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Sitting Guj Cong MLA Kuvarji Halpati joins BJP

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December 04, 2012


23:03  Sitting Guj Cong MLA Kuvarji Halpati joins BJP:  

Dissidence within opposition Congress continued unabated as sitting MLA from Bardoli Kuvarji Halpati today crossed over to BJP, along with 200 party workers, at a public rally addressed by Chief Minister Narendra Modi in Surat district.        

 

"Along with Halpati, Gujarat Youth Congress general secretary Nilesh Luhar, Surat district Congress vice-president Manojbhai Patel, district Congress secretary Prabhubhai Patel and 200 party workers today left Congress party and joined BJP at the chief minister's rally at Mandvi," Convener of BJP Media Cell Jagdish Bhavsar said.       

 

Surat district BJP general secretary Bharatsinh Parmar welcomed them to the party fold.  In 2007 Assembly elections, Kuvarji Halpati had defeated Pravinbhai Rathod of BJP by 4,791 votes on a Congress ticket from Bardoli, then a ST seat.        

 

Post delimitation, Bardoli became a SC seat and Halpati demanded a ticket from the party to contest from Gandevi (ST) assembly constituency in Navsari district. However, Congress fielded Bhartiben Patel from Gandevi which irked Halpati as she had lost the last polls from Chikhli (ST) seat by more than 2,200 votes and he resigned from the party post two days ago and joined the saffron party today.

21:57  Delhi checks readyness for quakes and blasts :  
Delhi today witnessed a major coordinated mockdrill under which simulated incidents of fire, earthquake and bomb blasts were enacted in 33 locations to check medical response system of prominent city hospitals. 

All major government as well as private hospitals participated in the mockdrill carried out as part of the Delhi Emergency Management Exercise (DEMEX) by Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA).

The basic purpose of the drill, which started at around 11:45 AM, was to assess and improve emergency medical response system. 300 observers from Army and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) oversaw the exercise. 

The NDMA had appointed six teams of observers which comprised of doctors from National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIH&FW), AIIMS and Railways. 

The simulation exercise at Burari Urs Ground was conducted in supervision of experts from Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh and Oregon.

CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) also participated at Naraina and Burari sites where simulated incidents of bomb blasts were created.
20:36  McDonald's to Sushma: 'We only use local stuff':  
Fast food chain McDonald's has disputed the remark of Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj in Parliament that it does not buy local produce, saying all the ingredients used in its products in India are sourced from within the country.

"Before setting up its business in India, McDonald's had made a commitment to government on local sourcing of its entire raw material requirement. 

"We confidently and proudly state that ingredients used in our products are sourced locally that includes the French Fries," McDonald's India (North and East) Managing Director Vikram Bakshi said in a statement.

He was reacting to Swaraj's remark in Parliament during the debate on FDI in retail today that even McDonald's was importing potatoes from abroad and not buying the produce locally.

"We import only on rare occasions when local supplies run out," Bakshi said, adding that "McDonald's remains steadfast to its commitment of working with local suppliers and farmers to source all its requirements in India".
19:31  Yamuna in Delhi carries drains not water: SC:  "It is a sorry state of affairs," the Supreme Court remarked today over failure of the project to clean Yamuna despite over Rs 12,000 crore being spent on it and suggested that the routing drainages of NCR region to a place outside Delhi be explored to stop release of waste in the river.

Observing that Yamuna in Delhi carries not water but drains, a bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and Madan B Lokur rapped the government authorities for not being able to clean the river despite spending thousands of crore of the common man's money.
19:12  MEA U-turn: Will help Indian couple in Norway:  The Ministry of External Affairs has come down from its earlier "will not intervene in the legal process of that country" stance to state that it will offer all help to the Indian couple in Norway jailed for child abuse.  
19:09  Sena to BMC: Demolish other illegal structures first:  Mumbai Mayor Sunil Prabhu today said that the "sanctity" of the site (where Bal Thackeray was cremated) should be maintained. "If the municipal commissioner says that it (site where Bal Thackeray was cremated) is unauthorised, then there are several illegal structures in the city," Prabhu said.

Several people visit the site and pay homage there, he said adding that the issue would be discussed with senior party leaders also. "We will also take up the issue at an appropriate level in the state government," the Sena leader, who has been served notice by the civic body to remove makeshift memorial at Shivaji Park, said.

However, Prabhu did not comment when asked about the prospect of his disqualification as a corporator for supporting unauthorised structure.
18:56  Ponty shootout case: 3 days police custody for Namdhari's PSO:  Update on the Ponty Chadha murder: Sacked Uttarakhand minority panel chief S S Namdhari's PSO Sachin Tyagi, arrested for his alleged role in Ponty Chadha shootout case, was today sent to the Delhi police custody for three days as the police told the court that he also had fired at the liquor baron's brother. Metropolitan Magistrate Neha remanded Tyagi, who was arrested last night, in police custody to unearth the conspiracy and the sequence of the shootout.
18:55  Kejriwal goes after Narendra Modi, Congress:  As promised, activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal held his press conference at 5 pm today and took on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as well as the Congress this evening. Bad timing though, considering the nation was hooked on to the FDI debate in Parliament.

He alleged that while Modi and the Congress were busy slamming each other in public, they were making lucrative business transactions with the same group of people and reaping benefits.

A press statement by Kejriwal's Aam Admi Party stated, "In Gujarat elections, Modi and Congress appear to be politically pitched against each other. But documents reveal that behind the curtains, they are happy doing business with each other and with the same set of people". Read more on rediff.com
18:51  Pre-poll blow to Cong as former Gujarat Dy CM Amin quits:  Sulking Gujarat former deputy chief minister Narhari Amin, who was not given nomination by Congress for coming assembly polls, today resigned from the party, dealing it a blow ahead of the electoral battle.

Amin, a prominent leader of the influential Patel community sent his resignation to Gujarat Congress vice-president Ballubhai Patel. Patel, however, said he is yet to receive the resignation letters of Amin and his supporters who quit the party.

Six senior leaders, including spokespersons of Gujarat Congress, Jayanti Parmar and Hitesh Patel, state party general secretary Ashish Amin, farmers cell chairman Dashrath Patel, teachers cell chairman Digvijaysinh Gohil, Ahmedabad Congress vice-president R C Patel, who had quit their party posts last Friday, resigned from the primary membership of Congress today.
18:39  Pak bans Akshay Kumar's Khiladi 786 for 'controversial name':  In a move, likely to upset cinemagoers in Pakistan, the censor board there has stopped cinema houses from advertising Akshay Kumar's latest Bollywood movie, Khiladi 786. The Censor Board considers the name of the movie controversial. However, the jury is out and a final decision is still pending. Read
18:33  DMK supports FDI. Left asks govt to think of weeping families:  The debate on FDI in Parliament has ended some time ago. Here's what the TKS Elangovan of the DMK said: We strongly oppose FDI, but we will not vote against the government because we do not want to let them down; we do not want to join the Opposition.

Basudeb Acharia, Left: West "If Walmart gives one person a job, it will deprive many other people of employment. Why can't the government see the tears in the eyes of the the families whose breadwinners have committed suicide." he asks looking at Kapil Sibal, who had held forth for the UPA.

The Lok Sabha will vote on FDI at 6 pm tomorrow.
18:23  iTunes debuts in India; download a HD movie for Rs 490:  In the dance of democracy in Parliament, a report that we missed telling you about.

After a long long wait, Indian>iPad, iPod and iPhone users can now finally purchase their favourite Bollywood and regional music and movies and books from iTunes store in local currency, with Apple launching the service in the country.

iTunes Store was simultaneously launched in 55 other countries, including Russia, Turkey, and South Africa and users can buy local and international content. iTunes Store, a popular service in the US, is already available in 119 countries. Indian customers will get to choose from over 20 million songs available for purchase and download on iTunes Store, Apple said in statement. Songs are priced at about Rs 12. 
18:20  Cong MP from Bihar fumbles in LS:  Apart from the FDI debate, an anecdote.

An elderly Congress member was caught unawares and fumbled today in the Lok Sabha when he was asked by the Chair to read out his question, leading to jibes from the opposition benches.

During Question Hour, Speaker Meira Kumar asked Mohammad Asrarul Haque to read out his starred question on development of agriculture in backward states.

"What is the question number? Where is it?" Haque was heard asking the member seated next to him. With the mike on, the whole House heard him and the BJP members took potshots. Ninong Ering, Minister of State for Minority Affairs, helped Haque with a Hindi version of the questions.

With the Opposition members booing him, the Speaker had to intervene. "He is a very senior member. You should not speak like this. He is a respected member," Kumar said.
18:16  Here's the background of the IOA elections. Read
18:00  India cannot compete in Olympics:  The IOC had repeatedly told the Indian body to adhere to its own constitution and the Olympic Charter and not follow the government's sports code for Wednesday's elections. Suspension means the Indian body will stop receiving IOC funding and its officials will be banned from attending Olympic meetings and events. India's athletes will be barred from competing in Olympic events under their national flag.The IOA polls were held as per the sports code of the government and not the IOC, prompting the decision. IOA officials will also be banned from Olympic events.

Read:  Abhinav Bindra backs IOC threat to ban India
17:55  Sonia Singh tweets: Well done, Chautala, Bhanot and co ..India suspended from the International Olympic Committee according to the Associated Press
17:51  The suspension if not revoked means India cannot participate in the Olympics. The decision was taken by the IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne. 
17:50  IOC suspends IOA due to government interference:  AP: Two officials with knowledge of the decision say the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suspended India's national Olympic committee - Indian Olympic Association - because of government interference. The officials tell The Associated Press that the IOC executive board imposed the sanctions Tuesday after the Indian Olympic Association failed to comply with the world body's rules on the holding of elections. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the official announcement hadn't been made yet. Read more
17:46  SP blows aam admi bugle, FDI anti poor :  More on what Mulayam Singh said in Parliament: "Government must roll back FDI it will not benefit the nation. How will small businessmen compete with big retail houses? All FDI will do is increase poverty in the country and lead to massive unemployment."

Rebutting Kapil Sibal's claim that only cities with 10 lakh population and above will be allowed to attract FDI, Mulayam Singh says that small places have poor traders who will not be able to sustain business."

Looking at Sonia Gandhi, he said, "You seem to be forgetting Swadeshi and you are looking at foreign formulas to detriment of the aam admi." The Samajwadi Party wants an all-party meet on FDI.   
17:37  Mulayam anti FDI but with riders:   Mulayam Singh Yadav's debating skills are no match for Kapil Sibal's. Mulayam says that though the SP is opposed to FDI, he will not go with all the arguments made by the Opposition. Drawing on examples of Pepsi and Coca Cola, he says,  when it entered India, "we were told that farmers are going to benefit, but not a single farmer has benefited. In fact, it is to the contrary. Farmers have benefited by their own efforts not because a MNC has set up shop in their area,"he says.
17:11  'Oppn only thinks about when they will occupy our benches':  Kapil Sibal, a consummate lawyer with debating skills to match, ends his debate with this stinger that has little do with FDI. "We don't make our policies depending on whether we are sitting on this side in Parliament (treasury benches) or that side (opposition benches). When we sit here, we look beyond you, to the people outside Parliament who deserve a better life. Our policies are for a better India.

When you look at us you look at these seats and think, about the time when you will come here (treasury benches) and occupy these seats." Applause from the Congress benches.

Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav speaking now, opposing FDI. He says he is not in favour of FDI in retail. Observers say that -- in case of a retail FDI vote -- the government may get the support of sections such as the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which aren't part of the ruling coalition but have previously supported the government in times of crisis.
Observers say that, even if they don't support the government, they could abstain from voting to ensure that the government wins.
17:02  You speak so well, we tend to believe you: Sibal to Swaraj:   Sibal reads out reports from business newspapers and a Forbes report which says that Walmart has failed to take off in China. ""Walmart, Carrefour struggling in China despite 100 per cent FDI," says Sibal. Sushma Swaraj looks pained as Sibal picks holes in her debate."When you speak, you speak so well, that we tend to believe everything you say," Sibal tells Swaraj. Swaraj stands up and says she will reply to Sibal tomorrow during the 'right to reply'.

"You are against the youth, the consumers, the farmers. Who else are you against?" he asks Swaraj and the Opposition in general.

Sibal then says he will talk about his constituency, Chandni Chowk where 40 per cent of people have only cycles, while the other 40 per cent have scooters. "Walmart is not going to get space in Chandni Chowk to set up shop. It will be far away in the NCR area. They are not going to travel 30 km to NCR to Walmart to go shopping. So these people will buy from retailers, wholesalers, in Chandni Chowk, they will not buy from Walmart. Your argument that small businesses will be affected makes no sense.  So who will buy from Walmart -- the middleclass -- who have cars. So what is your problem with that?" asks Sibal.
16:45  Decide if you are with farmers or middlemen: UPA:  "We are the second largest producers of fruit and vegetables in the world -- we produce 200 million tonnes of produce. But out his 40 per cent is wasted -- 80 million tonnes! Calculate the loss yourself," Sibal tells Opposition MPs who are baying in unison. Meira Kumar stands up and admonishes them, "What do you want me to do! Let the minister speak. Baith jaiye."
MPs fall in line and Sibal continues.

"The purpose of the FDI policy is that farmer should get a higher price when his produce gets to the market. But there are eight commission agents in between him and the market. Farmers just get 15 to 17 per cent for his produce. FDI will ensure a higher price for his produce. Now, now (reiterated for effect) the Opposition should decide whether they are with the farmers or with the middlemen," says Sibal. Bench thumping and cheering in the Treasury benches.

"When you are in the Opposition you suddenly become Swadeshi, what is this? This is your stance?" asks Sibal. 
16:33  Sibal punches holes in BJP's arguments:  So Sibal's defence on FDI is that the choice rests with the state governments and that the BJP's claims are exaggerated.
Pandemonium prevails, tempers flair in the Lok Sabha.
Sibal begins a point-by-point rebuttal. Sibal cites Walmart's failure in China to rebut Swaraj's claim that Walmart kills local businesses, implying that it is always successful.
Sibal quotes BJP's Jaswant Singh in 2004, from the party's manifesto: "Don't underestimate the Indian sherbet, it will survive and survives drinks like Pepsi and Coca Cola. We will allow foreign investment in the unincorporated sector."

Sibal thunders, "Tell us, How will foreign investors invest in the unincorporated sector? Who is willing to invest in villages. It's been eight years and we are still waiting for an answer."
16:24  UPA: Sushmaji is chatting, not listening to debate:  Kapil Sibal says tongue-in-cheek, "If we bring in FDI, India will be sold to foreign invaders. Please remember that only 53 cities qualify for FDI, so it affects just 18 states. If you don't want it in other states, don't bring it in. Retail FDI is only in cities with a population of 10 lakh and above. In states where the chief ministers wants FDI, let there be FDI. You want to sink, but you want the other states to sink as well. What is this debate about? This debate is happening only because the issue is being politicised. Retail FDI is optional, we have decided this earlier."

Uproar, as expected. Parliamentary Affairs minsiter Kamal Nath appeals to the Leader of the Opposition to allow the debate. "But Sushmaji is chatting, she is not even listening. Please allow the debate to take place." 
16:16  TMC quotes Tagore, debate moves to UPA:  In Parliament Trinamool MP Saugata Roy has ended his debate. Roy compliments Swaraj and then does a flashback to the no-trust vote. Opposition benches listen in with stony silence. Roy then says how 'Chinas' and the 'Americas' will only benefit from FDI and not India. He then draws on Rabindranath Tagore, the last bastion of the Bengali and says, "I'm from Bengal the place where Siraj-ud-daulah lost the Battle of Plassey. As Tagore said, 'they came as traders and became kings'," he says.

After a blink and miss speech by Hasan Khan from the CPM, Kapil Sibal is now speaking.
16:11  Indian couple sentenced: BJP wants MEA to take up case:  Indian couple sentenced: The BJP says the MEA should take up the case. The Indian government has already indicated that it will not intervene in the legal process of that country. "This is an issue that relates not to the government. It relates to a private citizen and to the local law of that country," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has said.
15:48  The Indian couple in Oslo will appeal to a higher court against the conviction. 
15:46  In Parliament, Sushma Swaraj has ended her debate on FDI on retail. TMC's Sougata Roy is speaking now.  
15:45  Norway sentencing: Dad: 18 months, mom: 15 months:  Zee News: "They are facing child abuse case and are charged with gross or repeated maltreatment of their child/children by threats, violence or other wrong, under section 219," Kurt Lir, Head of Prosecution, Oslo Police Department, said.

He said, "there were burn marks and scars on the body of the child, who has also been beaten by the belt."

Asked why the police arrested the couple - Chandrasekhar Vallabhaneni, a software professional from Andhra Pradesh, and his wife Anupama- before the sentencing, Lir said, it is feared that they will evade prosecution by returning to India.

"Under three circumstances i.e if we are concerned about (tampering) of the evidence or we fear they may leave the country or they might do it again, we make arrests before the sentencing," he said. On whether the police department came across such cases often, he said, "yes, it is quite often. And not only foreigners but Norwegians are also involved in such cases."

He also said prosecution has proposed a sentence of 15 months for the mother and 18 months for the father in the case. Anupama's lawyer Marte Brotrome said it was wrong to keep the Indian couple in prison in Norway. "If the court sentences them, we will appeal against it," she has said.
15:43  Norway sentencing: Dad: 18 months, mom: 15 months:  The verdict and sentencing in the Norway child abuse case has just come in. An Oslo court found the Indian couple guilty of "gross or repeated maltreatment" of their child and sentenced the father to 18 months and mother to 15 months in prison. The prosecution had termed the case as "very serious" and justified their arrest ahead of the court verdict.  
15:37  FDI debate: BJP pulls out Nehru, Rajiv, Dasmunshi:  Sushma Swaraj now reads out a clipping from the Associated Press on how the Walmart store in Mexico is involved in an alleged payout to local politicians. "Walmart is alleged to have paid bribes to do business in India. Why are we doing this? Ex-Cong chief whip Priyaranjan Das Munshi had opposed FDI in retail, why has the government's stance changed so drastically?" she asks the Prime Minister.  
15:28  Sushma scolds UPA: Listen, this is important!:   Eight-four per cent of sales from Walmart came at the cost of existing local businesses, says Sushma Swaraj reading out from a report. Industries and commerce minister Anand Sharma smiles. Swaraj admonishes him, "This is important, listen carefully," she says. Chastised, Sharma nods his head and the smile vanishes.

Swaraj is now quoting at will from various websites:
"India will be flooded with Chinese products."
"Records show 84% local jobs lost after Walmart's entry in Iowa, US."
"Obama took his kids Sasha and Malia to a small book store to promote small businesses."
"Walmart requires 36000 stores to create 40 lakh jobs. Walmart is a flop in the US."
"Walmart's expansion has killed small stores in the US."
15:15  BJP: No middlemen in sugarcane, but farmers suffer :  Congress MPs disrupt Sushma Swaraj's speech in the Lok Sabha over the issue of sugarcane farmers. She says there are no middlemen in the sugarcane industry, yet farmers suffer. BJP members say they will disrupt speeches by the UPA MPs as well. Speaker restores order.

Kiran Bedi tweets: Amazing clarity with which Sushma Swaraj is speaking+clarifying negative consequences of FDi. Shall wait to hear its counter similarly!

Sougata Roy of the TMC will speak after this, followed by a CPM MP..
15:00  Indian farmer will NOT benefit, assures Sushma:   Sushma warns that MNCs will give assurances and promises but break them at will. "They will come up with excuses not to buy local stock. Shiploads of potatoes are being unloaded so that McDonald's can use potatoes of the 'right' size. MNCs always import produce," she says reading out from the EU's declaration on hypermarkets and exploitation of farmers.

The long and short if what she is saying is that the Indian farmer will NOT benefit from FDI.
14:54  Sushma: FDI promotes predatory pricing:  "FDI in retail will promote predatory pricing by big retailers and affect the end user. Monopoly will hurt consumers. Big retailers will never compromise on profits," says Swaraj. "McDonald's refuses to buy potatoes from our farmers in Agra because the size of the potatoes do not fit their requirments. As a result, the farmers are forced to sell stocks at low prices," she says. "Apple farmers from Himachal Pradesh will come to your door (industries minister Anand Sharma) beating their heads in frustration. What will you do then?" she asks with furrowed brows.
14:44  Stubborn because govt has failed to consult us: Swaraj:  Sushma Swaraj holds forth in the Lok Sabha as she debates why the government should not allow FDI in retail. Not a peep out of any MP and for once, there is order in the house. Going back to the consultation and consensus theme, Swaraj says, "We are stubborn because the government has refused to consult us." 
14:38  FDI debate: Sushma Swaraj uses C words :  Lok Sabha begins debate on FDI on multi-brand retail. Sushma Swaraj begins the debate under rule 184. "The government has gone back on its promise for a consensus on FDI on retail. Pranab Mukherjee had assured us there would be a discussion on FDI and decision would be suspended till a consensus had been reached.
Swaraj, always masterful in debate, chooses two words to put forth her point of view -- Consensus and Consultation. She says the BJP is the main opposition party, but they were never even consulted neither has the government made any attempt to reach a consensus.
14:29  Sushma Swaraj moves motion on FDI in Lok Sabha:  So the BJP and the Left demand a 30-day notice before the FEMA debate is taken up. But Speaker Meira Kumar now decides that there will be a discussion on FEMA modification along with the FDI debate and invites Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition in the LS to initiate the debate on FDI in multi-brand retail.
Swarj initiates the debate saying the party is opposed to the exercise.


14:21  Govt: Why is Opposition hiding behind rules:   Parliamentary Affairs minister Kamal Nath raises objections to the BJP's demand that FEMA and FDI be debated separately. Kamal Nath says the BJP is hiding behind the rule and when the time has come to debate and vote on FDI, the BJP is running away. "I do not understand why the Opposition is hiding behind the rules," thunders Kamal Nath.

Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) says majority or minority (numbers) in Parliament is not the issue, "We know that the government has the majority. But shouting by members is not good for the house," he says. 
14:13  BJP objects to clubbing FEMA and FDI debate:  The BJP had said that it was against rushing through FDI-related FEMA notification in Parliament along with the main debate on the issue. The BJP wants the FEMA notification to be placed on the floor of the House for 30 days to enable the members to see it, consider, think and submit modifications and disapproval amendments. "It cannot be rushed through alongwith the main debate on the FDI issue. We oppose it and we will approach the Chair in this regard," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said after a Parliamentary Party meeting here. The FEMA rules are key for operalitionalising the police decision to open FDI in multi-brand retail.

This is what Yashwant Sinha brought up as Lok Sabha convened at 2 pm.
14:07  BJP objects to clubbing FEMA and FDI debate:  BJP senior leader Yashwant Sinha rises to speak on the rules governing debate and voting on FDI in retail. It seems Sinha and not Sushma Swaraj is opening the debate. The BJP objects to the agenda of clubbing together a debate on FEMA and FDI on retail.
14:01  No move to regulate air fares: Ajit Singh:  Just in: Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has said there will be no move to regulate air fares. The steep rise in airfares by up to 50% this year has prodded the civil aviation ministry to set up a special cell to monitor pricing by airlines. Read more
13:57  Sushma Swaraj to initiate FDI debate in LS now:  The debate on FDI will begin in the Lok Sabha at 2 pm today. Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, will be initiating the debate on the FDI issue on behalf of the BJP. The motion will be put to vote in the Lok Sabha at 6 pm tomorrow.
13:54  Cong MP voices concern in LS over LPG cap, seeks rethink:  A Congress member today expressed concern in the Lok Sabha over the LPG cylinder cap and demanded a rethink, getting all-round support as he spoke of "untold miseries" facing the common man in the wake of the decision. Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Congress member Jagdambika Pal said the move had led to a flourishing black market and made a strong demand for raising the cap of LPG cylinders from six to at least 12.
13:51  EC: Direct Cash Transfer only after state polls end:   The Election Commission has also asked the government to defer the implementation of the Direct Cash Transfer scheme in four districts of Gujarat and two in Himachal Pradesh. Himachal went to the polls last month, but the model code of conduct is on till December 20. Gujarat will go to the polls on December 13 and December 17.  The EC says the government should have maintained the letter and spirit of the model code of conduct.
13:27  Arvind Kejriwal to reveal next target at 5 pm today:  Arvind Kejriwal, the RTI activist-turned politician and the convener of the newly-formed Aam Admi Party, is set to make another expose at 5 pm today. His target has not yet been revealed. His earlier exposes were on Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries, Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra, BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and Salman Khurshid's NGO. He had also targeted the government for failing to pay NSG commandos.
13:16  Congress to unveil manifesto for Gujarat now :  The Congress is holding a press conference in Ahmedabad now to unveil its manifesto for Gujarat. Yesterday, the BJP unveiled its manifesto for Gujarat. Read
The BJP has already slammed the Congress' poll manifesto saying it has nothing new to offer. This is what the Congress said on the BJP's manifesto. Read
13:12  EC to govt: Decision on cash transfer avoidable:  The full-bench of the Election Commission which began its meeting today to decide whether the UPA government violated the rules by announcing the direct cash transfer scheme and implanting it in poll-bound Gujarat where the Model Code of Conduct is in force, has ended. The verdict is this: The EC has pulled up the government saying the "decision on cash transfer scheme was avoidable."

The BJP has complained that the announcement of the direct cash transfer scheme violates the model code of conduct, which kicks in as soon as elections are announced and forbids parties and candidates from sharing decisions or policies that could influence voters in their favour.  Read more
12:58  Diana and Charles most 'likely' names for Will-Kate's baby:   Bookmakers were quick to come up with a shortlist of likely names for the Royal baby, with family names like Elizabeth, Diana and Charles ranked among the favourites. Read

Also read: Could it be twins for Kate?
12:53  Maha minister demands CISF deployment at Shirdi temple:  Maharashtra Agriculture Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil has written a letter to the Union Home Ministry requesting to hand over Saibaba temple's security to the Central Industrial Security Force. There is a threat to the famous shrine from the terrorists since the past eight years and present police security as well as temple's private security is inadequate, Vikhe-Patil, who is the MLA from Shirdi Assembly constituency, said.

It has been observed that proper checking is not being done by the security men at the entrance gates and even the CCTV cameras installed in the premises are not being properly monitored, he said.
12:48  Uproar in Parl over Gujarat gas deal:  With Gujarat in the midst of polls, Chief Minister Narendra Modi was today brought into a controversy by agitated Congress members in Parliament who created uproar over a news report alleging irregularities in a gas deal by the state government.

The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha saw Congress members waving copies of an article in a news magazine with the headline: "Sweet deals are made of gas" and raising slogans against Modi from the aisle, with some even threatening to troop into the Well.

The article spoke of a "dubious" company registered in Barbados enjoying a windfall of Rs 20,000 crore at the cost of Gujarat tax-payers in the wake of an agreement inked under Modi's watch. The Lok Sabha was adjourned till 1230 hours and the Rajya Sabha till 1400 hours.
12:46  Father-son kung fu duo take down seven thugs in China:  Thugs hired on Oct. 29 by a local Communist Party office in Hebei province obviously had not watched enough kung fu movies before they tried to "persuade" the family of a famous martial artist to sign over their property to the government. The negotiations ended with seven of them sprawled on the floor while the family casually filmed the aftermath. Read
12:41  Pak: Despite evidence, military official denies temple demolition:  The Military Estate Office, which assisted a private builder in the demolition of a Hindu temple and houses in Karachi's Soldier Bazaar, on Saturday continue to deny that the pre-partition house of worship was razed in the operation. Read the report on Express Tribune, Pakistan.

This is what Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on the issue yesterday. Read
12:36  Maldivian Foreign Minister speaks to Khurshid on GMR project:  In a bid to mollify India which is upset over termination of the USD 500 million GMR project, Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdul Samad Abdullah today spoke to his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid and told him that a detailed communication on it will be sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In a telephonic call to Khurshid, Abdullah said he was not aware of India's displeasure over the issue, sources said here. Interestingly, New Delhi has maintained that they had conveyed their displeasure to Maldives immediately after the termination of the project and asked it to ensure that Indian interest was "fully protected".
12:35  Lipstick may harm your IQ: experts:  Wear lipstick every day? Read this: Even low-level lead exposure could affect your IQ, behaviour and ability to learn, experts have warned after a study involving 22 lipstick brands found that 55 per cent contained trace amounts of the toxic element.

Underwriters Laboratories revealed that 12 of the lip products sampled tested positive for lead with the highest levels at 3.22 parts per million, the 'Daily Mail' reported. Commenting on the findings Dr Sean Palfrey, medical director for the Boston Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, warned that even low-level lead exposure poses a serious health risk and could affect mental health.
12:03  Thackeray memorial: Sena denies notice from BMC:   Update on that Bal Thackeray memorial story.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has sent a notice to the Shiv Sena to dismantle the temporary structure built at Shivaji Park where party founder Bal Thackeray's cremation took place.

BMC has denied permission for a Bal Thackeray memorial at the Shivaji Park. BMC says that the permission to use the ground was given only for the cremation and that it should be restored to its original status as it is a reserved plot as per the city development plan.

Meanwhile, Mayor Sunil Prabhu has told CNN-IBN that he hasn't received any notice so far. Earlier, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray had said that the controversy over the Bal Thackeray memorial was unnecessary. Uddhav in an interview to Sena's paper 'Saamna' said that the Sena will continue fighting for 'Marathi Manoos' and 'Hindutvavaad'.

Pic: Uddhav, Raj, Jaidev and Aditya Thackeray before the Sena supremo's body was consigned to flames. This is the spot at Shivaji Park where the Sena wants a permanent memorial to be built.
11:46  Cong MPs from Telangana boycott party meeting on FDI:  Keeping the Congress on tenterhooks on their strategy during the crucial FDI vote tomorrow, eight party MPs from Telangana region in Andhra Pradesh today boycotted a meeting called by party floor leaders in Parliament to seek their assurances on participation in the debate.

The MPs, who have been openly protesting against the Congress and the UPA Government on the non-decision over contentious Telangana statehood demand, also kept the question of skipping the vote tomorrow open saying a decision on this would be taken only tomorrow.
11:45  So Kate's pregnant, but can baby inherit British throne?:  Britain's Prince William and Catherine Middleton are expecting their first child after 19 months of marriage, the palace announced Monday. But until 2011, any daughter born to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would not have enjoyed an equal right to inherit the British throne. Rules dating back centuries decree that the crown passes to the eldest son and is only bestowed on a daughter when there are no sons. Read more
11:30  Navy chief speaks out on South China Sea games:  The Indian Navy is training to deploy in the South China Sea to secure its oil assets in the event of a contingency, the defence wing chief said in New Delhi yesterday,  immediately raising the stakes for New Delhi in Asia's whirlpool. Read
11:21  Where parties stand on FDI in retail vote:  The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has so far firmly opposed the FDI decision. The Left parties, the AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and some other political parties have also made their intent to vote against the government. 
11:19  Where parties stand on the FDI debate.

Baijayant Jay Panda tweets: After weeks of deliberations, BJD today issued a three line whip to its MPs to vote against the Govt on FDI in multi brand retail

Derek O'Brie
n: Trinamool Congress serves notice in Rajya Sabha under Rule 168 for a discussion on FDI in multi brand retail to be followed by voting.

The Rajya Sabha has been adjourned till noon over uproar from Samajwadi Party MPs who want "innocent Muslims released from jail."
11:14  US wants 'greater' Af-Pak dialogue:   Welcoming the recent "positive" talks between the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United States has highlighted the need for "greater dialogue" between the two countries.

"We've welcomed that kind of cooperation. We want to see greater dialogue between them," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

"Obviously our role, as well as Pakistan's role, is the same. We want to see an Afghan-led reconciliation process. I think that we would view any kind of dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan that furthers that ultimate goal to be very positive," he said.

The US wants to play a facilitative role in this process, Toner said in response to a question. His remarks came days after Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her Afghan counterpart Zalmai Rassoul held talks in Islamabad.
11:11  SC defers hearing on Sahara Group refund plea :  The Sahara Group seeks more time from Supreme Court to make a statement on refunding Rs 27,000 crores to its investor. The SC has deferred till tomorrow the hearing on the Sahara Group's plea.
11:05  Question Hour begins in the Lok Sabha. Peace prevails. 
10:59  BMC to Sena: Dismantle Shivaji Park structure:  Just in: The BMC has sent a notice to the Shiv Sena to dismantle the temporary structure built at Shivaji Park during Bal Thackeray's funeral. 
10:53  Government eases visa norms for tourists:  Other news updates before the Parliament opens for business at 11 am.

The government has eased restrictions on tourist visas which had mandated a two-month gap between consecutive visits by foreign nationals.However, nationals of Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, Bangladesh, foreigners of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin and "stateless persons" will continue to come under the 60-day gap rule.

The move is likely to breathe fresh life into the tourism industry and comes just ahead of the peak tourist season. India's share of international tourist arrivals in 2011 was a mere 0.64%. Read
10:42  Kamal Nath: BJP playing politics on FDI in retail:  Ahead of the FDI debate, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath says the government is confident that the BJP's motion against FDI will be rejected in both Houses. "The BJP is playing politics in FDI," the minister said 
10:39  Court summons Salman Khan over false evidence claim:  A magistrate court on Monday issued summons to actor Salman Khan and the Bandra police after a Mumbai-based social worker filed an application in court alleging that false evidence was being submitted in the 2002 hit-and-run case.Read
10:36  US lawmakers urge Clinton to continue denying visa to Modi:  A quick run through of other news: In a setback to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, a group of 25 American lawmakers have urged the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton to continue denying visa to the BJP leader, stating that his government has not adequately pursued justice of the 2002 riot victims. Read
10:32  FDI debate in Lok Sabha today; UPA sure of numbers:  Big day ahead in Parliament for the UPA government. Yesterday, the UPA said it was confident of its numbers in the Lok Sabha, a day ahead of the crucial debate and voting in the house on FDI in retail, and urged all parties to reject "politics" behind the issue.

"We are confident of the numbers," parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said. The debate will begin today and the voting will take place December 5.

Terming the debate as "pure politics", Nath urged all parties to reject the politics behind the motion sponsored by the BJP and the CPI-M.
10:23  Sensex down 31 pts in opening trade:  The BSE benchmark Sensex fell by over 31 points in the opening trade today as investors preferred to adopt a cautious approach ahead of the vote on FDI in Parliament and trimmed their positions.

The 30-share index, which had lost 34.58 points in the previous session, fell by 31.29 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 19,274.03 in first five minutes of trading. Similarly, the wide-based National Stock Exchange Nifty Index shed 8.70 points, or 0.14 per cent, to 5,862.25.

Brokers said besides profit-booking by investors after recent hefty gains, a cautious approach ahead of voting in Parliament on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail dampened the sentiments.
10:04  Samajwadi Party: Decision on FDI after govt's reply:  The Samajwadi Party today said that their final stand on Foreign Direct Investment will depend upon the reply of the government, ahead of Lok Sabha debate on the issue starting today.

"I am not saying the SP will support FDI in Lok Sabha. It should not be taken for granted that we will support it," Ramgopal Yadav was quoted as saying by news channels.

Yadav said that the party will bail out the government if FDI is not implemented in all states and added that it will not allow it in Uttar Pradesh.

Yesterday, Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati hinted that her 21 members could consider voting for the UPA.

09:24  Modi NOT selected as PM candidate, clarifies BJP :  Days after senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj endorsed Narendra Modi for the prime minister's post, the party has course-corrected, emphasising that the Gujarat CM has not been selected for the top job.

Appearing on NDTV's Left, Right and Centre, former BJP president Venkaiah Naidu said that Modi is undoubtedly a capable leader but is being projected as chief minister, not prime minister. Naidu also asserted that other members of the alliance will be consulted about the prime ministerial nominee.

Read the full report here
09:20  US lawmakers urge Clinton to deny visa to Modi:   In a setback to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a group of 25 American lawmakers have urged the United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to continue denying visa to the Bharatiya Janata Party leader, stating that his government has not adequately pursued justice of the 2002 riot victims.              

"As Modi continues to pursue a potential run for higher office, we believe a change in policy to his request for a visa will only embolden Modi and his government's efforts to obstruct further investigations and the tandem prosecution that have still to be finished to bring the perpetrators to justice," as many as 25 members of the US House of Representatives wrote in a letter to Clinton.             

Dated November 29, the letter addressed to Clinton was released to the press yesterday, by Republican Congressman JoePitts and Frank Wolf on the eve of their joint press conference at the Capitol Hill with family members of the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots.
09:06  'I don't think it is fair to call the BCCI a bully':  Sambit Bal's must read interview in ESPN CricInfo with BCCI Boss N Srinivasan: http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/594722.html
08:58  Celebrating Mavericks, Loners...:  Ananya Vaypeyi celebrates 50 years of the Centre for The Study of Developing Societies in this Telegraph op-Ed: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1121204/jsp/opinion/story_16268972.jsp
08:56  US to Syria: Chemical weapons unacceptable :  Expressing concern over the possible use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, the United States warned that such a move would cross a red line.  

"We closely monitor and we continue to closely monitor Syria's proliferation- sensitive materials and facilities,"White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters. "As the opposition makes strategic advances and grows in strength, the Assad regime has been unable to halt the opposition's progress through conventional means, and we are concerned that an increasingly beleaguered regime, having found its escalation of violence through conventional means inadequate, might be considering the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people," he said in response to a question.
08:34  Debate over FDI in Lok Sabha today:  The Lok Sabha will finally discuss the issue of allowing Foreign Direct Investments  in multi-brand retail today.

While Congress is making all out efforts to bring its constituents and outside supports on board, the entire BJP-led NDA is united in opposing the FDI decision. The Left parties, AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal, Asom Gana Parishad and some other parties are also against the decision, reports NDTV.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has, meanwhile, urged the AIADMK to reconsider its opposition to FDI.
03:24  Israel defiant on resettlement plans:  

Israel says it will not give in to international pressure to halt plans for 3,000 new settler homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. PM Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Israel would continue to stand by its "vital interests" and would not change its decision.

 

The UK, France, Spain, Denmark and Sweden summoned Israeli ambassadors in protest at the plans. The US also called on Israel to "reconsider" its decision.

 

Read more on BBC

03:20  Congo troops take back city of Goma:  

AP: Congolese soldiers took back control of the strategic city of Goma of 1 million, though the rebels who occupied it for two weeks continued to stake out positions just 3 kilometers away, threatening to seize it anew if Congo fails to meet their demands.         

 

Crowds cheered the soldiers as they arrived in Goma's main barracks in trucks, and women rushed forward to kiss the troops. Their return comes 13 days after the city fell to the rebels, who are widely believed to be backed by Rwanda.         

 

In a worrying sign, however, the M23 rebels remained in tactical positions in the hills nearby, saying they werewaiting for the government to respond to their grievances before deciding whether to try to retake the city.         

 

The rebels claim to be fighting for the better implementation of a March 23, 2009, peace accord, which saw them integrated into the national army. Analysts say the real reason for the rebellion is Rwanda's desire to annex territory in the mineral-rich mountains at the border between the two countries.

02:20  Palestine: State of play:  

After devastation in Gaza and a victory at the UN, what is next for the Palestinian people?

 

Read more on Al Jazeera

02:07  2 plead guilty in US plot to ship aircraft to Iran:  

AP: An Iranian national and a US citizen who worked as an airline pilot have pleaded guilty in a plot aimed at illegally shipping aircraft and parts to Iran for civilian use.         

 

Federal authorities say both men face up to 40 years in prison and fines of $500,000 following their guilty pleas to a two-count indictment unsealed before their hearing Monday in federal court in Louisville, Kentucky.         

 

The defendants are identified as Hamid Asefi, a 68-year-old Iranian citizen, and 53-year-old Behzad "Tony" Karimian, a US citizen living in Louisville who holds an Iranian passport and has worked as a Mesaba Airlines pilot.        

 

The indictment says the two violated an embargo against Iran by plotting to ship the parts and aircraft from the US to Iran in 2009 and 2010.  

02:06  US asks Cuba to release Alan Gross:  

Expressing concern over the continued imprisonment of American national in Cuba, US President Barack Obama has asked the Cuban government to release him on a humanitarian basis.         

 

"The Cuban government should release Alan Gross and return him to his family where he belongs," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.         

 

"Tomorrow Alan Gross will begin his fourth year of unjustified imprisonment in Cuba. He was arrested on December 3, 2009, and later given a 15-year prison sentence by Cuban authorities for simply facilitating communications between Cuba's Jewish community and the rest of the world," he said.         

 

"The President has followed (Alan) Mr Gross's case with concern, and he urges Mr Gross's release," Carney said.

02:04  Obamas congratulate British royals:  

AFP: US President Barack Obama sent his congratulations to Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine today, on news they were expecting a baby and a future heir to the throne.         

 

"On behalf of everyone here in the White House, beginning with the president and the first lady, we extend our congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the welcome news this morning out of London that they are expecting their first child," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.             The Obamas met the royal couple, who were then newly weds, during a state visit to Britain last year.

01:07  Israeli envoys summoned over settlement plans:  

UK, France and Sweden have summoned Israeli ambassadors over the plan to build 3,000 more homes on Palestinian land.

 

Read more on Al Jazeera

01:06  Gandhi created a politics of guilt: Arundhati Roy:  

In first episode of Al Jazeera's South 2 North programme, Redi Tlhabi talks to best-selling Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy and hears why she thinks that Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi should not be made into icons.

 

"Gandhi created a politics of guilt, whereas here what we have to fight is a political fight .... We need a new imagination, perhaps it begins with forcing capitalism to tolerate a non-capitalist society in its midst, so that it accepts the fact that it can't have everything .... For me, somebody like Nelson Mandela or even somebody like Gandhi, I object to deifying them because they committed plenty of mistakes. That doesn't mean you have to trash them or jump on them or jump on their memories or what they did, but we have to see," Roy says.

 

For more click here

00:26  Growing fears Syria may use chemical weapons: US:  

The US says it fears Syria's President Bashar al-Assad may resort to using chemical weapons against his people. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US was concerned that such an action might be taken by "an increasingly beleaguered regime".

 

A Syrian official has insisted it would "never, under any circumstances" use such weapons, "if such weapons exist".

 

Meanwhile, the United Nations says it was pulling "all non-essential international staff" out of Syria.

 

Read the full story on BBC

00:17  Top headlines at this hour:  

Britain's Prince William and Kate expecting baby

Court dismisses bail plea of Zee News editors

PM seeks Jayalalithaa's support on FDI

Cash transfer would only help Cong cadre: Hazare

Voting on FDI: BJP, Congress issue 3-line whips to MPs

NIA to probe Bengaluru assassination plot

MNS corporator held for attacking contractor

PIX: Modi's manifesto promises 50 lakh houses in 5 yrs

Adopted child can't claim biological father's assets: HC

Direct contest between Modi, Shweta Bhatt in Maninagar

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