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LIVE! Hafiz Saeed's new political party to launch manifesto

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March 14, 2018


23:57  Hafiz Saeed's new political party to launch manifesto:  
Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief and 26/11 attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed's newly formed Milli Muslim League has announced that it will launch its own manifesto on March 23, ahead of the Pakistan general elections later this year.

This comes after the Islamabad High Court set aside the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan to reject the application of the MML for registration as a political party last week, according to local media reports.

The ECP had earlier rejected MML's application to register Saeed's political party on the Pakistan interior ministry's recommendation, saying that the "MML has links with banned militant outfits".

In January, Saeed's entities were moved from Pakistan's watch list to the list of proscribed organisations after the government introduced a presidential ordinance by amending the country's anti-terrorism act to include UN-designated terrorist groups and individuals for terror financing, paved the way for the confiscation of JuD and FIF assets.

However, despite the ban, the entities were found to be freely operating in Pakistan.

-- ANI
23:29  7 killed in blast near Sharif's residence in Pakistan:  
A powerful blast tonight near the residence of Pakistan's ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif here killed at least seven persons, including three policemen.

The blast took place close to a police check post, a few kilometre from the palatial residence of the Sharif family and close to the congregation of the Tableeghi Jamaat.

"Seven persons have been killed in the blast. Some seven policemen among the 20 or so suffered injuries. The condition of four policemen is stated to be critical," Rescue 1122 spokesman Jam Sajjad told PTI.

He said the Rescue ambulances are shifting the injured to the Sharif medical complex and other nearby hospitals.

Deputy Inspector General Police Lahore Dr Haider Ashraf told reporters that three policemen were among the dead.

"The condition of some policemen is critical," he said.

"It is not confirmed yet whether it was a suicide blast or planted device," he said, adding "police personnel" were the target of the blast.

It was such a powerful blast that its sound was heard several kilometrefrom the site. A fire ball was seen after the blast at the Nisar Police Check Post.

-- PTI
22:40  Facebook bans far-right Britain First pages:  
Facebook has removed the pages of the anti-Islamic group Britain First and its leaders.

The social media company said the group had repeatedly violated its community standards.

Earlier this month, Britain First's leader and deputy leader, Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, were jailed after being found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment.

More than two million people had liked the group's Facebook page.

The pages of Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen also had large followings.
Facebook says the decision to remove the pages was made after Britain First had ignored a final warning about the posting of material that broke its community standards.

The group will not be allowed to set up a replacement page.
22:06  Brosnan says was 'cheated' by paan masala brand:  
Hollywood actor Pierce Brosnan, who ran into rough weather with his appearance in a surrogate advertisement of an Indian pan masala brand, has stated that he was "cheated" by the company which kept him in the dark about the "hazardous" nature of the product.

"In a written reply to the Delhi State Tobacco Control Cell, the actor stated that he got cheated by the company as the latter did not disclose the hazardous nature of the product and other terms and conditions of the contract of advertisement," said Additional Director (Health) S K Arora.

The Delhi government had recently issued a show-cause notice to Brosnan and asked the pan masala group why appropriate punitive action be not initiated against its directors and office-bearers.

"In his reply to the legal notice, Brosnan also said that his agreement with the company was over and he was ready to extend all kinds of support and cooperation to our department against such campaigns.

"He has given an undertaking in writing that he would never assist any company with regard to promotion of such products or other such harmful  products in future," Arora said.

The official appealed to all celebrities and mass media agencies to not indulge in surrogate advertisements of tobacco in the name of pan masala, tea, ilaichi or other goods as these are prohibited under section 5 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003.

"Celebrities must realise their responsibility towards society, especially the youngsters who treat them like God and follow them blindly.  Such advertisements influence the minds of youngsters adversely," he said.

-- PTI
21:59  Moscow says will retaliate soon to Britain's expulsion of diplomats:  
Moscow today called Britain's decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning of an ex-spy a sign that London was choosing confrontation with Russia, adding that retaliation would follow shortly.

"The British government made a choice for confrontation with Russia," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. "Our response measures will not be tardy."
21:40  Please don't get swayed by power: Togadia to Modi:  
VHP leader Pravin Togadia today claimed that the Modi government had neither fulfilled its promises on Hindutva nor on development.
In a letter to Narendra Modi, Togadia sought an appointment with the PM to discuss the fulfilment of the promises, especially the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya and the adoption of a uniform civil code.
"Winning elections is a game of percentages, voter lists and EVMs. But fulfilling the promises makes the leader a 'Praja Lakshi' (people focused) leader," Togadia wrote in the letter.
"Bhai, please don't get swayed in the flow of power and more power. It is a state of inertia. Not nation building," the VHP's International Working President wrote.
Talking to reporters after sharing his letter, Togadia said that he and Modi may have not met and talked to each other for the last 12 years, but he would like to meet and talk with his "Mota Bhai" (elder brother) for the fulfilment of promises to the Hindus, including building of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya.
"No other structure or a mosque can be constructed anywhere near (the disputed site). This can be achieved only by a law in Parliament," Togadia said, adding that the BJP has a clear majority in the Lower House.
Togadia also demanded a national law banning cow slaughter, withdrawal of the advisory issued by the Centre to all states against "cow protectors" and the adoption of the Uniform Civil Code.
"Neither promises on Hindutva are fulfilled nor on Vikaas," Togadia said, while talking about the Modi-led government's tenure so far.
21:15  I stand vindicated: Sharad Yadav on NDA's losses in bypolls:  
Sharad Yadav, who had broken ranks with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over his decision to ally with the BJP, today claimed vindication after the NDA suffered electoral losses in the bypolls in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Yadav also took a dig at Kumar, who is also the JD-U chief, saying those who had trampled on the people's mandate and had switched sides have been defeated.
The results show that the grand alliance remains intact, Yadav said.
"The one who stood by the mandate has been vindicated," Yadav said, referring to his opposition to Kumar's alliance with the BJP.
The opposition's unity has got the better of the BJP, he said, claiming that the latter had won in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections last year due to division of votes.

"People are feeling suffocated and waiting for a change of government at the Centre as they believe that they made a blunder in 2014," Yadav said.
In a stunning blow to the BJP ahead of the 2019 general elections, the party today lost bypolls to all three Lok Sabha seats it contested, including its bastion Gorakhpur, and Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh, besides Araria in Bihar.
In small consolation for the BJP, it retained the Bhabhua assembly seat. The RJD retained the Jehanabad assembly seat.

-- PTI
20:57   Cambridge University's flag flies at half mast for Professor Hawking:  
The flag over the late Stephen Hawking's Cambridge University college flew at half-mast on Wednesday, as students and academics came to pay tribute after the physicist's death.

Gonville and Caius College, where Hawking was a fellow for over 50 years, also opened a book of condolences in the chapel and placed a black-and-white picture of him on a notice board.
Hu Xiaohua, a teacher in China and a visiting scholar at the English faculty in Cambridge, cried as she looked at the image.

"I read his books and was inspired. He said never give up and he never gave up," the 49-year-old said, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief.

She said Hawking, who was confined to a wheelchair for five decades by motor neurone disease, was one of the reasons why she moved to Cambridge and had inspired her interest in quantum physics.

"I wished I could meet him. He was the greatest scientist of the 21st century. He really meant a lot to me. I prayed for him every day. I wished he could stand up," she said.
Hawking, who died Wednesday aged 76, had a study at the college which he shared with other fellows and his name is painted on the stone arch entrance and above the room's wooden door.
20:33  Victory of truth over falsehood: Lalu celebrates bypoll win from jail:  
RJD president Lalu Prasad, currently in jail following conviction in fodder scam cases, today termed the victory of his party in Bihar bypolls as "victory of truth over falsehood".

The RJD retained Araria Lok Sabha and Jehanabad assembly seats in the
by-elections for three seats in Bihar. The BJP retained Bhabhua assembly seat.

"The more you pour the fuel of conspiracy on Lalu, the brighter will his lantern burn. Millions of salutations to the people of Bihar for upholding justice. This is a victory of truth over falsehood," the RJD supremo, whose party has the lantern as its election symbol, tweeted in Hindi.

Prasad's official Twitter handle is managed by close confidants. The jailed leader has been expressing himself through the social media platform ever since he went behind the bars in December last year.
        
The RJD supremo has been accusing the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and the Nitish Kumar dispensation in Bihar of entering into a conspiracy to get him implicated in cases relating to fraudulent withdrawal of money from the treasury in various districts.
         
Prasad also thanked West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee, who congratulated him on the "great victory", saying "Thank you, didi. Together we are fighting. We shall fight and we will win". 

-- PTI
20:23  Koregaon violence: Right-wing leader Milind Ekbote held:  
Hindu Ekta Aghadi leader Milind Ekbote, one of the accused in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case, was arrested by the Pune rural police from, an official said.

Ekbote was arrested soon after the Supreme Court turned down his anticipatory bail plea earlier in the day, the official added.

"We arrested Ekbote from his residence and he will be produced before the court tomorrow," a senior Crime Branch official said.

Last month, while extending the right-wing leader's protection from arrest, the apex court had asked the Pune rural police to submit a detailed report on the case and allowed them to question Ekbote.

Following directions from the court, Ekbote had appeared before the Shikrapur police for questioning for five times.

Today, the police submitted a detailed report in the apex court and sought the "custodial interrogation" of Ekbote, while opposing his bail plea.

"The court accepted our demand for his custodial interrogation and rejected his bail application," the officer said.

A case was registered against Ekbote and another Hindutva leader, Sambhaji Bhide, for allegedly inciting the anti-Dalit violence that left a man dead near the Bhima Koregaon war memorial in the district on January 1 during an event to commemorate the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle.

Subsequent protests had disrupted normal life in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra.

-- PTI
19:26  Lalu an 'ideology', says Tejashwi Yadav on Bihar bypoll results:  

Thanking people for winning a Lok Sabha seat and an assembly seat in Bihar byelections, RJD leader and Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Tejashwi Yadav  said that Lalu ji (former chief minister and RJD supremo Lalu Yadav) in an ideology himself.

"Those who say that Lalu ji is decimated, we would like to tell them today that Lalu ji is an ideology. I thank people for Bihar for this victory. I also thank Manjhi ji," he said.

Meanwhile, the RJD leader also the former deputy chief minister took to Twitter and said, "I express my gratitude to all of you for unwavering love, unbroken faith and immense popular support for the Rashtriya Janata Dal. The judicial people of Bihar have always kept public sentiments above. We dedicate this victory to the great public of Bihar."

"It is a committed prayer to all my workers that do not make noise by bursting crackers in the joy of victory. Thanking the public owners by being kind and submitting questions to the government, becoming a partner and associate of their problems," Tejashwi added.

In Bihar, the RJD won Araria Lok Sabha seat and the Jahanabad assembly seat while the BJP bagged Bhabhua assembly seat.
18:57  Urijit Patel breaks silence on banking scam, says 'we are doing all we can to break this unholy nexus':  
Expressing deep anguish over a spate of banking frauds, RBI Governor Urjit Patel said today that like the 'Neelakantha', the central bank will consume poison and face brickbats, but will persist with endeavour to become better with each trial.
Breaking silence over the Rs 12,967 crore scam at PNB, he said: "I have chosen to speak today to convey that we at the Reserve Bank of India also feel the anger, hurt and pain at the banking sector frauds and irregularities."

Delivering a lecture at the Gujarat National Law University, he said: "In plain simple English, these practices amount to a looting of our country's future by some in the business community, in cahoots with some lenders."
Patel said RBI has in place asset quality review of banks and "we are doing all we can to break this unholy nexus".
Invoking mythology, he said RBI has undertaken the cleaning up of the country's credit culture as the Mandara mount or the churning rod in the Amrit Manthan or the Samudra Manthan of the modern day Indian economy.

Until the churn is complete and the nectar of stability safely secured for the country's future, someone must consume the poison that emanates along the way, he said.
"If we need to face the brickbats and be the Neelakantha consuming this poison, we will do so as our duty; we will persist with our endeavours and get better with each trial and tribulation along the way," the Governor said.
He also wished that more promoters and banks, individually or collectively through their industry bodies, would reconsider being on the side of "Devas rather than Asuras in this Amrit Manthan".
He made a pitch for "making banking regulatory powers neutral to bank ownership and leveling the playing field between public sector and private sector banks".

-- PTI
18:27  Gorakhpur Bypoll: Samajwadi Party's Praveen Kumar Nishad wins by 21,881 votes
18:25  People have replied to BJP's misgovernance: SP's Akhilesh Yadav:  
The Samajwadi Party today strengthened its grip over Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats with latest trends showing its candidates establishing sizeable leads over their nearest BJP rivals, indicating a stunning reversal for the state's ruling party.

Following the stunning wins, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav held a press conference to thank the voters.

He started off by saying that he wanted to thank everyone and also thank BSP chief Mayawati for the alliance that the two parties stitched up before the bypolls. 

He also said that the bypoll results send a strong political message in national politics. "Farmers remain unhappy. People got hit due to GST and Demonetisation. This result is a reflection of the anger due to that."

The young SP leader said that the results are a win for social justice. "BJP has never fulfilled their promises."
18:05  Yogi: Gorakhpur, Phulpur losses are a big lesson for us:  UP CM Yogi Adityanath on the party's loss in the both the Phulpur and Gorakhpur seats in the state: "We accept the verdict of the people. I congratulate the winning candidates.

"This result is unexpected and we will review the shortcomings. Gorakhpur, Phulpur losses are a big lesson for us. We will assess the results.

"Yeh BSP-SP ka jo rajnitik saudebaazi, desh ke vikas ko baadhit karne ke liye bani hai. Iske baare mein hum apni rann neeti tayaar karenge. The BSP-SP political trade-off will stem the development of the country. We will prepare our battle plan on this.


"In bypolls local issues are more important. The general elections are about national issues," he said alluding to statements by the opposition that that an alliance could see the BJP lose in 2019.


The Samajwadi Party won the Phulpur Lok Sabha seat and was poised to bag the Gorakhpur seat, the constituencies vacated by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, respectively. The Bahujan Samaj Party gave its support to the SP in the two seats while the Congress put up its own candidates.
17:51  Opposition hails SP-BSP wins :  The beginning of the end had started, tweeted Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today, soon after the reports of the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar bypoll results started coming in.


She congratulated both Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Twitter.


"Great victory. Congratulations to Mayawatiji and @yadavakhilesh Ji for #UPByPolls. The beginning of the end has started (sic)," Banerjee tweeted.


The West Bengal chief minister also congratulated RJD chief Lalu Prasad for winning the Araria Lok Sabha and Jehanabad Assembly bypolls in Bihar.


"Together We are fighting. we shall fight & We will Win (sic)," Prasad replied, thanking "Didi" in his tweet.


CPI(M) MP Mohammed Salim also welcomed the outcome of the bypolls and said it would have its impact on next year's Lok Sabha polls.


"The SP and BSP coming together has helped the voters express their anger against the BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh and at the Centre. The result is an indicator and it will have its impact in 2019. Both the SP and the BSP had age-old differences between them, but they were kept aside for the sake of democracy and to defeat the BJP and its anti-people policies," he told PTI.


CPI leader D Raja also said the results showed that the BJP was not invincible.


The SP, supported by the BSP, is set to win both the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh. In Bihar, the RJD won the Araria Lok Sabha and Jehanabad Assembly seats, while the BJP won the Bhabhua Assembly seat.
17:44  SP's Phulpur winner says credit should go to Mayawati and Akhilesh :  Nagendra Singh Patel, Samajwadi Party's winning candidate from Phulpur. He won by 60,000 votes. "Behenji ka bhi bahot aashirwad tha. Ek hi vichaardhara ke sabhi parties ek hui aur humaari jeet hui. Jeet ka shrey Akhileshji, Behenji Mayawatiji aur Phulpur ki janta ko deta hoon. Behenji's (Mayawati) blessing were with me. Our victory is a result of like-minded parties coming together. The credit for the victory should go to Akhilesh (Yadav), Mayawati and the people of Phulpur."
17:32  Congress candidates from Phulpur, Gorakhpur lose their deposits :  Congress candidates from Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seats have lost their deposits.
17:23  Video shows Navy pilots close encounter with an UFO:  For the third time in three months, a declassified Defense Department video shows U.S. Navy F-18 fighters seemingly encountering UFOs.

"Oh my gosh, dude,' said one pilot in the video of their F/A-18 Super Hornet military jet's 2015 encounter with the unusual object along the East Coast.

The oval-shaped aircraft zipped with befuddling speed.

"Wow! What is that, man?' said another. "Look at that flying!'

Watch the video and read the story here.

Mulder and Scully would approve.
17:09  UP bypolls: Will go back to drawing board, says BJP :   Stung by the unexpected reversals in two crucial Lok Sabha bypolls in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP said today it will go back to the drawing board and revisit its strategy ahead of the general elections next year especially with the SP and BSP drawing closer.


"We had not seen the Samajwadi Party and BSP coming together but since we have come to know of this now...and though there is still a long time (ahead of the polls)... we will redraw our strategy keeping this factor in mind," senior minister is the Yogi Adityanath government, Sidharth Nath Singh, said stressing that those who wanted development were still with the saffron party.


He said the party was only attacking the SP during the poll campaign. "As we had not thought about the coming together of SP and BSP, it was not part of our strategy and we were attacking only the SP. BSP was not in the poll fray. We also got less time to counter it," Singh said.


Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said the reasons of the unsatisfactory performance will be reviewed and stock taking of the social and other factors that came into play in these polls would be done.


"BJP had won the Phulpur seat for the first time in 2014 but Gorakhpur has been with the party since long...We will have to see where the social factors went against us or where the workers did not work as hard as expected of them," Maurya said, and added, "We will sit and find a way to deal with the challenge that they (SP) posed later in the campaign taking the help of BSP."  -- PTI


File pic of UP CM Yogi Adityanath with UP governor Ram Naik during PM Modi's visit to Varanasi last week. Pic courtesy: @myogiadityanath
16:40  Sena says Naresh Agrawal's induction in BJP responsible for reverses in UP:  
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut today claimed that the BJP had suffered reverses in bypolls in two parliamentary constituencies in Uttar Pradesh because of  SP leader Naresh Agrawal's induction into the saffron party.

I don't consider that the SP-BSP tie up has worked I believe that Lord Ram was angry with you (BJP) the day you (BJP) rolled out the red carpet for the SP leader, who has criticised Lord Ram, he said.

In the prestigious Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat, the home turf of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, BJP's Upendra Dutt Shukla was trailing behind Praveen Nishad of the SP.

In Phulpur, SP candidate Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel had raced ahead of his nearest BJP rival.

The election to the two constituencies were held on March 11. A day later, Agrawal quit the SP to join the BJP after he lost out to actor-turned-politician Jaya Bachchan in the race for re-nomination to the upper house.
The bypolls were necessitated after Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya vacated the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats respectively, following their election to the state legislative council. 

-- PTI
16:18  SC dismisses Perarivalan's plea in Rajiv assassination case:  The Supreme Court today  dismissed the plea of convict A G Perarivalan seeking recall of its May 1999 judgment upholding his conviction in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

A bench of justices Ranjan Gogoi, R Banumathi and M Shantanagoudar said it does not need to interfere with its 1999 verdict upholding Perarivalan's conviction.

Earlier, the CBI had sought dismissal of Perarivalan's plea claiming it was devoid of any merits.

In an affidavit filed in the apex court, CBI's Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency, probing the larger conspiracy aspect behind Gandhi's assassination, had said that the role of convict Perarivalan in the conspiracy resulting in the killing of the former prime minister and others have already been upheld by the top court.

The Supreme Court today also asked the MDMA to submit its status report in four weeks.

The agency had said that the application seeking recall of the May 11, 1999 apex court judgement was not maintainable since it seeks to reopen the whole matter on merits which cannot be permissible.

Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at a poll rally.

Fourteen others, including Dhanu herself, were also killed.  -- PTI
16:13  Maran brothers discharged in telephone exchange case:  A special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Chennai today discharged former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi and other accused in the 'illegal' telephone exchange case.

Special judge S Natarajan allowed the petitions filed by the Maran brothers and others seeking their discharge, holding that there was no prima facie case against them.

The judge had on March 9 reserved orders for today in the case.

The CBI had alleged that an illegal private telephone exchange was set up at the city residence of Dayanidhi during 2004-06 when he was the telecom minister and it was used for the business transactions involving the Sun Network owned by his brother Kalanithi.

The central agency had alleged that Dayanidhi had caused a loss of Rs 1.78 crore to the exchequer.

Other accused who have been discharged are former BSNL general manager K Brahmanathan, former deputy general manager M P Velusamy, Dayanidhi Maran's private secretary Gauthaman, and Sun TV officials.

During the hearing of the discharge petitions, the Maran brothers and others argued that they were innocent and did not commit any irregularities as alleged by the prosecution.

Senior counsel Kabil Sibal, who had appeared for the Maran brothers, had contended that the case was foisted on them.  -- PTI
15:58  Explained: Why Akhilesh, Mayawati joined hands:  So, why did Akhilesh and Mayawati come together for the March 11 by-election in Uttar Pradesh?


Twenty-three years after the BSP-SP alliance ended bitterly, the two parties have come together to counter the BJP in the Lok Sabha by-election in Gorakhpur and Phulpur. The Gorakhpur seat was represented by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from 1998 to 2017. Phulpur, represented once by Jawaharlal Nehru, was won by Keshav Prasad Maurya, now UP's deputy CM by a record margin in 2014.


Dr Prashant Trivedi of the Lucknow-based Giri Institute of Social Studies, tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih the reason behind the alliance. Do read the interview here.
15:55  IndiGo, GoAir cancel 50 flights today:  In other news, domestic carriers IndiGo and GoAir cancelled around 50 flights today as almost one-third of their A320 Neo aircraft fleet remained grounded for the third day following a safety directive by aviation watchdog DGCA.


Of the 48 flights, which are not being operated as part of the curtailed schedule, 42 are of IndiGo and six of GoAir. GoAir has also announced that it is cancelling 18 flights from March 15 to 24.


IndiGo has cancelled 42 flights for March 14. They includes flights to Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune, Jaipur, Srinagar, Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Delhi, Dehradun, Amritsar, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, among others, the airline announced on its website.


However, the Wadia Group-promoted GoAir said it had cancelled a total of six flights today due to the grounding of three of its A320 Neo planes, as against 18 yesterday.


In an announcement on its website, GoAir said it would cancel 18 flights, including 8 daily ones, from March 15 to 24. These include flights from Cochin, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata.


The Gurugram-headquartered IndiGo operates over 1,000 daily flights while GoAir offers 230 services daily.


Yesterday, the two airlines together had cancelled over 65 flights, with IndiGo alone cancelling over 47 services, due to the grounding of their 11 aircraft -- eight of IndiGo and three of GoAir -- by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation on March 13, citing passengers safety concerns arising out of the mid-air shut down of the Pratt& Whitney- manufactured Neo engines of these airplanes. -- PTI
15:48  Bihar Bypoll: BJP's Rinky Rani Pandey wins the Bhabua assembly by-poll.
15:47  Ram Gopal Yadav, SP: UP ki janta ne sarkaar mein avishwaas vyakt kar diya hai spasht taur par. UP ki janta samajh chuki hai ki saare desh ki janta ko murkh bana rahe hain aur swayam bhagwan ko dhoka de rahe hain.
15:45  Gorakhpur bypoll: SP, BSP workers celebrate in Gorakhpur as the SP candidate Praveen Kumar Nishad leads in the counting of votes. He is leading by 50,000 votes.
15:43  Bihar bypolls: Rashtriya Janata Dal wins the Jehanabad assembly by-poll.
15:40  Yogi's shame: UP had maximum instances of communal violence in 2017:  After a huge prestige loss for Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath as he seems set to lose the Gorakhpur seat to the SP-BSP combine, here's a reason he should really be ashamed.


Uttar Pradesh topped the list of states with maximum communal violence incidents in the country last year, the Lok Sabha was informed today.


Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said 822 communal incidents took place in the country in 2017, whereas as many as 703 such incidents occurred in 2016 and 751 incidents in 2015.


Among the states where the highest number of such cases took place in 2017 include Uttar Pradesh (195 incidents) followed by Karnataka (100), Rajasthan (91), Bihar (85), Madhya Pradesh (60) besides others, he said in reply to a written question.


In 2016 also, the highest number of communal violence cases was reported from Uttar Pradesh (162 incidents) followed by Karnataka (101), Maharashtra (68), Bihar (65), Rajasthan (63) among others. "The incidents are reported to be attributed to religious factors, land and property disputes, gender related offences, social media related issues and other miscellaneous factors," Ahir said. --  PTI
15:34  Behenji smiles as she sniffs victory:   Leader of the opposition and Samajwadi Party member Ram Govind Choudhury met Bahujan Samaj Party Chief Mayawati in Lucknow.


Candidates of the Samajwadi Party consolidated their leads over nearest BJP rivals in Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, latest trends showed. The Samajwadi Party had an electoral understanding with Mayawati's BSP and tied up with local satraps. With some more rounds of counting still being left, the overall picture appeared that the electorate did not back the saffron party ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The bypolls were necessitated after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya vacated the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats respectively, following their election to the state legislative council.
15:25  Omar's cheeky thanks to the BJP :  Omar Abdullah tweets: Dear friends in the BJP, thank you for your hard work & continuing efforts to prove me wrong. Im truly grateful. Sincerely, your friendly opposition guy.

This is in response to his own tweet in March 2017 after the BJP swept three of the five assembly polls held in Uttarakhand, UP, Manipur, Goa and Punjab, and later formed government in all the states, but Punjab.  

Omar Abdullah had tweeted then, "@OmarAbdullah: At this rate we might as well forget 2019 & start planning/hoping for 2024.
15:03  Will prepare for a situation when BSP, SP, Cong will ally: Maurya:   Keshav Prasad Maurya, Deputy CM reacts to the SP's ever-increasing margins in Phulpur and Gorakhpur bypolls. "We didn't expect that BSP's vote will be transferred to SP in such a manner. We will analyze after seeing the final results and prepare for a situation in future when BSP, SP and Congress can come together and also make our strategy for winning the 2019 elections," Maurya said.


Here's the latest figures: Gorakhpur: SP's Praveen Kumar Nishad leads by 28,737 votes with 2,93,153 votes, BJP's Upendra Dutt Shukla second with 2,64,416 votes after 19th round of counting.


Phulpur: Samajwadi Party's Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel leading by 29,474 with 2,18,963 votes, BJP's Kaushlendra Singh Patel second with 1,89,489 votes after 20th round of counting.
14:43  SP leads in Gorakhpur by over 28,000 votes.
14:41  Angela Merkel gets 4th term as German chancellor:  Germany's parliament elects Angela Merkel for her fourth term as chancellor.
14:40  The beginning of the end has started: Mamata :  Yogi Adityanath likely to lose the Gorakhpur seat after winning it five times. SP's Praveen Kumar Nishad leads by 26,960 votes with 2,62,346 votes, BJP's Upendra Dutt Shukla second with 2,35,836 votes after the 17th round of counting.

RJD surges ahead of BJP in Araria and Jehanabad, but the BJP is leading in the Bhabua assembly seat.


West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee tweets, "Great victory. Congratulations to Mayawati Ji and Akhilesh Yadav Ji for #UPByPolls The beginning of the end has started."
14:21  Chants of Bua-Bhatija Zindabad ring out in Gorakhpur:   Gorakhpur Bypoll: SP's Praveen Kumar Nishad leading with 2,12,061 votes, BJP's Upendra Dutt Shukla second with 1,92,860 votes after 14th round of counting.


Termed by Yogi Adityanath as a "rehearsal" for the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the by-elections are witnessing a triangular contest involving the ruling BJP, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress.


The candidates: The saffron party has fielded Kaushalendra Singh Patel from Phulpur and Upendra Dutt Shukla from Gorakhpur against the SP's Pravin Nishad and Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel, respectively. The Congress has nominated Sureetha Kareem for Gorakhpur and Manish Mishra for Phulpur Lok Sabha seat.

Ten candidates are in the fray from Gorakhpur, while 22 candidates are contesting from Phulpur.

Gorakhpur is significant for the BJP as it is the bastion of the chief minister, who represented the seat in the Lok Sabha five times. Prior to Yogi Adityanath, the seat was represented in parliament by his mentor Yogi Avaidyanath thrice.


Bihar, meanwhile, is witnessing a very close contest for Lok Sabha seat in the ongoing Araria by-election, with Rashtriya Janata Dal's Sarafaraz Alam currently in the lead by 455 votes with 19,5527 votes, while Bharatiya Janta Party's Pradip Singh is at second place with 19,5072 votes.


In the state assembly bypoll elections in Bhabua, the BJP is leading with 23,640 votes, while RJD is leading in Jehanabad with 32,554 votes.Stakes are high in Bihar as the by-elections are being seen as a litmus test for the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who last year broke away from the grand alliance and allied with the BJP.
13:48  Look up at the stars... :  The other big story today is Prof Stephen Hawking's death. This is a homage from Cambridge University. @Cambridge_Uni tweeted, "Look up at the stars and not down at your feet" - Professor Stephen Hawking 1942-2018."

Prof Hawking first arrived at the University of Cambridge in 1962 as a PhD student, and rose through the ranks to become the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a position once held by Sir Isaac Newton, in 1979.

He retired from this position in 2009, and became the Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research in the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics until his death.

13:39  Amit Shah arrives at BJP HQ:  The smile seems to have slipped off BJP president Amit Shah's face as he arrives at the party HQ this afternoon. UP seems to be going to the SP-BSP combine -- SP surging ahead of BJP in Gorakhpur by 15,425 votes in the 13th round of counting and by 20,000 votes in Phulpur. 
13:29  BJP runs for cover in UP bypolls :   LS bypolls:

Gorakhpur Bypoll: SP's Praveen Kumar Nishad leading with 1,80,155 votes, BJP's Upendra Dutt Shukla second with 1,65,487 votes after the 12th round of counting.


Phulpur Bypoll: Samajwadi Party's Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel leading with 1,55,314 votes, BJP's Kaushlendra Singh Patel second with 1,34,819 votes after the 14th round of counting.
13:03  Budget passed without discussion in LS as protests continue:  The government today got the Budget for fiscal year beginning April 1 passed in Lok Sabha without discussion by applying the guillotine process as the opposition paralysed the functioning for the eighth day.


Finance Minister Arun Jaitley moved the Finance Bill 2018, which contains taxation proposals of his fifth and final budget, as well as the appropriation bill that details spendings in various departments, amid the din created by slogan-shouting opposition. The bills were passed by voice vote. Ruling BJP-led NDA has an absolute majority in the Lower House of Parliament. -- PTI
12:57  LS bypolls: BJP may lose both UP, Bihar :  Bypoll update: In the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat, Samajwadi Party's Praveen Kumar Nishad leading with 89,950 votes, Bharatiya Janata Party's Upendra Dutt Shukla second with 82,811 votes after sixth sound of counting.


In Phulpur, SP's Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel leading by 15,713 votes with 1,22,247 votes, BJP's Kaushlendra Singh Patel second with 1,06,534 votes after 11th round of counting.


In Bihar's, Araria Lok Sabha, the Rashtriya Janata Dal leading by 455 votes with 1,95,527 votes, the BJP second with 1,95,072 votes.


SP leader Naresh Uttam Patel writes to State Chief Election Officer stating people and media were removed from the counting center in Gorakhpur also alleged district administration is working towards making the BJP candidate win.
12:47  @OmarAbdullah Come on #Gorakhpur & Phulpur, you can do this.
12:46  Bihar bypolls: BJP leading in two seats, RJD in one:  The BJP can find some solace in Bihar.

The party was leading in the Araria Lok Sabha seat and Bhabua Assembly constituency, while its ally, the ruling JD(U) in the state, was trailing behind the RJD candidate in the Jehanabad Assembly seat after three hours of counting for the by-elections in Bihar, officials said.


According to figures provided by the Election Commission at 11 am, Pradeep Kumar Singh of the BJP was leading by a margin of more than 4,000 votes in the Araria Lok Sabha constituency.


Singh is locked in a straight battle with RJD's Sarfaraz Alam, whose father Mohd Taslimuddin's demise had necessitated the bypoll. The BJP was also leading in Bhabhua Assembly segment, where its candidate Rinky Rani Pandey was leading by a margin of over 2,500 votes.  -- PTI
12:26  Samajwadi Party and BSP workers celebrate as SP candidates lead on both Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats.
12:24  'Haider' star Narendra Jha passes away at 55:  In other news, actor Narendra Jha passed away this morning following a cardiac arrest. He was 55. According to reports, it was his third heart attack. 


Born on September 2 in Bihar's Madhubani area, Jha was a noted Bollywood and television actor. He was seen playing vital roles in Hrithik Roshan's 'Kaabil', Shah Rukh Khan's 'Raees' and Shahid Kapoor's 'Haider'.Saddened by his demise, filmmaker Ashoke Pandit tweeted, "It's really shocking to hear about the sad demise of our friend #NarendraJha who was a brillinat actor & a great human being. Will miss U. #RIP."


Filmmaker Sanjay Gupta tweeted, "I refuse to accept it. Life cannot be so damn unpredictable. I just met a hail n hearty Narendra Jha at the park last week. And now Im hearing he passed away this morning. Such a splendid actor and a marvellous human being. Rest in peace my friend. May God bless your soul."


Read our interview with Narendra Jha here.
12:19  Gorakhpur Bypoll: SP's Praveen Kumar Nishad leading with 59907 votes, BJP's Upendra Dutt Shukla second with 56,945 votes after 4th round of counting.
12:17  Phulpur bypoll: Samajwadi Party's Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel leading by 14,239 votes with 111668 votes; BJP's Kaushlendra Singh Patel second with 97369 votes after ten rounds of counting.
12:09  Bihar Bypoll: BJP leading in Bhabua after 8th round of counting with 19,738 votes. RJD leading in Jehanabad after 10th round of counting with 29,551 votes.
12:06  Hawking's Indian student remembers cosmology's brightest star:  Physically bound to the wheelchair, Stephen Hawking reached out into the depths of the universe with his mind and decoded the mysterious cosmos for the common people - that is how the British physicist was remembered by his Indian student today.


"When you think about human spirit, you think about Stephen Hawking," said astrophysicist Somak Raychaudhury, director of the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) in Pune, who was a student of Hawking at University of Cambridge. The famous physicist Stephen Hawking - modern cosmology's brightest star - passed away today at the age of 76.

"He was my teacher, and I knew him from a time when he could speak. Personally it's a huge loss. Hawking is special because he is larger than life," Raychaudhury told PTI.


"The man in the street knows Hawking's name not because of his research on blackholes - the common person may not understand what Hawking did on blackholes," said Raychaudhury, who obtained a PhD in astrophysics from Cambridge.


"They know him because he was a brain in a bottle, he could hardly move, and yet in spite of being given two years to live at the age of 20, he lived till 76 and tackled head on every obstacle in life," he said "That is the human spirit - you think about human spirit and you think about Stephen Hawking," he added. -- PTI
12:03  SP ahead in both seats in UP:  SP leads in both seats in UP.

Gorakhpur Bypoll: SP's Praveen Kumar Nishad leading by 1523 with 44,979 votes, BJP's Upendra Dutt Shukla second with 43,456 votes.


Phulpur Bypoll: Samajwadi Party's Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel leading by 12,231 votes with 99,557 votes, BJP's Kaushlendra Singh Patel second with 87,326 votes after eight round of counting.


The results are expected to be declared by afternoon, an EC official said.


Ten nominees were in the fray from Gorakhpur, while 22 candidates contested from Phulpur.


According to the EC, there are 19.61 lakh voters in the Phulpur parliamentary constituency and 19.49 lakh in the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat.


The bypolls were necessitated after Adityanath and his Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya vacated the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats respectively, following their election to the state legislative council.


Gorakhpur is significant for the BJP with Adityanath representing the seat in the Lok Sabha five times. Before him, his mentor Yogi Avaidyanath was MP from the seat.


Phulpur, once represented by the country's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, witnessed a saffron surge in the 2014 Lok Sabha election when Maurya won the seat. -- PTI


File pic.
12:03  SP ahead in both seats in UP:  SP leads in both seats in UP.

Gorakhpur Bypoll: SP's Praveen Kumar Nishad leading by 1523 with 44,979 votes, BJP's Upendra Dutt Shukla second with 43,456 votes.


Phulpur Bypoll: Samajwadi Party's Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel leading by 12,231 votes with 99,557 votes, BJP's Kaushlendra Singh Patel second with 87,326 votes after eight round of counting.


The results are expected to be declared by afternoon, an EC official said.


Ten nominees were in the fray from Gorakhpur, while 22 candidates contested from Phulpur.


According to the EC, there are 19.61 lakh voters in the Phulpur parliamentary constituency and 19.49 lakh in the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat.


The bypolls were necessitated after Adityanath and his Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya vacated the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats respectively, following their election to the state legislative council.


Gorakhpur is significant for the BJP with Adityanath representing the seat in the Lok Sabha five times. Before him, his mentor Yogi Avaidyanath was MP from the seat.


Phulpur, once represented by the country's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, witnessed a saffron surge in the 2014 Lok Sabha election when Maurya won the seat. -- PTI


File pic.
11:54  Media kept out of counting centre in Gorakhpur:   Lucknow Assembly adjourned till 12.20 pm following ruckus after the  media is kept out of counting centre in Gorakhpur. The issue was raised by SP's Ram Govind Chaudhary.


@Siddhantmt tweets: Gorakhpur DM Rajiv Routela -- suspended by HC but appointed by Yogi Govt -- bans media from showing election trend without assigning any official reason.
11:48  BJP believes it will win UP bypolls :  UP Dy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya on bypolls: I firmly believe that we will win both Gorakhpur & Phulpur. SP is leading in initial rounds but a number of rounds are still left. I know the voters of that area, we will have a win with a comfortable margin of a lakh.
11:46  Bihar bypolls: BJP ahead in Araria and Bhabhua, RJD in Jehanabad:  The BJP is leading in the Araria Lok Sabha seat and Bhabua Assembly constituency, while the RJD was leading in the Jehanabad Assembly seat in Bihar bypolls. After two rounds of counting, Pradeep Kumar Singh of the saffron party was leading by 2,321 votes in the Araria seat, EC officials said. Rinky Rani Pandey of the BJP was leading by 2,729 votes in the Bhabua Assembly constituency. RJD's Suday Yadav was leading by around 1,200 votes in the Jehanabad Assembly seat, according to the early trends. The polling was held in March 11. -- PTI
11:36  LS bypolls: BJP ahead in Gorakhpur, SP in Phulpur:  Uttar Pradesh's ruling BJP was leading in the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha constituency while the opposition SP was ahead in Phulpur after three hours of counting for the parliamentary by-elections, Election Commission officials said. SP candidate Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel leading by 8,199 votes in Phulpur after seven rounds of counting


In Gorakhpur, the bastion of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, BJP's Upendra Dutt Shukla was leading by 1,666 votes over his nearest SP rival Praveen Nishad. In Phulpur, SP's Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel was ahead by 3,600 votes with BJP's Kaushalendra Singh Patel trailing behind him.


The results are expected to be declared by afternoon, an EC official said.


Ten nominees were in the fray from Gorakhpur, while 22 candidates contested from Phulpur.


According to the EC, there are 19.61 lakh voters in the Phulpur parliamentary constituency and 19.49 lakh in the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat.


The bypolls were necessitated after Adityanath and his Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya vacated the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats respectively, following their election to the state legislative council.


Gorakhpur is significant for the BJP with Adityanath representing the seat in the Lok Sabha five times. Before him, his mentor Yogi Avaidyanath was MP from the seat. Phulpur, once represented by the country's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, witnessed a saffron surge in the 2014 Lok Sabha election when Maurya won the seat. -- PTI


File pic.
11:06  Amitabh Bachchan says he is fine:  Megastar Amitabh Bachchan has assured his fans and well wishers that he is doing well after getting treated by his team of doctors.


Yesterday, the 75-year-old actor's cryptic blog post on getting his doctors from Mumbai to "fiddle around" with his body had sparked worries about his health.


"I am getting my team of doctors in tomorrow morning to fiddle around with my body and set me up again... I will rest and keep informed in process," Bachchan, who is in Jodhpur to shoot for "Thugs of Hindostan" wrote in his blog.


His wife Jaya Bachchan said he had pain in his neck and back due to the heavy costumes of the film. Bachchan today again took to his blog and other social media accounts to give a health update.


In a poetic post in Hindi the actor said he was not feeling well and had to call his doctors for the treatment, but now he is doing fine and this showed him who were his dear ones.

This is what he posted:
"Kuch kasht badha
Chikitsak to chikitsa ke liye bulana pada
Ilaj prabal
Swasth hue nawal
Chalo isi bahane, apno ka pata toh chala."

 -- PTI
11:01  Sukma attack undertaken in retaliation: Raman Singh :  In the aftermath of the Naxal-led attack that killed nine CRPF personnel in Sukma on Tuesday, Chief Minister Raman Singh clarified that the improvised explosive device blast was carried out in retaliation to an encounter which took place last morning.


"The background of this blast in Sukma is that the COBRA battalion held a successful encounter in the morning in which several Naxals were injured and weapons were recovered. This has left them perplexed, as we are reaching closer to their headquarters. This attack was carried out in fury," Singh told reporters.


The chief minister revealed that although IED detection with the present technology is difficult, the forces and state police are working together to abolish the naxal base in the region.Echoing a similar stance, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Hansraj Ahir, assured that the government is strongly monitoring the situation along with intelligence agencies and the forces.


On Tuesday, nine personnel of the 212 Battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force were killed and two severely injured in the IED blast.


The CRPF jawans were conducting an operation in a forest in the district when the blast took place, ripping apart their Mine-Protected Vehicle. Meanwhile, the wreath-laying ceremony of the nine jawans was held earlier this morning, where the two ministers paid their tributes to the slain soldiers. -- ANI


Image: The armoured MPV flew 10-feet into the air and before splitting into pieces.
10:51  AIADMK protests outside Parliament:  Our elected representatives working hard in Parliament. Here are AIADMK MPs protesting in the Parliament premises over the Cauvery Management Board issue.
10:49  The most unread book on Amazon is... :  Stephen Hawking's, A Brief History of Time, is widely considered to be the most unread book of all time before. A mathematician came up with the 'Hawking Index' to calculate the most unread bestsellers on Amazon.
The full story here.
10:40  Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweets: The world has lost a beautiful mind and a brilliant scientist. RIP Stephen Hawking
10:36  How has Hawking lived till 76 despite motor neuron disease?:  An expert on Lou Gehrig's disease explains what we know about this debilitating condition and how Hawking has beaten the odds. This report was written in 2012, when Hawking was 70. Do read
10:32  TDP protests continue :  In Delhi, it's business as usual, with our elected representatives protesting outside parliament. That's TDP MPs protesting in the Parliament premises over their demand for a special status for Andhra Pradesh.
10:27  Hawking, the greatest physicist since Einstein, never won the Nobel:  Professor Hawking contracted motor neurone disease in 1963 and was given two years to live but he went on to study at Cambridge and became one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Albert Einstein.


Hawking's first major breakthrough came in 1970, when he and Roger Penrose applied the mathematics of black holes to the entire universe and showed that a singularity, a region of infinite curvature in spacetime, lay in our distant past: the point from which came the big bang.


Hawking's seminal contributions continued through the 1980s. The theory of cosmic inflation holds that the fledgling universe went through a period of terrific expansion. In 1982, Hawking was among the first to show how quantum fluctuations -- tiny variations in the distribution of matter -- might give rise through inflation to the spread of galaxies in the universe.


But it was A Brief History of Time that rocketed Hawking to stardom. Published for the first time in 1988, the title made the Guinness Book of Records after it stayed on the Sunday Times bestsellers list for an unprecedented 237 weeks. It sold 10 million copies and was translated into 40 different languages. Hawking won the Albert Einstein Award, the Wolf Prize, the Copley Medal, and the Fundamental Physics Prize.


The Nobel prize, however, eluded him. The world famous physicist and cosmologist was the subject of the 2014 film 'The Theory Of Everything', which starred Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. -- PTI
10:19  Bypolls: Early trends show BJP trailing in UP, leading in Bihar:  Samajwadi Party's Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel is leading by 1,437 votes with 7,600 votes in Phulpur Lok Sabha seat, early trends of the bypoll results showed.

Bharatiya Janata Party's Kaushlendra Singh Patel had 6,163 votes after round 3 counting.

In Bihar's Araria Lok Sabha bypoll, the BJP was leading after first round of counting.

In Bihar assembly bypolls, after first round of counting, the BJP was leading in Kaimur and the Rashtriya Janata Dal was leading in Jehanabad.   -- ANI
09:41  Prof Stephen Hawking dies at the age of 76:   JUST IN: Eminent British physicist Professor Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76, says their family spokesperson.

'We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,' professor Hawkings children, Lucy, Robert, and Tim said in a statement carried by Britain's Press Association news agency.

'He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years,' they asid.

Prof Hawking was a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author, and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge.

He was known for his work on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation.

His books A Brief History of Time, The Universe in a Nutshell and The Grand Design have been bestsellers.  -- Agencies
09:30  Bihar assembly bypolls: After first round of counting, the Bharatiya Janata Party is leading in Kaimur and the Rashtriya Janata Dal is leading in Jehanabad. -- ANI
09:20  Phulpur bypoll update: Samajwadi Party's Nagendra Singh Patel leading by 1,399 votes, Bharatiya Janata Party's Kaushlendra Singh Patel second.  -- ANI
09:19  Sukma attack undertaken in retaliation to an encounter: CM:  In the aftermath of the Naxal-led attack that killed nine Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Sukma on Tuesday, Chief Minister Raman Singh clarified that the improvised explosive device blast was carried out in retaliation to an encounter which took place last morning.

"The background of this blast in Sukma is that the COBRA battalion held a successful encounter in the morning in which several Naxals were injured and weapons were recovered. This has left them perplexed, as we are reaching closer to their headquarters. This attack was carried out in fury," Singh told reporters in Raipur.

The chief minister revealed that although IED detection with the present technology is difficult, the forces and state police are working together to abolish the naxal base in the region.

Echoing a similar stance, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Hansraj Ahir, assured that the government is strongly monitoring the situation along with intelligence agencies and the forces.

On Tuesday, nine personnel of the 212 Battalion of the CRPF were killed and two severely injured in the IED blast.

The CRPF jawans were conducting an operation in a forest in the district when the blast took place, ripping apart their Mine-Protected Vehicle.

Meanwhile, the wreath-laying ceremony of the nine jawans was held earlier this morning, where the two ministers paid their tributes to the slain soldiers. -- ANI
09:14  Tillerson to step down by March end:  Beleaguered Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was fired on Tuesday by United States President Donald Trump, said he would delegate his responsibilities to his deputy and would step down by end of this month.

Tillerson, who was travelling to Africa, had to return in midway citing 'the demands of work and the need to be in Washington for in-person meetings'.

For technical purposes, Tillerson said he would remain the Secretary of State till March 31 and till then he would delegate his responsibilities to the Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.

The 65-year-old former Exxon Mobil chief executive and the president had strained relations and the two had differences over a host of issues including the US policy on North Korea, Russia and Iran.

In his remarks at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department, Tillerson did not take the name of the president. He read out from a prepared statement and looked dejected at the turn of events.

Tillerson has been in this post for a little over a year. The period is seen which experienced substantial decline in the power of the State Department and its annual budget was cut in an unprecedented way.

Preparing to leave the State Department, Tillerson said he was committed to an orderly and smooth transition. He planned to leave Foggy Bottom at the end of the day, even though his commission as the Secretary of State expires March 31 midnight.

Tillerson said he would return to private life as a private citizen.

He said Trump called him hours after he tweeted about him being fired. He also spoke with the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on a smooth and orderly transition.

"What is most important is to ensure an orderly and smooth transition during a time that the country continues to face significant policy and national security challenges," Tillerson said.

"Between now and then, I will address a few administrative matters related to my departure and work towards a smooth and orderly transition for Secretary of State-designate, Mike Pompeo," said the outgoing Secretary of State.  -- PTI
08:51  IndiGo cancels 42 flights for today:  Domestic carrier IndiGo continued to operate with a curtailed schedule for the third day today with the airline cancelling 42 flights following the grounding of eight of its A320neo planes along with three of GoAir due to Pratt & Whitney engine issues.

IndiGo has cancelled 42 flights for March 14. This includes flights to Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune, Jaipur, Srinagar, Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Delhi, Dehradun, Amritsar, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, among others, the airline announced on its website.

Number of flights cancelled by the other carrier GoAir for today was not immediately available.

Yesterday, IndiGo and GoAir had together cancelled over 65 flights due to the grounding of their 11 aircraft by the country's aviation watchdog DGCA on Monday, citing passengers safety concerns arising out of the mid-air shut down of the Pratt& Whitney-manufactured Neo engines of these airplanes.

The cancellation of services in a large number has put thousands of passengers at inconvenience as they had pre-booked these flights amid the concerns of exorbitant fares which are charged by the carriers for last-minute travel.

However, the two carriers had yesterday said they were taking measures to minimise inconvenience to the passengers whose flights have been cancelled by booking them on alternate flights as well giving them the option of cancelling or rescheduling their travel without any extra cost.  -- PTI
08:30  Report says Trump seeking to slap steep tariff on Chinese imports:  United States President Donald Trump is now seeking to impose steep tariff on import of a number of Chinese products in retaliation to the alleged theft of intellectual property by China, a media report said Tuesday.

Trump's instructions to his officials came at his Cabinet meeting last Thursday on March 8, the day he issued a proclamation to impose a 25 per cent tariff on import of steel and 10 per cent on aluminum.

During the Cabinet meeting, US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer is reported to have presented a plan that would target a equivalent of $30 billion imports from China, Politico reported.

Given that US has a trade deficit of $500 billion per annum, Trump asked a plan for targeting $100 billion Chinese imports.

Senior officials familiar with the new plan, said that the administration is considering on more than 100 Chinese products ranging from electronics and telecommunications equipment to furniture and toys, Politico said adding that the new tariffs are expected to be rolled out beginning as soon as next week.

The White House declined to comment.

"We don't comment on internal meetings, but no final decisions have been made on content or timing," said a White House official.

In the last few days, China has warned US of retaliation.  -- PTI
08:24  Four dead after consuming hooch in Ghaziabad:  Four persons have died after consuming illicit liquor in Shankar Vihar colony in Ghaizabad district of Uttar Pradesh, police said today.

The victims, identified as Sandeep, Ashok, Avinash, Ravinder and Sriniwas, fell sick after consuming hooch last night, Senior Superintendent of Police H N Singh said.

Moments later, Sandeep, Ashok and Avinash fell unconscious and were rushed to a nearby hospital, where doctors declared them brought dead, Singh said.

Ravinder and Sriniwas were also admitted at the hospital. Ravinder died this morning at the Lal Bahadur Shastri hospital in Delhi while Sriniwas was still undergoing treatment, the officer said.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has expressed grief over the loss of lives.

Taking cognisance of the incident, Adityanath has directed the police and district administration to carry out on the spot inspection and initiate stringent action against the guilty persons.

Directions have also been issued to provide adequate treatment to the affected persons, an UP government spokesperson said.

The SSP said Khoda SHO Dhruv Bhushan Dubey, police post in-charge Ram Samajh Rana and beat constables Rajbir Singh and Mohammad Asgar were suspended for dereliction of duty after the incident came to light.

Meanwhile, District Magistrate Ritu Maheswari wrote to the State Excise Commissioner urging stringent action against errant staff of the department for not cracking down upon illicit liquor sale in the area.  -- PTI
08:10  'Rehersal for 2019': UP bypoll result today:  The counting of votes for Lok Sabha by-election for the two constituencies of Uttar Pradesh, Gorakhpur and Phulpur will begin today.

Tight security arrangements have been made for the counting of ballots in the area and the results are expected to the declared by afternoon.

47.45 per cent of voter turnout was recorded in Gorakhpur Lok Sabha constituency, while Phulpur witnessed a polling percentage of 37.39 percent in the election held on March 11.

The bypolls were necessitated after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya vacated their seats in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, respectively, on taking office.

Termed by Adityanath as a 'rehearsal' for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the bypolls witnessed a triangular contest involving the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Congress.

For Gorakhpur, the key contenders were Upendra Shukla from the BJP, Praveen Nishad from the SP and Surhita Chatterjee Karim from the Congress.

Meanwhile, candidates in the fray for the Phulpur seat are Kaushalendra Singh Patel from the BJP, Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel from the SP and Manish Mishra from the Congress Party.

For these bypolls, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the SP have set aside their rivalry to join forces.   -- ANI

IMAGE: CM Yogi Adityanath after casting his vote in Gorakhpur. Photograph: PTI Photo
00:19  Shami's wife seeks Mamata's support:  
Indian pacer Mohammed Shami's wife Hasin Jahan today sought "help" of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in her pitched battle against her husband.

Jahan has levelled numerous allegations on her husband, ranging from adultery, match fixing to even attempt to murder.

"It's a fight for truth by a helpless woman against a celebrity cricketer who has fame, name and money. No one is with me and I request the chief minister to come for the support of truth, but not me or Shami," Jahan told reporters.

"Our fight has reached a stage that there's no question of a compromise now. I will fight my own battle.  If I give up now, it will be the loss of face for the whole women community. And why should I? I've all the evidence with me. No chance," she said firmly.

Jahan further alleged that Shami is still giving her threats as she sought for a police protection.
"Shami called me today saying 'Aren't you ashamed of yourself? You have framed me.' He further asked me to take back all the allegations for the sake of my and my daughter's lives," she said.

Pleading for privacy, Jahan also apologised to the media for losing her cool as she had a fight with a TV journalist and even broke a video camera.
The Kolkata Police last week booked Shami and four others under various non-bailable and bailable sections after Jahan lodged a complaint of domestic violence and infidelity against the cricketer. 

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