Archive for ‘Congress’

28/05/2019

Taiwan changes name of de facto embassy in United States to ‘reflect stronger ties’

  • Coordination Council for North American Affairs becomes Taiwan Council for US Affairs, island’s foreign ministry says
  • Move signifies ‘firm and close relationship between Taiwan and the US’, President Tsai Ing-wen says
Taiwan has changed the name of its de facto embassy in the United States to better reflect ever-improving ties between the sides. Photo: EPA
Taiwan has changed the name of its de facto embassy in the United States to better reflect ever-improving ties between the sides. Photo: EPA
Taiwan has changed the name of its de facto embassy in the United States to better reflect relations between the sides, which are at their strongest in decades, Taipei said on Saturday.
Once the necessary formalities have been completed, the agency formerly known as the Coordination Council for North American Affairs will be called the Taiwan Council for US Affairs, the island’s foreign ministry said.
“The new name better reflects the [agency’s] role in coordinating US-Taiwan affairs. It also symbolises the close and amicable relations between Taiwan and the United States,” it said.
Observers said the name change was significant as it appeared to drop the pretence that the council was non-diplomatic or political in nature.
The name change was possible because of the consensus between Taiwan and the US. Photo: CNA
The name change was possible because of the consensus between Taiwan and the US. Photo: CNA

Although Washington severed formal diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979 in favour of Beijing, the two sides retained unofficial relations that have grown ever-closer in recent years, including an increase in military exchanges and cooperation.

“The new name [was made possible] as a result of the consensus between Taiwan and the US,” the island’s President Tsai Ing-wen said in a Facebook post. “This is the first time the designations ‘Taiwan and the US’ have been used to refer to each other’s affairs office on an equal basis, signifying the firm and close relationship.”

Taiwan begins mass production of missile corvettes, minelayers

Taiwan had been forced to use the old title because of the “special historical background” related to the change in diplomatic allegiance 40 years ago, Tsai said.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan a wayward province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, has demanded that Washington observe the one-China policy by not officially recognising Taiwan or allowing it to use either “Republic of China” – the island’s official name – or “Taiwan” in the title of its representative offices in the US.

Washington also enacted the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979 to prescribes relations with the island and includes a commitment to supply it with arms to protect itself.

“After continuous efforts and coordination by the two sides, and in 2019, the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, our office handling relations with the US is finally able to change its name,” Tsai said.

The American Institute in Taiwan relocated to a larger, purpose-built compound last month. Photo: Bloomberg
The American Institute in Taiwan relocated to a larger, purpose-built compound last month. Photo: Bloomberg

Presidential spokesman Alex Huang said the name change was due mainly to an improvement in relations between Taiwan and the US as a result of a greater cooperation on the promotion of regional peace and the Indo-Pacific security agenda.

“In the past few years, the US government has given Taiwan strong and firm support in terms of national security and participation in international events, as well as support from Congress and think tanks,” he said, referring to bills signed by US President Donald Trump that allow for exchanges between high-level officials and military personnel, and the approval of new sales of arms and logistical support to the island.

US official urges Pacific island nations to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan

Also, last week, Taiwan’s national security chief David Lee met US National Security Adviser John Bolton in Washington for the first talks of their kind since 1979, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported on Saturday.

Last month, the American Institute in Taiwan – the United States’ unofficial embassy in Taipei – relocated to a significantly larger, purpose-built compound, in yet another sign of improving relations.

US support for Taiwan has increased under Trump’s leadership as he regards Beijing as a hostile competitor, not only on trade, but also in military and global influence terms.

Tensions between Taipei and Beijing have flared since Tsai became president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle. The mainland subsequently halted all official exchanges with the island and embarked on a campaign to squeeze its diplomatic allies around the world.

Source: SCMP

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18/05/2019

Lawbreakers to lawmakers? The ‘criminal candidates’ standing in India’s election

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has one unwanted lead in this month’s general election race – according to data from an electoral watchdog it is fielding the most candidates among the major parties who are facing criminal charges. Its main rival, Congress, is just a step behind.

Election laws allow such candidates to run so long as they have not been convicted, on grounds both of fairness and because India’s criminal justice system moves so slowly that trials can take years, or even decades, to be resolved.

Still, the number of such candidates accused of offences ranging from murder to rioting has been rising with each election.

Analysts say political parties turn to them because they often have the deepest pockets in steadily costlier elections, and that some local strongmen are seen as having the best chance of winning.

Nearly one-in-five candidates running for parliament in the current election has an outstanding criminal case against them, inching up from 17% in the previous election and 15% in 2009, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-profit organisation that analysed candidates’ declarations.

The data shows that 40% candidates from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP face criminal charges, including crimes against women and murder, followed by the Congress party at 39%.

Among the smaller parties, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has an even higher proportion, with 58 percent of its candidates embroiled in criminal cases.

Polls have suggested that the BJP and its allies lead the race to win the mammoth, staggered election that began last month and ends on Sunday. Votes will be counted on Thursday.

“Parties only think about winnability and they know that money power and muscle power of such candidates ensures that win,” said Anil Verma, head of the ADR.

With 240 cases against him, K Surendran of the BJP tops the list of candidates with the most outstanding criminal complaints that include rioting, criminal trespass and attempted murder.

He said most of the cases stem from his involvement in the BJP campaign to oppose the entry of women and girls of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple in his home state of Kerala.

“I understand that an outsider might feel that I am a grave offender but, in reality, I am completely innocent of these charges,” he said. “It was all politically motivated.”

Dean Kuriakose from the Congress party has 204 criminal cases against him, the second highest, the data showed. Most of the cases were related to a political agitation against the ruling Communist Party in Kerala, which turned violent.

He was not available for comment. But a party spokesman said Kuriakose was innocent. “He was falsely charged by the police under influence from Kerala government,” the spokesman said.

Political analysts say that often people vote for candidates who face criminal charges because they are seen as best placed to deliver results. In some parts of India local strongmen mediate in disputes and dispense justice.

“Powerful people, even if criminals, offer a kind of parallel system of redressal,” said K.C. Suri, a professor of political science at the University of Hyderabad.

A separate ADR survey of more than 250,000 voters last year found 98% felt candidates with criminal backgrounds should not be in parliament, though 35% said they were willing to vote for such a candidate on caste grounds or if the candidate had done “good work” in the past.

Source: Reuters

20/03/2019

Lok Sabha polls 2019: National Conference, Congress enter pre-poll alliance in Jammu-Kashmir

The two parties kept three of the six Lok Sabha seats in Jammu-Kashmir for “friendly contest” between them.

Statesman News Service | Jammu | 

The Congress and National Conference (NC) on Wednesday sealed a partial pre-poll alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections wherein the two parties kept three of the six Lok Sabha seats in Jammu-Kashmir for a “friendly contest” between them.

Both parties will contest the Jammu, Udhampur and Srinagar seats in alliance, while there will be “friendly contest” for Anantnag, Baramulla and Ladakh seats.

The NC has left both seats of Jammu division – Jammu and Udhampur – for the Congress.

NC chief, Farooq Abdullah, will re-contest from the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat and the Congress will not field any candidate against him.

The two parties reached the alliance only after Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambika Soni dashed to Srinagar early this morning from New Delhi to hold deliberations with Abdullah.

The NC had earlier announced candidature of BR Kundal, a former chief secretary of the state, who recently deserted the Congress and joined the NC.

The two parties failed to reach any understanding for the Anantnag seat in South Kashmir where the PCC chief GA Mir was seeking the Congress ticket.

The NC had spared the seat for Mir during the by-polls but the election did not take place due to security reasons. Farooq Abdullah had won the Srinagar seat during the by-election.

The announcement about the alliance was made jointly by Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambika Soni after a closed door meeting at Abdullah’s residence.

Azad said that the alliance has been reached in the national interest, to strengthen secular forces in Jammu and Kashmir as the state faces threat from Pakistan.

Abdullah said the Congress will contest from Jammu and Udhampur Lok Sabha seats.

“I will contest from Srinagar and there will be a friendly contest between National Conference and Congress in Anantnag and Baramulla parliamentary constituencies. We are also discussing the Ladakh seat,” said Farooq Abdullah.

Azad said that friendly contest means that there will be no cut-throat contest between the parties on Anantnag and Baramulla seats.

“Live and let live. This is the best decision taken in national interest. If either the Congress or National Conference wins, it is a win-win situation for both,” he said.

Azad said the Congress-NC alliance will ensure there is no division of secular votes and the BJP doesn’t get to benefit. He added that all Congress leaders will also campaign for Abdullah, who will be contesting from the Srinagar Parliamentary seat.

The NC has already announced Mohammad Akbar Lone, a former Speaker, as the party’s candidate for the Baramulla seat.

Earlier, there were speculations that the pre-poll alliance between NC and Congress had hit a dead-end after former announced its candidate for the Anantnag Parliamentary constituency. Anantnag Lok Sabha seat has been a bone of contention between the NC and Congress.

Omar Abdullah, National Conference vice-president, had set a precondition to contest on all three seats in Kashmir for any alliance to take place.

In exchange, NC was willing to support Congress in the two seats in Jammu and one in Ladakh. However, Congress had insisted on contesting from four seats – two from the Jammu region and one each from Ladakh and Anantnag.

On Tuesday, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti dismissed reports of an alliance with the Congress stating that the party is preparing to contest all the six Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Kashmir. Mehbooba Mufti is expected to finalise the party’s candidates for the Lok Sabha seats within a day or two.

Source: The Statesman
12/03/2019

Two dead after Chinese navy plane crashes

  • No other injuries reported following accident on southern island of Hainan
  • Military is currently intensifying training for pilots as it looks to strengthen capabilities

Mobile phone footage believed to be taken from the crash site. Photo: Handout
Mobile phone footage believed to be taken from the crash site. Photo: Handout
A Chinese navy plane crashed in Hainan province on Tuesday killing two crew members, the military said.
A short statement said the crash happened during a training exercise over rural Ledong county in the southern island province.
No one else was reported to have been injured after the plane hit the ground and the cause of the incident is being investigated.
Footage that purported to be taken from the crash site started circulating on social media after the accident.
Footage apparently taken at the crash site. Photo: Handout
Footage apparently taken at the crash site. Photo: Handout

The PLA’s official statement did not specify the type plane that crashed, although unverified witness account online said it was a twin-seat Xian JH-7 “Flying Leopard”.

The JH-7, which entered service with the navy and air force in the 1990s, has been involved in a number of fatal accidents over the years.

The country’s worst military air accident in recent years happened in January 2018. At least 12 crew members died when a PLA Air Force plane, believed to be an electronic reconnaissance aircraft, crashed in Guizhou in the southwest of the country.

Between 2016 and 2017, there were at least four accidents involving the navy’s J-15 “Flying Sharks”, one of them resulting in the death of the pilot.

Military commentators have previously said that China’s drive to improve its combat readiness, which includes the building of new aircraft carriers and warplanes, has resulted in a serious shortage of qualified pilots.

To fill the vacancies the Chinese military has started a major recruitment drive and intensive training programme for pilot pilots.

One unverified report said the plane that crashed was a JH-7 “Flying Leopard”. Photo. Xinhua
One unverified report said the plane that crashed was a JH-7 “Flying Leopard”. Photo. Xinhua

Currently China has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in service, which can carry a maximum of 24 J-15s as well as other aircraft.

Meanwhile, the new home-grown carrier Type 001A will soon be commissioned, which is designed to accommodate to carry eight more fighters.

In addition, construction is believed to have started on another carrier that will be able to carry heavier and more advanced warplanes.

Chinese navy veteran warns training, not hardware is key to military preparedness
According to figures from the end of 2016, there were only 25 pilots qualified to fly the J-15 while 12 others were in training.
Most of the Chinese navy’s pilots have been redeployed from the air force, which is itself in need of more trained pilots.
This year the navy for the first time began a nation-wide programme to scout out potential pilots.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing legislative meeting in Beijing Feng Wei, a PLA pilot from the Western Theatre, said the military was currently intensifying its pilots’ training as increasing amounts of new equipment entered service.
“Personnel quality is the key to everything,” he added.
Source: SCMP
12/03/2019

Congress working committee meeting LIVE| ‘Unemployment highest in 45 years’: Rahul Gandhi at Gujarat rally

CWC meeting LIVE: Congress is launching its Lok Sabha election campaign from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, the home state of PM Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah with a meeting of its top leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh.

The Congress is launching its Lok Sabha election campaign from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah with a meeting of its Congress Working Committee (CWC) and a public rally by its top leaders.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party general secretaries, including Priyanka Gandhi, will be among the senior leaders of the party attending the meeting.

The Congress Working Committee, the highest decision-making arm of the party, would seek answers to failures and unfulfilled promises of the Modi government on governance, agrarian distress, economic issues, unemployment, national security and women’s safety, according to party leaders.

Hardik Patel, a prominent young leader of Patidars, who is leading a movement for reservation in jobs and education for their community, is likely to join Congress and contest the Lok Sabha elections on a party ticket, according to sources.

Source: Hindustan Times

23/02/2019

Time to test Pathan’s words: PM Modi on Imran Khan’s promise

At a public rally in Rajasthan, PM Modi said attacks on Kashmiri youths after Pulwama terror attack help the enemies of the country.

INDIA Updated: Feb 23, 2019 19:11 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Tonk, Rajasthan
Narendra Modi,Modi in Tonk,Pulwama terror attack
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public meeting, in Tonk in Rajasthan on Saturday. (PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday denounced reported attacks on Kashmiri youths in some parts of the country following Pulwama terror attack killing at least 40 soldiers on February 14. PM Modi said Kashmiri youths should not be targeted anywhere in the country.

Speaking at a public rally in Rajasthan’s Tonk, PM Modi said, “Our fight is against terror, the enemies of humanity… Our fight is for Kashmir not against Kashmir, not against Kashmiris.”

“What happened to Kashmiri youths in the last few days…It does not matter whether the incident was small or big, such things should not happen. Kashmiri youths are victims of terror. Every child of Kashmir is with India in our fight against terror,” said PM Modi.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah welcomed the statement of PM Modi. “Thank you @narendramodi Sahib. Aaj aap ne hamaray dil ki baat keh di (you said what I have in my heart),” wrote Abdullah on Twitter soon after the prime minister made the comment at his rally.

PM Modi referred to his congratulatory phone call to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, when he assumed office after the general elections in Pakistan last year. PM Modi said, “As per protocol, I telephoned Pakistan’s new prime minister. I told him we have fought for long. Let India and Pakistan together fight poverty and illiteracy.”

“Pakistan’s prime minister told me, ‘I am the son of a Pathan. I do what I say.’ It is time to test his words,” PM Modi said at his rally in Rajasthan.

Also read: Centre moves 100 companies of paramilitary forces to Srinagar amid massive crackdown

The prime minister said incidents like these “give power to Bharat ke tukde honge gang” and their supporters. “It is the responsibility of every Indian to protect every laal (child) of Kashmir,” he said.

The prime minister served another warning to Kashmiri separatist leaders, many of whom were stripped of their security cover early this week. The Union home ministry had ordered to review the security provided by the government to the separatist leaders in the wake of Pulwama attack.

PM Modi said, “Action has been taken against separatists and more action will be taken against such people…We can’t keep silent, we know how to crush terror.”

‘Trust Modi Sarkar’

Asserting that the government has moved swiftly to “avenge” Pulwama terror attack, PM Modi said all the major institutions of the world have condemned “the terror attack that was engineered at Pulwama”.

“I am proud that our security forces sent the perpetrators (of Pulwama attack) within 100 hours to where they belong,” he said referring to encounter in Pulwama a day after the terror attack on Jammu-Srinagar highway, where a CRPF convoy carrying more than 2,500 jawans was targeted by a suicide bomber.

Also read:In crackdown in Kashmir, JLKF chief Yasin Malik, Jamaat leaders detained

“Trust the brave soldiers of the country and trust the Modi government…This time, everyone will be taken to justice and complete justice will be served,” said PM Modi adding, “Your pradhan sevak is busy finishing terror…If I am destined to put locks to the factory of terror, so be it.”

He also talked about the steps, the government has taken to put pressure on Pakistan following Pulwama attack. He said, “Pakistan is being accounted for everything that they have done. There is anxiety in Pakistan due to the steps we have taken after the terror attack.”

A day after Pulwama terror attack, the government decided at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to withdraw the most favoured nation (MFN) status granted to Pakistan in 1996. The government also hiked tariff on goods to be imported from Pakistan by 200 per cent.

The external affairs ministry reached out to more than a dozen countries to corner Pakistan, which denied its hand behind the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir despite Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terror group based out of that country, claimed responsibility for the attack on CRPF jawans.

On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed a resolution condemning Pulwama terror attack. The UNSC named Jaish-e-Mohammed in its statement. The UNSC resolution was unanimously approved by all members including China, which has been shielding Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar from being declared as global terrorist by the top UN body.

In the latter half of his public speech, PM Modi sounded poll bugle throwing what appeared as an election slogan, “Modi hai to mumkin hai” (it is possible if Modi is there). He said, “People have faith in the current government because of the work done in last four years. Modi hai to mumkin hai.”

He listed out achievements of his government and talked about schemes such health insurance, One-Rank-One-Pension and electrification among others repeating the same slogan at the end. He also accused the Congress of misleading the people of Rajasthan in last year’s assembly election by making farm loan waiver promise.

Source: Hindustan Times

16/02/2019

Political parties unite at all-party meet on Pulwama killings, slam Pak for supporting terror

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad stated that the Opposition parties have informed the home minister that they would stand with the government to end terror in the country.

SNS Web | New Delhi | 

A resolution adopted by the all-party meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday condemned the cowardly terrorist attack on the CRPF convoy in Pulwama that left at least 44 jawans dead and over 45 seriously wounded.

The meeting was attended by leaders of the BJP government as well as opposition parties who unitedly expressed grief with the families of the bereaved.

The resolution also condemned terrorism in all forms as well as the support it was getting from across the border.

It further went on to say that “India has during the past three decades faced the menace of cross-border terrorism.”

In a direct attack at Pakistan, the resolution said, “terrorism in India has been actively encouraged by the forces across the border adding that India has displayed both firmness and resilience in dealing with these challenges”.

It said the entire nation speaks in one voice to express its determination to fight against terrorism.

“Today, we stand united in solidarity with our security forces in fighting terrorism and in defending the unity and integrity of India,” the resolution added.

The all-party meeting was held to brief top leaders of different parties on steps being taken by it to meet the challenge.

The meeting comes a day after Home Minister Rajnath Singh went to Kashmir to take stock of the situation.

Read | Rajnath announces curbs on civilian movement when convoys of security pass any area

The meeting was attended by Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Jyotiraditya Scindia of the Congress, Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Derek O’Brien of the TMC, Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena, Jithendra Reddy of the TRS, D Raja of the CPI, Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference, Ram Vilas Paswan of the LJP among others.

Naresh Gujral of the Akali Dal, Upendra Kushwaha of the RLSP and Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav are among others who are attending the meeting.

Addressing the media after the meet, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad stated that the Opposition parties have informed the home minister that they would stand with the government to end terror in the country.

“We stand with the government for unity and security of the nation and security forces. Be it Kashmir or any other part of the nation, Congress party gives its full support to the government in the fight against terrorism,” he said.

The opposition parties also requested the Home Minister to request the PM to meet the presidents of all national and regional parties, Azad said.

This was supported by other parties too, he added.

“We have also decided that there are many disagreements with the government, but for the sake of our country, security of all, we will stand with the government to end terror. The government has our support,” Azad said.

The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) had claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.

Read | 44 CRPF jawans killed, nearly 45 injured in suicide attack in J-K’s Pulwama; JeM claims responsibility

A suicide bomber had rammed an SUV carrying 350 kg of explosives into a bus carrying the CRPF troopers in the deadliest attack in decades on security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.

India had earlier rejected Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua’s claims denying her country’s links to the Pulwama terror attack, saying that JeM, which claimed responsibility for the attack on Thursday, is based in Pakistan, and the “links are clear and evident and for all to see”.

The External Affairs Ministry spokesperson on Friday termed as “preposterous” the demand for an investigation, saying there is a video of the suicide bomber declaring himself a member of the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

The spokesperson said India has not seen any constructive approach from Pakistan on bilateral relations and it has been sheltering terrorists and terror organisations such as JeM. He said Islamabad has not taken any action against such groups despite international demands.

India also demanded that Pakistan take immediate and verifiable action against terrorists and terror groups operating from territories under its control to create a conducive atmosphere in the region free of terror.

Political parties have closed ranks following the attack and have offered their support to the NDA government on its response on the matter.

Expressing solidarity with the Government of India and the security forces, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday condemned the dastardly attack.

Addressing a press conference, Rahul Gandhi said the type of violence unleashed against the soldiers was “disgusting”.

Refusing to comment on any other issue, Rahul Gandhi said this was a time of mourning, sadness and respect adding that the Congress is fully supporting the Government and the security forces.

Source: The Staesman
13/02/2019

Rafale deal sealed by Modi govt 2.8 per cent cheaper than UPA: CAG report tabled in Rajya Sabha

The CAG report said India has managed to save 17.08 per cent money for the India Specific Enhancements in the 36 Rafale contract, compared to the 126 aircraft deal.

SNS Web | New Delhi | 

The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the 2015 Rafale jet deal tabled in the Parliament on Wednesday, said the Rafale deal sealed by the Modi government is 2.8 per cent cheaper than the one negotiated by the previous UPA government.

The CAG report tabled before Rajya Sabha said India has managed to save 17.08 per cent money for the India Specific Enhancements in the 36 Rafale contract, compared to the 126 aircraft deal.

It further said the delivery schedule of the first 18 Rafale aircraft is better than the one proposed in the 126 aircraft deal, by five months.

The auditor report noted that the Indian Air Force did not define the ASQRs (Air Staff Qualitative Requirements) properly. As a result of which none of the vendors could fully meet the ASQRs. ASQRs were changed repeatedly during the procurement process, the report said.

This created difficulties during technical and price evaluation and affected the integrity of competitive tendering which was one of the main reasons for the delay in the acquisition process, the report said.

Objectivity, equity and consistency of technical evaluation process was not evident in the Technical Evaluation Report.

Finding issues with the UPA-era deal, the audit further said a Defence Ministry team in March 2015 had recommended the scrapping of the 126 Rafale deal saying that the Dassault Aviation was not the lowest bidder and EADS (European Aeronautic Defence & Space Company) was not fully compliant with the tender requirements.

The Defence Ministry team had said that the proposal of Dassault Aviation Rafale should have been rejected in technical evaluation stage itself as it was non-compliant with RFP requirements.

The report comes as a major victory for the Narendra Modi-led BJP government which had been cornered by the Opposition parties in the matter.

Reacting to the report, Union Minister Arun Jaitley in a series of tweets slammed the opposition Congress saying “the lies of ‘Mahajhootbandhan’ stand exposed by the CAG Report”.

He said “the CAG Report on Rafale reaffirms the dictum” adding that “the truth shall prevail”.

The Congress and other opposition parties have dismissed the report as biased as auditor Rajiv Mehrishi was the Finance Secretary when the deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets was inked in 2016.

The Congress had on Sunday demanded that CAG Rajiv Mehrishi recuse himself from the audit citing conflict of interest.

“Finance ministry plays an important role in negotiations. How will CAG investigate himself?” said Congress leader Kapil Sibal.

The Congress has been accusing massive irregularities in the deal, alleging that the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government when it was negotiating procurement of 126 Rafale jets.

It has also demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the deal.

Read | ‘Not for court to scrutinise’: What the Supreme Court said in Rafale deal verdict

The Supreme Court had earlier in December given a clean chit to the Centre on the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

A three-Judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had dismissed all the petitions and said no Rafale probe was required.

India has signed an agreement with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft, costing approximately Rs 58,000-crore (about USD 8 billion), in a fly-away condition for Indian Air Force equipment upgrade.

Source: The Statesman
11/02/2019

“It’s like Indira’s come back”: India’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty rolls on

LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) – Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the latest entrant into politics from India’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, made her debut on Monday with a roadshow drawing thousands to see her in the most populous state, months before a general election due to be held by May.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi pulled a surprise last month by appointing his younger sister a party general secretary. She will also be its face in Uttar Pradesh, the state that sends the highest number of lawmakers to the lower house of parliament and is currently dominated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

But a string of BJP defeats in state elections late last year and rising discontent over a weak farm economy and lacklustre jobs growth have weakened Modi’s position, which an increasingly aggressive Congress is looking to capitalize on.

Congress hopes that the eyeballs she’s able to generate will turn into votes.

“It’s like Indira Gandhi has come back,” said Fuzail Ahmed Khan, 45, a Congress supporter. “The state’s farmers want Rahul Gandhi to be prime minister, Priyanka to be chief minister.”

Indira Gandhi, India’s only woman prime minister and known as the “Iron Lady”, was criticised for suspending civil liberties for nearly two years starting in 1975. The Hindu nationalist BJP calls Priyanka’s appointment an extension of Congress’s “dynastic politics”.

Posters of Priyanka lined the streets of the state capital, Lucknow, and hundreds of Congress supporters, accompanied by drummers, chanted her name as she emerged from the airport with her brother.

The siblings continuously waved at supporters from atop a bus and then later from an SUV during the drive from the airport to their state office.

At a stopover, Rahul Gandhi grabbed a microphone and said the appointments of Priyanka and lawmaker Jyotiraditya Scindia as state party leaders were aimed at beyond the general election and bringing Congress into power in Uttar Pradesh.

“If there is a heart of the country, it is Uttar Pradesh,” he said to loud cheers, Priyanka standing by his side. “They’re definitely focused on the parliamentary election but the aim also is to form a government in the state. We’ll bring a government of youth, poor and peasants.”

But it won’t be easy for the brother-sister combination in Uttar Pradesh, a poor state of 220 million people where two regional caste-based parties now compete for power with the BJP and Congress is only a marginal player.

The BJP won 73 of the 80 seats in the state in the last general election. BJP President Amit Shah said last week the party would win 74 seats there this year.

Although Priyanka has helped manage elections for her brother and her mother, former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, she has never held an official party post until now.

“I hope that we can together start a new kind of politics,” she said in an audio message shared by Congress, but she did not make a speech in Lucknow amid fears, political analysts say, she could overshadow her brother.

Since the announcement of Priyanka’s entry into politics, India’s financial crime-fighting agency Enforcement Directorate has questioned her husband, Robert Vadra, in a case relating to alleged ownership of 1.9 million pounds of undisclosed assets abroad. His lawyer and Congress have dismissed the charges as politically motivated.

Priyanka, who drew more 78,000 followers soon after joining Twitter on Monday and even before sending a single tweet, will spend three days in Lucknow meeting workers from more than 40 constituencies.

From 21 seats in the 2009 general election in Uttar Pradesh, Congress’ tally fell to just two in 2014.

Source: Reuters

11/02/2019

Congress will fight to transform Uttar Pradesh, nation: Rahul Gandhi

Urging Congress workers to “transform UP”, Rahul Gandhi said that PM Modi’s “hollow promises of have come to light”.

SNS Web | New Delhi | 

With an appeal to the people of Uttar Pradesh to bring the Congress to power at the Centre in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, party president Rahul Gandhi presented his party as the one that can bring a progressive government for farmers, Dalits, youth and the poor.

Addressing Congress supporters in Lucknow on Monday at the conclusion of a massive roadshow with Priyanka Gandhi and Jyotiraditya Scindia, the 48-year-old Gandhi said that there is need to empower grassroot leaders to help bring the party to power and fulfil the aspirations of the people.

Slamming the BJP-RSS, Gandhi said, “This is an ideological battle. On one hand there is the Congress ideology of love, harmony and brotherhood. On the other, there is BJP-RSS ideology of dividing and weakening the nation.”

Urging Congress workers to “transform UP”, Gandhi said that PM Modi’s “hollow promises of have come to light”.

“Congress workers must fight this battle with issues that concern the youth, farmers. There is no dearth of issues. Congress party will fight to transform UP and the nation,” he added, while assuring the supporters that the party will “play on the front foot”.

Criticising Narendra Modi over the promises he made, Gandhi said that the youth of the country believe that the Prime Minister has failed to fulfil them.

“Uttar Pradesh has witnessed what Narendra Modi did for the last 5 years in the country. Youth are saying that Modi failed his promise to provide employment and benefited only people like Anil Ambani,” he said.

Attacking the NDA government and PM Modi over the Rafale deal, in which the Congress smells a scam, Gandhi cited a series of media reports stating that the Defence Ministry expressed its strong reservations to the “parallel negotiations” conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with France on the multi-billion dollar fighter jet deal and that the government removed the anti-corruption clause from the Rafale fighter jet defence deal.

“Modi had said that he has a 56-inch chest. He wants to be a ‘Chowkidar’. The truth has now surfaced that he conducted parallel negotiations in the Rafale deal. The clause that enabled investigation in case of corruption, was waived off by Mr. Modi,” he said.

Also Read | Defence Ministry objected to PMO role in Rafale deal, says report; Rahul Gandhi slams PM Modi 

Earlier today, Gandhi had accused PM Modi of “facilitating loot” in the Rafale fighter jet deal with France.

“Every defence deal has an anti-corruption clause. The Hindu has reported that the PM removed the anti-corruption clause. It is clear that the PM facilitated loot,” Gandhi told reporters outside the Andhra Bhawan in New Delhi where he came to support Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s protest against the Centre.

Read More: PM Modi facilitated loot in Rafale deal: Rahul Gandhi

“NoMo anti corruption clause. The Chowkidar himself opened the door to allow Anil Ambani to steal 30,000 crore from the IAF,” Gandhi tweeted from his official handle using his “chowkidaar chor hai” jibe at the PM while attaching a report.

The report, published by The Hindu, stated that just days before it signed the Inter-governmental Agreement (IGA) for 36 Rafale fighter jets, the Centre had waived off critical provisions for anti-corruption penalties as well as overruled financial advisers’ recommendations for making payments through an escrow account.

Mega roadshow

Monday’s roadshow, which was witnessed by thousands in the city, marked the official entry of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra into active politics.

Appointed Congress general secretary of Uttar Pradesh East last month by her brother, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is being seen by Congress loyalists as a fortune changer for the grand old party in electorally powerful Uttar Pradesh.

From onboard an open top bus, Priyanka Gandhi, her brother Rahul, Scindia and Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Raj Babbar were seen waving to a sea of supporters who had gathered to catch a glimpse of the leaders.

Read More: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra kicks off mega Lucknow roadshow with Rahul

The approximately 20-km long roadshow started from Amausi airport to the Nehru Bhawan office of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee located a Mall Avenue near Hazratganj.

Ahead of her visit to the state, a group of party workers geared up to work as her “army”, complete with a pink uniform that has her photo and a message. They call themselves the ‘Priyanka Sena’.

Earlier on Sunday, in a message to party supporters and voters, Priyanka Gandhi said she hopes to start a “new kind of politics” in which “everyone will be a stakeholder”.

“… I have hope in my heart that together we will start a new kind of politics, a politics in which all of you will be stakeholders — my young friends, my sisters and even the weakest person, all their voices will be heard,” said Gandhi through the Congress’s Shakti App.

While Priyanka will concentrate on 42 seats of eastern UP, Scindia will focus on 38 seats of western UP.

Priyanka’s first meeting is scheduled with the workers of the Mohanlalganj (reserved) constituency while the last interaction slated for Thursday will be with the workers of the Misrikh (reserved) Lok Sabha seat.

UP East also has Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Modi, and Gorakhpur, a stronghold of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Source: The Statesman
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