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LIVE! PM speaks to Shashi, condoles Sunanda's death

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January 17, 2014


23:43  PM speaks to Shashi, condoles Sunanda's death:  
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tonight spoke to Union Minister Shashi Tharoor and condoled the death of the latter's wife Sunanda Pushkar.

"I am deeply saddened at your loss. May God give you strength in this hour of grief", Dr Singh told Tharoor.

Sunanda Pushkar, who was upset over an alleged extra-marital affair between Tharoor and a Pakistani journalist, was found dead in a five-star hotel room. 

Police said they did not suspect any foul play in Sunanda's death and it may be a case of suicide. 

The body of 52-year-old Pushkar, a woman entrepreneur who married Tharoor in August 2010, was found in mysterious circumstances in luxury Leela Palace hotel in South Delhi, top police sources said.
23:21  Tharoor will have to face tough legal questions:  
Sunanda Pushkar's death will require her husband Shashi Tharoor to give the police a detailed statement. 

Her death will be investigated as the criminal case. 

The Indian Penal Code and the sections of the Dowry Act require the police to investigate the cause of woman's death if she dies in abnormal circumstances within seven years of marriage. 

If it is proved that the woman died due to cruelty or harassment by her husband or her relative then it is an offense under the Indian law. 

Pushkar has died under very charged state of mind and before her death she shared her private details with many journalists. 

Tharoor will have to face tough legal questions. 
22:29  The Aam Aadmi Party will take a call as to whom to field against Narendra Modi after BJP finalises his seat in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

"Let Modi declare from which constituency he will be fighting elections and after that AAP will decide on who will contest against him," AAP leader Sanjay Singh told reporters today.

He said AAP will contest all 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat. Singh, the core committee member of AAP, was here to hold deliberations on the party strategy for the polls.

He claimed AAP has registered five lakh people as party workers in Gujarat.
22:13  Hard to accept she is no more with us: Naveen Jindal:  Twitter is buzzing with the news of her death:

Naveen Jindal: Extending our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor. Hard to accept she is no more with us #RIP

Baijayant Jay Panda: Shocked to hear of Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor's untimely death! May God rest her soul in peace

Milind Deora: RIP Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor. Very, very shocking & sad. My heartfelt condolences to her family & loved ones
22:10  Twitter abuzz with news of Sunanda Pushkar's death:  Vinod Khanna's wife Kavita tweeted: My deepest condolences to Sunanda Pushkar's son

Raj Kundra tweeted: saddened by the untimely death. She was a good lady and didn't deserve to go like this. God bless her soul.
22:08  Mehr Tarar on Sunanda's death: I'm absolutely shocked:  Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar who was yesterday in a war of words with Sunanda Pushkar tweeted: What the hell. Sunanda. Oh my God. I just woke up and read this. I'm absolutely shocked. This is too awful for words. So tragic I don't know what to say. Rest in peace,Sunanda.

22:02  Digvijaya Singh gets court relief in land scam:  Congress leader Digvijay Singh today got a major relief from a Special Court which accepted a closure report submitted by police in over a decade-old land scam to which he was linked.

Economic Offences Wing had filed a corruption case against Digvijay, Madhya Pradesh Assembly's current Deputy Speaker and former Housing and Environment Minister Rajendra Kumar Singh and others for changing the land use.

EOW case was that housing plots were developed on a piece of land here reserved for industrial use between 2001-2003 when Digvijay was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. The land in question belonged to New Precision Industry.
21:47  Suspend cops or we protest at home minister's office: Kejriwal:   The Aam Aadmi Party has now turned to dharna politics. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has a set Monday 10 am deadline for the home ministry to take action against the police.

The AAP government wants action against a policeman who had a public altercation late on Tuesday night with Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti, who had sought immediate action against people he alleged were sex and drug racketeers.

"The Delhi police is a highly compromised force," Kejirwal said.

Joining him in the protest are all ministers of the Delhi government, who will sit on a dharna outside the home ministry.    
21:41  Tharoor's wife Sunanda Pushkar found dead:   Just In: Shashi Tharoor's wife Sunanda Pushkar found dead in Delhi hotel: Reports
19:18  Delhi records lowest maximum temperature 12.9 degrees C:  Delhi today has recorded the lowest maximum temperature of the season at 12.9 degrees Celsius.
19:00  AAP issues showcause notice to rebel MLA Binny:  The Aam Aadmi Party today issued a showcause notice to its rebel MLA Vinod Kumar Binny for violating party discipline.

They have asked him to respond by 5 pm tomorrow.

Binny went public with its grievances against Delhi CM Kejirwal and his government yesterday.

Read: Arvind Kejriwal is a dictator, says AAP rebel MLA Binny
18:49  Suspend negligent policemen: Kejriwal tells Shinde :  Arvind Kejriwal met Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde amid controversy over a strongly worded warning that his government has issued to the Delhi Police, after it refused to suspend three cops on the chief minister's demand.

Kejriwal was accompanied by two ministers Rakhi Birla and Somnath Bharti, who has been accused of vigilantism and breaking the law. Policemen who were allegedly found negligent in their duties should be suspended, Kejriwal told Shinde.

Earlier, Sisodia had issued a strongly worded warning, saying, "This is not the Sheila Dikshit government. We are being accused of vigilantism, but we are a different government. Whether the police come under us or not, we will demand action. If the police don't fall in line, we'll fix them."

18:28  LIVE! Rahul effect: Subsidised LPG cylinder cap raised to 12 immediately after speech:   Rahul effect: Oil ministry announces that the subsidy on LPG cylinders has been raised from nine to 12.


At his impassioned speech today, Rahul had asked the PM increase the subsidy of LPG cylinders to 12.
17:58  A cop is NOT subject to ministerial direction: Jaitley:  "Is a police officer subject to a ministerial direction? Certainly not. A police officer performs his functions under law. His power to investigate, search, arrest and prosecute a suspect or an accused is regulated by the code of criminal procedure and other laws."

Arun Jaitley on AAP taking on the Delhi police. Read
17:52  Kejriwal meets home minister to complain about Delhi police :  Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal meets Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on the functioning of the Delhi police.  AAP has asked for the suspension of four police officials for their alleged non-cooperation and lapses in duty. The Delhi police chief rejected the call for the personnel to be penalised.

With the government going into confrontational mode, Delhi Minister Manish Sisodia said they will "fix" the police even if the force did not come under their jurisdiction.

17:48  Here you go, Mr Aiyar :  BJP party workers set up a tea stall outside the Talkatora stadium where the AICC meet was on.  A statement against Mani Shankar Aiyar's remark that Narendra Modi can never be the PM and if he so wanted, a stall could be set up for him at the venue.
17:46   Oil minister Veerappa Moily says the ministry will OK the decision soon. A cabinet committee will meet on it ASAP.

In fact, the decision to lower the LPG cylinder cap was taken exactly one year ago. The cap is now at nine.
17:27  "Bahut badhiya!" That's the uniform consensus of Congress workers to Rahul Gandhi's speech. They say they never expected Rahul to display this level of energy or anger. 
16:57  LIVE! Rahul blows poll trumpet: Don't lose courage, don't stop till battle is won:   More of what Rahul said:

"I am a soldier of the Congress and  I am willing to do whatever you want me to do.

"We don't love our country because it is powerful or rich but because it upholds the ideals we wish to live by. This country has always taught us how to remain united in adversity and to never give up.

There is a tough battle ahead of us. We'll go into this battle as warriors with our heads held high. We will not lose courage, we will not stop till this battle is won."
16:52  Sonia Gandhi delivering the closing address. 

Rahul also said that the Constitution says that a Prime Minister should be chosen by Members of Parliament. Calling Congress "a democratic party', he said the party will follow the norms of the Constitution.

Sonia Gandhi says the party is completely ready to face the 2014 polls.
16:48  Rahul concludes his speech saying, "I am proud of every single one of you and all the people of this country. You make this country what it is, you make this country great."
16:47  We will go into this battle as warriors: Rahul :  Rahul Gandhi:

"Congress party is not just a party, its a vision. It is a vision of love and respect.

"Opposition says it should be a Congress-free country. But they don't read history books.

"There is a battle ahead of us. We will go into this battle as warriors.

"Knowing who we are and what we stand for. We love our country because it stands on the ideals of humanity. This country has taught us to love one another."
16:43   Rahul urged the PM to raise the cap on LPG cylinders to 12. 
16:38  Criticising the opposition for its vote-bank politics, Rahul says they are the kind of people who will sell combs to the bald. Direct hit at the front benchers, who erupt with cheers. Basically, he says the opposition is good at marketing and nothing else. 
16:35  Rahul mimics AAP:  Rahul says he wants women to constitute half the strength of the Congress party. Sonia Gandhi laughs indulgently, PM continues to look stoic. 

Rahul stresses on three new important steps taken by the Congress:

1. Strengthening Youth Congress and NSUI with elected representatives

2. Manifesto is not made in closed rooms now, they are done after taking inputs from all party members.

3. All candidates for 2014 Lok Sabha elections would be chosen after discussions at all levels, including blocks and gram.
16:32  LIVE! Rahul does a Kejriwal: People will have a say in party manifesto:  Rahul goes the AAP way:

People will have a say in the party's manifesto. Party manifesto will not be decided behind closed doors.

We want to open up the political system to the Aam Admi.

More women must enter politics.
16:30   Rahul Gandhi:

"We need to open the doors of Congress party and bring in young and honest people."

"We need to take the Congress party forward by bringing the voice of the MPs back in Parliament, MLAs in Assemblies and Sarpanchs in villages."

"The Congress has not taken even one step that has not been in the favour of the country since freedom struggle days."
16:27  Congress must open the doors for the youth, Rahul says.

"Those who fight the elections should have Congress's vision deep rooted inside them. We have six bills in Parliament that will transform the fight against corruption.

"Unlike others we dont respond by complaining about all that is wrong. We dont respond by proposing oversimplied non-solutions," he said.
 
He says the Congress believes in participatory politics and tells exactly how the party goes about it.  
16:25   He says the Congress comes out with real solutions, it is not a party that believes in the politics of hatred. "We don't respond by turning on one another," he said.

He blames the opposition for not allowing the Congress to pass anti-graft bills by stalling Parliament proceedings.
16:20  Rahul: Nobody is willing to compromise. Reading from his notes, he launches the party's pro aam admi initiatives -- Lokpal Bill, Right to Food, MNREGA.

He said the people want participation, they want a fair deal and that they deserve it.

Change is taking place around us and it is unstoppable. 
16:18   Rahul: Democracy is not the rule of one man. Democracy is about the rule of the people.

Congress is responsible for the unmatched transfer of power to the people.

Priya Ranjan Das Munshi nodding her head.
16:13  Rahul says the bedrock of technology was set up by the Congress. Every action that the Congress took before and after Independence is about giving people power.

The answer lies in putting democratisation to the people. That is where the power lies.

Sonia Gandhi smiles, but the PM looks stoic.
16:10  Taking credit for Aadhar, Rahul Gandhi says its the largest anti-graft platform in the world, and its a contribution of the Congress.

Pointing to Mani Shankar Aiyar he says he has fought for the institution of Panchayati Raj.

He then spoke about NREGA.
16:08  Rahul lauds PM:  Praising the PM, he says India has seen stability and growth under his leadership. He says through the RTI the party gave power to the information that was locked up.

Every sentence is interrupted with applause and cheers for Rahul.
16:06  Rahul asks party workers, who are going berserk at hearing him speak finally, to applaud for the PM and Sonia Gandhi. 
16:05  LIVE! Rahul Gandhi: Honour to speak to the soldiers of this great party:  Rahul Gandhi speaking at the AICC meeting:  It is a honour to speak to the soldiers of this great party.
15:52  Jaitley: Congress has developed cold feet on Rahul:   Arun Jaitley blogs:

"The Congress Party has decided not to have a Prime Ministerial candidate. Instead their campaign will be led by Shri Rahul Gandhi. The diminishing returns of a dynasty controlling a party are now visible.

"In 25 years, a Gandhi has not been the Prime Minister of this country. India, indeed, is changing.

"The Gandhis can control a party but not the nation. It was nervousness in 2004 that kept the Dynasty away.

"It is the prospect of defeat staring in the face, which is responsible for the reluctance to announce Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate in 2014.

"This was never the original intention. In December, 2013 Smt. Sonia Gandhi had declared that the Prime Ministerial candidate would be announced at an appropriate time.

"In his recent press conference, the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh gave testimonials to Shri Rahul Gandhi as a Prime Minister. Why did the Party develop cold feet then?

"The Congress is losing the will to fight an adversity. This was first visible in the Delhi assembly elections. One poorly attended meeting of Shri Rahul Gandhi and no national leader came to address a meeting in Delhi thereafter.

"The nervousness is palpable now. Why puncture your only card in an adverse political environment. There is no fire in the belly left to fight adversity.

"You can duck a comparison with Narendra Modi particularly when opinion polls indicate a large difference in the personal ratings of the two. May be it is a belated realization of reality on part of the Congress.

"If there is no prospect of forming a government, why announce Shri Rahul Gandhi as a Prime Ministerial candidate!

"The Prime Minister has put on a brave front. He proclaimed that victory in 2014 will be Rahul Gandhi's. Will the defeat also be debited to his account? I doubt.

"The Congress Party functions on the premise that the Gandhis never make a mistake. They never fail. It is the Party that fails. It is the advisors who wrongly advise them. There is no accountability of the Gandhis in the Party. After all they are the Party."
15:42  Rahul Gandhi will speak at 4 pm. 
15:42  Rahul Gandhi set to make his speech at the AICC any moment now. It was expected at 3:30 pm.  
15:38   Congress gets proactive finally (another lesson from AAP) with this number: 1800 208 2020 (Toll Free Number) and subscribe to Congress on Twitter, Whats App and SMS Service. That was announced by Ajay Maken.  
15:23  Swapan Dasgupta: I would support any move by Stephanians of all ages to declare Mani Aiyar a non-alumni. He has sullied the name of Mission College.
15:21  Congress leader Pramod Tiwari's headline grabbing statement:  If you tear open our heart, you will only see Rahul Gandhi... like Hanuman. 
15:19  Ajay Maken speaking at the AICC. 
15:15  Swapan Dasgupta: Mani Shankar Aiyar's crass sense of entitlement epitomises today's Congress Party. Only fitting rebuff: make the chaiiwala India's PM.
15:10  AAP's Mallika Sarabhai: Law minister's statements racist:  More cracks in the AAP: New member Mallika Sarabhai says law minister Somnath Bharti's statements are racist and she has a problem with vigilantism.

Sheila Dikshit crows at the AICC meet that she is shocked at how AAP is running the government.
15:05   Arun Jaitley on Mani Shankar Aiyar's remark: The strength of Indian democracy will be proved when a former tea vendor defeats a Dynasty representative. Let this be the battle of 2014.

Aiyar had said that Modi can never be PM but he wanted the Congress was willing to set up a tea stall for him.

Aiyar then went to say he was misquoted, and then said he would not apologise for his remarks.
14:27  Gun salute at Suchitra Sen's funeral :  Meanwhile, legendary actress Suchitra Sen's last rites are being conducted at Kolkata's Keoratola crematorium. She was given a gun salute by the West Bengal government, as announced by chief minister Mamata Banerjee earlier today. Sen was 82.
14:26  Estranged friends Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan hug at the Star Guild Awards. 
14:20  LIVE! AAP minister Manish Sisodia: If police don't fall in line, we'll fix them:  More of what Manish Sisodia said at the presser.

"We are being accused of vigilantism, but we are a different government and we will not offer excuses that the Delhi Police is not under us. If the police don't fall in line, we'll fix the police.

We have a complaint against the Malviya Nagar SHO which shows he entered houses of poor people, beat women without a warrant... And you need a warrant to break up a drug racket that is going on?

We want action against the policemen who are guilty of dereliction of duty," he said.
14:11  A clarification: The Syedna passed away at 98, but according to the Muslim calendar, he is 102. 
14:11  Kejriwal to meet Shinde demanding suspension of cops :   The Delhi Police today submitted a report to Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, complaining about the "interfering" behaviour of two Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ministers - Women and Child Welfare Minister Rakhi Birla, Law Minister Somnath Bharti - in a police investigation.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, along with Birla, Bharti and Urban Development Minister Manish Sisodia, today met Jung at his official residence, a day after accusing the police of inaction.

Police Commissioner BS Bassi was also present.

Later, Sisodia said that the AAP demanded the suspension of three SHOs and one ACP against whom the party complained.

Sisodia said the L-G is conducting a high-level inquiry into the matter and he and Kejriwal would be meeting home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde at 5:30 pm to raise law and order issues.

Sisodia says L-G has agreed that the police behaviour was irresponsible.

Read: Two Delhi ministers, Somnath Bharti and Rakhi Birla, turn vigilantes 
13:55  LIVE! Dawoodi Bohra head Syedna Burhanuddin passes away at 102:   Just in: Dawoodi Bohra Community spiritual leader, Dr  Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin passes away at the age of 102 in Mumbai.  The Syedna is the 52nd Dai (spiritual leader) of the Dawoodi Bohra community, and succeeded his father Syedna Taher Saifuddin in 1965.
13:47  Priya Dutta, Mumbai MP, suggests that members of Parliament be restricted to three terms to allow for fresh blood.
13:42  Bhupendra Chaubey: Mani Shankar Aiyar often manages to get away because of his own audacity. Should be nailed sometime.
13:33  LIVE! Sonia at AICC meet: Decision on Rahul was taken yesterday :   The Congress's committee meeting has begun at the Talkatora stadium in New Delhi. Rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt who is at the venue says when the flavour of the season is Aam Aadmi politics, it will be prudent for the Congress not to make Rahul Gandhi it's prime ministerial candidate.

When the mood in the country is against dynastic politics, Congress seems to have gone on the defensive. Let's see what Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is scheduled to speak, says in a few minutes.

After 1998 when she entered politics, Sonia has seen many historic moments. Under her leadership, the Congress came to power in 2004, which stunned the world, not just India.

Then in 2009,  her brand of welfare-oriented politics won them a second term.

Now, when her party is likely to lose badly in the upcoming LS polls, she will have to speak about what lies in store for the future for the party, whose workers are feeling dejected.

There remains no doubt that BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi is dominating the minds of Congress's small-time workers at the AICC session, but make no mistake that like many of the ministers and even Congress party office bearers, these workers have not lost their balance in their understanding of Indian politics.

A full time Congress leader and advocate Dr Patel from Bhind, Madhya Pradesh told Rediff.com, "Modi kuch  nahin hota hamre liye. Har chunav main Congress harti hai ya, Congress jitti hai! Madame, yeh Hindustan hai.

( Modi means nothing to us. In every election it's a vote for the Congress or against the Congress. This is India, Madame!" )   
13:30  LIVE! Mani Shankar Aiyar: I was misquoted on tea seller-Modi statement :  Mani Shankar Aiyar says he has been misquoted on the tea-stall remark. He said he never made those statements but stands by a comment he made earlier that the BJP has a PM candidate who does not know economics or history or law. He said his statement on Modi was distorted. Modi has a development model that does not include SC or STs.

He also said it has been the party' tradition not to name the PM candidate. He said he did not think of a name for his child when his wife was pregnant, and therefore the Congress PM candidate would only be announced after the Lok Sabha polls.

To another question on whether the party would rethink not naming Rahul Gandhi as the PM candidate, Aiyar was extremely erudite, and said, "NO NO, NO."
13:17  PM: India needs a stable government. There is a wave of change, but shouting slogans is not enough.

"Rahul is putting emphasis on fighting corruption."
13:10  Congress has not been given credit for trying to end graft: PM:  More of what the PM said: "India can become a middle-income country if the Congress continues with the same kind of work and development. We have made mistakes, but we have tried to rectify them. Our intentions have always been clear. We have not been given due credit, people say we have not done enough to end to corruption."
13:03  "If we prepare properly we can win 2014 elections which will be Rahul's victory," he said.

"We have made mistakes, but we have rectified all the mistakes we made," he said. 
12:58  PM blames CAG for policy paralysis:  More on what the PM said:

"We have made some significant changes including passing the anti-rape law last year.

"Education has been considerably improved.

"The biggest success has been that close to 11 crore children are getting mid-day meals.

"Our aim by 2017 is to ensure that 5 crore youth should be trained with new skill sets.

"We have also launched new IITs and IIMs as well as various schemes for empowerment of the youth.

"In the health sector we have has many significant developments.

"I can proudly say polio has been eradicated and Malaria has reduced."

He said government decisions were delayed for fear that CAG may raise objections.

Every time the PM pauses in between his speech, there a shout out to Rahul Gandhi 
12:51  Youth Congress workers demanding a rethink, clamour grows for Rahul for PM.  
12:49  Oppn making promises it can't fulfil: PM:   The PM goes on to hardsell all the achievements of the UPA taking credit for ecomomic growth, poverty alleviation.

"We have to appeal to people to scrutinise the track record of Opposition parties and compare it to our government. The Opposition is making tall claims which are impossible to fulfill. We must tell people that Congress is the only party that can provide an inclusive, secular India," he said.

He said we have to convince the people that the opposition is making promises it cannot keep to win votes.
12:45  PM: Cong can win if party publicises achievements and works under Rahul Gandhi :  The PM said the Congress can win the polls if the party publicises its achievements, we can win under Rahul Gandhi's leadership. He said, however, it is also time for the party to introspect. He said to convince voters, the opposition is spreading lies.

The moment Rahul Gandhi's name is taken, youth Cong members raise slogans demanding he be the PM candidate.
12:41  PM: Bad showing at state polls is no reason to lose confidence:  PM Dr Manmohan Singh addressing the AICC meeting. Thanking Sonia Gandhi for calling this session, the PM addresses the losses at the state polls, but says it is not cause enough to lose hope or confidence. He said the AICC session will help plan on the polls ahead.

Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, he said the party stood for the principles they believed in. "But we need to tell our voters the achievements of the party," said the PM. 
12:32  We aren't helping our campaign by mocking Modi: Omar :  Omar Abdullah tweeting on MS Aiyar's comment: Modi has a lot of negatives, but his humble origins are a positive some of us can't claim. We aren't helping our campaign by mocking him.
12:29  The PM is expected to speak at 12:30 pm, already slightly behind schedule. 
12:29  MS Aiyar: Modi can never be PM, but we can arrange a tea stall for him :   Ahead of the AICC session, Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar raked up the tea stall owner for prime minister issue, taking a dig at Bharatiya Janata Party Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. He said Modi can never be the Prime Minister but only a tea stall owner. "He can never be the Prime Minister of our nation, he can never be. However, if he wants, we could arrange a tea stall for him here," Aiyar said speaking on Modi at the AICC meet.
12:29  BJP: Tea stall comments hurtful, but nothing better can be expected of Cong:  BJP's Rajiv Pratap Rudy reacting to Mani Shankar Aiyar's comment, says  nothing better can be expected from the Congress or Mani Shankar Aiyar.  The comments are hurtful to the common man and yes, it hurts the sentiments of a man who did work in a tea stall.

He also said Modi has impacted the country and the winds of change are apparent since it is obvious from the speeches at AICC that the party is readying for the 2019 polls.  
12:08  LIVE! Field youths in 272 LS seats, Chidambaram appeals to Sonia :  P Chidambaram suggests that half the candidates for Parliament should be under 35. He also said the party should field youths in 272 LS seats.
12:03  Rahul Pandita tweets: I think I know what is in Rahul Gandhi's heart. He wants to apply for a commercial pilot's license.
11:58  Why did Sonia bring up CWC decision on Rahul before her speech?:  Sonia Gandhi's remarks on the CWC decision yesterday are seen by observers as an attempt to send signals to leaders who would take the stage during the session to avoid harping on 'Rahul as PM' subject. At the CWC yesterday, Sonia rejected demands by leaders from various states to anoint him the PM candidate before elections, saying there has been no such tradition in the party.
11:56  LIVE! Azad at AICC: Cong poor in PR, but superhero in development :   Key points of P Chidambaram's speech:

"We have to win economic freedom, there has to be social justice, freedom from hunger, poverty, illiteracy.

"The idea of India is to build a literate society, everyone is equal regardless of race, caste, religion.

"The idea of India is not that we will grow and that growth is for the sake of growth but it should lead to inclusive development.

"That every man and woman gets social justice, religious freedom, gender justice.

"That any government must lean in favour of the poor, weak and deprived."
11:50  Azad: Cong poor in PR, but superheroes in serving people :   Ghulam Nabi Azad speaking at the Congress meeting, carries on with what Sonia Gandhi said earlier -- the development the party has brought in. 

He said that most villages are now joined by roads, schools are opened in villages, people are enjoying the fruits of the right to education, 52,000 hospitals have been constructed in nine years.

Hitting out at the BJP' well-oiled PR machinery, Azad said, "Unfortunately, we are very poor with PR skills, but where serving people is concerned, we are superheros."

Man in the middle of a cat fight -- Mani Shankar Aiyar seated next to Salman Khurshid.
11:34  Kiran Bedi, who had earlier said her vote lies with Narendra Modi, tweets on Sonia Gandhi's speech: Haar Nahi Maante Lekin Haaree Jaa Rahe Hai! (We do not accept defeat but we are continuing to get defeated! (S Gandhi forgot to say this).
11:32  First reactions from the BJP's Nirmala Sitharaman:  Do I get the feeling that the Congress President's speech, with claims such as RTI et al aside, lacked readiness to fight. War weary already?
11:32   So, Sonia Gandhi has said that the decision at the CWC meeting yesterday is final and that Rahul Gandhi will not be the Congress party's PM candidate. All through Sonia Gandhi's speech, Congress workers shouted Rahul Gandhi slogans saying they wanted him as PM. 

Yet, Janardhan Dwivedi did tell the assemblage that if they wait for a bit, they will hear what they want. A rethink?  Rahul, however, jumped in and interrupted Dwivedi's speech and said he would make things clear at 3:30 pm.

Shashi Tharoor tweeting from the venue: Amid rising clamour for Rahul Gandhi, he takes the floor and calls for calm. Promises speech at 3.30pm
11:24  Rahul at AICC: I will speak at 3:30 pm and tell you what is in my heart:   Rahul Gandhi interrupts and says he will speak in two to three hours and all doubts will be cleared. "I will speak at 3.30, I will tell you what is in my heart about this issue you are raising."

Back to Dwivedi, who says Ghulam Nabi Azad will now speak.
11:17  She says we have to fight in one voice and ensure that the country's secular tradition is maintained. She said secularism is the Congress party's identity and not a political gimmick. 

Janardhan Dwivedi takes over and asks Congress workers if there is any alternative to Rahul Gandhi. To shouts of Rahul Gandhi zindabad, the workers say 'Nahin'. So he says then why don't accept that as our decision. Cheers and applause across the stadium. There's a smile on Rahul's face.

Rahul Gandhi takes over and Dwivedi's speech is cut short.
11:13   Sonia says the Congress will not and never has tolerated communalism. Praising the PM, she said Dr Manmohan Singh has been take the country forward steadily. 
11:10  LIVE! Sonia tells Cong workers at AICC: Don't shout Rahul's name, decision is final:  Sonia speaking in Hindi now, sets the agenda for the battle ahead. She says graft will have to be tackled. She tells, the apparently disheartened workers that the party has faced tougher challenges in the past, and will do so now as well.

Talking about the party's fight for graft, (the primary reason the party lost in Delhi) she says people should remember that the historic RTI was a Congress initiative.

Attacking the BJP, she says the main opposition party has spread lies and hatred about the Congress. The UPA government did a lot despite opposition roadblocks. The opposition is trying to divide the country, but the Congress will never give up on Congress.
11:03  Divisive forces tearing fabric of nation apart: Sonia :   Invoking Pt Nehru, Sonia Gandhi says fighting atrocities has always remained the Congress way. The party remains committed to its values and a preservation of secular traditions.

She said divisive forces are tearing the fabric of the nation apart.

Sonia talks about the achievements of the party -- Jan Lokpal Bill, Food Security Bill, Right to Education Bill, Adhar initiative, the RTI Act -- all of which she says give restore to the people their rights. She promises Lokpal Bill by February.

Rahul Gandhi and the every single Congressman present at Talkatora stadium listening in intently.
10:55  AICC delegates shout slogans for Rahul as PM:  Sonia Gandhi speaking now, begins her speech saying the decision on Rahul Gandhi was taken yesterday and is final. AICC delegates shout slogans demanding Rahul as PM candidate.

Addressing her party at the Talkatora stadium, Sonia Gandhi says, there is a need to send a message that the Congress is battle ready. The upcoming elections will see a battle between ideologies and the Congress remains committed to its values.
10:12  'She mesmerised both on and off sreen':  

Actress and director Aparna Sen tells Rediff.com, "I met her only once during the shooting of Uttarfalguni. She was a legendary actress. I feel so empty inside'.

 

"Her demise is an end of an era. I feel sorry for Moon Moon, Raima and Ria. I wanted to make a documentary on her but she did not agree. "She is one of the few people who can mesmerise you both on and off screen'.

10:10  'She can't die':  

Actress Madhavi Mukherjee tells Rediff.com, "She was the most sincere and dedicated person I have ever come across in my life. She can't die. She, like Uttam Kumar, will ever be alive in our hearts'.

 

"Unlike most of the actors, she knew when to retire and how. Salute her on this day, salute her mental strength'.

09:51  'She was magic and enigma personified':  

Indrani Roy reports from Kolkata: Prominent actor Mithun Chakraborty says, "She was the undisputed numero uno of Bengali film industry. She was magic and enigma personified'.

 

"Even today, I watch her films with rapt attention. I saw her film Saptapadi 11 times. I am yet to come across someone more desirable and more popular an actress. May her soul rest in peace'.

09:49  Mamata reaches Belle Vue Nursing Home:  Indrani Roy reports from Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has reached Belle Vue Nursing Home in South Kolkata where Suchitra Sen breathed her last at 8.25 this morning.
09:48  'Suchitra Sen's demise marks the end of an era':  

Indrani Roy reports from Kolkata: Veteran actor Biswajit Chatterjee said while mourning Suchitra Sen's demise: It's a great loss, it's an end of an era. Just when we thought she was getting better, she bid adieu.

 

"I was lucky to have shared screen space with her. She was a perfect blend of beauty and the brains,' he said.

09:30  Suchitra Sen passes away at 82:  

Legendary Bangla actress Suchitra Sen, who was undergoing treatment for acute respiratory problems at a nursing home in Kolkata, has passed away due to a cardiac arrest, Rediff.com's Indrani Roy reports. She was 82.  

 

"Sen had breathing problems and her oxygen saturation limit dipped. Seeing the deterioration in her condition, the doctors put her on non-invasive ventilation," nursing home sources earlier told the media.  

 

Beginning her career with the Bengali film Shesh Kothai in 1952, Sen went on to receive a National Award for her performance of Paro in the Bimal Roy's 1955 Hindi classic Devdas opposite Dilip Kumar.

 

She is also famous for her role in Gulzar's political drama Aandhi, where she starredopposite Sanjeev Kumar. She is the first Indian actress to be awarded at an international film festival.

 

She was given the best actress award for Saat Paake Bandha in 1963 Moscow film festival. After her 1978 movie Pronoy Pasha with Soumitra Chatterjee flopped, she disappeared from the public eye and even allegedly refused the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2005 preferring not to make a public appearance.        

08:45  Report: US NSA 'collected 200m texts per day':  

The US National Security Agency (NSA) has collected and stored almost 200 million text messages a day from around the world, UK media report. The NSA extracts and stores data from the SMS messages, and UK spies have had access to some of the information, the Guardian and Channel 4 News say.

 

The reporting is based on leaks by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden and comes ahead of a key US policy announcement. The NSA told the BBC the programme stored "lawfully collected SMS data". "The implication that NSA's collection is arbitrary and unconstrained is false," the NSA said.

 

US President Barack Obama is set on Friday to announce changes to the US electronic surveillance programmes, based in part on a review of NSA activities undertaken this autumn by a White House panel.

 

Read more on BBC

04:59  NSA scoops up millions of text messages a day: report:  
The US National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million mobile phone text messages a day from around the world, a report has said, in the latest revelations from the Edward Snowden files. 

The Guardian newspaper and Britain's Channel 4 News reported yesterday that the NSA used the messages to extract data on the location, contact networks and credit card details of mobile users. 

British spies were given access by the NSA to search the collected "metadata" -- information about the text messages but not the actual contents -- of British citizens, according to the report. 

The secret files say the programme, codenamed Dishfire, collects "pretty much everything it can", the Guardian and Channel 4 News reported. 

Dishfire works by collecting and analysing automated text messages such as missed call alerts or texts sent to inform users about international roaming charges, the news organisations said. 
00:24  Jet Airways CEO Toomey quits:  
In an unexpected move, Jet Airways Chief Executive Officer Gary Kenneth Toomey has resigned with immediate effect, barely six months after his appointment. 

The Naresh Goyal-promoted private carrier named Chief Financial Officer Ravishankar Gopalakrishnan as Acting CEO for the time being. 

"I have enjoyed my time at Jet Airways working with the Chairman, the management team and the wonderful staff. I am confident that the company will be successful in the future," Toomey said in a late Thursday night release. 

Toomey was appointed the airline CEO only last June on a three-year contract. It is, however, not yet known what led to the sudden exit of Toomey. 

Reacting to the resignation, Jet Chairman Goyal said: "I would like to thank Gary Toomey for his invaluable contribution over the last six months, which was a period of great change for Jet Airways." 

Prior to joining the Indian carrier, Toomey had served as  President and Chief Executive of Air New Zealand Group and CEO of Airlines PNG in Papua New Guinea.
00:22  Actress Suchitra Sen's condition deteriorates:  
The condition of ailing actress Suchitra Sen deteriorated once again on Thursday night, docotors attending to her said.

Earlier in the day, the doctors had said that her condition was stable and she might be discharged from hospital in the next two to three days for treatment at home. 

However, late in the evening the breathing difficulties of the 82-year-old actress increased along with drop in the oxygen saturation rate, the doctors said. 

Sen and her family members, actresses Moon Moon, Riya and Raima, had wished that she should be treated at home now, sources said. 

The screen goddess of yesteryears was admitted to the hospital on December 23 following a respiratory tract infection. Later she was treated in a private Intensive Treatment Unit for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 
00:22  Actress linked to French president sues magazine:  
French actress Julie Gayet has initiated a privacy suit against Closer magazine over its report that she was having an affair with President Francois Hollande, the magazine said today. 

Gayet, 41, is seeking $68,000 in damages and $5154.2 in legal costs from the magazine over a report she claims breached France's privacy legislation. 

If she wins, Closer will have to publish the legal verdict on its cover page.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Hollande expressed his "total indignation" over Closer's publication of photos that the magazine said showed him and Gayet arriving separately for secret trysts at a borrowed flat yards from the presidential Elysee Palace. 

But the Socialist leader ruled out legal action on his own behalf, saying that would not be appropriate given that he himself enjoys immunity from any legal action. 

Even if Closer is forced to pay Gayet the maximum amount she has claimed, the magazine's scoop should still be a money earner.
00:21  Mumbai: Missing female IT professional found dead:  
Eleven days after a 23-year-old female software engineer, who hailed from Andhra Pradesh, went missing from Mumbai, her burnt body was found on Thursday, police said.

The body of Esther Anuhya, bearing burn injuries, was found in suburban Kanjurmarg.

"The highly decomposed body of Esther Anuhya, who had gone missing from Mumbai, was found at suburban Kanjurmarg," Mahesh Ghuriye, Deputy Police Commissioner, said on Thursday night. 

The body was identified by her father S Prasad, a retired Professor of Andhra Pradesh University, police said, adding a murder case has been registered. 

According to police, Anuhya, employed with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), had boarded the Vishakapatnam-LTT Express train from Vijayawada on January 4 for Mumbai. She was returning to Mumbai after Christmas holidays.

Anuhya's father spoke to her the same day at about 10 PM when she told him the train had reached Solapur. She promised to call him again after reaching her hostel in suburban Andheri.
00:20  Vatican grilled on child abuse by UN watchdog:  
The Vatican was today pushed for the first time to provide answers to the UN over its commitment to stamp out child sex abuse by priests. 

The landmark question-and-answer session before the UN's child rights watchdog in Geneva came as Pope Francis said Catholics should feel "shame", in an apparent reference to the scandals that have rocked the Church. 

Francis has vowed zero tolerance of abuse, setting up a special committee to investigate sex crimes, enforce prevention and care for victims. 

But top officials at the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child questioned the Vatican's resolve.

"The Holy See has not established any mechanism to investigate those accused of perpetrating sexual abuse, nor to prosecute them," charged committee member Sara Oviedo. 

The Roman Catholic Church has been shaken by a decade-long cascade of scandals involving child abuse by priests and Catholic lay officials, from Ireland to the United States and Australia.
00:18  Top headlines at this hour:  American HustleGravity sweep Oscar 2014 nominations

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Delhi police "highly compromised": Kejriwal

India, Pak army officials to meet on LoC on Friday

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