sonowal and Himanta Biswas, chief minister Jayalalithaa and Karunandhi in Tamil Nadu, chief minister Oommen Chandy, CPI(M) leaders V S Achutanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala, chief minister Mamata Banerjee and CPI(M) Suryakanta Mishra in West Bengal and chief Minister M Rangaswamy in Puducherry.

    In Kerala, it’s high-stake battle for scandal-hit Oommen Chandy (Click here to read)

    According to Election Commission guidelines, half-an-hour after the postal ballots are counted, the process of counting votes from the EVMs begins.

    The ‘ballot unit’ is switched on in the presence of senior poll officials and counting agents of candidates and the result command keyed in to get results per machine.

    Where a paper trail audit or ‘voter-verified paper audit trail’ (VVPAT) has been used, the counting agent can call for a count of the paper slips in the drop box attached to the voting machine, but a final count is taken by the returning officer.

    N Rangasamy, longest-serving Puducherry CM, battles strong anti-incumbency (Click here to read)

    Once the results are declared, the names of the winning candidates will find mention in the gazette. The gazette notification will initiate the process to form the next legislative assemblies in the states.

    PDP leader says sense of insecurity prevailing, urges PM Modi to declare that intolerance will not be tolerated

    n the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Jammu and Kashmir, senior PDP leader Muzzafar Hussain Baig on Friday urged him to send a clear message that "intolerance and communalism" will not be tolerated any more as the situation in the country was "worse than ever before".

    Baig, a Lok Sabha MP, also told the Prime Minister not to lose out on the opportunity to send a clear message to the violators during his visit to J and K tomorrow. "I beseech you both to rise to the occasion and assure the people of the state and minorities of the country in general that communalism, intolerance and bigotry shall not be tolerated - never any more," Baig said in an open letter addressed to the Prime Minister and state Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed "Modi Sahib, if you cannot do it, then who can? Who shall?", he asked.
    Baig said the sense of insecurity that prevails today in the only Muslim majority state of J and K has never been witnessed before. "Today, the general perception of the people of the state is that the only thing this alliance has so far achieved is further alienation, mistrust and cynicism," Baig said. He said the PDP was being accused of being "agents" who had some "hidden and dangerous agenda".

    "The unfortunate environment of intolerance, leading to even ruthless killing of some members of minority community in Uttar Pradesh and some innocent Kashmiris in Jammu, has made Muslims, living in all regions of the state, extremely insecure," he said. The comments came on eve of visit of the Prime Minister to the state where he will be holding a public rally in the Valley and inaugurating the second phase of Baghlihar power project in Jammu.

    Congress demands Smriti Irani’s resignation

     Congress on Wednesday demanded that Smriti Irani resign as HRD minister after a trial court took cognizance of a complaint about her educational qualifications, the party taking pleasure in the fact that PM Narendra Modi's weapon to take on Rahul Gandhi was on the back foot.

    AICC spokesman Ajay Maken said Irani could not be the minister in-charge of education when an inquiry seeking details from Delhi University about her degrees was on. "Is it not a conflict of interest? She should resign or the PM should remove her," he said.

    Maken reminded that Congress had raised the issue immediately after the PM constituted his Cabinet as Irani's election affidavits had serious discrepancies with different claims about her degrees.

    NSUI, the Congress's students' outfit, held a demonstration in front of Shastri Bhavan which houses the HRD ministry to seek Irani's resignation. Shouting slogans, NSUI members burnt her effigy. NSUI chief Roji John said, "It is an insult to the academic and student community that a person who is not clear about her own educational qualifications is the country's HRD minister. She must resign."
    Congress is set to pile more pressure with the party's Delhi unit deciding to hold a protest at Jantar Mantar seeking Irani's resignation on Thursday.

    For the party aggressively pursuing 'Modigate', the court observation on Irani has brought special relish that goes beyond the satisfaction of punching holes in BJP's claim of "scam-free" governance.

    BJP had lately deployed Irani to take on Rahul after the latter's post-sabbatical aggression against Modi government, especially the PM, in Parliament.

    Irani's forays into Rahul's constituency Amethi reflected a strategy to tie down Rahul to his seat and cut down on his national campaign. The HRD minister contested unsuccessfully against Rahul in the 2014 polls. After Rahul accused the Centre of "politics of revenge" for cancelling the food park in Amethi, Irani held a rally in the UP town attacking the Congress leader. She then challenged that "the Gandhis would be seeing more of me in Amethi".

    Rahul's visit buoys state Cong ranks

    The first visit of All India Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to Telangana has come as a major confidence booster for the state Congress. The huge response has buoyed the party leaders and cadre, especially it was the first major event organized by the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee after the state bifurcation.

    The Congress has not conducted any major event after its debacle in the general election except some rallies against shifting of TB and Chest hospital in the city and power crisis.

    There had been a feeling among the Congress leaders that there was a lull in party activity for the past 11 months and that the cadre needed a fresh dose of enthusiasm. Rahul Gandhi's visit to Adilabad appeared to have done the trick.
    The party members had started making arrangements for Rahul's visit two weeks ago, erecting banners and flexies all along the national highway up to Nirmal and peppering the town with party tri-colour flags and cut-outs of Rahul. Same was the scene along the padayatra route.

    Congress workers and locals waited till well past Thursday midnight in front of the hotel in Nirmal town, where Rahul Gandhi was staying, to try and catch a glimpse of the leader. The police faced a tough time in clearing the gathering in view of the security requirements.

    "The party should conduct such big programmes to take up people's problems and issues at least once in three months. The workers were inactive in the past 11 months and these programmes would definitely boost their morale and confidence," Ramesh Nagul, a farmer from Nirmal said.

    Defamation case: Kejriwal appears before court after judge says he has no respect for law

    Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and AAP leader Yogendra Yadav on Tuesday appeared before a Delhi court in connection with a defamation case, after they faced a flak from the judge for not appearing.

    Earlier in the day, Kejriwal, Sisodia and Yadav were directed by a court here to appear before it later in the day in connection with a criminal defamation complaint, saying there was no ground for exemption from their appearance.

    Metropolitan Magistrate Mayuri Singh took strong view of absence of Kejriwal, Sisodia and Yogendra Yadav, and said they "have no respect for the law".

    The court fixed May 2, for pronouncing order on framing of charges against Kejriwal, Sisodia and Yadav in the case.

    The case was put up before magistrate Singh as Metropolitan Magistrate Muneesh Garg, before whom the matter was going on, was on leave today.

    During the hearing, the court had said the exemption application displayed no reason for the absence of the accused.

    "There is nothing to reflect why accused (Kejriwal, Sisodia and Yadav) have not appeared. Accused have no respect for law. Considering no one has appeared for accused, I am keeping the matter pending at 2 PM. Call at 2 PM," the magistrate said.
    The court noted that a clerk appeared on behalf of the accused and his advocates and moved the exemption plea.

    The complainant, advocate Surender Kumar Sharma, opposed the plea saying the lawyers are on strike and not the litigants and it would not be in the interest of justice if any adjournment is given in the case as the case had earlier been adjourned three times due to absence of the accused.

    Sharma had alleged that in 2013 he was approached by volunteers of AAP who had asked him to contest the Delhi Assembly elections on a party ticket, saying Kejriwal was pleased with his social services.

    He filled up the application form to contest the polls after being told by Sisodia and Yadav that AAP's Political Affairs Committee of the party had decided to give him the ticket. However, it was later denied to him.

    On October 14, 2013, the complainant claimed, articles in leading newspapers carried "defamatory, unlawful and derogatory words used by the accused persons" which have lowered his reputation in the Bar and the society.

    The summons were issued on the complaint under sections 499, 500 (defamation) and 34 (common intention) of the IPC, with the court saying there was prima facie material to summon the accused.

    Rahul Gandhi: Modi put Jayanthi Natarajan against me

    Breaking his silence, Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said his former party colleague Jayanthi Natarajan had been pitted against him by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he had been fighting for the poor and other weaker sections of the society.

    "Ek din maine Modiji ke baare mein kuch kaha, agle din unhone Natrajan ko khada kiya (One day, I said something about Modi, the very next day, he put up Natarajan)," the Congress Vice President said at a rally here. This was his first reaction to Natarajan's allegation that he used to interfere in grant of green nods when she was Environment Minister before being forced out in December 2013. She resigned from the party on Saturday last, reported PTI.
    "I want to tell you that I have fought for the poor and the adivasis and I had told Jayanthi Natarajan that we should look into the welfare of the environment, poor and the adivasis. I will continue to fight for the poor, the hutsmen and the weaker sections," the Congress vice-president said at an election rally here. Alleging that the Prime Minister is working only to benefit his "industrial friends", he said he had joined politics to ensure welfare for the poor and the weaker sections of the society and not to benefit some businessmen.
    Natarajan had last Saturday resigned from the primary membership of Congress alleging that she was "vilified" for rejecting green nod to industrial projects during her tenure as Environment Minister, which she said she had done following communications by the Congress vice-president. She had also written a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi a few months back alleging that she had received specific requests from Rahul on environmental clearances and consequently rejected big ticket projects, a contention she reaffirmed at the time of announcing her resignation.

    Arvind Kejriwal correctly enrolled in voters' list: Election Commission

    AAP chief Arvind Kerjiwal is correctly enrolled in the voters' list for the upcoming Assembly polls in the national capital, the Election Commission told the Delhi High Court.

    The poll body made the submission before the bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru, which had on Monday sought its response on Congress leader Kiran Walia's plea seeking removal of Kerjiwal's name from the Delhi electoral rolls on the ground that he has illegally declared himself to be a resident of the national capital.

    "Arvind Kejriwal's name was correctly enrolled in the electoral rolls of Delhi. He is registered as a voter in New Delhi constituency from the address 87, Block K, BK Dutt Colony (Jor Bagh)," ECI told the bench.
    Arvind Kejriwal correctly enrolled in voters' list: Election Commission
    The poll panel also told the court that it has checked the latest electoral roll for Delhi and found Kejriwal's name in the voters' list from B K Dutt Colony.
    The court, however, asked the poll panel to produce the documents related to the decision taken by it while rejecting the representation made by Walia to delete entry of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader's name from the electoral roll.

    The poll panel also told the court that it has checked the latest electoral roll for Delhi and found Kejriwal's name in the voters' list from B K Dutt Colony.

    "Though he had briefly lived at Tilak Marg after taking over the post of Chief Minister last year, he had applied for a change of address just ahead of the polls, first to V P House on Rafi Marg and then to B K Dutt Colony," the panel said, adding that "now they cannot make changes as it was to be done only before filing of the nomination".

    The court, earlier, had issued notice to EC on Walia's plea, who is contesting the assembly election scheduled for February 7 from the New Delhi constituency, alleging that Kejriwal is not a resident of Delhi and had got his name entered in the electoral rolls by "manipulation, cheating and fraud".

    Dissents grows in AAP as Manish Sisodia slams Yogendra Yadav

    The infighting in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is grappling with its lacklustre showing in the 2014 general elections, has now apparently reached the top leadership.

    After AAP leader Yogendra Yadav resigned from the party's Political Affairs Committee (PAC) last Saturday, senior leader Manish Sisodia reportedly questioned his motives and strategies that did not help the party in the general elections.

    Yadav, a native of Haryana, resigned from the party's top decision-making body following a tiff with state convener Naveen Jaihind, who resigned from the 18-month-old rookie party's national executive body on the same day.

    In a letter sent to Yadav, Sisodia is said to have reprimanded him for taking his fight with Jaihind in public domain and calling party chief Arvind Kejriwal a "supremo".

    "You have alleged that the party did not listen to the political affairs committee. But then the PAC also did not want you to contest from Gurgaon.

    "In that scenario Arvind supported you. But when Arvind did not support you in you fight against Navin Jaihind, you call him supremo," said the letter dated Thursday.

    HT has a copy of the letter, but could not confirm its veracity immediately as both Sisodia and Yadav could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

    There is a big talk in the AAP circles that Sisodia's letter was in response to the one written by Yadav clarifying why he had to quit the PAC.

    In the fresh letter, Yadav, who contested and lost the Gurgaon seat, was also criticised for his incorrect survey on Haryana.

    While the AAP hoped to bag about 23% of the vote share in the state — which is also home to former Delhi CM kejriwal — it managed to get just 3% of the votes and failed to make an impression all the 10 constituencies.

    The letter also blames Yadav for pushing Kejriwal to field over 400 candidates against his wish.

    The AAP, despite its stellar assembly election debut in Delhi last year, managed to win just four seats — all in Punjab — in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. 

    Following the debacle in the general elections, two of the AAP's prominent faces — Shazia Ilmi and GR Gopinath (who launched India's first low-cost carrier) — had recently quit the party in signs of disintegration.

    Emotional Modi promises to work hard, fulfil aspirations; swearing in as PM on May 26

    An emotionally charged Narendra Modi on Tuesday said people have voted for "new hope and aspiration" and he would try his best to live up to their expectations after he was unanimously elected the leader of the BJP parliamentary party.

    BJP leader and the NDA prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi receives a bouquet from newly-elected BJP Members of Parliament as he arrives at the Parliament building in New Delhi. (AFP ...

    BJP president Rajnath Singh arrives in Parliament in New Delhi. (AFP photo)

    BJP leader and the NDA prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi gestures as he arrives at the Parliament building in New Delhi. (AFP photo)

    Bharatiya Janata Party senior leader Lal Krishna Advani arrives for the BJP parliamentary party meeting in New Delhi. (AP photo)

    Newly-elected BJP Member of Parliament Varun Gandhi arrives in Parliament in New Delhi. (AFP photo)

    Newly-elected BJP Member of Parliament and Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal arrives in Parliament in New Delhi. (AFP photo)

    Bharatiya Janata Party senior leader Lal Krishna Advani arrives in Parliament in New Delhi. (AFP photo)

    Newly-elected BJP Member of Parliament and Bollywood actress Hema Malini arrives in Parliament in New Delhi. (AFP photo)
    He expressed his gratitude to the leaders of the party and specially thanked party patriarch LK Advani and president Rajnath Singh for giving him their "blessings".

    "We are here in the temple of democracy. We will work with all purity... not for the designation but for the people of the country. Work and responsibility are the biggest things," Modi told the gathering.

    Referring to his humble background, Modi said it was an ode to Indian democracy and its founding fathers that he was standing there, all set to be the new PM.

    "Today I'm standing before you as the son of a poor man. This is the strength of democracy."

    Modi said the recent election result had increased people's faith in democracy and there is a "new hope" among people that this dispensation can fulfill their aspirations.

    "The new government will dedicate itself for the poor, crores and crores of youth and for the safety and security of the mothers and sisters, those in the rural areas, oppressed and the deprived," he said.

    "I will try to live up to expectations of people," he said and promised to present a report card of his government to the people in 2019.

    "This is the time for new hope and strength." Modi said in 2019 he will meet the MPs again with a report card.

    Referring to the nature of the verdict, he said if it had been a hung or a fractured verdict then one can say that people had vented their anger against the government and that it was anti-establishment.

    "But by giving BJP an absolute majority they have voted for hope and trust. People have voted for hope and faith. and I will do everything to fulfil their aspirations," he said, adding that he is a man full of optimism.

    "I want to assure the people of the country that there is no need for pessimism going by the past bad experience... I am a very optimistic man and only an optimistic man can bring optimism in the country."

    During his 30-minute acceptance speech, 63-year-old Modi broke down when he referred to LK Advani's mention that he had done a favour to the party by taking up the responsibility.

    "Can serving the mother be a favour? A son is only dedicated to serve the mother... The favour has been done by the party," he said addressing the newly-elected MPs of the party in the historic Central Hall of Parliament.

    The PM-to be also took the opportunity to praise the work of the past governments, saying every government and its leaders have contributed to the welfare of the country and he will carry forward whatever good they have done.

    He also invoked former PM and BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee saying it would have been an icing on the cake had the ailing leader been present among them.

    Modi, who led the saffron party to a spectacular victory in the Lok Sabha elections, was earlier elected as the leader amid chants of "Bharat Mata ki jai" and a standing ovation.

    BJP president Singh announced Modi as the leader of the BJP parliamentary board after Advani proposed the name of "popular" and "famous" leader.

    "This is a historic moment in the politics of India," said Rajnath Singh.

    Murli Manohar Joshi seconded the proposal with a sense of "pride" and "joy" and Sushma Swaraj hoped that Modi will be a "famous" prime minister.

    Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari also supported the proposal for electing Modi.

    Advani, who embraced Modi after he was chosen as the leader of BJP parliamentary party, got emotional as he greeted the Gujarat strongman.

    The election was an important formality before Modi approached President Pranab Mukherjee to stake claim to form the new government.

    According to reports, Mukherjee congratulated Modi and invited him to form the government.

    Before that, a 15-member delegation of the NDA, led by Advani, called on Mukherjee on Tuesday afternoon to convey to him that Modi has been elected as the leader of the alliance.

    The NDA delegation comprised of BJP president Singh and senior party leaders Advani and Joshi.

    Leaders from alliance partners included Akali Dal's Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh, TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu, Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackeray, LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan and Neiphu Rio of Naga People's Front.

    Other BJP leaders who were part of the NDA delegation included Swaraj, Jaitley, Naidu, Gadkari, Ananth Kumar and TC Gehlot.

    After the meeting, BJP chief Singh told reporters that the Modi government will be sworn-in on May 26. ?

    According to reports, as the race for key posts in the Modi government intensified the BJP president may get the home portfolio while Arun Jaitley could be the new finance minister.

    Reports also said that Joshi could be chosen as the defence minister and Advani could be asked to guide the party.

    Amid a flurry of meetings, Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar also paid a visit to Modi in New Delhi on Tuesday morning.

    On Monday, hectic consultations were on in the BJP for the second consecutive day ahead of the government formation in New Delhi. A stream of leaders met Modi, Singh and senior RSS functionaries.

    Swaraj, who is tipped to be one of the four top ministers of the next government, reportedly conveyed her readiness to work in a "respectable position" in his team.

    The PM-designate, however, has not revealed anything about who his cabinet colleagues will be.

    "He is hearing everyone out and will make his mind known at the right time," a BJP leader considered close to Modi said.

    Amit Shah accuses Samajwadi Party workers of booth capturing; dismisses snooping scandal

    Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Amit Shah, at a press conference early today, accused the Samajwadi Party (SP) workers of booth capturing.

    Alleging cases of booth capturing in the ongoing Lok Sabha election the BJP leader has called for increased security measures in the remaining two phases of the elections. "For last two phases, there should be paramilitary troops, micro observers and cameras in all booths," he said.

    The allegation were refuted by the SP leaders, who called it a sign of desperation. "Such allegations are sign that they are losing," said SP leader Ramgopal Yadav. "It's just frustration on their part," added another SP leader Gayatri Prajapati.

    On the controversy surrounding the snooping scandal, Amit Shah said, "Instead of conducting probes in the massive scams, they are doing this," he said. He further dismissed the issue by adding, "Anyway, we have no problem."

    Was never friends with Narendra Modi, says Ahmed Patel

    CONGRESS president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel Friday refuted Narendra Modi’s claims that they shared a warm friendship.

    “This is a political stunt to create confusion and create a cloud of doubt in the midst of elections. How can Modi be able to make friendship with me when he has never been able to strike friendship within his own party?”, Patel said, reacting to Modi’s claims in an interview to the Doordarshan, which were edited out by the broadcaster.

    He said Modi’s claims of closeness between them were “baseless” and “a complete lie”. In the interview, Modi had claimed that he used to go to Patel’s residence and dine with him. Patel said Modi did come to his place for lunch when he was BJP general secretary in the eighties. “But I never had any one-on-one meeting with Modi before or after the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002,” Patel said.
    “I do not know who are and who are not his friends in Congress, but if somebody is saying that I was very close to him or is very close friend... It is all to create doubts in the midst of elections. It is all baseless and ridiculous, a complete lie.... If he proves that I ever visited his house or his office or taken any favour, I will quit public life,” Patel said.

    “It is far from truth what he is talking about our dining at each other’s house. I remember once in the eighties he had come to my residence, when he was general secretary of BJP in the eighties. I did offer him food then.... When he became CM for the first time... he used to call me on phone whenever there was a festival and I used to answer him out of courtesy, to acknowledge that his phone call had come,” he said.

    Lok Sabha polls: Rahul Gandhi to address rallies in MP, UP today

    Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who is on the Lok Sabha election campaign, will be holding two election rallies on Saturday.

    The Congress's poll campaign chief will be first visiting Mandla district in Madhya Pradesh where he will be interacting with the tribals.

    Later in the day, Rahul will head to Pratapgarh district in Uttar Pradesh where he will be addressing a public meeting.

    Nitish slams BJP for hobnobbing with MNS in Maharashtra

    Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday slammed BJP for hobnobbing with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in Maharashtra saying the people of Bihar will reject the party's collusive politics of communalism and regional chauvinism.
    "Bihar mein hunkar and Maharashtra me abhaar (roar in Bihar and thanks giving in Maharashtra)," Kumar said on a Facebook post while taking potshots at the BJP leadership, including its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi for thanking the MNS for deciding against putting up candidates against it in Maharashtra during the general elections.

    "It's an insult to Bihar and its people," Kumar said, adding they would oppose it tooth and nail. The JD(U) leader hit out at his erstwhile ally for providing legitimacy to those trying to divide the country on regional and linguistic lines and said such divisive elements should be discouraged and isolated.

    Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar posted of Facebook, "Bihar mein hunkar and Maharashtra me abhaar."Kumar said he was sure that the people of Bihar would reject the crass hobnobbing between communal and regional chauvinists during elections, a remark which invited ire of the former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi. In a statement from Purnia, Sushil Modi said it was Kumar who had surrendered before the MNS chief a couple of years ago to make the 'Bihar Day' celebrations in Mumbai "a success".
    Kumar had not only taken Thackeray's permission to organise the 'Bihar Day' celebrations in Mumbai, but had also sent his emissary to mollify the MNS chief, Modi said. "Why did Kumar surrender to Raj Thackeray's diktats? What happened to the Chief Minister's pride then?" the BJP leader said in his statement.

    Modi blames Cong for lack of development in Jharkhand, addresses rally amid watertight security

    Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Sunday blamed the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre for lack of development in mineral-rich Jharkhand.
    BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is garlanded along with party president Rajnath Singh at the Vijay Sankalp rally in Ranchi. (PTI Photo)

    Addressing a rally in state capital Ranchi, the Gujarat chief minister highlighted Jharkhand’s unemployment problem and said the central government had done nothing to bring about change.

    “Chhattisgarh has developed a lot. Chief minister Raman Singh has scored a hat-trick (of assembly poll wins). Why are Jharkhand and Uttarakhand lagging behind?” Modi said at the rally, which saw a huge gathering.

    The three states were created in 2000, when the BJP-led NDA government was in power at the Centre. While Chhattisgarh has been ruled by the BJP for the past 10 years, the other two have undergone regime changes. Maoist-hit Jharkhand has seen nine governments and three spells of President’s rule.

    Modi, who has recently got a clean chit from an Ahmedabad court in a Gujarat riots case, also attacked the Centre over price rise.

    A supporter of BJP at party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's Vijay Sankalp rally at Dhurwa in Ranchi. (PTI Photo)

    The BJP’s PM nominee stressed the Congress had lost contact with the people of the country.

    “Jharkhand’s people were heard only when (veteran BJP leader) Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to power... a separate state was created,” he said.

    Heavy security arrangements were in place for the rally in the Jharkhand capital, which had grabbed the headlines two months ago for links with the October Patna blasts accused.

    More than 2,500 security personnel were deployed at the venue. As many as 40 CCTVs kept an eye on the proceedings.

    The Jharkhand Police were on toes to avoid a Patna-like incident. In the last week of October, serial blasts had rocked the Bihar capital ahead of a rally addressed by Modi, killing five people and leaving more than 90 injured. Probe led the investigators to Ranchi, the native place of the accused.

    Earlier in the day, Modi reached the venue in a chopper after landing at Ranchi’s Birsa Munda Airport. Senior BJP leaders such as former chief minister Arjun Munda, Yashwant Sinha and Ravindra Rai, welcomed Modi amid a gathering of around 2 lakh people from across Jharkhand. The saffron party booked five trains and 2,000 buses to ferry the supporters from different districts.

    The stage was a replica of Parliament building. A message ‘Mission-2014: 272 +’ was displayed at the top.

    “It’s a Modi wave and the benefit of the wave will be seen in the 2014 elections in Jharkhand,” said former chief minister Munda.

    The state BJP is on the back foot, with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) withdrew its support to the Munda government in January. The JMM has now formed a government in the state with the Congress' help.  Source

    Man claiming to be BJP worker throws black paint at Arvind Kejriwal

    A man, claiming to be an activist of the BJP, threw black paint at AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal on Monday while he was addressing a press conference here.

    The man, who identified himself as Nachiketa Walnekar, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activist, created a ruckus at the packed press conference, but was then bundled away by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) activists.

    Kejriwal, who was sitting on the dais with other party leaders, got some drops of the paint on his face. However, AAP national executive member Manish Sisodia's cap was smeared. Sisodia is contesting from Patparganj assembly seat. AAP membedr and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan also had ink smudges on his hands.

    Walnekar said he was a supporter of social activist Anna Hazare and was angry with the way Kejriwal disbanded the India Against Corruption movement, which was at the forefront of many campaigns.

    "Anna Hazare never wanted the movement to end and Arvind Kejriwal has misused the name of Anna Hazare," Walnekar told media persons.

    Reacting to the incident, AAP member Kumar Vishwash said: "It is an attempt to put our morale down."

    BJP leader VK Malhotra said Kejriwal and his party members accuse the BJP for such incidents.

    "They are the Congress's B-Team. We don't approve of anybody throwing ink," he said.

    Congress leader and Delhi minister Haroon Yusuf accused the AAP of seeking "publicity from such incidents".

    BOB WOODWARD: A 'Very Senior' White House Person Warned Me I'd 'Regret' What I'm Doing

    Bob Woodward said this evening on CNN that a "very senior person" at the White House warned him in an email that he would "regret doing this," the same day he has continued to slam President Barack Obama over the looming forced cuts known as the sequester.

    CNN host Wolf Blitzer said that the network invited a White House official to debate Woodward on-air, but the White House declined.

    "It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, 'You're going to regret doing something that you believe in,'" Woodward said.

    "I think they're confused," Woodward said of the White House's pushback on his reporting.

    Earlier today on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Woodward ripped into Obama in what has become an ongoing feud between the veteran Washington Post journalist and the White House. Woodward said Obama was showing a "kind of madness I haven't seen in a long time" for a decision not to deploy an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf because of budget concerns.

    The Defense Department said in early February that it would not deploy the U.S.S. Harry Truman to the Persian Gulf, citing budget concerns relating to the looming cuts known as the sequester.

    "Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying, 'Oh, by the way, I can't do this because of some budget document?'" Woodward said on MSNBC.

    "Or George W. Bush saying, 'You know, I'm not going to invade Iraq because I can't get the aircraft carriers I need?'" Or even Bill Clinton saying, 'You know, I'm not going to attack Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters,' ... because of some budget document?"

    White House now requires ‘We the People’ petitions to have 100,000 signatures for official response

    President Barack Obama’s deputies have quadrupled the number of signatures that petitioners on the administration’s “We the People” website must collect to get an official response from the White House, following a series of popular, provocative and disrespectful signature drives by his critics.

    Some of the petitions sought approval for states to secede after Obama’s re-election, while others called on the White House to disavow executive orders that restrict gun rights, or to deport CNN’s British-born, progressive host Piers Morgan.

    “Starting today, as we move into a second term, petitions must receive 100,000 signatures in 30 days in order to receive an official response from the Obama Administration,” said an early evening Jan. 15 statement from Macon Phillips, the White House’s digital strategy director.

    Usage of the petition site has spiked since the election, partly because more than 600,000 people have signed various secession petitions. (RELATED: Secession petitions deluge White House website) “In the first 10 months of 2012, it took an average of 18 days for a new petition to cross the 25,000-signature threshold,” said Macon’s statement. “In the last two months of the year, that average time was cut in half to just 9 days, and most petitions that crossed the threshold collected 25,000 signatures within five days of their creation.”

    Health Care Reform Repeal Would Put People At Risk

    Dawn Josephson could barely believe it when she found health insurance that would actually cover the cost of treating her young son’s eye condition.

    Josephson, a freelance editor, wife and mother of two in Jacksonville, Fla., had been spending as much as $1,000 a month of her family’s budget on surgery, doctor visits, tests, and treatments in the seven months since 2-year-old Wesley awoke one morning with his eyes pointed toward each other, a condition called strabismus. That was on top of the $807 in monthly premiums the family spent on an insurance plan that excluded anything related to her son’s eyes.

    A few weeks after President Barack Obama signed a sweeping health care reform law in March 2010, Josephson got a call from another insurance company telling her the family had been accepted into a new plan. “What about Wesley’s eye? If he needs another surgery, another test, another something, is it covered?” she asked the customer service representative. She pressed the point again: What’s the catch? “Nothing. Your family’s fully covered,” she was told.

    Josephson's change in fortune was the result of the new law's provision that prohibits insurance companies from refusing to cover children with pre-existing medical conditions. The family's new insurer decided to change its rules before the law required it, giving Josephson, her husband Dave, Wesley, and his little sister Margo some relief. A few months later, Josephson got to meet Obama at a health care reform event in Falls Church, Va.

    Even with that relief, Josephson can't rest easy. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments next week in a case challenging the constitutionality of health reform. The court, or a Republican president next year, could reverse the family's fortunes again, with Josephson's son, now 6, still struggling to gain control of his right eye. He sometimes wears an eye patch, and might need more surgery, Josephson said.

    The fate of millions of other Americans also hangs on the Supreme Court's ruling. Repealing health care reform would squash the hopes of uninsured people struggling to pay for health care.

    “I definitely think I’d have to worry about it,” Josephson said. “It’s scary because you see the before and after.”

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