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There is chance of Sasikala becoming CM: Subramanian Swamy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sasikala Natarajan becoming the AIADMK general secretary was the party’s internal matter and she could also become the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said on Saturday. “It is purely an internal matter of the party. There is also a chance of her becoming the chief minister,” he told reporters here when asked about Sasikala’s appointment to the top post in AIADMK. On the criticism that Sasikala lacked the political ability for such a big post, Swamy shot back saying what capability did Sonia or Rahul Gandhi have when they took charge of the Congress. Swamy, who spent a week at an ayurveda centre here, said the verdict in the disproportionate assets case against late chief minister J Jayalalithaa and Sasikala was expected to be delivered by the Supreme Court next month.The case against Jayalalithaa and three others for allegedly amassing disproportionate wealth to the tune of Rs 66.65 crore during 1991-96 was filed on Swamy’s complaint. The BJP leader said with the changing political scenario in the state, the Tamil Nadu unit of the party required a new leadership as also new executive and general council members, adding that the party’s January 6-7 national executive meet could take a decision in this regard. Later, talking to reporters at the Chennai airport, Swamy said mediapersons did not ask questions when Sonia Gandhi took over as the Congress president.On demonetisation, he said the intention behind it was good and welcomed initiatives such as the BHIM app which he said will be accepted by the people. Swamy expressed confidence that the Supreme Court will give its nod to ‘jallikattu’ (a bull-taming sport) with some riders and the order would be delivered ahead of the coming Pongal festival.He blamed some “foreign-funded NGOs” for creating an alleged prejudice against the traditional sport and added that he too had argued in the apex court for allowing ‘jallikattu’ by putting forth “strong grounds”.To supervise the safe conduct of the event, a committee may be asked to monitor the sport, he said.

DNA Morning Must Reads: Mumbai-bound Jet Airways veers off runway; ED to investigate Mayawati’s kin; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. Jet Airways Goa-Mumbai flight with 161 on-board veers off runway, passengers safeJet Airways flight from Goa to Mumbai skids off the runway, Airport operations closed til 12.30 PM. Read more.2. Sonia Gandhi’s attempts to revive Oppn unity coming a cropperCongress’ allies in Bihar—Left and the JD(U) decide to stay away from Tuesday’s meeting. Read more.3. Political parties relying on dubious sources of funding: reportThe report, commissioned during the UPA regime in 2011, explains how political parties receive funds. Read more.4. Rs 104 cr deposited in BSP accounts after note recall, blow to Mayawati as ED investigatesBig blow to Mayawati as ED officials investigate the bank account of her brother as well. Read more.5. IND vs AUS: Nearly two months to go but Smith starts battle with Virat KohliOz captain says India skipper is emotional and will use it against him when they tour subcontinent in February. Read more.

Mamata arrives in capital to attend joint Oppn meeting, Left to stay away

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Raising the stakes in her fight against Modi government on demonetization, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrived in New Delhi to attend a meeting of opposition parties and a joint press conference tomorrow along with Congress, DMK, RJD and other parties.Mamata, who is spearheading the fight against demonetization, will be part of the joint opposition meeting, TMC sources said. Banerjee told reporters at the Kolkata airport, “The Congress has called me for the meeting. Let’s see what happens!” She will attend the media briefing at Constitution Club along with other Opposition leaders including representatives from DMK and RJD among others, sources added. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi are expected to attend the meeting.While the Left parties announced they are staying away, the JD(U) also gave hints that it may follow suit. A top TMC leader told PTI while reacting to CPI-M’s pull-out, said, “It is the CPI-M’s internal matter. But we feel that it is for them to decide on which side they are.” TMC chief will be in the capital for three days and expected to meet several leaders from different political hues during her stay.We want to highlight the hardships caused due to demonetization across the country, a senior TMC leader claimed. CPI(M) not to attendCracks appeared in the Opposition’s unity as the CPI(M) today decided to stay away from a press conference by the opposition parties convened by the Congress, citing “lack of coordination and consultation” among the participants. “We have decided to stay away from the press conference of opposition parties convened by the Congress because there has been no proper consultation and coordination among the parties,” CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury told a press conference here.”Most of the parties were neither consulted nor informed about what will be the agenda of the meeting. Several opposition parties have reservation about the way the meeting has been convened,” Yechury said.The Congress is striving for uniting the Opposition on the issue of Rahul Gandhi’s charges of “personal corruption” against the Prime Minister and plans are afoot for a joint press conference by its president Sonia Gandhi and other opposition leaders on December 27.Yechury said that a few days back he had received a call from the Congress leadership inviting him to the press conference on December 27. “But when I wanted to know what will be the agenda of the meeting, plan of action and whether all opposition parties have been called, I didn’t receive any answer,” Yechury said. On being asked if the decision to stay away would not provide ammunition to the BJP camp, Yechury said,” When you want to take the opposition unity of 16 parties from a Parliament level to a political level then you need to hold consultation and discussion with the political leadership. A decision should be taken on the basis of proper consultation.That was not done, which is unfortunate,” the veteran leader said.He noted that in order to take forward the unity of opposition parties, references should be taken from the efforts that the CPI(M) has taken during the 1996 United Front government and UPA-I government. Yechury wondered why only the Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee was invited to the press conference and Chief Ministers of Tripura, Bihar, and the NCP leadership were not properly consulted. “Why are you only inviting Chief Minister of West Bengal and not calling CMs of Bihar, Tripura and other states which have non-BJP governments?” he questioned.

Sonia Gandhi prefers ‘non-polluted’ Goa over Delhi: Rahul Gandhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said on Saturday that his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi preferred Goa over Delhi, as she felt that there was “no pollution” in the state and the people were “very good”.”Goa me akar mujhe bahot khushi hui hai…kuchh hi din pehle Congress president bhi yahan aayi thi. (I feel happy being in Goa. Few days back Congress president had also come here),” Gandhi said while addressing an election rally last evening at Fatorda village, around 30 kms from here.”Jab Delhi wapas aayi to maine unse puchha ki kaisi hain aap, to kehti hai mai Goa wapas jana chahti hu. (When she returned to Delhi, I asked her how she was and she said she wants to go back to Goa),” Rahul said at the beginning of his speech.”Unhone kaha, mujhe Goa ki hawa achhi lagi, Goa me koi pollution nahi hai…Goa ke log bahot achhe hai. (I like Goa’s air. There is no pollution there and people of Goa are very good),” he said.Mid-November, Sonia Gandhi visited the coastal state, where she lived in a starred resort in South Goa. During the stay, she has paid a visit to private museum without any security hassles. The Congress president had also visited a temple at Fatorpa village, 30 kms away from Margao.

Rahul baba can’t see change brought out by BJP because of his ‘Italian chasma’: Amit Shah

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> BJP President Amit Shah targeted Rahul Gandhi, saying instead of embarking on roadshows against demonetization, he should take out “yatras against unemployment, poverty and starvation”.Addressing BJP’s ‘Parivartan Rally’, he also hit out at other opposition parties, including SP, BSP and Trinamool Congress, for “ganging up” against demonetizationand disrupting parliamentary proceedings leading to a virtual washout of the winter session.”Rahul Baba is undertaking padyatras daily. It will be better if Rahul takes out yatras against unemployment, poverty and starvation,” Shah said while targeting the Congress leader who has been aggressively campaigning against demonetization.”He (Rahul) asks what change has come after BJP came to power… He will not be able to see as he has ‘Italian chashma’ (Italian glasses) on his eyes,” Shah said, in an apparent reference to Italian roots of Rahul’s mother Sonia Gandhi.The BJP chief likened the unity among opposition parties on the issue of demonetizationto all animals in a jungle climbing the same tree to save their lives from raging floods. He likened SP, BSP and Congress to “naagnath and saanpnath” (snakes) sitting over schemes for development of Uttar Pradesh forcing youths to migrate to other states for menial jobs, and asserted that “come what may, BJP will come to power” after the coming Assembly election. He said demonetizationhas taken the wind out of BSP supremo Mayawati’s sails.Shah said till November 7 these parties used to ask “Modiji what have you done to check black money. Now, these very parties ask ‘Modiji why have you done this to check black money,” the BJP chief said.The tough step has caused discomfort to those having lakhs of crores of rupees ill-gotten money, Shah said.Noting that it was his duty to answer the questions being raised by the opposition parties on note ban, Shah said every single paisa being deposited after deducting the 75 to 85 per cent penalty by the black money holders will be used for the development and welfare works.Attacking Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Shah said he should give an account of his achievements during his nearly five-year rule rather than trying to divert the people’s attention by raising the issue of demonetization.”SP, BSP and Congress and at some places Ajit Singh (RLD) are together stalling the development of Uttar Pradesh as saapnath and naagnath,” the BJP President said.Shah was particularly critical of Akhilesh and said central assistance for the welfare of the poor and farmers in Uttar Pradesh went in vain as the benefits did not reach the targeted people and instead swelled the coffers of Samajwadi Party leaders. “You can see that their dwelling units had changed to palaces during the SP rule.. Massive dose of financial assistance was given to the state but it was usurped by ‘chacha-bhatija’ (uncle-nephew),” he said, referring to Akhilesh and state party chief Shivpal Singh Yadav.Akhilesh will have to answer for the “wrongs” done during his five-year rule, the BJP chief said.”Akhilesh will first have to answer for Mathura where government land was encroached for years, Bulandshahr where gangrape was committed and his minister Azam Khan made mockery of it and here in Etah 100 people lost their lives in hooch tragedy,” Shah said.”I feel bad to see youths from UP drive taxis and work as labourers in other states as there is no opportunity in their home state,” he said, adding only a BJP government can ensure that they work in their native district, stay with their parents and family. “It is corruption, corruption and nothing but corruption in Uttar Pradesh,” he rued.Referring to the CM’s claims of getting more that 300 seats in case of an alliance with Congress, Shah said he should not leave his ‘Buaji’ (Mayawati). “But, it will be BJP which will come to power in UP,” he asserted.Claiming that incidents of rape increased by a staggering 161 per cent during the Akhilesh Yadav regime, Shah recalled that when the state had a BJP government headed by Kalyan Singh, criminals kept a low profile.He said senior SP leader and UP minister Azam Khan made a mockery of law and order with his comments on rape cases.Shah said the Modi government had done away with interview of youths for Class III and IV jobs, but the SP government was so deep into corruption that it did not comply with the order unlike BJP-ruled states.

MP govt to cover wedding expenses of daughters of cops killed in the line of duty

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Madhya Pradesh government will bear marriage expenses of all the police officials who die in the line of duty, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced in Bhopal on Saturday.Chouhan, who attended the marriage ceremony of slain jail head constable Ramashankar Yadav’s daughter Sonia last night, donned the role of the girl’s father as he welcomed guests at the entry gate. “If any police personnel dies in the line of duty, then the state government will bear all the expenses of their daughter’s marriage and these girls will be treated as the state’s daughter,” an official release from the state government said.The state government claimed that it had left no stone unturned to make this (Sonia’s) marriage a grand event. Yadav was allegedly killed by eight SIMI activists on the intervening nights of October 30-31 before they escaped from the high security jail by scaling its walls with the help of bedsheets. The activists were later gunned down by Bhopal Police in an alleged encounter.Chouhan had then promised that the government will not only offer job to any family member but will also make all arrangements for the marriage of Sonia. The chief minister also handed over an appointment letter for the post of Assistant Grade-III to Sonia as her marriage gift on the occasion.Chouhan stayed at the wedding till all rituals were done and said that Sonia is a daughter of Madhya Pradesh. He conveyed greetings to both the families on the occasion. Madhya Pradesh Minister of State for Cooperatives (independent charge) Vishwas Sarang was among others present at the function.

National Herald case: Court order on Dec 26 on summoning Cong documents

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Patiala House Court on Friday reserved its order in the National Herald case after BJP leader Subramanian Swamy filed an application, seeking documents and ledger books from the Congress party and the Associated Journals Limited (AJL). The court is likely to pronounce an order on December 26.Swamy in his petition alleged that Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi got hold of Associated Journals through “dishonest means” which pertains to “criminal misappropriation and criminal breach of trust.” However the defence counsel, appearing for Gandhi, said Swami filed a complaint in July 2013 which has no reference regarding the loan borrowed from the Congress.They said neither Swamy made the Congress an accused nor he alleged that no office bearers were authorised to lend the loan.The counsel argued that the details of loan were never mentioned in the returns and the documents Swami asked are not necessary for this case. However, Swamy refuted the claim saying that his case has merit. “They have been saying that I don’t have a case, how can that be when the court has issued summons for them. So they are buying time and delaying, but they will not escape it,” Swamy said.Swamy further alleged that he revealed a correspondence between Sardar Vallabha Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru where the former alleged that Nehru had indulged in corrupt practices by collecting money for National Herald by giving away government contracts to undesirable parties. “The National Herald is being used by the Nehru family to collect funds and aggrandise them. I wanted to know whether Sonia and Rahul Gandhi got hold of Associated journals limited by honest means or dishonest means, My allegations is that they acquired through dishonest means which is criminal misappropriation and criminal breach of trust,” he said.Swamy had filed an application in 2012 accusing Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and others associated with Congress of conspiring to cheat in a land deal.In his complaint, Swamy had alleged that the Congress granted an interest-free loan of Rs 90.25 crore to the AJL, owner of the National Herald newspaper, established by Jawaharlal Nehru, which was either not repaid or repaid in case. This is in violation of Section 269T of the Income Tax Act, 1961.In August, the court issued notices to Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and five others on Swamy’s application seeking presentation of certain documents from Associated Journals Pvt. Ltd (AJL) and Indian National Congress (INC) in connection with the National Herald case.

Chorus grows in AICC for Rahul Gandhi’s appointment as Congress

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretaries have demanded that party vice-president Rahul Gandhi be appointed as the president at the earliest.According to sources, some of the secretaries are of the view that a few people having vested interest are procrastinating this decision. The Congress Working Committee (CWC) had earlier on November 7 unanimously supported a proposal in this regard.In 2014, when the Congress plummeted to a historic low, winning just 44 parliamentary seats, a shocked party put off the elevation of Gandhi for a more propitious occasion.But after two and a half years of the Narendra Modi government, a section of the party began to stress that the moment of renewal could not be deferred any longer.There have been repeated suggestions that Gandhi should take over reins of the party from his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Sonia Gandhi recovers from viral fever, discharged from hospital

Sonia Gandhi recovers from viral fever, discharged from hospital

New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi was discharged from a private hospital on Wednesday, two days after she was admitted to the facility following viral fever.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. File photo. PTI

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. File photo. PTI

“Gandhi has recovered from fever and has been discharged in stable condition,” said Arun Kumar Basu, senior consultant, department of chest and pulmonology medicine at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. She was discharged around 11.30 am.

She was admitted to the hospital around 8 pm on 28 November.

Gandhi had been hospitalised for 12 days in August after she had fallen ill during a roadshow in Varanasi. She was operated upon for a shoulder injury also.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 14:06 IST

Sonia Gandhi admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital

Tue, 29 Nov 2016-11:12pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress President Sonia Gandhi was admitted to a city hospital on Monday evening following viral fever and was recovering. 69-year-old Gandhi was brought to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital around 8 PM on Monday and doctors treating her said she was feeling much better on Tuesday. “Sonia Gandhi has been admitted under the care of Dr Arun Kumar Basu, senior consultant in Department of Chest and Pulmonology Medicine and his team of consultants. Gandhi’s routine tests are being conducted and is better today. She is likely to be discharged in a day or two,” Chairman of the hospital’s Board of Management DS Rana said.Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka has been with her while son Rahul visited her on Tuesday. Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said there was no cause for worry and the party president will resume Parliament duty soon. “The Congress President has been admitted to a hospital following viral fever. She will be discharged within two days. She will resume her Parliament duty soon. There is no cause for worry,” he said.Gandhi had to stay at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital for 12 days in August after she had fallen ill during a roadshow in Varanasi. She was operated upon for a shoulder injury also.

Sonia Gandhi hospitalised for second time: Congress chief has viral fever, confirms party

Congress president Sonia Gandhi was hospitalised on Tuesday as reports said that she may be suffering from a viral fever. This is the second time this year the Congress president has been hospitalised.

According to ANI, Sonia has been admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi. Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala confirmed and said that Sonia will be in hospital for two days.

Sources said that 69-year-old Gandhi was down with viral fever and doctors advised her to be under medical supervision.

She will also undergo some tests at Sir Gangaram hospital, they said.

On 3 August, the Congress chief had to cut her visit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s constituency Varanasi short, as she was unwell and had to be hospitalised. She had been taken to the Army’s Research and Referral Hospital at that time but was soon shifted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

PTI had then reported that she had undergone a surgery on her left shoulder and doctors had said that she had recovered from the injury. She had been discharged from the hospital on 14 August after 11 days of hospitalisation.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 14:51 IST

Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Vadra visit ancestral Swaraj Bhavan together for the first time since 2002

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after attending a function commemorating the birth centenary of Indira Gandhi in Allahabad, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her daughter Priyanka Vadra met local party leaders, enjoyed a stroll at the sprawling Anand Bhavan premises and visited the Kamla Nehru Hospital before returning to New Delhi.”This was the first occasion in more than a decade when Sonia and Priyanka were together at the Swaraj Bhavan. The last time they had spent the night at their ancestral house was during the campaign for 2002 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh,” UPCC spokesman Kishore Varshney said.On Monday, they were joined by Rahul Gandhi during the inauguration of the photo exhibition organised by the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust. The party vice-president left last night. “For Congress supporters, yesterday was a memorable occasion as it was for the first time when mother, son and daughter were together at their ancestral house,” Varshney said.
ALSO READ No comparison between Narendra Modi and Indira Gandhi: Sonia GandhiHe, however, added that they (Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka) had also come to Anand Bhavan way back in 1991 when they were carrying the ashes of Rajiv Gandhi. “However, that was an occasion marked by grief and hence we do not wish to count that.”This morning, Sonia and Priyanka went to the Kamla Nehru Hospital – which is governed by a trust headed by the Congress president herself. Sonia inaugurated a blood bank there and interacted with a group of nurses who had completed their training recently. “Thereafter, they returned to Anand Bhavan, enjoyed a stroll on its sprawling lawns and interacted with the staff there,” Varshney said.Later, a group of local party leaders led by the divisional election campaign committee chief Nand Gopal Gupta Nandi called on them. “Sonia and Priyanka heard their grievances and offered advice besides exhorting them to work hard for improving the party’s position in the upcoming assembly elections in the state,” the UPCC spokesman said.

Indore-Patna express derailment: Sonia Gandhi puts onus on Railway Admin to take ‘suitable, corrective action’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Sunday called on the Railway authorities to undertake a thorough probe into the reasons that caused the enormous tragedy of the derailment of the Indore-Patna Express in Kanpur, in which 95 people have lost their lives so far and over 100 people are injured.Expressing deep distress over the tragic deaths of rail passengers, Sonia said that words can’t describe the pain and anguish of those who lost their near and dear ones and the entire country stands in solidarity to share this unbearable sorrow.”Mrs. Gandhi hoped that rescue and relief operations are being effectively undertaken to save as many lives as possible and those injured are being given effective treatment. Smt Gandhi expressed hope that railway authorities will undertake a thorough probe into the reasons that caused this enormous tragedy, fix responsibility and take suitable corrective action,” the Congress said in a statement. Gandhi further instructed the Congress unit to assist in the relief and rescue along with the authorities and provide all assistance to those injured as also to next of kin.
ALSO READ Patna-Indore express derailment: Centre announces Rs. 3.5 lakh ex-gratia for kin of deceasedMeanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) for the next of kin of those killed in the train tragedy that took place near Kanpur on Sunday. The Prime Minister also announced Rs. 50,000 as compensation to the survivors of the incident. This compensation is over and above any assistance that would be announced by the railways.The announcement came after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh, earlier, announced ex-gratia of Rs 5 Lakh to deceased families, Rs 50,000 for the seriously injured people and Rs 25,000 for people having minor injuries. Similarly Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced Rs 2 lakh compensation for the families of deceased and Rs 50,000 for the critically injured.
ALSO READ Patna-Indore Express disaster: UP CM Akhilesh Yadav announces ex-gratiaMeanwhile, the casualty rose to 95 even as the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is conducting rescue operation at the spot. A help desk has been set up at the Patna Railway Station to assist family members of those on board Indore-Patna Express.Taking stock of the situation, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will be rushing to the spot to monitor the situation. “I shall be rushing to the accident site to personally monitor the situation,” tweeted Prabhu.At least 153 people have been injured so far after the train derailed early morning at the Hanshi-Kanpur intersection in Uttar Pradesh at 3:20 am. Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha has ordered for a high-level probe into the incident. Almost 14 coaches of the train derailed in the wee hours on resulting in severe loss of lives.

Sushma Swaraj’s tweet on kidney failure sets her apart from peers and predecessors

The External Affairs Ministry under Sushma Swaraj is known to have developed a speedy grievance redressal system on Twitter. Her candid tweets and quick responses on the microblogging site has been appreciated all along.

Swaraj, however, took to Twitter on Wednesday to inform the nation about her health.

She was admitted to the Aiims due to kidney failure and underwent tests for a transplant, but the doctors said the procedure may take some time as a donor was yet to be found. Swaraj has been suffering from diabetes for a long time, which could have damaged her kidneys.

After Swaraj tweeted about her health, there was a flood of “get well soon” wishes from politicians and also people from a cross section of society. Some even offered to donate a kidney to her.

File photo of Sushma Swaraj. AFPFile photo of Sushma Swaraj. AFP

File photo of Sushma Swaraj. AFP

However, many saw her announcement as setting new standards of transparency, as politicians are usually not forthcoming about divulging details of their health condition.

According to a report in The Indian Express, JDU leader KC Tyagi said,  “Some leaders hide their disease fearing that this may lessen their grip on the family and the party. Those who live with simplicity and integrity in public life are not afraid of going to the public. Her life is like an open book. I greet her for her open stand.” The same article also quotes Aiims spokesperson stating that Swaraj’s decision to divulge her medical condition in first person was “a first” for a politician that he has seen.

In the long list of our ailing netas, Swaraj indeed sets a precedence. In fact, her candidness inadvertently reminds us of the veil of privacy surrounding the health status of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa during her recent bout of illness from which she is yet to fully recover.

Jayalalithaa was admitted into the Apollo Hospital on 22 September for an unspecified ailment, where she remained for over a month. Whatever did trickle out in the public domain amid a slew of rumours — and thereafter through the hospital’s press briefings — was that Amma was suffering from pneumonia and a chronic lung infection. What ensued was a high-drama narrative emanating from  the southern Indian state as rumours of her death started doing the rounds.

What this opacity in revealing real and credible information does is it gives wings to rumours and generates mass hysteria. As happened in the case of Jayalalithaa’s illness, police was asked to quash the rumours emanating from the virtual world. But that did not stop panicking AIADMK cadre from attempting self-emulation, which even resulted in the death on one person.

Neither did it ease the sense of an impending doom amid the masses. Somehow, a feeling persisted that something was amiss and the entire truth was not being revealed. Mass prayers for her speedy recovery were organised, while several Amma loyalists went without food for days. As they still did not get the news of their beloved leader’s speedy recovery, some supporters devised even more innvative (read bizarre) ways of pleasing the gods. An Amma supporter, reportedly pierced his skin with thick hooks and hung himself from a crane, according to a report in The News Minute. Even children were not spared, as reports surfaced that some kids had their faces pierced with metal rods to pray for Amma’s speedy recovery.

Political fervour has always bordered on irrationality in the state, largely known for its cult politics. The clampdown of information with an iron hand, though perfectly within an individual’s right to privacy, is a problematic concept especially in such cases.

However, the tradition to shroud a political leader’s health condition predates Jayalalithaa or Swaraj’s tenure. It is till date a matter of debate whether the Indian subcontinent’s history would have been any different had Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s cancer been common knowledge at the time of India-Pakistan partition.

“By the time Mountbatten came to India as Viceroy in 1947 Jinnah was dying; he would be dead in 1948. Neither the British nor the Congress suspected the gravity of Jinnah’s illness. Many years later Mountbatten confessed that had he known he would have delayed matters until Jinnah was dead; there would have been no Pakistan,” according to an excerpt from the book Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity – The Search for Saladin, posted by The New York TimesJinnah, it is believed, willfully kept his illness a secret as he believed that after him, the more malleable row of leaders in the All India Muslim League will relent under Congress’ pressure and his dream for a separate Pakistan would never be a reality.

Jinnah’s Indian counterpart, Jawaharlal Nehru also was very secretive of his illness around his last days, as he believed it would give rise to a tussle for succession within the ranks of a party he has held united till then. As pointed out in this NDTV article, Nehru’s sister Vijaylakshmi Pandit wrote a letter to Lord Mountbatten expressing her worry of the political consequences of Nehru’s illness.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi makes for a more recent example as she has been frequently flying out of the country for unexplained medical reasons. Rumours were abound when Sonia underwent a surgery in August 2011 for an unspecified form of cancer. This article in Sunday Times from the time also states “the refusal of the ruling Congress party to divulge information has raised some uncomfortable questions about transparency in the world’s biggest democracy.” In fact there was a dedicated Quora thread where people discussed and speculated what could be wrong with Sonia, who was the most powerful woman in India at the time.

For public figures, especially mass leaders, admitting an ailment is like conceding that they are not infallible and indispensable: it requires both courage and humility, because an admission of illness is an admission of vulnerability. Another reason why politicians are secretive of their health is because they fear it will hurt their political career, influence election results, or simply make them dispensable from the current role amid a scrambling tussle for succession.

An individual’s health is 100 percent a private matter. After all, there is a reason the doctors are administered the oath to secrecy. But having said that, one cannot but be admiring of a public figure who chooses to do that.

Besides this, those in public service are at least answerable to the masses to the point that whether they are fit to discharge their duties. The Sunday Times article also quotes senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan as saying, “When you are in the public domain, you cannot claim the benefits of privacy of the private citizen… I think it is something that people have the right to know.”

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 18:20 IST

National Herald relaunches with an internet edition

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The fear of losing prime property in the commercial heart of the national capital forced the Congress to launch the Internet edition of its newspaper National Herald. The Associated Journals Limited (AJL) owners of the newspaper had earlier planned to revive print edition – which had died a slow death seven years ago, to mark the birth anniversary of its founder Jawaharlal Nehru on Monday. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Monday tweeted to greet the relaunch of the National Herald on the web. “A fitting tribute to Pt Nehru on his 127th birth anniv! Wishing team @NH_India the very best in this new innings,” he said.In a statement, the AJL said, “In keeping with the changing times, the newspaper group resumes phased publication as a multimedia outlet with a strong digital presence.” The statement stressed that the digital websites will follow the same editorial vision and principles as that of its founder Nehru who launched the daily in 1938 as the vanguard of the Indian freedom movement.The company, which is owned by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, treasurer Motilal Vora, and other Senior Congress leaders, said the newspaper will remain committed to furthering the values it has always cherished as the best values of the freedom movement – that of building a modern, democratic, just, equitable, liberal, and socially harmonious nation, free of sectarian strife.But insiders said at the centre of the party’s ‘media initiative’ was to save the prime Herald House at the Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, often known as Delhi’s Fleet Street with the offices of major newspapers. The building had been leased out to AJL – of which the Gandhis are majority shareholders – for the newspaper business alone. With the papers going out of print in 2008, the urban development ministry had sought an explanation from the Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son on why the lease should not be cancelled.Alarmed at the prospect, the Congress started drawing plans to revive the newspaper to mark the birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru. Last year, during a routine inspection of buildings, the Land and Development Office of the urban development ministry found that there is no newspaper office on the premises. The ground and the first floors of the building house the Passport Seva Kendra of the Regional Passport Office of Ministry of External Affairs. The other two floors have been rented out to Tata Consultancy Services. The fourth floor also has an office of Young Indian, another entity of the Congress party. The owners are getting a rent of approximately Rs.1 crore a month.

On eve of Jawaharlal Nehru’s birth anniversary, launch of National Herald’s online format announced

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress mouthpiece National Herald may soon be launched in an online format, its newly appointed Editor-in-Chief Neelabh Mishra said on the eve of the birth anniversary of the newspaper founder Jawaharlal Nehru. Though Mishra did not give any specific date or timing for the launch, he said that finishing touches were being given to the party journal.The Associated Journals Ltd had in August announced that National Herald, which became defunct in 2008, would resume publication. “The Associated Journals Ltd, a company founded in 1937 by Pandit Jawaharalal Nehru, has taken steps to resume publication of its English and Hindi newspapers National Herald and Navjivan,” Congress Treasurer Motilal Vora, who is also managing director of AJL Limited, had said.The party had said that the spirit of the forthcoming publications of The Association Journals Limited, a not for profit company, is captured by the tagline “Freedom is in peril, defend it with your might”.Vora said the publications shall seek to give voice to the vision of Nehru and shall seek to occupy a liberal, progressive, secular space. “They shall strive to represent the under-represented and all those deprived of voice, thereby promoting the ideals of a plural, democratic party,” he said.The decision to relaunch the publication had come in the midst of a legal battle over its past, which has ensnared Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul. The issue is at present pending in court. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who has filed a private complaint in a local court, has accused top Congress leaders of misappropriation, a charge vehemently denied by the party.He had also written to Urban development Ministry demanding cancellation of land allotment and confiscation of properties to AJL for alleged violation of allotment conditions. Both Sonia Gandhi and and Rahul Gandhi along with five others were granted bail on December 19, 2015 after they appeared in response to the summons.

No one wants to see Sonia Gandhi replaced in her absence: Digvijaya Singh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Days after Congress Working Committee (CWC) expressed “strong sentiment” for Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as party president, senior leader Digvijaya Singh on Thursday said the call on the issue will be taken by incumbent chief Sonia Gandhi at “right time”.”No one wants to sort of see that Sonia Gandhi is replaced in her absence. No one has criticised the decision to elevate Rahul Gandhi. Unanimously, CWC has said that it’s high time that Rahul Gandhi should take up the leadership,” the AICC general secretary said.At its meeting held in Delhi earlier this week, the highest decision-making body of the Congress had unanimously voiced “strong sentiment” for the elevation of the Congress vice-president as party chief. Sonia couldn’t attend that meeting apparently on health grounds.”…Now the issue is Sonia Gandhi is president of Congress so she has to take a call. No one wants to sort of see that Sonia is replaced in her absence. She could not attend the meeting because she was unwell,” Singh said. He further said, “The decision is with her. Whenever she feels the timing is right she will take a decision. Sonia is undisputed leader of the Congress party.”

CWC wants Rahul to take over party reins

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress Working Committee’s (CWC) highest decision making body of the 130-year grand old party here on Monday adopted a resolution picking up Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, 46, as party president. He is all set to take over from his mother Sonia Gandhi, by the end of 2016, when her extended six-month term ends.As the CWC assembled, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh proposed that Rahul take over as head of party, to end uncertainty in the minds of party workers. Former Defence Minister AK Antony seconded the proposal. Party insiders said Singh had taken initiatives after consulting Sonia, who did not attend the meeting. There was unanimity on the proposal, and hence the CWC decided to convey the sentiment to Sonia, to hand over the mantle to Rahul.”It was the first time that this sentiment was strongly and unanimously expressed. The final decision on this has to be that of the party president,” said Antony.Rahul, who steered the party’s frontal organisations as AICC general secretary, was elevated to the post of the party vice-president in January 2013 at the brainstorming session of the Congress in Jaipur. In the wake of indisposition of Sonia, he has already been taking all important decisions of the party. He will be the 88th president of the party since WC Bonnerjee had taken over in 1885. Since Sonia’s extended term ends on December 31, Rahul’s coronation has to be before that. An AICC session will have to be convened to confirm his elevation as party president. Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said, “The CWC was of the view that Rahul Gandhi must take over presidency of the Congress party. It is high time the Congress mobilises all its forces under his leadership to fight against the dictatorial rule of the Narednra Modi government.”The three-hour long CWC meeting also discussed the upcoming assembly elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, and expressed satisfaction over the pre-poll campaign. The meeting passed almost a dozen resolution, including one condemning the statements made by union ministers, and the BJP whipping up hysteria with the claim that surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) happened for the first time on September 29.It urged the government for restraint in its crude attempts to gain political advantage out of the essentially military action. False claims, chest thumping and jingoism have no place in mature democracy, the resolution said. Another resolution exhorted the government to take strict action against the perpetrators of Uri terrorist attack killing 19 soldiers. It also slammed the Modi government for diluting the actual ‘One Rank, One Pension’ (OROP). It also deplored the government’s assault on democratic rights by misusing the police and illegally detaining the principal opposition’s leadership to prevent it from taking up the cause of ex-servicemen.One resolution talked about the plight of the farmers, Dalits, tribals and minorities while another expressed concern over the grave situation in Jammu and Kashmir and daily ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) and asked the government to take initiatives for a credible and pragmatic solution for restoring normalcy. There was also a resolution on economy discussing failure to fulfill the promise of creating two crore jobs every year, concern of the citizens and the media over growing intolerance and misuse of government agencies to target them as also political opponents, critics and institutions, spurt in prices and alarming environmental situation in Delhi.

CWC unanimously picks Rahul as next Congress President, all eyes on Sonia Gandhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rahul Gandhi’s appointment as Congress president appeared imminent on Monday with members of the Congress Working Committee, its highest decision making body, unanimously voicing “strong sentiment” for his elevation for the first time at a meeting which Sonia Gandhi gave a miss. It was party veteran AK Antony who set the ball rolling at the meeting, which lasted for four hours, when he spoke about the need for Rahul to take over the mantle of the 130-year-old party from his mother and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. All other members, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh followed suit.”Members unanimously expressed their strong sentiment that accepting the wishes of crores of Congress workers and well wishers, Rahul Gandhi take over as the president of the Congress party”, Antony told reporters while briefing on the deliberations. Antony said all members including Manmohan Singh, insisted it was “high time” Rahul took over as party chief and the Congress mobilised “all forces” to take on “anti-people and dictatorial” policies of the Modi government.Rahul, who presided over the meeting as Sonia Gandhi was reportedly indisposed, said he was ready to accept whatever responsibility is bestowed upon him by the Congress president and the CWC, in “fighting for the idea of India.” At the briefing, both Antony and chief party spokesman Randeep Surjewala evaded questions as to when exactly Rahul would take over the reins of the party from his mother and whether it would happen on November 19, the day the AICC has organised a grand celebration on the birth centenary of Indira Gandhi. “We are very hopeful”, a senior party leader said when asked whether the elevation would happen before UP assembly polls.Sonia Gandhi has created a record by being at the helm of the 130-year-old organisation since early 1998 succeeding the late Sitaram Kesri who was ousted by the CWC. “It is for the first time that the CWC is making such a recommendation. We are sure that the Congress President would give it proper care and attention”, Antony said replying to a volley of questions on the issue.Surjewala said senior CWC members would personally meet the party chief as a “follow up” action regarding their recommendation for Rahul’s elevation. After Sonia takes a decision, the CWC would meet again to formally ratify it. Rahul was appointed party vice-president in January 2013 at Congress’s brainstorming session in Jaipur. The talk about his elevation has been going on for quite some time now. Leaders like Jairam Ramesh had even insisted that Rahul was the “de facto” (in fact) leader who has to become “de jure” (in law). Antony said Sonia Gandhi will not nominate her successor as Congress President. “It is not her decision. She is not nominating the Congress president,” he said. “This is the first time the CWC has recommended (Rahul’s elevation). The Congress president will not nominate the Congress president. The Congress Working Committee of AICC has to take the decision. (It is) the first time the entire CWC met today and unanimously recommended that Rahul Gandhi should take over.”He said, “For the first time, the entire CWC, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, expressed strong sentiment of crores of Congress workers and sympathisers that Rahul Gandhi must take over the presidency and mobilise other forces in its fight against the communal forces, dictatorial forces of the government, RSS and the Sangh Parivar.” “The unanimous sentiment of the CWC has ben noted and will be conveyed by senior members of Congress Working Committee to the Congress president,” Surjewala said.It is high time the Congress mobilised all the forces to fight against the anti-people and dictatorial policy of the Modi Government and also the RSS, Sangh Parivar and BJP’s policy of communal polarisation and destruction of peace and social harmony in the country, Antony said. On what Rahul told the CWC members after being urged to take over the reins of the party, Surjwala said, “For him, the issue is to fight for the idea of India to ensure that decisive fight, including (protecting) the rights of media is carried to a logical conclusion and any responsibility that helps him realise that objective, he is always willing to more than take on that mantle and fulfil that responsibility.”The CWC also decided to seek another extension for a year from the Election Commission for completing its organisational elections. The current extension expires on December 31. Antony, however, said delaying the organisational polls had no connection with elevating Rahul Gandhi to the party president’s post, apparently hinting at the possibility of Sonia stepping down to clear the way for her son even before the party elections have been wrapped up.”We will cross the bridge when we come to it”, Surjewala merely said when asked whether the CWC meeting saw any demand being raised for a larger role for Priyanka Gandhi in the party.In his opening remarks, Rahul Gandhi made a scathing attack on the Modi government, saying democracy is going through “one of its darkest hours” with the ruling dispensation “obsessed with power and seeking to silence” all those who disagree. Rahul alleged that “hiding behind the cloak of national security, civil society is being intimidated (by the government) for asking questions.”Alluding to the one-day ban on Hindi channel NDTV India, Gandhi said, “TV channels are being punished and asked to shut down. The opposition is being arrested for holding the government to account”. “Democracy under the present dispensation is going through one of the darkest hours,” he said, adding that all attempts by the government to suppress fundamental freedom by “abusing” state power would only strengthen the Congress’ resolve to defeat such “dangerous designs”.

CWC backs Rahul Gandhi for presidency, but Sonia Gandhi to remain Congress president

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sonia Gandhi’s tenure as the party president was extended by the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the highest decision making body of the party, for a year on Monday. According to reports, the CWC meeting for the first time was chaired by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi as his mother skipped the session citing poor health.While addressing the CWC members, the Gandhi scion described Prime Minister Narendra Modi as being “obsessed with power and for seeking to silence all those who disagree.” Reportedly, Rahul also discussed organisational polls and strategy for the upcoming winter session of Parliament besides party’s preparations for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur.However, members of the CWC, also pitched for Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as its president. Member after member suggested that heir apparent to Congress president Sonia Gandhi should helm the party.46-year-old Rahul was appointed party vice-president in January 2013 at Congress’s brainstorming session in Jaipur. The talk about his elevation has been going on for quite some time now.Sources said the ball was set rolling by senior Congress leader AK Antony, who first spoke about the need for Rahul Gandhi to take over the party leadership. Antony’s suggestion received the backing of all other CWC members attending the meeting, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, sources said. However, it was decided that the organisational election could be extended by a year.

National Herald case: Delhi Court to hear Subramaniam Swamy’s plea today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Patiala House Court will hear a plea on Friday filed by Rajya Sabha MP and BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy in a case related to the National Herald case.In August, the court issued notices to Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi and five others on Swamy’s application seeking presentation of certain documents from Associated Journals Pvt Ltd (AJL) and Indian National Congress (INC) in connection with the National Herald case.The court had on March 11 given its nod to Swamy’s plea, seeking the balance sheets of the INC and the AJL for the purpose of investigation in this case. In an application moved before Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen, Swamy sought to summon the balance sheet, receipts, income and expenditure statements for assessment years 2010- 11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 of the INC, AJL and Young Indian Pvt. Ltd. (YI)Besides the Congress president and her son, Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda are the other accused in this case. Swamy had accused Sonia, Rahul and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by just paying Rs. 50 lakh by which YI obtained the right to recover Rs. 90.25 crores which the AJL had owed to the Congress.

Congress organisational polls delayed further

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress internal organisational polls are set to get delayed further by a year, as the party workers and leaders have got busy in the upcoming assembly elections in five states. Apart from Uttar Pradesh, assembly elections are scheduled to be held in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur early next year. Party sources said a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting has been scheduled on November 7 to seek more time from the Election Commission (EC) for the conduct of organisational elections. The EC requires every political party to hold organisational elections as per its constitution.Putting off organisational polls by a year also means extending the term of party President Sonia Gandhi by one more year, which also means that elevation of Vice- President Rahul Gandhi will be kept on hold. Sonia’s five-year term after being elected in 2010 had ended last year. But the CWC extended her term by a year up to December 2016, citing delay in completion of the organisational elections. Sonia is at the helm of affairs in the party for the last 19 years.The CWC is expected to adopt a resolution extending completion of the organisational elections by one year up to December 2017, the party sources said. Sonia, who turns 70 on December 9, will thus complete 20 years in saddle, the current term being extended to total seven years. The top decision making body will also review preparations for the Assembly polls.A decision on the formal launch of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (44) as campaigner in Uttar Pradesh is also expected in this meeting. It will also consider a one-day session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) here on November 19 to mark the birth centenary of Indira Gandhi.Last year, the party had announced an elaborate four-phase schedule for organisational elections to pep up the party at grassroot level. These included polls for block, district and state committees before moving to the central level to elect All India Congress Committee (AICC) and Congress Working Committee (CWC) members. The party constitution says 12 members are to be elected to the CWC and as many nominated by the Congress President. (ends)

Aung San Suu Kyi discusses Indo-Myanmar ties with Sonia Gandhi

Mon, 17 Oct 2016-11:43pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Myanmar’s Foreign Minister and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi met Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday at her residence in Delhi.Myanmar’s Foreign Minister drove to the 10, Janpath residence of Gandhi and spent sometime with the Congress President. She is learnt to have discussed the steps for strengthening of Indo-Myanmar ties. Senior Congress leader Karan Singh was also present at Gandhi’s residence and greeted her along with Gandhi on her arrival.

Rahul, Sonia Gandhi may visit Gujarat for tribal yatra

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi are likely to visit Gujarat but address separately the party’s tribal-focused ‘Navsarjan Adivasi Adhikar Yatra’ to be held later this month. The 12-day yatra, likely to begin on October 20 or 21, will start from Ambaji in Banaskantha district of north Gujarat and conclude at Umbergaon, Valsad in southern part, covering state’s tribal-dominated eastern belt, state Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said. “We have requested Rahul Gandhi to address a gathering at the beginning of the yatra at Ambaji on October 20 or 21. Party president Sonia Gandhi is also likely to address a gathering at the end of the about 12-day yatra. These are subject to confirmation,” he said. The yatra is an attempt of the opposition to woo tribals through direct meetings along the course of the 1200-km journey covering around 100 kilometres on each day. “Through the yatra, party leaders and workers will cover 38 Vidhan Sabha seats across 13 tribal-dominated districts where meetings will be held at regular intervals with locals and their problems, grievances will be taken a note of,” Doshi said. Assembly elections are due in the state in later part of 2017.

Cong steers clear of Sanjay Nirupam’s remarks, asks Modi to call Pak bluff

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress dissociated itself from its leader Sanjay Nirupam’s remarks on surgical strikes, saying it has full faith in the armed forces even as it asked the government to use “all information and evidence” at its disposal to call “Pakistan’s bluff” and expose its false propaganda.The party said it has taken serious note of Nirupam’s remarks calling the surgical strike “fake”, signalling trouble for the Mumbai Congress chief. It also claimed that similar surgical strikes had been undertaken in the past too but the information had not been made public in interest of national security.Party’s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala, however, steered clear of questions whether Nirupam and Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh who had also raised some doubts over the action of the armed forces, would be served show cause notices.”Indian National Congress disagrees completely from the statement of Sanjay Nirupam. It has taken a serious note”, Surjewala said insisting that the party has “full faith” in the bravehearts of Indian armed forces.Nirupam had tweeted that “every Indian wants surgical strikes against Pakistan but not a fake one to extract just political benefit by BJP. politics over national interest(sic).”Nirupam had later told reporters in Mumbai that it is up to the government to prove the surgical strikes did take place.Surjewala noted that party chief Sonia Gandhi has unequivocally supported Indian armed forces and the government on the issue of surgical strikes against terrorists in Pakistan as also in taking all steps for demolishing terror infrastructure against India.”We reaffirm the same,” he said.Insisting that there never has been a reason to raise a question or doubt on the statements by the DGMO on surgical strikes, he, however, said that government needs to “call the Pakistani bluff and false propaganda” on the issue.This, he said, should be done by the government using “all information, evidence and instruments at the disposal of Indian state”.”We are proud that even in the past our forces have successfully conducted such surgical strikes on numerous occasions,” the Congress spokesperson said.He said that forces had taken such action on September 1, 2011, July 28, 2013 and January 14, 2014 while “giving befitting reply to the enemy”. “In its maturity, wisdom and in the interest of national security, Congress government avoided making loud claim for the effective response and action of Indian Army, which had the full support of political leadership”, he said in the backdrop of BJP projecting the strikes as symbol of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “strong” leadership. Congress General Secretary Gurudas Kamat, a known Nirupam detractor, latched on to the Mumbai Congress chief’s tweet to tell partymen that no one should “abuse their positions to embarrass the party and the country”.Without naming Nirupam, Kamat tweeted: “Honble Congress President Sonia Gandhi & VP Rahul Gandhi had complimented the Indian Army & the Govt for Surgical Strikes against Pakistan.” “No one else in Congress should abuse their positions to embarrass the Party and the Country. #LoveYourArmy #TrustYourArmy(sic),” he said.At the Congress briefing, Surjewala wanted the Modi government “stop politicising” the sacrifices and bravery of Indian soldiers for “myopic political gain”. Surjerwala also targeted Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. “In a serious and challenging situation where Pakistan continues to export terror, like (the attack) in Baramulla yesterday, and commit ceasefire violations, we will like to ask Prime Minister, if the immature and casual statements being made by Parriker and other Union ministers have his sanction and support,” he said.Surjewala dismissed suggestions that Congress was speaking in the same voice as that of the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on the issue of the surgical strikes. Army conducted surgical strikes on seven terror launch pads along the LoC on the intervening night of September 28 and 29, inflicting “significant casualties” on terrorists preparing to infiltrate from PoK.The next morning, the DGMO had given this information to the media in a press conference. Pakistan, however, has been dismissing the claim as “fabrication of truth” and said India was creating “media hype” by re-branding cross-border fire as surgical strikes.

Congress backs India’s surgical strikes against Pakistan, says it always supports national security

Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s aggressive stance against Pakistan exporting terrorism to Indian soil has received strong support from the main opposition party Congress.

Congress may have its differences with the Modi government on several fronts, but it has openly lauded the successful surgical strike by the Indian Army against the terrorist bases across the Line of Control (LoC).

It’s quite similar to the support that the Congress had given to the statement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech on Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi. PTI

Congress president Sonia Gandhi said on Thursday that the Congress stands with the government in its actions today to protect the country’s security and deal with the menace of terrorism from across the border.

“The Congress Party congratulates the armed forces on the success of the operation and offers its support to the government in our country’s continuing battle against cross-border terrorism. This is a strong message that conveys our country’s resolve to prevent further infiltration and attacks on our security forces and our people,” said Gandhi.

In her statement, she said the Congress hopes that Pakistan would recognise that it bears a great responsibility in the continuing cross-border terrorist attacks against India.

“The party expects that Pakistan will take effective action to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism that it has supported and it ensures that its territory and the territory under its control is not used for terrorist purposes against India,” the Congress president added.

Former Defence minister and senior Congress leader, AK Anthony congratulated the government and Indian Army for the operation.

“I congratulate and salute the Indian Army for this action. It’s a logical action against terrorists and Pakistan should realise and stop sending terrorists across the border to India,” Anthony reportedly told ANI.

The chief spokesperson of Congress Randeep Surjewala remarked, “Congress wholeheartedly supports the surgical strike on terror pads in PoK by Indian Army. We salute the valour of our armed forces.”

However, this is not the first time that the Congress has supported Modi government’s decision. Prior to this, the Congress supported PM Modi’s remarks in his Independence Day speech on Balochistan and Pak-occupied Kashmir.

The PM in his speech from Delhi’s Red Fort on 15 August made it clear that he has completely rerouted his policy on Pakistan, delivering an aggressive message by referring to the human rights abuses in Balochistan and PoK.

“India will be compelled to expose Islamabad’s many wrongdoings in regions fighting terror and atrocities by its security forces,” the PM had said.

File photo of Narendra Modi. PTIFile photo of Narendra Modi. PTI

File photo of Narendra Modi. PTI

In response, the Congress had then asked the government to raise the issue of Pakistan’s human rights abuses in Balochistan and in PoK, both at the bilateral meetings with Islamabad and at international forums.

Even the Congress had distanced itself from the comment made by its senior leader Salman Khurshid, who had remarked, “PoK is our right. Our entitlement. We will support it. But by bringing in Balochistan, you are ruining our case.”

“The Congress does not subscribe to the statement made by Salman Khurshid, who is a senior leader. He can have his own opinion. Our view is very, very clear. Congress party believes there are serious human rights violations in Balochistan and the voice of democratic dissent is being suppressed by Pakistani forces and agencies,” the Congress party reportedly said after this, while supporting Modi’s statement.

Speaking to Firstpost, a senior Congress MP said, “Whenever it’s the issue of national security and integrity, Congress has always supported the cause, because the party strongly believes in it. And when it was in power at the Centre, it ensured that national security and integrity shouldn’t get compromised. Therefore, we supported PM Modi’s statement on Balochistan and PoK made on Independence Day, and didn’t subscribe to the statement made by our senior leader Salman Khurshid.”

Congress remains tight-lipped about Priyanka’s role in UP polls, says Gandhi family to take final call

Amid demands for a larger role for Priyanka Gandhi in Uttar Pradesh, Congress on Wednesday said she along with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi would decide what role she would play in the key state where Assembly polls are due early next year.”A decision on the role of Priyanka Gandhi and what she would do in Uttar Pradesh would be taken by her along with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi,” party spokesperson Shobha Oza told reporters. Oza was asked whether Priyanka would canvass support for the party outside Rae Bareli and Amethi, the Lok Sabha constituencies represented by the Congress President and Vice President, and what would be her role in Uttar Pradesh.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was recently appointed AICC General Secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, has already favoured that Priyanka campaign all over the state.Congress has signalled it could declare a chief ministerial candidate ahead of the Assembly polls. In the last Assembly polls, Congress had won just 28 of the 403 seats in the state.In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the party secured only two seats with Sonia and Rahul emerging victorious. The Congress is in political wilderness in Uttar Pradesh since 1989 following emergence of divisive ‘Mandal-Mandir’ politics and rise of the BSP, which took away its crucial Dalit vote base.

From Jaitley’s suit to Kejriwal’s IIT degree: Everything Subramanian said on Swamy Saturday

BJP MP Subramanian Swamy sought to downplay his threat of “bloodbath” making it clear he did not intend the literal meaning of the word but only hinted at “chaos” which has not happened.”I said I am the most disciplined person. If I was indisciplined, there would not be what they called as bloodshed. Bloodshed did not mean blood spilling. Bloodshed means there will be chaos. And I said that because I am disciplined, nothing of that kind happened,” he told a press conference here. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The BJP leader said his usage of the word was ‘misunderstood’ as everyone took the literal meaning of bloodshed. Asked about the reported unhappiness of the BJP leadership over his attacks targeting those in the finance ministry, he said, “That is what your press is saying. I don’t know.” Jaitley had counselled Swamy restraint in public course while attacking government officials who are unable to defend themselves because of office discipline.The BJP had also distanced itself from Swamy’s attacks on Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian and Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das, in whose defence Jaitley spoke strongly. Yesterday, party sources said the leadership was upset over his public comments. Replying to questions about his “shifting” from one party to another, Swamy said there was a time late Jayaprakash Narayan used to attack the RSS and then he came to the conclusion that the organisation has evolved to a point where without it democracy cannot be restored.He also referred to Congress bringing down the Gujral government on the Rajiv Gandhi assassination issue and later tying up with the DMK.”I can go on giving you names, parties which held positions and then after new material comes into existence, change it. Now neither the RSS minds what I said nor am I opposed to what the BJP said about me.We nationalist forces had to come together because there was a danger” Swamy said alleging Sonia Gandhi had tried to decalred a state of emergency in 2011-12 “cooking up this Hindu terror basis”.”(More) PTI LGK CKUnder criticism over his “waiter” jibe, Swamy made Under criticism over his “waiter” jibe, Swamy made tongue-in-cheek remarks today complimenting Jaitley for his “smart” looks and ticking off Robert Vadra, who spoke of the dignity of waiters. He said he did not target anybody and what he only wanted was politicians should not look like waiters. “The attire comment was not against anybody. I only said politicians should not look like waiters. There is nothing wrong in it (to wear such attires). I said they should not be mistaken…thats all,” Swamy said in press conference here.”I did not aim anybody. Actually Mr Jaitley looks very smart in the attire. He looks like an exception,” he said.Swamy also hit back at Robert Vadra, who criticised him for his “derogatory” remarks about waiters and termed them “classist”, saying Vadra was pained as his mother was a waitress in a restaurant in England.”I can sense Vadra’s pain. Because, his mother was a waitress. She was a waitress in a small restaurant in England and so he feels offended that I made fun of waiters,” he said adding that he did not make fun of waiters.Earlier in the day, in a tweet Vadra took a dig at Swamy for his “derogatory” remarks about waiters and termed them “classist”.Swamy responded in kind to say Vadra should concentrate on “staying out of jail” instead of making political comments.Vadra, who is Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, was commenting on Swamy’s swipe at Jaitley in which he had said ministers who wear a coat and tie look like waiters and must be instructed to wear Indian clothes.In a Facebook post, Vadra said, “Undermining waiters who work hard for a living; making condescending and derogatory remarks about them is deplorable and classist”. When asked about his attacks on Subramanian, Swamy said he had made his point to the government and now it was up to the government to decide. He said he had brought all these matters before the Prime Minister and his party and it was up to them to decide. “Modi is a man who knows his mind. Nobody can force him to do anything. So I brought these to their notice. If they want to keep him, they can keep him and if they do not want to keep… They can also do so. After all, these what I said… I cannot go beyond this,” he said. Noting that BJP is not Congress party type, Swamy said “Our party is a democratic party…I have the right to express it,” he said.On the outgoing Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan, he said Rajan had no formal degree in Economics and was just a B-Tech graduate and a management student from MIT.Attacking former Union minister P Chidambaram, Swamy said the Congress leader would definitely be in trouble on the Aircel-Maxis issue.

Kejriwal didn’t get rank in IIT, Sonia wanted Emergency in 2012: Subramanian Swamy makes explosive claims

Speaking in a press conference, Subramanian Swamy claimed that Arvind Kejriwal didn’t get a rank in IIT and that Sonia Gandhi had wanted to declare a state of Emergency in 2012. He told ANI: “Last row of RTI column shows that Kejriwal has no rank (IIT).He probably came through other methods-Subramanian Swamy. In 2012, Sonia Gandhi had decided to declare a state of emergency in the country by cooking up false Hindu terror charges.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He also claimed that he wasn’t targeting Arun Jaitley and that the latter looked good in a suit. Swamy claimed that reports that the party were angry with him were false. He told ANI: “All such reports are false. I am addressing party meetings. These are rumours. If I want to target someone, I do it openly. In fact, Mr Jaitley looks very smart in a coat.”Earlier, Robert Vadra took a dig at Subramanian Swamy for his “derogatory” remarks about waiters and termed them “classist”, prompting the BJP MP to retort that he should concentrate on “staying out of jail” instead of making political comments. Vadra, who is Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, earlier in the day attacked Swamy over his apparent swipe at Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in which he had said ministers who wear a coat and tie look like waiters and must be instructed to wear Indian clothes.In a Facebook post, Vadra said, “Undermining waiters who work hard for a living; making condescending and derogatory remarks about them is deplorable and classist”.Swamy soon hit back. “Mr Vadra should concentrate on staying out of jail instead of making political comments,” he told reporters.Asked about the reported unhappiness of the BJP leadership over his consistent tirade against Jaitley and his ministry’s officials, he said, “That is what your press is saying. I don’t know.””People giving me unasked for advice of discipline and restraint don’t realise that if I disregard discipline there would be a bloodbath,” he tweeted in an obvious attack on Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Though he did not name Jaitley, he was obviously referring to the Minister urging him for restraint and discipline in the wake of his attacks on Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian on Wednesday and his use of the word discipline in defending Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das yesterday.In another apparent swipe at Jaitley, whose photographs of meeting with the Bank of China Chairman Tian Guoli in Beijing in a longue suit appeared in newspapers today, Swamy asked BJP to advise ministers to wear traditional and modernised Indian cloths when abroad. “BJP should direct our Ministers to wear traditional and modernised Indian clothes while abroad. In coat and tie they look like waiters,” Swamy said in another tweet. Swamy has been active on Twitter over the last two-three days, attacking officials of Finance Ministry and taking swipe at Jaitley.

Congress worker killed after two groups clash over cartoon of Sonia Gandhi ‘washing utensils’

A 33-year-old man ended up dead when a fight over an “objectional” caricature of Congress president Sonia Gandhi turned into a fullblown battle in Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur. Reports said one group was led by Congress municipal councillor Jatin Raj and another by advocate Prashant Naik. Naik was injured in the clashes, as well.

Six others got injured, five of them seriously, in the clash between two camps in the early hours of Thursday over the photo which was allegedly circulated in a WhatsApp group, police told PTI.

Prashant Naik allegedly posted a photo in the WhatsApp group, which showed Sonia “washing utensils” with a satirical caption saying (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi has reduced Congress President to such a position, CSP Balsavar told PTI.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi. PTI

Congress president Sonia Gandhi. PTI

Area city superintendent of police Inderjeet Balsavar told the media that Umesh Verma alias Guddu, who sustained injuries in the clash, succumbed to his wounds at a hospital. he was undergoing treatment.

According to Jatin Raj’s group, knives were freely used by the rival group inside the Vijay Nagar Police station where they went to lodge a complaint — a charge denied by the policemen on site, who had to call their colleagues from other police stations to discipline the two groups after they turned violent.

Raj has created a group named ‘Vijay Nagar Friends’ on WhatsApp for people to stay connected in his locality.

The two groups gathered at Ahimsa Chowk little after 12 pm on Tuesday and a heated argument took place between them over the caricature of Sonia. In the meantime, acting on a tip-off the police reached the spot and asked them to come to police station to sort out their differences, the CSP said.

When the two groups reached police station, an alleged altercation took place between them and one Umesh Verma was stabbed, who was rushed to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries, alleged Animesh, a member of the Congress corporator group.

He demanded police should make public the footage of CCTV camera at the police station to bring out the truth. CSP Balsavar said to bring situation under control, police resorted to cane charge but denied that violence took place inside the police station.

The violence took place when the groups were en route to the police station, the CSP said. Advocate Naik said people of both the groups have been booked and further investigations are on.

With inputs from PTI

Uttar Pradesh elections 2017: Speculations rife about Sheila Dikshit being CM face for Congress

Speculations were rife on Thursday about Congress planning to make three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit the party’s chief ministerial nominee for next year’s assembly election in politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, once its stronghold.Election strategist Prashant Kishor had recommended that Dikshit should play a major role in the party’s poll campaign in the state as she is a prominent Brahmin face and could help Congress regain support of the electorally sizeable and significant community, whose support determines the poll outcome in several seats. The community, a traditional vote bank of the Congress, shifted allegiance to BJP in the aftermath of the emergence of Mandir-Mandal politics. A large chunk of Brahmin votes had also gone to Mayawati’s BSP in the past when she gave tickets to many candidates belonging to the community.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dikshit is scheduled to meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi later on Thursday. There was a buzz that 78-year-old Dikshit, who ruled Delhi from 1999 to 2014 before being thrown out of power by the AAP could be Congress’ Chief Ministerial candidate. Sheila Dikshit is the daughter-in-law of prominent Congress leader from UP Uma Shankar Dikshit, who served as Union minister and governor for a long time.
ALSO READ UP elections 2017: Will project Congress face before polls, says Ghulam Nabi AzadThe Congress is trying to regain the lost ground in UP where currently it has just 30 MLAs in the 403-member assembly. Congress could win only two seats of Amethi and Rae Bareli in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls represented by Rahul and Sonia Gandhi respectively. The Brahmin community plays a significant role in election outcome in central and eastern UP as it is the dominant caste in these areas.

Haunted by 1984, Kamal Nath quits as Congress in-charge of Punjab

With his alleged role in 1984 anti-sikh riots haunting him, senior Congress leader Kamal Nath tonight gave up charge of Punjab assigned to him three days ago, in a clear bid to control damage in the coming Assembly polls as rivals have been raking up the issue.He wrote a letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi who immediately accepted his resignation and relieved him of his charge as party General Secretary.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Nath, who was appointed as the General Secretary in-charge of Punjab as well as Haryana only three days back, said in his letter to Gandhi, “.. I request that I may be relieved of my charge (of Punjab) to ensure that the attention is not diverted from the real issues facing Punjab.” The former Union Minister said he was “hurt by the developments of the past few days wherein an unnecessary controversy has been created around the tragic 1984 riots in New Delhi.”His step came as Akali Dal, BJP and AAP had kept up attack on him and the Congress over his alleged role in the anti-Sikh riots which followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi.Describing his appointment as ‘sprinkling of salt on wounds’ of Sikhs, the three parties were set to rake up the issue in the run up to the Assembly polls slated next year.Kamal Nath insisted that there was not even any public statement, complaint or FIR against him till 2005 in the riots case and that he had been absolved subsequently by the Nanavati Commission set up by the previous NDA government.”This canard is therefore nothing but a cheap political ploy to gain traction ahead of the elections…. Certain elements are raking up these issues now only for political gains,” he wrote to Gandhi.Expressing gratitude to Gandhi for appointing him as General Secretary in-charge of Punjab, the Congress leader wrote, “I am practitioner of Nehruvian politics and maligning of the Congress party using false accusations is unacceptable to me.””I wish the party to focus on the upcoming elections and highlight the issues of misgovernance, misery of the farmers and youth, break down of law and order and rampant drug trade that caused untold misery to the people of Punjab.” Soon after, party spokesman Randeep Surjewala said the Congress president had accepted Nath’s resignation as AICC General Secretary.”Kamal Nath has tendered his resignation from the responsibilities assigned to him in AICC. On his request, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has accepted his resignation,” Surjewala said.

Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka in Shimla on private visit

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her daughter Priyanka Gandhi are on a private visit in Shimla during which they also went to oversee the construction work of the latter’s house in Chharabra.They flew to Chandigarh from Delhi on Monday in a special aircraft and reached here by road and checked in at a hotel in Chharabra, 15 km from Shimla, from where the duo went to the site and remained there for about two hours.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The NSG had cordoned off the entire area in the vicinity of the villa which is close to the summer residence of the President, the Retreat, in a high security zone from where the media was barred.The architect, contractor and president of District Congress Committee (Shimla Rural), Kehar Singh Khachi were also with them. Sonia and Priyanka will stay here till tomorrow and leave for Delhi on June 15.

Resignation on personal grounds, retiring from politics not social work: Gurudas Kamat

Former Union minister and ex-Congress Mumbai chief Gurudas Kamat, who announced his retirement from politics, on Tuesday said his resignation is purely on personal grounds and that he isn’t quitting social work.”Retiring from politics does not mean retiring from social work. I will continue to be available for people minus the party tag for whatever help or issues to be taken up with different agencies from this weekend,” Kamat said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I would also like to emphasise that I have the highest respect and regard for Congress President Sonia Gandhi and VP Rahul Gandhi and my resignation is purely on personal grounds,” Kamat said in a statement. The statement comes amid reports that he was quitting Congress after being sidelined by the party leadership, particularly by Rahul Gandhi.
ALSO READ Former Mumbai Congress chief Gurudas Kamat resigns from party, quits politicsThe 61-year-old veteran made the announcement on Tuesday. The move comes ahead of next year’s Mumbai civic elections, where Congress would be seeking to dislodge the incumbent Shiv Sena-BJP combine.

Rahul Gandhi has skills to restore Congress to power, says Digvijay Singh

Congress needs “fresh ideas” and a “generational change” and vice president Rahul Gandhi has the required skills to steer the party back to power after facing setbacks in state elections since the 2014 Lok Sabha drubbing, party general secretary Digvijay Singh said on Sunday. “Congress has always promoted young people in the party from the very beginning. The country’s demographic profile has changed. India is a much younger country now. Therefore we need fresh ideas, fresh leadership and new way of the Congress functioning,” Singh told India Today. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>However, the final decision of his taking over as the party President will be decided by Sonia Gandhi, he said. “The timing has to be decided by the Congress President Sonia Gandhi, because ultimately she is the one who has to decide,” he said. Asked to list out Rahul’s leadership skills, Singh said, “He has the capacity and experience to lead the party once he becomes its President.” “The leadership qualities are there. I strongly feel he has the capacity and experience to lead once he becomes the President…He has the political sense, he understands the mechanics of politics and he knows the country also,” he said.Asked about a public perception about Rahul who is referred to as “pappu” (childish), Singh said even Prime Minister Narendra Modi is called “feku” (braggart). “There are jokes floating around Modi now. The country calls him feku,” Singh said.

Rahul Gandhi should take charge as Congress chief ‘as soon as possible’, says Jairam Ramesh

“Rahul Gandhi is de facto Congress chief but he should become de jure” and make the party battle ready without waiting for anti-incumbency to build up against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, senior party leader Jairam Ramesh said on Sunday.Ramesh also said it was high time that the Congress changed in tune with changing India as “our communication strategy is not very effective” and “we need an aggressive outreach” with various sections of society against the backdrop of successive poll debacles.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Challenges are very heavy but there is no room for despondency. Those who are writing off Congress party are writing its premature obituary,” the former Union Minister told PTI, apparently referring to Modi’s repeated calls for a “Congress-mukt Bharat”.Making a strong pitch for Gandhi’s leadership, Ramesh said “uncertainty does not help”. He said the challenges faced by Congress were akin to those that prevailed when Sonia Gandhi had taken over the party in March 1998.Ramesh insisted that the Congress vice president has “a lot of ideas on organisational restructuring and I hope he gets into position very soon. He is de facto, but he should become de jure”.Noting that Congress presidentship has its own institutional importance, Ramesh said Rahul Gandhi should take charge “as soon as possible”.”He has got a clear concept of strategy. He knows people he wants to bring. One thing should be clear that when Rahul Gandhi takes over, a team takes over. When? that is the big question,” he said.He recalled that when Sonia Gandhi took over as party chief, Congress had only two states with it. Digvijay Singh was the Chief Minister of MP and Giridhar Gamang of Odisha.But at that time the Congress’ strength in the Lok Sabha was 140.Ramesh said, for the first time, the party was very weak in the Lok Sabha, had reduced strength in the Rajya Sabha and was in power in very few states. “It is a difficult situation,” he said.Ramesh’s strong pitch for Rahul’s elevation has come at a time when opinion appears to be divided in the organisation on the timing of his taking over.Punjab PCC Chief Amarinder Singh had made a pitch for Rahul’s elevation saying that Sonia is now approaching 70 and her deputy can get into her shoes if she was feeling tired.Senior leader Ambika Soni, however, said Sonia was working tirelessly and should continue, a view shared by another party leader Kamal Nath.Sonia Gandhi holds a record of sorts by being at the helm for over 18 years in the 130-year-old organisation. Rahul Gandhi was made the party vice president in January 2013 at the Jaipur ‘chintan shivir’.A former Union Environment and Rural Development Minister, Ramesh has been pitching for long for Rahul to take over the reins.Ramesh saw no wrong in National Conference leader Omar Abdullah’s recent tweet on the issue of Rahul’s elevation.”Isn’t the Congress fed up of planting Rahul’s imminent elevation stories? Been reading them for years now. Just do it & let him get on,” Omar had said.Ramesh said the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister is a well-wisher of the Congress party and his tweet “reflected the sentiments of the well wisher”.Asked about his ideas for turnaround of the party, the 62-year-old Congress leader said India is changing and Congress has to reflect that change.”One of the big areas of change has to be communication.Our communication strategy has not been very effective. We have to understand technological changes that are taking place. Three Cs – clear, consistent and credible. Messages must to be consistent and clear,” Ramesh said.Besides, Congress needs to have a “far more aggressive outreach”, he said.”Congress is a 130-year-old organisation and it needs to emphasise why it needs to be voted and supported in this time and age. We need to tell people what is the difference between Congress and BJP. This communication outreach has to be made to various sections of society like students, doctors, teachers,” Ramesh said.He also stressed that Congress has to be more decentralised as Rahul Gandhi has been saying for a long time.”More decentralisation means the PCC chiefs and the DCC Chiefs will have more powers. Rahul Gandhi is harping on the need to empower people. We cannot be a centralised outfit,” Ramesh added.

Party to decide on Rahul Gandhi’s elevation: Ambika Soni

After being re-elected to the Rajya Sabha, Senior Congress leader Ambika Soni on Friday said the party will decide when the time was right to pass on the baton to Rahul Gandhi. “The fact that Rahul Gandhi has to be the president of the Congress party was a decision which the party entirely with its consent and concurrence took in January 2013 when it had unanimously elected him as the vice-president. You become Vice-President, so that one day in future you will take over as the President. Which day that will be, the party, its leadership, Rahul ji and Sonia ji themselves will take a call,” Soni said. The veteran Congress leader was replying to the recent remarks of Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh suggesting Rahul Gandhi to take over as Congress President.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>She, however, described the current Congress president as a “catalytic force” who united various factions within the party and said the leadership baton will be passed on when the “time was right”.”Sonia Gandhi has really been a catalytic force in Congress party, she has united different factions and successfully gave them a direction. Without her, we would have never been able to form UPA-I, UPA-II and governments in so many states. So, whether we acknowledge that publicly or as every Congress worker always pays a silent tribute to her work, that is universal,” said Soni.When asked if senior leaders would want Sonia to continue as the party’s President, Soni, who is also chairperson of Congress’ Campaign Committee for the upcoming Punjab Assembly elections in 2017, said, “look, it’s not a question of anyone coming in because we don’t want her to continue. Congressmen would like to have all of them (the Gandhi family) in the party in one position or the other.” On the suggestion of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra entering into active politics, Soni said “these suggestions have been there for a very very long time. They have to take the final decision. They are thinking individuals, educated, born into Congress family. Priyanka Gandhi and Mr Vadra will take a call, it is the family who takes the call. We cannot force them. But definitely, Congress workers wants her to join,” she said.

Waiting for Gandhi: Speculation rife about Rahul taking over as Congress president

Speculation raged about Rahul Gandhi taking over as Congress President soon but the party dismissed any such immediate possibility even as Sonia Gandhi remained tightlipped on the issue. Sonia, who is on a visit to her constituency Rae Bareli, was asked to comment on media reports about Congressmen wanting Rahul to take over as President. She just got into her car without replying to the media. “We are a national party. There are certain procedures …When it comes to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi we all wholeheartedly accept (their leadership) ” …We all want Rahul to take over, as and when (it will happen), we will make a proper statement,” party spokesperson Sushmita Dev told reporters. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Replying to a volley of questions on the speculation over Rahul’s imminent elevation and also on the possibility of Priyanka Gandhi becoming active in Uttar Pradesh where Assembly polls are scheduled next year, Dev said :” speculation is the privilege of the media”.In Chandigarh, Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh said time is right for Rahul Gandhi to take over from his mother as Congress President and favoured Priyanka’s entry into active politics.”Sonia Gandhi is a brilliant leader. I have said that she has been working (as Congress President) for the last 20 years. If she feels that time has come to give it to a new generation, then she should pass it on and we will fully support Rahul (to take over),” he told a press conference.A section in the party feels that Sonia should continue as party chief, while another feels that the earlier Rahul takes over the reins the better.Leaders like Jairam Ramesh have said earlier that Rahul will be party president in 2016.Talk is that a meeting of the Congress Working Committee will be held this month to discuss threadbare the situation caused by the party’s debacle in Assembly elections in four states. Holding of a ‘Chintan Shivir’ to brainstorm over the losses, among other things, is also being talked about. Rahul was made party vice president in January 2013 at the Jaipur chintan shivir. Sonia Gandhi has been at the helm of the party since March 1998 and has created a record of sorts.

Make in India means ‘cooking stories’ and ‘making baseless allegations’: Congress hits out at Modi govt

Congress hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi claiming that ‘Make in India’ for him meant “cooking stories” against opposition and “baseless” allegations were being levelled against the party to divert people’s attention from “his embarrassing economic failures”.”From National Herald to AgustaWestland and Ishrat Jahan fake encounter, the BJP has proven itself capable of making baseless accusations, but incapable of substantiating any of their claims,” the party said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a strongly worded commentary posted on its website, the AICC said “if indeed there is any proof of wrongdoing, then is the Modi Government so impotent that they cannot prosecute the guilty” and added that “there is a difference between a strong PM who lets his work do the talking, and a PM so busy talking that he forgets his work”.The attack came as Congress and BJP were engaged in a political slugfest over charges that Robert Vadra may have bought a benami property in London with his mother-in-law and Congress President Sonia Gandhi claiming that everyday false allegations were made as part of a conspiracy of Modi government to make the country “Congress-free”.Vadra’s legal firm has denied the allegations against him.Congress today alleged that the government wanted to blunt all opposition against its “destruction of civil liberties, attack on students, anti-farmer, anti-Dalit and poor economic policy”, which is taking India towards “uncertain and dark times”.It said in the case of AgustaWestland, it was “found” that operational changes were made during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as PM.”Even Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had to beat a hasty retreat on this issue and said ‘there is no evidence against Congress’,” the party claimed in the commentary titled “For PM Modi, ‘Make in India’ means cooking stories against Opposition “Posing the question whether any allegation of Modi Government proved to be true, it said, “Take the National Herald case or the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter or the AgustaWestland – after creating a hullabaloo, the Government quietly changed its stand in all cases”. Congress asked that if there was even an iota of truth in the Government’s charges, would they not have gone hammer & tongs against Congress leaders.”They haven’t, because the allegations are all baseless. They are being made, and will be made by PM Modi in near future too, only with the intention of diverting people’s attention from his embarrassing economic failures.”.May 2014 gave a great opportunity to Modi to take India to greater heights, it said, insisting that he has “frittered away” the chance completely by choosing “hyper publicity over dedicated work and by attempting to silence allOpposition voices by cooking up false charges against them. ” It claimed Modi’s strategy is simple – create negative hype around Congress party by “planting concocted” stories in media & create positive hype around Government work that “never took place.””The BJP has been leading this attack by employing their dirty tricks department to concoct half baked insinuations & selective leaks to media, to attack Congress President Sonia Gandhi,” the commentary said.”Their latest was on the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, where no less than Union Ministers made public statements hinting at the ‘complicity’ of Smt. Gandhi in ‘falsely targeting’ the then CM of Gujarat, Narendra Modi,” it said.”They launched a slanderous campaign against senior Congress leadership, without realising that two courts found the encounter, which killed Ishrat Jahan to be ‘Fake’.”A magisterial inquiry reported that Ishrat was innocent and was killed only because she was a Muslim and fitted the Gujarat police’s idea of a terrorist,” the party said.Now, even the Home Ministry, in response to an RTI, has said that “there was no proof that Gandhi interfered with the Ministry of Home Affairs”, the party said.”BJP is a party that’s ever busy crafting new allegations, which they keep alive for a few weeks, before moving on,” it alleged.

Time is right for Rahul: Captain Amarinder calls for scion to take over from Sonia Gandhi

As speculation raged over the issue, Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh said that time is right for Rahul Gandhi to take over from his mother as Congress President and favoured Priyanka’s entry into active politics.”Sonia Gandhi is a brilliant leader. I have said that she has been working (as Congress President) for the last 20 years. If she feels that time has come to give it to a new generation, then she should pass it on and we will fully support Rahul (to take over),” he told a press conference here.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He was replying to a question whether time has come for Congress Vice-President to take over from Sonia Gandhi. Singh said, “Look, she has not talked to me (on the issue). But what we are coming to know is that she is now feeling that the time has come for a new generation (to take over), which everyone today is saying.”We are also saying so that 70 per cent of India’s population is under the age of 40 years. She also knows this, may be she feels she would like to hand it over to the new generation. I think there is nothing wrong in it.” Asked if Rahul could take over this month itself, Amarinder said, “look, I do not know this. If Sonia wants to hand it over to Rahul ji, I think everybody will support”.About Sonia, he said, “she has worked really hard. Let me tell you the amount of work she has put in since 1997, it is amazing”.”Her way of work has been very intensive..Now, if she is feeling that the time has come for her to handover the baton to somebody else, then we must honour what she wants. I think we have gained so much from her over the last 20 years that if she herself wants to leave, then we must honour what she wants,” he said.Asked if this will become a benchmark for party leaders who are over 70 years of age to quit in favour of younger generation, Amarinder replied, “No, its not a benchmark, everyone has his or her time. And everyone gets tired after a while.”I have also announced that I am not going to fight another election. Why because I have done 47 years now.” Amarinder Singh is leading the Congress’ campaign ahead of crucial 2017 Punjab assembly elections, where the opposition party is eyeing to wrest power from the SAD-BJP combine. About Rahul Gandhi, Amarinder Singh said, “I have been interacting with Rahul as Vice-President. Executive decisions are being taken by him. I find him very perceptive, he asks pertinent questions and he agrees what you say, if he feels it is right.” “Sonia is a brilliant leader, but you know we have to give (pause). Why am I wanting to quit (fighting 2017 as last elections), because I think enough is enough.I think the new generation has emerged and the baton should be passed to the new generation,” he said.”Similarly, I think Soniaji wants to do the same. Nobody is asking her to handover (the baton). It is her own thinking that she would like Rahul to take over. And that of course when the matter is put before the party, I am sure we will all endorse Rahul,” he said.Asked if he has full faith in Rahul’s leadership, the former Punjab CM further said, “I have been interacting with him on many occasions. Everybody learns and I think in the last 4-5 years, he has learnt a lot. I am meeting him even tomorrow.”When asked if he will make a good leader, he replied, “I am sure he will make a good leader.” He also added that Rahul belongs to a family in which politics runs in its blood right from Moti Lal Nehru to Jawahar Lal Nehru to Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.When asked what about Priyanka Gandhi, he said, “I hope she will come into (active politics). I have always suggested that she must come into this thing. She will be a great asset to the Congress President and the Vice-President.” Asked if Rahul will get full support of the party, he said, “why not. There is a system of take over, it is not Amarinder Singh announcing or Sonia ji announcing, the party will meet on the issue.”

Sonia Gandhi likely to pave the way for Rahul as Congress President; reportedly says ‘time to pass on baton’

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is likely to be elevated as party President in next few weeks, after the grand-old party suffered a debacle in the recent Assembly elections. According to reports, Congress Welfare Committee (CWC) is expected to meet this month and take the decision.Party leader Captain Amarinder Singh told NDTV that Congress President Sonia Gandhi has said that it’s time for the baton to be handed over to someone else.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The development comes weeks after senior party leader Digvijaya Singh made a pitch for a ‘major surgery’ in the organisation after the party’s poor performance in the assembly polls. Younger Congress aspirants are reportedly expected to get key positions in the party, whereas the older party functionaries will be asked to step down.
ALSO READ Modi govt busy with songs, dance when country facing drought: Rahul Gandhi”Rahul’s ascension as Congress president would be accompanied by an overhaul of party structures to populate them with younger people. Older party functionaries will be asked to step down and make way for a new order,” sources told news18.com.However, most of the Congress veterans are uncomfortable with what some described as Rahul’s brusque and impatient style of functioning and wish for incumbent president Sonia Gandhi to steer the helm of the party for some more time, said reports
ALSO READ My father taught me values are worth fighting for, no matter the struggle ahead: Rahul GandhiThere have been no changes in the AICC secretariat since the last Lok Sabha polls in which the party had its worst ever performance by securing just 44 seats in the 543-member House. Rahul was made party Vice President in January 2013 at the Jaipur Chintan shivir held over a year ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in which he was the ‘face’ of the party.
ALSO READ Despite massive electoral setback, Congress refuses to blame Rahul GandhiSince then Rahul has been more active in the organisation, with his mother and Congress President Sonia Gandhi taking a backseat. There has been talk since last year, soon after his return from his mysterious 56-day sabbatical, that Rahul would take over as the party chief soon.Party leaders also virtually threw a protective ring around Rahul by rejecting suggestions that the party Vice President should accept blame for its debacle in four states assembly polls.Sonia is at the helm of the party since March 1998 and has created a record of sorts by being the longest serving chief of the Congress. Incidentally, Congress is the oldest political organisation in the country founded way back in 1885.

Prashant Kishor wants Congress to field Brahmin CM face in UP

Congressmen in UP are in quite a quandary nowadays. Their bewilderment is over the categorical announcement made recently by famous election strategist Prashant Kishor that the Congress will field a Brahmin as its chief ministerial candidate here. ‘PK’, as he is popularly known, is handling the party’s electoral game plan for the 2017 UP election, and is known to have the unqualified backing of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While regional parties have been totally unapologetic about their caste preferences and vote banks, this is the first time that the Congress has made such an audacious gambit. PK’s declaration came at a recent meeting of senior state Congress leaders at the party HQ here, and has been confirmed to dna by those who were present.”You can take in writing from me that the party’s CM candidate will be a Brahmin. He or she will be from UP but has not worked in the state,” a senior party leader quoted PK as saying. To party men’s litany of questions, he is only reported to have said: “I can’t give you the name right now. Just give me 60 days and the game plan will unfold before you.”In marathon meetings he has been having with party men down to the booth level, PK also talks about creating a big “disruption” or “wave” in UP politics, and has been promising them a campaign of a kind and scale which has “never been seen before”. They have been told that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra would be leading this campaign from the front.For now, the entire Congress rank and file from UP to Delhi is busy speculating about who could be the party’s CM candidate. Some say it could be Sheila Dixit, who hails from UP and has been three-time Delhi CM. But not many believe she could be a strong or credible choice given the leviathan task that it is to steer the party from its present dregs.The Congress has 26 MLAs in a House of 403 at present. PK is learnt to have declared before party men rather brazenly: “The party high command has given me a free hand. I have told them (top leaders) that if the Congress works my game plan, it could cross the 200 mark. If it doesn’t, it will remain in the 20s.”Party sources say he has been telling them that this time the Congress is targeting a Brahmin-Muslim combination. “We need only 30 per cent vote to win UP, and that we can get from Brahmins (13 per cent) and Muslims (about 18 per cent) both of whom look favorable,” he is reported to have said.PK has reportedly promised party men that he plans to turn the UP poll into a national level spectacle to set the stage for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.”We have to be seen in direct contest with the BJP, not the SP or BSP. They will just get crushed in the contest of giants,” he asserted at one of the meetings. Empty bravado or superb psephology? Ultimately, it’s the voter’s call.

Congress MLAs in Bengal made to sign loyalty bond

In a sign of desperate attempt to keep its flock together, 44 legislators, within its fold, West Bengal state congress has got them sign affidavit declaring allegiance to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on a Rs-100 stamp paper and promise that they wouldn’t leave the party.The idea was mooted by state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury and during a meeting on Wednesday with the new Congress MLAs at the party office, all the 44 legislators signed the affidavit declaring they would not leave the party.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While there was speculation that the move didn’t quite get unanimous approval from all the MLAs who signed the affidavit, a prominent Congress leader claimed that there was overwhelming support for the move.“There was no objection from any of our MLA to this initiative taken by our state party chief,” senior Congress leader Manas Ranjan Bhunia told dna.Bhunia, who has won the Sabang seat in Paschim Medinipur for the sixth time, didn’t quiet answer when asked why the party had to seek allegiance from its legislators at a time when it has improved its seat to 44 thereby becoming the main Opposition party, displacing the Left.What was striking was the language used in the affidavit, which reeks of expression of unquestioned obedience to the Gandhi family.“I do swear my unqualified allegiance to Indian National Congress led by Hon’ble Congress President Smt Sonia Gandhi Ji and Hon’ble Congress vice president Sri Rahul Gandhiji,” thus began the affidavit document. “It’s not defection to Trinamool Congress that the state Congress leadership is afraid of, it’s a move to stop any revolt against the central party leadership,” said one political observer.“I as a Member of the Legislative Assembly will not get involved in any anti party activity. Even if I do not agree with any party policy or party decision, I will not make any negative comment thereon and I shall not take any negative action to the detriment of the party. In such a scenario, I shall resign from my post of MLA before making such comment or taking such action,” the document went on to add.

Can Prashant Kishor reboot Congress ahead of Punjab and UP elections?

Prashant Kishor, the election campaign manager brought in by Congress party to reverse its declining fortunes, knew his real work would begin when the party hit rock bottom. It looks like that moment has come.Congress’ poor run continuesThe party run by the fabled Gandhi dynasty, which has led the world’s largest democracy for most of its existence, suffered humiliation last week when it lost Assam to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a state election. Congress had controlled Assam, in India’s northeast, since 2001, and for the nationalist BJP it was a first. The race was not even close, underlining the crisis facing the mother-and-son team of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two years ago they were eclipsed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a landslide national ballot won on promises of economic growth and a strong, modern India. While the euphoria of that time has faded and Modi’s agenda has been slowed by stalled reforms, other state election setbacks and devastating droughts hitting rural India, he remains comfortably the most popular politician. The challenge for Rahul Gandhi, the public face of Congress’ comeback, is to make up lost ground in time for the biggest test before a 2019 general election – the state vote next year in Uttar Pradesh, home to around 200 million people.
ALSO READ UP Assembly polls 2017: Prashant Kishor and ‘team PK’ devises Congress’ strategyThat, and the state of Punjab, will go a long way to defining who is the next prime minister; in 2014, the BJP won 71 of 80 parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh and only Sonia and Rahul Gandhi held theirs for Congress.Rahul Gandhi declined to be interviewed for this article, but, in a series of public appearances that have become more frequent in recent months, he sought to target Modi directly. “Modi talked about good days to come but today the country is reeling under drought and farmers are committing suicide,” he told a recent “Save Democracy March” of a few thousand people in New Delhi. “Modi has nothing to say.”
ALSO READ Punjab elections 2017: HS Phoolka claims that Prashant Kishor contacted him, I-PAC dismisses claim as ‘canard’Kishor has inside knowledge of BJPIn an intriguing twist in the race for Uttar Pradesh, Gandhi has invited Kishor to help coordinate Congress’ strategy, the same man who aided Modi’s march to New Delhi with a campaign that embraced modern electioneering techniques and wowed voters. Kishor now plans to bring those, and an intimate knowledge of the way Modi and the BJP operate, to a party that is widely seen as old-fashioned and overly reliant on the Gandhis.
ALSO READ UP elections 2017: Prashant Kishor joins Congress strategy sessionsThe 38-year-old, who largely avoids the public eye but engages the press and senior party figures with increasing confidence, has a backroom team of researchers analysing census data to more effectively translate votes into seats. That may mean targeting a particular caste or religion, for example.24/7 access to RahulSources close to Kishor, who worked in health activism before being taken on as policy adviser to Modi when he was chief minister of Gujarat state, said Kishor had “24/7” access to Gandhi, although he did not decide his day-to-day movements. Kishor is determined to move away from a system of patronage, inject a sense of urgency and bring in fresh faces from the grassroots level upwards, even if it means upsetting the Congress establishment. And, reflecting a growing interest in politics rather than focusing on number crunching, Kishor wants to portray Congress as the only inclusive national party in India, the sources said.The BJP has been accused of stifling free speech and promoting a Hindu-first agenda to appeal to the country’s majority at the expense of significant minorities, including around 170 million Muslims. “We are a party of all, for all and by all,” said Jyotiraditya Scindia, a Congress parliamentarian, and, in his mid-40s, is of Gandhi’s generation and one of the party’s “new guard”. “The only other national party, which is the BJP, is not representative of pan-India, because it is not of all, it is not by all and it is not for all.”Kishor is understood to want to launch a “new face” to lead the Uttar Pradesh campaign, which could be Gandhi, his popular sister Priyanka or someone else. Congress officials and Kishor declined to comment.Separately, a party source said this week that Gandhi’s long-awaited promotion to take over Congress from his mother might happen “sooner than you think”. Kishor, for one, is realistic about Congress’ chances of catching up with the BJP. “We are way behind the curve,” said a sources familiar with his thinking. “The total collapse of the party isn’t something we can ignore.”Rahul Gandhi to be relaunched? In a party steeped in tradition, secrecy and deference, enthusiasm for Kishor is not universal. “Indian politics is not susceptible to modern, professional analysis,” said one former Congress cabinet member. “You get it right, you’re lucky; you get it wrong, you’re unlucky.”Media have also reported on the campaign manager’s frustration at Gandhi’s reluctance to take quick decisions, and on speculation that Kishor would resign. Kishor’s organisation, Indian Political Action Committee, published two tweets to address the rumours. “Question of quitting is nothing but wild speculation. We are deeply honoured by the responsibility and totally committed to the job,” one said. “Grateful for the opportunity and the trust shown by the Congress, its leadership and each & every worker for their faith in us,” read the second.As Kishor works behind the scenes, Rahul is re-emerging on the national stage to take the fight to Modi. Congress loyalists say Gandhi returned a changed man from a sabbatical in a secret location in early 2015.”He … discovered his inner politician,” said Shashi Tharoor, a prominent Congress lawmaker. “He’s active in parliament. He’s more confident. His repartee shows he can think on his feet.”Since Kishor joined Gandhi’s team a few months ago, the leader has set a frenetic pace, joining student protesters on the barricades, showing solidarity with drought-hit farmers and hitting the campaign trail up and down the country.He has landed rhetorical blows on Modi, taking the floor of parliament in March to liken a tax amnesty announced in the budget to a skin-lightening cream that turns black money white.Uttar Pradesh-still a long-shot for Congress? The latest state polls, which also included Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal where regional parties expectedly dominated, suggest that Gandhi’s impact has been limited so far. State polls are especially important for the BJP because state legislators elect members of the upper house of parliament where Modi’s goods and services tax bill is stuck because it does not have a majority.Some of Modi’s closest advisers say they are more worried about Kishor’s involvement with Congress than about Gandhi, given his impact on Modi’s victory and inside knowledge of the way he thinks.But political analysts say Modi should not lose too much sleep for now. The BJP vote is expected to hold up relatively well in Uttar Pradesh as things stand, and the two main regional parties are well placed to fend off Congress, said Sanjay Kumar at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi.”They can’t in their wildest imagination form a government in Uttar Pradesh. The race for Congress is not to be a distant fourth.” As for Gandhi, BJP leaders are dismissive. “What do you relaunch?” asked M.J. Akbar, a former Congress spokesman who joined Modi’s BJP before the 2014 election. “He’s already been launched. He’s been in an active leadership position since before the 2014 election.”

Kamal Nath downplays BJP’s performance, rejects demand for leadership change in Congress

Senior Congress leader Kamal Nath joined the chorus for making major changes in the party in the wake of the poll debacle but favoured continuation of Sonia Gandhi as party chief saying the decision should be left on Rahul Gandhi as to when he wants to take over the reins. The former Union minister ringfenced the Gandhis from any attack, insisting that defeat is “equally shared by all in the party”. Advocating reshuffle in the AICC secretariat as also the Congress Working Committee and changes in state units, Nath insisted that “the top leadership of Congress needs no change”. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Sonia Gandhi should continue as the party president and Rahul Gandhi should decide when to takeover as the party chief,” he told Karan Thapar on India Today. He dismissed suggestions of dynastic rule in the party, saying Gandhis are democratically elected and it is not dynasty over democracy in Congress. “Party has decided that Rahul Gandhi will be the next President,” Nath said. “Gandhis will continue at the head of Congress as the party has elected Sonia and Rahul Gandhi as its president and vice president,” he further said, adding he stood “in full support of the party’s decision in this regard.” He said that “people have voted for the Gandhis for decades.”On Congress’ electoral setback in Assam, the former Union minister said he did not see it as BJP’s victory. “I don’t see it as BJP’s victory. BJP is trumpeting it for nothing”, he said, adding that “anti-incumbency and split in Congress” led to the loss of Assam.Accusing BJP of “luring” Congress leaders in the state, he said Congress did not compromise on ideology, nor went for alliances. Rejecting BJP’s claims of dominance in the just-concluded polls, Nath said Congress got more seats than BJP, if we combine every state while Congress got 140 seats overall, BJP had to be content with only 64 seats.On the setback in West Bengal despite an alliance with the Left Front, he said, “Congress did not go for an alliance with Trinamool because local party leaders were not in favour of it.” He also emphasised that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign did not work in the state.He attributed the heavy losses suffered by Congress in Tamil Nadu to “tough seats” it contested as part of the DMK-led alliance. “BJP got zero seats and they are trumpeting it,” he said taking a dig at the saffron party.On the issue of reorganisation of the party, Nath said “reorganisation of party is required in Delhi and also in states. That Congress party needs a new AICC, general secretary and CWC.”He said “the Delhi leadership needs reorganisation” adding that “the state leaderships need reorganisation overall.” Nath expressed confidence that Congress will make a comeback”, saying “nothing is static in politics.”

Modi, Sonia and Kejriwal among leaders likely to be invited to Mamata’s swearing-in

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Sonia Gandhi are most likely to be invited for the swearing-in ceremony of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for her second tenure on May 27. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar are most likely to be invited for the swearing-in ceremony on May 27. The list of invitees is yet to be finalized,” a senior TMC leader said. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Akhilesh Singh Yadav are also likely to be invited for the swearing in ceremony, he added. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s new cabinet is likely to have some new faces, TMC sources said. Eight ministers of the outgoing cabinet have lost the Assembly election this time.”There will be new faces as the eight ministers who lost will be replaced. A few new and young faces may be included in the cabinet which will be a mix of both youth and experienced MLAs,” a senior TMC leader said on condition of anonymity. According to the TMC leader, among those who might find a place in the cabinet are MLA from Nandigram Suvendu Adhikari and MLA from Bhangore Abdur Rezzak Mollah who switched over from CPI(M).Siddiqullah Chowdhury may also find a berth. Former Indian cricketer Laxmi Ratan Shukla may also be considered as MOS. The eight ministers who lost are Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury, Chandrima Bhattacharya, Manish Gupta, Sankar Chakraborty, Sabitri Mitra, Abdul Karim Chowdhury, Shyamapada Mukherjee and Upendranath Biswas. According to the source, the portfolios of ministers in the outgoing cabinet may see a reshuffle.

Gandhi family has ‘secrets’ of Modi, so PM won’t act against them, claims Arvind Kejriwal

Continuing his tirade of an alleged nexus between Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday said that he had sources which claimed that the Gandhi family had some ‘secrets’ regarding the Prime Minister which they were using as insurance to hide their own crimes.”Sources- Gandhi family has some secrets of Modi ji. That’s why Modi ji will never be able to act against any member of Gandhi family,” Kejriwal tweeted.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>This comes a day after Kejriwal had asserted that the Prime Minister was afraid of Sonia Gandhi as she knew a lot about the many ‘scams and scandals’ that the former was involved in.Accusing the Congress and the Prime Minister of being in cahoots, he alleged that in the 10 years that the UPA government ruled, they managed to gather a lot against Modi, which is why he was tight lipped as he knew that if Sonia was implicated then his secrets would spill out as well.Questioning Sonia and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi of not raising their voice or even showing the slightest interest in Modi’s alleged degree scandal, he added that there was a deal or some sort of ‘setting’ between the them.

National Herald case: Former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda booked by Vigilance Department

The Haryana Vigilance Department on Saturday registered an FIR against former state chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda for his alleged involvement in the National Herald case.Hooda, who as the chief minister was the ex-officio chairman of the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), has been accused of illegally transferring land to Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), which published the newspaper, at Panchkula in 2005.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hooda has been charged with cheating and breach of trust under the Indian Penal Code and also criminal misconduct under Prevention of Corruption Act.Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy had accused the Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by paying just Rs. 50 lakh, by which Young Indian (YI) obtained the rights to recover Rs 90.25 crore which the Associated Journals Limited (AJL) had owed to the Congress Party.Swamy had earlier alleged that over Rs. 2,000 crore worth of assets also got transferred to YI, whose 76 percent of shareholding is with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, while the remaining 24 percent shareholding is with the other accused.

Agusta brings Arvind Kejriwal back to Jantar Mantar

Several months after coming to power, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday came back to Jantar Mantar to launch a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Sonia Gandhi in a protest rally on the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam.The Aam Aadmi Party, which notoriously earned the name ‘dharna party’ for carrying out agitations and protests on an anti-corruption plank four years ago with activist Anna Hazare, and also during its first stint of 49 days in government in 2013.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The Italian company Agusta was involved in corruption and all big officials of this country for the deal had been bribed. But our Prime Minister has not moved an inch in the investigations and nobody has been sent to jail,” Kejriwal said. He was greeted by a loud, cheering crowd and long claps.Alleging a deal between Modi and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Kejriwal said, “Modi doesn’t even dare to ask Soniaji about this scam, we want to ask the prime minister that we made you our PM to punish the culprits but not to protect the culprits.”Lashing out at Modi, Kejriwal alleged that while the PM conducted raids at his office, Sonia Gandhi has not been quizzed or put behind bars. He was referring to the CBI raid at the Delhi secretariat in December last year.Relieving his earlier ‘dharna’ days, Kejriwal thundered, “Four years ago, we all had assembled here at Jantar Mantar. We had assembled here to protest against the corruption of Congress and BJP. We were baton-charged but we did not give up. We were here to protest because we wanted to save our country from graft like the coal scam, 2G scam, Agusta and many more.”Talking about the PM, Kejriwal said, “Modiji made tall promises to the people of this country that he will punish the culprits and will bring them to book. Today, it has been two years and he has done nothing about the corrupt.”The BJP brass has targeted the Congress’ top leadership at the parliament session over the scam over the last few days.The rally is one among the series of attacks launched by Kejriwal on Modi, in the last few months. While Modi has maintained a silence over Kejriwal’s allegations, the Delhi chief minister has often targeted Modi over twitter. A more recent example is Kejriwal’s allegation that the PM faking an educational degree from Delhi University.”It seems that the PM has neither done a BA or a MA. Both degrees are fake. Firstly, he lied to the entire country, secondly, he lied in an affidavit and thirdly, the degrees are forged. This is a case of cheating. If the PM is accused of cheating under (IPC section) 420, this is a serious matter,” he had said earlier.On Friday, Kejriwal linked Modi’s degree with the Agusta scam, saying, “Dono mein badi achchi setting hai. (They have a good deal). BJP is cursing Soniaji (Gandhi) but not arresting her. Congress is not questioning the PM’s degree. BJP and Congress are holding dharnas against each other. Is this country foolish?” he had retorted.

VVIP chopper scam: AAP v/s BJP v/s Cong – Parrikar attacks Sonia, mocks ‘publicity seeker’ Kejriwal

Ramping up the attack against the Gandhi family on AgustaWestland issue, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today said the government will not hesitate to take action against them if they are proven guilty, asserting no one is above law, whether “first or the last family”. He also took a dig at Arvind Kejriwal for his remarks that the Modi government does not have “enough courage” to arrest Sonia Gandhi, saying the Delhi Chief Minister was feeling left out because he did not get any media publicity for the last 10 ten days when the focus was on the VVIP chopper scam. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I feel no one is above the law. So whether it is the last family or the first, I don’t see any reason why anyone should be given a differential treatment, provided you have proper legal evidence,” Parrikar told PTI.He was replying to a query on whether the government could take on the Gandhi family, which is often referred to as the first family of Indian politics.The Minister, while referring to his statement in the Lok Sabha in which he hoped to do what could not be done in the Bofors case, said, “We have the intention and seriousness and I will ensure that proper and good attempts are made. So there is every possibility we may be able to (do).” While the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s name had cropped up in the Bofors’ scandal of 1989, subsequent investigations had failed to authentically pinpoint any links.Parrikar had said former Air chief S P Tyagi and Gautam Khaitan are “small people” who “simply washed their hands in a flowing ganga (of corruption)” and that the government will “find out where the river was going”.Parrikar trashed Kejriwal’s outburst that Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not have “enough courage” to arrest Sonia Gandhi and that the BJP and Congress have an “alliance in corruption”.”It is just a publicity stunt. Kejriwal was jumping to the fray to get attention. For the last 10 days, picture of Prime Minister Modi, Sonia Gandhi for wrong reasons, and at times mine were appearing in the media. To stay dry without publicity for ten days is a big thing for him (Kejriwal),” Parrikar added.Delhi CM launches attack Launching a scathing attack on the Modi government and Congress over the AgustaWestland chopper scam, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the Prime Minister does not have “enough courage” to arrest Sonia Gandhi and that the two parties have an “alliance in corruption”. Questioning the Congress on the issue of PM’s alleged “fake” degree, Kejriwal also said that the two parties had a “setting” that the BJP government will not arrest Gandhi in chopper scam and the Congress will not raise the matter of Modi’s educational qualification.”The Italian Court order also has names of Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, certain officers and Congressmen, but Modi is not able to gather enough courage to arrest Sonia Gandhi, to ask her even two questions, to interrogate her… “Modi ji you have been made PM to take action not to leave the task for Italy court…Our chest would also be of 56 inch if you would have sent her to jail…when my PM says that Italy’s court is taking Gandhi’s name not and not him….I want to ask Modiji why are you scared of her?” Kejriwal said, addressing a rally at Jantar Mantar.Questioning the progress of the investigation in the chopper deal, Kejriwal alleged that there hasn’t been an “inch” of movement on the probe, despite the Modi government coming to power on the assurances that the corrupt will be taken to task. “What investigation did they do in AgustaWestland case in two years? The Italian government completed investigation, filed the cases in court, judgment came and those who were involved in paying bribe were sent to jail.” “When Anna agitation started, people wanted to change the government…they knew that both Congress and BJP are two sides of the same coin, but Modi ji gave such wonderful speeches before Lok Sabha polls that people’s hopes were build that corruption will end,” Kejriwal said.Noting that during the poll campaigns, Modi said that he will take action against Congress President’s son-in-law Robert Vadra for alleged irregularities in the land deal, but despite being in power for two years, and having state governments in Haryana and Rajasthan, he (Vadra) hasn’t been interrogated even once.”Modi had said that the corrupt will be sent to jail. It has been two years and not a single person has been sent to jail…the country has been cheated and hence we had to again gather against their ‘alliance’ four years after we had gathered at the same place to protest the corruption of these two parties,” he said. Congress attacks Arvind Kejriwal for his tirade against Sonia Hitting out at Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for launching a tirade against Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the grand old called on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Chief to list out the names of the party who had been sacked in the past year for various cases of wrongdoings. ‘I think it is bit of an oxymoron, the AAP should come out with a white paper, how many of their ministers were sacked by the Chief Minister on alleged charged of malfeasance and wrongdoings in the past one year,’ Congress leader Manish Tewari told ANI. Asserting that since several AAP MLAs are facing very serious criminal cases, he said that it would only be prudent if Kejriwal first put the affairs of his own house in order. ‘They need to tell the people of Delhi that how many of their ministers were sacked in the past one year, what are the charges against them, why they had to leave their posts and how many of their MLA s are facing heinous criminal charges in terms of the provision of the IPC criminal procedure code,’ Tewari said. With inputs from agencies

VIP chopper scam: Kejriwal accuses Congress and Modi govt of forging a ‘secret pact’

Launching a scathing attack on the Modi government and Congress over the AgustaWestland chopper scam, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday said the Prime Minister does not have “enough courage” to arrest Sonia Gandhi and that the two parties have an “alliance in corruption”.Questioning the Congress on the issue of PM’s alleged “fake” degree, Kejriwal also said that the two parties had a “setting” that the BJP government will not arrest Gandhi in chopper scam and the Congress will not raise the matter of Modi’s educational qualification. “The Italian Court order also has names of Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, certain officers and Congressmen, but Modi is not able to gather enough courage to arrest Sonia Gandhi, to ask her even two questions, to interrogate her…<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Modi ji you have been made PM to take action not to leave the task for Italy court…Our chest would also be of 56 inch if you would have sent her to jail…when my PM says that Italy’s court is taking Gandhi’s name not and not him….I want to ask Modiji why are you scared of her?” Kejriwal said, addressing a rally at Jantar Mantar here. Questioning the progress of the investigation in the chopper deal, Kejriwal alleged that there hasn’t been an “inch” of movement on the probe, despite the Modi government coming to power on the assurances that the corrupt will be taken to task.”What investigation did they do in AgustaWestland case in two years? The Italian government completed investigation, filed the cases in court, judgment came and those who were involved in paying bribe were sent to jail.” “When Anna agitation started, people wanted to change the government…they knew that both Congress and BJP are two sides of the same coin, but Modi ji gave such wonderful speeches before Lok Sabha polls that people’s hopes were build that corruption will end,” Kejriwal said.Noting that during the poll campaigns, Modi said that he will take action against Congress President’s son-in-law Robert Vadra for alleged irregularities in the land deal, but despite being in power for two years, and having state governments in Haryana and Rajasthan, he (Vadra) hasn’t been interrogated even once.”Modi had said that the corrupt will be sent to jail. It has been two years and not a single person has been sent to jail…the country has been cheated and hence we had to again gather against their ‘alliance’ four years after we had gathered at the same place to protest the corruption of these two parties,” he said.

Protest v/s protest: How the Congress, BJP acrimony played out on the streets of Delhi

On a sweltering Delhi morning, it was rare occasion to see Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi and former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh inside a police station, where they were briefly detained for defying prohibitory orders, as the acrimony between the ruling BJP and Congress spilled from the Parliament on to streets.Leading a march towards Parliament, which was called ‘Loktantra Bachao Yatra’ (Save Democracy), a combative Sonia asked government ‘not to try to frighten’ Congress and life has taught her “to fight on”. After a quick stop at the police station, Congress leaders and MPs were allowed to drive to Parliament. Opposition leader in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, party leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and others courted arrest at Parliament Street Police station after they were stopped from marching to Parliament. They were released after a short while.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Countering Congress march BJP MPs and allied parties staged a dharna in front of the Gandhi statue outside the Parliament building. While Congress MPs alongwith Rahul Gandhi returned to Parliament House complex, the BJP Mps showed them playcards and raised slogans against the Congress leadership, claiming that they were worried with the judgment of an Italian court.The AgustaWestland issue appeared to be weighing heavily on her mind as Sonia targeted the Modi dispensation accusing it of starting “this game of levelling baseless allegations against leaders of opposition parties.”Sonia also launched a direct attack on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). “I want to tell Nagpur, to those whose instructions run the Narendra Modi government, “No matter what you accuse us of, we will not bow down.”The Congress demonstration was called to protest against the imposition of President’s Rule in two states that it governed – Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The party says the BJP is misusing its power at the Centre to remove democratically elected governments in states led by the opposition. “Don’t think Congress is weak. We won’t succumb to your politics of vendetta and threats. We will fight you and continue to be an awakened opposition which will protect democracy,” Sonia said. “We have gathered at Jantar Mantar to send our message not just to Rai Seena Hill but also to people in Nagpur, who run Modi’s government,” Sonia said.Accusing the Modi government of “murdering democracy and destroying democratic institutions”, she said, “I want to say clearly that whatever effort you make to destroy democracy, we will not allow it to happen. We are used to waging struggle and we have faced many challenges in the past. “Modi government used pressure, money, incitement to destabilise our Governments in Arunachal, Uttarakhand. They may try to character assassinate us to deflect attention from their own failures. Character assassination is BJP’S old habit but I want to warn them: We won’t bow to politics of intimidation.On the raging farmers’ suicide issue, Sonia said, “We had taken steps for the betterment of farmers, workers, women and youth. But this government has destroyed it. Everybody is feeling harassed and sad today. Farmers are committing suicide. They have assumed power by showing false dreams.” She said Congress will continue to fight inside and outside Parliament against injustice. The Congress Chief appealed to her partymen “to reach out to the people and unmask Modi government in a democratic way”.Rahul said only two people’s writ runs in the country and those who stand against them are targeted with ‘false allegations.’ He said around 40 per cent of the country is facing a drought-like situation and ’50 farmers were committing suicide everyday’, but the prime minister ‘has nothing to say over the issue’. Making light of ‘Make in India’ programme, he said that Modi had promised two crore jobs per year after coming to power, but actually a mere 1.3 lakh jobs were generated last yearAttacking the Congress chief, union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said if Sonia she fears none, then why is she afraid of a fair investigation. Alleging that the UPA government committed scams in sky (AgustaWestland), land (Adarsh), sea (submarine) and underground (coal), he sought to know why two key people, former governors M K Narayanan and B V Wanchoo were not questioned in the VVIP chopper scam. It was done only after the NDA came to power, he said.

It’s like devil quoting scriptures: Politicians react to Cong’s Save Democracy rally

Mounting a counter strike after Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her deputy Rahul Gandhi led the ‘Save Democracy’ rally outside Parliament on Friday, the BJP called it a gimmick to divert public attention from the much controversial AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case.

The rally came amid a face off between the Congress and the BJP led-coalition government at the Centre over a host of issues, including the AgustaWestland scandal.

Former Prime Minster Manmohan Singh, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and other senior Congress leaders at their 'Loktantra Bachao March' (Save Democracy March) at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Friday. PTI

Former Prime Minster Manmohan Singh, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and other senior Congress leaders at their Save Democracy March in New Delhi on Friday. PTI

The rally also saw Rahul and former prime minister Manmohan Singh attacking the Modi dispensation over pulling down of Congress governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Here is how political leaders reacted to the rally:

Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu: Comparing Congress’ talks over ‘save democracy’ to devil quoting scriptures, the minister said: “Today Congress is demonstrating outside the Parliament and levelling allegations against us. This is ridiculous and they have no moral right to say this (allegation against the NDA government).

“During the Congress regime, they had dismissed almost 100 state governments. President’s Rule was imposed in two states but the governments (in Uttarkhand and Arunachal Pradesh) were not dismissed as was done by the Congress government in non-Congress states.” He also said it was Congress that clamped the emergency on the country in 1975 and imposed press censorship besides sending opposition leaders to jail.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad:  According to the minister the ‘Save Democracy’ rally was more of a ‘Save Gandhi family’ rally.

Mujhe aisa lagta hai ki aaj ka ye pradarshan ‘Sonia-Rahul parivar bachao abhiyaan’ tha: Ravi Shankar Prasad pic.twitter.com/HuEFltGcMy

BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy: The Congress should change the name of the rally from ‘Save Democracy’ to ‘Save Democracy from Congress’. It is very unique that Robert Vadra‘s face is featuring in one of the posters, the minister told Times Now.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra: “It is ridiculous to learn, that leaders like Sonia and Rahul who are out on bail on the National Herald case are marching in the ‘Save Democracy’ march. Since they have been cornered in the AgustaWestland case, the ones who have tried to destroy the democracy by means of corruption are now trying to find an escape route.”

Suggesting that the Congress should hold a surrender march rather than holding a farcical ‘Save Democracy’ rally, the spokesperson said that they should walk up to the police admitting their corruption and surrender.

With inputs from Agencies

Save Democracy rally: Manmohan Singh, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi detained briefly, later released

A combative Sonia Gandhi on Friday accused the Modi government of “murdering” democracy and unleashing a campaign of “baseless allegations” against the opposition, as top Congress leaders hit the streets and courted arrest near Parliament.Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi were taken into custody along with Sonia Gandhi, who predicted that the Government’s days were numbered the way it was functioning.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Do not try to frighten or defame us… life has taught me to struggle, we have faced a lot of challenges. They don’t know what we are made of,” she said addressing the party’s ‘Save Democracy’ rally at Jantar Mantar.AFP PhotoAsserting that her party will play role of an “alert” opposition with “full vigour” both inside and outside Parliament, she asked partymen to “unmask” the Modi government.Opposition leader in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, party leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and others courted arrest at Parliament Street Police station after they were stopped from marching to Parliament. They were released after a short while.”They should understand very well that when matters would become unbearable, people of India know how to teach them a lesson…. The way the Modi Government is playing a fraud on the mandate, it seems its days are numbered,” the Congress president said.The rally saw Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh also attacking the Modi dispensation over pulling down of Congress governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.Sonia targets Modi over Agustawestland and Uttarakhand issueThe AgustaWestland issue appeared to be weighing heavily on her mind as Sonia targeted the Modi dispensation accusing it of starting “this game of leveling baseless allegations against leaders of opposition parties”.”But, I would like tell them they should not commit the mistake of assuming that Congress is a weak force. Congress is never going to bow before injustice. We will play our role of an alert opposition with full vigour in coming days, (both) within Parliament and outside too and combat injustice,” she said.Sonia said that the way the Centre has toppled Congress governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand through “money and muscle power has not only shaken the foundation of democracy, but has murdered it”. She also asked the partymen to reach out to “each corner” of the country and “unmask” the Modi Government through democratic means.ReutersDeclaring that the Congress will not allow the ruling party to “destroy” country’s democratic set up, she accused it of attempting to divide people on the basis of religion, region, language and eating habits. She also alleged that minorities were living under fear and the Dalits, women and tribals were being given a raw deal by changes in laws pertaining to Panchayati Raj institutions.Without naming the RSS, the Congress chief also targeted the Sangh Parivar alleging that the NDA Government was being remote controlled from Nagpur. She said that the Congress would not allow democracy to be “destroyed, whatever might be the diabolic designs” of the government. Sonia said that the Congress would not succumb despite attempts “to browbeat the opposition and malign it”.’Congress is the soul of India’: Manmohan SinghTargeting Modi for his “Congress-mukt Bharat” campaign, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Congress is “soul of India”.Singh said at a time when democratic institutions, universities and courts are under “tremendous assault”, it was the duty of partymen to foil the “designs” of those in power by working together with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. He also expressed apprehensions that the Centre was attempting to destabilise duly elected governments led by Congress in Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh.”Congress is like Ganga, no matter how many false allegations are levelled, it will not divert from its path,” he added.Underscoring that her party has been instrumental in creating democratic institution since independence, Sonia said that Congress would not shy away from making any sacrifices for the cause of democracy.”They declare anyone anti-national. Those who don’t agree with them are targeted,” she said, adding that her party knows how to fight against “anti-national” forces.ReutersAccusing BJP of levelling baseless allegations against leaders of opposition parties to divert public attention from its failure over the past two years, Sonia said it was “their old tactic of spreading rumours and character assassination by spreading lies”. She also flagged the issue of price rise, saying that it has affected women and the poor the most.”They have gained power by showing false dreams. And after gaining power, their hunger for power is only increasing. And that has led to toppling of Congress governments,” Sonia added. She also alleged that fear was being created in the minds of minorities and society was being divided in the name of religion, language and regions, while injustice was being meted out to students.Launching a scathing attack on Modi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Rahul said only two people’s writ runs in the country and those who stand against them are targeted with “false allegations”. He said around 40 per cent of the country is facing a drought-like situation and “50 farmers were committing suicide everyday”, but the Prime Minister “has nothing to say over the issue”.AFP Photo”Modiji promised ‘achche din’ and today the country is reeling under drought. 40 per cent of the country is reeling under drought. Everyday, 50 farmers are committing suicide. Latur, Vidarbha, Bundelkhand are burning. And Modiji has nothing to say about it,” Rahul said in his brief speech.Making light of ‘Make in India’ programme, he said that Modi had promised two crore jobs per year after coming to power, but actually a mere 1.3 lakh jobs were generated last year. Senior Congress leaders and workers led by Sonialater marched towards Parliament street, where they courted arrest at local police station. They were later released.

Sound, fury and a cold trail: Why AgustaWestland may go the Bofors way

Given the glee with which Subramanian Swamy, the maverick politician who was recently nominated to the Rajya Sabha, has taken on the Gandhi family in the AgustaWestland chopper scam, the BJP should be happy that it is no longer the beleaguered party in the Upper House. One determined individual can change the perception game.

However, what makes for good theatre does not necessarily add up to a great strategy even for the BJP. In fact, if it is not careful in how it builds its case, AgustaWestland has all the makings of another Bofors – lot of sound and fury, and ultimately a trail that goes cold.

File image of Sonia Gandhi. PTI

File image of Sonia Gandhi. PTI

It is good that the follies of the Gandhi dynasty are being put through the microscope, but having a go at Sonia Gandhi and Rahul this early in the investigative process is politically counter-productive. The Italian court judgment that named Sonia in the course of a judgment upholding the convictions of executives of the Finmeccanica group for bribery may have embarrassed her, but nothing more. The reality is that there are layers of middlemen between the bribe-givers and the ultimate beneficiaries – or multiple beneficiaries – of the payoffs. The line linking the two is faintly dotted, and it needs a lot of follow-up forensic investigation and chasing of the money trail before the dots can be connected with bold ink.

As things stand now, the only certainties in the AgustaWestland affair are the following: One, the UPA changed specifications to favour AgustaWestland, but this can be justified on some technical ground or the other; it is certain that bribes (possibly amounting to around Rs 400 crore) were paid, and three people – Guido Ralph Haschke, Carlos Gerosa, and Christian Michel – were the key channels handling the flows. Former air chief SP Tyagi’s family was a key recipient of some of the money.

The political references in the Milan court judgment, which form the basis on which the BJP would like to target Sonia, emerge from a note allegedly written by Christian Michel where he advises people pushing the Agusta deal to focus their efforts on people close to Sonia, including Manmohan Singh and her close advisors. The note was written by Michel to Peter Hullet, the India head of AgustaWestland, and it talks of Sonia being the “driving force” behind the deal to buy 12 VIP helicopters.

In the note, Michel reportedly advises Hullet to ‘target’ key people to clinch the deal. This might have included Ahmed Patel, Sonia Gandhi’s key political advisor. The actual names mentioned include Pranab Mukherjee, Veerappa Moily, (then National Security Advisor) MK Narayanan and a defence ministry official Vinay Kumar. Apparently, the judgment also notes that Haschke identified all the Congress leaders by their photos. Reference of sums paid to AP appear in one note by Michel. The assumption is that AP is Ahmed Patel.

The only clearly proven fact, even according to the Italian court verdict, may be the money paid to Tyagi’s family. Deducing and finding out the other recipients, specifically if they lead to Ahmed Patel and Sonia, involves following this and other money trails left by the payments made by Haschke, Gerosa and Michel.

However, even this may not be easy, as money tends to flow through layers of front companies based abroad, and linking the initial payment to one company or individual to its ultimate beneficiary may take years, given the poor abilities of our investigators to force other countries to part with their financial secrets.

This is why targeting Sonia and Rahul prematurely is pointless at this stage.

Logically, the only way to proceed is from the bottom up, starting with the Tyagis and defence ministry officials directly involved in the deal, piling the pressure on them and then forcing them to cooperate and name more names, digging out the financial details from accounts abroad, following the money trail to the logical end, and then checking to see if it implicates a Sonia or even an Ahmed Patel.

It is a sobering thought that the money trail in the 2G scandal has repeatedly gone cold, despite reaching some accounts in Mauritius or Switzerland. It is unlikely that the AgustaWestland bribes will be that easily traceable beyond Tyagi and Co.

The only way to do the job is to target the direct recipients, force them to turn approvers in the hope of getting them to name the big names, and then going after the powerful people who may be the ultimate beneficiaries of these big bribes. It will be a long haul even if done right.

For once, let us get this right. It is worth spending serious time and effort to nail the big people behind scams instead of blowing it all up for a few days’ worth of headlines. By prematurely targeting the potential end-recipient one not only gives the game away, but also faces the mortifying prospect of having some court reject the cases for lack of sufficient evidence.

This will give the Gandhis a propaganda coup that is undeserved — exactly what happened with Bofors, where the needle of suspicion pointed even more strongly in the direction of the Gandhis through their friend Ottavio Quattrochi.

National Herald case: Will file witness list after court’s order, says Subramanian Swamy

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy on Thursday told a Delhi court that he would submit the “complete list” of witnesses in National Herald case against Congress President Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi and five others after the high court passes order on pleas filed by some of the accused.The Delhi High Court had on April 18 reserved its order on application filed by some of the accused against the trial court’s orders summoning documents from Ministries of Finance and Corporate Affairs, other agencies and the balance sheet of the party for the year 2010-2011 in the case.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Swamy had accused Sonia, Rahul and others of allegedly conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by just paying Rs 50 lakh by which Young Indian Pvt Ltd (YI) obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore which Associated Journals Pvt (AJL) owed to Congress party.Sonia, Rahul, Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda, who were summoned as accused along with YI in the case on June 26, 2014, have denied all the allegations levelled against them. During the hearing today, Swamy told the court that he was awaiting the high court order.”I will submit my complete list of witnesses once I know what the high court order will be. Then everything will be in a continuity,” he told Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen.Senior advocate R S Cheema, who appeared for one of the accused, told the court that high court would pass its order on the applications challenging the January 11 and March 11 order passed by the trial court.The trial court, on January 11, had allowed Swamy’s plea seeking summoning of documents from the Ministries of Finance, Urban Development and Corporate Affairs, Income Tax Department and other agencies in the case. Later, on March 11, the court had allowed Swamy’s another plea and summoned certain documents pertaining to financial details of Indian National Congress for the year 2010-2011.Congress party had submitted its balance sheet for the year 2010-2011 in a sealed cover before the court on April 8. Besides the Congress, Associated Journals Pvt (AJL) had also submitted in a sealed cover its balance sheet for the same assessment year before the court.Both Congress and AJL had requested the court that the documents may not be opened or brought on record without hearing the defense counsel. They had also said the summoned documents were already on court’s record.The court had on December 19, 2015, granted bail to Sonia, Rahul, Vora, Fernandes and Dubey, who had appeared before it pursuant to the summons issued earlier. Pitroda was granted bail on February 20 this year when he had appeared before the court.Sonia, Rahul, Vora (AICC Treasurer), Fernandes (AICC General Secretary), Dubey and Pitroda were summoned for the alleged offences under section 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) read with section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

AgustaWestland scam: No evidence against Sonia Gandhi, claims Congress

New Delhi: The Congress on Wednesday took a dig at the government, terming all allegations made by the Centre in the AgustaWestland helicopters deal as “distortions of the Italian court judgment”, and quoted the judge as saying that there was no evidence against Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Taking potshots at the government, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi questioned how a “mere mention” of anyone in a letter written by middlemen Guido Haschke to a man named Peter Hulet could make him culpable.

Quoting the Italian judge, Singhvi said: “The judge who wrote this Italian judgment… the judge spoke extensively to a channel in India. He says ‘We’ve no evidence against Sonia Gandhi, only a mention of her in the facts. The translation of the facts were sent to Mr. Michell. Ms Gandhi has been indicated as someone who will fly in the VVIP helicopters. The same place is the mention of (former prime minister) Manmohan Singh‘.”

File photo. PTI.File photo. PTI.

File photo. PTI.

Singhvi attacked the government for not relying on findings of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.

“We are relying on not a single finding by the ED and the CBI, but on interpretations, miscalculations and distortions of the Italian court judgment. This is actually a vote of no-confidence,” he said.

He quoted from the letter written by middleman Guido Haschke to Peter Hulet: “Given that Mrs. Gandhi is the driving force behind the helicopter, she will fly no longer with MI8. Mrs. Gandhi and her closest advisors persons should be addressed by the English ambassador. The English ambassador in India is called the High Commissioner. The advisors are listed hereby:”

“The advisors are the Prime Minister, Ahmed Patel, Pranab Mukherjee, M.K. Narayanan, Oscar Fernandes etc.,” read the letter.

Clarifying on the letter, Singhvi said: “Does it suggest that ‘anybody talked to any of these persons to offer a bribe’?”

“Is it not plain English that they are stating the obvious that people who use and fly on these helicopters are VVIPs and they would not want to fly on outdated machines called MI8. On this logic, everybody mentioned in the next paragraph from the current president to several other names are all culpable because they find a mention. Is this the way we have to tilt? There is not anything here about anybody except the mention of facts. I hope nobody is suggesting that the advise of Mr. Hashke is to request the British ambassador to go and bribe these people,” he added.

Tamil Nadu polls 2016: Sonia and Rahul Gandhi to campaign on May 5 & 7

Congress President Sonia Gandhi will share the dais with DMK chief M Karunanidhi in Chennai on May 5 in support of DMK-Congress candidates, while Vice President Rahul Gandhi will address election meetings in three cities on May 7 to drum up support for the combine for the May 16 Assembly polls.Sonia will share the dais with Karunanidhi at a meeting scheduled in Chennai on May five, TNCC President E V K S Elangovan told reporters. Rahul would address an election meeting at Chennai on May 7 and in Coimbatore and Madurai the same day, he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The TNCC President and Congress candidates and senior leaders were here to inspect the VOC Grounds where Gandhi is scheduled to address the meeting. There was also a proposal for him to campaign in Tirunelveli and Nagercoil, he said.Asked about the prospects for the alliance, he said this election would prove to be the ‘death knell’ of AIADMK. With massive support from people from all sections of society, there was no doubt that the alliance would have a landslide victory, winning more than 210 seats, he said.

VVIP chopper scam: I am always being targeted, ‘happy’ about it, says Rahul Gandhi

Amid the political blame game between the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress over the 2013 AugustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said that he was ‘happy’ to be targeted.Speaking briefly to the media while entering Parliament, Rahul Gandhi said, “I am always being targeted and I’m happy to be targeted.”This is for the first time Rahul has commented on the topic since the blamegame began.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Last week, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had said that she is not afraid and has nothing to hide. The Congress chief had also said that all allegations against her were baseless and questioned why the government did not complete the inquiry when they have been in power for two years.Meanwhile, former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi on Wednesday was questioned for the second day in connection with his alleged role in the case.
ALSO READ VVIP Chopper scam: Former IAF chief SP Tyagi travelled to Italy 3 times, says CBITyagi remained tight-lipped and refused to answer questions posed by reporters on his arrival at the CBI headquarters.On the other hand, the Parliament has also been witnessing ruckus over the allegations of bribery in the Rs 3,6000 crore VVIP helicopter deal during the UPA regime.
ALSO READ VVIP Chopper scam: Govt defers approval to AgustaWestland FDI in joint venture with Tata SonsThe Italy court judgement that sentenced the Italian defence firm Finmeccanica’s former chief Giuseppe Orsi to jail for four years and former CEO of Finmeccanica’s UK-based helicopter subsidiary AgustaWestland in the case, also suggests that the then UPA government did not cooperate with the Italian probe team.Notes in the order copy reportedly suggested that Sonia Gandhi is the “driving force” behind the deal. Manmohan Singh’s name too figures in the order and details that Orsi, by then already in jail, asked his men to contact then Italian Prime Minister Monti or Ambassador Teracciano to call Manmohan Singh.